Tensegrity in Wageningen

May 16th, 2017


The model that we are developing in this series of courses is that each one of us is a community.

Neuroscience and psychology have proved  that there seems to be no central organising part of us. The “sense of self” is an illusion as Buddhism has asserted for thousands of years. Descartes was wrong, there is no part of the brain which contains the soul, or even the ego. Instead, a collection of agents act as a peer to peer group, activating in turn in different situations and in the best cases, acting as a multi-tasking team.

The members of this team are not limited to parts of the central nervous system. The enteric system, our second brain in our guts, specialises in knowing what we need and also what we should reject. Each organ has its own intelligence, adapting is function to the changing environment. Muscles act in teams, some providing power  while others connect  the movement with the rest of the body. Even at deeper levels, cells act autonomously but are continually adapting to the signals given off by their neighbours.

My interest is how to help this group  to act as a healthy community. In general there are two strategies for making a group work as a team.

The Military Mode

military mode

One is to have a strong leader who tells everyone else what to do. One might call this the Military Mode. It is simple to understand and to implement – and many self-help programmes depend on this ’self-discipline’. But problems arise when parts of the group don’t want to toe the party line, and this is the norm. In fact, to give an idea of how fragile the Military Mode is, research carried out by the New Yorker magazine shows that the average time that people keep to a self-imposed discipline like a New Year’s resolution is less than five weeks. The Military Mode is useful in emergencies but  it can only work by overruling and ignoring most of the internal community . In the process, many of the most useful parts of the inner team need to be put to sleep or rendered immobile by fixed muscles, so that, in Military Mode we are only using a small fraction of our potential.

The Democratic Mode

The other strategy is much more difficult to implement but is also much more sustainable. We might call it the Democratic Mode. The idea is not to try to control everything with consciousness, which only uses a very small part of our being. Instead, the idea is to wake up and listen to the intelligence of all the  different members of our inner community.


How do we do that?

Our five usual senses face outwards, sensing the outer world through sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. Most of us are normally only aware of our insides when we have pain or tension. But, in fact, we are continuously aware of sensation from our insides but mis-interpret it as mood or  emotion. There is a growing body of evidence to show that our emotions are largely generated from the movement and sensations of internal organs and other anatomical structures. Surprisingly, brain scans seem to show that we often feel the emotion FIRST and THEN assign a cause to it in the outer world.

This is so important and so revolutionary that it is worth saying again. If I am annoyed by you, it is probable that I am already irritated internally and that I only become conscious of that feeling when you do something that I can blame for it.

Think about it, if we could become conscious of these internal sensations, then our relationships would transform – instead of blaming others for how I feel, I would naturally seek the cause inside and see it as a signal that my internal community needs to process something – maybe a part of me needs to be heard and I am ignoring it.

There are three main pathways of internal sensation:

1) Internal Organs communicate with the limbic system in the brain through the Vagus Nerve.

2) Stretch receptors in the fascia and other connective tissue communicate with the lower brain and spinal cord  through the Gamma Nervous System

3) All cells and particularly endocrine glands send chemical signals through the blood stream.

The trouble is that most of these sensations are unconscious and so we only perceive their effect (which is a mood, or emotion), and then, as I said before, we blame that on some outside cause.

However, it is possible to learn to sense the messages coming from many parts of our internal community by sensing their movements through the effect they have on the fascia and other connective tissues.

The Fascia

The fascia and connective tissues form a continuous membrane joining everything together and enclosing every organ, every muscle and every bone. Not only does this tissue contain stretch receptors which relay even the subtlest movements but also the fascia acts as an electrical conductor, allowing the body to sense itself as a whole.

There are two complementary ways in which the fascia contributes to the development of internal community:

- The fascia separates each anatomical structure, it defines the individuals in our internal community and gives each organ a sense of its own boundaries.  In fact, pockets of fascia form in the embryo before the organs, creating a space for each individual to develop within. So fascia creates and maintains the individuality of the community members. It is necessary in order for  the community to be democratic rather than military.

