The “SHARING” and “MATRIX” variations of the “MOTIF exercise” in the PSP approach seen through Gestalt therapy principles

NOTE [1]: This is the 2nd part of a draft intended to be published (for the References, please  contact me)

NOTE [2]: In order to follow and comprehend  this text you need to have read the 1st part.


**The “MOTIF exercise” [text]: a coral concept in PSP (full description)
**The concept of the “PERSONAL FILM” [text]: another one of the coral ideas in PSP – (full description)

**A 6min INTRODUCTION to PSP {video in first person}
**The “MOTIF exercise” in PSP {video in first person}
**An introductory to PSP SLIDESHOW {video, no words}   



There are numerous further developed variations of the elementary form of the motif exercise, permitting the person to selectively shift the focus and the goal of the exercise to any level of awareness.
Furthermore, the exercise can be used in group work as an excellent means of several kinds of cooperations between the group members; and if we speak especially about a therapy group, this exercise can become a way for very deep and substantial group work.

Nevertheless, the exercise can be used even to any other context, supporting the goals of the each time setting.
In any  case, it is of crucial importance that who is coordinating the exercise has to be somebody very well trained in both the theoretical and practical aspects of PSP regarding this exercise, and also able to support and respect the person performing it.
This exercise is not fitness, dance, or role-playing; it becomes meaningful only as a way to enrich awareness and get tuned with our experiential stream; as such a tool, it has to be used very carefully and thoughtfully.
In what follows, we are going to see two of the most significant variations of this exercise.


The steps of the “sharing” variation (appropriate for deep work in group therapy).

This variation uses the relational energy of the group. It evolves around the expression of one member.
However, it engages the whole group in a rather special kind of work built on the basis of rich interactions through unconscious embodied communication.
This variation can acquire several subtle nuances, and it has proved to be very efficient in creating or enhancing the group’s total relational space.

…(1) A member A says anything that he wants to work with, in a clearly articulated brief statement of 1-2 sentences. For example, it can be: “at at this time I am expressing my anger and I am afraid of loosing control”.

…(2) A member B, who knows how to perform the motif exercise, listens very attentively the A’s statement, she lets this statement to “pass” in her body, and she starts a kinetic motif (the 2nd step of the exercise’s basic form). From this point and on, B stops thinking the statement, or what to do with it and how, or what message she “should” produce “for” A, etc.
B concentrates exclusively on her own body state, she performs normally the basic form of the exercise, and at a certain point, when she feels that the exercise is completed, she stops.

…(3) A shares his experience. It is extremely important to not go into any “interpretation” or evaluation of B’s motifs and movements, but to remain in the general sense and emotions that were created, as well as to what made any kind of  impression on him, even without knowing why. The coordinator supports this sharing.

…(4) B speaks about her experience while she was performing the exercise.

…(5) The other members of the group speak about their experiences while watching B performing the exercise, too.  No type of critical or interpretive comments are allowed.

…(6) The conductor returns to A and asks him about his experience after listening to the group. He may deepen A’s work, or use the material that emerged from the whole group for further group work, etc.     


What exactly happens in the “matrix” variation and its therapeutic usefulness.

When A forms his statement about an important for him theme, several cognitive processes are involved (due to the  use of language).
B receives this material by listening to it while shaping it perceptually, as it happens when we are listening anybody addressing a verbal message to us.
During these first instants there are relatively intense cognitive functions.
Then, when B “passes” the statement to her body generating the first motif, the statement “descends vertically” to “lower” levels, where cognition does not prevail.
There, in a deep embodied “inner lab”, B allows A’s message to produce the next motif. Subsequently, there is a whole chain of motifs created, and the beginning of this chain was produced when B perceived the A’s statement.
So, all this chain of motifs is affected by and “carries” the sense of this statement, which in a way “parented” the experiential sequence of motifs;

