From DBM Faciatherapy to Somatic-psychoeducation : A biographical analysis of the emerging process of new disciplines

(c) C. Ducasse, Grandbois
Auteur(s) :

Danis Bois - Professeur agrégé, Docteur en sciences de l'éducation, Fondateur du CERAP

Professeur cathédratique invité de l'Université Fernando Pessoa, Psychopédagogue de la perception, Chercheur en sciences de l'éducation

Article translated from French to english by Charles and Cécile Kuhn and Hélène Pennel.

I have dedicated thirty years of my career to the practice, study and  experimentation of the relationship to the body in the construction of identity, self-presence and interaction with others. It is clear that time has come for me to relate this and to bring to light the experience and knowledge I have accumulated over all these years. All the knowledge produced in this journey - be it practical intervention protocols, formalized models of the internal dynamic processes of the body, or theoretical hypotheses about certain modes of perception or action - appears truly dense as I realize from my published works. It is therefore quite natural that the project for this article focuses on describing my journey as a practitioner and also as a reflective practitioner.

At the beginning of my health practitioner journey, I was influenced by the rational mind that dominates the world of medical research, where only objective elements are taken into consideration. But gradually, I changed my points of view from experience and what I encountered in my practice. Working every day in a relationship with the sensitive chord of the human body, I encountered a rich and generous subjective life in the interiority of the body. This corporeal subjectivity was taking the form of an internal movement and of a variation of inner states that carried meaningful information for the person questioning it. The relationship to this corporeal subjectivity led me to build a different relation to things and beings, a more creative relationship, inviting me to grasp the meaning of existence in another way.

Re-reading my first book, La vie entre les mains (Touching life within), written in 1989, showed me that my posture as a reflective practitioner is already there . I wrote : "From then on, my practice became my field of experience and observation. Every day I explored and investigated the depth of the body. Gradually, a complete human being was appearing to me¨. (Bois, 1989, p.15).

This posture naturally progresses later on in my second book, Une thérapie manuelle de la profondeur (A manual therapy of depth) written in 1990: "The method continues to evolve, and new information is emerging over time ... I now find myself in a mindset in perpetual mutation. Every moment of my practice is the source of new information that constantly clarifies certain mysteries and nourishes the evolution of the theory. In this way, manifestations which were first felt become solid therapeutic tools. Once their effectiveness  is tested, their mode of action is conceptualized so that it can be taught¨. (Bois, 1990, 21).

When M-Christine Josso suggested that I narrate my journey of discovery, arguing that it was time to communicate the process of emergence of the method through the eye of its author, I agreed to this new challenge. It is indeed the only courage that is asked of us that we affirm ourselves as subjects through what we do, say and write. I realise that many things have never been exported from my interiority, that they have accummulated within me and in the end clouded some of the main turning points of my journey. Through this narrative, I have the opportunity to revisit the significant moments of my itinerary.

Throughout my writing, I will avoid a form that is too explanatory and conceptual, preferring a descriptive form more in line with the project of getting the reader to penetrate the human issues that revealed themselves during my career. I could have recounted my career in the stance of a practitioner, teacher or researcher. In the end, I chose another option, placing myself as a subject engaged in his human dimension at the heart of his creation. As I write these lines, I realize that my itinerary of discovery is inseparable from the existential issues that I shared with the patients and students I encountered on my path. It is these issues of embodied human interactivity in the mode of the Sensible that I wish to present in order to allow the reader to grasp the sense of depth that presided over the process of emergence of the method. By revealing the process of emergence from DBM Fasciatherapy to Somatic Psychoeducation, I bear witness to a research practice motivated by a quest for sense and meaning: What does it mean to be human? What is the meaning of life? I will let this sense of depth emerge by itself, holding myself closest to a writing that emanates from the roots of my being: "There is only one way. Enter within yourself. Look deep inside yourself for the reason that pushes you to write; examine whether its roots extend to the depths of your heart; admit it to yourself : would being forbidden to write mean dying ?  ¨(Rilke, 1997, 8).

Revisiting  my journal and my books dating from 1984 to 1995, I feel a certain tenderness towards the seeker that I was then. It is with indulgence that I review my first works, in which I discover myself both audacious in the content and innocent in the discourse. But beyond the immature form, the content was really anchored in an authentic experience. Faced with the phenomena I encountered, I had adopted at the time a phenomenological attitude to question life. “Harvesting presence. Being there. Because presence is not such as I imagine it must be [...], it is about my presence, about our co-presence: being there, belonging, being part of it, finding myself whole through what is happening, implicated in a privileged way as that in which presence can become meaning ”. (Jourde, 2002, p. 36).

The notion of presence usually concerns above all the relation to others and to the environment, but the nature of the presence that is activated in our approach is a presence to oneself, from a conscious contact with the interiority of the body. In this perspective, living and existing are characterized by autopoiesis, that is to say the self-revelation and self-creation of self from the body’s feeling-sense . This nature of presence to life challenges Descartes’ viewpoint, for whom being alive is not a mode of being "one’s own’.  The subject contemplates the world according to an absolute exteriority, since, for Descartes, feeling and sensing can only be thought. From this point of view, perception only makes sense from an "already-known". However, this does not apply to the perception activated in relating to the Sensible body, as penetrating the world of bodily interiority is exploring a "wild region", devoid of any known references.

If phenomenology explores the connection between the body and the world from the perspective of the flesh, the perception ‘of’ The Sensible explores specifically the living link between the subject and their own body and involves the development of a peak perceptual modality capable of penetrating the living interiority of the body. I have called perception ‘of’ The Sensible this paroxysmal character of perception, to define the difference between the sensing  perception linked to relating to the world through the exteroceptive senses, and the perception ‘of’ The Sensible convened through self-relationship. The emergence of the material that was used in the elaboration of the method was constructed on this perceptual modality of The Sensible.