- The fascia joins everything together seamlessley, it provides the sense of togetherness which is necessary for a group to act as a harmonious team. In this, I am combining together all forms of connective tissue made of collagen. The periosteum is the ‘fascia of bone’ surrounding the hard bone in an elastic sheet. Out of it grow ligaments and joint capsules, made of the same substance, which join the fascia of one bone to the fascia of another. Out of it also grow tendons which connect to the fascia surrounding muscle fibres. Out of the muscle fascia grow the big sacks of fascia which contain the abdominal and thoracic organs and each of these has it’s own fascial container which holds it in place and connects it to its neighbours. So each bone, muscle and organ is separate but are connected by the fascia of one joining to the fascia of the other.


Note how this is different to how ligaments are usually misleadingly portrayed in anatomy pictures like this below:


Oriental Medicine recognised both these holistic capacities of the fascia which facilitate the formation of a democratic community. A family of meridians represent these community-making functions and show the pathways in the body through which this inner connectedness is first experienced and explored as babies. The Jue Yin meridians trace the path of muscle-fascia connections which join the limbs into the centre of the body,  giving a sense of wholeness. The Shao Yang meridians trace spiral pathways through which the baby learns how to help different parts of the body to move both separately and together as a team.

The key to developing both of these is to learn how to sense the fascia and the sense of elastic connection that it gives to our internal body-sense. This is the aim of the next workshop.

The workshop will explore ways we can get in touch with this connectedness through bodywork, movement, interactive experiments and voicework. From these explorations we will develop a form of Qigong which formalises them into a sequence that you can practice at home to deepen the experience of the workshop.

Guided Exploration to feel Tensegrity

One of the easiest ways to feel the sense of fascia on your own is by feeling elasticity through minimal stretches. Try this experiment before coming to the workshop:

  • Stand in a place you have plenty of space to move
  • Slowly open out one arm to the side until you just feel a stretch in your chest but not so far that you feel hard tension
  • Imagine that this stretch is an elastic sheet stretching from your arm into the front of your chest
  • Imagine what would happen if you let go of the elastic and let it contract
  • (it’s not just the arm that would move, the chest would also move, the elastic pulls on both)
  • Allow that movement to take place and continue on that trajectory until you start to feel another elastic limit.
  • Feel which parts of the body  this elastic sheet connects and allow the sense of elasticity to initiate another movement.

How are muscles involved in tensegrity?

Muscles contract in order to move a part of the body. But in order to move that part, other muscles have to let go (on the other side of a joint).

The key to integrated movement is in HOW the LETTING-GO happens.

If the LETTING-GO is just a passive relaxation then the movement is NOT MODERATED and is NOT CONNECTED. The result is often stressful for the joint and jerky in quality, causing potential long term damage to the joint.

If the muscle lets go GRADUALLY then two things happen:

1) The movement is smoother, controlled and harmonious

2) Because the muscle retains some elasticity, it pulls on the bone at it’s origin which also joins in the movement. The muscles holding this bone also pull on bones further into the body, eventually involving the whole body in the movement. This means that the movement is powerful, graceful and each part of the body  takes care of the other parts.

The ability of a muscle to LENGTHEN GRADUALLY is called ECCENTRIC CONTRACTION and in the workshop we will be showing techniques for helping passive muscles to lengthen with tone. (See the Post Eccentricity!)

Thus ECCENTRIC CONTRACTION of MUSCLES and FASCIA ELASTICITY are the two main contributors to integration of the body in movement.

Movement Shiatsu is bodywork to help personal development

June 2nd, 2016

The rest of this course will focus on how we can use bodywork to help a person’s personal, social and spiritual development. This seems to me to be the most important help we can give someone that empowers them to take charge of their life.

