Integrating History: the enactment-model as a unifying structure of consciousness. 2020 (18,000 word article)
Within any developmental stage, a child’s growth is guided by many incremental influences and inspirations, but the developmental stages themselves arrive spontaneously. They are inherent and unfolding, written into the developmental constitution.
Once the urge to walk has arrived, for example, it comes under the influence of the environment, but the urge to walk itself emerges. It is predisposed, hard-wired, and the same is true with the developmental stages of consciousness: the separate sense of physical self, emotional self, adolescence, and so on; all manifesting spontaneously, except in developmental-arrest.
This emergent process of consciousness continues throughout the duration of our adult lives. We grow incrementally, but we transform discontinuously, characterised by quantum leaps, radical mutations that offer up a whole new understanding of the self in the world; and to the extent that, at times, it can be difficult to recognise some of our previous selves, so far have we grown away from their defining characteristics.
Culture too has evolved from ancient times through many million Darwinian steps of incremental evolution, micro-adjustments and adaptations; but its quantum leaps, whereby the cultural identity is transformed, appear also to occur spontaneously. Given that these radical mutations began long before cultural communication could itself inspire change through knowledge, there is the unavoidable suggestion of predisposed inherence.
Ken Wilber’s Structures of Consciousness: an introduction. 2019
Wilber’s developmental system defines structures of consciousness that each human passes through in our process of body-mind growth, from neonate through childhood, adolescence, and the duration of adulthood: the physical self, the emotional self, the conceptual self, the role and rule self, the mature self, the authentic self, and the integrated self.
These structures parallel the quantum mutations of consciousness that have emerged in the cultural evolutionary journey from primal-man to the relative maturity of the modern-day human: the archaic, the magic-tribal, the magic-mythic, the mythic-conformist, the rational-modern, the post-modern, and the integral.
In Celebration of the Conspiracy Theorist. 2019
The death of Osama Bin Laden fascinated me, or rather its aftermath, specifically how it was that the reported version of the story was accepted seamlessly into the collective mainstream belief-system despite, quite literally, not a shred of evidence being offered in verification. No photos, no film, no investigating police, no identifying relatives, no coroner, no funeral, no DNA, no body. Had this story been presented through a judicial process, however true, it wouldn’t have made it past the Crown Prosecution Service. Soon after, I saw someone on social-media presenting a similar observation to howls of scornful derision that he was suggesting nothing more than a conspiracy-theory.
Working with enactment from within the bodymind relational field. 2018 (11,000 word article)
These handouts are intended to be a fairly thorough introduction to enactment dynamics; and there a number of writers referenced throughout whose work is greatly amplifying.
The legitimacy, enforcement, and integration of non-binary gender-classification: a personal opinion 2019
When a revised use of language emerges in reference to marginalised groups there is always some resistance, but what is unusual with the issue of plural and new pronouns raised by transgender and non-binary people is that much of the explicit resistance is coming from those who might usually be imagined to have a compassionate and inclusive attitude towards minority issues.
Chaos and Uncertainty in the Borderline Relationship. 2017
The psychological organisation can appear randomly chaotic, the dynamics as unpredictable as they are potent, complex, subtle, and overwhelming. There is no other generalised client-group with whom I would more expect to end up in blind- spots and cul de sacs, torturous impasse, and painfully conflicted feelings that seem in one moment undoubtedly transferential, in the next suspiciously counter-transferential, and in the next a chaotic and dissociated coalescence of both.
They are perhaps more routinely pathologised than any other client-group. Being seen to suffer from a personality disorder distances others from the relational elements of the perpetuated borderline experience, and this is represented routinely by the inclination of therapeutic professionals, including myself, to issue exasperated comments as to how impossible he or she is to work with, how unreasonable, irrational, resistant, attacking, unfair, and driven into impasse; etc. By implication, how at fault he is, rather than how stuck we are.
I might more compassionately say that he has been repetitively deeply traumatised by deeply traumatised people, and that any disregarding judgement I make is suggestive of my own relational anxieties and fear of deconstruction, whilst serving as yet another re-enactment for the client in which he is blamed and pathologised for dynamics that happen in a relationship.
Rather than thinking of BPD as a personality disorder, I think of it as a relational disorder, and therefore I feel that how it is that I'm me in the therapy room is of considerably greater significance than any convenient diagnosis or casual judgement I might carelessly put upon my client.
