New Introductory lecture: The working relationship between brain and body

The body is neither the origin, nor the end point of self-knowledge - it is part of a continual feedback loop, that connects us to ourselves, and our social and physical environment. The more we learn about the organisation of the brain, the more we can appreciate how we think through the body: the systems of self-regulation, of automatic subliminal resonance with and reading of others bodies, and the way this information overlaps with the multiple, fluid composite maps of our own states. Advanced research on different functions of brain regions can give us a new perspective on the dynamics of subjectivity and intersubjectivity.

This is a new introductory lecture to the seminar series ˜The New Anatomy:
Exploring the Mind in the Body. Booking details, see here

Date: Fri. 27 November 2009 Times: 6.30pm - 9.30pm

Venue: The Chiron Centre, 26 Eaton Rise, London W5 6ER Fee: £ 50

The New Anatomy

A seminar series on Exploring the Mind in the Body 
Fridays from  6.30pm - 9.30pm, once a month January-June 2010
at 26 Eaton Rise, London W5 6ER,
Fee: £ 50 per evening.

For booking details see Chiron Centre for Body Psychotherapy
or call 0208 997 5219

course outline
syllabus & reading list
relevant papers



We are living in exciting times. Radical breakthroughs in grasping the complex physiological basis of mind are emerging. For this seminar, I have drawn on body psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, holistic theories and recent neuroscientific research. We will explore both ‘hard’ facts and ‘soft’ processes to deepen our understanding of the body. Each evening will focus on the psychological function of a different body system through experiential exercises, theoretical input and discussion generated by the different perspectives of the participants.

Seminar 1: Development
Date: Fri. 15 January 2010 Times: 6.30pm - 9.30pm

Seminar 2: Bones
Date: Fri. 12 February 2010 Times: 6.30pm - 9.30pm

Seminar 3: Muscle
Date: Fri. 12 March 2010 Times: 6.30pm - 9.30pm

Seminar 4: Fluids
Date: Fri. 16 April 2010 Times: 6.30pm - 9.30pm

Seminar 5: The Senses and the Skin
Date: Fri. 14 May 2010 Times: 6.30pm - 9.30pm

Seminar 6: The Nervous System
Date: Fri. 18 June 2010 Times: 6.30pm - 9.30pm

Seminar 1: Development
Neuroscience, psychoanalysis and body psychotherapy all agree that patterns laid down in utero, infancy and childhood carry on into adulthood in the form of personality and its embodiment in physiological structure. This seminar provides an overview and introduction to the major themes of the course.

Seminar 2: Bones
The skeleton is our framework. It mediates our relationship to gravity, a constant force affecting our lives. It effects and is a reflection of our capacity to co-ordinate, balance, and articulate in spatial, perceptual and
conceptual fields. It contributes to the organisation of our thinking.

Seminar 3: Muscle
Muscle enables us to act and react, to reveal or inhibit. Muscle is the convergence zone for habits, skills, and emotional learning, in other words, conscious and unconscious intention. Patterns and textures in muscle tone embody conflicts and resources which tell the unique story of an individual.

Seminar 4: Fluids
Blood, lymph, and cellular fluid are the stream which carries our feelings through the body. The quality and intensity of our feelings depends both on the biochemical content of fluids (hormones, peptides, antibodies) and how connective tissue encysts, contains or disperses the fluids.

Seminar 5: The Senses, and the Skin
Via the senses and the skin we have contact with the world around us. How we transform, are nourished by, block or distort the world is intimately related to how we use our senses and our skin. The senses are dynamic and the interplay between them can create or reduce our sense of ‘depth of field’ in life.

Seminar 6: The Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system, a key link between the internal organs and the brain, determines changes in arousal/relaxation and where energy is directed in the body. It articulates patterns relating to survival in both the short-term (flight, denial, aggression etc) and the long-term (processing, absorption, releasing).

Reading List & Syllabus

Seminar 1: Development
Historically, there has been a separation between the study of development in biology (reproduction, birth, and the growth of the child), psychology (attachment theory, and separation-individuation) and psychoanalysis (oral, anal and genital stages).
They have all implied linear progression and focussed on relatively isolated aspects of the total process of development.

The handouts introduce a variety of contemporary perspectives which offer more holistic integrative models. Some are not easy pieces to read if you are unfamiliar with the terminology but the important theme to grasp is the interrelatedness of physiological and psychological development. There are a variety of ways to explore the impact of mother and baby on each other, as well as the effect of other people and aspects of the physical environment on the baby.