In my process of discovery, I was led to question aliveness by relying on a phenomenological praxis. How to become alive? How to approach life? It is by taking into account the formative value of being present to the lived experience of the body, that I was able to open the debate around the question: is it possible to accompany someone to establish a greater proximity with their inner self? This self-presence in the experience also led me to question the connection between the mode of feeling specific to art and experience, and the mode of thinking specific to philosophy. But this questioning required that I renew beforehand the usual perspective on the body (anatomical, mechanical, extension ...) and that I consider it as a living body : support of the "perceiving being", the "feeling being" and the "thinking being". This indeed was the body that I was discovering in my practice and it is from this encounter that DBM Fasciatherapy then Somatic Psychoeducation evolved along a timeline split into four sequences: the discovery of a particular quality of touch; the encounter with authentic gestural movement; the activation of a Sensible introspective mobilization process and, finally, the development of verbal expression emerging from the Sensible. I wish to relate here the progress of this process.

The story of a journey : a biography of experiences lived at the heart of a practice

Revisiting La vie entre les mains, I rediscovered a cruel event in my life, that I had forgotten ... I was relating my reaction to the suicide of a loved one : "The seventeen year old teenager that I was became a man in a split second: how was it possible to make such a choice? Here was a sudden rendez-vous with death or, more accurately, with the idea of death. Until then, I had distanced myself from death, but at the same time, I was discovering that I had also distanced myself from life. Being so close to death, I was thinking about Life even before thinking about my own life.”

Innocently, I thought I would find answers in the books that were strewn over the desk of the person who had been so close to me. I discovered one by Sartre; I still remember this character who was observing himself in a mirror. Who was he looking for? Perhaps in each of us  hid another unknown and forgotten person who was going towards life and avoiding such ends. Something clicked: I wanted to know this 'other' in me as soon as possible, and went looking for him. My journey had just begun. (Bois, 1989, p.12). This carefree young teenager, strolling through life, was suddenly sucked into the very heart of life. He was realizing that a man has many faces and that he must go on a quest to find the Grail, see what cannot be seen, hear what cannot be heard and reach what cannot be reached. I realize today that this was a founding moment that influenced my entire life’s path.

Another event also cited in  La vie entre les mains was going to challenge me. I recount an episode that happened to me in 1973 as I was a young physiotherapist: "I had to take care of a patient in a state of deep coma, who had just arrived in intensive care. I was going to take care of him and noticed on entering that I knew him: 'If you recognize me, shake my hand three times,' I said. He did, tears running down his face. This encounter was overwhelming: what if deep coma left intact some form of perception ? What if  there was another perception ? … "(Bois, 1989: 14). I was discovering, stunned, the existence of a consciousness hiding in the shadows, and I suspected the presence of a type of perception that had to be rediscovered by diving into oneself.

In order to penetrate this mystery, I began to familiarize myself with a practice of introspection. Every day, I offered myself a moment of silence where I closed my eyes and experienced inside my body what had been, until then, inaccessible to my consciousness. So, aged twenty-seven, I wrote this in my journal: "A new wind takes me further: the exploration of inner silence - without any oriented techniques or influences of any kind. I sit in an isolated room, in a position of my choice, and close my eyes. There is in these encounters a taste of the unusual. Every moment is a source of new discoveries, which never match any expectations. These ephemeral sensations continue to resonate in my body. »  (Diary, 1976).

What I was encountering was stranger than my understanding was able to conceive, which is why I wrote at the time: "I decided to heal my deafness to the inaudible, not by opening my ears but by unbridling the too rational part of myself. (...) I feel at the edge of something new, but an invisible wall separates me from it still."(Diary, 1976). Up to that point, I was experiencing  the intimacy of the body by probing myself during my daily face to face with silence.

The practice of physiotherapy was no longer responding to my quest for depth, which is why, in 1975, I began to study osteopathy, a discipline that seemed more in line with my existential quest. With this practice, I was connecting the subjective life but, this time, through the body of others and no longer just through my own body.

The founders of osteopathy, Dr. Still[i] and Dr.Sutherland[ii], are credited with describing an internal movement in the body, seen as an autonomous organic regulatory force. In the early days, I devoted myself to studying the properties of this inner movement because I recognised an experiential connection with my own practice of introspection. I was exploring this internal force everywhere in my patients’ bodies, but more specifically in the fascias[iii], a tissue that is present everywhere in the body, interwoven around and within every  anatomical structure to achieve the functional unity of the body. I wrote in La vie entre les mains : "Osteopathy had already prepared me to feel some tissular manifestations beyond the reach of the conventional medical approaches. Manipulations were a part of it, but above all what I retained was the manual feel of the fascias.. But my desire was to go further and discover the deep reality of fascia and rhythm. (...) More than an enveloping tissue, fascia became for me the support on which the force of life was channeled to serve the body. I learned little by little to detect its slightest adhesions and deepest confidences and to penetrate its intimacy which became Ariadne’s threads in my treatments. (Bois, 1989, p.20).

Gradually, I became aware that the parameters of the internal animation that I perceived did not match those described in osteopathy. The more I progressed in my discoveries, the more I withdrew from the osteopathic model, as I clearly related in my journal: "The motions that I perceive do not fit with the model described in osteopathy. My hands grasp an animation of another nature, slower and engaging not only matter, but also the person as a whole. "(Diary, 1980). This movement seemed much slower, deeper and whole than the one described in osteopathy.

Revisiting my writings, I rediscover the thread running through that led  me towards what was going to be the starting point of the development of the Sensible, insofar as the model of the Sensible was born precisely from the study of the relationship that a subject establishes with the inner movement: "As I tuned in to the inner movement through my hands times and times again, I finally accepted that it is not only the organ of silent communication of the body, but also the way by which the body of the human species becomes human. "(Diary, 1980).

