The problem is that my back hurts…
Not an altogether uncommon complaint from a client striding through the door at The Way of the Elbow headquarters. My response is typically to do everything I reasonably can to alleviate his or her discomfort. Often a substantial aspect of this Structural (re)Integration will be to placate bellicose connective tissue by means of a gentle elbow, or two. Rolfing® SI, even in caricature, often really works: to (judiciously) apply this sort of pressure is a capital form of communication,* in the right circumstances. But there are other subtler channels for the exchange of information besides.
One particularly fruitful method of transmission is to verbally & tactily introduce a change in perception. Consider this example: if, over the course of my affairs, I have forgotten about the space above the crown of my head, this perceptual orientation will have physical consequences….I will be liable to amble around with my the head bowed like a cave-dweller in Plato’s parable. Recognising my misperception, my trusty Rolfer™ will likely remind me through words & touch, that
…there is more [between] Heaven & Earth than is dreamt of in [my perception].
As I begin to explore & inhabit this new supercranial expanse, my posture (and by extension my appearence, attitude, & worldview) will benefit. A subtle shift in my perception, therefore, was all it took to put my head on straight, as it were.
Another invaluable subject of information-exchange is our relationship to our bodies—to change one’s perception is to change the way one sees the world; to change one’s conception is to change that world itself. In order to illustrate the benefits of such a shift, I shall once again take up the thread that I began this post withal: “the problem is that my back hurts.”
I would suggest that the body is never the problem. Rather, it is a repository for unresolved struggles that one sustains against one’s experience. The body is not a problem because it lacks the sort of moral agency that such a role would require. The body is always managing the best in can, given the circumstances that we provide it withal. If the body is a problem, that can only be because we imputed this title to it—more opportunistically modified Shakespeare:
the fault, dear Brutus, lies not within our [spines] but in ourselves.
In such a case, the true problem is (1) that the client I have hypothesised exposed his body to conditions that the latter couldn’t manage, & (2) that the former is unwilling to receive the experience his present situation. To frame the story in this conception suggests further courses of recourse than merely chasing rogue aches & errant symptoms. These so-called “problems” that the body is expressing represent inconsistencies between the world itself & our conception of it. The remedy therefore is to reconcile this rift. Perceptual rectification might bridge the gulf between the two.
This is a characteristically convoluted encapsulation of the subject from The Way of the Elbow pressroom (but it’s hard work fitting human experience into verbal boxes.) Hearken! I shall attempt to recapitulate!
These are the Three Kingdoms of Integration.
Everything happens everywhere at once.
*I hold that any effectual interaction (e. g. practitioner-client) fundamentally consists in the exchange of information. To put it another way, change in alignment or posture is the visible expression of the nervous system’s integration of new information. The latter is a precondition for outward change. Naturally, the process of transaction occurs in many forms (e. g. verbal, tactile, kinesthetic, imaginative, etc…).