The Parable of the Unclad Kaiser: Rolfing® as Reflection

“The emperor has no clothes!” 

It defines the human condition that one’s gaze orients outwards. The eye sacrifices self-awareness to entertain images of the world. This explains how one can lose one’s sunglasses on one’s own forehead & why the proverbial emperor needed a youth to point out that he was naked. We are, by nature of our perceptual inheritance, invisible to ourselves in a general sense. The critical reader likely feels herself scarcely able to contain the objection: “What about a mirror?”

Indeed through the reflections we cast in the outer world, we can infer our own condition. The emperor didn’t need a mirror because the boy exposed him to himself. The emperor could have made use of a reflective surface, or merely attuned himself to the subtler reflections of his regal nudity in the countenances of his townspeople. In all cases, the essential outcome was the same: that outer events related to this deluded monarch his own doings, erstwhile unbeknownst to him.

The process of Rolfing® Structural Integration (SI) represents an analogy to this parable in that much of our bodies’ physiological & kinetic activities are invisible to us. If these processes were immediately apparent, we would have no trouble in the first place since we would immediately perceive & rectify any deviant activity. An example may clarify this phenomenon: suppose my should hurts any time I try to start a chainsaw. Initially I experience only an inconvenient symptom. Though I may intuit a cause, yet I fail to perceive it, oblivious as I am to my own inner proceedings just like the unclad kaiser. In the case of such shoulder-pain, however, a mere mirror will will not provide me with sufficient insight into the cause of my affliction; only the crooked grin of a sweaty-toothed bedlamite will confront me. I must, therefore, seek subtler reflectors. If I thence proceed to the local office of the worldwide The Way of the Elbow franchise (which makes no discrimination against sweaty-toothed madmen) I may find myself usefully reflected by a Rolfer™. She may demonstrate to me kinesthetically, through direct experience, the cascade of surreptitious muscle-firings & internal sequences whose final expression is my symptom. Having thus identified the origin, in mutual interest we then hold both cause & consequence in our consideration as we attempt to ameliorate the symptom and eradicate its seed. 

By revealing to me an aspect of myself that was hidden from my awareness, my Rolfer served as a mirror of sorts. In this hypothetical case study, she reflected to my that my shoulder-blade was fixed immobile by an overlusty rhomboid. Dereliction at one joint will place excessive demands on another to compensate for the former’s malfeasance; demands which easily surpass the latter’s natural design. In such a discrepancy we find the optimal preconditions for injury. In enabling me to perceive & rectify such a surreptitious postural habit (which erstwhile eluded my apprehension for the mere fact that it was “behind my eyes”), my Rolfer provided me with the self-apprehension necessary for my own recovery: I can consciously begin to emancipate my shoulder-blade from the tyranny of my spine. I might then persist in my inspired chainsaw escapades without scapular let or hindrance, or maybe I’ll become an artist. As the late Carl Jung so eloquently expressed it, albeit in a slightly different context, “Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will rule our lives & we will call it ‘fate.'” In Rolfing SI, we discover a method to bring the light of our attention to the shadowy recesses of our own subliminal movement-patterns. Only with such awareness can we hope eventually to exorcise any disorderly elements a-dwelling therein. All this so that we can live in ease, unencumbered by inconvenient aches & tensions.
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2 thoughts on “The Parable of the Unclad Kaiser: Rolfing® as Reflection

  1. Aaron Alexander

    Glad to see you’re still writing! Have you checked out the Podcast or any of the work I’ve been putting out?

    Hope you’re doing well, you are definitely a special dude.

    Aligntherapy.com/podcast

    Best, AA

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