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BAATN Annual Conference 2021

Please acknowledge me / other writers and source contributors if using any part of the write up of my talk.

The ‘answers’ offered to chat questions should be acknowledged as a personal communication in writing from Carmen Joanne Ablack 22nd April 2021. Thank you for cooperating with acknowledging.


In this brief presentation write up I am inviting a looking together at ‘the what’ and ‘the how’ of moving between:

  • sense of self
  • actions and experiences of selfing
  • and towards a deepened collective embodied relational contact Using the unknown and novel discovery as a place of resilience finding and growth.

In the talk I said:

“I am giving this talk in awareness of the recent turmoil in St Vincent with the eruption of the volcano, and aware of the depth of pain we are all sitting with as we contemplate what is being said and written about us as people. There has been trauma, anxiety, sickness and loss.”

Adapting Maya Angelou, I drew and continue to draw attention to the fact 

“And still, we rise”

 On the day I suggested we rise together in body and/or in spirit, breathing collectively and bringing our bodies, our breath, and our consciousness to support us throughout the day together.

I said I would draw on my life, my clinical life and wider world events to highlight possibilities for our sustained growth and development. This would include the necessity for healthy surrender, inner (intra) and inter exploration and letting go… by stepping into what is new and not yet known … In order to move towards deepened embodied relational contact.

Later on in my workshop, we can explore these areas of surrender, inner and inter exploration and letting go together – using of our voices, rhythms and movement – exploring and then sharing what arises for us and what we discovered together.


Wildness, Freedom and Taking Response-ability

In order to find (ever evolving) self, & experience of selfing (a process of each experience our capacity, moment to moment for renewing, deepening and evolving sense of self in relation). This work is about embracing wildness, seeking freedom and taking response-ability, all at the same time.

 By leaving the constraints of the therapy room, both literally and metaphorically – we can invite radical deep democracy in our attitudes to ourselves, our clients and each other. At its heart this carries true ethics (principles).

 Engaging in our own rites of passage throughout our lifespans, the whole of our lives, is essential to growth, development, and well-being. (Ibid).

 See in particular Nick Totton’s (2011) Wild Therapy: undomesticating inner and outer worlds. Monmouth: PCCS Books.

One rite of passage arises from looking briefly at Deep Democracy

A concept developed by Arnold Mindell, and fundamental to the work of Arlene and the recently deceased and dearly missed Jean-Claude Audergon in the UK, and beyond, in Process-oriented psychotherapy and wider world work. From them I had opportunities to experience more deeply, how important it is to “foster a deeper level of dialogue and inclusivity … open to … allowing space for various and competing views, tensions, feelings, and styles of communication in a way that supports awareness of relative rank, power, and privilege and the ways in which these tend to marginalize various views, individuals, and groups.” Mindell is cited as saying that “the world is here to help us to become our entire selves, and that we are here to help the world to become whole (Mindell, 1992).” IAPOP website.

When it comes to us, to BAATN and to embodied relational engagement for us and between us as we undertake our work and our lives, I believe deep democracy attitudes and underlying principles are useful to remember; especially as we consider psychological health, well-being, renewed and deepening resilience and growth today. Let’s look at deep democracy for a moment:

See the IAPOP website the International Association of Process Oriented Psychology. The following is in part adapted from their website, with added points from me and from other literature.

Deep Democracy (DD) has attitudinal focussing on awareness of voices both central and marginal. Awareness of groups, organizations, our own inner experiences, peoples in conflict, etc. Showing similarity to Gestalt approaches to individual, group, family and organisational work, it holds awareness with a horizontalising attitude to events, processes and feelings as being resources for resolution to group and inner conflicts (i.e., holding without hierarchy) and allowing what in Gestalt are termed emergent phenomena.

In both Gestalt and DD work the principle of all voices, all states of awareness, and all frameworks of reality are understood as important. My thought is that “The what” and “the how” carried within our differentiated voices, our multiple forms of awareness, and frameworks are all necessary to understanding and engaging with whole processes, unfolding within, and without, our communities and in wider life impacts. By this I include all of the living world that we inhabit.

It is worth noting here similarities to Existential Phenomenology and Systemic thinking, to Shamanic teachings and other non-western philosophies and understandings, all of these share similar yet differentiated ground.

It seems to me we need a range of differentiated teachings/experiential learnings in order to uncover patterns and truly meet ourselves, as group, community and world.

The IAPOP website reiterates that we need to “use experiential phenomena to reveal the deeper underlying universal dynamic and its interrelations on a practical level.”

