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January 12, 2016

Processwork Movement Work: a brief exploration

Here’s a short introduction to Processwork Movement work. It refers to some technical aspects of the work, if they don’t make sense don’t worry, just enjoy the case examples, in any case they will be more useful. This post is one slice of the movement work pie which is rich and diverse. I hope you enjoy!

The Nature of Movement

Every channel that we work with in Processwork offers an important element to the tapestry of the approach and to unfolding experience. The movement channel’s special contribution allows you to shift from thinking about experience to entering it in an embodied and direct way. Direct and embodied experience leads you to a deeper knowing, thus understanding comes through the body’s intelligence showing an unambiguous momentary truth.

One reason for this is that you don’t need words to know what you experience. When you move with lightness or you are heavy and weighted down, for example, you don’t need to think these descriptive words to have the experience; it is already there. Language helps you describe what you experience; having the experience doesn’t depend on being able to talk about it.

Your body dreams through your movement. Experiences on the edge of your awareness present themselves in movement. For instance someone who is relaxed, sitting in a chair, enjoying friends, has a foot that is shaking. The movement in the person’s foot is dream-like because it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the experience.

Process-oriented movement work has 4 major thrusts or areas. The first is unfolding dreams and dream-like experience by stepping into the experience. These include night-time dreams where you may play out the characters or dreamfigures in a dream embodying them and gaining access to their deeper nature; accidents, where you might act out the accident; movement symptoms like tremors, where you might let the tremor dance you; and relationship dynamics, where you may move the energy of someone who irritates you, to name a few.

The second is aimed at facilitating the dreaming process as it occurs in double signals in everyday life, like in the shaking foot in the example above. Here we are working with momentary autonomous movement. The challenge of unfolding the meaning found in the mysterious or disturbing movements lays the groundwork for skills for working with movement which we will address below. These skills are applicable to the other three areas.

The third is “blank access” which means moving and seeing what is happening that is unintended or interesting. This is a valuable awareness process and is useful when you need a change of approach, like when you’re stuck. The forth is essence work; using movement to unfold deep dreaming experience before it has emerged in images or language. This work connects many to a sense of a unified whole and allows you to simply connect with yourself and get centred or detach from your everyday identity for moments when you need access to your deepest self.1As a helper or facilitator doing Processwork Movement Work you need to stay open to experience and willing to support experience that doesn’t always make sense.

Movement Signals

In the area of movement work based on signals we look at how your body is dreaming. It moves. These movements are inseparable from experience. Experience is a dreaming process. You move and are therefore dreaming every minute of the day through movement signals, and everyday expressions. Some of these movements are ones that you know well and make sense in the context in which you find yourself. Others are strange, mysterious, or movements over which you have little control. In the example of the person with a shaking foot, there are two messages at the same time, one intended, being relaxed with friends and the other unintended, the shaking foot, we call them double signals. In Processwork we see these as doorways into the dreaming process. They present an endless stream of potential possibility and self-knowledge.

While some double signals may conflict with your intentions, if you use a special open attitude to bring awareness to them, develop curiosity and beginner’s mind2Beginners mind = regarding an experience as if for the first time. to embrace them, you can discover surprising, vital aspects of yourself that are relieving and useful to your everyday life and continued development.

Primary and Secondary Movement

We call the more unknown movement signals secondary movement. They are characterized by:

On the other hand primary movement is just the opposite:

Double signals in movement

We can see that the meaning of the double signal is not always clear, or almost always never clear. We may think we understand but this misses the deeper meaning. That’s why we unfold movement using the amplification and edgework skills below.

Double signals whether in the movement channel or any other tend to disturb or fascinate us. For instance, someone reaches forward to shake hands with you while unconsciously stepping backwards. This double signal my even hurt you and disturb your relationship. Both parts of this double signal are in the movement channel; reaching forward and stepping backwards. Here’s another example: someone who says they are happy to see you as they turn away from you. The more known part of this signal is in the words about being happy to see you (auditory and relationship channels) and the more secondary part is in the movement channel as they turn away. Can you identify which indicators of secondary movement in the list above that these examples fit into?

Addressing Movement in its own Channel – Amplification

When you unfold a signal you need to address it in its own “language”, movement. That means moving with it. Amplifying the movement helps bring awareness to the experience. If you see a person step back as they reach out to shake your hand and ask them why they are doing that or what it means they will not know. The person will try to answer3This questions will most likely be answered by the primary process. It will lack the depth of unfolding the experience directly. but you have to interact with the experience of the movement to understand it. This is where direct experience is so useful. Movement amplification helps you intervene with movement in movement. If I ask the person to repeat the handshake while stepping back again but step back a little bit further, they will start to be more aware of the movement and the experience that they have as they move. Encouraging them to go further away might make them aware of a shyness and introversion that they have trouble bringing into relationship. Here I amplified the movement by asking the person to step further away, by exaggerating the movement in space.