The residential in July will explore all the bodywork techniques and experiential anatomy of Movement Shiatsu

The September, October and November workshops will deal with how to work with the three dimensions of self described in the following article …

Three Dimensions of Being Human

The trouble with being human is that we are an uncomfortable community of archetypal spirits and the one of the hardest challenges in life is to learn to integrate all of these disparate sides into a coherent whole. Many philosophers have explored this dilemma and it lies at the root of all of the world’s religions.

The concept of archetypes was particularly developed by Carl Jung to describe the spectrum of different ways of being human which our species has evolved. He thought of them as being developed by the collective unconscious of the human race, but other thinkers have identified them as similar to the behavioural instincts with which most animals are born.  From this viewpoint, the archetypes have evolved as useful modes of being and their behaviours are hard-wired into our nervous system by the process of evolution.


Diagram 1: Jung’s 12 basic archetypes

The gods of Ancient Greece and Rome are another description of these archetypes; they represent the essential qualities which when mixed together in different ways form our personality and character.  An ancient Greek who fell in love would describe it as being pierced by one of Cupid’s arrows. Jung might say that  he was expressing the archetype of the Lover. An evolutionary biologist might say that he was activating an instinct which survived by bonding the couple to stay together long enough to care for the children. I would say that all these descriptions are equivalent.


However ,  there is another,  way of viewing the human dilemma. Since the time of Darwin scientists have debated whether the main factor determining character and personality is our genes or the conditioning of society. Behaviourists like B.F.Skinner believed that everything could be conditioned  and that babies start with a ‘Blank Slate’ that is filled in by their upbringing and environment.  In this ‘empiricist’ viewpoint, identical twins separated at birth would have no reason to have similar tastes or behaviour.  On the other end of the spectrum, ‘nativists’ such as  Hans Eysenck and Arthur Jensen believed that characteristics such as personality type, sexuality and intelligence are largely determined by genes.

Most psychologists and philosophers of mind such as Jerry Fodor, Noam Chomsky and Daniel Dennett have been convinced by numerous experiments that neither of these viewpoints is correct. The prevailing view is that there are some innate modules in the brain which determine the child’s strategy for learning. These are probably innate and many, such as the ability to learn language and movement seem to be quite consistent throughout our species.

Other innate modules vary considerably from person to person and together form core characteristics that develop into a style of personality and character specific to that individual. Maybe we could call this innate core of the self our ’soul’.

We are both individualists with unique souls and tribal creatures needing to conform to the rules of the group. That is the real dilemma. This deep conflict is  the focus of what Joseph Campbell calls the ‘Desert religions’. These are Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Campbell points out that, in the stark environment of the desert, individualism was dangerous. In Campbell’s view, gods are a projection of the tribal culture, so a desert god made strong rules (the Ten Commandments) that controlled individual behaviour.

In Greek and Roman religion the gods did not particularly control individual behaviour, but were representations of human qualities like creativity, bravery, love and justice. Humans who particularly embodied one of these qualities could be declared a god and people who felt they needed a quality like courage would contact the appropriate god to help him.

In the desert religions, some of our instinctive urges are seen as ‘evil’. This means that that they had the capacity to break the integrity of the tribe : a fragile necessity in a hostile environment. Powerful urges such as sex, ownership, aggression and even creativity needed to be tamed to benefit the tribe rather than the individual.

Slightly oversimplifying one could say that the desert religions enforced morality and emphasised the tribe while the pantheistic religions emphasised the individual and saw the spirit world as a source of resources for the individual psyche.

The instinctive urges that the desert religions aim to control, emerge from our emotions and our bodies and these are not usually under conscious control. So in these cultures, the unconscious is seen as intrinsically dangerous and even evil. Maybe this is the origin of the concept of Original Sin.

Basically, these unconscious urges are what Freud called the ID. And the expectations from Society, with which we have been conditioned, he called the SUPEREGO. In his model the EGO is the aspect of the self that tries to balance these two forces. Unfortunately, since Freud was a product of the desert tribe culture, he couldn’t help giving the impression that the ID was a dangerous and even evil force and the SUPEREGO was part of the forces of good.


