Rolfing, Welfare Reform,
Addictions, and Individual Change:
an Interview with Julie Diamond, Ph.D. (Part II)
Til Luchau, Certified Advanced Rolfer
In recent years, the writings of Arnold Mindell (such as The
Leader as Martial Artist, The Shaman's Body, Sitting in the Fire,
etc.) have generated considerable interest in fields as diverse
as organizational development and shamanism. Mindell's original
work was with body symptoms and dreaming, as detailed in books
such as Working with the Dreaming Body and Coma: A
Key to Awakening. In this, the second part of an interview
conducted on January 3rd 1999, Julie Diamond (a senior teacher
of Arnold Mindell's Process Work) talks about several topics
that might be interesting to practitioners who work with the
1. Can we really trust the natural self-correcting power of
the body? What about addictions--aren't they evidence that the
body's self-regulation can't always be trusted? Julie's response
is that the yearning behind an addiction might be pointing toward
something that is actually needed. Working on an addictive behavior
might mean getting to the root of that need and addressing the
yearning itself, rather than just trying to get rid of the addictive
behavior. An interesting way to apply this to bodywork would
be to see constrictions or structural imbalances in the same
way--perhaps they are "symbols" for something that
the system actually needs for balance, or inefficient attempts
to get something that is needed. For instance, guiding a client
farther into a collapsed pattern might reveal a need for more
rest or inwardness. Could trying to release restrictions or balance
the structure without investigating the processes behind those
things be like simply trying to get rid of an addictive behavior?
That is, such interventions are often useful, even necessary
in acute cases, but they don't always address the hidden wisdom
of the forces behind an imbalance or restriction.
2. The second topic we discussed here is the relationship
between individual and collective change. How does the influence
of culture and society affect what we are able to accomplish
as practitioners working on the individual level? And, how do
we enable our clients to take their changes out into their everyday
This interview was originally published in Rolf Lines, the
professional journal of the Rolf Institute. Part I of this interview,
where Julie talks about basic Process Work concepts an their
application in practice, is available at http://www.tilluchau.net/jdiamondinterview1.htm
Julie Diamond: Process Work is fundamentally Taoist, in
the sense that the Way (with a big W) is the way (little w).
In other words, the flow of nature is a self-correcting system,
if you just align yourself to nature things will heal themselves.
Til Luchau: Now that's a big discussion. Some people would
say, "Well, what about addictions?" Aren't addictions
a time when nature seems to be going "wrong"?
Julie: Funny that you should talk about addictions because
that is my favorite topic these days. Process Work has worked
a lot with addictions, especially in the last ten years or so.
One of the ideas about an addiction that is often overlooked
in our culture is that we forget that an addiction is a tinkering
with a mood.
Til: A tinkering with a mood?
Julie: It is a tinkering with a mood-it is an altering
of a state of consciousness. And typically, psychological thinking
about addictions is colored by moral and religious systems that
are really difficult. The whole thing about addictions being
a sign of a personal failing or a weakness is still very much
in modern psychotherapeutic approaches for addictions. So when
you think about addictions, you think someone is doing all these
terrible, bad things, and they are getting away from things,
that they are hiding and fleeing and all that stuff. That can
be true, I'm not saying it is not, but what they are also doing
is they are changing their state of consciousness. So that the
teleological approach, that purposive direction that Process
Work would take, would be to ask as well, not just what you're
fleeing, but what are you going to. What is the state
of consciousness that the addiction helps you connect with? And
why do you need it in your life--it is again a symbol that is
trying to correct something. So if you are doing something to
alter your state of consciousness, it is your normal state
of consciousness that may need correcting. So one way to look
at it would be that the addiction is an attempt at healing your
normal state of consciousness.
Til: So maybe the addiction is trying to go towards something
that could be helpful?
Til: For example, what could someone in addictive process
be trying to go toward that might be helpful?
