Much is made about the difference between theory and practice. Pragmatists will assert that all that matters is how you get he work done. That is certainly true, but equally trivial. Rolfers work according to an overriding paradigm they have. Of course, everyone always feels that they are doing “just what this client needs”, as if their mind was a tabula rosa. Thus they free themselves from complex evolution which is part of Rolfing theory, and from the ticklish question of whether their work reflects the cutting-edge aspects of that evolving theory.
The central issue for our theory, to my mind, is the difference between freedom and integration. Many do not realize it, but much of Rolfing theory seems to wed freedom and integration in total unity. This unity is expressed in a formula which runs something like this.
Bodies lack integration because their tissues are not free
When tissues are freed, then the body can be integrated
Therefore, freedom equals integration
I have purposely made the above formula very bald and not subtle. Every Rolfer-every good Rolfer would put a layer of nuance which describes the way they have achieved success with integrating structures.
But what most don’t consider, is that the entire formula maybe wrong. Perhaps the more relevant formula would be something which at first will seem weird and infuriating:
Bodies lack integration because the tissues are not integrated
There is no reliable integration in the freedom of issues
Therefore, freedom does not equal integration
This zany formula calls into question the safety net which Rolfers have counted on while doing their highflying trapeze acts. We have largely assumed that if we just work toward making tissues free in a systematic, balanced way (that is, not necessarily the same thing for both sides, etc.) then we can count on that old safety net which will give us integration with the client.
Well, we’re in this exploration of structure together as a community of practitioners. Maybe we can muster the collective courage to challenge this shopworn old equation of freedom and integration.
But what will replace it, and why should we give it up? The two questions, in a sense, are answered by the same observations.
Given that no body is ever completely free, we will always be dealing with a balance, or worse, a tug-of-war between parts that are free and parts that are bound-up. In fact, some parts may not be “free” for a long, long time. If freedom did equal integration, then most bodies wouldn’t have a chance of integration.
When we look at it without Pollyanna optimism we see that integration begins to look on one level like accommodation. That is not, a very jazzy or attractive way to describe what we do, though. But maybe its more to the point.
Though I’m sure there’s someone out there who will claim to do the impossible, there are structurally, central parts of the body which can’t be touched. You can’t get your hands on the most important parts of the pelvis. The “inside” of the ribcage is simply unreachable (I know there are “indirect” techniques and indirect direct techniques). Given that these central places are off-limits for our hands at least (though not our “energy”), how can we be sure that any freedom or length we introduce elsewhere in the body simply won’t fit with the unreachable spots.
Well, the bad news is, I think that we can’t. But it sounds worse than it is. Most Rolfers do it instinctively or through intuition which is just the sum total of having touched thousands of bodies. But having said that, it’s still clear to me that even the most educated and talented Rolfers are still engaging in a high form of guesswork.
Of course, everyone will talk with lots of good explanations, but at the most they may have just one more candle, while others are in the dark.
It sounds like a crisis. And every crisis breeds torch-bearers, reluctant or not, to show the way. One such light bearer is Hans Flury in Switzerland who has been putting out those brilliant, dense, enlightening journals called The Notes on Structural Integration. If you can get past the flood of words, you will be amply rewarded. I certainly have been.
It is Hans Flury who has most sharply criticized the confusion of freedom with integration. If you want to see how he questions, read the Notes. In order, to further the issues along, though, I want to bring some of Hans skepticism and apply it to an important issue in Rolfing’s history: the evolution of structure.
Much that has been written in the Notes on Structural Integration seems focused on finding the exact relationships for a given structure that would result in integration at the present moment.
That is a powerful and crucial thing for us to learn. Flury has raised the central point, that much of what Rolfers routinely do could result in the opposite of integration-disintegration.
But for those of us who are interested in the truly ontogenetic even phylo genetic potential of Rolfing, this focus on relative disorganization must be held in dynamic tension with the awkward realities of true evolution. This dynamic tension is crucial and in no way rhetorical. For truly assisting in the evolution of a person means letting them experience the animal, awkwardness of all growth. How this is balanced with the day-to-day need to put it all together and take it on the road is perhaps where Rolfing enters the realm of high art.
This artfulness should not and cannot be a kind of art for art’s sake. Total Rolfing by intuition is, I believe, bogus. Rather “Art” describes, the inevitable limits of our authentic analysis and our humility before life’s mystery. But the realm of art only becomes clearer as the realm of analysis becomes more precise.