Amplification techniques fall into two major categories. One that is hands on (naturally with the permission of the person being worked with) and the other that is verbal, like in the example above where I instructed the person to exaggerate the movement. Which you use will depend on your situation, relationship with the person, your own edges and general comfort working with movement. Here are some examples of amplification techniques:

Movement Amplification Techniques using hands-on

Movement Amplification Techniques directing the work with awareness using your voice

Movement Edges

The last basic skill that we will talk about here is identifying and working with movement edges. A movement edge is when a movement suddenly changes. It loses its energy and the original quality of the movement and experience is diminished. For instance, a client stood up while making an unintentional energetic and strong upward thrust with his arms along with a loud sound. To unfold this I asked him to do the same movement again. I inquired if it would be ok for me to put my hands on his arms as they went up and for me to resist the movement. He was interested in the thing that had seemingly just popped out of him so he agreed. He thrust his hands up but only partially and made the sound then leaned forward making a smoothing movement parallel to the ground. The first part of the movement had an energetic quality and the second, the part parallel to the ground, had a soothing energy.  As he bent forward and moved parallel to the ground it was like the air went out of the process, there was no energy. There was a sense that something had gotten lost. I encouraged him to go back and do the movement again staying with the upward movement for a bit longer before going forward. To my surprise he went all the way up. He exploded upward against my hands smiling and enjoying the moment. He said he felt freedom and power which he holds back because he is afraid he will hurt someone with it. The movement edge helped guide us toward this vitalizing power which we went on to process further.

The movement edge, the sudden change in the movement accompanied with a loss of energy, helped us discover the incomplete movement which he called freedom and power. Identifying and working with it allowed the choice to go over it. In this situation my client went over the edge. In some situations it’s just enough to know the edge there and to work on the dynamics around it. In any case the thing on the other side of the edge is the thing your client can almost not do. It is a challenge to his everyday identity because of various personal experiences, familial and cultural norms, or his personal myth. Movement provides a less threatening way to go over edges. From the experience of going over an edge in movement my client can experience his power outside of the dynamics that create the edge. He can get to know it as something that is useful to himself and others, not only dangerous as he may have experienced it used on him.

Working with a Dream

Movement is a powerful way to work with dreams. Dreams or dreamlike experiences seek meaning. We ask ourselves when we wake up from a dream, what does it mean? The most common approach is analysis; thinking about the experience of the dream to find its meaning. For example a client dreamed that her friend is riding her bike. She starts to really enjoy it and rides with all her might. Just as she starts to do that she falls off of her bike and lands on her head.

When my client analyzed the dream she said she had a task before her and thought the dream meant that she shouldn’t get too carried away with putting too much into it and enjoying it. She felt the dream indicated that she needs to really focus on the task of just going forward and stay on the bike. She saw it as a cautionary tale. Getting too carried away and enjoying yourself is dangerous. While this is not a bad way to interpret a dream it usually leads to something that is known. My client has a well-developed sense of duty. This was similar to how she interpreted her dream.

A powerful alternative is unfolding the dream by experiencing the various parts of it. You can do this in many ways including: acting out parts of the dream or acting like a figure in the dream; showing actions of the dream or the atmosphere; letting the essence of a dreamfigure move you; dancing the various “energies” of the dream.

We focused on the fall and found a way to enact it in my office. Going through the air was ecstatic. She said it was like being freed from her task as she flew. She loved the weightless freedom.4Here we are working with the energies of the dream not the everyday reactions to the situation in the dream since my client wasn’t disturbed by the situation. For some people you may need to process the reaction to such a strong dream first.

Landing upside down, when she did it in the safety of an arm chair, helped her see the world upside down. When she stayed there and looked she saw how she is oriented to the rules of gravity with everything ordered. She played by the rules, doing hard work to get to her goals. She said breaking the rules of her work habits being more playful and seeing the world upside down would help her do her task more effectively and creatively. She needs to be upside down more.


When working with movement you are interacting with a world that presents itself through experience, not ideas and words. It is often accompanied by images, impressions, feelings, and memories. This can be a non-linear world full of unexpected, magical and surprising directions. For this reason, it is beneficial to have contact with your deeper self. Do some form innerwork before you work with clients or with yourself. Find a dual state: on one hand be somewhat altered and in contact with your deeper self on the other be aware of your and your client’s goals. Notice when your everyday linear mind is struggling with trying to understand what’s going on and let it know that it will become clear. Let the experience, the movement answer the questions of the everyday linear mind.

Movement allows you to work directly with experience without knowing what that experience means; the meaning will make itself known through the experience. Movement is a valuable/powerful way to develop curiosity and acceptance. Simply notice and be with what is happening, what is moving, and accept it as an aspect of the Tao. Bring your curiosity and through that give experience a home. Notice and work with edges. Because you don’t know what a movement means ahead of time develop a tolerance for not knowing and not having to ascribe a meaning to it too soon. Simply witness it as you notice, amplify, work with edges and encourage it and be a midwife to its birth. Bring your learning into other channels as well. Integration means bringing in the other channels using all your processwork skills to weave the experience into the tapestry of the life of whomever is working. Creatively use yourself and your skills as an art and personal practice. I hope you have fun playing, working, experimenting with it.


1 As a helper or facilitator doing Processwork Movement Work you need to stay open to experience and willing to support experience that doesn’t always make sense.
2 Beginners mind = regarding an experience as if for the first time.
3 This questions will most likely be answered by the primary process. It will lack the depth of unfolding the experience directly.
4 Here we are working with the energies of the dream not the everyday reactions to the situation in the dream since my client wasn’t disturbed by the situation. For some people you may need to process the reaction to such a strong dream first.
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