Using Habits for a Change

Adapted from writings and celebratory gatherings from the Mid 20th Century onwards.


Updated 11th Jan 2016



How does a person change? What actually happens inside when a person changes say from being contented to being sad or angry? Paul wrote ‘put on a new personality. Is this possible? If so how?

Given the massive and bewildering complexity of how we ‘work’ inside, how does change occur and how can sustained transforming occur?

This paper explores the possibility of some common aspects at the heart of all change.

Psychotherapies endeavour to produce change in the quality of people’s lives.

ü  So they feel better, and

ü  Have better things happening,

ü  Or have change in problematic aspects of personality,

ü  Or perhaps change in aspects of their psycho-dynamics or how they typically react, respond, behave,

ü  Or change aspects of their outcomes

In every case a human mind and body (or bodymind) in all of its bewildering richness is involved; and in family and community therapies, multiple bodyminds are involved.

So again the questions:

ü  What specifically happens when change occurs?

ü  How does this work?

ü  And what produces the change?

ü  The process used by the healer or the effect of the process?

ü  Or something else as well? What is the nature of change in human experience?

Transforming a Specific Aspect

 A story from life:

A man in his late thirties was swept with awful and devastating sensations and feelings every time anything reminded him of watching his father being hurt in a war when he was nine years old.

Over the years he had studied science and gained a PhD. With all of this competence and experience he still had the devastation every time he recalled what happened to his father. He had sessions with many healers and no one had been able to help him.

Then he went to one healer and after 25 minutes with the healer he could vividly recall everything that happened when he was nine without the awful devastating feelings. They never returned.

The questions above can be revisited:

ü  What specifically happened when change occurred in this fellow?

ü  How does whatever it was that happened work?

ü  What’s going on?

People do change in everyday life. We respond to context. For example, we are just going through the motions and a very good friend knocks on the door after being away for a time. Suddenly mood, energy, and feeling changes. If closely observing we may notice that how we move changes. And how we’re breathing changes. Words flow out of us with verve and passion.

What is actually happening during changing or transforming moments? What is actually happening at a whole-of-system level when change or longer term transforming occurs?

Let’s go to the essence of being human. At bedrock we move, sense, feel, and think. We can experience each of these and experience them interacting. 

It may be that the significant change is in:

a)    moving

b)    sensing

c)    feeling

d)    meaning making (and other thinking), and

e)    the above four interacting in ‘action’ of one kind or another including mobilising and releasing energy, including changes in blood flow distribution.

Features of the above aspects:

They tend to interact with each other in very particular ways.

They are all interlinking through the many parts of the human mind-body and are all massively interconnected as a totally integrated system of systems.

The myriad ‘bits’ that go to make up human experience tend in large part, to be integrated bits that have become habituated in an ‘if this, then that’ manner.

Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984) is known for processes supporting graceful movement. However, Feldenkrais was also interested in transforming the whole of the person. To this end he wrote of integration patterns (1972, p. 39):

A fundamental change in the motor basis within any single integration pattern will break up the cohesion of the whole and thereby leave thought and feeling without anchorage in the patterns of their established routines.

This is worthy of some pondering; some reflection.

By using the term ‘motor basis’ Feldenkrais is also referring to motor control, the process by which humans use their cognition and brain to activate and coordinate their muscles,  tendons, ligaments,  cartilages, and limbs to engage in the performance of some motor skill. Motor control is a hardly noticed pervasive aspect of living in a gravity field. 

Motor control is the integrating of sensory information both about the world and the current state of our body to determine the appropriate set of muscle forces and joint alignments and activations to generate some movement or action. Our interacting in a balanced, stable, capable way with the world requires successful motor control.

This process engages and requires cooperative interacting between the central nervous system and the musculoskeletal system and thus involves information processing, coordinating, mechanics, physics and cognition. Mostly, all of this has been habituated and involves little conscious involvement. The organization and production of movement for a young baby or a person requiring movement rehab is a very complex challenge.

Refer a delightful video of a baby’s first exploring of rolling to the side:

Motor control has been studied by a wide range of disciplines, including:

ü  Psychology

ü  Neuroscience,

ü  Bio-mechanics, and

ü  Cognitive science

In this monograph motor control relates to the inter-connecting, inter-relating and inter-depending of the physiological and the psychological and all the other entangled aspects of being human.

Feldenkrais had noted that some fundamental change or interrupt in the motor basis within any single integration pattern tends to break up the cohesion of the whole. This in turn leaves thought and feeling without anchorage in the patterns of their established routines.

This sets up the potential to transform or at least change thought and feeling.

Entangled with this is that thought and feeling are also integrated and habituated. There is healing potential in this insightful observation. Feldenkrais continues:

In this condition it is much easier to effect changes to thinking and feeling, for the muscular part through which thinking and feeling reach our awareness has changed and no longer expresses the patterns previously familiar to us. Habit has lost its chief support, that of the muscles, and has become more amenable to change.

Feldenkrais gives information about the scope of meaning in his use of the terms ‘moving’, ‘sensing’, ‘feeling’, and ‘thinking’. To paraphrase and extend Feldenkrais (1972):



 the familiar senses of

ü  seeing

ü  hearing

ü  tasting

ü  smelling

as well as:

ü  accelerating

ü  decelerating

ü  balancing

 the kinaesthetic sense including:

ü  orientation in space

ü  the sense of being heavy or light

ü  pain

ü  rhythm

ü  and the passage of time.

Then there’s the sensing of self in all its nuances including:

ü  Self Identity (Who I am – My Being & Being in the World)

ü  Physical Self

ü  Social Self

ü  Family Self

ü  Moral Ethical Self

ü  Self Respect,

ü  Self Recognition and Self Critique

Neuroscience people are saying that sensory memory may be activated within 200-500 milliseconds of sensory perceiving. We can be underway very fast.


Includes all the temporal and spatial changes in the states and configurations of the body and its parts such as:

ü  Breathing

ü  Eating

ü  Speaking

ü  Blood circulating – including:

o   Localised and global dilating and constricting of blood vessels (and lowering/raising of blood pressure) – with links to:

o   Sympathetic/parasympathetic balance levels, as well as

o   Digesting and body renewal including cell replacement.


Includes the familiar emotions, as well as aspects like:

ü  inferiority

ü  super-sensitivity

ü  and feeling:

o   Crowded

o   Accepted

o   Neglected

o   Rejected,

o   Excluded,

o   Disconnected, and the like.


Includes all functions of the intellect such as the opposition of:

ü  right and left

ü  good and bad, and

ü  right and wrong.


Also includes:

ü  Meaning

ü  Understanding,

ü  Knowing that one understands

ü  Sorting and classifying things

ü  Recognising rules, values and norms

ü  Imagining

ü  Knowing what is sensed and felt

ü  Remembering all the above, and the like.

Bandler (1985) and Steve and Connirae Andreas (1987) also write about the significance and therapeutic use of the many experiential submodalities - a few examples of sub-modes:

Seeing:        direction, distance, form, colour, field (narrow to wide)

Hearing:      direction, volume, distance, pace, pitch

Feeling:       location, intensity, movement, pressure, speed

While a therapy process may introduce functional change to any, or all of sensing, thinking, moving, and feeling, it happens to be that typically, the easiest place to introduce change is with transforming moving.

Sometimes something else triggers the shift in moving. Any of the four modes may be used to trigger a sudden shift in moving.

Bits of behaviour are typically, integrated into our habitual pattern(s) of behaviour’ and motor control is integral to every one of the following examples

   Using a high pitch voice when angry

   Screwing up one’s face in various ways

   Clenching one’s jaw

   Using glaring eyes

   Smiling or smiling with a grimace

   Raising our shoulders

   The way we stand up

   Our pattern of shaking hands

   Tensing our throat

For example, one person’s ‘anger’ may invariably entail moving that’s involving submodes like for example, tensing their hands, jaw, and belly, and combining these aspects instantly fires off associated sensing and feeling and thinking as an integrated pattern. If the person suddenly relaxes any or all of these parts, the anger experience is typically lost; it collapses.

