Regina Favre, Laboratório do Processo Formativo, São Paulo, Brazil
Concepts and practices are part of a cultural history
The body knowledge and practices are part of our history. I believe that this knowledge, as we conceive them today, are rooted in Europe, in the mid-19th century, as a byproduct of the industrial society. The change from craftwork production to industrial production completely remodeled cultural and artistic traditions, conceptions about shape and language, values, and the appearances of streets, houses and their interiors, demanding from people a new use of their bodies in order to produce and incorporate all of these realities. Pressure coming from the increase in excitement and problems and benefits produced by the industrial society suddenly shook the uses of the body as they were previously known.
At the same time, among other philosophical and scientific transformations, Darwin, with his Evolutionary Theory, which promoted the biggest revolution in man’s self image since the beginning of his history, removed the Creator once and for all from the scene and presented men to their animal and adaptative capacity, allowing each person to see in their bodies the continuity of the bodies of their animal relatives. It is very important to consider Darwin’s presence in Freud’s elaborations.
With Darwin, the body for the first time became real and its behavior accessible , the bud of a new conception of the body in a physical, social, and relational reality that started to be seen: functioning as shape, solidified behavior as species, individual and historical-social molding, body as presence, a concept that fully blossoms under the pressure of our global days.
This is where I intend to get: a clear map, historically situated, scientifically based, politically extended and methodologically workable, out of Stanley Keleman’s formative views.
With all of these transformations—powers, semiotics, technologies, speed, and new modes of production and money distribution, new notions and practices concerning self-regulation and autonomy of bodies were ready to appear, and even urged to be formulated, as an antidote to the first signs of stress in modern life.
How industrial capitalism and modern body knowledge grew together
Capital and its power initially had the visible configuration of family fortunes, boosted by new industries. But this was just the beginning. As the 21st century advances, we will see the potential of this capitalist power becoming more and more impersonal and invisible, more and more accelerated, producing uncontrollable movements of the market and the economy, and generating a continuous and fast change in social landscapes, bodies, and existential territories.
The same speed has been witnessed with the multiplication of body techniques that actually aren’t only techniques, but methods that reflect the different perspectives of the body in need of regulating itself.
By breaking the limits of academic and medical environments—the traditional places of knowledge, research and experiments conducted by individuals or small independent groups in Europe were fundamental in the development of the body theories and practices that molded this new culture from the Twenties to the Second World War.
Escaping racial and political persecution and, attracted by the promise of democracy in America, these new European humanists, creators, and practitioners of these new body conceptions, entered an environment where this new culture would find a total home in the philosophical tradition of American Early Pragmatism. Its values of the body and natural living were celebrated by American literature and poetry, in the value of enlightenment and discipline of the American religious experience, and mainly in America’s huge prosperity and post-war optimism.
From this “good encounter,” as Spinosa would say, blossomed in the United States in the mid-1950s the culture that we consider ourselves belonging to.
And we cannot forget that, as we got to the ’50s, the dominant American post-war culture had a specific function that tended to expand throughout the West.
Fordism and the serial modeling of bodies
Phillip Cushman explained the ever-expanding function:
“For the USA, one of the tasks in the 1950s was to convert its powerful international war machine into a viable international peacetime economy. This was not an easy task and at the time the country floundered in recessions, with the specter of the Great Depression never far from consciousness. But in the decades immediately following the World War II the USA economy learned one of the economic lessons of the war: in order to stay out of a depression, 20th century capitalism had to base its economy in the continual production and consumption of goods and services. Therefore, big business had to develop ways of selling goods that were not essential or well-made. In others words, the country was now dependent on producing and selling non-essential and quickly obsolete products, services and experiences that consumers could not save enough to afford. So banks had to develop new forms of easy credit. Purchasing rather than saving, indulging rather than sacrificing became the predominant style. People learned about new post-war conveniences from radio, magazines and newspapers ads, so did the increasingly powerful print and electronic media teaching people how to handle their lives and finances. Continuous new households were needed to stay scientific, modern and healthy. So a new configuration of the self had to be constructed. (Constructing the self, constructing America,” Philip Cushman, p. 77 to 79)
This modeling force as perceived in Brazil
Nicolau Sevcenko observed how this new configuration affected Brazilian perceptions:
“With the First World-War, the European movie industry collapsed and the USA inherited everything, building a virtual monopoly of production, distribution and exhibition worldwide. With the rise of talked movies and the enormously increasing costs of productions, the small studios went bankrupt and only the big Hollywood corporations survived. The system of studios was then developed, rationalizing, optimizing and considerably reducing costs and its promotional counterpart was created: the star system.
The Hollywood movies created and spread, as a dogma, the beauty pattern of the movie stars, which became the big promotional lever of new habits of consumption and lifestyles identified with the American Way of Life.
Vinicius de Moraes, Brazilian poet and diplomat, has a poem from this decade called “Passionate History, Hollywood, California,” in which he puts himself in the position where all his life is reinterpreted as a succession of Hollywood clichés: the way of sitting, driving a car, staring at the girl next to you, dating at sunset, holding a glass, flirting, flirting and being looked down at, eating fast-food, addressing the waiter, the clothes she wears, bowling, the sarcastic half-smile , the sudden mood change , the trick of lighting a cigarette with just one flip of the lighter.
All that comes from the movie screen.
The poet feels that his life doesn’t come from his interaction with people around him, but instead from a team of unknown technicians on the other side of the continent. It is not an exaggeration.
