The Dreaming Body:
an Interview with Julie Diamond, Ph.D. (Part I)
Til Luchau, Certified Advanced Rolfer
(This interview was originally published in Rolf Lines, the
professional journal of the Rolf Institute.)
Julie Diamond worked together with analyst/physicist Arnold
Mindell (author of Working with the Dreaming Body, The Shaman's
Body, Sitting in the Fire, etc.) as one of the original founders
of Process Work (or Process Oriented Psychology). In this interview,
which is the first part of a longer conversation that took place
on January 3rd 1999, Julie talks about some of the basic ideas
behind Process Work, and gives examples of how they might be
applied to working with physical symptoms or posture issues.
I began studying Process Work with Arny Mindell in the mid
1980's as a student of bodywork and body-centered therapies at
the Esalen Institute. As I did, you will notice where the Process
Work perspective differs from our perspective as Rolfers (for
example, the emphasis on the psychological aspects of symptoms
and experience), as well as the similarities we share (e.g.,
seeking the "self-correcting" capacity of the body).
My hope is that both the differences and the similarities will
prove stimulating and educational. As a Rolfer who also works
as a psychotherapist, the dynamic interaction between these two
viewpoints keeps me reflecting, growing, and refining my appreciation
for each, in all their disparate and complimentary views, values,
Part II of this interview, where Julie talks about addictionss
and the social/cultural dimensions of body symptoms, is available
Til Luchau: So what is Process Work?
Julie Diamond: Process Work is a modality for working
with people that works with the whole person, which means in
the language of conventional therapy, the unconscious as well
as the conscious parts. But "whole person" also means
all the different arenas in which people operate and live, like
relationships, body symptoms, group life and conflict, movement
and physical expression, creativity, spirituality. Really it
follows where people go, so it's a very broad ranging modality,
but it has a very basic theoretical foundation and the same theories
and methods work with all those different applications.
Til: What are some of those basic theories?
Julie: The basic idea behind Process Work is simple and
complex at the same time. It's basically the idea that there
is a "dreaming process" underlying the forms and structures
of consensus reality. So behind the symptom, behind the group
conflict, or behind the relationship difficulty, is a river of
meaning that we call the dreaming process. It's very much in
the homeopathic tradition in that the solutions themselves lie
within the conflict or the problem. So that by going more deeply
into it whatever it is that manifests as the problem, we connect
with that dreaming process, and that dreaming process is creative,
healing, helpful, more whole. Instead of just being identified
with the forms and structures of consensus reality, or our problems,
we also connect with a deeper level of meaning.
Going into a Symptom
Til: What do you mean by "going into something"?
Julie: Well, most of life could be characterized as being
aware of the troubles and the problems that are confronting us.
We have a symptom, or we wake up with a dream we don't know what
it means, or we have a relationship problem, or we're not getting
along with our family, or we have money problems, or we're aware
of social conflicts or whatever. Getting into the flow behind
these things means being able to amplify and unfold and go more
deeply into those problems. Its like the Taoist idea that we
are going more with it, that it is not happening to us,
but we are picking up the energy and picking up the flow of what
is going on and co-creating with it. And that is what it means
to go into it.
Til: I wonder about an example.
Julie: One of the best examples that I always come back
to is an example that Arny [Mindell] talks about in one of his
books. He talks about the story of a young boy who came to him
with a brain tumor. So that is the identified problem, and is
a quite serious one. He was undergoing treatment and he had to
be kept very still, and he was very depressed naturally. Anyway,
he came to Arny with his mother and Arny asked him about his
experience of the tumor. (This is really the key in Process Work-we
don't work with the objective descriptions of what a symptom
or problem is, but we work with the subjective experience of
what that problem is. How you experience it is very different
from how I experience it, and that's the key to unraveling that
So Arny asked him, "Well, what's your brain tumor like?"
The boy said he had a lot of headaches. Arny went one step further
with the unraveling process, again not being satisfied with the
objective description of the headache, even though everybody
knows what a headache is. The key is what the kid experiences
as a headache, so Arny asked him, "What is it like to have
a headache?" and the kid started rapping his knuckles, knocking
on the chair, and said, "It's like a hammer, it's hammering."
So this is now getting close to the dreaming process-this is
the subjective, irrational element in the symptom. Arny said
"Well, let's hammer together, let's do that." The kid
was knocking, and Arny started knocking with him, going more
into the symptom. The next step is to really go into it, amplifying
it fully to make it global. Instead of it being manifest in one
way, like for example the knocking, you could bring in other
things like movement and sound and pictures. Arny brought in
sounds with the knocking and asked him what the "knocker"
was knocking about-were there words that went with that? The
boy started to say, "Get to work, get to work!", almost
like a teacher character came out as he was knocking. "Get
to work, do your homework!" The kid had missed a lot of
school because of this tumor. Conventional approaches to this
would say that the kid needs a lot of rest, but the dreaming
process or the symptom, this irrational element, was actually
a "knocker" who said, "Get to work, do your homework,
get back to work." The kid actually had a lot of energy
that wanted to get back into life that wasn't being picked up.
So Arny said to the mother, "He should be doing his homework."
The mother said, "But the doctor said he should rest more
and he could miss school," but the kid wanted to get back
to school and do his homework! Arny said following the dreaming
process could also be healing for the kid's health because it
is tapping into and using his energy. The kid got better in the
end. So that's an example of "getting into it."
Symptoms as Solutions rather than Results
Til: So, Process Work might try to find out what the
symptom itself is trying to do, and encourage it to do it more.
