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The Experiential Field of Structural Integration

Pages: 16-19
Year: 2010
IASI - International Association for Structural Integration

IASI Yearbook 2010

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Scott Gauthier, MS finished basic training with the Guild for Structural Integration in 1992 and did his Advanced training in 1997. He is a graduate of The College of William and Mary in Virginia and received his Master?s degree from James Madison University.

Looking at Structural Integration (SI) as a broad field of experience leads us to a greater understanding of how practitioners perceive and define what SI encompasses based upon their individual experiences. We are then able to see how practitioners? different experiences will influence communication among colleagues and with clients.</div>

In order to give definition to a thing, we rely on boundaries, and in order to create a common boundary we need to communicate. What is part of it? What is not? So it is with Structural Integration (SI). In order to define SI, we need to be able to discuss what we do and what we experience with other practitioners of our craft. What is part of the field of SI? What isn’t?

Dorothy Nolte, trained by Dr. Rolf in 1957, used a simple Venn diagram in class in order to show that SI is a field of knowledge in it?s own right that exists outside of all the people who do it. In this paper, we will use Venn diagrams to examine SI as a field of experience. Then we will consider how diversity within that field could affect communication among SI practitioners.

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We have here the field of all human experience (Figure 1). This field includes everything that is possible for a human to experience. Structural Integration is a subset within this field of human experience, containing all the experiences that have happened to people giving, receiving, and watching the SI process. It contains the physical aspects?i.e. the anatomy and physiology of change that we can palpably and kinesthetically experience. It also contains the psychological, spiritual, archetypical and metaphysical changes experienced with SI. Anything that can be thought of as an experience of SI is in this field. It is the container of our work.

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Next we add a practitioner of Structural Integration to the mix (see Figure 2). Notice that he/she is not completely contained within the field of SI. The practitioner is full of experiences other than SI. And, while there is a conjunction with the SI field, the single practitioner can?t experience everything SI has to offer. The field is too big.

The practitioner?s perception of SI varies, depending on his/her experience, alertness, awareness and expertise. Beliefs will also affect one?s SI experience. For example, if one doesn?t expect the work to have any psychological impact, one will tend to place little emphasis upon psychological shifts even when they are present in conjunction with SI.

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When we add a client to the experience, we can see the relationships between the client, the practitioner, and the field of SI after one session (Figure 3).

The client now begins to have his/her own field of experience of SI?some of which will be similar to and shared with the practitioner, some of which will be different or unknown to the practitioner. The practitioner has had more experiences with SI than the client and can lead the client to further discoveries. The client, by sharing his/her experiences during and after receiving the work, also may lead the practitioner into a greater understanding of SI.

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Here we see the client after many sessions (Figure 4). His/her exposure to the field of SI has increased. He/she has had more experiences of SI. The practitioner, by working with the client, has also had more experiences.

Now, suppose the client wants to become a Structural Integration practitioner. Since he/she has had a variety of experiences as a client, he/she already has some experiential understanding of the field of SI. Perhaps this is the most important reason that a beginning student of SI should receive the work as a client before jumping into the study of SI. The beginning practitioner?s base of experiences is much broader by virtue of having received the work. The experiences have also occurred with in the frame of reference of receiving the work, rather that the frame of reference of studying the work.

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This diagram represents an educational model of SI (see Figure 5). Notice how there is an overlapping of experiences within the group. This overlap gives the members of the group an opportunity to connect and communicate about their individual experiences. Each member has a unique personal experience that is not identical to that of anyone else. Also notice how the student has a smaller personal overlap with the SI field, because he/she is less experienced in SI than either of the teachers.

Continuing to look at this as a learning situation, we can see that the student gains experience with a greater portion of the field of SI by studying with both teachers. Each teacher has a unique set of experiences within the field of SI, some of which can be shared with the student. This is the advantage of a student having more than one teacher during the training process–she/he is exposed to a bigger slice of the field of SI.