Movies are a complex art, a sum of revolutionary techniques of visual communication, such as close-ups, emotional effects of the editing resources, beat, rhythm, light, sound, music, facial and bodily expression, the glamour of youth, the athletic choreography, the make-up, hairdos, wardrobe, scenarios, and most of all the smashing power of sex-appeal, all that amplified on a colossal screen, radiating its hypnotic silver shine in the darkness of a theater.
What Hollywood has taken to the ultimate consequences was the discovery, in great part taken from surrealists and expressionists who had escaped from Europe in the ’30s and would find work in California, that movies are an art for the eyes and the subconscious body and not for the intellect or the verbal discourse. (The History of Private Life in Brazil – Volume 3, by Nicolau Sevcenko, pp. 598 a 600)
When the children of Father Knows Best grew up…
We can see, then, how post-war America in the ’50s gained its international glamorous version, firstly, by self-modeling, and highly coveted by all. Yet, finally, in the ’60s, the subjective modeling of the youth appears: the rebel that doesn’t want his parents’ lives for himself, the previous model that was rigidly shaped by the values and behaviors of the consumption society.
From Modern Art, Modern Dance, the Actor’s Studio acting style, Beat literature to Rock Culture, the Hippie Movement, the Psychedelic Movement, the ’68 student rebellions, the Counter-Culture, the Feminist Movement, and the Alternative Culture, it was a hop. Among young people, other ways of conceiving the body and new practices of the self started to be designed.
In the wave of these movements, the fast growing body practices brought by the European humanists to America had a big role in the deconstruction of the uses of the self, deeply devalued by this generation, and the invention of new uses of the body and its modes of relating, working, living, having sex, conceiving the family, and of gender, money, education, race, madness, politics, and power.
How the new paradigm got back to Europe
Propelled by the same faith in change, in adventuring, and in challenging oneself to the bottom of oneself, this new body culture then featured in the USA, re-exported itself to Europe. There, it met the seeds left by Reich, which already were bearing fruits, since the various educational, therapeutic, and psycho-therapeutic tendencies were wide open, even eager, to mix with the American model. The new culture proliferated quickly in the form of new groups and new personal growth centers.
In the ’70s, both in Europe and the USA, practices and methods, whether exercises, group activities, or body manipulation, underwent an astonishing multiplication.
People craved for change by changing their bodies.
They joined groups, sought therapy, and wanted to become therapists. There was an ideal of creating a world apart, the so-called Alternative, which could influence the “system” from outside of it.
Meanwhile, below the Equator… Regina was surfing the wave and many times almost getting drown.
In Brazil, since the late ’60s, the artistic, musical, and political Tropicalist Movement expressed the urge for us to dust off the authoritarian traditions–agrarian, positivistic, Catholic, military, to embody the new industrial growth, reshape our bodies, and absorb the new world reality.
And, with the suffocating atmosphere of Latin-American dictatorships, Brazilians moved abroad, became politically exiled or existentially exiled. Among the latter, I include myself.
In the early ’70s, then, like few others, I merged with that blossoming body-therapeutic culture, mostly in England, which was, due in part to the Swinging London Times, becoming the soil for the growing of the new patterns of contemporary behaviors.
In 1975, already back in São Paulo, I helped to give start to a course in body psychotherapy at Sedes Sapientiae, the open-minded educational institute of psychotherapies.
In the ‘80s, several groups could be seen organizing professional education in body psychotherapy around a few international leaders.
In the late ’80s, many people had already organized themselves as institutionally dependent on international body-therapeutic schools that had become, unfortunately, companies with a new capitalistic slant: the transmission of the so-called Reichian and neo-Reichian knowledge.
Theories and lives in Brazil: specific conditions
But, in the beginning, these ideas and practices made sense in Brazil in a very peculiar way, differently from what happened in Europe and in the USA. In the first moment, they joined the forces that culturally combated the destructive effects of dictatorship in people’s lives.
It is well known how psychoanalysis, a certain militant type of psychoanalysis that was highly developed both in Brazil and in Argentina, played an important role as ally in this political resistance.
Therefore, it was only natural that certain generous couches in Brazil would embrace the cause and gestate the newborn, so-called Reichian Movement. Thus, it is also evident that, due to this affinity, the Reichism that resonated with most with us was the one of Character Analysis. It was considered at this time, a political advance in relationships to Freud’s ideas.
Therefore, the first big assimilative effort in the body-therapeutic Brazilian field in the ’70s was the construction of a psychoanalytical basis for its practice, and finding a place for notions such as id, ego and super-ego, unconscious, and transference.
However, the body, in all of its force and marvel, remained untouched theoretically, to my dissatisfaction.
I understood at that moment in my search that there was a methodological and theoretical response to industrial capitalism and its effects on embodied subjectivity, and another to world integrated capitalism, a term coined by the French militant philosopher, Felix Guattari, whom I met in the late ’70s.
It dawned on me that the visions of Character Analysis and the Function of Orgasm, venerated by the Brazilian Reichian environment, met the needs of the subjective formations produced by capitalism during its state of industrialization, and that the repression of sexual energy and its subsequent re-investment in work activities was the business of the industrial patriarchal family and its development-based model. In this sense, the Reichian orgasm convulsion, basis of the health paradigm, would identify itself with revolution, a working class-based model.
I then realized that this era was over. Modernity was giving place to Post-Modernity, Fordism to Post-Fordism.