To requote Feldenkrais, ‘A fundamental change in the motor basis within any single integration pattern will break up the cohesion of the whole and thereby leave thought and feeling without anchorage in the patterns of their established routines.

As an example:

Be aware of your breathing.

Now tense your jaw. 

What did you notice?

The possibility is that by creating a sudden unexpected change or interrupt - some aspect that produces a sudden change in motor control can in turn result in a sudden change in the coordination of, or in the behaviour patterns themselves, such that, to quote Feldenkrais, the basis of awareness in each elementary integration pattern disintegrates (Feldenkrais, 1972, p.30-39).

Regarding the question ‘what did you notice when you tensed your jaw’, people tend to immediately stop breathing when they clench their jaw. If you did not notice, perhaps repeat the above three step process and you may sense what is being discussed here.

What we are exploring here is a way of breaking up unwanted, problematic or dysfunctional habitual patterns, and understanding processes for pattern-disintegrating that is functional.

The four aspects sensing, feeling, thinking, and moving are involved in accessing and sustaining an Integrated Behaviour Pattern. Change any submode of any aspect of an integrated behaviour pattern and this typically collapses the whole pattern. The person typically shifts to some other re-synthesis.

.To quote Feldenkrais:

If we can succeed in some one in bringing about a change in the motor cortex, and through this a change in the coordination of or in the patterns themselves, the basis of awareness in each elementary integration will disintegrate (1972, p.39).[1]

What we are exploring here is a way of breaking up unwanted, problematic or dysfunctional habitual patterns, and understanding pattern-disintegrating that is functional. To repeat, the easiest entry point for total system transforming of part and whole is through transforming moving.

A fundamental change in the motor basis within any single integration pattern will break up the cohesion of the whole and thereby leave thought and feeling without anchorage in the patterns of their established routines.

In summary, if a change is suddenly introduced to any submode of any of the four aspects sensing, moving, feeling and thinking associated say, with the anger experience, this may collapse anger quickly into confusion that may in turn quickly collapse to puzzlement and curiosity, with these in turn setting up a shift to some action that is functional in the context that the person finds themselves immersed in. Each of these change states entails far less charge than anger.

An example:

Context         A person is going berserk with a meat cleaver in his hand

Therapist       ‘Do you know what I like about you?’

Response      The person goes into a state of confusion and freezes

Therapist       ‘You have stopped! You have superb self-control!’

Response      The person puts the meat cleaver down and settles

More details of this story may be found in ‘By the Way’ page 32; and other examples of sudden interrupt may be found on page 27 of the same reference. 

Any therapy that introduces a sudden interrupt to a pattern holds forth the potential for interrupting or collapsing an integrated bit of phenomena.

The habitual behaviour pattern that is collapsed may only be a particular instance of the pattern. This paper also explores processes for transforming of patterns so that change persists. For example, the man in the story at the commencement of this paper never experienced any further devastation from any recall of the nine years of age experience.

Let’s return to that story. What may have been happening with the constant return of devastating feelings associated with that man’s memory? At nine years of age he was forced to watch what no person should ever see. What he saw was accompanied by very powerful emotion and feeling, and this seeing and feeling link was stored in memory along with the activation of his sympathetic nervous system at high charge. Also linked into this were the patterns in the nine year old’s posture – a set of muscle forces and joint alignments and activations to generate particular movements and action and accompanying tension patterns throughout his body - the muscle tension patterns in the jaw, throat, ribs, lungs and heart, and the tension patterns around his eyes, and in the pit of his stomach, and tension in his feet. Motor control involves integrating of sensory information. This is involving all of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking.

To be more specific, while watching the militia torturing his father the nine year old twisted his super tense body into an asymmetric cringe pose that typically folds the body around the heart – a natural response protecting the heart. This intense cringe is a massive reframing of the foetal position to now being the ‘feel awful’ position accompanied by massive tension that emerges as the ‘quivering mess’.

All aspects of the visual system are involved. Facial recognition of his father as the one being hurt activates the fusiform gyrus located in the temporal and occipital lobes. Recognising what is happening is processed in the Temporal Lobe. Where his father is in relation to himself and how things are happening is being processed in visual processing areas in his Parietal Lobe and this information is linked to the Visual Cortex, and to visual processing areas in his Temporal Lobe, with further links to sensory crossover processing in the Hippocampus-Limbic area with links to Parahippocampal memory processing.

Being able to think and know that it was his father involves the Wernicke’s area in the Temporal lobe. The visual system’s involvement with the Temporal lobe also activates the Amygdala that combines complex messages to recognise danger, which in turn activates the Locus Coeruleus in the Pons area of the brainstem. That in turn activates chemicals activating the sympathetic nervous system that dilates and constricts the blood flow in directing flow to the brain, arms, and legs and away from digestive processes. Simultaneously messages affect the pulmonary cardiovascular system are increasing breathing and heart rate. Refer. Healing Peak Experiences and the Ergotropic & Trophotropic Systems’

At the same time, what is happening is being passed through three stages of memory formation blending visual, auditory and other sensory input with emotional crossover in the Hypothalamic Limbic region with all of this being mixed with visual and auditory memory storage and retrieval in the Parahippocampal Gyrus surrounding the Hippocampus.

What happened is that the whole of this is stacked in one integrated memory. Activate the original context and the whole of it is reactivated, including the racing heart and the devastating flood of feelings. The entire complex constellation has been integrated. It has become a habituated response. The pattern is:

o   If X, instantly Y

o   ‘If this, then instantly that.’

o   Recall seeing father, instantly activates devastating emotion.

The awful experiential aspect of all of this is integrally woven in with what is happening with moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking, and the associated neurochemical and other processing.

This is in no way saying that it’s all just biology, that it is all just in the body juices. What we’re saying is that everything here is all inter-connected, inter-related, and inter-dependent.

Phenomenal awful experience is woven into human essence in all of its richness.

Any part of this rich interconnected system of systems may be an entry point for change.

Some entry points may be far better than others.

All of this ‘set up’ of a nine year old was using natural human capacities and properties.

It follows that natural human capacities and properties can be used to introduce change just as the original awful stimuli produced change in a nine year old boy’s life.

While we can use the word ‘traumatic’ for the original experience, from the framing of this paper he does not have trauma in his body. What he does have is integrated and habituated memory & associated integrated habitual physiological response.

The idea of having something called post traumatic stress disorder that will last a life time is traumatising and not a useful myth at all, let alone a reality.

‘Trauma’ as a real term tends to help establish interminable (seemingly endless) suffering.  After 26 years this fellow stopped a habituated see-feel awful memory (not a disorder), and stopped it very quickly and naturally.

The technical term for this integrating of sensory and feeling input is synaesthesia. If he recalled the ‘father during war’ visual stimulus, then his system instantly and automatically, and every time activates all of the emotions, the physiological tensions, the rapid heart rate and everything else associated with the whole of the original experience. So much of the whole thing ‘happens’ again.

This scenario contains the following key/critical elements involved in re-constituting the specific memory:













The father three metres in front and slightly to the right of the boy





Father is on his back on the ground  and the militia are hurting his father



The boy is  quivering in an extremely tense asymmetric cringe

‘Where’ processed in the Parietal lobe. Sensory submodes involve distance & direction


‘How’ (Parietal Lobe) and ‘What’ (Temporal Lobe)





‘How’ and ‘what’

Experience shows that often distance and direction have particular potency in visual stimuli and memory - refer Andreas, C. and S. Andreas (1987), and Bandler, R. (1985).

This hints that having the man alter the position he is in relation to his father in recalling the incident may make a difference. The other is altering the extremely tense asymmetric cringe.

What the therapist did was to combine the use of intuition, and knowledge of the potency of sensory submodes, Ericksonian language, Feldenkrais and the insights of this monograph to have the man discover how to be fully relaxed in the foetal position curled up to the left.

The suggestion was to lie down on the floor. This was framed as ‘being able to be very relaxed to go to sleep at night. What was not said was that this was setting up a profound reframe of the extremely tense ‘foetal-based’ cringe that he had while watch his father being hurt.