Freud’s view was that if we could understand the Id through hypnosis and dream analysis then, although we would not be able to be directly conscious of our urges we could accommodate them and discipline them. The conscious ego could delay their gratification or negotiate with them rather than repressing them.

However, the implicit messages flowing through Freud’s thought are that the unconscious is dangerous and needs to be tamed and I think this leads to bad therapy in the same way that the doctrine of original sin is bad for the spirit of humanity. The result is that people become ashamed of their natural being, control themselves, need approval, inhibit creative expression and enter into polite rather than passionate relationships.

The model that I would like to explore in this article is that the self consists of three primary dimensions:

1) The Primal Self, source of our primary impulses – for instance, hunger, sex, creativity and aggression. These drives come from the self and are not really concerned with other people or the environment. But they are not bad in themselves, they are all necessary for human life. They often contain real wisdom about what we need to do to realise our potential and live a full life.

2) The Social Self that develops from society’s conditioning and which is also embodied in some of our instinctive archetypes such as the Mother, the Caregiver, the Lover and the Everyman.

3) The Authentic Self, which takes in the expectations and the demands of the outer world and digests them, assimilating those that are compatible with our personality and character and rejecting those that would inhibit something essential to our soul.

In a way, the process of maturation is the development of the Authentic Self.


Diagram 2: The families of meridians and their associated aspects of the self.

The above diagram shows how these aspects of the self are related to the Oriental view of our energy/capacities and also to forms of movement-relationship described by the Three Planes. I find this relationship one of the most fruitful and useful connections because it makes a direct link to the body. Thus, if a person is not using all three dimensions of the self then they can work with that by activating and developing aspects of their body. It also gives me as a therapist a clear place to start working physically that supports the client’s personal development.

The Three Planes

The three planes are the sagittal, vertical and horizontal planes, describing the divisions anatomists make in the body. For instance, the sagittal plane divides left and right.


For our purposes, it is more useful to see the planes as types of movement. This viewpoint was developed by Rudolf Laban who described three primary types of movement, not only in their physical direction but also in what they communicated and expressed.

The three planes of movement are:

1. SAGITTAL PLANE (Laban’s Wheel Plane)
The Sagittal Plane is called that because Sagitta is the Latin for an arrow. It is the FORWARD MOVING PLANE, which is why Laban called it the Wheel Plane. It is the energy of Action. Going for something. Doing rather than Being. The focus is forward, seeing where you are going and following your vision. I like to call it the IMPULSE PLANE.

2. VERTICAL PLANE (Laban’s Door Plane)
For me, the most important aspect of the VERTICAL plane is that it is OPEN, I am opening myself to you (that is Laban’s focus), but I am also open TO you. I like to call it the CONTACT PLANE.

3. HORIZONTAL PLANE (Laban’s Table Plane)
The movements in this plane are circular and spiral, turning round an axis. If you try moving in this plane you will quickly find your attention being drawn inwards and downwards. It seems to me strongly connected with the earth, growing up from the earth, spiraling back down. Reaching inwards to our inner self. Inward focus, recharging, digesting the input from the outer world and finding your own truth. I like to call it the ASSIMILATION PLANE

It should be clear from these descriptions that the three dimensions of the self naturally match up with the three planes of movement.

1. The Primal Self is expressed in the Impulse or Sagittal Plane. Movement in this plane feels self-directed, one pointed, target focused, slightly aggressive in that it doesn’t take other people into account. The movement is forging forward.

2. The Social Self is expressed in the Contact or Vertical Plane. Movement in this plane opens the body to contact with the outer world and is in some way the opposite of the Impulse Plane movements.

3. The Authentic Self is expressed in the Assimilation or Horizontal Plane. Movement in this plane brings one back to the core axis and creates a space for digestion of the messages from the outer world. It acts as an arbitrator between the upper body (relating to others) and the lower body (primal drives and impulse for movement).