I am not convinced by the idea of “the” universal dynamic (as if there is only one).

My experiencing has taken me to places of multiple universal dynamics – where I/we are able to make deepened contact in an ebb and flow of awareness and surrender, that is multi levelled and differentially experienced by psyche and soma.

I am suggesting we can learn, practice and learn more deeply to hold space, inside and between, allowing us to connect in collective engagement with all the world, that is human and other living beings.

When such frameworks and awarenesses are shared, and voices are given space to be relating to each other, with deep respect for hearing and understanding differentiations, marginalised and less marginalised perspectives, then processes of embodied relational contact are possible.

Another rite of passage arises from attending to vitality

 We can discover and rediscover our embodied relational contact in many different ways. Vital to developing and growing resilience – that which is marginalised in me needs to be given equal space and focus.

A parallel to this is offered in the recent writing of Bodynamic Therapist, Merete Holm Brantbjerg, where she draws attention to an overemphasis on hyperarousal states in trauma work, and an under attention given to hypoarousal states (under aroused/seemingly lacking in vitality). She offers the idea of building up energy and precision in dosing as a way of modifying hyperesponse to lower contact loss risk with aspects of self and selfing during phases of stress experiencing. (Brantbjerg, 2012)

 Johnson, Layton and Caldwell, having researched impact of microaggressions across different cultural groups, talk of “Embodied microresistances (that) provide a way to “push back,” “stand up,” and “hold your ground” in the face of the constant erosion of pride, dignity, and self-respect that microaggressions produce.

 By refusing to enact the nonverbal scripts of subordination [my italics]and reclaiming physical expressions that feel authentic and empowering”, [we] “clients experience [our] their bodies as sources of personal and social power, not just as targets for discrimination and abuse.” They conclude “developing authentic embodied subjectivities that, through everyday embodied microresistances, can lead to macrolevel social change.”

 My understanding is they are speaking of whole selfing, of body-mind-heart-spirit, individually and in different collective spaces. I take from this the importance of practicing and developing relational embodiment which attends to subjective and intersubjective experiencing. They are talking about attending to nonverbal cues and messages, understanding sensations and experiencing self in the moment, and also drawing attention to body-to-body experiencing as part of processes of connection and reconnection.

 Royona Mitra, writing about “…diasporic agency in Akram Khan Company’s Bahok” offers how dance is approaching embodied experiencing by, “acknowledging its historicity and all its contextual relations as embodied within it [within body].” Mitra offers that cultural memory is replaced by something more, by “plural spaces” aiding construction, (deconstruction) and reconstruction of identity. “This new language, the repertoire, is non-archival, present” offering possibility of “valuable …embodied knowledge through which to understand the conditions of the transnational diasporic agent.”

 As I think about the different points and ideas explored so far, I am aware of the vital role of implicit knowing and experiencing, as well as explicit communication, as I speak to you.

 So, for now, I ask you to become consciously reflective, allowing knowing to emerge as you attend to the following:

  • your sensing of self, 
  • reflecting on actions and experiences of selfing happening for you as you watched, listened to and engaged with this presentation
  • noting emergent clues, for you, towards deepened collective embodied relational contacting 

Post talk questions and responses

 … and now some brief responses below to questions and comments from Zoom Chat after my talk:

  1. Microresistances framework, how I use it in my work

Microresistences and microaffirmations are counteractions to networks of layers of micro-powers that are prevalent in society and shape how different populations are responded to, seen, characterised etc. Have a look at philosophy-sp17-class-magazine/a-micro-resistance-interview-ede97aadb230

It has a definition of microresistances as follows (my italics), I am suggesting that you take in the materials and answers here and decide for yourself how it is or is not useful in your practice work: as an educator I like encouraging self-directed researching, so you follow your interests and make your integrations.

Individual acts that purposely resist and disrupt the patriarchy in a conscious and/or intuitive mission to promote a society that includes and respects the struggles and strengths of diverse social groups and that recognizes and channels privilege toward the good of all. They may be responding to something immediate or structural.

  1. Focussing on hyperarousal – suggest you read the article listed below Brantbjerg, H., (2012)
  2. How can we help each other to find our own ‘ground’; our sense of self and stability, without reacting to others in all the different micro ways that we may do – and in a way that is loving, kind, compassionate, non-reactive and non-violent?

First by not pretending we do not have these feelings and responses, second by reflectively analysing them, including looking into the what and the how of our reactions and our responses and thinking through with others (peers, other practitioners in other fields, supervision etc.) and with oneself.