Julie: Well, for example, our American culture is such
a work ethic culture, and there are all kinds of addictions that
run counter to the American spirit, you know, like heroin, alcoholism,
where people can't work, don't work, and they're relaxing into
a state of stupor. That could be correcting an incredibly one-sided
approach to work. It is also very individual, you would have
to ask what people themselves about what they are doing. But
smoking, for example, is a really big one. If you amplify the
altered state that smoking produces, very often you get people
in a more dreamy, drifty, state. But also it tinkers with your
breathing, so you get people to amplify their experience of smoking,
not by smoking incidentally, but by asking them to mimic smoking
and then feel what they feel. A lot of times people will start
to breath more deeply and then that produces an altered state
of drifting out of focus, not being so related. This is really
a very disavowed state in a culture that puts such a premium
on relatedness and verbal interaction, and being ready to work,
and go, and be "on." That is an example I see
a lot working with people around smoking.
Til: How about the cultural aspect? In Process Work,
how are body symptoms seen as connected to cultural issues?
Julie: We were talking about this in regard to addictions,
and everything is also related to culture. In our normal way
of being (what we call in Process Work our "primary process")
we get identified with certain activities and definitions of
who we are: "I am this, I am that." Very often, many
symptoms run counter to this definition; they are trying to complete
us, make us more whole. The role of culture in this is very powerful-culture
tends to support our primary definitions of who we are.
Til: For example?
Julie: For example, let's take the person we were talking
about with the postural problem. Her culture-which I am here
using to mean her subculture, her family of origin culture, the
country that she is coming from, the job area that she is working
in-in her culture, all that is supported is her hunched posture,
in the sense that it supported her to strain and to struggle
and to work hard. So shifting that is a revolutionary act because
you have to go against culture and she then becomes the "relaxing
one." But this "relaxing one" and her psychology
are like a marginalized minority position-they don't have any
support. They need an advocate, and often the therapist has to
advocate for these more marginalized positions until the person's
whole personality can then pick that up and support it. She is
not going to find much support in the culture because she has
lived and grown up in a particular culture that supports working
hard and straining, struggling. And everything in her and around
her is against relaxing.
Til: We see that all the time as Rolfers, by the way.
You do a beautiful session and your client is standing or moving
in a more balanced way, and then they have to go right out into
their lives and into the chaotic world again.
Julie: Right, so actually working with the symptom is
the quick part, that's not the part that's hard, it's integrating
the changes that's harder.
Til: Integrating the change?
Julie: Integrating the change into everyday life means
nothing less than changing culture. I'll throw a quote back at
you. Arny [Mindell] said, "History happens in the body."
That's actually an old idea, in terms of personal history, but
the whole idea that historical struggles are in the body, not
just personal history, but social struggles are deeply personal
things that are found in everyday symptoms, like this person's
struggle with the work ethic versus relaxing. That is an age-old
social problem, you could read history books and find that dynamic
happening there too.
Til: This idea has touched me a lot. It has got me thinking
that if I'm really interested in "wholism," it means
more than just working on the whole body. It means moving beyond
the level of just my clients' experience, too; my clients are
embedded in a cultural context, and if I really want to support
my clients' changes, or make a difference in their lives, it
means working on the culture as well.
Julie: That's right. I can work alone on myself in my
body, but then I have to go live that body change in my personal
relationships, so then I'm doing relationship work. Then I go
to work, and I have to do the same thing and struggle with that
in the work place and in the culture at large, and so working
at all levels is really part of human change.
Til: Lots of people, including me in the past, have said
to ourselves that by helping our clients change we are working
on cultural change, that working on an individual level will
affect the collective level.
Julie: I agree completely, but the person integrating
that change is a collective process too. So the work changes
their body, but can they maintain that change? Actually, the
point isn't to maintain the change; the point is the clash of
culture. In that clash of culture process lives-that's the point,
you see, that's democracy. Democracy is the dialogue between
positions. It's not that one position lives more than another
position, it's that incredible dialogue that happens between
T: So that moment when I go out of my session so relaxed and
open and connected to myself, dealing with the clash of coming
back into, well...