1. The chaos model which highlights the importance of ‘critical’ and ‘sensitive’ periods of development, and stresses the interaction between the organism (the baby) and the environment (mother & other key figures). Development is seen as a process of increasing levels of organisation and complexity. (Scharff, Schore)

2. The embodied model details the somatic patterns and physiological systems which are an intrinsic part of psychological maturation. (Grohman, Hartley)

There will be some experiential exploration of developmental movement patterns and their implications for psychological states. Your experience of babies and children will be a useful reference. We will look at photos to contemplate the qualities each child is embodying – you are welcome to bring 3-4 photos of your own for discussion.

Seminar 2: Bones

Bones are the deepest layer of the body. Mistakenly they are often associated with the inert. In fact bones are vital processors and protectors. The skeleton provides a structure for orientation, co-ordination and articulation in spatial, perceptual, relational and conceptual fields.

The skeletal system has not yet been considered as a subject of study by neuroscience or (as far as I’m aware) psychoanalysis. However Johnson’s work on the body foundation of image schemata which underpin our thinking provides a rigorous contemporary framework to integrates with the understanding of bone in the traditions of body psychotherapy and osteopathy.

1.The nature of bone as a container - structure, stablizer; deep internal support.

2.Bones in their role of absorbing physiological and psychological shock

3. Image schemata derived from the skeletal structure – articulation, relationship, order.

4. Reflexes – orientation in space, grounding, centring, lines of intention

5. Ego/self – neurotic and psychotic defences in organisation of skeleton

Seminar 3: The Muscular system

1. Muscle and development
Muscle is the fundamental structuring, mediating, enabling tissue in the body.
The child’s muscle is developed through contact with the world, and in relation to space and objects, including people. Like the ego (conceived in psychoanalysis as a mental structure) it reflects the individual’s history, and their way of adjusting to the external world. Muscles are the structure through which repression and expression, defence and resource, are embodied.

2. Movement as Cognition
We will look at proprioception, metabolism, sensory-motor integration in their psychological and physiological aspects.

3. The Motoric Ego
Parallel responses of ego and muscle.
Intention, will and agency at the crossroads with the unconscious. Conflict & tension.
Body image, identity and identification

Seminar Four: The Fluid System

Neurochemistry – the ‘chemical’ or wet brain. The neurosendocrine system is older, slower acting (than the central nervous system), and highly distributed in its function. Endocrine glands are situated throughout the brain and the body, with a high concentration of production in the belly (hence the name ‘the enteric brain) Hormones, neurotransmitters and peptides are transported throughout the body via the fluids influencing mood and behaviour. (see Pert)

The fluid system embodies the dynamic shifts in feeling, the ebbs and flows of desire, rage, fear, sadness, mediated..If muscle and bone inform the structure of our perception, the fluids in their singular and complex combinations, provide the colour, the affective tone.

All the fluids in the body are essentially one fluid – largely made up of water – that changes properties and characteristics as it passes through different membranes, flows through different channels and interacts with different substances. The characteristics of each fluid system relate to a different quality of movement, touch, voice, and state of mind:
Blood – weight, earth, heart-felt, full.
Lymph – clarity, boundary, defence.
Interstitial fluid – vitality, strength, sensuousness
Cellular fluid – presence, being, rest.
Synovial fluid – loose, rebounding, carefree
Cranio-sacral fluid – lightness, spatiousness (see Cohe, Hartley)

Connective tissue is the main fluid structure. Tension within the cell membrane influences the local qualities of the tissue. Build up, containment, dispersal, or drying of fluids reflects the individual’s patterns and capacities with relation to their own feelings. (see Juhan, Boyesen)

Seminar Five: The Skin and the senses
The skin as the surface of the brain, and touch as the mother of the senses. Tactile feedback is vital in organising the brain, acting as nourishment. (see Juhan) Touch receptors are dominant for information gathering in the first months. The infant’s integrated sense of its own skin has been correlated with the initiation of a sense of boundary and a rudimentary ego.

The senses are interrelated and work in concert – the synthesis of the sensory modalities gives depth and vividness to our experience of the world. ‘Synaesthesia’ is the term for the cross-modal working together of the senses. (see Abram) Working in concert they give us holographic consciousness. But like the other systems, the sensory organs can become armoured, inhibited in their function and thus distort perception..

The order of emergence, development and dominance of senses is complex. This reflects different survival priorities in our orientation to the world. For example, the very first nerves to myelinate are the vestibular nerves which help us distinguish our own movement in relationship to our environment.In early development, vision and movement are strongly linked. At birth, smell is the first sense to be strongly activated, helping the baby bond with mother’s milk.

Polyvagal theory (see Trevarthen handout) describes the social engagement system, a revised version of the role of the autonomic nervous system. Here the senses are utilised and engaged dynamically in relationship. Facial expression (looking and listening) is linked directly with regulation of the viscera, heart and lungs.