  1. How much we may have internalised fear of contagion and/ or contamination, the danger of other bodies (rather than sharing comfort and nurturing with other bodies). How this interacts with racism and the fear we have experienced from others of our brown and Black bodies.

This is a good point in terms of how we can develop traumatised patterns of relating, which can become part of transgenerational legacy behaviours; and becomes part of defensive interaction with others within communities, families, groups, and intimate relationships. As a therapist I look for patterns of body dismissal, hatred, dysmorphic beliefs etc. as part of paying attention to what is the internal value system that might be projected into ‘enduring relational themes’ (ERTs) and interactions (see Lynne Jacobs BGJ article for more on ERTs)

  1. I’m stunned by and interested in the idea of ‘healthy surrender’ Carmen. Please say a bit more on this.

Healthy surrender can be:

    • when we create places of safety for ourselves and each other that allow us to not have to be in charge all the time
    • it also occurs when we are able to let go of a ’position’ in a ‘fight’ and allow instead, some form of co-created resolution to emerge
  1. The sense I made of micro aggression personally, is that I tend to be very absorbent of others…that can be both useful and problematic for me. When being attacked or in the face of micro aggression, I think I can use what Carmen says to push the toxicity out and back. (micro resistance in response to micro aggression)

Think also about grounding yourself and letting the toxicity flow through (the more spiritual martial arts practices can be good places to learn this, in my experience. As well as other body-mind focussed practices. This links to my answer on healthy surrender above).

  1. Can you put up the Maya Angelou quote again relationship – seems so relevant to meaning of ‘meeting’ in therapy

The quote I was sent (no date, no reference) is:

 Sometimes the people whom we’ve known for only a short amount of time have a bigger impact on us than those we’ve known forever

  1. Often times state aggression causes us to feel collapsed – how might we embrace this as a body of bodies impacted? 
  2. How might we use this to empower ourselves and our clients in taking action even micro action? As a form of resistance to state aggression?

I’m not sure that I would use the term embrace here; I think developing active awareness, focus and ensuring we have places of safe surrender to the impact are necessary, no vital for our mental, emotional, and physical health. I think it is about recognising resilience development includes knowing when and how to withdraw and regroup, personally and collectively. We are talking also about really understanding our triggers, our areas of wounding that can be more easily restimulated and practicing ways to remain articulate (verbally and non-verbally) in the face of  such triggering.

  1. Interesting link given in chat by someone gives some brief definitions and information about microaggresions and microresistences, (click here)
  1. Can you say more about how radical deep democracy might allow for difference to be embraced by BAATN as a community in terms of gender sexuality class please?

One way this could happen is to learn from the process work offered by From this website they say (my italics):

“At its heart the notion of ‘deep democracy’ has to do with the potential of our relationships and community. It refers to the relationship between all parts of our experience. By bringing awareness into the interaction of all parts, a difficult situation can transform and evolve.”

It is through this deep democracy work (in skilled hands) that we can start to address the conversations and dialogues needed to face our limitations when it comes to dynamics of class, gender, sexuality – as in all things the trainer/therapist needs to do this work themselves and revisit it often to unpack and integrate learning , insights and understanding to move into active engagement.


 Brantbjerg, M.H. (2012). Hyporesponse: The Hidden Challenge in Coping with Stress. International Body Psychotherapy Journal The Art and Science of Somatic Praxis Volume 11, Number 2, 2012 (pp 95-118) © Author and USABP/EABP. Reprints and permissions 118%20%20IBPJ%20Vol.11,No2_v1c.pdf


Jacobs, L. (2017). Hopes, fears, and enduring relational themes. British Gestalt Journal, 26(1), 7–16.


Johnson, R., Leighton, L. and Caldwell, C. (2018) The Embodied Experience of Microaggressions: Implications for Clinical Practice. JOURNAL OF MULTICULTURAL COUNSELING AND DEVELOPMENT • July 2018 • Vol. 46 (pp156-170)


Mindell, A. (1992). The Leader as Martial Artist: An Introduction to Deep Democracy (1st ed.). San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.


Mitra, R. (2009). Embodiment of Memory and the Diasporic Agent in Akram Khan Company’s Bahok. In Counsell, C., and Mock, R., (Eds) Performance, Embodiment and Cultural Memory Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing (pp 41-58)


Totton, N. (2011). Wild Therapy: undomesticating inner and outer worlds. Monmouth: PCCS Books Retrieved 8th April 2021 by CJA

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