The Self and Gravity: An Evolutionary Process from the Ideas of Ida Rolf and C.G.Jung(1)

Maria Eduarda Buarque de Gusmão graduated from the Guild for Structural Integration in 1998; graduated from the Faculdade de Ciências Humanas de Olinda (Facho) in Psychology; and majored in Dance Studies at the Laban Center of London.
Pages: 83-90
Year: 2009
IASI - International Association for Structural Integration

IASI Yearbook 2009

Volume: 2009
Maria Eduarda Buarque de Gusmão graduated from the Guild for Structural Integration in 1998; graduated from the Faculdade de Ciências Humanas de Olinda (Facho) in Psychology; and majored in Dance Studies at the Laban Center of London.

<center>The Self and Gravity</center>

We differentiate and evolve when we become integrated within the gravitational field and to our vertical impulse. To quote Dr. Rolf: ?Whenever life differentiates towards a greater, more complex degree of order, the upwards thrust becomes more apparent and more significant.?(2) According to Dr. Jung, during the process of individuation, we move toward a higher degree of evolution, unifying and integrating our opposing psychic poles: ?Generally speaking, it is a process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated. In particular, it is the development of a psychological individual separated from the general and collective psychology.?(3)

From this perspective the process of Structural Integration (SI) and the process of Individuation can be seen as ways of integrating opposites. They are movements towards totality. In Structural Integration we work with gravity, with the possibility of allowing a connection between opposite poles through verticality. We connect earth and heaven, the celestial and telluric energies, through our body; we go down to the earth creating roots to be able to climb up to heaven and transcend. In the Individuation process we aim to create a unity with our own psychic opposites; we create a connection between the conscious and the unconscious, building a bridge between opposite poles.

The principles of Rolf and Jung seem to agree in many aspects, pointing in the same direction. Although presenting different objects of study, body and psyche, they both focus on our determination to evolve and integrate.

Jung’s concept of The Self and Rolf’s use of gravity are organizing elements that can be used therapeutically to create efficiency and differentiation in human structure and psyche. They are fundamental realities, not subject to the ego. They cannot be controlled, but only recognized and facilitated by specific processes.

For Rolf it was the process of creating space that moved the body towards a more balanced relationship with the gravitational field. When the physical structure acknowledges its more powerful place, it ?leaps? to a higher state of order.

For Jung the psychological activities of the Self could be revealed and facilitated by the use of images and symbolic expressions. Therapeutic work happens not only through words, but also through the use of images bringing to consciousness the images underlying the emotions. The production of paintings, sculptures, collages, drawings and so forth is not only a projection of one?s personality, or a ?portrait? of one?s psyche, but an element of the process of recreating one?s self. According to Ostrower, ?? what is fascinating about the mystery of creation is that, by doing it, by configuring matter, man configures himself ? by shaping clay ? arranging matter, he gives himself a shape. By creating he creates himself.?(4) And from Bello: ?The symbol is an energy that comes from the deepest levels of the mind. When this energy is brought to consciousness, it creates an axis between the Self and the ego.?(5)

<center>Case Report of P.</center>

This case report is an attempt to empirically experience the synchronic process between body and mind. How the symbolic world can be revealed in the body and how the changes in the body can affect the psyche.

The client, P., went through ten sessions of SI and, at the same time she made collages – a symbolic therapeutic tool in the tradition of Carl Jung. Knowing that by touching the body we touch the person as a whole and that by creating symbols and images we also access the whole individual, the case will be analyzed combining both therapeutic approaches.

There were 21 sessions with P.: eleven collage sessions and ten for the SI series. The first meeting included a short interview followed by a collage session. The next 20 meetings were organized so that one session of the SI 10-series was followed by one collage-work session on the following day.

<center>Learning to Walk: First Meeting</center>
<center><i>Client?s profile: </center></i>

30 year-old female, single, lives with her mother and two brothers, and works as a telemarketer. Her social life is minimal. She works, goes to Caps (a day hospital for psychosocial assistance) and spends the rest of her time at home with her mother. She does not seem to take care of her appearance at all. She is very friendly and affectionate with the other Caps patients.