The therapist suggested that the man lie on his back on the floor with his hands near his hips and then slowly with awareness of moving have both of his hands and arms slide along the carpet in an arc to come above his head and then the man relaxes in full extension.

Then the man follows the suggestion and slowly moves both hands and extended arms in a swooping arc on the carpet to the left so that the right arm brushed over his face and then the man returns his arms back to full extension and relaxes.

He then very slowly repeats the experience a number of times and discovers how he can use the reaching arms to have his body roll to the side on the left. This takes time – discovering anew how to organise the motor control of all of the muscles, tendons and cartilage and the joint alignments and activations.

Then the therapist suggests bending the elbows on the way down to the side, and to have the knees soften and bend.

On the next slide of the arms around to the left, the man is invited to have both his knees roll to the left and bend and to slide on the carpet up towards his elbows so that the man comes to be fully relaxed in a foetal position lying on his left-hand side.

After doing this rolling to the left from full extension a number of times, the man is invited to go through full relaxed extension and continue to roll over to the right hand side into the very relaxed foetal position, and to do this many times.

Then the man is invited to roll from the right-hand side through centre extension and over to being in the foetal position on the left - and then to do this full roll from side to side a number of times in a very slow, relaxed manner- discovering how to do that with more flow, grace, and ease - and after a time, to stop with arms in full extension and fully relaxed, and then slide both hands and arms down in a swoop on both sides to come to having the hands down near the hips and rest and check how relaxed he feels. All of this took around twenty minutes. The man describes been more relaxed than he can ever recall.

After a time he is invited to roll to the side to come to sitting and then spiral to come to standing and to check how relaxed he feels while standing. Again he reports being very relaxed.

Then he was invited to be very aware now as you go for a walk with your very relaxed body.

Then standing in front of the therapist he was invited to mirror the movements of the therapist who very slowly moves into a very relaxed mini foetal stance while standing, first to the left and then to the right.

The man is able to do this very easily. The man was then invited to turn so he was looking to his left (and not to the right as he did when he was nine) and the therapist moved not three metres away (the distance the father had been away) but fifteen metres away; and the therapist puts a small grey pillow sideways on the floor and invites the man to remain symmetrically relaxed as the man looks through his crunched up fingers at the grey pillow that now appears very small.

And then the man is invited to become aware of all of the aspects of his experience:

a)    Standing symmetrical with weight evenly distributed between both feet and very relaxed

b)    Looking through his crunched up fingers to his front left with eyes focused 15 metres away at the grey pillow

c)    And to form a small two dimensional photograph of the pillow in his mind’s eye

d)    And that this is a shades-of-grey photo with dark around the edges like it was taken looking through his fingers

e)    And then with eyes closed he was invited to:

Remain aware of your gentle breathing now in the relaxed symmetrical posture as you can begin now to image in your mind’s eye having that photo change from being a grey small something 15 metres away into a shades-of-grey still photo of your father on the ground. (And the man finds that he can do that.)

And now have this small shades-of-grey distant photo of your father 15 metres away to your left begin now to roll as a slow motion movie of what happened when you were nine. (And again the man finds that he can do that.)

And when it’s finished, have this movie go backwards very fast; back to the beginning, and turn into a still photograph in shades of grey again. (And again the man finds that he can do that.)

When this was finished the man remain symmetrically relaxed and breathing gently.

Notice that the man had just recalled seeing his father without the strong emotion and he has not yet realised what he had just done!

He was then invited to:

Remain how you are right now and recall the incident that happened when you were nine in a new way.

The man is amazed that he can recall everything as before though he has none of the strong reactions that he had had over the past 26 years.

The process has disintegrated the original ‘constellation’ – the astronomical number of integrated bits making up his integrated seeing, hearing, feeling and thinking and all of the physiological bits and has dis-integrated the whole-of-it re-accessed through memory.

The rolling to the side in a very relaxed way invoked being relaxed in contraction - a very familiar experience during the first nine years of his life before war started.

This created a fundamental change in the motor basis within the tense cringe integration pattern thereby breaking up the cohesion of the whole of the typical posture he automatically assumed on previously accessing the memory.

Thought and feeling associated with the tense cringe no longer has anchorage in the patterns of their nine year old established routines. There is no activation of the sympathetic nervous system and no speedup activation of the heart rate.

A novel and new memory version of the ‘nine year old’ is activated that is very different in many respects:

o   It starts as a small shades-of-grey photo (not a life-size full colour movie)

o   It’s positioned to the front left (not the front right)

o   His father is five times further away and smaller

o   The shades-of-grey movie is small and in slow motion

o   It then re-winds in high speed with everything going backwards

The language the therapists used in suggesting things to the man {step (e) above} is filled with Ericksonian patterns including:

a)    Imbedded suggestions - you can begin now to image in your mind’s eye

b)    Sensory submode shifts from colour to shades of grey

c)    Change in distance and direction, time   something 15 metres away    roll as a slow motion movie

d)    Distorting in the slow down, speed up and reverse of visual motion

f)     Collapsing of the present time relaxed onto the nine year old physiology, including the imbedded suggestion to ‘recall in a new way’. Standing symmetrical with weight evenly distributed between both feet and very relaxed


Transforming a Whole Person

The ideas presented so far may be applied to any aspect of human experience. How this may be done is a fascinating quest for the eclectic innovative therapist. Many examples may be found in the collection of healing stories titled Coming to One’s Senses - By the Way


a)    Roles and role-taking

b)    Framing & reframing of meaning and context

c)    Sensing self:

i)     Self identity (who I am)

ii)    Physical self

iii)   Moral-ethical self

iv)   Family self

v)    Social Self

d)    For each of the above selves:

i)     Self acceptance/satisfaction)

ii)    Self in action - how I act (behaviour)

iii)   Self criticism

iv)   Self esteem

v)    Self image

vi)   Self concept

e)    Relating with self and others

f)     Being, or lesser experience such as tentative being; non-being; just existing

g)    Experiencing face and facade

h)   Projecting past onto present context

i)     Ways of constituting meaning

j)     Mix of concentrating and dissociating

k)    Reacting, Responding, Being Proactive

l)     Constructing and using words and language involving impoverished re-presenting of experience such as using generalising, deleting, or distorting

m)  Criminal behaviour

n)   Addictions

The following story titled The Daughter on Bail is from life. It is an example of using processes consistent with the ideas presented so far in this monograph in the context of a complex set of problematics that were all woven together:

1)    Multiple addictions

2)    Serious criminal behaviour,

3)    These first two woven in with complex issues to do with:

a)    Self acceptance

b)    Family and social relating

c)    General health

d)    Loathing of bail conditions, including mixing with drinking and drug taking friendship networks

e)    Risk of breaking bail conditions and reoffending

f)     Consequent potential imprisonment before the trial, and lots more.

This story concerns a young woman who profoundly changes her way of being and acting for the better after a very brief encounter with a therapist who uses processes presented in the monograph. The story:

A father I know is introducing me to his wife and they together ask me whether I can help their 19-year-old daughter who is facing charges for seriously hurting an elderly couple in the early hours of one morning.

Their Daughter had crashed into the couple’s car while she was speeding under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and at the time of crashing the daughter had had her license cancelled because of repeated drug affected drink driving offences.

The parents tell me that their daughter is ‘very difficult to live with’ and that before the crash the daughter had been living elsewhere. Apparently the prosecution had resisted the granting of bail as in their view, the daughter presented a clear and present danger of re-offending.

The daughter’s barrister had arranged for bail to be granted conditional upon the daughter living with her parents and regularly seeing the local minister of the parent’s church in his pastoral care role.

The daughter detested having to abide by these conditions, and with all of this, the parents are very concerned that their daughter who is strong-willed, impulsive, and very ‘angry with everything’  would, in all probability, breach her bail conditions and then have to wait in jail for the trial that could be up to 18 months away.

Another complicating factor is that the daughter is resisting seeing anyone else for support and is generally refusing to listen to her parents. Yet another complicating factor is that their daughter, shortly before the crash had become pregnant while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and she has no idea whom the father was.

This had turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy that developed in one of her fallopian tubes which in turn had become infected and the pregnancy terminated All of this had added to her emotional upheaval. She had gained a lot of weight from the complications, so in all of this it seems clear that the daughter would probably refuse to see me unless a very good reason is found to do so.