How Toni Negri distinguishes Post-Modern from Modern
In his article,
Towards an Ontological Definition of Multitude (2002),
Toni Negri differentiates the two concepts:
a. people is a modern idea and multitude, a post-modern idea
b. multitude is a whole of singularities (“we cannot accept … that singularities be viewed already imprisoned in individuals or persons in opposition to abysmal indifferentiation… singularities are anonymous and nomad, impersonal, pre-individual…” (Gilles Deleuze, in Logique du Sens, (1969), quoted by Regina Favre)
c. the thought of modernity operates in a two-fold way: on the one hand, it abstracts the multiplicity of singularities and unifies it in the concept of the people; on the other hand, it dissolves the whole of the singularities that constitute the multitude into a mass of individuals
d. the multitude is always productive and always in motion and constitutes productive society, general social cooperation for production
e. the concept of multitude must be regarded as different from the concept of working class
f. the concept of working class limits the view of production since it essentially includes industrial workers
g. in the multitude concept, the notion of exploitation will be defined as exploitation (and boycott) of cooperation between singularities, not of individuals, exploitation of the networks that will compose the whole
h. the multitude is a concept of power (potenza) that produces by cooperation
i. this power not only wants to expand, but, above all, it wants to take on a body (that means, to shape itself always in new ways of functioning in actual connections (Favre, R., 2007)
j. the freedom and joy, as well as crisis and fatigue, in this shift, comprises within itself both continuity and discontinuity, systoles and diastoles, pulses of descomposition and recomposition of singularities
k. the multitude is an active social agent, a multiplicity that acts, is not a unity like people that we see it as something organized, it is, in fact, an active agent of self-organisation
l. cooperating living labour—a real ontological, productive and bio-political revolution—has turned all the parameters of “good government” upside down and destroyed the modern idea of a community that would function for capitalist accumulation (but now, only processual interconnections for creative actions towards realities that still do not exist (Favre, R.,2007))
m. the devices for the production of subjectivity that finds in the multitude a common figure, presents itself as collective praxis, as always renewed activity and constitutive of being, against the concept of people
n. the origins of the discourse on the multitude are found in a subversive interpretation of Spinoza’s thought. We could never insist enough on the importance of the Spinozist presupposition when dealing with this theme. First of all, an entirely Spinozist theme is that of the body, and particularly of the powerful body. ‘You cannot know how much a body is capable of.’ Then, multitude is the name of a multitude of bodies. We dealt with this determination when we insisted on the multitude as power (potenza). Therefore, the body comes first both in the genealogy and in the tendency, both in the phases and in the result of the process of constitution of the multitude
o. we must reconsider all the hitherto discussion from the point of view of the body
p. once we define the name of the multitude against the concept of the people, bearing in mind that the multitude is a whole of singularities, we must translate that name in the perspective of the body and clarify the device of a multitude of bodies. When we consider bodies, we not only perceive that we are faced with a multitude of bodies, but we also understand that each body is also a multitude. Intersecting the multitude, crossing multitude with multitude, bodies become blended, mongrel, hybrid, transformed; they are like sea waves, in perennial movement and reciprocal transformation
q. the metaphysics of individuality (and/or of personhood) constitute a dreadful mystification of the multitude of bodies. There is no possibility for a body to be alone. It could not even be imagined. When man is defined as individual, when he is considered as autonomous source of rights and property, he is made alone. But one’s own does not exist outside of the relation with another
r. metaphysics of individuality, when confronted with the body, negate the multitude that constitutes the body in order to negate the multitude of bodies
s. from the standpoint of the body there is only relation and process
t. the body is living labour, therefore, expression and cooperation, therefore, material construction of the world and of history
u. we talked of the multitude as the name of a power (potenza), and as genealogy and tendency, crisis and transformation, therefore this discussion leads to the metamorphosis of bodies
v. the multitude is a multitude of bodies; it expresses power not only as a whole but also as singularity
x. each period of the history of human development (of labour, power, needs and will to change) entails singular metamorphosis of bodies
z. it a Darwinian view, in the good sense of the word: as the product of a Heraclitean clash and an aleatory teleology from below; because the causes of the metamorphosis that invests the multitude as a whole and singularities as a multitude are nothing but struggles, movements and desires of transformation
(end of quote: “Towards an Ontological Definition of Multitude,” by Toni Negri)
New body theories and practices are needed after the Post-Modern shift
Industrial Capitalism, after ’68, finally broke its national frontiers and began to operate according to the model of Multinational Capitalism. The familiar narrative as the background of our lives, then, became just a tiny little part of a world historical narrative and, in this sense, its social and cultural history gained great importance in the hermeneutics of subjectivity.
And, with this new conjunction of the market interests of big corporations—now internationally fused—lack played the main role. Capitalist power strategy was not repressive anymore, but instead, started acting through another strategy: the capture of desire and the stimulation of the perpetual lack of “something” that would fulfill us and complete us as somebody.In this new form of capitalism, we started to crave to be who we aren’t, not to what we don’t have , as before, in the Industrial Capitalism. In this sense, images and media play the central role.
So, in the early-80s with the help of the Philosophy of Immanence developed by Deleuze and Guattari (later deepened by Toni Negri, as we saw above), which was very active politically and theoretically in Brazil at that time, I managed to see, for the first time, the dynamics of subjectivity production.
At the speed of Contemporary Capitalism, with the help of these views, I could figure out how the bodies and their worlds formed and reformed themselves continuously, following very precise collective rules. These philosophers referred to this as the “social production of subjectivation modes,” that, in fact, are market-developed and selected ways of
taking form generated by the interplay of powers, values, and commercial interests.