We may claim such an idea, because according to present inspirations of neurophysiology and phenomenology, each next step of an experiential chain “contains” all the previous ones.
Such a chain is called by Stern (2004) a “relational progression”:it is as if the evolving experience is folding “into” itself in each one of its steps.
In this perspective, as the experiential chain progresses along with the motifs’ development, the original A’s statement is silently further processed deeply within the body of B in each step of the sequence.
The more authentically the experiential sequence of motifs is built, the more authentically A’s original message to B is further processed, “hosted” in B’s body.
This is why it is especially important for B to not be thinking at all about anything related to the A’s statement, not to be consciously “helpful” to A, and to simply follow her own primary bodily truth.

Now, let us make a parenthesis with one more reference to neurophysiology.
Today, we know that in live human contact there several neurophysiologic mechanisms involved. Such mechanisms are called “mirroring systems”.
An example are the “mirror neurons”: special group of neurons that “copy” another person’s movements.
The result is that according to this “copy”, our brain “orders our own motor neurons to “fire” a commands to our own body, “as if” we were performing too the other person’s movements.
These stimuli are not strong enough to make us move, but still they are able to produce a body experience that is relatively similar to the other person’s experience. We never feel exactly what the other person feels, and of course, our experience is also colored by vibrations from our own inner universe.
However, on an unconscious and non verbal level, we humans may somehow share bodily and emotionally our experiences in a much richer way than our verbal
Besides, such mirroring systems are a way to approach today the phenomenon of empathy, which we know that develops mainly on an embodied basis (Staemler, 2011).

So, a A’s statement is being worked on and on bodily by B, A’s mirroring systems “captures” B’s body activity, and generate an emotional link between A and B (the same of course happens with all the other group members watching B).
It is like A is listening to B bodily, and B is also bodily talking to A. So A, by watching B, gets back his original message, enriched and worked through, as a coral element of his present experience.


The “matrix” variation and the “joint situation”.

The original A’s issue travelled a long journey. Only schematically, we could sketch this trip as follows.
…It started by taking shape in A’s mind in a narrative format; then it was verbally emitted by A on a rather highly cognitive level; it reached “horizontally” B on a same high cognitive level.
…Then it went “down” to B’s more primary bodily layers.
…There, as B was performing the motif exercise, that original statement got worked through in each step of B’s experiential sequence; in parallel, it was being grasped by A’s mirroring systems during all the steps of B’s movements forming his motifs – each step reflecting a deeper elaboration of A’s original “raw material”.
…And finally,  transformed in several enriched forms, it “went up” again, from A’s primary bodily levels onto higher cognitive layers, able to become meaningful in A’s conscious awareness.
A similar “trip map” could be said that happened regarding each one of the group members.

B’s essential contact with A happens bodily and empathically, precisely on a primary level:  it is non verbal, powerful, abstract, deep and intuitive.
Here, it is important to remember that in the empathic experience, what our body receives implicitly from the other’s body does not create an “exact copy” of his experience in us.
The empathic tuning stimulates our own experiences in our personal universe depending on the associative networks that are activated in us.
Simply, these experiences have a central feeling similar to what the other “sends” during our empathic contact.
So, as B is performing the exercise, the consecutive messages that A receives are “stirring” for good his psychic world. So, the end of the exercise, is an excellent starting point for further therapeutic work based on A’s experience.

Simultaneously, as we already noted, something similar also happens to the other members of the group who receive what B emits with their own mirroring systems. Anything that is verbally said afterwards, as useful as it may be, the most important contribution of the exercise to the contact experience between the group members, has already been concluded during the exercise.
And whatever A hears about his original statement as the other members of the group share their experience, simply frames the direct, non conscious and non verbal experiential messages he received watching B performing the exercise.
B and others from the group do not offer to A instructions, interpretations, advices; all the group members and of course especially B, offer themselves as a fertile matrix in which A’s statement gets worked through and transformed by the groups’ collective wisdom and availability.