I ask the parents what they sense the daughter wants most of all right now and the parents say that their daughter detests her weight gain and her lack of body mobility. She wants to lose weight, gain more energy and get flexible and get fit, though she dislikes exercising and detests gyms.

I give the parents a short video of me talking with another person about the work of Moshé Feldenkrais and demonstrating graceful movement. The parents show this video to their daughter and it really appeals to her. She agrees to be at home and meet me one evening with both her parents present.

On the evening I arrive after dinner and answer some of the daughter’s questions about how the person in the video became so graceful and flexible.

While I’m talking with her I notice that she is using what can be called ‘the sobbing breath’, breathing in through the nose, and then holding for some time, then discharging the breath in a series of small explosive discharges through the mouth, like one is quietly sobbing. This is commonly done in suffering. In my experience this breathing pattern soon has the one using it feeling awful.

I did not mention her sobbing breath pattern to her. I invite the daughter to experience having both of her arms stretched out in front of her, and then gently extend her left arm further by discovering how her shoulder can become involved in the reach. Soon she discovers how to have her left hand around 13 centimetres (5 inches) in front of her right hand - discovering embodied learning.

Then she discovers how to do this with her right hand, and in doing this, her shoulders have become very flexible without any exercise - just through increasing awareness of function, and discovering what is possible in the moving.

She tells me that doing exercises easily tires her and that she would be pleased to see me again and have me help her to become flexible without having to do a lot of exercise. Then she says that she’s very tired and wants to go to bed, and with my enquiring, she tells me that she has not been sleeping very well at all.

Notice that the therapist has already introduced an interrupt and change to the motor control associated with shoulder tension with this creating subtle changes in the tension in her lungs and in her breathing and she becomes aware of tiredness. The therapist has gained rapport and engages again with the daughter:

I say:

If you want to - before you go to bed - I could briefly show you how to become relaxed very quickly, and go into deep sleep.

She agrees to this and I ask her if she would be comfortable lying on her back on the rug with her legs long and her arms long with her hands down near her hips, and she agrees and does this.

The rug is very soft and comfortable and provides good support. The room is comfortably warm and there’s an open fire that is making the crackling sounds that fires make. It’s winter time and it’s cold outside and very cosy inside and as she’s lying there both of her feet are pointing to the roof.

I ask her mother to kneel beside her on the daughter’s heart (emotional) side and her father to kneel near her liver (energy) side. I tell the parents:

So you both can see what we are doing.

and the parents and daughter are okay with this. I don’t mention about the heart’s linked to emotion or the liver’s link to energy.

I ask the daughter if it is okay for me to sit on the rug behind her head (between her and the fire) and with her agreeing to this, I say to the daughter:

...and as you’re lying there….…getting comfortable…..perhaps you can…….close your eyes………and just be aware of how ……you are breathing…and I’ll place some little pebbles on your chest… help you.… notice your breathing more…....and help you….notice how your breathing changes as you….our breathing…begins to change.… that okay?

She closes her eyes and says ‘Yes’.

It’s a very cold night and the ‘pebbles’ are rose quartz pieces that I happen to have in my coat pocket and I had no previous thought of using them. I then make the sign of a cross above their daughter’s chest to her very religious parents, and silently indicate where I’m going to place small pieces of rose quartz in a cross pattern - pieces large enough for the daughter to feel their presence.

The therapist has selected the daughters breathing pattern as the entry point for change. Her mode of breathing – the sobbing breath – is pervasively linked to everything else going on in her life right now. Moving (in breathing) is linked to her sensing (or lack of sensing), her feeling (or lack of feeling – recall that she had been distorting sensing and feeling with drugs and alcohol and driving cars fast). The therapist sets up an interrupt to the current mode of breathing.

I carefully place one of the pieces of rose quartz on the middle of her breast bone - on the midline - then one to the right and another to the left of the midline, then one above the middle piece and two aligned below so they are all in the cross formation, and then I place a slightly larger piece of rose quartz above her heart.

I press it down slightly as the daughter exhales in a series of little sobbing breathes.

Then at a particular moment in her breath cycle I take my finger down swiftly from pressing on the quartz over her heart to very slightly depress the lowest piece of quartz on her midline near her belly, and my slightly depressing the lowest piece of quartz increases potentially her subjective sense of its weight over her pelvic area. As I touch the lowest piece I quietly say:

…..just to…. notice what’s happening down here….

As soon as I say this, the daughter’s sobbing breath changes to slow belly breathing and her face begins to change to becoming more relaxed now. I silently draw the parents’ attention to her breath-change and to her face relaxing and signal for them to remain quiet.

Having the daughter become suddenly aware of her pelvic region is a sudden interrupt with the very interrupt having links to the ectopic pregnancy with all that is associated with that – the sensual emotional psychological ideational whole of it.

The daughter’s breath is now becoming deeper – in through the nose and out through her mouth in a continuous flow. Now her breathing is starting to become even deeper as the daughter begins to raise her knees, and the daughter is transforming herself without any direction from me, and continues to transform aspects of her being.

Now her belly begins to rise as she breathes in, now through her mouth, and her belly squeezes in to express her breath out of her mouth. And then her pelvic bridge becomes involved, rotating down as she begins now breathing into her pelvic area with her belly rising as she breathes, and her pelvic bridge is rolling up in the direction of her nose as she is expressing the air.

This is now becoming full-on slow, highly-energised pelvic thrusting; metaphoric energy links to pregnancies and birthing the spirit child she lost - (recall the daughter had had a failed pregnancy), and her head begins to come off the ground with the exhaling breath and lower to the rug on the in-taking breath, and all of the quartz pieces begin falling off and are recovered by me and put away.

This is very far removed from the motor control of the sobbing breath (tense muscles between each rib and tense diaphragm with lungs held in a vice like grip from all directions; gasp of air in and little puffs out).

The sobbing breath breathing pattern has been interrupted and the associated sensing and feeling has been lost (Recall the Feldenkrais quote):

In this condition it is much easier to effect changes to thinking and feeling, for the muscular part through which thinking and feeling reach our awareness has changed and no longer expresses the patterns previously familiar to us. Habit has lost its chief support, that of the muscles, and has become more amenable to change.

With this daughter, system change is self-organising and self re-organising. The body has its own wisdom for self-organising when blocked energy is released.

The suggested context which the daughter agreed to has her on her back between her parents and some rich interconnections in her psychodynamics have her enter  a ‘breathing within childbirth’ context.

Back to the story:

While this is happening I silently reassure the parents that this is all okay and a good thing.

On the exhaling breath the daughter begins a very loud and long ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh’ sound - about seven of these, getting less intense and shorter each time Then the daughter extends her legs to become lying flat on the rug with her legs very relaxed now with toes pointing to the sides and her face looks absolutely angelic.

After a little time the daughter’s breathing changes to very gentle in-the-nose-out-of-the-mouth breathing and she’s very, very, sleepy.

She rolls up into a very relaxed foetal position (relaxed in contraction) and nestles her head on her mother’s lap for a time, and then she lazily and with feeling says ‘thank you’ to her mother and then she rolls over and curls up again into a foetal position with her head nestled on her father’s lap, and then, after a time she again says ‘thank you’ to her father. Then she suddenly pops up and stretches (contraction in extension – a complete reversal of extension in contraction - relaxed foetal.

This rolling to being curled up in relaxed foetal on each side is similar to the first story – though different person, different life experience, and different transforming going on.

Now, with a smile she sweetly says, ‘Goodnight, I’m off to bed’, and promptly disappears.

The parents are totally intrigued. They do not know what to make of what they had just witnessed.

I say:

Wait and see! You may have a new daughter in the morning.

The next day the mother rings me to say that indeed they do have a new daughter. She is relaxed, loving, and cuddly; wanting a good-morning hug - something she had not done since she was very young.

This was the daughter who yesterday had been distant and very difficult to live with, and had been for years. Her musculature is no longer expressing the patterns of her dysfunctional past. She is more than amenable to change, she is changed.