I began to develop a new therapeutic concept and founded DBM Fasciatherapy


The Emergence of DBM Fasciatherapy


As human beings, throughout our lives, we are touched by events; everything we have seen, heard, perceived, felt or thought has construced within us a particular state, a coloring of our own. In 1980, through DBM Fasciatherapy, I made a first connection with the biographical dimension of the body: "The fascia is truly the mental skeleton of the individual, imprinting within all the physical or emotional stresses encountered. This is reflected at the body level by lasting tensions in the fascia, creating areas of varying intensity that hinder mobility. (Bois, 1989, 85). I discovered a body infused with dormant tonalities, ready to be reactivated through adequate manual intervention. When I placed my hands on a body, they were connecting with stagnant areas, parts that had become dense, knots that seemed to contain a frozen sensation; as if the body consisted of strata, some of which appearing fossilized, gel-like or anesthetized.

With osteopathy, I was treating an organism. With DBM Fasciatherapy, I was treating a person in their bodies-mind unity. I then introduced what constituted the specificity of DBM Fasciatherapy: Relational Touch or Supporting Point, which consisted in achieving a type of "contact" through touch that triggered a strong sense of engagement in the individual.

I was discovering that the inner movement was more than a flow, more than a circulation expressing vitality. It expressed something deeper, more essential ... I was bathing in the atmosphere of slowness of this movement that unfolded in the tissues and that I described in this way in 1989: "The tissue wraps and unfolds itself at will and tells the undisclosed story of the person: the inner movement guides the therapist’s hands towards the 'knots' hidden in the body’s folds. The touch does not direct the movement; its role is merely to meticulously accompany the journey of the fascia, which knows its own discomfort better than anyone. (Bois, 1989, p.85).

Relational Touch relieved physical pain and at the same time allowed the person to become aware of the transformation of their mental state. During the session, states of physical tension gave way to relaxed states, and states of anxiety to states of calm ... This phenomenon caught my attention. I realized that, by way of an internal psychotonic modulation, DBM Fasciatherapy had a simultaneous influence on both somatic and mind levels. The two poles evidently influenced each other in the sense that, as soon as the body was touched in its depth, it was not just the organism that was concerned, but the whole living being

However, I was becoming  aware that some patients did not have access to the underlying inner tonality triggered by Relational Touch. They seemed to be suffering from a form of perceptual blindness when faced with this nature of interiority. This was a real challenge for me ! How could  people not perceive the inner phenomenas in their bodies  that  a stranger had access to through Relational Touch?

Realising this led me to shift my therapeutic actions towards developing a method  focused on perceptual enrichment. I thought at that time that if people became aware of the contents of their  bodily experiencing, the impact of touch on their health would be increased. A number of existential questions animated me: what is the phenomenon that prevents certain people from encountering their interiority? What are the situations that distance people from themselves? How to create the conditions to allow people to learn  to experience themselves in their relationship to their bodies? At the source of these questions lay the will to explore a pedagogy that would allow the greatest number to access this quality of interiority through gestural language.

This phase constitutes a great turning point in the evolution of the method. Until then, the patient was passive under the hands of the practitioner and confided his inner language within the intimacy of the tissues – a language not just inaudible but also invisible to the naked eye. I wondered about the visible / invisible dialectic. What is the best way to accompany a person to express, in the visible world, what they encounter in their invisible inner world? In 1991, I associated with Relational Touch a method of learning in action.  It stimulated the development of an awareness of oneself in gestural movement, along a gradual process that evolved from the simplest movements to the most elaborate, the most superficial to the deepest, and the most objective to the most subjective.

I advocated slow gestural movement in order to reproduce visibly the characteristics of the inner movement encountered through Relational Touch. Here again, reading my diary gives me precious reference points about the genesis of this pedagogy: "I was very surprised to find a similarity between the inner movement and the gestural movement. Matching the slow speed of the inner movement and the effected gestural movement triggers an inner resonance in the subject who lives it and expresses it. From within gestural movement, a particular kind of presence plays out."(Diary, 1988).

DBM Fasciatherapy, associated with a gestural movement pedagogy, made it possible to establish a new relation to the body, to lived experience and to thought, bringing in its wake an existential transformation of the individual who was aware of experiencing the Sensible. It is with astonishment that the person, when connected to the experience of the Sensible, sense-felt strong sensations that were until then unknown and revealed to them a quality of self-presence. I noticed that this relationship to the body affected the identity of the person.

As I advanced in my search, the dimension of knowing by contrast took shape. The development of a deeper self-perception curiously brought people to becoming aware of their former bodily state or, more specifically, their previous attitude towards their bodies. In this perceptual context, the person's past seemed to reactivate in the present in the form of tonalities that conveyed the hidden memory of an inner state or of a relationship to an event. The dormant tonalities in the body were often linked to traumas that had embedded in the form of stagnant, unsensing and unconscious areas.

At the very moment this immobility was set in motion again and unsensing areas became sensing again, the person sometimes would go through periods of transitional instability that needed to be accompanied. Indeed, more often than not, people who were discovering a relationship to the inner movement were suddenly discovering themselves by contrast as having been until then distant from their lives and absent from themselves. They were realizing that they had not been attentive to their lives and that it had undermined their quality of presence to their own life. Faced with this understanding, people experienced times of transitional instability as they perceived the gap between what they were discovering in the now and the strategies that this revealed in them. It was necessary to help them find coherence in the face of the upheaval generated by these insights.

I certainly knew how to trigger a process of renewal in the body, but I realized that I did not have much expertise in accompanying people facing growth crises related to their process of transformation. I was also aware that this therapy of the depth engaged the biographical body, which explained some of the growth crises experienced by people during their training.

