by Ivy Green
Rosen Method Bodywork maintains that the crucial first step toward change occurs when we bring curiosity and non-judgmental acceptance to the sensations and emotional feelings that we are experiencing in the present moment. Rosen Method Bodywork Practitioners do not move clients out of their experience in the moment by bringing them into the next moment through manipulations aimed at “fixing” or changing what is occurring in their bodies. Rather, Rosen Method Bodywork Practitioners use consistent, listening touch and verbal reflection to attune to client’s moment-to-moment inner experience.
Practitioner’s attunement provides the interpersonal safety that allows clients to bring their awareness to their bodily experience. The use of gentle touch helps clients release the patterns of muscular tension that protect them from experiencing sensations and emotions which were overwhelming or unacceptable in their past. When clients feel safely held by their Rosen Method Bodywork practitioner’s touch and attunement, they can risk opening themselves to their inner experiences. Because practitioners convey unconditional acceptance, clients begin to share that attitude.
Something as ordinary and basic as muscular relaxation, when it occurs within a caring , unconditionally accepting relationship, provides clients with a gateway to sensations and emotional feelings, as well as the accompanying thoughts, images, memories, and impulses to act which have been suppressed through chronic muscle tension. Rosen Method Bodywork practitioners safely guide clients through this unknown territory by helping them tolerate sensations and emotions that may be unpleasant, frightening, or simply new and unexpected. At every step in this process, practitioners help clients regain the nervous system balance that allows them to safely allow and accept their felt experience.
Bodily experience is the realm of what, since Freud, we have come to think of as the “unconscious”. The unconscious, referred to as the nonconscious here, is the realm of the forbidden impulse, dangerous emotional feelings, unfulfilled longings, and traumatic memories of physical and emotional pain. Our bodies develop protective postural and muscular patterns to contain and control these impulses, needs, and memories. When we focus our attention on our body’s messages, we relinquish our habitual control of what we will experience and know about ourselves in this moment and we open ourselves to re-experiencing what our bodies have been holding down and away from our conscious awareness.
Individuals turn to Rosen Method Bodywork when they get in touch with a longing to be more whole. They may come for sessions because their muscles ache, their resistance is low, and they suffer chronic shortness of breath and tightness in the gut. Individuals may sense they have the capacity for greater emotional range, or that they could achieve a more compassionate relationship with themselves and others, as well as greater physical ease and emotional resilience.
It is difficult to change our protective patterns on our own, because they operate even when we are not aware of them; they are nonconscious. We have thought about how to change our lives. We have willed ourselves to respond differently – but these patterns are not under our conscious control. The choice to repeat them is not a conscious choice, so our willingness to change is often not sufficient to get the results we desire. We can no more will ourselves to respond differently in certain situations than we can will our chronically tense muscles to stay relaxed over time.
Protective muscular patterns are retained in our bodies memory systems: to modulate them we need to access these systems. Our body’s memory systems employ different neural networks than do our verbal autobiographical memories, and thus they offer us a different window into our personal histories. Our present bodily experience is linked to our past experiences by – doing them again – by recreating them in the present moment. In order to change physical and emotional patterns that no longer serve us, we need to become aware of how we automatically repeat these patterns in our bodies. The simple fact of having a guide who is attuned to one’s bodily experience creates a degree of safety that is difficult to achieve when one is alone. Feeling “safe enough” opens the door to curiosity and exploration, making the journey into the unknown possible, and healing.
In spite of its apparent simplicity, Rosen Method Bodywork results in an expanded sense of body, mind and spirit. Clients may experience a feeling of renewal , and a restoration of mental and physical health and well-being. The “by-product” of this method is an experience of deep trust and surrender, a transpersonal state in which clients feel connected to something greater than themselves – to a God, a universal intelligence, or a compassionate universal energy. For some clients, the experience of uniting their minds, bodies and souls brings with it the experience of being fully alive, and the sense of living in a meaningful universe, connected to everyone and everything. However fleeting this expanded state of consciousness is, once individuals have experienced it, they know that it is a part of them, intimately connected to their breath, and that they can access it again.
This article has been abridged with permission from the author, from the book, Relaxation, Awareness, Resilience: Rosen Method Bodywork Science and Practice, by Ivy Green (Fast Pencil, 2016).