The daughter had told her mother that last night lying on the rug, as soon as the ‘pebbles’ were placed upon her it felt like all over her chest was a pink glow 2.5 centimetres (one inch) deep that felt wonderful. Recall it was pink rose quartz that I used and the daughter never knew this.

The daughter said that as soon as that pink feel occurred she was out in the countryside on a mild day. And she’s lying under a very pale blue sky.

And she’s lying on soft green grass. And when she started saying ‘aaaaaaagh’, she could see what was like a jet black oil geyser spurting out of her belly way up into the sky till it disappeared. And with each subsequent ‘aaaaaaah’ another black geyser spurted out of her belly. And with each spurt the wonderful pink feeling descended further into her belly until all the darkness had gone and she was left with the delightful pink feeling all through her belly and pelvis.

The mother said that the daughter, to her knowledge, had never experienced anything like this before. She had never experienced any trance work, or use of imagery. The black geyser made sense somehow to the mother as being connected to the ectopic pregnancy. I did not discuss what had happened with the mother, or explain anything.

I thanked the mother for the call and said words to the effect that everything was very encouraging. The mother said she would keep me posted as to how her daughter was going. Over the subsequent weeks and months the daughter remained very relaxed, caring and loving, had excellent relations with both her mother and father, had no contact with her former drinking and drug-taking associates, did not use alcohol to excess, did not take drugs, did not drive, and began going out with a boy whom had shown interest in becoming her friend for some time, became engaged to him and married him - and all of this was taken into account during her trial. I only ever saw the daughter the once and did not speak with her following that first night. It seems my role as catalyst for transforming was finished.

Here is an example of a whole of system make over – putting on a new personality, a new self, a new way of being, and a new way of acting and relating. Or rather, was it a reversion to an earlier mode of being when she was a happy little girl? This new way of being has its own very complex integrated moving, sensing, feeling and thinking with a mixture of spontaneity and habit.

Notice the frame used by the therapist in this holistic way - sensing where to strategically interrupt. He was being guided by the context. Recall that this daughter had not been prepared to talk to or see anyone, and had only agreed to see the therapist because he may be able to help her lose weight and become more flexible. She had no idea he was a therapist. The therapist’s perspective:

I had no preconceived idea that I would work with her at all on the night, or what I would do if I had the opportunity. I had no ‘predetermined treatment plan’. I was open to being guided by the moment-to-moment context.


While with the three I’m keenly attending to all of them and having their conscious and especially their non-conscious behaviours guiding me in the moment-to-moment context as to what to do next and being open to receiving from my non-conscious with an empty conscious working from and with the unfolding context.


The hand reaching experience emerged from context as did having her lie down with her parents on either side of her with my voice coming from above her head, a very altered state for her.


And when she laid down on the rug I had no preconceived idea as to what I would do. Her mode of breathing was guiding me. I am scanning for the difference that is making the difference. What is the best bit of the constellation of myriad bits involved to introduce a sudden change to? The principle – sudden change collapses habitual integration.


I had no prior intention of using the rose quartz. I noticed them in my coat pocket as I knelt down behind her. I had no idea that she may or would go through the process that she did and I understand that she had no previous experience in self-healing processes.  


The daughter engaged spontaneously in effective transformative self-help emerging from her awareness of what Heidegger (1962) terms her ‘being-in-the-world’. Heidegger uses this term in making the point that there is no consciousness as such cut off from an object; that is, all consciousness is consciousness of something, be it the matter of a thought, or of a perception. By my invitation the daughter’s very being was focused on her being-in-her-body-sensing-her-experience-of-being. This is all very different for the daughter. So much of her recent behaviour had been a flight from being through use of drugs and alcohol. And I am being guided by all of this as to what to do next. So an underlying theme in this story is enabling self-help.

The daughter did all her own change-work. Her being out under a blue sky on green grass on a nice day and having blackness releasing from her belly emerged as metaphoric experience from her own being. I had contributed to her entering this state.

The man in the first story also experienced a different way of being in self-help recalling his father differently. This theme of being different in engaging in self-help along with mutual-help emerges in the later story about a large group of people in Big Group.

Heidegger draws attention to the pervasive presence of mood and the tendency for people’s moods to resonate and attune as did the mood of the daughter, mother, and father as well as my own mood which had set the energy in the room from the moment of my arrival.


In exploring the central theme of this monograph we can now explore some of the things that were contributing to the daughter changing states of being-in-the-world.


Being aware of her awareness was something this young woman rarely did. The therapist invited her to be aware of her awareness as she slowly extended her arm, and for her to do this was for her, a very altered state.


Obtaining the daughter’s permission to use the ‘pebbles’ and the parents’ comfort with their use created a context where I could have respectful direct physical ‘contact’ with the daughter via the medium of the rose quartz.  Recall she was very resistant to receiving ‘help’ from anyone.


Very subtle shifts in awareness may well have accompanied my placing the rose quartz along her midline. This may have challenged both of her motor cortices as awareness of the midline of the body activates both the motor cortices on each contra-lateral (opposite) side.


When awareness is held on the midline it’s as if the left-hand side is triggering the right motor cortex, and simultaneously the right-hand side is triggering the left motor cortex in a quest for determining which side is involved in bodymind awareness around the midline.


By its very nature this drawing attention to the midline is a very strategic interrupt to motor control with the potential to disintegrate habitual states.


I have introduced the possibility and potential of purposeful confusion in her brain’s quest to determine which side is involved in BodyMind awareness around her midline. I place rose quartz on the left side activating the right motor cortex and then I’m activating the other side.


Then I return to the mid-line to place rose quartz pieces first above and then below the first one - again having both motor cortices’ involved.


I place a slightly larger and heavier piece of rose quartz on the left side above her heart activating the right motor cortex (right hemisphere) and when she has her awareness in her heart region I place my finger on that piece of rose quartz further increasing its subjective weight as it moves up and down as she breathes.


My experience is that this works at a very subtle level in creating kinaesthetic ambiguity as the person doesn’t know that you’re touching the ‘pebble’ and so I’m now increasing the weight of the pebble over her heart with her heart area’s emotional links to her hypothalamic limbic region of sensory emotional crossover and integration (Rossi, 1985; Rossi & Cheek, 1986).


On her next in-taking breath and at a keypoint in her breath cycle, a keypoint of maximal link to emotional connection and charge, I have her jump her awareness to her belly/pelvic region by my suddenly and silently shifting my finger to increasing the subjective weight of the piece of quartz on her belly and immediately emotional and other release begins.


Recall at that moment I touch the lowest piece I quietly say:


…..just to…. notice what’s happening down here….

As I am saying this, I shift the direction of my head so my voice comes from being directed to her heart, then to her belly. I and others have found that people at deeper (unconscious) levels can distinguish between these subtle voice direction shifts.


On being under the pale blue sky, perhaps right hemisphere creative imagination is involved in her imagining being out in the countryside with its connotations of a ‘breath of fresh air’ and this is then linked to releasing from her belly and pelvic region and changes in her breathing pattern.


Neat how the rose coloured quartz generates a pink coloured feeling in her chest with connotations linked to the colour pink, in stark contrast to the jet black colour originally in her belly and pelvic region - an example of seeing a feeling (sensory crossover) - and the daughter never knew that rose quartz had been used.


The daughter’s curling up into the foetal position and placing her head in each parent’s lap has all the hallmarks of age regression and accessing state dependent memories, learning, feelings, and emotions (Rossi, 1985; Rossi & Cheek, 1986) about being safe, loveable, loved, accepted, nurtured, carefree, and feeling one’s bodymind and life is wonderful.


The therapist had set up the context where the mother and father and daughter were all present and further set up the context where the mother was rightly close by the daughter’s left when she curled into a foetal position so there could be a easy natural meeting of their hearts and a heartfelt thankyou from the daughter.


And through history physical support has been provided by a right hand man – think of Sir Lancelot to King Arthur – and the mother father daughter connecting was fundamental to the daughters whole transforming with the three connected together connected to place – the rug in front of the warm fire and in this place the daughter in her wholeness can go to her healing–making-whole–place on the green grass under the blue sky.