Emergence of Somatic Psychoeducation

The training I had received in physiotherapy, then in osteopathy, was centred on bodily practices with a mechanical aim, but did not prepare me to accompany the growth crises of people during training. Aged 49,  I decided to fill this gap by enrolling in a university course on cognitive psychology, then curative psychoeducation and finally sciences of education[iv]. However, I realized with dismay that the teachings in my university curriculum had not really addressed the question of the relationship to the body.
Being an expert  in the relationship with the body from the first part of my professional life, and having acquired a new expertise in the art of accompanying people in their growth process, I created in 2000 a new discipline that combined the field of the body and of learning : Somatic Psychoeducation. A year later, I opened a post-graduation in Somatic Psychoeducation at the Modern University of Lisbon, where I received adult learners specialized in the field of health and education. Only two years later, I created in that same university, a master’s degree in Perceptual Psychoeducation with my colleagues, Marc Humpich, Didier Austry and Maria Leao. Without this, such a movement of emergence would only have been an ephemeral glow of intelligibility if it had not been grasped, worked, tested and shared with others.


An (Psycho) Education

With Somatic Psychoeducation, I formulated an (psycho) education that was rooted in the flesh, in tuning in, in touching, and in the subtle setting in motion of the body. In the context of the Sensible, the body was no longer treated for its own sake, but became the chosen mediation to address the patient as a whole, psyche included. Beyond the therapeutic dimension that I had developed until then, I was formulating a phenomenology of the Sensible body particularly suited to the complete elaboration of a body-centred method of teaching.

The term Somatic Psychoeducation was evident, even if that choice may seem broad in its multidisciplinary aspect as it embraced, in a new paradigm, the three dimensions of body, mind and educating. To justify this denomination, I relied on the etymology of the term soma, which carries with it the idea of the unity between the body and the spirit. The notion of psycho refers to perceptual and cognitive activity oriented towards the grasping of mental states and consciousness. Finally, the term education refers to the fact that relating to the body and the meanings that emerge from this can be taught using a particular modus operandi.

With Somatic Psychoeducation appeared a way of learning that linked perception and cognition, and fitted within a phenomenological vision of the body: "From now on, everything is played out in the body, probably. But there remains a difference between the body as one’s own, which is the only concrete and really experienced body, and the mechanical body which is simply represented and that nobody lives in. » (Petit, 1994, p.19).

Experiential training

In the context of Somatic Psychoeducation, the practical instruments which were in DBM Fasciatherapy essentially oriented towards a cure, became the pretext for experiencing the Sensible, from which the subject could question their bodily experience. I described this nature of experience as an "out-of-the-ordinary experience" (Bois, 2005, p.18), because it activates a perceptual and cognitive ability that is unusual for the individual. Through these out-of-the-ordinary experiences, people are led to re-centre and encouraged to approach their bodily subjectivity and observe what appears in their perceptual field.

The method, which until then had been developped around touch and gestural movement, was enriched by a formative dimension aimed at creating a perceptual and cognitive activity capable of grasping and processing the meaning contained in experiencing the Sensible. To emphasize this new pedagogical direction, I introduced the notion of a helping relationship, more adapted to designate this type of body-mediated personal development approach. This when the touch used became relational touch and the gestural practice  became relational gestural movement. A new art of observation of somatic experiencing was now being cultivated... The subtlety of the information that appeared in the body required an intense and sustained attention to interiority. The contact with the inner movement continued to produce permanent inner changes, but what interested me then was to understand how people accessed the meanings conveyed by this relationship to the inner movement.

I identified three obstacles to the experience of the Sensible: the perceptual deficiency that prevented and impeded the sensing of bodily subjectivity during the lived experience; the impervious character of the cognitive schema, either in order to preserve ideas set in place, or by refusal or fear of novelty; and a lack of interest for new knowledge or personal growth.
As well as the important theoretical thinking this finding was leading me into, it invited me to reflect pedagogically in the sense that the obstacles, some of them significant, needed to be dealt with in specific ways. That's how I started to develop a comprehensive facilitation framework encompassing three elements: first, to help learners to recognize what emerged  during the experience, what they observed and what they felt; secondly, to help them give meaningful value to what they were living; and finally, to help them reflect back on the experience, i.e. to consider what they were going to do with the experience, where it would lead their thinking, etc.
A phenomenology of the Sensible body was taking shape ... The conditions of out-of-the-ordinary experiences allowed people to become subjects observing themselves and grasping a nature of knowledge emerging from the relationship with their bodies. However, I was faced with a question: what was the link between the world of feeling and that of thinking? The dimension of the Sensible was also taking shape. It became the place of emergence of the articulation between perception and thought, in the sense that experiencing the Sensible revealed a meaning that could be grasped in real time and then integrated into existing cognitive schemas, leading to their contours possibly being transformed. I took the view that any formative action that engages bodily experiencing in the transformation process begins with perceptual education. I then introduced in my approach a chronology of interventions that began with a manual body-mind tuning aimed at restoring a relationship with the body, thus integrating it into the person’s awareness. I then proposed a gestural tuning in order to teach the person how to build a new relationship to movement and to give it a meaningful value. Later, as will be discussed further down, I introduced an introspective dimension of the Sensible allowing the subject to observe and analyze mental states and to perceive inner states in all pedagogical situations.

An innovative theoretical field: the Psychotonus and Perceptual-Cognitive Modifiability

At this stage of emergence, my practice was far ahead of the conceptual field. Indeed, though the practical intervention protocoles had matured, developing the theoretical field of this new discipline was still needed. It’s by reflecting back on the practical intervention protocoles that I conceptualised a sensing and instructive subjectivity of the body quite different from the accepted norm which is criticized for being unreliable. This bodily subjectivity conveyed a true body language linked to the mental landscape of the subject.