But I kept feeling, more than ever and with great frustration, the need for a concept of body as a biological process and a practice that is connected to the process of body making as part of the act of living our lives in the world.
A new scene in Brazil: less State, more civil responsibility
With the first presidential elections in 1985, after the 21-year-long dictatorship, it became necessary to contribute to our professional field with a notion of citizenship that would help to put oneself in the middle of the new events. It became necessary to take positions and to act with regard to our environments: physical and human, worldwide, and particularly in this country, where these issues presented themselves in a painful landscape of inequalities and social injustices.
At the same time, the theme of ecology began to impose itself onto global society. Guattari wrote, The Three Ecologies
(1980) and Caosmosis
(1992), where this eminent responsibility and power become evident.
From 1985 to 1992 a new standpoint is set for me
After reading the newly published Emotional Anatomy (1985),
I discovered Stanley Keleman and his theory of the Formative Process. Its reading worked for me as a satori. With him I could at last see a visual concept the body as a process that extended itself from the beginnings of the biosphere on this planet as a producer and something produced in the physical and social processes, channeling and secreting itself as a protoplasmic liquid force continuously, throughout genetic evolutionary forces in each particular life, generating and sustaining environments, physical and social, as a response to its built-in, connective and formative need. I could see there a total consonance with Spinosa’s concept of immanence, central to Deleuze, Guattari, and, later, to Toni Negri’s philosophical devices.
No matter how much it contributed to the understanding of this new post-individual conception, Post Modern Philosophy continued to use tools of Continental philosophy, almost entirely ignoring Darwinian heritage, which in the late 20th century gave birth to molecular biology, contemporary neurosciences, and a new notion of Evolutionary Anatomy. From here, the terrible problem of body-mind in Western philosophy could be finally solved, also giving scientific evidence for the impossibility of subjective enclosure into individuality.
All of my movement toward Keleman—a true Darwinian, contemplative, Occidental thinker, came from the dissatisfaction with the above-described Reichian modern view of the body. But, mostly, it came from my deep disappointment with the idealization of the practicability of ideas like Deleuze’s “the body without organs,” and its literary recall of Castaneda’s egg and “ennaction” concept from Varella, that had led him to get lost in Tibetan Buddhist conceptions. This was an unforgivable wrong turn for a scientist of his innovativeness.
Deleuze and Guattari said in What is philosophy?
(1992) that the English are exactly nomads, that they treat the plane of immanence as a motile and moving ground, a field of radical experience, a world in archipelago, where they feel happy to camp, from island to island into the ocean… yes, Darwin!
I was very lucky in my choice of Keleman. Immediately and passionately, I started translating his books, writing to him, and finally, in1992, I began to attend his workshops in Berkeley.
At that very moment, I dreamt about the loss of a child in the multitude and the conception of an old body’s fetus, personified as the butoh performer Kazuo Ono, laying down in fetal position in a bathtub filled with clay. The infantile illusion of individuality was going away, giving place to a newly concepted body made of multiplicities of selves in the becoming.
Finally, I could identify myself with a model of working, researching, and teaching, as well as with a philosophy of the body that allowed me to think and act ethically as part.
Keleman’s formative conceptions and methodology
Very similarly to Immanentist philosophers, in the tradition of American philosophy, Keleman says in his scientific contemplative language that we all live inside an organic ocean, a living mantle called the biosphere. And as living systems we do the same than biosphere as a whole – we extend , we gather back and we form sub-organizations. This is the way we grow connections into the world and form also inner connections of sub-systems in the self. As the biosphere and all living systems, we, as bodies, are motile and pulsatory.
But Evolution endowed us with a cortical voluntary system whose effort mobilizes the body’s pulse pattern to grow synaptic connections. So, not only in real situations that require us to learn no matter what, we can exercise this capacity as a practice for life and work.
Keleman says that if we use voluntary effort, we necessarily will create a behavioral chain, what means that the accumulation of a critical mass of axons makes an anatomic memory and this is experienced of what he calls “subjectivity” and I, in consonance to the all previous considerations, prefer to call ” sense of self”, keeping the word “subjectivity” to mean a social production not a natural event. With this practice, he teaches, we learn to differentiate and mature our inherited embodiment by strengthening and forming synaptic connections. This intensifies and vivifies, he says, our experience of “being at home in ourselves” – a very heiddeggerian idea.
Repeated voluntary actions, as anatomical pieces of behaviour, produce excitatory spikes that are the initial phase of forming new neural connections.
This is what I consider the natural power we have to the enhancing of subjective biodiversity. It is in this sense that I consider Keleman´s theory and practice useful politically, no matter his discordance. This power is based in the ability to form internal somatic connections strengthening a feedback continuum of intra-organismic contact with different intensities and amplitudes. This is the primary source for organizing an experience into a somatic shape.
He states that voluntary cortical-muscular effort stimulates the growth of axons and these axons will form a connecting structure, the synapses. They connect the body wall with the cortex. This is how brain and muscles work together so making the differentiations on the particular shapes. As we hold a shape, or an expression, we make a distinct muscular frame, a thickening or thinning of the body wall, with an unique excitatory pulse and consequently a unique expression, a unique connection to the environment and a unique experience, that means we morph( as he says) as
subjective biodiversity ( as I say).
And this is his difference from any other author that is in this king of quest, he presents a very factible practice: the Formative Method.