Julie: ...a tight culture. And the dialogue between uptight
work ethic and your relaxed state of mind-that for me, is the
point. It is not making a change and making it stick, it's unraveling
the different spirits that live in these different positions
or in the culture, the spirit of work versus the spirit of relaxing.
It's not even having a relaxed body that's important, it's actually
the spirit of relaxed-ness, and what that is and what that means.
This goes way beyond just having the body experience of it. What
is it like to have a relaxed attitude of mind? Or a relaxed life,
a relaxed way of relating to people? And that relaxed role interacting
with the other role, meeting each other, learning about each
other, having a dialogue and through that dialogue growing and
challenging, developing and learningI think that's where Process
Til: So, I'm asking myself, as a Rolfer how might I help
my clients deal with the culture, how do I help them in that
Julie: Well, you know, every modality has its way of doing
things. In Rolfing for example, I am thinking you have a client
make a lot of changes in their body, in their posture. How about
giving time to process what that means for them to have such
a body experience? What would it be like to live like that, how
would it change their life style? How would they be political
like that, for example? What would it be like to have an attitude
of mind that follows this body experience? We could process the
clash in a role play, and we'd come back to whatever brings that
up-tight body state back, and what it would be like to integrate
Til: So, in this way of thinking, the work doesn't end
on the table or even in the practice room. Working this way,
we help our clients find some bridge out into their life processes.
Julie: That's important because they have to go back to
work, and back to their life. That's really where these processes
and structures get reinforced.
Til: How does Process work look at how the individual
and collective levels connect, or especially, how to be effective
on both levels? Or how personal change is just one facet of a
Julie: That's a really big thing. I went through a little
crisis in my practice, because as I became more politically active
and Process Work was doing a lot more group work, I found myself
thinking well what the [hell] am I doing, sitting alone one to
one, talking about somebody's mother. I thought, "I can't
do this." I really got to a crisis point, and so I had a
really big long think and I thought what am I doing when
I am working with an individual? Is it enough to work with them
that they had a bad mother, or that they have trouble getting
their needs met in their relationship, or whatever? I was thinking
about it and I realized that actually I am not helping them with
their problems. That's not enough for me, that won't do it. What
I am helping them with is this: I want to help make people more
capable of democracy, and that to me is my goal.
Til: More capable of democracy?
Julie: Democracy is a lot more than voting, and I would
say that we are not really yet capable of democracy.
Til: I imagine you are talking about things like how to
Julie: Yeah, how to speak up, and speak out, and be open
to what you yourself are thinking, and facilitate others, and
be up to that immense dialogue that is democracy. Democracy for
me is like the ultimate relationship work. It is divergent needs
competing over world systems and scarce resources and ideological
positions. It is a massive dialogue, and it requires a lot to
be up to that big debate, not just shouting down your opponent,
or using voting to silence one side, or being more right or wrong.
It requires really being open, listening, talking, taking your
position, helping the other part express its side, understanding
where it's coming from, that whole thing. I feel when I am working
with people, that is what I am actually trying to do--help myself
and others be capable of a democratic process.
Til: Even knowing how to be a relaxed person in this culture
is an internal democratic process as well as an external democratic
Julie: It's part of democracy, that's exactly right, and
it's an external democratic process-we project that relaxed-ness
onto minority groups-call them lazy, stupid, bad workers, that
whole thing. It is totally disavowed and marginalized. It's a
huge political thing to talk about relax. If white professionals
talk more about the value of relaxing I think that would do a
lot for racism in America, we wouldn't have to project it, we
could start owning it as our problem, and not projecting it onto
other nations and races and
Til: and welfare moms.
Julie: Exactly, that's great! Til, that's fantastic. You
should do a new article: "Relaxing and Welfare Moms!"
Til: That's what we're working on when we do it inside.
Julie: That's right, you're working on welfare reform.
Til: OK, Julie thank you for this conversation.
Julie: You're welcome!
More information about Process Work can be found at www.ProcessWork.org.
Julie Diamond can be contacted at Diamond_Julie@Compuserve.com
Til welcomes your comments and correspondence at email@example.com.