I then initiated a method facilitating the dialogue between body and mind, between thought and experiencing and between attention and action, in order to recreate a unity most often lost. To achieve this, I used the manual touch already established but, this time, aimed at the tonic architecture of the individual as I had started to notice the appearance of a tonic modulation [v] under my hands at the manual Supporting Point.

I quickly realized that this tonic modulation was not only the unifying place of the mind and the body, but also that it activated attentional resources of another type in people. The attentional mobilization convened by the psychotonus allowed them to develop an activity of self-observation via the Sensible. This nature of profound observation opened access to an inner life of the psyche that was until then unexplored. They learned to listen to their bodies and their thought through the changes in their tonus. I called this psychotonic identity reconstruction " body-mind tuning ». Body-mind tuning thus became the formative action by which the practitioner reestablished a dialogue between the mind and the body. From then on, I was no longer treating the body without engaging the mind or the mind without engaging the body.

In parallel with the modeling of the Psychotonus and its impacts on body-mind unity, I reflected on the cognitive process involved in relating to the Sensible body. This reflection led me to conceptualize the Perceptual-cognitive Modifiability model (Bois, 2005), which answered both theoretical and educative concerns. I chose to place the word perception before that of cognition to emphasize the importance of enriching perceptual and motor representations before renewing the conceptual representational field. Indeed, all my teaching methods mobilized a high degree of perception of a somatic nature inviting the person to grasp the corporeal subjectivity at the heart of the perceptual act.  Engaging the subjective experiences that emerged from corporeality, strongly stimulated people in their cognitive activity. I also noticed that enriching perception, which was systematically proposed as first formative intention, influenced the cognitive patterns of people and, consequently, their conceptual representations. I was abandoning then the idea that cognitive mobilization proceeds solely from an active and voluntary stimulation of the intellect. It was in the end the whole trajectory of the subject in transformation which was reformulated through the model of perceptual-cognitive modifiability.


Introspective mobilization via the Sensible

In order to define the nature of the introspective mobilization present in all pedagogical actions in the mode of the Sensible, I chose the term "Introspection of the Sensible". This method furthered introspective methods that existed already. In their time, Maine de Biran (Bégout, 1995) suggested that we "perceive and sense oneself ", Titchener that we « focus on our sensations",  and W. James (1924) spoke of "scrutinizing one’s inner states" while A. de la Garanderie (1989) showed the importance of "understanding our mental gestures". Introspection of the Sensible invited us to a very active introspective analysis of the interiority of the body. It constituted  a new practical tool in addition to relational touch and relational gestural movement.
I relied on an analysis of the introspective practice that I had applied to myself for fifteen years in order to develop a methodology aiming to investigate the contents of somatic experiences. In questioning how I did this deep within myself, I noted four important chronological steps in my introspective process. The first one concerned the exploration of the auditory sense. I listened to and entered into silence to nurture my presence to myself. The second one stimulated the visual sense. Through closed eyes, I spotted the presence of a colorful atmosphere that permeated my perceptual field. Then I noticed that this colorful atmosphere was animated by a slow, multidirectional, subjective movement. The third step concerned the internal tonalities resuling from the previous steps. I then turned my attention to the effects produced by this colorful and kinetic atmosphere in the depth of my flesh, and I perceived tonalities that made me resonate to myself. Finally, in the fourth stage, I reached a state of alertness of consciousness that gave me access to an immediate emergence of meaning in the form of thoughts that were not thought out - source of a meaning that is then constructed only through reflection (Bourhis, 2008).
Introspective mobilization via the Sensible allowed people to have access, through a particular mode of feeling, to the characteristics of the Sensible that emerged to the awareness of the subject in the form of an internal movement, warmth, internal tonalities reflecting a feeling of depth, wholeness and existence. But Introspection of the Sensible not only developed the mode of feeling, it also stimualted the development of the mode of thinking. I was witnessing the beginning of a perceptual and cognitive mobilization that would subsequently open access to an immediate emergence of meaning related to the somatic experience.
The person is thus placed in a situation of putting their experience to the test of their reflection - descriptive questioning of the lived experience: “what did I really feel?”,  became  reflective: "What did I learn from what I felt?” In this stance, it wasn’t enough that the person was feeling, they also perceived the impact of their perception on their way of thinking. Thus, mobilizing a reflective activity through the enrichment of perceptual potentialities was setting in motion matter, consciousness, representations and reflection, which gave the experience an obvious value for learning.
By analyzing the characteristics of the Sensible, I felt that I was engaging in the most personal and intimate attributes of the human being. I emphasized the quality of the singular relationship that humans have with their lives, and observed several tonalities of self-perception relating to the Sensible. Each of these represented a way of being that matched each level of penetration of the Sensible. I thus witnessed the emergence of the model of the Processual Development of the Relationship to the Sensible [1] which reveals itself to the subject in the following chronology (Bois, 2007): from warmth comes a state of depth; from depth emerges a state of wholeness, from wholeness rises the state of self-presence, and from self-presence the sense of existence manifests.


Creating a space to verbalise the Sensible

One-on-one verbalisation facilitation

Most of the time people were dismayed to notice the paucity of their testimonies compared to the richness of their experiences. Faced with these difficulties, I became aware of the need to create a space of verbalisation that would allow people to find a place for self-expression. In 2002, I enriched the practical models of Somatic-Psychoeducation with a new pedagogical stance : Informed Directiveness (Bourhis, 2008). This term referred to the form of verbal guidance that allowed me to actively bring out information that was not spontaneously available to the person's reflection.

