Editor's Note: Luanne Sberna presented on "Psyche & Soma: Healing The Mind-Body Split" this past May 27th at the Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT. Below is her synopsis of her presentation which included lecture, body movement, and discussion. Ms. Sberna has an M.A. in Dance Movement Therapy and is a long-time private practitioner of this approach to healing with an office in Burlington.
1. Inviting the Unconscious: for example by personifying a mood, feeling or fantasy image, person or situation to get started. He warns against using a real person in one’s life as this can lead to difficulties with that person.
2. Dialoguing and Experiencing: Through conversation and/or play, dance or art, engage with the image, sticking with one image at a time rather than flitting from image to image. He reminds us to engage our feelings in the situation, to listen to the symbol or image, and to reply with our own viewpoint and values.
3. Adding the ethical element of values: in other words, conducting oneself in a way consistent with one’s values and character rather than being carried away by a particular archetype or aspect of onself.
4. Making the experience concrete: This does not mean to act out the fantasies or content of Active Imagination literally. Rather, by creating a physical ritual the essential meaning, insight or principle derived from the Active Imagination experience can be integrated into practical life.
Jung encouraged his patients to draw, paint, write and dance to engage the unconscious through Active Imagination, and he felt a benefit of this method is that it is a way to gain independence from the analyst by doing one’s own inner work. In the book Active Imagination by Jungian Analyst and Dance-Movement Therapist Joan Chodorow, an account of Active Imagination engaging the body is presented:
When I was in analysis with Miss Toni Wolff, I often had the feeling that something in me hidden deep inside wanted to express itself; but I also knew that this ‘something’ had no words. As we were looking for another means of expression, I suddenly had the idea: ‘I could dance it.’ Miss Wolff encouraged me to try. The body sensation I felt was oppression, the image came that I was inside a stone and had to release myself from it to emerge as a separate, self standing individual. The movements that grew out of the body sensations had the goal of my liberation from the stone just as the images had. It took a good deal of the hour. After a painful effort I stood there, liberated. This very freeing event was much more potent than the hours in which we only talked.
Dance-Movement Therapy: A Brief History
As word of Chace’s work spread among the psychiatric and dance communities, a modern dancer and dance teacher on the West Coast, Mary Whitehouse, was also coming to see that her work was more than just teaching dance. After reading articles by Chace, she realized she was on the right track in using dance as a tool to help individuals experience their authentic selves and work through emotional/physical blocks to a fulfilling life. However, she was working with a nonpsychotic population in her dance studio, and was greatly influenced by her experiences in Jungian analysis, thus the methods she used were different from Chace’s. Whitehouse adopted many of Jung’s theories in her work, including that of Active Imagination which came to be called Authentic Movement when the body was the means of expression.
By the 1960's the Dance Therapy apprentices of pioneers like Chace and Whitehouse were working in a variety of clinical settings and were influenced by many theoretical perspectives, including Jungian. They formed the American Dance Therapy Association which defines Dance-Movement Therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of dance and movement to further the psychological and physical integration of an individual by effecting changes in thought, feeling and behavior. The ADTA has set the educational standards for becoming a Dance-Movement Therapist and provides professional support and education.
The Interface of Dance-Movement Therapy and Active Imagination
The Jungian approach to Dance-Movement Therapy draws strongly from the work of Mary Whitehouse. She brought Active Imagination into the body with the technique of Authentic Movement which she described as the experience of being moved from within rather than consciously directing movement. She compared it to what she came to call “invisible movement,” which is when even though movement is occurring, it is not genuine. Whitehouse used guided movement activities to help her students and patients begin to experience the difference between consciously directed movements, invisible movement (which can overlap with directed movement) and authentic movement. During these activities she would often apply Jungian concepts such as that of polarity or opposites to the body. For example, she would have participants work in movement with left and right, up and down, open and closed, etc. to help them get in touch with inner feelings. She felt that the “Self,” which Jung defined as the archetype of wholeness (as compared to the “self”), takes over moving the physical body when the ego gives up control.
When movers engage in the process of Authentic Movement, they quiet the mind so the unconscious can present itself through movement. Sometimes the movement happens on its own, sometimes it is prompted by imagery or sensation. The mover waits with eyes closed to be moved from within; however, techniques described in Johnson’s first step of inviting the unconscious through evoking a dream image or part of oneself, for example, can also be used. Authentic Movement is practiced in the presence of a therapist or witness who holds the safety of the space, the awareness of conscious time and who simultaneously tracks both her own inner experience and what her mover is doing. This process alters the mind-body systems of the mover and the witness, leading not only to psychological insight but also to the embodiment of that insight, re-uniting mind and body.
Many forms of mind-body therapies including Dance-Movement Therapy actively engage the body in the process of self discovery and becoming that Jung called Individuation. We can credit Jung for being at the forefront of research and practice that paved the way for modern mind-body therapies and the rediscovery of many ancient mind-body traditions, bringing them to the awareness of Westerners so that as he predicted, a new yoga, or union, of mind and body will be achieved.
Adler, Janet. Offering From the Conscious Body, The Discipline of Authentic Movement. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2002.
Bernstein, Penny Lewis (ed.). Eight Theoretical Approaches in Dance-Movement Therapy. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1979.
Bernstein, Penny Lewis (ed.). Theoretical Approaches in Dance-Movement Therapy, (3rd edition). Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1981.
Chodorow, Joan. Dance Therapy and Depth Psychology, Moving Imagination. New York: Rutledge, 1991.
Johnson, Robert A: Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth.
San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989.
Keleman, Stanley. Myth and the Body: A Colloquy With Joseph Campbell. Berkeley, CA: Center Press, 1999.
Levy, Fran EdD. MSW ADTR. Dance Movement Therapy: A Healing Art. Washington, D.C., AAHPERD, 1988.