Question: You have been the student of a medicine man on the Navajo reservation in Arizona for a long time. In the workshop you have compared the 3-dimensional perception of our physical body and the perception of Primary Respiration and Stillness with the medicine wheel, bear skin and rattle of a traditional healer. All these therapeutic “tools” support “containment” for the – sometimes lively and intense – healing processes, you said. What do we need this containment for? Why is it so important and helpful?
Answer: Containment is the therapeutic model that I teach in biodynamic practice. Containment specifically relates to the self-regulation that I mentioned earlier and it has a traditional meaning from these ancient healing rituals. First from a contemporary context, our culture has had a long fascination with emotions and releasing emotions. This includes some quite strong cathartic therapies. It is interesting to note that there is no research validating the efficacy or value of emotional release therapies for the long-term health and wellbeing of the person. It’s very strange to me that even in our field of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy there is still such a misunderstanding around this need for containment rather than for a release.
I certainly myself practiced and taught emotional release therapy early in my career until I noticed exactly what the research was saying: my clients and students for the most part were not improving in whatever dimension of their mind-body continuum that they were engaged with. Containment requires a lot of patience and a lot of attention to the whole theater of healing. This includes the table, the room, the props we use, the symbols we have on the walls and shelves of our office, and especially the availability to see and hear and maybe even smell the natural world outside the office. Each of these layers of the container participates in the therapeutic process with the client. This is where the contemporary and traditional models of containment start to merge. I am not that exclusive person that delivers health and healing to the client at all. The Greek word for therapist originally meant “the manager of the healing space.”
So I see myself as a manager much like John Nelson the medicine man I studied with. A manager is also a conductor of a symphony as different tones begin to occur during a session whether that’s thunder and lightning, bird song, a cell phone going off, or a car horn blowing outside, and so forth. Everything influences the therapeutic relationship as a basic principle of containment. The therapist as manager has to make choices about what’s relevant and not relevant by the quality of their attention and palpation. It is important to develop the palpatory skill of sensing the environmental influences occurring during the session in the client’s body. Otherwise, a bear skin, a rattle and eagle feathers are nothing more than museum pieces.
These tools are used to connect the client with the healing power of the world of nature. We are using our perception of PR and stillness in the natural world of our bodies and the environment as the bear skin, rattle and so forth. You can feel the effect of the natural world in the client and the improvement in the healing trajectory of the session. Traditionally, since their effects could be strong in combination with the prayers being said by the medicine man, the medicine man had to help “contain” these effects so they did not overwhelm or injure the client.
In a contemporary biodynamic practice, containment is the perception of PR and Stillness as the major influence on what the therapeutic and transformational process occurs in the client. This of course includes motion present in the fluid body, vascular and nervous system of the client. PR and Stillness operate best in a container of wholeness built by the perceptual process of the therapist. Containment then means the place to remember wholeness. It needs a place to observe the whole container from a palpatory point of view and that point of observation is the surface of the client’s skin via the hands, as well as the practitioner’s own heart and body. This is coupled with a perception that is attuned to the environment or the larger whole of the natural world. In this way perception and palpation dance back and forth all session. Containment also means that the client learns how to self-regulate internally without any demands to perform emotionally because at a deep level it is impossible to know what the client is working with spiritually. This means that ultimately containment is a spiritual principle.
It sounds easy but our minds can get in the way and I for example frequently fantasize about what I might want to purchase on Amazon that evening. So it’s a constant process of coming back to the ground of the container of my own body, the office and the natural world as one living whole that contains the transformational energy of PR and Stillness in the healing process of the client.
Once again, I invite you all to attend a course I will be teaching titled: An Introduction to Biodynamic Cardiovascular Therapy: A Training for Health Practitioners. This course will take place in New York City at the New York Open Center, February 1-3, 2016. In this introductory course we will focus on applying craniosacral therapy skills to the cardiovascular system and learn new techniques to reduce systemic inflammation and reduce cortisol and stress levels. I invite each of you to join me. Let’s hope the snow stays to a minimum!
Visit this link for details and registration: http://www.opencenter.org/events/an-introduction-to-biodynamic-cardiovascular-therapy-a-training-for-health-practitioners/ I look forward to seeing you in the Big Apple.