Evolutionary biologists tell us that we share the following 8 emotions
with all mammals: seeking, fear, rage, lust, care, disgust, panic and
play. As we developed as a species, we crafted social emotions
universally identified on our human face: fear, anger, contempt,
enjoyment, shame, sadness, surprise. But these lists tell us nothing
about the poetic body.
Some scientists, not all scientists, tell us the soul exists only as a
function of the prefrontal cortex, but that tells us nothing about the poetic body.
Some scientists, not all scientists, speak to us as if science is the only
language and light in a dark, misguided, superstitious world and that
the scientists are the high priests of truth. They tell us that rational
thought is the only mode of thought, but that tells us nothing about
the poetic body or the nature of truth.
Some scientists tell us that brain scans and chemicals are solutions
that will replace all other forms of deep therapeutic intervention–and
that tells us nothing about the poetic body.
It used to be and still is in some places that religion joined forces
with political rulers. Now science is the handmaid of government,
developing weapons and technology to exercise control and
dominance—and all that power and influence tells us nothing about the poetic body.
I am in love with the discoveries of neuroscience and evolutionary
biology and how such knowledge has informed our view of human
nature–but science tells us very little intentionally about the
expressive arts. The way science must order their thought leaves
everything else out. Their focus is their strength–but they have
nothing to tell us about the poetic body.
The poetic body captures the wonder of the moment, of the amazing
experience of being alive and self-aware in a body that becomes like
lead one instance and in another a shooting star. The poetic body
pushes the limit on the edge of something so much bigger than itself,
with yearning for the impossible and yet content with a bowl of hot
soup. The poetic body sinks into our lover’s eyes. The poetic body
trains and trains for a performance before a crowd or the execution
of a dance alone under a tree. The poetic body always breathes and
sometimes sighs and sobs in grief, but alive we are as full of poetry as
Dylan Thomas, drunk stumbling home or an ascetic alone in the chapel
saying prayers. What is most human and divine about us is our playful
and poetic nature, expressed and unexpressed.
There is a language of emotion developed through music, art,
literature, myth and story that expresses the poetic body. Emotions
are not clumps of words like hate and fear. Myth and story, music and
art are the ways emotions think. Dreaming is the way the body thinks.
Long before we developed a verbal language which is quite recent (the
last 100,000 years) we were communicating up a storm. The evidence
of that is seen in sign language today. Oliver Sacks in Seeing Voices
describes how sign language has its own grammar and syntax, it
allows for humor, irony, and playful spontaneity perhaps greater than
the spoken word, a language perfectly expressive of the poetic body.
One has only to watch two people signing to see that signing
has a playful quality, a style, quite different from that of speech.
Signers tend to improvise, to play with signs, to bring all their
humor, their imaginativeness, their personality, into their signing,
so that signing is not just the manipulation of symbols according to
grammatical rules, bur irreducibly, the voice of the signer—a voice
given a special force, because it utters itself, so immediately, with the
And that of course is what our purpose is in Analytic Somatic Therapy,
to help each other find our voice that so immediately utters itself with
the body, our poetic body.
In Analytic Somatic Therapy, we draw the body, we walk and we hold
We move slowly to feel the numb and traumatized parts. We work
on grounding, boundaries, breath, our range of emotion and even our
intention to be here, the Foundations.
We practice how to be present in body and mind before we do
anything. We practice how to be here now.
And that means we must return to the subtlest feelings of the body
itself like a dancer, like an artist, because our bodies enhance or shut down our deepest human experience, as our poetic body.