Ericksonian Language Patterns


The ideas of this monograph can be woven into differing healing ways. In the Daughter on Bail scenario some observer readers would have recognised the use of Ericksonian language patterns. All of the very few words used by the therapist in relating to the daughter and her parents are interwoven with Milton Erickson’s language patterns:


If you want to…....before you go to bed…….I could briefly show you …… to…….become relaxed very quickly……..and…… go into deep sleep…….

And as…’re lying there……getting comfortable……perhaps you can…….close your eyes………..and…..just be aware of …….how you are breathing…..and I’ll place some little pebbles on your chest…… help you…….notice your breathing more…… and help you…notice how your breathing changes as you breathe ……as……your breathing begins to change.… that okay?


I commence this first segment with an ‘obviously true’ statement:


….before you go to bed….


The word ‘before’ acknowledges that she is about to go to bed. Then I redirect her awareness to possibilities for the time before she goes to bed with the words:


….I could briefly show you ……how to……


This is followed by the imbedded suggestions:


                                                                i.    ……become relaxed very quickly…

                                                              ii.    ……go into deep sleep…..


As these suggestions are linked to and follow things that are obviously true, the brain tends to accept the suggestions as true and act upon them.


The second segment also starts with ‘obviously true’ statements:


                                                                i.    ….you’re lying there….

                                                              ii.    ….getting comfortable…..


The daughter was doing both of these things.


Then the words ‘you can’ set up the suggestions:


….close your eyes now…..

….just be aware of how you are breathing…..


The word ‘just’ in the second suggestion implies that she dissociate from everything except her breathing.


The second suggestion also invites her to be aware of her awareness with her awareness focused on her breathing.


The word ‘will’ hidden in ‘I’ll place….’ is the strong form in the range ‘I may’, ‘I can’ and ‘I will’….


The words ‘to help you’ sets up the suggestion…


 ….notice your breathing more…..

The word ‘your ‘is ambiguous as the sound used could refer to ‘your’ or you’re –and these have different meanings, with ‘you’re’ being a stronger suggestion of change – ‘you’re breathing more’.


The word ‘more’ implies that she may already have some breath awareness…..following the prior reference:


…and just be aware of how…you are breathing……


The suggestion…


….notice how your breathing changes….


implies that change will occur.


….as you breathe…


This is another ‘obviously true’ statement.




‘As’ is another linking term…with links to time…setting up the presupposition…


 your…..breathing begins to change…..


…… that okay?


The above expression is ambiguous as to what it refers to:


                                                                      i.    the placing of pebbles, or

                                                                     ii.    being aware of breathing, or

                                                                   iii.    her breathing changes

                                                                   iv.    Or all of the above


Ambiguity may be intentionally used in working with the potential of a person picking up at levels below awareness relevant secondary meanings for transforming (refer Ericksonian literature).


Note that much of the change-work suggestions precede asking her permission, though they are made tentative by commence with the words:


If you want to………


I haven’t said much and what I’ve said appears to be light and casual, although what I have said is actually very dense in its:


                                                                  I.        structure

                                                                 II.        suggestions and

                                                               III.        implications.

All of the above words are engaging the daughter at her most primary sense-making – remaining aware while being-in-her-body-sensing-her-experience-of-being, which is something she rarely does, hence it is for her, a profoundly natural altered state and she has experience of unnatural altered states.


When the daughter first laid down she had her feet away from the fire with her toes of both of feet pointing to the roof, typical of people with tension in the abductor muscles of the inside of the thighs.


After the pelvic and belly discharging, her abductor muscles had relaxed allowing her feet to fall to the sides. There had been generalised relaxing of the muscles throughout her body.


At all times the therapist is acutely aware of everything that is happening with the daughter and both parents and is using this information as cues for what to do next.


In supporting the daughter to be more able to help herself (enabling), I said very little and did very little on the night. I only engaged in two brief sets of sentences; a minute on the arm reaching and a couple of minutes on the relaxing. Everything I did do was spontaneous unto the moment and guided by context. I did not have a treatment plan.


A context had been created whereby the daughter and her parents engaged in self-help and mutual-help. They did their own change work. I supported them to be able to do this. The daughter’s relating to her own bodymind and to both her parents fundamentally changed, and the changes were all of her own making.


The daughter’s current state when I first arrived was generalised muscle tension accompanying her ‘sobbing breath’ - short implosive intake through the nose, and then a series of fast and explosive little breaths out of her mouth.


In engaging with the daughter I’m engaging in speech acts, where the speech is more than an utterance; the speech is an act with transformative consequences. An example of a speech act from another context is the words of the marriage celebrant, ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife together’. The following is an example of speech acts used with the daughter on bail:

And as you are lying there…getting comfortable……you can……. close your eyes…now…and just… be aware….of how……you are breathing….. and I will place some little pebbles on your chest….to help you……notice your breathing……..…and help you…….notice how your breathing changes as you breathe….……as your breathing begins to change.… that okay?

Each of the expressions in italics carries potential to alter the daughter’s awareness of her awareness with ripple-on effects in her brain-nervous-behavioural connecting, and as I say these expressions her brain hunts for their meaning and she acts, she notices and attends to her ‘lying there’, and that she is engaging in little adjustments in getting comfortable, and then there is the potential for her noticing that she is noticing how she is breathing. Then upon hearing:

…..notice how….. your breathing changes as you breathe…….

the daughter may notice her shift to full-belly breathing and  begin noticing herself changing and liking the changes as well as attending to  noticing other aspects of her sensing.

And by my aware attending I can see and sense the consequences of my speech acts -  her acts - and I ensure that my speech acts are fully congruent with and complementing her acts and her subjective experience, and that my speech acts are also precisely timed to support my behavioural acts,  and also timed to meld with her experience.

…….and I will place some little pebbles on your chest….to help you ……..notice your breathing more……..

An example of this precise timing in the context of…..

       ….notice your breathing……

was the precise touch of the rose quartz over the heart at a particular instant in the breath cycle linked to maximal emotional change, and then taking her awareness of subtle ‘heart’ energy of that moment down to her belly by touching the rose quartz on her belly - precisely accompanied by the speech act:


…..just to notice……. what’s happening down here….


with both parts of the expression suggesting her behavioural acts.


Just before the daughter rolled into the foetal position and placed her head on her mother’s lap, her face had changed to looking ‘angelic’.


One of the aspects of her physiology when I first arrived was that the daughter had massive tension in her face, particularly her jaw.



The daughter’s experience on the rug after her pelvic release had generalised to include relaxing her intercostal muscles between her ribs, easy light breathing, and the relaxing through her jaw and throat, and through her face to help constitute ‘the angelic face’. Intercostal muscles are several groups of muscles that run between the ribs, and help form and move the chest wall. 

The ‘Daughter on Bail’ story also embraces the theme ‘how one may negotiate entry into a healing relationship with people who are resistant to having any support’.

Another theme - the Daughter on Bail context was framed by implication. The Daughter was framed literally by her mother and father on her sides and me at her head while she is lying on the rug with the warmth and sounds of the fire - with all of the implications of being like a young child again – age regression.

The daughter on bail changed massively with very few words used by the daughter or myself.

She stopped her addictive and self-destructive behaviours and became friendly, appreciative, caring, and respectful of herself and parents, and took on a very different set of norms and a different set of normative emotions. This happened. There was little will, intent, or insight.

Relational Mediating

Another example of the way that the ideas of this monograph can be woven into healing ways is the use of what Dr Neville Yeomans (Spencer, 2005) called Relational Mediation Therapy. The Daughter on Bail story continues:

Neville had referred me to Amelia Renouf’s article about relational mediating, titled ‘The Uneasy 'Sixth Step' in Mediating’ (1992). Renouf referred to a five-step mediation model and had ‘evolving relations’ as a sixth step which is usually not included in traditional mediation.

One version of the mediation process typically used in the ‘Western’ world has been defined as follows:

                                                                      I.    Statement of the problem by the parties

                                                                     II.    Information gathering time

                                                                   III.    Identification of the problems

                                                                  IV.    Bargaining and generating options, and

                                                                    V.    Reaching an agreement.


I endeavour to engage in Neville’s relational mediating process that differs from the above process.


