Life makes shapes. Life is a natural, evolutionary process in which series of shapes are continually forming. These shapes are part of an organizing process that embodies emotions, thoughts, and experiences into structure. This structure, in turn, orders the events of existence.
Each person’s shape is his embodiment in the world. We are the body we inherit, the one that lives us, and a personal body, the one we live and shape through voluntary effort. We are citizens of two worlds, rooted in the animate, immortal and timeless.
Molecules and cells organize into clusters, which further organize as layers, tubes, tunnels and pouches. These give structure to liquid life and set the stage for embodied human consciousness. Through the act of living, a personal human shape grows, one that is changed by the challenges and stresses of life.
Formative psychology™ is based in the evolutionary process in which life continually forms the next series of shapes, from birth through maturity to old age. At conception each person is given a biological and emotional inheritance, but it is through voluntary effort that this constitutional given fulfills its potential for forming a personal life. Form gives rise to feeling. The smallest voluntary effort brings forth the existential truth of one’s bodily experience rather than mental concepts or someone else’s notion about appropriate behaviors and actions. When individual identity is grounded in somatic reality, we can say, “I know who I am by how I experience myself.”
The gift of the human cortex—the ability to learn from experience—makes possible voluntary participation in our lives. Through volition, distinctions can be made in a general pattern of experience. Voluntary function is learned with practice over time. This forming practice proceeds from the simple to the complex through a continual chain of events, establishing patterns that have duration. In this way, an inner dialogue grows, giving our lives a personal and sacred dimension.
With practice and commitment, we can have some say in our embodied life. How we encourage or inhibit our innate actions personalizes and establishes the autonomy to transcend the past and present and orient to the future.
Formative Psychology™ is concerned with the act of daily living and with body process as the basis for how individuals form both themselves and their worlds. This approach honors the universal process that animates us all while seeking to nurture and mature a personal and social self. Somatic emotional education uses individual experience, emotions, states of feeling, action patterns, insights and images to discover how life has been shaped and what is seeking to emerge. The key issue is how we use ourselves; learning the language of how viscera and brain use muscle to create a personal skill for managing one's life, in one's own way, with vitality and emotional truthfulness.
A Personal Life
Humans have a sense of an inner organization, of a potentiality and possibility. This organization is a source of optimism and connects us to a bigger reality. Most people lack a way to volitionally actualize their personal present. We shape this embodiment when we organize an individual expression of universal qualities, such as gender and sexuality. Through commitment to ourselves and others, we form contact into intimacy and create the relationships that give the body its personal fate.
Formative psychology™ suggests that we have many somatic selves waiting to be bodied. Our life is continually forming and re-forming, and from birth to death the shapes of our fate present themselves to be lived. The appearance of each new shape is another incarnation. We are not just waiting to die; we are living our selves. Each of our bodied selves is a distinct self, and has its special feelings, needs, images, actions, and a consequent world view. Throughout our lives we form bodies appropriate to the age we are.
A somatic-emotional approach offers a way to work with the feelings and challenges of each emerging shape. The work of organizing and disorganizing these changes is profound. New shapes brings their own archetypal images and dreams of the future body.
Somatic work begins with discovering our individual patterns of self use and the emotional body states that give us a primary reality. With this self knowledge, we learn to grow an interior presence, to be grounded in ourselves, and to sustain our process in relationship to others. Growing ourselves, then, is not a state of mind but a state of the somatic entity.
Stanley Keleman has been practicing and developing somatic therapy for over thirty years and is a pioneer in his study of the body and its connection to the sexual, emotional, psychological and imaginative aspects of human experience. Through his writings and practice, he has developed a methodology and conceptual framework for the life of the body.
In the European countries Denmark, England, Germany, Greece, Netherlands and Switzerland live people who are working with this approach..
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