Working with Movement in Body Psychotherapy
Updated: Jan 10
By Tim Brown (from Margaret Morris Movement Magazine, 2020)
Margaret Morris was clearly well ahead of her time in recognising the link between movement and the growing sense of self that emerges as we grow from babies to adulthood.
As a body psychotherapist, I recognise that the body holds a record of our early development, which shows up in our movement patterns. They are part of the process of becoming a personality, reflecting an individual’s imprints of thinking, feeling and communicating. If some patterns or movements are suppressed or inhibited, they may be felt as a limitation or holding back. Body psychotherapy can give these unexpressed movements an opportunity to complete, or be added to the movement repertoire.
Working with movement can facilitate the discovery and expression of memories and unexpressed feelings in a way that is more satisfying – and arguably more effective – than speech. Here are some movement tools I find useful when working with my clients:
Proximity and position
Where do you want me in the space, what happens if I move towards you, away from you, face you, turn away, offer to sit alongside?
Noticing and commenting
The body responds to being noticed. Simply drawing neutral attention to a movement, and awaiting the response, can be enough. Movements which the client may be unaware of can be particularly interesting.
Mirroring and attunement
If my client takes on a particular posture or movement, what do I notice if I take it on too? What do they see if I mirror it back to them?
When clients pay attention to body sensation, there is often a sense of impulse, of something that is waiting to happen or ready to move. What happens if you allow that movement?
Exaggeration and pace
If a movement seems interesting, it can be amplified. Posture can also be exaggerated, and it can be useful to explore the ‘opposite’ position. Speeding up or slowing down a specific movement can also bring insights.
Follow the story
If that movement were a piece of mime, or choreography, what would it be showing? What happens next? Where does it want to go?
Explore movement in relation to objects. I use cushions, weapons, toys, blankets, whatever is to hand, to enhance movement.
We all have our familiar movement patterns. Noticing our regular repertoire can bring awareness of patterns which we inhibit, or have never learned to express. Laban movement analysis (strong/light, direct/indirect, quick/ slow) is one way of analysing movements and seeing what is missing from the collection. The six fundamental movement patterns identified by the Gestalt Psychotherapist Ruella Frank (yielding, pushing, reaching, grasping, pulling and releasing) are a good place to start. Expanding our range can bring a sense of more choice, energy and personal embodiment.
I first met Tim Brown by attending the Dance of Awareness (DofA) sessions in Brighton, UK. He and his wife, Clare Osbond, created D of A through many years of studying and qualifying in Body Psychotherapy practices including 5 Rhythms and Authentic Movement. I asked Tim if he could write for the magazine, as I feel sure that bringing this deeper insight can only be of benefit to the teacher and student alike, supporting Margaret’s work in the process.
In the process of moving through the body’s early developmental stages, one’s awareness is drawn to the built-in responses the body makes in reaction to certain situations, sometimes not even knowing why but just going with it. One should feel supported and safe in the experience as you experiment, expand and grow your movement repertoire in new ways.
And what for you may ask? … to honour them and bring completion to experiences out of your awareness, enriching your self-awareness and giving permission to move on and celebrate who you are.