<center><i>Body history:</center></i>

P. describes her body as a ?concertina?: always gaining and losing weight, but always wrapped by a ?layer of fat?. She says that until the age of one she had a ?normal body, like any other child?, but once she started gaining weight she felt different from the others. At the age of four she began to continuously diet, and from then on she constantly gained and lost weight. She says that eating is her only pleasure.

She feels a lot of tension in her shoulders; her digestion is irregular, having either diarrhea or constipation most of the time. She believes that her emotions affect mostly the abdominal area. Her chest feels tight. She thinks her breasts are not attractive so she tries to protect this area of her body, but she thinks that the tightness might go beyond aesthetics. She considers her body abandoned, ?once in a while I remember it exists?. She says women?s bodies are more beautiful than men?s and states that sex has never been part of her life.

<center><i>Recurring dreams: </center></i>

Plants, her mother, therapist.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-1.jpg’>

<center>First SI Session</center>

Observing P.?s body, it was apparent that her legs were not appropriately supporting her physical structure. Her shoulders were collapsed; her chest, closed. Her body is badly defined and articulated; she is very much like a big baby.

After the first session, P. related that she felt numbness, as well as a positive sensation. She reported her experience:

<i>”I felt an incredible sensation of lightness, as if I was numb after the work. I felt a lot of pain during the session but when it was over, besides the sensations described before, I felt like I have lost weight. It was a feeling of a balanced body and feeling of joy too. At the moment, I am feeling more energetic and in a good mood.”</i>

P. shows more interest in her body and a need to get in touch with it. She also related a wish to see friends and go out more.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-2.jpg’>

P. feels she is wasting her life. She says she needs to study, but does not do it. She always talks about what she must do and how she does not make any efforts to accomplish it.

<center>Second SI Session </center>

P.?s feet appear very small to support her structure. The posterior muscles of her legs are extremely rigid and her ankles are very tight, the range of movement is very limited in her ankles when she walks.

After the second session, P. reported that she was feeling well: ?The sensation of wanting to be happy?. She felt her feet more planted in the ground, and said that she is only barefoot at Caps. She noticed that it feels like she has lost weight after the sessions. She also revealed that her back was a little sore from the work.

P. revealed the desire to be able to accept her homosexuality. She realized that it is her own prejudice that prevents her from being herself. She sees that things are changing, moving: ?My sensation is that I need to try to open myself to the world. I am feeling very, very good. Could this work be provoking these feelings on me? Everything is happening.?

<center><i>Dream: </center></i>

“I dreamed that the washing machine was broken and I had to wash everything by hand. In the dream I felt horrible, and it felt like my spine was going to hurt.?

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-3.jpg’>

<center>Third SI Session</center>

P. shows little space on the lateral line of her body, her shoulders are collapsed. When she breathes, the intercostals muscles do not have much mobility and her pelvis is excessively anterior in relation to her shoulders.

During the session P. talked a lot about her unaccepted sexuality. She also mentioned her mother and the fact that she would not accept her homosexuality: ?I have already wasted ten years of my life, but I would waste thirty more if necessary to spare my mother from any suffering. When she suffers it hurts me more.? She needed to talk a lot in the session about her desires and the barriers to their realization.

After the session P said she felt ?not so well?. She said she wants to see the world, and does not want to go back home. According to P, she would like to cut this strong tie with her mother. She has started to sleep in her own bedroom, leaving her mother?s bedroom, where she used to sleep.

<i>?Mommy is very protective, very authoritarian, like a lion.?
?I am opened to all possibilities, I need to live, and I need to risk.?
?I was trying to fool myself.?
?I am going to do anything I won?t tell (to her mother) what I am doing.?</i>

P. feels herself as soft. She feels lither, but she is also actually loosing weight. She says she is more aware of each part of her body and she feels more alive. She thinks that things are ?getting disorganized in order to get organized. All these sensations I am feeling were very well hidden.?

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-4.jpg’>

<center>Fourth SI Session</center>

P.?s legs have changed considerably during the sessions. There is more support to her structure from her lower limbs, but she still needs to work to bring her legs closer together to free the medial line. Another important issue is her pelvic floor, which needs a lot of space to get more differentiation and resilience.

After the session, P said that her body is more present, more comfortable. ?I feel my body more alive, more up-lifted.”

