Emotional dances
Therapeutic dialogues as embodied
Paolo Bertrando
Director, Episteme Centre
Turin, Italy
Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to please the soul
William Butler Yeats, 1927
(Keith Haring)
The mind/body problem (dualism) is
a sharp theoretical divide…
…but it’s not a problem for systemic
therapy practice.
the dualism
(Alberto Giacometti)
 Here is a remarkable fact. When atoms and
molecules are organized in a suitably
complicated way, the result is something
that perceives, knows, believes, desires,
fears, feels pain, and so on—in other words,
an organism with a psychology.
Alex Byrne, 2006
 … how do [mind and body] interact so as to
produce in a person a mind able to have
effects on their body (as when the person
wills the body to perform some act), whilst
also their body can affect their mind (as in
the experience of pain)? Although the
problem is simple it has as yet no
satisfactory solution.
John Taylor, 2007
the problem
(Nam June Paik)
 parallel dualism
 trascendental idealism
 reductionist materialism
Without consciousness, the mind–body
problem would be much less
interesting. With consciousness it
seems hopeless.
Thomas Nagel, 1974
 There is also the question of what exactly is
the mind? It is certainly composed of
conscious components, but it would also
seem to contain non-conscious ones [that
are] more readily accepted as …
components of the body.
John Taylor, 2007
of experience
narratives of the body
(Man Ray)
 The textuality of the body implies that any
account of bodily experience is mediated; it
cannot serve, as many modernists suggest,
as a source of a primitive “reality”.
Tim Armstrong, 1996
 The body as an object of investigation
conflates any ready distinction between a
philosophy of experience and a philosophy
of knowledge. … We act, as we write, with
the body.
Bryan Turner, 1992
the body text
(Alberto Giacometti)
 It is (usually) the female body which comes
to act as a “text”, uttering its meanings in a
material way, well known from instances of
hysteria, because other channels do not
necessarily exist for it.
Sue Vice, 1996
solid bodies
 Between 1880 and 1920, gluttony … would
be bound to fatness, fatness to inefficiency,
inefficiency to lack of energy and loss of
balance, and imbalance to overweight. This
knot of relationships would hold as well for
housewives as for dancers, and in the home
as in the heavens.
Hillel Schwartz, 1987
body as object
(Man Ray)
 Bodies become things for moving,
possessing, using, enjoying, adjusting,
disposing of, bartering with, abusing,
ignoring, exploiting, controlling, and so on.
This often leads to self-manipulation as well
as to the manipulation of others.
Vincent Kenny, 1998
anorectic bodies
(Alberto Giacometti)
Anorexia is necessarily parodic, as it at
once exemplifies the feminine
stereotype of perfect slimness and
repudiates it by making a mockery of it.
Marilyn Lawrence, 1989
family therapy
(David Hockney)
O body swayed to music, O brightening
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
William Butler Yeats, 1927
In family therapy, Yeats’s question is
considered rhetoric: we cannot know
the dancer from the dance. The person
is his dance.
Minuchin and Fishman, 1981
What am I doing? I am accessing the
right brain when I ask somebody how
they feel and when I help them to
connect with parts of their body.
Virginia Satir, 1985
new dualisms
(René Magritte)
When ideas become radically
separated from embodied practices, the
sensuous activities of everyday life
tend to be subordinated to disembodied
abstract differences.
John Lannamann, 1998
 Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain in
which various psychopathological processes
result in highly variable clinical
manifestations. However, despite a century
of study, what is wrong in the brain (and
where) is not known with exactitude.
Robert W. Buchanan et al., 1997
The issue was not whether a lesion
was present, but which of all those
reported were significant.
John Casanova, 1997
Despite the wide array of
histopathological lesions none have
thus far [1997] proved diagnostic.
John Casanova, 1997
The delineation of the neuroanatomy
of the symptom complexes of
schizophrenia is a major goal of
schizophrenia research…
Robert W. Buchanan et al., 1997
new solutions
(Marcel Duchamp)
 [There is the] temptation to see a profound
philosophical problem in a place where
there is really none. As the philosopher
Ludwig Wittgenstein emphasised, such
philosophical mirages are often produced by
an apparently inevitable but erroneous
picture of the phenomenon under
Alex Byrne, 2006
I do not know what to do except to
make abundantly clear what opinions I
hold regarding the supernatural on the
one hand and the mechanical on the
other. …
Very simply, let me say that I despise
and fear both of these extremes of
opinion and that I believe both extremes
to be epistemologically naive,
epistemologically wrong, and politically
dangerous. They are also dangerous to
something which we may loosely call
mental health.
Gregory Bateson, 1967
beyond dualism
(Man Ray)
The old compromises between
“supernatural” religion and
“materialist” science are artefacts of a
false division and by-products of the
meeting between unsophisticated
theology and equally unsophisticated
Gregory Bateson, 1976
person and self
(Alexander Calder)
The “person” is not a bounded entity
separated off from the world in which
he or she exists, but an interaction of
body with world, consisting partially of
David Smails, 1993
embodied interactions
(Henry Moore)
The history of our embodied
interactions … generates over time the
range of possible actions in which we
can viably engage. … The body is the
repository of the repertoire of viable
anticipations which we can make about
ourselves with others.
Vincent Kenny, 1998
new neuroscience
(Alberto Giacometti)
 … it’s in these acts, as acts rather than mere
movements, that our experience of the
surrounding environment is embodied, that
things get for us an immediate meaning. …
the acting brain is also, and first of all, an
understanding brain.
Giacomo Rizzolatti
and Corrado Sinigaglia, 2006
To discover that a certain feeling
depends on the activity of a number of
specific brain systems, interacting with
a number of body organs doesn’t
diminish the status of that feeling.
Antonio R. Damasio, 1994
embodied dialogues
(Marcel Duchamp)
There is nothing more in the utterance
than the utterance; there is nothing
more said than what it is said; there is
nothing more shown than what is
shown. Nothing more.
Tom Andersen, 1995
Not all words for just anyone submit
equally easy. … Forcing [language] to
submit to one’s own intentions and
accents, is a difficult and complicated
Mikhail Bakhtin, 1935
Verbal communication can never be
understood and explained outside of …
a concrete situation.
Voloshinov/Bakhtin, 1929
body positioning
(René Magritte)
The person suffering does not
experience the fullness of his own
outward expressedness in being … He
does not see the agonizing tension of his
own muscles, does not see the entire,
plastically consummated posture of his
own body, or the expression of suffering
on his own face.
He does not see the clear blue sky
against the background of which his
suffering outward image is delineated
for me.
Mikhail Bakhtin, 1923
(Alberto Giacometti)
 Blushing is the most peculiar and most
human of all expressions. Monkeys redden
from passion, but it would require an
overwhelming amount of evidence to make
us believe that animals could blush.
Charles Darwin, 1872
 It is not the simple art of reflecting on our
own appearance, but the thinking what
others think of us, which excites a blush. In
absolute solitude the most sensitive person
would be quite indifferent about his
Charles Darwin, 1872
Although the evidence to support the
order of events that James postulated is
somewhat equivocal, most modern
theorists accept that emotions involve
both mind and body.
Keith Oatley, 2004
Emotion can point to goals and
concerns. Sometimes they are clear to
us. Sometimes, however, we might not
know we have these goals, so the
emotions associated with them emerge
only slowly.
Keith Oatley, 2004
(Henry Moore)
Shiva Nataraja

PPT 1,8 Mo - European Family Therapy Association