His work in his seminars and books is to theorize and help, though exercises and clinical work, readers and participants to gather and give stability to the pulses of excitement and to cultivate a personal world, a growing personal soma with its own values and meanings that sustains and matures an adult life.
His Formative Method consists in a practice protocol of five steps:
1. Recognize a somatic pattern and make a muscular model of it
2. Intensify the muscular pattern in distinct increments, pausing between shapes
3. Disassemble the muscular pattern pausing at each shift
4. Give an edge of rigidity to form a boundary to contain the pulse
5. Make the distinct shapes into a continuum of behavior for social and personal activities.
As one uses cortical-muscular voluntary effort to make distinctions in his somatic shape, one reorganizes the structure by making more inner layers and inner connections. When motile patterns are given stability and duration the organism experiences something new taking shape within itself.
For Keleman, to be bodily present is the soma’s most urgent task. We feel an urge to transcend our inherited form.
I would say that we face all the time formative problems that have to find a solution, which is to organize a personal embodiment, the one that is functionally unique of our own.
And it takes volitional effort.
He thinks we must engage ourselves with the dilemma of learning from the inherited part of ourselves. The mix of the unlearned and the learned form a personal shape. Through volition, the cortex learns how to influence the intensity of an excitement, of an urge.
He states that the formula for bodily presence is shape-intensity-duration. To form is to give duration to responses that we produce by chance, in a given lived situation, as it happens in Evolution, I would say.
Keleman calls it to be in charge of our life. We must cultivate a formative method to volitionally alter body shape.
I would call that to cultivate singularities,
The cortex influences the body’s responses. By this process, the body and the brain form a subject-object, you and I relationship. The cortex and the body knit a personal bodied self from the inherited body , one which has not existed before. The consequences are immense since it makes the body and its behavior as a personal entity.
He uses the well-known neuroscientist Gerald Edelman´s idea of neural reentry, who describes this process as one in which the brain makes map of the body’s action and then, neural copies of these maps. Then maps talk to each other and share information. This is the way, for him, the brain stabilizes muscular actions.
And Keleman, enlarging his own idea, says that when there is new behavior, new action patterns, the brain has to make lots of new neural maps. So, the Bodying Practice uses this innate reentry neural process to stabilize new behavior. Reentry can be is volitional as we intend to repeat a non-volitional action since the process occurs on the neural level. Volitional reentry then stimulates neural muscular organization and creates a structure.
This is the basis of the practice: volitional activity, by making micro-movements, intensifying reentry.
This way can participate in forming a second somatic self.
This is creation. This is power, “potenza”, as would say Toni Negri with Spinosa, connective “potenza”.
Keleman describes it as it follows; edited from the notes I keep from his workshops: when we observe another person’s muscular patterns, our brain quickly organizes similar motor neural patterns in our own body. He considers this mirroring as a direct somatic knowing of another person’s intention to act. I would add that the body, as a reflex, contracts and expands instantaneously facing any object, situation, quality ,whatever, imitating it to know in itself what is this about…this is perception and , at the same time, a kind of fagocitation of forms. Then by repeating motor patterns this response becomes our own. This way, I think we can extend his vision about inherited shapes and expressions, to any social moulded behaviour.
This is my theoretical and practical point.
Keleman teaches that through the cortex, the body makes frames of its acts, reenters or repeats them with variations, and forms distinct action patterns over time. The cortical ability to alter shape is possible through its functions of delay, variation, and localization. This is a wonderful discovery that gives all the basis to its practicability.
A frame is an inhibition of an action and a lessening of that inhibition. This is performed by the stiffening and un-stiffening of the body. The stiffening organizes a neuromuscular membrane that creates a particular inside and an outside for the body.
A frame is a cellular, emotional, and cognitive field of action. The frame is a somatic site, a certain amount of somatic memories of what has happened. They gather organismic excitement and then let it swell. A frame incubates and intensifies excitement by altering and stabilizing structure. In this way, the cortex plays with its body and forms a personal bodily presence.
Postures and gestures are motile anatomical organizations that inhibit or facilitate excitatory intensities all the time. Cortical volition transforms automatic behavior into learned and regulated behavior.
The five steps of the Method can be further differentiated by using micro-movements. The micro-movements of the body over itself, not a movement, repeat a pattern and create stability by organizing small frames. These frames are small packages of contractions that compartmentalize excitement. They do not mute excitement but redistribute it. It takes time to organize frames and to assemble and disassemble them in the body and in the cortex. The method of repeating small muscle contractions gives a frame duration and distinction.
I consider this as a continuous craftwork over any behavior, which allow us to grow always subjective biodiversity and different possibilities of webbing, be it physically to the physical environment, be it emotionally, be it cognitively.
In the Practice, he instructs the student or client to tell himself how he is bodily present in a given situation. To make a pose or posture. Then tell it as a story. To use gestures, postures, and find a theme of action. To tell it as if you were telling yourself how you acted. Tell about those moments when you formed a posture, tell how your body changed, talk about what your body went through to be present.
This I edit here is a collection, a mix, of Keleman´s ideas from many workshops, personal email conversations, personal works, books and unpublished papers from his seminars.
How formative concepts help to understand the how of capitalistic capture in this global culture of images and how to deal with it through its formative method.
Throughout these years, I learned deeply in myself through Keleman that there is a protoplasmatic formative ocean, a molecular multitude, channeled by series of bodies from which individuals would form themselves in the making of a particular temporary membrane of themselves out of universal formative biological rules. I thought immediately that this vision of an oceanic reality can be extended, as it becomes more visible today, to the contemporary reality that can be considered as a common planetary field of bodies and modes of shaping them in their connections with other bodies and social processes. Each body as a multitude is always changing in relationship to other bodies. The idea of singularities was there.