It was a challenge as the words we were talking about here had to be related to the Sensible with its specific issues. My main concern was indeed to ensure that, between the silent expression of the body’s tissues and the verbal expression, there was no loss in the nature and quality of the precious information arising from the living relationship to the Sensible body. I wondered: how to let authentic words exist, anchored, embodied in the flesh, words that would leave no space between what is perceived in the body and what is said and that ultimately express the content of the state of being until then silent? Words that, to use F. Roustang’s expression (2003), would do nothing but "express the thought imprinted in the sensorial [...], that is to say the thought of human sensitivity". For this psychoanalyst, the notion of "sensorial words" implies "turning" thought towards the body, constantly putting thought back into the body. My investigation had a different focus: I was looking for words that would result from the experiencing of the body and would be born straight from the body's own thought and not from a thought born in the brain to then talk to the body. I speak of a body that delivers its own thought, an embodied subjectivity that slips into words.

To address this fundamental issue , I had to find a methodology that would link sensing and words. My choice first fell on a descriptive testimony of the lived experience as an act of language. I asked people a series of questions during the course of the manual session: "Does the manual pressure exerted match the one you would like? "; "Is this pressure too strong or not enough? “; "Would you like it somewhere else  ? "; "Do you perceive the inner movement in your tissues? "... This formative attitude forced the person to actively pay attention to the internal manifestations of their bodies, accessing information that until then had escaped their perception.

I engaged a second formative level when I asked people to explicate what they felt but, this time, after the body-mind tuning. For some people, this delayed description was poor compared to the description in real time of the experience. This phenomenon was explained by the fact that the "thing experienced" was most often new and sprang up from immediacy: the person had indeed perceived the information emanating from their bodies, but had not memorized it or had not given it significant value. Remembering such a subjective experience stimulates people in a type of memory or a field of experience that is unusual to them.

I then added a third formative level by asking people - again after body-mind tuning - to recount not what they felt but the thoughts that were spontaneously rising to their awareness during the session. People were grasping thoughts they had not elaborated, that had sprang up from their bodies, almost without their knowledge: thoughts of all kinds, that sometimes had nothing to do with their current concerns; a form of escape from themselves that emerged from a place of trust. Some thoughts conveyed new meaning for their lives, offered them solutions, intuitions, even deep inspirations. Others seemed to come from the depths of their memories, reviving situations that they had forgetten over time and yet, at that moment, took on a particular meaning. A verbal dialogue then ensued around this rush of thoughts. They were from another time, had another flavour, and would probably never have come to light under other conditions.

The notion of the biographical body was still evolving. In the verbalisation itself, it was no longer the now of the body-mind manual and gestural tuning that was revisited, but the biographical itinerary of the person; this story was evoked through the words coming from the body, with a clear objective to search for sense and meaning – sense in the three meanings of the term (in French the word ‘sens’ has those 3 meanings): to find a new orientation in one's life, to recontact the bodily experiencing linked to life experience, and to extract a clear and / or new meaning out of this experience.

One-on-one verbalisation facilitation

Somatic-Psychoeducation has recently been enriched by a new practice through the creation a group verbalisation space. In the context of the Sensible, « self- practice" calls on the subject to nurture their relationship with the Sensible body in order to learn from it. But, if the encounter with the Sensible favors a nature of « move towards oneself", to use the expression of MC. Josso (1991), I realized that it was also necessary to orient the person in their « move towards others". I will not develop here the verbal dynamics approach (Bourhis, 2008) but I wish, in order to complete my biographical itinerary, to emphasize the specificities and conditions particular to the group verbalisation space offered by Somatic-Psychoeducation.

Indeed, the population that constitutes the group must first have journeyed within a dual formative relationship. Each participant must have gone through all the stages of discovery of the Sensible (manual, gestural, introspective) and have access to an array of sensations, as well as being able to question their experience of the Sensible before integrating a group dynamic.

Then, before inviting people to speak, a body-mind tuning should be done that can take the form of an introspection of the Sensible or gestural tuning. This practice facilitates a quality of internalization and an atmosphere of reciprocity that unifies the group and contributes to the quality of the exchanges. The encounter with the Sensible mobilizes a powerful intellectual activity conducive to receiving the contents of the lived experience and to offering them to others appropriately, authentically  and spontaneously.

Finally, before offering up their biographical narrative, people are invited immediately after the tuning to describe the contents of the experience in question. This testimony is then used as the basic material for the dialogue. The somatic subjectivity thus described triggers the development of sense and meaning connected with the person’s life context or their biography.


As a conclusion, I am now able to retrace the major biographical milestones of my career from the creation of DBM Fasciatherapy to Somatic-Psycheducation. When my friend M.Christine Josso suggested, on the occasion of this book’s publication, that I trace my biographical path, I had no idea how involving this exercise would be. The memories were there, hidden away in my body’s memory, nourishing an abundant subjectivity that carried within memories that, from time to time, sprang up from anonymity. I have had a constant strange feeling of having made no effort that would have required me to participate in a retrospective reflection on an obscure and confused past. Yet, there really were fragments of my past that have come to the surface and brought to light moments that I had probably skipped through too quickly.

In this context of strangeness, where the past rubbed elbows with the present and the present flirted with the past while remaining faithful to my current life, my first task – which I felt to be urgent - was to reconstitute the objective temporality of my path of discovery. As far back as I can remember, I have always had a predisposition to forget the dates of my existence. How could I remember the dates of my career path? I strictly used the support of the traces I had left in my writings. It is how I learned in 1966, at the age of seventeen, that I experienced one of the founding moments of my life. I decided to embrace this destiny that had invited me to question the meaning of life and this is how, in 1973, I started training as a physiotherapist, and then in 1975 started studying osteopathy. If I refer to my first book, I place the emergence of DBM Fasciatherapy in the 1980’s. Eleven years later, in 1991, emerged the gestural movement approach that occupied my mind until 2000, which for me marks the time when Somatic-Psychoeducation emerged.

