CAPA 1992-02-spring

Primal Structure and Final Integration

Pages: 50-51
Year: 1992
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

ROLF LINES – Vol XX nº 02 – SPRING 1992

Volume: 20

Much has been said about how deep and lasting Rolfing’s effects are. It has been acknowledged that there exists a hierarchy of effects from Rolfing for any given structure. That is, Rolfing might have more profound results for a given person because she or he “opens” more or “allows” for things to happen. But there seems to have been less explicit talk about what structural state would “precede” what might be called conclusive, permanent or final integration. Or to put it blandly, what has got to happen first before deep change really occurs.

Of course, this is tricky terrain to tread because everyone’s structural path is, by definition, their own. But there exist some broad issues which can be described.

Sometime in the 1980’s, Jan Sultan discovered or discerned two basic structural types. I take this, on reviewing Rolfing’s history and bibliography, to be just a further development of Dr. Rolf’s ideas, but the fundamental development of issues Dr. Rolf was unable to discern. Of course, these typologies continued to be refined by Sultan and others, most notably Hans Flury.

What is basic to all of this is the notion that there may exist “overlays” or “conflicts” in the true type of a structure. And that before higher order can be sought, that structure must be brought to “congruence” with its true type.

The point of my brief exploration here is to make explicit what I believer is implicit in this notion. Namely, that from the very beginning, which is nearly infancy, we put many postural overlays on ourselves. These are cultural, familial, and personally habitual. In a sense, we never have a chance at true balanced structure because from the start we are imitating. It goes without saying that most of what we ape is not beneficial to our structure.

When a Rolfer begins with a structure, he or she is dealing with complex learned habits and basic tendencies, along with gravity’s ravages. That much we know. But my point is that we have to confess to what clearly follows from all this. That to truly reach deep integration-not some ephemeral “aligned place”-we must first pass through our own primal structure.

By primal structure I mean that state of openness and dimension which near-infants have when they begin to walk. The whole point of primal things is that they have not yet evolved, just as the infant has not yet learned to walk and deal with gravity in an efficient way. But presumably infants have done very little of the sucking and twisting necessary to “accomplish” the mandated cultural and familial postures.

In an ideal structural world, a baby would keep all the openness and dimension of its body and then learn to walk with that intact. Of course, our initial attempts at locomotion are nothing like that. We watch our parents, who are themselves incarnations of their culture’s demands and frustrations. By the time that baby grows up and makes enough money to pay a Rolfer, he or she is a mysterious mix of influences which no one will ever sort out conclusively.

Asking such a person’s body to integrate in the midst of all this is slightly unrealistic for many reasons. Robert Schleip has made the excellent point that the nervous system must first be seduced into letting go of atavistic patterns. Peter Levine has pointed to the effect of trauma which must first be discharged before structure can realistically integrate.

There is a highly pertinent structural state with certain characteristics which must first be achieved before any of this is possible. To say “achieved” is perhaps not the best word, but it does indeed hint at the courage needed to achieve it. For it involves nothing less than re-embodying that initial structural state for a while and re-claiming the body’s natural dimension and flexibility. Dimension means nothing less or more than the natural girth and sense of place before we were taught to suck in and pinch our pelvis. It means the blessed fullness of the ribcage before we were forced to flatten it. It means that natural state where you are naturally round-not fat!-but structurally round in natural dimension.

Now let me hasten to add that I am not talking about this primal state as an ideal, as for instance the Bioenergetics people seem to do. We are interested in evolution, not making a fetish of primality or primitivism. There is indeed much that must change in the infantile structure to handle itself in gravity. It must evolve; undergo its unique ontogenesis.

My only point is that were it to do that from a place that did not mandate sucking and twisting, as our culture does, we might see genuine untouched, open, and integrated bodies. Except for the lucky children of Rolfers, this is pretty impossible. Even those lucky children, who might have been Rolfed very early, still face the onslaught of an entire culture.

All of that is quite beside the point for most of us. What is crucial is my central point, that to re-learn movement and activity in a structural space that allows for true dimension and openness, we must re-experience or structurally re-live in our own shape something akin to that infantile unformedness, as a step in the process.

Of course, this is never possible or even desirable completely. But it is the sine qua non of real integration. It is an unconsciously difficult thing to fathom because it would mean becoming congruent in the primal type to a point that most people would be afraid of, simply because it means living through a primal structure with all of its attributes, chief among these that open pot-bellied look that babies have.

This is not to say that the soft rotundity of babies should be our goal. Rather that our goal of integration will never really be achieved except by re-learning all our antigravity skills from that point of soft rotundity. There is a lot of necessary tension and tonus needed to be truly balanced vertical creatures. Those are things a baby must learn. Unless these things are learned from a place of openness and dimension, they spell the end of balance and the beginning of structural conflict. No one learns these things with their birthright dimensional girth and flexibility intact.

In my view, an adult cannot truly integrate without first passing through his or her primal structure. This means becoming softer and wider than most people think is permissible. This is not an end-state, but the inevitable beginning state for true structural evolution.

When we pretend that we can integrate little soldier boy or soldier-girl without first radically softening their physical requirement, then we produce a state, which only involves minimal fix-it results from Rolfing. Some people think Rolfing has only evanescent results. I would suspect that is because they or their clients are not yet experiencing primal structure and the potential it brings. For only from this primal structure is real change and peace with gravity possible. Real evolution for our species is only possible from a starting point of primal dimension. Primal structure is not an end-point. It is the condition for the possibility of integration.Primal Structure and Final Integration

To have full access to the content of this article you need to be registered on the site. Sign up or Register. 

Log In