The fundamental orientation of PSP.
In our days the frenzy rhythms of life often seem to result in desensitization (“neutralization” of our needs) and over-intellectualization, finally leading to distancing (alienating) from our own experiences and lives (in other words, to diminished awareness).
Process and awareness work in several of the nowadays existing humanistic approaches is a support to develop awareness – something that is necessary for authentic “presence” in our life events; PSP comes as an adjunctive skill, as a means to further support such an orientation.
In several approaches used to enhance awareness, body work is sometimes seen mostly in terms of increasing body-awareness, in a way suggesting just to turn “into” my body and become aware of how it feels, what is happening “in there” etc.
With PSP we orient to add a step further: to bring body work on a direct and live relational interactive level,
to expand body-awareness to “relational” awareness.
The result is, in individual settings, a deep and intuitive sense of the work; in group settings, the possibility to integrate in unique ways collective and individual levels of work: while all the group is active as a whole “organism”, at the same time, every participant works also on a personal level.
This integration of collective and individual levels of work, is one of the more powerful points of any PSP employment; moreover, it supports the quick and strong aliveness of the group’s relational field while also increasing empathy.
In the PSP practice, the methodology of such an orientation is based on certain ideas.
Framing the methodology of PSP.
Today, through a constantly developing “meeting” of a philosophical stream called “phenomenology” with neurosciences, we know some very important features of the human experience; these features are underlying the PSP conceptual backbone as well as the methodology of its orientation.
… (a) Our experience is an holistic phenomenon unfolding on bodily, emotional and mental levels as we interact with the world and we interpret these interactions.
… (b) Our experience happens strictly in our “here and now” – so, it is literally “improvised” from moment to moment, through very complex co-operations of our bodies and minds.
… (c) Through the continuum of our experience we build the sense of ourselves and our personal reality: we construct a psychological “meaning” of who we are and what we do – of what is “being into the world”. This psychological meaning is not only question of our minds (cognitive) but also of our emotions.
… (d) Body is now recognized as a very important contributor regarding the processes involved in the synthesis of our experience and especially regarding its fundamental emotional meaning. More specifically body:
(d1) Is the main source of our basic sense of “first person” in whatever we do: in all that I am experiencing I “know” that it is “me” the subject, the “owner” of my experience.
(d2) Is the main source of non conscious experiential elements that are generated directly during the flow of any one of our experiences; in fact, the major part of our experiences consist of such fundamental, non verbal and non conscious elements in the microstructure of our experiences, that affect greatly what we finally understand and feel.
(d3) Is constantly “talking” lively with other bodies in non verbal and non conscious ways, as we co-create live the experience of our meetings. We are “equipped” with special systems of neurons and other mechanisms, usually called “mirroring systems”. Such systems form a principle factor for this embodied stream of our silent communication in any circumstances (“embodied” in the sense that it has to do with our bodies).
Furthermore, such systems have a major role in the co-creation of a special psychologically experienced space “between” us when we meet; this is why empathy is embodied and why, when we interact, we are not involved only mentally but inevitably also physically even we do not touch each other: our relational “stage” is always an embodied field “situated” in our “here and now”.
These and several other points make up the methodological basis of PSP with its interactive, embodied and improvisational aspects in its praxis, supporting the idea of a kind of body-work involving not only body awareness but also direct, live”relational” awareness.
The conceptual basis of the PSP approach.
In any interactive process developing between persons that is systematic (has a certain goal and presupposes certain roles), there is a theory guiding a method; their combination produces a distinctive “praxis” (Philip Brownell, “Gestalt Therapy: A Guide to Contemporary Practice”, 2010, Springer Publishing, p. 6), which “is the process by which a theory becomes animated in the actions of its adherents”.
PSP is philosophically – theoretically based on a broader existential – relational perspective while using improvised embodied interaction and our inherent creative abilities in its methodology.
Speaking about the theory of PSP, it has to do with the following areas.
… (1) Coral existential views and fundamental philosophical principles in the basis of the “Gestalt perspective”.
The expression “Gestalt perspective” (or, more precisely the “Gestalt therapy perspective”), is a very rich amalgam of theoretical and practical conceptions. An extraordinary feature of this amalgam is that, while it was initially formed as the interdisciplinary philosophical fundament of the Gestalt therapy edifice, it evolved in a way that today it is able to transcend its original psychotherapeutic frames.
So, the broader whole of ideas and principles that we could indicatively name “Gestalt therapy perspective”, can be used not only in the specific area of psychotherapy but also in several other fields in which people meet and interact (education, work, family, any kind of relationships and social structures etc).
Thus, the “Gestalt perspective” is a specific way to see the things, the world and the personal reality of the human being as well as what happens when we interact. To conclude, we could say that PSP in a way “borrows” for its theory the “Gestalt perspective,” beyond the therapeutic application of this perspective – besides, PSP can be applied in a variety of fields and not only in psychotherapy.
… (2) Recent developments in neurophysiology and phenomenology.