These dates, reunited with  my path, represent the victory of memory over oblivion. Then came the time, while writing, to question my subjective temporality. Experiences, sensations, tonalities and smells were rising to my awareness making me revisit moments of my life that I had put aside and that I was rediscovering with the feeling of never having forgotten them. I noticed that I had kept intact the memory of my subjective temporality. I simply had to summon it in a place where my thought was suspended. Then, the fragments of my life were coming back to light. When I thought too much, my pen carried the weight of a cognitive load that stopped it in its momentum. So I rubbed shoulders with my temporality and, curiously, I experienced through writing my reconstituted life, the feeling of freedom of a feather subjected to the wind. I lightened up the cognitive load that weighed on me at the beginning, which, as I unfolded my own story, gave me the feeling of finding a clearer view of the coherence of my creative journey.

What did I see during this time of writing? First, that I was, without knowing it and at all times, a reflective practitioner who questioned his professional practice, but also his existential self-practice. I noticed that this posture went through my entire journey of discovery. Then, that humanity within man was an idea that had possessed me since the very beginning of DBM Fasciatherapy: behind a therapy, there is a therapist and behind a therapist, there is a person. I therefore respected in my writing this commitment that I had uncovered, and decided to place my analysis under the aegis of the interactive relationship I had with the people who accompanied my life, sometimes even fleetingly during a treatment or while I taught. The narration that I undertook taught me how much real impact the embodied nature of the human interaction had on the process of emergence of the disciplines that today constitute the method. Without the challenge of interacting with the patients and the learners that I met successively as a clinical practitioner or teacher, I would never have transcended the limits that I encountered throughout my creative journey.
I had to go beyond many utopias: the one that conveyed the idea that reconnecting with the body would be enough to find a state of health; the one that made me believe that encountering the inner movement was going to solve people’s psychological problems; or the one that made me believe that becoming aware of the contents of lived experience would be enough to change behaviors. I know today, by revisiting them, that these utopias were the driving force that mobilized me to try to respond to the reality that presented itself. I had to constantly regulate by renouncing each of them, then I had to draw on my perceptual and cognitive resources to offer solutions to the problems that I encountered throughout my career. This is how I came across the six main formative pedagogical situations that guided the process of emergence of Somatic-Psychoeducation.

The first of these goes back to the times of DBM Fasciatherapy when I became aware of the perceptual blindness that some people were suffering from, that hindered the discovery of the inner movement in their bodies.

The second refers to the issue of the passivity of the person in a treatment situation. With DBM Fasciatherapy, patients were receiving a treatment and did not participate actively in the development of awareness. I therefore developed a gestural movement practice to stimulate their involvement in their own treatment process.

The third, and certainly the situation that definitively directed DBM Fasciatherapy towards Somatic-Psychoeducation, is the stimulation of the biographical body of the person through the contact with relational touch. By restoring mobility to fragments of life fixed in the dark corners of the person's body, some faced a growth crisis. Touching an organism was one thing, but touching people through the psychotonus engaged them in their biographical bodies. This sometimes resulted in an existential upheaval that I had to learn to accompany. I took the measure of this and decided to train in how to accompany people in their growth process.

The fourth situation is about the grasping of meaning. Some people had access to their bodily sensations, but failed to grasp the meaning conveyed by their experience of the Sensible body. I then introduced the Introspection of the Sensible into my practice.

The fifth situation relates to people’s difficulty in verbalising their experiences. So I decided to introduce a verbal dialogue between the practitioner and the patient, as a special space for expressing the contents of the experience and the resulting production of knowledge.

Finally, the last formative pedagogical situation concerns the aspect of self-learning when interacting with the Sensible. The analysis of the testimonies of people in contact with the Sensible revealed a certain tendency to exploit the relationship to the Sensible body in an essentially egotic aim. The "moving towards oneself" had to be enriched by a "moving towards others". To regulate this issue, I proposed a group space of verbalisation so that people could learn to listen to others and learn from them.

The above analysis led me to refocus on the founding project of my commitment: "Is it possible to accompany people to establish a greater proximity with themself? ". Of course, such questioning only makes sense on the basis of a radical transformation of what embodied self-presence means. . Thus, I had to characterize the elements of the Sensible as they appeared to me in my creative process. This characterization refers, in effect, to an inner reality that breaks with the idea that this term conveys traditionally: usually, perception refers to a sensitivity essentially linked to the the idea of a relationship to the world through the exteroceptive senses, while the Sensible refers to a deep and vibrant relationship from "self to self" as a starting point of acknowledgement of one's presence to life.

It is precisely through this type of relationship with oneself through the body that the experience takes the status of Sensible, becoming at the same time the place of out-of-the-ordinary experiential learning. The issue of sense and meaning of the experience of the Sensible has been at the center of my inquiry, since validating sense-feeling as a true experience not only has worth as a mode of relation of the subject to the world, but as mode of self-relationship. To this end, validating sense-feeling in the mode of the Sensible requires, on the part of the subject, a perceptual and consciential mobilization activated by a particular quality of relational touch, a pedagogy directed towards inhabited embodied gestural movement and an introspective mobilization questioning the contents of lived experience.

When the contents of lived experience are not apprehended at the heart of out-of-the-ordinary experiencing, they are reduced to a set of discrete contents and constitute a sort of inert material for consciousness. The experience of the Sensible, on the contrary, carries with it singular and meaningful contents of lived experience which are motivating for the person experiencing them.

I elaborated the model of Perceptual-cognitive Modifiability precisely to enable people to apprehend the perceptual and cognitive processes at play to master drawing sense and meaning from the Sensible. Indeed, according to this model, the Sensible is first given in the form of sense-feeling through the development of a peak perceptual activity, then in the form of thinking through an introspective mobilization acting on the representational field of the subject.
Today, the process of emergence of DBM Fasciatherapy and Somatic-psychoeducation directs me towards the creation of the paradigm of the Sensible, which questions the modes of sense-feeling and of thinking .