I will explore this difference by returning to the Daughter on Bail story; I was mediating between three parties:


1.    Parents,

2.    Daughter, and

3.    Life’s possibilities


The aspects:


   The process is engaging the daughter with her mother and father as a small group.

   I have no stage-based step-by-step model or way as my way, rather, everything that I do is guided by and emerging from the moment-to-moment unfolding context, not a prescriptive five-step model

   The mother and father have their daughter as their focus; the daughter is focused on herself; and I have the three of them as my focus.

   The process I’m using does not construe the context as ‘a problem’. None of the participants or their behaviour are defined as a ‘problem’ to be ‘solved’, as in Step 3 in the process.

   There is no diagnosing and prescribing as implied in Step 3 & 4 in the traditional five-step mediation process outlined above.

   There is however subtle negotiating of meaning; for example, the quartz become ‘pebbles’ to ‘help with awareness’ for the daughter, and a ‘cross’ for the parents who may have baulked at the idea of my using crystals.

   My presence in the house is, for the daughter, about ‘flexibility’ at a physical level. I am metaphorically using ‘flexibility’ in much wider senses.

   I never take sides; though I was asked by the parents to take their side when they teed up the meeting.

   There is no ‘information-gathering stage’, though the ever-changing context is in-forming me throughout my visit, and I am being informed especially by the non-conscious communicating of the three of them

   There are no questions asked by me apart from obtaining her okay to support her getting to sleep

   There is connecting at many levels:


o   With her breathing

o   With her belly

o   Her heart energy connecting to her pelvic area

o   Reconnecting with her mother and father

o   Reconnecting with her inner child


   There is no bargaining.

   There is no ‘reaching an agreement’, though all three find themselves more agreeable.

   There is no blaming, judging, condemning, or demanding. It is all about connecting and relating – their connecting and relating with each other, their relating with me, and all of them relating to life’s boundless possibilities.

   The healing way includes relational mediating with self and others


The way of relational mediating is woven into this story and best outlined in story and metaphor. Attempting to convey the pervasive richness of the Way by describing and explaining fails; it has to be embodied.

Some speculating on what was going on with that Daughter on Bail  I sense all of this took place with very little cortical processing by the daughter, and I further sense that while lying on her back her awareness shifted from an experience of being tired and tense to being relaxed lying on soft green grass out in a green field with the blackness spurting out of her pelvic region, then to returning to being conscious of lying on her back between her parents with her knees up, a very typical position for a very young baby, with this having age regression overtones -  accessing state-dependent memory of, and positive psycho-social-emotional resources of .being now under five years old and again laying on the floor with her parents sitting on the floor each side of her, and looking down at her, just as they were on the night I was there, and from this knees up position lying on her back, changing to the other significant position of the baby - the roll to the side into the very relaxed foetal position and placing her head on her mother’s lap, with this perhaps being accompanied by re-accessing of a pre-cortical holistic integrated set of experiences of being in the world and accompanying neurochemicals as correlates to her experience - that included a fully re-formed sense of ‘who I am’ and being loveable and loved.

This allows accessing of a whole and new integrated set of neurochemical states independent from and not involved in addictive states, or emotional upheaval relating to the ectopic pregnancy.

Perhaps the daughter’s precortical aspects embodied entering into accessing again her 5 year old state of being-in-the-world and re-accessing that experience as a present for her present 19 year-old self. She is now pre-cortically re-experiencing living this new/old way and liking it. Perhaps the cortical was informed of this from her precortical; refer Pert, 1997; Rossi, 1885; Rossi & Cheek, 1986.  In all of this the therapist is a hardly noticed enabler supporting the daughter to be more able.

This story has demonstrated how habits can be used for a change affecting the whole of a person’s experience and way of life, with roll out affecting both of her parents, and the three of them as a family.

Transforming a Whole Group


Now we can explore how habits and interrupt to habits can be used for a change in a large group of people. Perhaps a superb example of this occurring was in Big Group at Fraser House Therapeutic Community in North Ryde Sydney, Australia during 1959 to 1968; refer Spencer, (2005) for research into Fraser House processes including Big Group.


From Monday till Friday for one hour every morning and evening around 180 people would squeeze into a relatively small room; refer Spencer, 2005 for research into Fraser House processes including Big Group.


These were the residents in an experimental psychiatric unit where a very special form of communing in community was the change process. At Fraser House, psychiatric drugs were rarely used (Spencer, 2005). Residents were people either with serious mental disorders of all kinds, or serious criminal offenders, with these people often also having serious mental disorders. The following story from life is called ‘Going Berserk’. There was nothing else like Fraser House in Australia and Neville’s role was vital in its success.


The Unit was creating very new psychiatric processes based on community of a very special kind being the transforming process. Many psychiatrists in drug-based mainstream psychiatry did not like Fraser House and wanted it closed.


The founder of Fraser House, psychiatrist Dr Neville Yeomans spoke a number of times of four major themes stirring emotions – these being gain, loss, threat and frustration. Neville would expressly make strategic use of incidents with a high probability of heightened emotional arousal associated with these four themes within Big Group and then create shifts in emotion.


What follows is an example of how Neville intentionally heightened the group's emotional arousal during a Big Group meeting and then did a series of sudden interrupts to disintegrate habits.

Neville spoke about a key point in the life of Fraser House. On one occasion after Fraser House had been going for around three years, and as soon as Big Group started, Neville said, 'I went berserk'.

And Neville was quite a character when he was talking about this. All present thought Neville was having a mental breakdown. Neville going berserk is really something to see! He was quite a passionate character.

At first, Neville was just screaming and yelling and not really making much sense at all to anyone, but stirring up staff, outpatients and residents alike. Then he conveyed that he was sick of everything, and this raised everyone's emotions.

So threat was a dominant theme. After a short time the nub of Neville's outburst was suddenly revealed to the group. The group knew Neville was going on extended leave overseas. Neville tells Big Group that the Health Department had not arranged a replacement psychiatrist. This was a very serious matter. Neville's file note at the time about going berserk in Big Group' said in part:

With my impending holiday today I allowed my aggressive frustration full play in the community meeting this morning. The meeting began by John asking me if I was really going on holidays, and I said I was even if the bloody place fell down. I then berated the Division and the fact that a certain doctor (mentioned by name in the report) or some other Doctor should have been here at least two weeks ago.

And then the report continues:

I took a most regressed and childish aggressive view against the department and in support of the head of North Ryde Hospital where Fraser House was on the grounds, and in support of my own efforts, pointing out that both of us were placed in a situation of letting them down because of the department's incompetence.

The head of the hospital was very supportive of Neville and Fraser House throughout. Neville recognised that key points to use habit interrupt occur in many contexts - and I am suggesting that Neville's outburst made the keypoint, 'I am leaving and there is no replacement'. Big consequences! This keypoint was at the junction of every aspect of the Fraser House social topography, or landscape. This keypoint also condensed all of the information distributed in the Fraser House Social System. Big and Small Groups had themes-based open agendas.

In the Big Group 'Going Berserk' context, the Unit would have been without a doctor and psychiatrist. Some replacement was coming in two or three weeks, but in the meantime, they were 'on their own'. Even when the replacement got there, he or she would have no experience or pre-briefing from Neville on 'the Fraser House way'. There was the major uncertainty of what changes a new psychiatrist would make in Neville's absence.

Neville was scheduled to be away for up to nine months. Neville's behaviour and this news of no replacement being available heightened emotional arousal to fever pitch in everyone - a combination of anger, rejection, abandonment, confusion, anxiety, panic, frustration and fear. Residents did not want Fraser House closed. That would have meant residents being sent to drug-based institutions.

Neville then suddenly switches themes and slams the Health Department as the 'culprit'. Both patients and staff's emotions were, by this shift in thematic focus, directed into anger at the Department.

Then Neville refocused theme and thinking again to 'everyone taking responsibility for Fraser House and each other'. Again, patient and staff emotions were directed into this new theme – of 'self-help and mutual-help'; another mixture of emotional energy - panic, concern, uncertainty, questions of being up to the task, to name a few. Self-help and mutual-help was central to Fraser House way, though the current context was really ramping this up.