Such developments regard what was noted in the previous section: the microstructure and macrostructure of the human experience synthesis, the improvisational fabrication of “meaning” in whatever we do, the way in which we experience time and form the sense of “self”, the importance of our bodily processes in whatever we are experiencing alone or during our live meetings with the other.
… (3) Four idiosyncratic PSP concepts.
These concepts were devised especially to bridge the PSP theory with its praxis in its applications:
… (a) the “personal film”,
… (b) the “motif”
… (c) the “body intention”,
… (d) a flexible structuring “model” used to build kinetic patterns (“exercises” or “experiments”) for the PSP implementation – this “model” is called: “1000 +1 exercises for the embodied improvised interaction”.
Just indicatively, some thematic areas deriving from the first 2 of the above theoretical branches of PSP are:
… “Interacting” in the embodied field; the concept of the awareness continuum (zones and levels of awareness and their connection with consciousness); principles of the existential dialogue; the “syntax” in the contact processes; the nature and the “paradox theory” of change; the concept of the relational self; the “middle mode” of experience; principles of the “phenomenological field theory” and of the “phenomenological method”.
… The “body-object” and the “lived body”; temporality, the microstructure of human experience and their embodied foundation; time, brain, affects – emotions – feelings.
… Building “meaning”: the interweaving of the embodied and cognitive “agendas” of our experiential stream.
… The improvisational nature of physical reality, of life and of the human experience; stirring and triggering out the immense possibilities of creative imagination; the concepts of “self-organization” and of “entropy” in nature, in life, in our experiential stream and in our interactions.
… The polyrhythmic, polyphonic and multi-temporal nature of our experiences; how our experiential micro-units articulate and “fold” in themselves to form longer and complex experiences; how the microstructure and macrostructure of our experiences co-operate to create the sense of past, present, future.
… Verbal and non-verbal narration; intersubjectivity, the “space between”, the embodied empathy etc.
PSP’s Latin initials.
The word “Process” (the initial “P”), refers to the concept of continuous movement, relatedness and change in everything.
The word “Stage” (the initial “S”), is meant beyond its usual reference to the theatre: that is, to a geographically defined space in which artistic events happen. In PSP, the “Stage” refers rather to what happens between us when we meet, to the “field” of our interactions.
Moreover, today we know that at any moment each step in such interactions: (a) occurs in an improvisational way from the directly previous one, while at the same time it is (b) indirectly connecting also with the overall sense of our interaction till that moment; so, the word “Stage” in PSP finally brings us to the general conception of the relational field in which our meetings evolve.
Finally, we may think of the the last “P” indicating the word “Praxis” (“action”), as a kind of dynamic bridge between the “Process” and the “Stage” (the “field”). “Praxis” in PSP is the result of the combination of its theory and methodology (see the beginning of the previous section).
However, the word “Praxis” in PSP refers also to the Aristotelian philosophy, in which “action” produces our individual reality.
If we go a little further in this idea, we may see that “Praxis” (action) means experimentation and response to the “here and now” evolving events (I attempt to do something as I respond to something else and in this way I compose my personal micro-universe). That is, “praxis” means constant “becoming”, it means that things are not only inactive structures but also developing relational “processes”.
Let’s say, “I see”, in the Gestalt perspective, is a process; it is a verb, an action (a praxis) that is different from what I am seeing (the content, the noun). In the Gestalt philosophy we are not only interested in the cognitive form experience takes in our mind, but also (and mainly) in the “praxis”, in the “how” (the way) our life’s events become personal experience.
In this philosophical orientation, “I experience” is the constantly evolving process of life itself; it is to participate lively in life instead of just thinking “about” it; it is to responsibly re-create my self again and again throughout the flow of my life by “doing” in my life.
So, the last “P” in PSP intends also to bring to front these ideas about the direct “praxis” of experiencing.
What PSP is not.
PSP is not and does not several things. For example, PSP:
…does not propose and is not any kind of a psychotherapeutic modality,
…is not a system for somatic therapy,
…is not some type of “therapy or psychotherapy through art” or an “art-therapy” approach,
…is not a “variant” of Gestalt therapy,
…is not a theatre and performance theory,
…is not identical as an approach, in structure, methodology and its aims, to drama-therapy, dance-therapy, music-therapy, the psychodrama, the animation and theatrical game,
…is not a variant of Playback Theatre (an improvisational form of non-script theatre created in the 1970s by Jonathan Fox and his associates), despite the important role that Playback played in the PSP idea.
PSP draws various elements from all the above noted areas, however “metabolising” (linking, combining and transforming) into its own elements. Moreover, it is emphasized that PSP may be also be applied to these areas themselves, enriching their praxis or even their theory.
For example, PSP may be employed in Gestalt therapy as one additional way for several practices of interactive body work; when applied to Playback Theatre, PSP may significantly deepen and widen its theory, practice and training by “reading” the main aspects of Playback Theatre through the PSP conceptual perspectives and methodological proposals.