Formative PsychologyA somatic approach to therapy and living, created and developed by Stanley Keleman
This page is here for those who want to know more about how I work. However, it is NOT important for clients to read or understand any of it. Formative Psychology is not the only theoretical approach that I draw upon when helping my clients. Systems, psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, and humanistic, along with other somatic approaches inform our sessions. At this point, my training is integrated such that I practice intuitively, so my clients (and I) rarely notice a theory at work. What is important is that it feels good to talk with me and that doing so is helpful, which you will know within the first session or two.
The following is my own unofficial description of Formative Psychology based on my six years of experience (2001-2006) at Stanley Keleman's Center for Energetic Studies. As a client of Mr. Keleman, a consistent workshop attendee, a member of his group for professional therapists, and an employee/supervisee of someone who had been at his Center for seventeen years, I also taught Formative Psychology for graduate students and professionals. All that said, there is no certification process to become a Formative Psychotherapist, and I am not affiliated with CES or Mr. Keleman.
We are continually forming and re-forming as a means of adapting. Problems arise when we are overly-formed (i.e. too rigid or set in our ways) or under-formed (i.e. too porous or chaotic) to meet the demands or expectations of the environment or situation.
Examples are the spouse who alienates his or her partner with rules and ways of doing things that must be followed (rigid) or the spouse who feels deprioritized or even invisible because he or she unable to assert his or her will and identity (porous). The over-formed must learn to soften while the under-formed must develop more firmness in order to relate in a mutually satisfying and sustainable way.
Form, as it is being referenced here, is not merely an idea or attitude, and it is not about physical fitness or style. Form is our literal shape, how it exists in space and the quality of our interior as it is organized in relationship to that. Our life exists and transpires in the body we are given in concert with the one we make (how we hold and how we use ourselves) over time.
Different shapes elicit different sensations, capacities, feelings, thoughts, and interactions. When I hold myself upright, my blood supply is channeled to my larger muscle groups and to my brain, I am prepared to assert, combat, if need be. When I curl over to hold a baby, I make my belly soft and warm with circulation, slow, accessible and nurturing. With both stances and all of those in between and beyond, an array of thoughts and feelings are potentiated and emerging that invite interior reactions and reinforcement (this feels good, pleasurable, or, this is challenging, engaging) and exterior responses (He is a threat, I have to brace myself or fight back, or, he is gentle, I can be at ease).
Then, of course, we are compelled to react (or respond) to the environment we've incited (or participated in).
Managing our form empowers us to influence our interior and exterior circumstances, and therefor, our experience. At the same time, self-management allows us to differentiate ourselves from our reflexes, whether inherited from biology, culture, family, or simply practiced over time. When I inhibit my impulse to yell at the driver in front of me, I defy years, perhaps decades if not generations of habituated behavior. In the absence of indulging this instinct to yell, a new behavior, with all associated muscular, neural and synaptic activitiy, sensation, and experience buds. With practice, the new behavior becomes replicable, accessible, and enduring. The new pattern is one of my own and an additional gift to my children or whomever I am around. Self-management involves me in the process of my own forming, distinct from hand-me-down habits. I am participating in the creation of my own unique, personal identity.
The goal is not to reject or break from our roots, but to give them greater dimension, to expand the array of behaviors available to me. I am able to act with specificity to the situation - to adapt.