The Three Burners

Each movement plane is naturally and obviously related to various aspects of the body. This is practically useful because one can develop aspects of the self that are unexpressed by focusing on the aspects of the body related to the associated plane.

For instance, the Primal Self by itself is quite autistic and selfish. It takes no account of others but is highly motivated and focused. It needs input from the Social Self, so if this dimension of being is under-developed then working with the Vertical Plane is a way of opening up this part of the self and one needs to activate and pay attention to unused aspects of the body in order to open up this plane.

The Three Burners of traditional Oriental Medicine naturally relate the body to the movement planes:

1. The Lower Burner is an embodiment of the Sagittal Plane

The organs of the lower burner are the PUSHING ORGANS. The rectum, the bladder, the large intestine and the uterus all push down and out. This is the first act of pushing that babies perform and it underlies the ability to push with the muscles – especially with the muscles of the legs – which drive us forward and impel us into movement.
The kidneys are also traditionally included in the Lower Burner. In Chinese medicine the Kidneys are the home of our Zhi – which is the source of our primal impulses, our sex drive, our will and our creativity. Physically, the adrenal glands sit on top of the kidney which activates the Sympathetic Nervous system and prepares us for action and movement.


The Lower Burner Organs from the side.

Finally, all the organs of the lower burner support the sacrum and lumbar spine and help transmit force from the legs into the vertebral column so that the impulse from the legs flows through the whole body.

So working with all these organs and activating the muscles of the legs is a good way of developing the energy of the Sagittal Plane and thus getting in touch with the Primal Self.

2. The Upper Burner is an embodiment of the Vertical Plane

The organs of the Upper Burner are the Lungs and the Heart. The lungs expand and open the chest. The heart pumps fluid into the limbs and thus continues the energy of expansion and opening.


The chest is also the place where we feel emotions of love, loss and benevolence connecting us to others and expanding into the world.

These organs are particularly related to the arms and the head. When the lungs expand and the blood is circulating well, the head is supported , the shoulders open and the arms spread. If the breathing is shallow and the heart is not strong, the posture collapses and the head falls forward, cutting us off from the world.

The Upper Burner is the part of the body which expresses our inner feelings to the outside world but is also the place where these feelings and impulses can be inhibited and repressed.

So working with these organs, the neck, the shoulder muscles and the hands is a good way of supporting the energy of the Vertical Plane and thus getting in touch with the Social Self.

3. The Middle Burner is an embodiment of the Horizontal Plane

The organs of the Middle Burner are the Liver, Stomach, Gall Bladder, Small Intestine and Pancreas. They are the digestive organs, receiving energy from the outer world and transforming it into a form that can be assimilated.


Digestion also happens emotionally. The expectations, rules, demands and needs of other people are an emotional energy input and we need to digest it. Some of their expectations may fit with our soul and so can be assimilated without compromising our core self. Other demands may be so foreign to us that we should have the option of saying no. if those alien expectations drive us for too long, we need to cut off from our core self and repress our own energy to cope.

So the Middle Burner digestion process is an arbiter between the energy of the outer world and our core soul. Without it, we may be swept along by the expectations of others and lose track of our Authentic Self.

Activating the energy of these organs helps us to relax into ourselves, to feel self-supported and self-confident. They also support the upper body from underneath so are the physical foundation of a relaxed and open posture.

Thus working with these organs is a good way of developing a sense of the Authentic Self and a healthy Ego which can be open to the outer world but can also listen and stick up for the needs and impulses of the Primal Self.


The universal dilemma of being human is how to balance the demands of the outside world with our sense of individuality. This is achieved through developing a healthy Ego, which we are calling the Authentic Self, that balances the Primal Self with the Social Self.

The different energies of the three aspects of the self are expressed in the movements of the three planes which in turn are supported and embodied in the organs of the three burners and the aspects of the body that relate to them.

This gives a practical and useful way of using bodywork to support personal development.