Julie: Yeah, there is a life in those symptoms, there
is an energetic flow, and they're going towards something. It
follows Jung's idea that symptoms are purposeful, heading towards
something-they are not the result of neurosis but are the solution
Til: That's a big shift from, say, treatment-oriented
thought that says, "Let's get rid of the symptoms."
Julie: That's right. It's a shift that we saw from Freud
to Jung. Freud saw all symptoms, whether physical or neurotic,
as a result of a prior trauma. Thus, to heal the symptom you
have to go back to that prior trauma, and of course Reich extended
that and looked for that in the body. Jung said something very
different: he said symptoms aren't the result of a trauma, they
are actually trying to correct something, a trauma perhaps. Jung
gave a very specific example in one of his books. He said the
mother symbol in Freudian thought would be the symbol of the
problem, the neurosis. He says in Jungian thought, it would be
the healing archetype--that more "mothering" is needed.
Til: I am thinking about how we do something similar in
Julie: Interesting, how does that work?
Til: Well, classically Rolfing used a lot of what we call
direct techniques, which means that if something is tight or
contracted we would work it in a way that would make it longer
or lengthen. More recently, say in the last ten or fifteen years,
many Rolfers are also using indirect techniques, which takes
something tight or short more into the tightness.
Julie: Interesting, amplifying it-the basic homeopathic
thought. I guess behind it is the idea that the organism is a
Til: That's a big one.
Julie: That's a big one, and I think Process Work is really
fundamentally Taoist, in the sense that the Way (with a big W)
is the way (little w). In other words, the flow of nature is
a self-correcting system, if you just align yourself to nature
things will heal themselves.
Posture as an Inner Relationship Issue
Til: Let's take something like posture or the way someone
stands. Let's say a client comes in and says, "Hey, I am
not happy with my posture." How would we work with that
from a Process Work perspective?
Julie: OK, that's a great example. Well, if someone comes
in and has a particular posture and said they want to change
it, then I think to myself that I have two clients in front to
me and not just one. I have the posture that is going a particular
direction, and then I have the person who is in conflict with
that posture. It's like a relationship conflict. I just hold
that in my mind, because working with problems you have to understand
that the problem has its own direction-it's like another client
that doesn't speak when it comes into the office. It is like
the minority that doesn't get to say its piece.
Til: The problem itself has a voice that may not be being
Julie: That's right, and part of what you are doing with
amplifying is you're letting it speak it in its language. So
what I would do would be I would actually amplify that posture,
find out what is trying to happen in that posture, giving it
a voice, letting it speak I don't know what would happen in that
session but I can imagine saying to the person, "Well if
that tension and pressure or rigidity is something you need right
now, it's probably somatic because it is not conscious."
It is that old psychotherapeutic chestnut that says that things
somatize when they go unconscious. So helping him fight or battle
more consciously, his body maybe doesn't have to do it, and it
will relive the symptom. So you don't get rid of what the symptom
is doing, but it doesn't necessarily have to be only that body
part that is doing it.
Til: For most bodyworkers, the idea of supporting the
tight part is a big change of perspective.
Julie: Yes, befriending what the body is doing and actually
doing it for the body so it doesn't just have to be just that
muscle or body that's doing it.
Til: Now, so far we've spoken about examples of people
who come in with a body symptom. In those cases, Process Work
might look to help someone get in touch with the psychological
processes behind the symptom.
Til: What about a body symptom that is the result of an
accident or trauma? Someone comes in, say, after a car accident
and can't turn their head.
Julie: Well, there are a lot of different ways to approach
a symptom because there are a lot of different subjective experiences
attached to that symptom. For example, some symptoms have a very
overt and dramatic cause, like an accident. I would work with
the accident (as well as the symptom at a later date).
Something like an accident would be very exciting to work directly
with, the accident and what happened, because in the language
of Process Work we would say that the accident is a dreaming
process, an event that was way outside of someone's control.
Accidents are very frequently connected to major changes in life.
We did a study on this once: when people are close to separating
in a relationship, frequently accidents happen, it's really something
Til, you should keep an eye on this in your practice.
Ground of Being
Til: I'm going to go with that for a second. It sounds
like we're relating both body symptoms and their cause back to
some sort of underlying meaning, or to what needs to happen in
someone's life or relationships.
Julie: Yes, I would say yes, very much like a dream. At
least in our theory, symptoms and dreams are synonymous in the
sense that they are expressions of the flow of life and what
is trying to happen.
Til: In Rolfing or bodywork, I think we'll often relate
those kinds of issues back to the body. If someone comes in and
tells a story about a relationship we'll say to ourselves, "OK,
so how is that happening in the body?"
Julie: Oh, I see.
Til: We are doing the opposite in some ways-we look for
how these issues might be reflected in someone's structure and
movement, and work with them on those levels.
Julie: I see, so in Rolfing the body is the ground of
Julie: I guess in Process Work, the body is one manifestation
of being. I think dreaming is the ground of being in Process
Til: OK, so the body is one aspect of being. There's a
quote from Ida Rolf, something like, "I know the body is
not all there is, but that's what I can get my hands on."
Julie: I love that quote-that helps me now I think. One
of the things that we do in Process Work, is that we are trying
to get our hands on dreaming!
II of this interview, Julie talks about the self-correcting
tendencies of the body, addictions, and the social/cultural dimensions
of body symptoms.
More information about Process Work can be found at www.ProcessWork.org.
Julie Diamond can be contacted at Diamond_Julie@Compuserve.com
Til welcomes your comments and correspondence at firstname.lastname@example.org.