Emotionally P felt good, but physically her legs were sore. She noticed that she has been feeling less hungry, and she keeps losing weight. P also reported that she is in a new relationship. She talked about the sexual pleasure she wants to feel, but her pelvis is still very tight.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-5.jpg’>

<center>Fifth SI Session</center>

In this session we are “probing” an area that from the beginning of the series P has considered very sensitive and unstable. She had mentioned her compulsion for food and her irregular digestion. Structurally, it is an area that needs more stretching, but mainly more life, tonicity and elasticity.

P. felt sore after the session and said that she has difficulties in that area. Her intestinal functions are always extreme, either constipated or too loose. Right then, it was too loose: ?I prefer feeling this than nothing.?


1. Her girlfriend was always smiling.

2. Her girlfriend and she took the wrong bus to go home.

3. She was showing her girlfriend a picture of an ex-girlfriend. There were also two other women in the dream, one of them she didn?t know, and the other she couldn?t remember.

P. said that she has been feeling her body more and that she has been looking at herself in the mirror more often and relating better to her image.

<i>?I?m living a great moment and I hope my mother won?t take it away from me. I could die, I think I would.?
?Even though I love my mother very much I need to keep a distance from her.?
?It is even complicated to create a movement of independency because nobody believes me anymore.?</i>

P. said that she is moving in life and that she fears being unsupported or discouraged in her plans, but she wants to keep moving. ?It is a forward movement? Before, it was a sensation of being stuck; now everything is moving. Everything is happening at the same time: feeling, sexuality, affectivity; in the body and in the mind. Everything is coming together.?

P. slept at her girlfriend?s home. It was the first time she slept away from her mother?s home. She still feels sexually blocked and knows that she needs to relax more.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-6.jpg’>

<center>Sixth SI Session</center>

P. feels pain in her pelvis, but in general she feels that her body is better. She relates her tight gluteus to her own shyness.


?I dreamed that my mother found out about my relationship with my girlfriend and sent me away. She said I had to choose between herself and my girlfriend.?</i>

P. feels ?troubled, afraid and not free.? She feels that she is abandoning her mother. She fears her reaction, what her mother is going to do when she finds out about her girlfriend. She also fears that her mother would suffer. She mentions that in many of her dreams her mother is by her side, always judging her attitudes, approving or recriminating her relationships.

<i>?My mother is immense, I can?t trust, I don?t know what her reaction will be.?
?Everything in my life changed after this work, it is another life.?
?My mother is very authoritarian, she is a wild cat.? </i>

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-7.jpg’>

<center>Seventh SI Session</center>

After the seventh session P said she noticed her nose. She felt one nostril breathing differently and talked about a habit that she had of grinding her teeth.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-8.jpg’>


?I dreamed that I had a boyfriend, but it was like he was my present girlfriend. He had two small children, a couple. In the dream I was sorry because we couldn?t stay together that afternoon, because he had to stay with the kids.? </i>

P. woke up ?feeling bad, with a sensation of loss?. She said that she is always afraid of losing something, always divided between her mother and her relationship. She used to be her mother?s partner. P said she felt very strong and could now handle some separation from her mother: ?I had some strength that I didn?t even know I could have?.

<center>Eighth SI Session</center>

It is clear that we need to work with her legs first. The main focus of her development from her perspective is to become autonomous and find her own way.

After the seventh session P became less talkative. Before, she would talk so much that it was difficult to end the therapeutic session. After session 8 she reported feeling afraid of losing somebody and very immature in her relationship. Emotionally she is ?not too well?. She is afraid of failing.

<center><i>Dream: </center>

?I dreamed of my older brother arriving in a big car, really beautiful. Then I dreamed that I was a child and was talking to a man who had a box truck. Then it felt like he was going to hurt me, to rape me.?</i>

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-9.jpg’>

<center>Ninth SI Session</center>

P. felt some pain in her shoulders after the session but also felt her arms much more free and her chest more opened.

<center><i>Dream: </center>

?I dreamed that my grandmother had cancer of the uterus. I dreamed about my girlfriend. She was looking at me while kissing a man. I felt very bad, as if she wanted to make me jealous.?</i>

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-10.jpg’>

<center>Tenth SI Session</center>

It is very beautiful to see the evolution in P?s body, how much more support it has, the flexibility, the definition and integration that she has gained.

