Introduction to the Form
Authentic Movement is a self-directed form of movement in which individuals may discover movement in themselves that offers a bridge into the unconscious. It is a profoundly simple process whereby the mover moves with eyes closed in the presence of a witness. By focusing inwards and attending to inner sensation, impulse, gesture, memory and image there is an opportunity for unconscious material to become embodied through movement.
Being seen by a silent and non-judgmental witness supports and intensifies the mover's awareness of her/himself. Non-judgmental witnessing gives the observer the opportunity to discover what s/he brings to the act of perceiving, including preferences, projections and prejudices. By learning to own what is ours, we have the opportunity to work out old issues and heal old wounds. It is through this that both movers and silent witnesses become able to perceive and share their experiences from a respectful, empathic, and compassionate state of consciousness. As we continue this process, we find that we increasingly trust our body's wisdom and live more authentic whole lives.
Authentic Movement allows for a person to view everything from simplicity to deepest complexity, with a sense of detachment. It allows for the realization that the opposite experience is also there and both can be contained at the same time. In these moments something new can be created.
Finally, Authentic Movement is a self-directed movement process using the body's wisdom as a journey to awareness. It offers us the opportunity to heal individual and community wounds. It provides an invitation to directly experience oneself and the collective body as a means to creative process, integration, healing and transformation.
Development of the Form
Mary Whitehouse (1911-1979) was a major dance therapy pioneer who developed her work on the West Coast of the USA. Strongly influenced by Jungian analysis, Whitehouse perceived the therapeutic use of movement as a process of delving unselfconsciously into the deeper layers of personality. She stated that the work can only be done if there's an intention to be authentic, and in moving authentically, there is a need to drop all previous learning. There's also a need to work from an experience of curiousity for the movement and the emotional response to the unknown which arises.
Whitehouse defined the term movement-in-depth as an "expression of unpremeditated surrender that could not be repeated, explained, or reproduced while maintaining the same level of personal meaning." This movement is a way of getting in touch with the unconscious part of the self, in an attempt to free the psyche. After the movement, sharing was encouraged to promote integration of what happened into the client's consciousness.
Janet Adler developed the concepts and form of Mary Whitehouse's work. She more formally termed the experience as Authentic Movement, with capital letters. She stated, "Inherent in being a person . . . is the deep longing to be seen as we are by another. We want to be witnessed without judgement, projection, or interpretation." The witness in Authentic Movement provides the attentiveness of the nonjudgmental presence that in turn creates a space where one's inner truth may be shared. In the dyadic form, intimacy and safety grow, out of which trust and clarity arise. With eyes closed the mover waits and listens, trusting in the possibility of being moved, instead of moving from the conscious state.
Witnesses also focus on their own inner experience, in the presence of the mover. In the witness's process of internal witnessing and owning her/his own judgments, projections and interpretations, the mover then is free to honour the need to follow the movement impulses arising from the unconscious. Movers develop their awareness of their internal witness and witnesses develop their awareness of their internal mover. The relationship between mover and witness consequently develops on complex conscious and unconscious levels.
The human psyche knows that we cannot endure without a sense of belonging, of connectedness. Adler reminds us of the need to connect to our tribe. She suggests that we cannot access the soul without a sense of the interconnectedness of all things, and that remembering this encourages a freedom from doubt and fear. Authentic Movement allows for, and invites exploration of this freedom.
From the energy of the individual to the energy of the community we can go beyond and connect with the energy of the universe, feeling the interconnectedness of all, and providing a vast witness circle within which transformation of individual, community and universe can take place.
Joan Chodorow's main contribution to the development of Authentic Movement is her identification of patterns of expressive movement and their relationship to sources in the psyche. She suggests that every basic emotion has a symbolic stimulus, which is both conscious and unconscious. She defines seven fundamental emotions: Joy, Interest, Surprise, Grief, Fear, Anger and Disgust. Each of these emotions has its own continuum of intensity from mild to extreme.
Chodorow categorizes three levels of the unconscious related to expressive movement:
1. The primordial, within which are the inherited structures and functions that hold innate affects, instincts and images of the primal Self. Included in this category are experiences of the archetypal void, the abyss, chaos, alienation and darkness.
2. The personal, which holds all the forgotten or repressed psychic contents, e.g. unconscious conflicts and family emotions. From here arises the expression of the shadow material.
3. The cultural, which includes unconscious impressions of family, education and cultural environments. Mythic & archetypal imagery as presented in Art, Religion & Philosophy arise.
In the depths of these unconscious realms, "the emotions mediate between the realms of body and psyche, instinct and spirit," and are provided the space to express in the Authentic Movement.
Movement can be experienced through sensations or imagery, or a combination of both, with the latter being considered the richest experience. Generally the movement process acts as a bridge between inner and outer worlds, each having an impact on the other and ultimately supporting the person on the journey of individuation.
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Last Updated 23rd May 2020