How do dreams relate to embodiment according to Stanley Keleman?

Stanley Keleman founded “the formative psychology movement” and was Wilhelm Reich’s student. The premise of this movement is that every emotional, physical, and mental state has an organic physical expression and that it is our ability to increase our awareness of these constructs and enable movement within them that frees the organism. Keleman conducted thorough clinical research, which he calls the anatomy of emotions, examining the connections between emotions and the way they are organized in the body. Formative psychology includes body and movement exercises and breath work that raise awareness of our cognitive, emotional and physical strategies of dealing with stress and difficulties.

According to Keleman, somatic work with patients reveals the connection between dreams and embodiment. Keleman explains that dreams are important because they are direct messages from somatic reality and require our waking attention. When we give our dreams our waking attention we allow for continued expansion of our bodily feelings. Keleman notes a connection between bodywork and changes in the dream world. For example, in work on assertiveness, increased sensation in the legs or physical detachment from emotions lead to dreams containing feelings of lack of support, falling or unstable walking. The way the body dreams itself can shape the therapeutic process. Dreams show us how the soma prepares or “rehearses” in order to present itself. In this sense, dreams are the interiority of the soma seeking physical presence. Our inner reality uses the language of society within a time and place without social codes. Thus, a non-present, non-somatic and formless body has a hunger for more body and announces this through dreams.

To work somatically with a dream one must feel the figures in the dream as impulses or emotions seeking to be physically present in the waking world. Dreams create characters and scenes and their sequence within a story. Furthermore, the dream process connects our present body with the body we will become. On this level, dreams are part of the body’s way of maintaining a continuous connection between the body we inherited (including our ancient brain) and our personal body containing our cortex (the new brain). Hence, dreams are part of the reality of bodily life. Dreams show us what is emerging but not yet fully revealed in reality. As the body grows and gives way to somatic identity, it speaks to itself in many languages, one of which is the language of dreams. The body as a process creates and dreams its next stage and the ways in which it can be created.

According to Keleman, we can learn from dreams because they allow us to recognize meanings and associations and also influence the somatic-emotional structure. Dreams have an emotional matrix in which dream figures or objects are present. On this level, although we try to decipher dreams, we do not try to experience them as an internal environment and see them as expressions of physical states. According to this approach, dreams are part of the mystery of soma wisdom – the process of soma becoming aware of itself and its subjectivity. When the body develops its subjectivity, the cortex produces figures and motor expressions respectively. On this level, the dream is a somatic activity, which speaks about itself as it is revealed in the waking world. In this sense, the personal instinctual body and the somatic social forms converse with each other. For example, some people dream that they are wild men or women while living a normal social life. Dreams, like the heart, are constantly changing in a pulsing form from stability to instability and back to stability. These beats deepen the range of metabolism and emotional expression. As a result, the dream, which is organized according to the body’s pulse, helps give the soma a personal structure and a sense of presence.

According to Keleman, the method for working with dreams is to connect them more completely to their source, which is the body. In this approach the focus is on the somatic experience and not on interpretation. Dreams help us organize how we use our bodies in the world and how we place ourselves in the body we live in. We use the dream to develop a somatic reality and a complex subject that embraces multiple realities.

In this work, Keleman asks the patient to narrate the dream backward and forwards to experience a non-linear reality. Moving discontinuously between different somatic structures in a slow and controlled manner, involve the cortex and the Brainstem Muscle Patterns. This is how we begin to become intimate with our physical experience and the characters in our minds. This approach produces feelings and memories related to the growth of our bodies.

By working with dreams, while slowing down sequences and freezing characters, expression and physical gestures make feelings and the imagination clearer. Describing the dream from beginning to end and from end to beginning increases the power of its characters and establishes the connection between the different bodies. This somatic work with dreams brings the bodily process into the daily world of work, love and connection. Dreams add subjectivity to the experience of our somatic existence. In this sense, working with somatic elements allows Soma both a narrative and a process in which it can develop its destiny: to be born, to be present and to die. The importance of this recognition echoes the concept of our own immortality.

Keleman suggests five steps in working with dreams:

  1. Remembering the dream through the language and experience of the body or mind.
  2. Amplification of the somatic characters in the dream, embodying their form and expression with the help of amplification and differentiation of a neuromuscular process.
  3. Using the cortical and volitional function to influence the dissolution of the somatic structure of the somatic character.
    Stages 2 and 3 are central stages for any somatic process that aims to organize and create disorganization in a behavioral sequence.
  4. The soma learns to contain what has become available through the dream world – the steady stream of feelings and form that reassembles and begins to form a subject.
  5. Returning to the body, giving shape to emotions, embodying somatic experience and personal identity.

(Keleman S., 2009)

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סדנאות יוני 2022


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