But Keleman’s vision, so similar and so different, at the same time: from immanent conception it is still personological, the result of his Heiddegerian and democratic American roots. It is philosophically and scientifically post-modern, but politically modern. So close and so far.
The startle reflex: between the excessive and what can be assimilated
Time, slow and natural until not more than 150 years ago—prior to the invention of the railroads, photography and the movies, before the intensification of commerce and communication which today are global and in real time—used to give people the feeling of identitary stability, maximized by the industry of images in the 50’s.
Today, to the anguish of most people, we don’t perceive ourselves anymore as an ego among other stable egos.
Biology, also, with the increase in possibilities for observation, theorization, and publishing, started to allow us to see our pre-individual reality as highly connectible, both molecularly and synaptically.
The speed of social and behavioral changes, experienced constantly and learned from the mass media, also creates in us a very unstable self image, one of being nothing more than changeable clusters of behaviors, socially produced.
The vertiginous speed of these social changes permeates everything and triggers in the bodies, collectively, the startle reflex, as described by Keleman in his article, “The Startle Reflex,” published in his own site, www.centerpress.com:
“The startle reflex is an organismic response to deal with emergency situations—danger, threat or challenge from outside the person of from within the person. It is a complicated process that begins with simple spontaneous responses to insults and involves a predisposition toward more complex shapes depending upon the timing, intensity and duration of the unknown.
This response is meant to be temporary; when the danger passes the organism returns to normal. However, this same response can become a habitual state, so that its organization remains as we move from event to event. It becomes a continuous somatic pattern. Many people are always in a state of moderate brace against a danger that they cannot fully articulate. The word stress describes this ongoing state and startle the temporary state.
The startle reflex begins with an investigative response, followed by assertion, annoyance, anger, or avoidance, and finally, submission and collapse. Each stage of intensification is based upon the ability of the organism to halt pulsation, create segmentation and recruit more and more layers of itself into its response. It involves:
• change in the musculature and posture
•change in the diaphragm’s shape
• thickening or thinning of the body wall
• increase in the separations between the pouches
• change in the body’s relationship to the earths gravitational line
• alteration of feelings, emotions, and thinking.
The startle response is usually progressive and moves along a continuum: however, it is not mechanistic nor does it continue in an invariable or sequential order. Each person has a unique pattern of startle and stress that is characterized by the number, timing, duration source and severity of the threat posed either physically or emotionally to the organism. In some instances the person may skip several stages and jump immediately to a more extreme response.
These somatic patterns are processes of deep self-perception and ways of feeling and knowing the world. They affect all tissues, muscles, organ, and cells as well as thoughts and feelings. They are more than mechanical. They are a form of intelligence, a continuum of self-regulation. These patterns are layered and tubal phenomena that affect the entire organism. They are intrinsic and involve muscular states from the tip of the head to the toes. Muscles and organs are not just contracted. They are organized into a configuration. These organizations become the way we recognize the world as well as ourselves and, in turn, they become the way the world recognizes us (Keleman, S., 2007).
Towards a Radical Formative view: using Keleman beyond Keleman
Keleman’s Formative views present us a model of the soma as a place, a living place, an evolutionary living architecture, in the biosphere and “in society,” as he still says, as if society was a monolithic reality, with the possibility, much richer than any other living being, of continual self-construction with the molecular elements of what is exchanged with the environments, be it substances, feelings, behaviors, or images.
From alert to terror, it spread globally in an unforeseen way, as a virus, throughout the communication network, mostly of images, be it news or behavior models, which now involves us all.
But as we learn from Keleman, in order to stabilize experience as a body, what has been lived has to be able to be assimilated. This is the way the human soma generates its future, with the tissues, shapes, layers and behaviors of connection to the present events.
Each layer of the soma requires a formative time and reliable environments to form itself in its becoming, and to operate in the creation of differentiations that connect us functionally with the environments of the global network, of which we are part both locally and generally.
Fast forms: the impoverishment of subjective biodiversity
The embriogenetic shapes, the constitutional shapes, the developmental shapes, the shapes of self-protection, of assault, of emotions, the matrixes of the gestures and actions, all that emerges from the depths of the formative ocean and triggers at the right time, out of the ancestral wisdom of the soma.
These shapes, however, already emerge in this post-modern capitalist global world, regulated by the interplay of powers and values which capture them and channel them into networks of meanings, immediately shaping and molding them.
Each new biological shape that emerges at every moment, in the continuity of each human body, is immediately threatened by exclusionary forces, and already finds at its disposal prefab forms, tested by market selection, manipulated by opinion polls and supported by technologies created by the brightest minds.
These shapes are all around us, filling all the space of our perception, offering themselves to produce in us the illusion of inclusion in this world.
They are the fast forms: elements to be used in the construction of new ways of existing that we are forced to assemble facing the sudden and continuous disorganization of ways of being and existing. This is produced by the fragmentation effect of the startle reflex as a biological response to permanent excessive speed and threat of exclusion, generated by Global Capitalism.
These threats are intensified by the images continuously broadcast by the mass communications industry: images of inclusion, prestige, safety and happiness, side-by-side with images of exclusion, deprivation, violence, loss of property, and social existence, not to mention loss of life, which constantly terrorizes us.