A session with Lucy 2017
Asking Lucy how she is feeling is a source of slight anxiety and irritation for her, as she doesn't quite understand the question or how to answer it until I routinely reassure her that it's fine to simply connect with the sensations in her body without having to name them, and wait for an experience to arise in her awareness. She sits back in the chair, straightens her spine, aligns her body, and seemingly tries to work out how she's feeling.
No more than 500 words on 'Psychotherapy and Complexity Theory.' 2017
The recognition of the psyche as a Complex Adaptive System is, for me, central to the development of a contemporary model of psychology, as it enables us to merge our experience as practitioners and our theoretical framework more closely with post-Newtonian laws of physics.
Complexity tells us that the psyche is a spontaneously self-organising system which, whilst influenced by and responsive to external stimulus, cannot be accurately defined or reliably controlled by it, any more than it can be accurately defined or reliably controlled by the conscious and wilful side of itself.
No more than 500 words on 'The Body in Psychotherapy.' 2017
I understand the psyche as being a Complex Adaptive System, comprising body-mind patterns and processes that react, respond, and adapt to emotional experience and conflict in complex, holistic, relational, and systemic feedback-loops.
In any emotionally charged event, there are many interlinked processes that operate together to form the subjective experience, mostly subliminal and not restricted to the verbal-reflective mind; including the cerebral, circulatory, respiratory, nervous, hormonal, digestive, tissue and muscular systems.
No more than 500 words on 'Psychotherapy, Science, and Habitual Dualism. 2017
I believe there are two crucial roles that the psychotherapist needs to embody beyond the therapeutic encounter itself. We are the custodians of the psychological process of the nation and, in the service of psychological evolution, it is our responsibility to address any habituality in our theoretical positioning. This often requires us to deconstruct our own blindspots, as well as those of our paradigm-forebears, and risk challenging the theoretical positions that we cherish, fall back upon, or habitually enact. One of the most prolific, prevailing, cross-party, habitual positions is the dualistic medical-model of relative observational detachment.
No more than 500 words on 'Enactment in Body Psychotherapy.' 2017
Enactment is when the dynamics of a primary wound become replayed in the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship. This is often understood by the therapist as a therapeutic error, a mistake made, a transference unseen or poorly contained; but for me that misses the point.
It was once assumed that transference and countertransference were likewise unfortunate intrusions in the analytic process, whereas we now see them both as inevitable and as valuable sources of information regarding the client's relational patterns. Transferential dynamics can take us beyond knowledge of a client's dynamic symptoms into a here-and-now experience of their actual relational presence; which includes how they construct us through transference into versions of their own primary storylines, how we construct them through countertransference into versions of our own; and, crucially, how it is that our respective stories might collide or merge - enactments usually become apparent when the working-alliance ruptures in some form of collision, or when it remains impassive and undisturbed in some form of collusion.
From Attachment Wound to Parallel Process: embodiment, enactment, and complexity in Body-Mind Relational Psychotherapy. 2016
I believe that any psychotherapeutic model must evolve primarily by addressing and working through the characterological blind-spots of the founding parent, and this has certainly been true of Body Psychotherapy.
Wilhelm Reich laid the groundwork for scientifically explaining, psychologically understanding, and somatically experiencing the embodied psyche, but remained largely inattentive to transference and, particularly, transferential dynamics; and, therefore, the embodied therapeutic relationship has been a large part of the journey of Body Psychotherapy from his to the present day.
I hope that this presentation, by drawing a line from the conflicts of a primary attachment wound through to the subtle dynamics of the supervisory relationship, will delineate an understanding of how Body Psychotherapy has both integrated and greatly contributed to a transferential model of psychotherapy; in which embodied intersubjective enactment is understood both as inevitable, and as possibly the principle vehicle by which deeply dissociated attachment-wounds can become available, re-experienced, and transformed.