Diagram 2 shows the relationship of the three families of meridians to the Planes and the Burners and you may notice that the forms of Qi represented by the meridians do not match up with the internal organs traditionally associated with the Three Burners. This is an unfortunate aspect of the translation of Medieval Chinese thought into English. Taoist philosophy required that each form of energy had a physical ‘home’. Thus the internal organs were associated with the forms of Qi but their physical function and physiology may not relate well with the Qi named after the organ. However, the three Burners are more physical and the organs in each burner are related to each other in their function and anatomy.  So the ORGANS assigned to each burner in this article are the traditional ones but the meridians in the families associated with each  burner don’t match the physical organs. It would be less confusing if we used the chinese words for the forms of Qi and reserved the english names  for the physical organs themselves.

Somatic Exploration Workshops: April 9th

April 5th, 2016


Before each workshop I will be posting an article which describes its theme and gives some preparatory exploration for you to do beforehand.

The workshops will include bodywork, movement and energy explorations, voicework exploration all of which will build towards the further development of an Inner Qigong form which can be practised in real life.

Qigong simply means ‘Working with Qi’ and is not one formal set of exercises but any practice that develops Qi. What is Qi? My experience is that it is not a mysterious form of energy or something extra to physical reality, but is an emergent phenomenon which comes from all parts of the body and mind acting together.

The metaphor that I am developing in this series of workshops is that each of us is a community of sub-personalities, muscles, internal organs, cells. This community is often fractured and dominated by the ego, so that the intelligence and wisdom of the body and unconscious mind are not heard, valued or used.

The point of these workshops is to get in touch with the subtle messages and potentials in all parts of our internal community and to value their input. As with external communities, if all members feel empowered and active then the community feels alive, energised and creative.

It is this emergent energy of an integrated community that I identify with Qi.

So our form of Qigong is not mysterious, we spend each workshop waking up and exploring different aspects of our internal community and then develop a form of movement, meditation and breathing with which to remind ourselves of these capacities on a daily basis.

You might call it grassroots Qigong rather than top-down Qigong.


In this workshop we are exploring the parts of the body-mind that discriminate between self and other. We are social creatures, so we need to listen to others and adapt accordingly – but we often forget that these expectations come from other people and then these social forces become self-expectation which can undermine our authentic self.

Being aware that an expectation comes from another person (or society as a whole) does not mean that we don’t adapt to it – but the experience is totally different – we choose to act rather than feel constrained to act, and the act of choice gives us energy.

I find that an essential developmental capacity in all this is learning to say No without guilt. If we know that we CAN say No then, paradoxically, it frees us to choose to say Yes.

So for preparation for this workshop, I suggest the following self-reflection:

Give yourself about 10 minutes and focus gently on the question:

“What do I do in life that I feel constrained to do rather than choosing to do?”.

Don’t think about it, just let these actions/ scenarios bubble up into consciousness.

With each one, taste the possibility of saying No to the pressure.

Does a part of your body contract or collapse as you imagine this?

What would you feel if you did say no?

What do you imagine would happen?


The practical details of this coming workshop are:

Venue: The Hubnub Centre, Whittox Lane, Frome BA11 3BY (It’s in the old United Reformed Church). Parking available in the venue.

Times: 10-6pm Saturday 9th April

Cost: £60 if paid in advance, £65 if paid in cash on the day.

TO BOOK: email bill@seed.org

NOTE: Times are different than originally advertised on the website. We start at 10am not at 11


September 8th, 2015

For one muscle to shorten, another needs to lengthen. Maybe more than one.

But if the lengthening muscle just collapses, the movement is sudden, localised and crude.

For a smooth, skillful and graceful movement to happen, the shortening muscles provide the POWER but the lengthening muscles provide the fine tuned guidance.

So the lengthening muscles should also have tone (meaning that they are activated – but not enough to conflict with the movement).

Eccentric Contraction is the name given to a muscle when it is lengthening but toned.

