European Association of Body Psychotherapy
Dr Irene Kummer
It is my pleasure and honor to offer you a brief introduction into the work of Stanley Keleman. During his entire life, he has been interested in the relationship between the shape of the body, transforming itself, and human behavior, and this lead him finally to the development of Formative Psychology®, which, in actual fact, should be considered his lifework.
A Lifeworks like the work of Stanley Keleman is founded in the matter which Martin Buber called the „secret of the person.” It comprises all the layers of a formed private and professional life.
The richness of Keleman’s professional creation consists of many layers, which are in constant dialogue with each other. Thus, Stanley Keleman ought to be described as unswerving researcher, as author of many basic books, articles, videos and exercise sequences. Likewise, he should be considered a clinician, a teacher of workshops on various continents and a generous mentor for his students. His scientific exactitude and his artistic creation complement one another. This diversity, of which I myself have partaken, has nurtured me with regard to my personal and professional life. I am sure to speak also in the name of his other colleagues.
Since I cannot summarize his work of life in so short a time, I would like to express what has become essential for me personally in a kind of‚ letter’ to Stanley Keleman, which I want to share with you.
2. Anatomy is behavior
The diversity and richness of your work had always a formative influence on me and all around you.
I am impressed by the fact that you have developed a theory and method which is consistently based on biology and anatomy. You emphasized that the animate life is a suborganization of the biosphere. You stressed, moreover, that the animate shows a hunger for form, which reaches into the cellular and molecular layers. On these layers, structures are formed along the pulsatory continuum. These structures transform themselves, that is to say they show the morphogenesis and metamorphosis as evolutionary process. You have taught this time and again; you founded your how-method on this basis. In your own words:
“Anatomy is behavior and behavior is anatomical structure; all human functions, cognitive and emotional expressions, are body acts.“
According to the core of Formative Psychology®, behavior is the basis for the human process of formation, in all its aspects. Whereas Descartes claims, „I think and therefore I am“ and later on, „I feel and therefore I am,” you maintain: „I am an anatomical organization, and therefore I am.” This implies also: „I behave and therefore I am.“ Thus, all the human functions, such as thoughts or emotional expressions, ought to be defined as bodily acts. Thereby, you put the essential questions of traditional philosophy onto a new basis, that is to say, on the basis of anatomy. The formative work requires not only a different way of thinking, of not going back to traditional concepts. What the formative work necessitates, above all, is a change in paradigm. The starting point in the formative theory is not what we think or feel, but what we do, and especially how we do it bodily.
3. Self regulation
The regulation of one’s self is an important key word in your concept. The regulation of one’s self is, first of all, an innate and thus involuntary function, which can be taken for granted for any animate life. For the human beings, this implies the following: Genetically we have a defined body, as well as inherent behavioral patterns, by which we are lived at the same time. By means of a voluntary, muscular-cortical effort, – another keyword – we may influence ourselves. You refer to this natural function by means of the development of the how-method, consisting of five steps.
I may offer a personal example. If I say for instance, „I am insecure,” you ask: „how do you organize this from a muscularly – cortically?” which enabled me to influence what I do. Thus, I may slow down my action and intensify it step by step and disorganizing, again reorganizing. In your book, „Embodying experience,“ you demonstrated how we may differentiate our behavior and how we may create layers which become available by repetition and exercise, and which thus become applicable in our daily lives. We learn to have a choice in behaving. In this way, we establish a behavioral library, which can be amplified and represents a dialogue between our body and its brain, and the brain and its body. By creating new behavioral layers for our innate behavior, we make it personal. You showed what it means to become a unique human being who regulates and forms him or herself.
Therefore another central theme is the one how we form transitions, which you elaborated even more during the last years.
4. The layers of relationship
These aspects are linked to the question how we form an intra- and interpersonal dialogue. To this end you wrote two books: „Bonding“ and „Stages of Love“. In these books, you developed a concept of the stages and layers of relationship. One of the essential questions is: How am I ‚present’ – in relation to myself and to others? How do I organize this presence in a somatic-emotional way? How do I receive my vis-à-vis in the sense of „Being There is Being With“? The therapeutic relation has also a formative focus. In my work as therapist, this becomes manifest in an important question: In the form of whom does my vis-à-vis need me in order to undertake his/her next step in the process of formation?
In this context, you created, within the framework of Formative Psychology®, the basis for the somatically founded understanding of relationships between couples and on the base of stages of forming and between family members in the context of what you call the family body.
5. Education und Therapy
In this context you also redefined the position of formative work. It represents an all-embracing somatic-emotional education. The therapeutic – clinical work is just one aspect of formative work. Nevertheless you developed important concepts which enable to deal with patterns of insults – on strictly anatomic basis as well: From this the concept of the patterns of distress may be developed which makes possible the treatment of stress-related diseases, of the so called somatypes, of the continuum of panic and depression and other disorders. The basic book is “Emotional Anatomy” followed by the book “Embodying Experience” about this methodology.
In these books you make evident that you teach what you develop, the formative somatic dynamic as well as an experienced clinician. s the somatic
6. Maturity versus aging
In a time, in which age is of interest for demographical reasons, you developed also a central concept, which is also consistently founded on anatomy: the concept of the stages of life and especially of the stage of maturity and recently of the phase of old age. All of us, who had worked together with you in the nineties, followed its creation and elaboration.
You developed a differentiated typology of the different life-stages, which turn the later stages in life into a desirable phase. Yet, this is only possible if we are willing not to give in into the aging process, nor to struggle against it. By contrast, we have to be disposed to accept the biological offer and to somatically form our process of aging. These concepts and method influences how we accompany our clients.
7. Working with dreams
At the same time, you abandoned the dream work from the interpretation of symbols and, therefore you made it fruitful for the voluntary muscular-cortical application. Dreams as motile figures volatilize, yet by reincorporating the dream figures and by differentiating their attitude in our incorporation, we may confer duration on them and apply the newly formed somatic emotional cognitive layers to our lives. Every dream has formative suggestions that are important for the person to give body to.
8. Working with myths
In conclusion, I would like to address another dimension which has been very inspiring for me personally. Dreams are a kind of somatic myth, and myths are a kind of dream.
You said: „Myth is a script for bodying, for action, for creating an inner cathedral, a somatic self. Literature is also a pattern of embodiment”.
Neither collective nor personal myths, nor dreams are there for the interpreter. They are expressions of the Soma:
„The Soma and its expressions are twins.“
They want to be used by working with them somatically – like with dreams. This concept might establish a new basis for the understanding using of art , such as you explained in your book „Myth and the Body“ and in your articles.
9. Formative language
You did not only create a concept for how to deal with literature; you are, above also, a scientific artist and an artful scientist. You created your own consistent formative language by abandoning the traditional philosophical-psychological categories.
Your teachings are an artful blend of theories and of practical work that connect the formative language and method which makes possible a continuing formative dialogue in the formative language by which to understand experience and its anatomic basis and to influence its development.
At this stage, there is nothing else for me but to thank you. My life and my work have been formed by your lifework. Most importantly, you have taught me to grasp what it means to live and form a formative way of living. I am certain that I am also speaking in the name of my colleagues.
P.D,. Doctor of Philosophy Irene Kummer