And So It Goes On: 2016
Sat in the waiting room of the clinic, wide-eyed big-haired and spindly-limbed, David’s anxiety was a presenting feature, most apparent in the firmness with which he was pressing the palms of his hands into his thighs, giving me the impression that his legs would shake furiously otherwise. Despite being fashionably well-dressed, he seemed shabby, a guy upon whom clothes could never quite hang right, not over those hunched shoulders and half-collapsed chest. His handshake was firmer than I expected though, and I was surprised when his manic neon-blue eyes made direct contact with mine. He’d decided to come to therapy following an argument with his girlfriend in which he had expressed a frustration at what he perceived to be her emotional neediness, only for her to retort with a brilliant line:
An introduction to body psychotherapy: 2015
I'm regularly asked to explain what Body Psychotherapy is, but usually in a context in which there isn't enough time for me to feel that I have done it justice, and I'm aware that there are a number of misunderstandings and fallacies that can irritate me but which I haven't really sought to coherently counter. In particular, there can be a confusion with Body Therapies, or there can be an implicit assumption that Body Psychotherapy is a relatively unformulated theoretical construct that simply encourages the loud and emotional catharsis of the inner wounded child.
The following relate to work with staff teams in the residential support services
The Hermit: 2000
I tend to think of Kevin as being square whereas he is in fact, technically, a rectangle. With a head the size of a pumpkin carried on shoulders that extend from his ears, he is almost as wide as he is tall, and the same width around any circumference. He is coated in layers of hard fat, thick slabs of clay whose movements are controlled by a matchstick Kevin hidden in the shadows of this man’s sentinel flesh. Even shaking hands with him left me with the feeling of having been introduced to the bodyguard rather than the dignitary himself.
Fried Breakfast for the Soul: 1999
At the age of ten Joe took himself to his local police station, and asked to be placed in care due to the violence, drunkenness, and general neglect that he experienced at home; and he spent the next eight years in the residential child care system, after which he was placed in a home for people with learning difficulties, but a home that specialises in supporting its clients with living independently in the community. Joe is a tough guy. He is perhaps only ten stone of solid muscle, wiry and athletic in his movements, proud of his considerable physical strength, and definitely used to being top dog. He has fought his way through various children’s homes, and through various streets of the East London that he proudly identifies himself with. He is bound tight, his muscles taut as guy-ropes and extending from a bouncer’s stance, centred around the possibility of combat.
Forced Feeding: 1999
I was contacted by an organisation who manage Residential Homes, and asked to assess a situation in one of their projects. The clients of this particular project have all experienced severe and debilitating accidents or operations as children, and are now adults in their twenties and thirties with a variety of learning difficulties and mental health issues. The situation in question was a client called Sara, who had refused food for 5 weeks. My remit was to find out why she was not eating, and to suggest a therapeutic approach. I met with the staff team off site for a 1-day workshop.
Martin was sitting at the table waiting for me, head bowed, as I walked the long corridor toward him. He looked up at me and met my greeting with a nervous nod and a word that I couldn’t decipher. He seemed scared of me, though I had never met him before. My job is to train the staff teams, and so come into very little direct contact with the people that they support, but had decided that it might be helpful for me to visit each service regularly, to put faces to names, to develop an assessment of how effective the training was in practice, and to perhaps work with clients face to face regarding any issues that the staff team felt unable to address. I had been told that Martin had been going into violent rages on a regular basis, and that these were aimed at the staff team though he had not yet assaulted anyone. The general feeling in the team was that Martin was inappropriately placed, and that he should be moved to a more secure unit, serviced by people more experienced with violence.
Dodging Bullets: 2002
Caroline’s father was the physically and sexually abusive, violent, alcoholic pimp to her emotionally destroyed mother; and Caroline grew up with mistreatment, neglect, abandonment, and conflict as the essential elements in the air that she breathed. After successive abusive relationships and, it is thought, a spell as a prostitute, Caroline married a soldier, and they had children. However, he was another violent man, the children were taken into permanent care, and Caroline had the breakdown that probably saved her life, but from which she is still trying to recover.
Bobbing on the surface: 2003
This is a short story about Herbert, a man in his late forties who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of seventeen, and who has been living within the professional support system for a vast portion of the span between. Herbert became ill following the familiar pattern of leaving home for the first time, and then getting into a relationship which quickly and painfully broke down. As then did he. He is slight in stature, partly due to build, and otherwise because of a capacity to fold in upon himself, rather as a bird tucks in its wings. He makes himself small, a pre-emptive demonstration of surrender. However, once noticed he is not easily ignored. Despite apparently teetering between anxiety and panic, his wild blue eyes sometimes attach themselves to the focus of his attention with an unnerving intensity. He has crow black dishevelled hair, and a triangular beard that, I suspect, was modelled on D.H. Lawrence; but actually my enduring image of Herbert is of a shy Rasputin.