For anyone who’s worked with me individually or in a workshop, you’ve heard me distinguish between body language and embodiment. Body language may or may not be in conscious awareness yet can be controlled; embodiment relates to how we routinely show up, who we are, the natural shape we have in our day to day lives, mostly underneath consciousness. Can we change what we embody? Definitely. And it takes a deep commitment to self-awareness, change, practice – simple components, not necessarily easy in the execution.
When I talk about our shape, I’m not referring to weight or height, I’m reflecting on how we inhabit our bodies. Does Sam stand tall, proud and strong? Or does he collapse through the chest, shrinking from contact with the world and his own sensations? Does Tam extend easily toward others, naturally putting her hand forward to make contact with a hand-shake? Does Sim have depth and gravitas, or does he seem cut off from his past experiences, facing forward without reference to the history that could benefit decisions?
In person I can physically demonstrate these ways of being in the world, comparing and contrasting them to my own, or to yours, so you can get a sense of the different energy, movement, structure. Without that opportunity, it’s difficult to describe in words, so I was happy to spot these caricatures on a visit to Chatsworth House (apologies for the appalling quality of the photos).
Here we appear to have a barrister, the body in forward motion being clearly lead by the head. There’s an eagerness, a determination – to win or succeed perhaps?
Compare with this image: The head may be similarly forward yet the body is less animated, cautious, circumspect.
Here the character’s head is enlarged, chest either puffed up or armoured ready for battle, the legs smaller and knees hyper-extended, locked back. Very stationary, an observing stance, disengaged, perhaps pompous.
I may be stating the obvious here, yet many of us are oblivious to the shape and structure we display. I sometimes take on my client’s shape and suddenly they can see the turned out feet, hips pushed forward, shoulders pushed up towards the ears. What impression is created? A leader to follow, someone easy to disregard? A person you wouldn’t want to go up against, or one you’re sure you can ride over roughshod? Important to know….
Curiousity piqued? Call me for a complimentary obligation-free conversation about how somatic work could help you have more impact.