Ged Sumner and Steve Haines in Conversation, March 2018, Calgary

Part 1: What is Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Transcript

 

‘A self-organizing, self-regulating organism that expresses health through coherence and rhythmic pulses. Generally, the slower the rhythm, the more seems to be included, the more someone’s sense of their self expands.’ Steve Haines

 

‘People seem uninformed, a bit baffled about what’s going on within them at times; and the richness of the trauma model in our training is stunning. In a way I feel like I’m offering that to clients and saying: “Hey, your system is hyper aroused,” because that can be quite a surprise to people, or: “Your system has gone to a freeze mode, and you have a degree of dissociation.” Just to name those things is so remarkable.’ Ged Sumner

 

Ged:    We should talk about: What is biodynamic craniosacral therapy? I’m just wondering how it is for you at the moment, what’s interesting, and: What are the important features of the work at the moment?

Steve:  It’s gotten simpler and simpler for me, endlessly simple. The most important thing is we’re about embodiment, so: “Creating safety in a body through relational touch,” relational touch is a really nice phrase we use a lot. Just the simple power of feeling connected to the inner world, of often very messy, feelings – we have an enormous skill and helping people meet and negotiate a difficult territory.

The difference with us from most other therapies is non-doing, so a very permissive, gentle exploration. It’s not primarily verbal. The verbal skills can be a very important, adjunct to the work, but it’s an embodied negotiation, an interactive process of meeting messy sensations and exploring the business of feeling.

Ged:   Good. I like the simple thing a lot, because that’s what’s happened for me; this touch, presence, contact, and felt sense awareness just seems to be the order of the day. It’s really starting to explore that whole world, really. I feel like it’s just opened up.

It’s all about health and orientation to what’s going on in terms of wellbeing and how the body’s health is organizing the physiology. That’s changed my practice enormously – I just got really good at listening to health and its expressions, in me and in clients.

Steve:  What do you think the key feature of health is, as we experience it?

Ged:    Probably the fluid body, what we call the fluid body. It’s a beautiful concept, that Sutherland had originally, that’s just still a big deal. I think that when people’s bodies are going in to that amazing amorphous state and just start to drop into a fluid body state and then their inner wholeness – they’re in an amazing high-potent place where suddenly they can re-organize themselves with a degree of ease.

Steve:  I agree. That feature of a self-organizing, self-regulating organism that expresses health through a sense of coherence and rhythmic pulses. Generally, the slower the rhythm, the more seems to be included, the more someone’s sense of their self expands. Very much an inside-out process for me, but a sense of deepening into connection, and that’s expressed as a rhythmic body. All sorts of rhythms, but the sense of everything coalescing into a coherent tune or song – I like that metaphor: An orchestra coming together to create a coherent tune.

Ged:   It’s coming back to original health and wholeness. We use those words a lot, coming back to that embryonic baby state that life can disrupt and you can get all kinds of fragmentations in the body. The beauty of this work is allowing people to find that again; and the fluid body being, in a way, an ability to almost go underneath the autonomics, just drop away from it a little bit. We see people – don’t we? – just going very still, finding this fluid expression, and then coming back into their physiology and doing the most remarkable reorganizations. What are we doing? We’re sitting there in a very simple place, aren’t we?

Steve:  Yes, but, creating some boundaries around a slow, gentle introduction to finding safety. Sometimes when we begin to feel or meet those places it’s unusual, strange, and scary sometimes; but that ability to have a guide, a witness, or a facilitator to that process really enhances.

There’s a really important point for me around trauma-informed body work. Absolutely about the body, absolutely about the joy and sense of ease that can happen through embodiment, but recognizing that bodies can get stuck in overwhelming patterns and get lost. There’s this huge understanding of dissociation. Sometimes a long, slow journey of reconnection and coming out of dissociative states, as well as turning town overactive chronic contractions, and tightnessess, and holdings.

Ged:   Totally. That’s been a big advance for the last 15-20 years, just this idea the therapy is trauma-resolution therapy, and that is superb. I just don’t know anything like it. People come in with decades of trauma sitting in their physiology, and straight away the body is trying to do something about it.

How do we even do that? Part of it is a balanced awareness. We’re sitting there in a mutual state, but I think it’s understanding the nature of trauma, and how it feels, and this idea that the body needs a safe space. The relational feel idea has become about a safe space, really.

Steve:  The part about understanding is really important. For me it’s very important that my clients are actively engaged in the process. Part of that is a clarity around: “You’re not mad, bad, and broken,” but there’s reflexes inside you that are running and high-jacking the functioning.

To give people a framework where they have agency, and the ability to act, feel, and negotiate these difficult states. This is not just done through the therapist, though primarily that’s the initial starting point, but it’s really people taking away skills where they can ongoingly learn to check in with feelings and feel safe in that space, and negotiate more and more complex and difficult sensations out in the real world.

I really don’t like the idea of cranial work as a passive process where we do something to someone. I don’t like my clients falling to sleep, sometimes people are just exhausted and you have to let that system recover. This development of a quite precise, nuanced, detailed awareness and ability to track and negotiate the sensations – that’s a huge part of what we do. Education around how bodies work, what it is possible to feel, and then skills building to interact with complex feelings.

Ged:   As they arise, yeah.

Steve:  That’s inherently empowering, the idea that pain, anxiety, depression, existential angst is all something you can negotiate, and you can find safety to reconstruct and unpick that, and find safety within that.

Ged:   That’s a beautiful thing. It’s an education process these days. People seem uninformed, a bit baffled about what’s going on within them at times; and the richness of the trauma model in our training is stunning. In a way I feel like I’m offering that to clients and saying: “Hey, your system is hyper aroused,” because that can be quite a surprise to people, or: “Your system has gone to a freeze mode, and you have a degree of dissociation.” Just to name those things is so remarkable.

Steve:  I like that inherently there are intelligent processes in the body, so there are mechanisms that are striving for health, intelligence in the nervous system, but intelligence in this fluid cellular body, so the immune system; and this sense of information flowing is something that we can feel, like we feel a surge in the blood flow or a softening in tissues, or something reorganizes in terms of reflexes and there’s a ripple or a shiver that goes through the body.

I don’t do much more complex than that, actually. There’s flows, shifts, morphings, ripples, tightnesses, something warms up, something gets colder – that’s plenty to support someone to feel engaged. Then we dialogue, maybe, their experience of what it is and how they create meaning out of that.

Ged:   It’s fantastic that people can strongly respond as well. They can be a little shocked by that. We’re holding their head or the sacrum, and the body is getting into some quite serious connection to health and reorganization of body.

I love the body workness of this therapy, because it is such a body work. In a way, for me, it’s got more about that. People’s spines are shifting around and their fascial body is doing some kind of remarkable reframing, and so on. It’s just absolutely so special. Then the organ systems’ art form. Then the brain seems to be doing this remapping and coming back into the beautiful neural balance. That just seems to be all of the day, really.

Not that long ago I couldn’t really feel the central nervous system, and now it’s just coming through in this beautiful glory and everything is talking to each other in a very new way.

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