SOMATICS: somatic reprogramming
The Strozzi Institute proposes a new place in which to transform conditioned emotions, beliefs and tendencies: The body. A place from which to declare our purpose and experience our dignity while upholding the dignity of others.
The difference between this method and others that use the body to transform conditioned emotions, beliefs and tendencies when developing able and inspirational leaders is that this one does not seek to transform them from the body; rather, it aims to transform the body as a place that supports and manifests them by reprogramming the body’s implicit memories.
Our body tells our story to others and to ourselves. The place where we find our “life process” is the result of emotional and life baggage that not only manifests our own life experience, but that incorporates the learning, traumas and solutions of the generations that preceded us.
All of this history is represented in our physical posture, in how we hold our head, how we tilt it when speaking to others… The place from where we watch others when speaking can indicate mistrust or condescendence, for example. If we tilt forward or back when we stand facing others, this is related to the embodied idea that we have of ourselves: do we want to go unnoticed or do we need to occupy a more prominent space? Our voice is also a physical presence, as are silence and the imperceptible movements of our eyebrows.
Our presence is explaining a story, our story, and this tale influences how we are seen by others and how we see ourselves, the actions we feel capable of doing and how we do them. Our conditioned tendency, or how we spontaneously react to a stimulus or challenge, is also the result of an embodied process that starts in the first stages of life as a specialized adaptation for our survival.
None of this is new, of course. Kinesiology studies the relationships between emotions and positions and movements, and the physical manifestation of attitude in human beings. What is different about this method, and the cornerstone of this work, is the idea that it is inside the body where, by modifying the body’s implicit memory, the transformation can take place, and not through intellectual learning.
We are convinced that conditioned tendencies, how we react under pressure, whether it’s fight or flight, dissociation or submission, are adaptive mechanisms recorded in our implicit memory during non-intellectual learning stages of life, and that therefore they cannot be transformed through an intellectual process. Trauma and shame also support beliefs based on implicit memory and are difficult to transform using a conscious cognitive process.
Somatic reprogramming, the body I “am” versus the “Cartesian” idea of the body I “possess” (I think therefore I am) forces us to face the reality of our existence and our purpose from a completely pragmatic viewpoint. So, just like I do not “possess” a body, I “am” a body, nor do I “have a commitment”; I “am the commitment”.
The pragmatic reality that underpins the embodiment of our life process, of our purpose, avoids the procrastination involved in having to convince our body, from the brain we think ourselves to be, of the new actions that need to be performed, of the different level of response that we need at this point in our life.
Action is our way of communicating with the universe. Of course words are also actions, as are silence and inaction sometimes. We thus regard action as exercising our will, but not our thoughts. “Knowledge is only a rumor until it turns into muscle”.
In addition to a place of procrastination, thoughts can be a waiting period between the impulse and the transformative action. As such, a personal decision would be understood as an action when it is embodied and it moves us.
It is also through action, therefore, that we transform our body and with it, the life process it sustains.
We work on “focus” to adapt our place of consistency and power; we learn to “face” circumstances with dignity in the face of the dignity of others; we “extend” ourselves in a connected fashion, feeling the presence of what surrounds us; we “introduce” ourselves confidently and genuinely into the reality of another or of our project and we “combine” ourselves with others, in projects and ideas, without rushing or losing our identity, preserving our individuality and judgment, our center, without diluting or opposing ourselves, upholding and convincing. Learning the value of that great “Yes” that’s behind everything that we’ve learned to say “No” to.
We use the body to change the body, and we do so through physical exercises and moves borrowed from aikido. Doing new actions or transforming our conditioned tendency, exercising the body, comprises a literal metaphor that the Strozzi Institute upholds as a process of change.
As a non-aggressive martial art developed in the first half of the 20th century by teachers from various Oriental schools and philosophies, aikido develops the ability to defend oneself effectively by using the other’s force using enveloping moves, feints, falls and harmonic combinations performed from our center to strengthen the center. We thus integrate and “assimilate” the opponent. The enemy’s energy, force and aggressiveness are thus turned into the best ally of our purpose.
Transferring this external opponent or enemy to the figure of the internal opponent that is our shame, limiting belief, conditioned tendency or trauma, allows us to use the reactive force of that part of our life process that is not contributing to our purpose and assimilate it anew. To do so, we use the space or the colleagues with whom we practice holds or katas.
The success of this embodiment or conflict assimilation process thus depends not on a conscious intellectual process, but on a physical action that must be maintained through numerous repetitions of katas and centering actions and statements. The body needs 300 repetitions to learn a new move and have it available, and 3000 repetitions for this new move to be the only action possible and for the old one to cease existing in our body or implicit memory.