Before even the end of the motif exercise, many things have already been “said” between all the members of the group, without words.
It is like the group creates what Hermann Schmitz calls a “joint situation” (as quoted by Staemmler, 2007, p. 58).
Such a “joint situation” is the ground for the empathic experience to develop, while each individual’s subjective reality becomes simply a variable of the overall intersubjective space created by all the group members.
The motif exercise, serves as a kind of guideline, on which all these processes are getting developed reorganising the group’s field.

Moreover, the sharing of a very short kinetic experience characteristically confirms how relevant the phenomenological (subjective) reality is, how different we are, but also how much and how exactly this diversity produces the unique collective strength of the group-organism.


Some of the “matrix” variation benefits and possible uses.

This variation has the potential to become an excellent tool: for personal work, as a “warm up” for stirring the group’s process, for processing topics and the relationships of the group members, for supervisory work, and generally for anything else the relational dynamic of any type of group may need.
How “deep” and how something will be worked on during or after the sharing of the experience (how “psychotherapeutically” or not the exercise will be used) is a matter of the nature and goals of the group, regardless of the primary levels to which the exercise is reverted.

The “matrix” variation of this PSP exercise is very flexible, and suits in almost any context and objective, with the appropriate always adjustments by the conductor.
Besides, the basic motif exercise is learned relatively quickly by anyone, and in a short time most members of the group can take the role of the one performing the exercise. In any case, this variation places the personal awareness work on an interactive and inter-subjective framework.
The group members’ communication happens on an intense and empathic level, due to the activation of the mirror systems of its members and the creation of the “joint situation”. 

Particularly, the person in the role of A learns to entrust his material in a different way to another (the B), and simultaneously to all the others that are also watching B (we would say that he learns to “let go” in the collective power of the group – organism).  B develops the responsibility and respect to A, who “offers” his issue as a starting point of the motif exercise and the collective experience.
In parallel, B in a way transcends herself by offering to host and work further A’s issue, to work “for” him respectfully and non didactically.
Concurrently, the organism-group learns to take care of both A and B by containing their exposure within a safe frame, while also interacting as individuals with both A and B.
In the “matrix” variation, we see all the characteristics of a complex system in action: all its parts interacting between them, and at the same time, each part interacting with their whole – and vice versa.


A possible objection.

Once, in Gestalt psychotherapy, any participation of a second person in individual work was avoided because it was considered as an intervention and an interruption of the authentic personal process of the one working.
Many however, differentiated themselves quickly and decisively from this position (Polster & Polster, 1973), based on the idea that there is not any “ideal” and “truly authentic” process.
Authenticity is not a hypothetic “perfect” situation, but has to do with what is now happening during the interaction of all the field’s elements.
Besides, today, with the ideas of the neuroscientists on our embodied and non conscious communication, it is rather obvious that the embodied interactive work not only does not interrupt the personal process but it supports and promotes it – in fact it is not even possible to avoid such interactions, because they are anyhow fundamental elements of any contact process.


Indications for further possibilities.

Finally, the “matrix” variation of the motif exercise is also open to many of its own variations. Just indicatively: B produces some kinetic motifs, and then she “freezes” in a posture at some point saying loudly how she feels at that moment. Then, she may go on with the exercise generating the next motifs, freezing again from time to time, etc.
The conductor can ask A about his experience at that or at any other similar moment, later.

Moreover, in another variation, when B “freezes” in one of the motifs that appear, the conductor may call A to take the place of B and continue the exercise himself.
Or, even at the very beginning of the exercise, initially, A may be the one who “sets up” B in a posture expressing for him his issue.
And of course, in this variation that includes the B’s “freezing”, any other member of the group may take B’s place and continue the exercise.
Or, even 2 or 3 other group members may take B’s place and continue simultaneously just with 1-2 motifs, each one offering his one own sequence of motifs and possibilities to A.
A may choose whose place he wishes to take and continues the exercise, etc.


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