Instant time in the Global World gives us no time to form personal lives, and catapults us towards the fast solution offered by the fast forms. They are all for sale and are objects and services of all kinds that, in fact, are subjective boundaries: ways of housing, dressing, relating, thinking, imagining, loving, craving, functioning, producing, and generating life stories.
These models of existence have the characteristic of being easily assimilated; like fast food they are fast forms. They spare us, apparently, the effort, the time, and the anguish to compose our own menus of being and living in the world, away from the required digestion of events.
Fast forms come with a powerful marketing operation that makes us believe that devouring them and identifying ourselves with them is essential for us in order to reconfigure our territory that continuously unweaves in the speed of information and new events. This is the only way to belong to the planetary network and avoid the risk of physical or social death due to disconnection with the processes of continuity of life. And we, also, are goods: our lives are exclusively translated into economic value, whether we want it or not, and we are simultaneously producers, spectators, and consumers in this reality.
The high level of attention, mobilized by the techniques of communication, feeds the potential of identification with fast forms, which, in turn, feeds the functioning of this modeling machine of meanings and bodies that has become one of the main forces of Contemporary Capitalism.
These fast forms, however, have the characteristic of feeding back our lack of self-reference and our helplessness, turning us dependents of its consumption, in search of relief of this existential anguish.
Unless we revert the situation.
Recalling and reapplying the matrix of Formative Thinking
But in order to produce a truly individualizing operation, we need first of all to apply the Kelemanian concept of body and how the body-making process happens, so that we can contemplate through which interplay of biological and social forces a body models its own formative process.
More than 10 years ago, Keleman wrote me a personal note, which I now edit:
The living process has a total investment in the continuation of embodying itself. For this reason it is in constant dialogue with itself. And this dialogue is always about what to do in respect to its immediate situation. The body speaks through sensations, feelings, motilities; therefore, it needs to talk back to itself in such a way that it can influence its behavior. Thus, the body has the power to influence itself, molding itself in actions, inhibiting itself or acting in relationship to itself. It does that through an elegant system of feedback that we call the brain. The body organizes itself to talk to itself, secreting for itself an organ which is capable to receive back its patterns of action and talk with itself about them. That means, there is always an ongoing relationship of the body with itself, mediated by the brain. This relationship occurs as the mode by which the body regulates its own metabolism, its movements and motilities, the mode by which it alters and regulates the shapes of its expressions. This reveals that the main business of the body is not only to survive but survive through a relationship to itself (Keleman, 1996, personal email communication).
Evidently, life and evolution did not give us this wonderful heritage because we are special individually, but because this heritage allows us to strengthen the power and diversity in us from this same heritage and in the pool of life. However, we already know that contemporary capitalism, and the violence integral to its functioning, acts against it by trying constantly to capture this power of life and turn it into consumers of images of fast forms, perversely exerting its threat of exclusion—with its concentration dynamics, leading to the elimination of differences, conducting to homogenization, and, consequently, to the weakening of the pool of subjectivities.
The Cartographic Method and Bodying Methodology
To cartograph these changing social landscapes that we are part of—both global and local, according to Guattari’s teachings, means to describe them in detail. We can follow their mutations and the speed of the flows that cross them in order to recognize the bodying genealogies in each ecology— social, affective and semiotic, and the fast form species that, like viruses, infect these environments, then find out possibilities and strategies of appropriation, and work over them.
By applying the Five Step Methodology in the Kelemanian logic of formativeness, the big secret of evolution hidden inside of us that protects life against the theft of what allows it to keep on forming diversity, will then reveal itself.
With the help of this method, we can identify the fast forms that captured us, recognize their anatomy, their boundaries, their forces and tendencies, and then intensify and de-intensify them.
This way, we can access the startle reflex that gave space to them to install themselves.
Through the already mentioned voluntary micro-movements of their surfaces, we will be able to redefine these shapes, to invent other shapes with fragments and re-combinations of the fast forms, stabilize the differentiations, and test their functionality in the new landscapes of meanings and connections.
A clinic or education that deals with somatic subjectivity today must be understood as micropolitics. Micropolitics is a way of sustaining territories of creation; it is the action of small groups that resist the acceleration and demands of the society of the spectacle, but, on the contrary, constitute themselves in zones of lentification in the social fabric. They are modes of influencing in the social domain, not by imposing alternative forms of functioning, but through the slow and continuous influence of a formative way of operating and producing realities. Less is more.
Through the assimilation of Keleman’s model
Since the very first moment, I have been careful to absorb the formative thinking in an active manner and not as a dogma or a product for fast resale.
After several experiences in the configuration of the transmission, successes, failures and restarts, I refined the idea that Emotional Anatomy, by Stanley Keleman, needed to be understood simultaneously as a philosophy, a biology, a pedagogy, an ethics, a clinic, an aesthetic, and a possible ally of the micropolitics of resistance against the capture of the industry of behaviors.
This multidimensional understanding led me to conceive a method of transmission, both transversal and multidimensional.
Since the beginning of my clinical practice as a body-psychotherapist in the mid -’70s, I have felt that the written language of books and articles was not enough for us to reflect on and transmit the notion of the body as shape, action, emotion, feeling, intelligence, and bonding. There is an orality and a performaticity that is inherent to the body. Thus, as soon as the first video cameras—the big Panasonic ones—arrived in Brazil, I decided to buy one and started to make recording experiments.