P. reported feeling ?not so good, but firm.” When I asked how she felt about her body, she said: ?I feel more stretched, more open, more balanced when I walk, I feel my feet more in contact with the ground. Everything changed: my body, my mind, everything at the same time.” P is also very afraid of ?not succeeding, of not being strong enough? although she feels more mature.

P. revealed not knowing what the image was about but as we kept talking she became aware of the difficulty of saying good-bye, to end a cycle. The image is an incomplete circle, something unfinished.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-11.jpg’>

When I mentioned that we were finishing our meetings she said: ?I always run away at the end of things.” She revealed that endings bring her a feeling of loss.

I observe more wholeness in P?s speech, in her body and in the collages. She reports feeling more mature, responsible and empowered. ?I have to open myself to the world, my opened body must get in contact with the world, to face life and not run away.?

Her last collage is a clear representation of the Self. It shows she needs to locate herself in her center. It represents the desire to be who she really is.

In the ten pictures shown in Figure 12 (below) we can see a structure that is more organized in the gravitational field; she is leaner, lighter, her legs provide more support for her body. Her whole structure looks more peaceful, together and integrated. She is using gravity to support her instead of fighting against it. In the “before” pictures, there is not much differentiation between her body parts ? an image of a big ?baby.? In the tenth-session photo we see a more differentiated and mature structure.

<img src=’https://novo.pedroprado.com.br/imgs/2009/997-12.jpg’>


In this case study I observed many changes in P’s body, speech, and symbolic material. The pattern of her whole system changed.

As she rediscovered her body it became free from its protective ?layer of fat? (as she called it), and made it possible for her desires within to emerge. As those desires took shape, they shaped her body; and the collages showed symbolically the progress of that change.

A new pattern and meaning emerged and became integrated into her system. As her body changed, her posture in life changed as well. This process is an indication of the connection between mind and body, about how changes in psychic patterns or physique patterns affect the whole person.

P. became more mature. She started moving toward her individuality, opened herself to the world and to her desires. Her body showed that autonomy in its structure, in the relationship with the gravity field, and through its verticality. It is certainly not a finished project (and never will be), but it is an improvement in the harmony between her body and gravity.

Simultaneously, her final collages showed a better definition of themes than in those from the first seven sessions. Session 8 is when she started working with recognizable themes and relationships. Her collages show more conscious, involvement and integration with her own essence, her Self. Now she can bring to consciousness part of that content that needs to be integrated.

This study suggests that there are points of intersection between physical and psychic development. When Jung and Rolf write about the more subtle or denser forms of energy, the mind or the body, they were actually talking about an indivisible whole?the human being. If we are a system that encompasses at least body and mind, how could a change happening in one part of this system not affect the whole? My experience with SI has shown me that working with the body changes the psychic and behavioral aspects of a person as well.

Out of this study a new question arose for me: in this particular case, would the outcome have been different if she had not worked both processes simultaneously?

By having both SI and collage sessions did I combine two therapeutic processes and change what might have happened with just one? In other words, we know that working with the body affects the whole person, and by working with the psyche, I am also affecting the whole person again. However, making space for both body and mind to dialogue, for the sensations to be expressed and the word to be experienced, does that enhance the whole process? Would P have had the same changes if we had only worked in her body? Or would her structure have changed as much if we had worked only in her symbolic world?

Even though both therapies are complete and autonomous, I remain curious about the possibilities that might arise from a dialogue between the two ? an exchange between images and body sensations. The encounter of the body as a symbol and the symbol as a body. The gravity as Self and the Self as gravity.


1. This article is an edited version of the author?s undergraduate dissertation in Psychology. Any comments, suggestions or questions can be sent to [email protected].

2. Rolf, I.P., Rolfing: An Integration of Human Structure, São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1990, p.267.

3. Sharp, D., Léxico Junguiano. São Paulo: Cultrix, 1991. p.90.

4. Ostrower, F., CriatividadeProcessos de Criação. Rio de Janeiro: Imago Editora, 1977. p.51.


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