Then Neville shifted theme yet again and drew everyone's attention to the suicidal nature of one of the patients present in the room, and laid it on the line that this person's wellbeing - his very life - was in everyone's hands.

This was yet the next shift in emotional focus. Here the focus was on gain in the face of loss and threat, and how to get gain safely.

Neville's big picture thematic meta-interaction with staff and patients was all about engendering communal cooperation and collaboration towards safety and gain in the face of danger and loss.

Each one of these stacked, sudden, linked-theme-based context meaning shifts interrupted, collapsed, and shifted states. At the same time they increased social cohesion around common interest and galvanised functional action among very dysfunctional people all within a densely repeated framing:

Here at Fraser House we regularly do miracles and together we can do this.

Within Big Groups, Neville used provocation and crowd contagion for setting up strategic change moments. Neville used emotional upheaval, crowd synchrony and contagion in the context of energising emergent self-organising properties in the inter-mix of psycho-social and psycho-biological systems in all present. He was really mixing the juices.

In the context of Fraser House Big Group we can rewrite Feldenkrais:

A fundamental and sudden change in the motor basis within the multiple integration patterns of a large cohesive group of cohesives will break up the cohesion of the parts and the whole and thereby leave their thought and feeling without anchorage in the patterns of their established routines.

In this condition it is much easier to effect changes to thinking and feeling in large groups of people, for the muscular part through which their thinking and feeling reach their awareness has changed and no longer expresses the patterns previously familiar to them. Habit has lost its chief support, that of the muscles, and has become more amenable to change.

Neville arranged for eight separate people's reports to be written by staff and archived. This is an example of Neville's meticulous attention to detail and he's strategicness. Copies of these eight separate reports of Big Group meeting where he went berserk were all placed in his own personal archives in the Mitchell Library in Sydney.

Every one of these eight reports in the archives from other staff members similarly confirmed that Neville had intentionally mobilized and used group emotional energy towards group cohesiveness in caring for itself - and that this shifting around of emotional contagion was a crucial aspect of the Unit functioning extremely well during the ensuing nine months while Neville was on his (working) holiday.

To go into the records, one staff member's report of the above incident ends with,

This story has no ending because we still continue to function as a unit.

.Another staff member wrote a file note saying:

I have no vivid recollections of the first week of Dr. Yeomans absence except that the nursing staff occasionally seemed surprised that the ward was still running and that we were able to get through staff meetings without Dr. Neville Yeomans'.

As an indication of the efficacy of using high expressed emotion in major crises as a keypoint for key lines of thematic action for system change, Phil Chilmaid another staffer I interviewed mentioned one Fraser House research project that demonstrated that there was a constant pattern of significant 'breakthroughs' that tended to follow about six to seven days after some major crisis in Fraser House.

This case has given some insights into how Neville intentionally and strategically used habits for massively increasing the effectiveness of the healing potency of the whole system of residents and their family and friends as outpatients and all of the staff by using:

1)    Unexpected behaviour to create confusion

2)    Raising crowd threat and fear among residents, outpatients, and staff to create:

a)    Cohesion

b)    Contagion

c)    High expressed emotion

3)    Successive stacking by sudden shifts in focus:

a)    Anger at the Health Department

b)    Everyone taking responsibility for Fraser House and each other – ramping up the self help and mutual help themes

c)    Everyone caring for a suicidal person's wellbeing

4)    Then sudden departure leaving them to flexibly use new newly acquired habits

The outcome was that the Unit functioned at its very best and the new psychiatrist when he arrived fitted in well and little changed in a well functioning unit. As an indication Fraser House’s track record was of residents arriving with a small (5 or less) dysfunctional family friend network, and leaving after 12 weeks with a functional family friend network of between fifty and seventy people.

Recall that this episode was at the very start of a Big Group. Everyone knew the routine. Everyone settles. The day sheets are read that gives details of key aspects needing to be addressed during Big Group, a group decision as to the key themes for the hour is made and then there’s prioritising of the themes and then the group therapy session would be under way. Not this morning. Neville did systematic interrupting to habitual routines in everyone within a tightly controlled set of themes honing in on them all working superbly together. And that’s exactly what happened.

Neville’s behaviour fits within the model being presented in this monograph.

Another brief example from life of using the ideas in the monograph for a brief strategic intervention:

Context         A very drunk person accosts a women sitting on a veranda at night

Woman          Where did you just come from eh? (Knowing he has no idea)

Drunk             Totally confused

Woman          Again, where did you just come from – and where are you going now              (The woman points in a direction between two trees in the darkness)

Drunk             I can handle that part. (He then walks off in the direction she pointed)

Each of the stories in this monograph are from life. A common feature is the acute awareness of the change agent. Another is learning to recognise the critical information in the context and knowing the precise bit of the whole that is happening to engage with, and the precise timing in initiating some action. One also uses awareness to notice whether change has occurred.

If you are a therapist or change agent you may reflect back on instances where something that you did worked and worked well and explore it in terms discussed in this monograph. Another is to read instances of engagement that worked in the literature and again explore in terms of this monograph.

One example is the story in Frank Farrelly’s 1974 book, Provocative Therapy. A woman had been in a catatonic state for some time after a sex assault. She was in a psychiatric hospital sitting wearing a hospital gown leaning back on her chair with her legs apart with the gown falling between her legs. Farrelly knelt down and put finger and thumb just above her ankle and spider walked his fingers a few inches and got hold of some of the hair on her leg and gave a little pull and then he say’s ‘I am coming to get you’ in a mischievous playful way and repeats the action at little higher on her leg and again says, ‘I am coming to get you’. It becomes very clear from the context that he is heading up to potential pinch hair in a very private and personal space. Very provocative!

Farrelly all the time has his eyes on her face. The voice tone does not convey malevolent intent. While provocative, it has a very special quality. The woman opens her eyes and says in no uncertain terms, words to the effect ‘if you do that again....’ and Farrelly enters into healing dialogue with a woman that no one else had been able to reach. This is worth thinking about in terms of how this fits within the themes discussed in this paper.

You are invited to explore how the themes raised in this paper fit with your life experience. The author welcomes feedback on processes that work.


Andreas, C. and S. Andreas (1987). Change Your Brain and Keep the Change - Advanced NLP Submodalities Interventions. Boulder, Colorado, Real People Press.

Bandler, R. (1985). Using Your Brain - For a Change. Moab, Utah, Real People Press.

Farrelly, F., and Brandsma, J.. Provocative Therapy, Meta Publishing Co., P.O. Box 565, Cupertino, CA 95014, 1974.

Feldenkrais, M., 1972. Awareness Through Movement : Health Exercises for Personal Growth. New York, New York : Penguin Books.

Laceweb Archive, April 2014. Healing Peak Experiences and the Ergotropic & Trophotropic Systems’ in  ‘Healing the Mindbody Embracing Ancient Indigenous Wisdoms and the Latest From the Neurosciences’. Internet source sighted Dec. 2015.

Pert C., 1997. Molecules of Emotion: Why you Feel the Way you Feel. Scribner.

Renouf, A. (1992). The Uneasy Sixth Stage of Mediation. Australian Disputes Resolution Journal 3(4 November): 257.

Rossi E., 1985. The Psycho-biology of Mind Body Healing. Norton 

Rossi E. & Cheek, D.B., 1986. Mindbody Therapy. WW Norton & Co. London.

Spencer, L., 2005. Cultural Keyline - The Life Work of Dr Neville Yeomans. Ph.D. Dissertation Internet source sighted Dec. 2015.

Spencer, L. (2012). Coming to One's Senses - By the Way. Internet source sighted Dec. 2015.





Laceweb Homepage


Flexibility and Habit   

Transforming the Whole of It – Applying Brain Research   

 Healing the Mindbody   

 Healing Artistry, Gene Expression and Gene Modulation


Breathing Processes for Increasing Lung Function and Wellness


Return to the Top 



[1] The Feldenkrais segment titled ‘Where to Begin and How’ is well worth a read (1972, p. 30-39).