It took years for me to quit the documentary format and get to the interactive and inclusive use of the camera in a group situation. As a participant in Keleman’s environment of video recording and editing, and having been chosen a few times as the “star” of his videos, has been fundamental to this slow change.
The more I understood the capitalist capture action through images, the more it became clear to me that this educational and clinical work that centralizes its action on the shape of bodies should also elaborate ways that are, in fact, a micropolitic for working with images: fragmenting them, multiplying them, creating new combinatory possibilities of interacting with them and embodying them. Only by promoting this kind of collective practice of appropriation and de-sacralization of the images, could we face the post-personal power of fast forms.
Full dedication to the transmission of the Emotional Anatomy paradigm:
Since 2002, Emotional Anatomy (EA) has been the center of my teaching and research.
This happened at the same time that I moved my clinical and teaching activities to a new space.
No partners or colleagues are with me; only co-workers, researchers and students.
This transmission, developed by myself and, presently, some co-workers, is configured today as a lived reading, which happens weekly, with different groups, for 4 or 5 semesters.
I, as the teacher, act as a reader, a commentator, an interpreter, a director, a slow climber of the book lines with the group, in a atmosphere of continual rehearsal.
The groups are composed of people who already have their own experience in their lives and professions: body therapists of different traditions, doctors, psychologists, dancers, actors, physiotherapists, artists, social workers, consultants, journalists, teachers.
The formative transmission constitutes itself in an event.
It is an embodied experience, in a tightly intertwined production in layers of bodies and bonding, formative somatic and conceptual knowledge, narrative lines, video recording all the time, video watching all of the time, linguistic exercises of the formative language, the posturings of oneself, the experience of the 5-Step, drawing somagrams, cartographies of concepts in the lived situation, conversations about social history, politics, biology, modes of subjectivation, stories and descriptions of people functioning in their lives and worlds.
Maurizio Lazzarato observed:
The construction of the device is not simply a technological precondition of the project. New methods of production of the image require us to see new aspects of visible reality, and new aspects of visible reality cannot be perceived and enter our horizon of sense if there are no new means to establish them. The two things are strictly linked to each other.
In our society, technical devices are conceived and commercialized as means of communication. The Timescapes Platform( the experiment he describes in his article, Favre, R) was not conceived and fabricated as a simple instrument for the transmission of information, images and sounds, between situation A and situation B. The relations (social, aesthetic and political) between different situations or individuals are not given in advance, fixed and immutable, but are in formation, in a continual process of change and becoming. The relations are not transmitted, but are constructed and created in and through the technical device. (“To See and Be Seen: A Micropolitics of the Image” Maurizio Lazzarato, available at www.16beavergroup).
The environment for AE transmission, especially built for this aim, is like a small machine. It is made of the interconnection of heterogeneous elements: the Emotional Anatomy book; a TV set where recordings of the previous class are always running as layers of memory; the remote control for making available at anytime stills, slows, backwards , frame-by-frames, the recording of these new images inside of images; a professional cameraman always there as a part of the group; a big screen; an overhead projector with its light that creates expressionist ambiences; the magnified projection of transparencies of images from Emotional Anatomy, of molecular biology and neuroscience, giving us the experience of our smallness inside of these big processes; the bodying them up ; the huge whiteboard for cartographies and somagrams; collapsable chairs; the clear floor boards and the yellow walls where all of the action becomes minimalistically visible; a big window that reflects inside of the room and at the same time frames the world outside that we are part of continuously appearing in the recordings; the space where people exercise themselves in the embodying of the readings of the conversations, of the imitation of one’s own shapes and others’, of the different forms of bonding while doing simple things; and, a wall covered with pictures of the groups’ moments and actions. Doing, recording, watching, stopping, recording new experiments over an image or a sequence of images, an expression, growing new lines of doing, recording, talking, a hand, a behavior, an atmosphere, an episode of a formative intervention made by me… and so on… and so on…
More and more, I realize how this device reproduces—and at the same time deconstructs—the ocean of images we are merged in, while at the same time offers the instruments for each bodying up( incorporation) a word of keleman´s vocabulary,of him- or herself, in real time and with constant feedback and layering. I’m happy with its functionality and beauty.
Each group has its reporter, always an older student who is there in a different role: to summarize each class, elaborating on the scripts that accompany the video archives of each group. Group members have access to their own tapes for studying and including their influence on their own specific practices in order to multiply immediate effects.
Following the agricultural metaphors that Keleman is so fond of: It is a different environment, where varieties of Keleman’s seeds are selected, hybridated, and grown, responding to different conditions and different formative problems.
Cushman, P. (Year). Constructing the self, constructing America. Place:USA Publisher: Addison Wesley Publishing Company .
Favre, R., (1998). Personal communication.
Favre, R., (2000). Personal communication.
Keleman, S. (1985). Emotional Anatomy. Place: Centerpress.
Keleman, S. (2006). “The Startle Reflex.” Available at http//:www.centerpress.com.
Maurizio, L. (2005). To See and Be Seen: A Micropolitics of the Image. Available at http//:www.16beavergroup.
Negri, T. (2002). Towards an Ontological Definition of Multitude. Multitudes, 9(May-June), 36-48.
Sevcenko, N. (year). The History of Private Life in Brazil. Volume 3. Place:Sao Paulo Publisher:Companhia das Letras
* Regina Favre: B.A. in Philosophy, formative philosopher, therapist and educator, introducer of Keleman’s formative views and books in Brazil, creator and coordinator of the Laboratorio do Processo Formativo of São Paulo, researcher of a radical formative stance.