Reading List

There will be plenty of course hand-outs sent to you by mid-January to begin looking at the material. My hope is that each participant will bring their own experience and knowledge of a particular aspect of how the mind is embodied. The course is intended to be a mixture of teaching new concepts – particularly new models from neuroscience, relational psychoanalysis, body psychotherapy and holistic theory – with experiential work and discussion in the group.

The Primary Reading list suggests texts from the main fields of thinking. There will be photocopies of specific excerpts available for each of the evenings, as well as original material produced for this course. The Secondary List has just some of the background theory, but obviously there are a huge range of relevant books. I have kept to fairly recent books mostly those written in the last decade because there has been significant advances in theory. We will explore the new paradigm – a product of new science and interdisciplinary thinking – rather than cover centuries of mind-body philosophy. Its emphasis is very integrative, constantly bringing together depth models of the psyche (eg from psychoanalysis) with the holistic working of the human body.

Read for pleasure and interest – the value of the course does not depend on having read lots books, but on engaging with the ideas and experiences.

Primary Reading

Damasio, Antonio Descartes Error:Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain (Putnam, 1994)
Cohen, Bonnie Bainbridge Sensing, Feeling and Action:The Experiential Anatomy of Body-Mind Centering (Contact Editions, 1993)
Hartley, Linda The Wisdom of the Body Moving (N.Atlantic Books, 1994)
Juhan, Deane J ob’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork (Station Hill, 1987)
Pallly, R. (2000) The Mind-Brain Relationship (Karnac,London)
Totton, Nick The Water in the Glass – Body and Mind in Psychoanalysis (Rebus Press, London, 1998)
Schore, Allan N. Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self : the Neurobiology of Emotional Development (Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994)

Secondary Reading

Aposhyan, S (2004) Body-Mind Psychotherapy: Principles, Techniques and Practical Applications (New York: Norton)
Boadella, D. (1987) Lifestreams: An Introduction to Biosynthesis (Routledge, London)
Boadella, D. (1997)‘ Awakening sensibility, recovering motility: psycho-physical synthesis at the foundation of body psychotherapy: the 100 year legacy of Pierre Janet (1859-1947) in International Journal of Psychotherapy, vol 2, no.2
Bucci, W. (2008).  The role of bodily experience in emotional organization:  New perspectives on the multiple code theory.  In F. S. Anderson (Ed.).  Bodies in Treatment.  (pp. 51-76).  New York, NY:  The Analytic Press.
Capra, F. (1996) The Web of Life: A New Understanding of Living Systems (Anchor Books, New York)
Corrigall, J., H. Payne, & H. Wilkinson (Eds.).  About a body.  Working with the embodied mind in psychotherapy.  (pp.
33-49).  London: Routledge.
Cozolino, L (2006)The neuroscience of human relationships:attachment and the developing social brain New York : Norton
Damasio, A. (1999) The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness (Heineman, London)
Frank, R (2001)  Body of Awareness: a somatic and developmental approach to psychotherapy Cambride, Massachusetts: Gestalt press
Gallagher, S. (2005) How the body shapes the mind  Oxford University Press  
Hartley, L (2008) Contemporary Body Psychotherapy: The Chiron Approach Routledge: London
Kapit, W. (1987) The Physiology Colouring Book (Harper Collines, New York)
Kapit, W. (1977) The Anatomy Colouring Book (Harper Collines, New York)
Mindell, A (1989) Rivers Way: The Process Science of the Dreambody (London, Arkana)
Moore, M. S, (1998) ‘How can we remember but be unable to recall? The complex functions of multi-modular memory’ in ed. Sinason, V. Memory in Dispute (Karnac)
Olsen, A (1991) BodyStories: An Experiential Anatomy (Station Hill Press, New York)
Ogden, P, K.Minton, & C.Pain (2006) Trauma and the Body: a sensorimotor approach to psychotherapy (Norton: New York)
Panksepp, J (1998) Affective Neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions (Oxford University Press)
Rothschild, B (2000) The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment (Norton, London)
Sardar, S &I. Abrams (1998) Introducing Chaos (Icon,Duxford)
Staunton , T (ed) (2002) Advances in Body Psychotherapy (Routledge)
Trevarthen, C & Aitken, K.J. (2001) ‘Infant Intersubjectivity: research, theory and clinical application’ Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry vol 42, no 1 pp3-48

Relevant papers

These represent various stages in my developing the material for The New Anatomy. They were written as lectures and public talks for a variety of different audiences. In these seminars I will be drawing on and developing this material but there will also be an emphasis on experiential learning and group discussion.
The Autonomic Nervous System: barometer of intensity and internal conflict
The Motoric (Muscular) Ego
Is the Body Ego more than Skin deep?


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