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There are sub-categories within the broad field of SI. One division we see is between manipulative and movement work (Figure 6). Practitioners who primarily work through manipulation rely more on the hands-on aspects of SI. Other practitioners place more emphasis on the movement work. The ratio of manipulative work to movement work practiced by any given practitioner depends on his/her own experiences and theoretical framework. When training to practice SI, some schools even teach separate classes that focus specifically on movement or on manipulative aspects of the work, while others incorporate the movement and the manipulative work together.

Can the work be done only manipulatively? Can the work be done only through movement? Practitioners? answers to these questions will vary, depending upon what zone within the field of SI experience they come from.

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Many fields of science intersect with the field of SI (see Figure 7). Depending on the background and interests of a practitioner, these illustrated fields and others may influence his/her style, theory, and approach. A practitioner may choose to explore areas of interest that allow him/her to continue learning, integrating knowledge, and cultivating excitement about the work. The more diversity a practitioner integrates into his/her field of SI, the richer his/her practice becomes.

Another way of looking at divisions within the experiential field of SI would be to look at the different schools and how they teach the work. I dare not draw a Venn diagram of this, as there is so much overlap between what is taught in the different schools, but graduates of different schools, and even graduates of the same school with different teachers, will have different experiential bases from which they work. It is highly beneficial for graduates of different schools to trade work, ideas, and experiences, so that they gain a broader understanding of the whole field of SI. (The value of these types of experiences was taken into account during development of the IASI CE program by granting CE credit for local study groups and mentorship.

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Alternatively, the field of SI can be divided into the realms of mind, body, and spirit (see Figure 8). While our work is undeniably about the physical body, there are many other dimensions of human life that are influenced by our work. The body, mind, and spirit are three sides of the same coin, the coin of human experience. However, a practitioner?s natural inclination towards specific areas of interest, whether they be cultural, an innate aptitude, or a natural pull of curiosity, will lead him/her into a realm of the work uniquely his/her own.

Suppose one practitioner is deeply involved in the anatomical/scientific experience of SI. His/her work will have a certain feel and set of intentions due to this focus. Many of the experiences that he/she gains from the work will confirm his/her orientation because that is what he/she is giving the most attention.

Another practitioner, one who is more concerned with the spiritual aspects of transformation that occur during the work, is more likely to gain experiences that are more spiritual in nature. His/her work will have a different feel and different intentions due to this orientation.

The varied experiences and emphases encompassed by SI practitioners influence how they communicate about the work. For example, the language of anatomy has been useful to us in discussing SI–when one practitioner talks about getting a release in the fascia around the psoas, another practitioner can understand what she/he is describing. Another way of communicating about the work is through the language of the basic ten series. When a practitioner talks about something affecting the fourth hour line, other practitioners can, through the context of their repeated experiences with the ten series, relate to the first practitioner?s experience.

Some areas of our work are not as anchored in a common language and are therefore harder to communicate. One example is the feeling one gets when one experiences the line as a dynamic place for living, breathing, and being. The feeling of empowerment that happens when one begins to move from the core line sometimes can only be explained as ?Wow!? or ?Toto, I don?t think we are in Kansas anymore.? Although these are common SI experiences, we lack a precise language to express them. We tend to use metaphor or simile. ?It feels as if my head is floating up like a balloon.? ?My footsteps feel like the paws of a cat.? Could not one describe the feeling of lightness or lift from finding one?s line as ?enlightenment??

While we can use the language of science, it is important to remember the work is also about spirit, metaphor, and story. As we develop our individual practices and broaden our personal experience of SI, may we find language and a way of framing our own practices, such that we are both acknowledging the greater field and recognizing that our own experience of the work is a personal journey. Each one of us only sees a slice of the big pie from our own viewpoint of personal history, conditioning, and experience.

In conclusion, Structural Integration is by nature a large, diverse, growing, and evolving field of experience. Creating a definition of what it is, and what it is not, is a work in progress. We must recognize that the experience of SI is personal, and there will be wide variation in how it is practiced, perceived, and discussed. Our challenge, as this field grows, will be to maintain and continue to develop a common language and broad perspective, so that practitioners can communicate well with each other, with clients, and with other professionals who intersect the field of SI.

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