With regards to the mode of sense-feeling, the Sensible offers itself in the form of a moving corporeal subjectivity, internal, embodied in the flesh, that the subject becomes aware of in immediate experiencing. It is endowed with objective value since it expresses how the body reacts to a way of relating from self to self, but also how thought emerges when in contact with the Sensible body. The nature of this subjectivity had such an objective value in my eyes that it was the center of my doctoral research and resulted in the production of knowledge in the form of the modeling of the « Processual development of the relationship to the Sensible » conceptualized precisely to apprehend the chronology of the emergence of the categories of the experience of the Sensible (inner movement, warmth, depth, wholeness, way of being to oneself, and way of being to others). These categories of the Sensible reveal the constitutive parts of the "sense of existence" particular to the experience of the Sensible. In this way they participate in auto-affection: to feel is always to feel oneself.

I also wanted to expand the mode of thinking that is given in the experience of the Sensible. Here again we find a subjective dimension linked to an introspective mobilization that is in adequacy with the objects of the Sensible that are the goals for the subject. This corporeal subjectivity, in this instance, is not confined solely to the world of experienced and perceived sensation, but opens up to a "non-reflective thinking activity" following a dynamic of emergence that does not go through the usual reflective paths. This nature of thought, which has not been previously thought of by the subject, results in an emergence  of meaning that is not referenced in the previous schema of the subject. This emergence of meaning has the following characteristics: it is immediate, internal, immanent, non-reflective and conveys intelligible contents of meaning for those who grasp them at the heart of bodily experiencing. The practice of this type of knowing gives us access to a "form of sense-felt thought ", or a "form of thought sense-feeling".

This interweaving of genres constitutes a challenge to the dialectic of feeling / thinking since the sensation conveys the beginnings of a meaningful thought. We are witnessing here a new cogito, the "cogito of the Sensible" which carries with it the idea that sense-feeling, as an embodied motion, and thinking as an immanent knowledge, combine their singularities to give rise to knowledge generated within acts of relating. The emergence of meaning is then picked up by the subject, when s/he develops a reflective activity around the meaning spontaneously offered to their awareness. This cognitive operation leads to the subject making sense of this meaning by reflecting back on the experience passed or in the dynamic of the temporality that is forthcoming…

Article extrait de :

  • Bois D. Josso MC, Humpich M. (Orgs.), (2008) O Sujeito sensivel é renouvação do eu, as contribuçães da Fasciatarapia e da somato-psicopedagogia, Éditions Paulus, centre universitaire de São Camilo du Brésil



[1] Voir l’article suivant dans ce numéro, de Marc Humpich et Géraldine Lefloch

[i]Le docteur américain Andrew T. Still (1828-1917) est le fondateur de l’ostéopathie. Il crée en 1892 l’American School of Osteopathy.

[ii] W.G. Sutherland (1873-1954), élève de Still, fonde en 1895 la cranio-sacral therapy, ou  l’ostéopathie crânio-sacrée.

[iii] Le mot latin « fascia » signifie bande, bandelette. En termes médicaux, il recouvre l’ensemble des tissus conjonctifs arrangés en nappe : aponévroses (enveloppes des muscles), membrane dure-mérienne (enveloppes du cerveau et de la moelle épinière), péritoine (enveloppe des viscères) plèvres (enveloppe des poumons) etc. Le fascia est omniprésent dans le corps, étendu sans discontinuité de la tête aux pieds et de la profondeur à la périphérie.

[iv] Ce parcours universitaire se finalisa neuf ans plus tard par une thèse de doctorat en Sciences de l’éducation présentée à l’Université de Séville et dont le thème était en lien avec l’accompagnement du processus de transformation de l’adulte au contact du sensible : Bois D. (2007). Le Corps sensible et la transformation des représentations de l’adulte, Thèse de Doctorat en didactique et organisation des institutions éducatives, Séville : Université de Séville.

[v] Le praticien perçoit, sous sa main, une modulation psycho-tonique qui se manifeste d’abord par un délai d’apparition de la tension tonique suite à un toucher relationnel adéquat. Progressivement, il assiste en direct à une diffusion de cette tension dans l’étendue du corps (contagion tonique). Puis il perçoit l’implication de la personne à travers l’intensité de la réponse tonique qui atteint un seuil maximum traduisant la confrontation entre la force de renouvellement du corps et la force de préservation (moment intense de confrontation perceptivo-cognitive : constructivisme immanent). Enfin, la main perçoit un relâchement tonique donnant lieu à un mouvement interne de résolution de la résistance tissulaire et cognitive.

Danis Bois

Informations de publication: 
Sujet sensible et renouvellement du moi - Les apports de la fasciathérapie et de la somato-psychopédagogie. Dir. Bois, Josso, Humpich. Ed. Point d'Appui, Ivry sur Seine


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La revue "Réciprocités"

Cet article est issu de notre revue :

Numéro 2 - De l'émergence du sujet sensible

Dans ce deuxième numéro de la revue Réciprocités, nous abordons les dimensions de l'émergence du sujet sensible.

Marie Beauchesne nous offre, en tant que jeune chercheure du Sensible, une réflexion sur la place de la singularité dans cette expérience d'émergence très particulière.

Danis Bois, dans une exploration de son parcours biographique, éclaire le chemin ayant conduit à la formalisation de la somato-psychopédagogie comme pratique d'accompagnement à l'émergence du sujet sensible chez la personne devenant auteure de sa vie.

Marc Humpich et Géraldine Lefloch en proposent une lecture expériencielle à la lumière d'une analyse transversale de plusieurs recherches descriptives conduites au sein du CERAP.