Interviewed by Slobodna Dalmacija
– My education mainly took place in France and it was organised by The Core Energetics Institute California, led by dr. Siegmar Gerken. It was a 4-years part-time training with approximately four intense residential modules per year, and with a lot of practice and deepening of the teachings between the modules.
All trainees had to go both through their own therapy process, as well as supervisions of the sessions they did as therapists in training. After graduation, my husband and I organised the same training with dr. Gerken here in Croatia, and we assisted him throughout those four years.
– When we mention trauma, most people imagine terrible events so they believe they’re not traumatised because they had an average childhood. It’s important to know that there are two types of trauma: shock-trauma when we have suffered some kind of an attack to our physical or emotional integrity (violence, car accidents, life-threatening surgeries…) and a cumulative trauma where there is a relatively mild unpleasant experience that is being repeated regularly throughout a longer period of time.
For example – if our parents often used to leave us home alone and we felt lonely and scared when that happened, that leaves a certain trace in our psyche, even though from an objective adult point of view this situation seems like a harmless event. Very often we don’t have clear memories of childhood events but they stay in our bodies as a physical memory and a body-oriented psychotherapist helps the person to make those emotions conscious, expressed and integrated.
The healing first happens in therapy and then in everyday life – positive experiences are created and after a while they “override” the negative ones. The most beautiful thing about the human psyche is that healing can happen decades after the traumatic event occurred – it’s never too late to heal and create feelings of safety and stability. But the sooner we start healing ourselves, the better.
You have an unusual profession. How did you choose it?
– Most people are surprised to hear I’ve never planned or wanted to be a therapist. My earliest explorations of different therapy methods were more a necessity than a mere interest. I’ve had depressions and phobias since childhood and I felt that life simply had to be better than that. That feeling motivated me to try out different therapy methods and to explore human psyche, trying to find the answer to WHY do I have all those physical and emotional reactions.
I discovered the 5Rhythms dance shortly before I crossed paths with the body oriented psychotherapy. The dance gave me intense experiences but no explanations for them and at the same time it became clear to me that classical psychotherapy didn’t give me results I needed. The key for my healing had to be in the connection between body and psyche. Once I discovered body-oriented psychotherapy, I never looked back.
In order to graduate from the Core Energetics training, we had to do a certain number of supervised session with clients and that was one of my biggest fears (“Can I do that at all?”) but eventually I decided to face the fear and go through it.
The first client I worked with was very happy with the initial results so she recomended my work to other people and bit by bit, the number of clients grew and so did my curiosity and passion for this work. After a while I decided to leave my stable but uninteresting job as a court translator and surrender myself fully to this work. I passionately believe in it because I felt its benefits on my own skin.
What does Core Energetics actually mean?
– The name of this method comes from the theory that under all the issues and traumas we might have, there is an indestructible part of us which is always well, the core of us, home of our strengths, talents and safety.
Therapist’s job is to guide the clients through the layers that separate them from their core, so that they always come back to what is already healthy and strong in them. The ultimate goal is to live our lives more from our core and less from our mask or negativity.
What are the usual problems your clients bring to therapy?
– My clients are mainly people who feel stuck in some segment of their lives and they don’t know how to change it. It can be work, family, relationships, finances… Some clients have depression, fears or panic attacks. I never work with people who have psychosis, bipolar disorder or very strong depression.
In therapy we first talk about the problem and try to trace its origin, which usually happened in childhood. The main difference between this method and classical dialogue-based therapies is that the person tracks the physical sensations while talking about certain experiences and is encouraged to fully express the emotions that might have been “frozen” in their bodies for decades.
The therapist guides the client into active physical expression of those emotions, into full emotional and physical expression. After that release, something changes – person becomes more aware of other options – because as long as we’re in the trauma state, we don’t have a choice. With therapist’s help, the person starts integrating those positive experiences from therapy into their everyday life.
What do people learn in therapy? How can therapy be useful?
– The first thing they learn is to clearly see deeper causes and effects of the issues they suffer from: that their phobia is not a mysterious illness, but a consequence of a whole string of very stressful situations. They become aware of their frozen emotions and how to express them safely; they learn their true needs and how to fulfil them. They learn to say NO when needed, how to enjoy life, how to create better relationships…
In other words, therapy teaches them what maybe no one taught them when it was needed. It’s important to know that therapy is not a guarantee of a perfect life – we will still have problems, we will still encounter obstacles, but we will not feel broken and desperate because of them; we will learn to accept our personal limitations and face the challenges.
You lead 5Rhythms workshops in Split on a regular basis. How would you explain that method to someone who never heard of it?
– 5hythms are my big love and one of the most important segments of my work. It’s not a therapy method but it does often overlap with therapy. Dance is a perfect support to the therapy process because it ‘tricks’ us to enter our bodies more quickly and once we feel the body, we start feeling everything we stored in it.
I dont work therapeutically during my dance workshops, but when you move you can’t avoid feeling your emotions and creating change through movement. 5Rhythms are a movement method for every person willing to move, regardless of their age or previous experience. Dancing the Wave – the sequence of five different rhythms and movement qualities – helps us to see which patterns move through us easily and naturally and which ones are challenging. When we enter every rhythm deeply, old patterns and beliefs become clearer.
For example, on one of my recent workshops a dancer said that the rhythm of chaos makes him feel unsafe so he rather stops than continues dancing it. Answering my questions after the workshop, he came to recognition that his real fear is that the image of him as a ‘strong man’ will fall apart and he will be seen as weak and needy.
Once we become aware of a repeating pattern, we can actively work on it. For example, next time this dancer could consciously explore the movements that don’t make him feel poweful and see why are they so frightening, what will happen if he allows this challenging rhythm to take over his body.
If we approach the dance consciously, it becomes a powerful tool for transformation. It is impossible to fully describe the 5Rhythms with words because it’s a deeply personal experience and, like with many things, the golden rule is that the more we surrender to the process, the more we get from it. As Isadora Duncan said: “If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.”
What kind of feedback do you receive from people who learn from you?
– It’s deeply fulfilling to see results of this work and to witness more and more people becoming happier and taking responsibility for their own lives. I love the fact that this profession is an ongoing self-development, which is of utmost importance to me. People I meet mirror my best and my worst parts and they face me equally with my huge capacity to love and my selfishness. I mirror back to them all the possibilities they have, because I know how it feels to be down and I know we can overcome it.
You are one of the teachers in the Center for Integrative Development in Zagreb. What stands behind that name?
– Our Center is, as far as I know, the only place in Croatia where people can learn more about the body-oriented psychotherapy and can be trained in it. It’s an intense interdisciplinary approach where a team of teachers guides the students into personal experiences through body psychotherapy, energy work, dance therapy etc.
The Center has branches in Split and Budapest – people can try either one-day or weekend workshops, or a full training. So this is not just for future therapists, but for all people interested in self-development.
You can find more details on www.cir.hr
LUKA: “It’s so good to feel alive, to breath, to exist, to flail your arms and legs… from feeling stuck and contracted, through feeling euphoric to falling apart and feeling the real me. This physical experience can’t be substituted by a conversation or anything similar. Btw, I feel sore all over my body but it’s a good kind of pain 🙂 I found out what the pain in my chest actually is. Thank you for that experience :)”
SAŠA: “I relaxed and surrendered to the dance, liberated parts of me that I usually suppress and, as I came to realise, don’t appreciate enough. The amount of energy that went into and out of me is incredible, yet I think I’ve just scratched the surface. I’m used to going deep but now it feels like I’ve expanded in all directions. I can’t wait for the next workshop. I’ve never danced before but now it feels like I will dance forever.”