It’s like letting a climber down a cliff on a rope – you pay out the rope slowly otherwise the climber gets a shock.

One important thing about Eccentric Contraction is that it CONNECTS the moving part of the body to the rest of the body.

I find that, relating meridians to movement, that the muscles along a meridian are most often used by the meridian in their Eccentric Role, maybe because meridians are to do with connection.

For instance, the muscle in the leg most related to the Stomach Meridian is the TIBIALIS ANTERIOR whose origin is near Stomach 36.

Tibialis ant

The books say that it’s function is to dorsiflex and invert the foot. But it’s connection to the Stomach Meridian is that, when the foot is plantar-flexing to push against the ground to walk or run, the Tibialis Anterior guides the movement so that the foot uses the ground for support and push off in the most efficient way. i.e. to receive the support of the ground rather than just hitting against it.

All the actions along the stomach meridian are related to being able to receive support from the outer world. Nourishment from food, contact with other people, support from the ground.

If the Tibialis Anterior is not used then the contact with the ground is stiff and doesn’t bounce – so the movement is effortful, stiff and shocks the body rather than moves it.

Welcome to the Bodyblog

September 5th, 2015


I will be exploring the body,  the muscles, nervous systems, fascia and organs and seeing how they all relate to each other.

I’m going to try to put up a new article every week or two.

This week I want to make a general point, which you might say is political. Is our body organised democratically?

Psychologists, Neuroscientists, Biologists and Physiologists all agree that there is no such thing as the individual. Descartes thought that there was – in fact he famously said “I think therefore I AM” and he even identified the seat of this central “I” to be the Pineal Gland in the centre of the brain.

Read Daniel Dennett’s book “Consciousness Explained” for the latest evidence to show that Descartes was wrong. A multitude of experiments show that, when we make a decision, many different autonomous impulses are competing with each other and the winner comes into consciousness. We actually make the decision a few seconds before we are conscious of having made it.

Neuroscientists are exploring how different parts of the nervous system are actually autonomous agents, like separate people, who communicate with each other. Oliver Sacks, in “The Man who Mistook his wife for a hat” writes about the weird and wonderful things that happen when this communication breaks down. For instance, people who have had their corpus callosum severed (which used to be done to treat epilepsy) find that the left and the right halves of their body are feeling , thinking, sensing and interpreting different things. But the people concerned don’t notice – they maintain the illusion of being one person.

Psychosynthesis has coined the term sub-personalities for almost autonomous aspects of ourselves. So one day we might feel and act like a hurt child, the next we might be a hard-nosed businessman, the next a loving father. All of these are me – I am a community. Deeper than these, there are other members of the me-community: Carl Jung described Archetypes which can be seen as aspects of personality which are common to many humans – sort of like ‘human instincts’. Just as a horse knows how to walk without being taught (and can do so within minutes of being born) – so a human knows how to be a Mother (nurturing, supportive, non-judgemental) or a Hero (brave, self-sacrificing, resilient, on a quest). You can see these appearing in children’s play. “I’m the king of the castle”, “Doctors and Nurses”, “Mummies and Daddies” etc.

But even deeper, the Enteric System is a network of 500 million neurons wrapping round the gut. It acts as a separate brain, which knows what the body needs and creates moods and hungers to satisfy them. The heart beats even if disconnected from the brain. Organs function fairly autonomously, they are not controlled by some central controller. Each cell only communicates with its neighbours and decides what to do from the feedback it gets from these close companions, not from some global system.

So I am a community.


The question is, what is the politics of the me-community?  Is it an autocracy or a democracy?

In many cases only a subgroup of this large community makes decisions and has a voice to express itself. This means that the needs and desires of the other members of the self-group are ignored and suppressed.

This is the cause of many many physical and psychological problems.

So I think that one of the main aims of therapy is to help the person to be democratic within themselves.

That’s the point of this blog – to explore how to give voice to all the members of one’s community and to help them to communicate and cooperate with each other.