From our time in the womb to the time of our final breath, we face ever- changing challenges. The ways that we respond to the many struggles and demands of life become a part of who we are—our patterns, habits, and identities.
Depending on the nature of the challenge and our own supports and resources, we may respond in various ways. We may brace against the challenge. We may simply give up. Or we may be able to meet the challenge and move to the next level of development and maturity.
In our last trimester of pregnancy and through our birth we are faced with myriad struggles that influence our sense of place and belonging in the world. The challenges of growth and development in utero may give rise to fears, on a pre-verbal level, of being unworthy and unwelcome in life. When we are able to successfully grow and birth ourselves, we arrive in life with a clear sense of being and belonging in the right place.
Once we have arrived in this world, we have needs that must be met in order for us to survive. As we are unable to take care of ourselves at this vulnerable stage, we must learn some ways to communicate with caregivers in order to get those needs met. During this early, pre-verbal stage of life, we bond with the caregivers upon whom we depend to meet our needs. As we communicate our needs and have the satisfaction of having them met, we are also learning what our needs are. Gradually we develop skills to communicate our increasingly complex needs, and even to meet some of our own needs through, for example, soothing ourselves when we are distressed. As we mature, we learn to recognize and satisfy our own needs more and more, and communicate more effectively when we need help from others to satisfy those needs.
As we develop our ability to self-satisfy, we develop capabilities to venture forth, explore, and engage our worlds. As we experience and follow our own impulses of exploration, we develop agency that stretches our bonds with our caregivers. When all goes well, we begin to expand our tolerance for our autonomy and our own company—while also staying connected to others.
As we mature, we learn to self-direct in ways we choose. We develop strategies for moving forward, directing our impulses into actions, accomplishments, and contributions that shape our worlds. The directions we choose are influenced by our sense of belonging, by places where our needs get met that allow us to feel connected and respected in communities.
From this base of belonging, where we can recognize and satisfy our needs, where we can connect with others and with ourselves, we can move into emotionally rich relationships. Our maturing bodies become capable of sensual pleasure and delight. Our hearts may glow with the communion of connection that helps expands our capacity for love. At the same time, we may also be discovering ways that we are different than others, and have a unique stance and perspective in the world.
Growing up, we also go through a developmental phase that involves our place in a group or on a team. We discover ways to make contributions to a larger whole—family, work, sports or other cultural group–that honour the group as well as our own preferences for contributing.
Potentially there is also a kind of recursive process in our developing maturity. Our maturation involves a kind of integration or consolidation of former developmental stages, a seeming laying to rest of an earlier stage—yet these developmental challenges may continue to emerge, in different forms, throughout our lives. Maturity is not a threshold that we cross over, never to look back. Even as adults we will continually reassess, reeducating ourselves and rediscovering our individual truths.
As adults we meet life’s ever-changing challenges with our own collections of strengths and resources—as well as limitations that arise from incomplete mastery of earlier phases of development. And this collection shapes our predilection towards certain thoughts, feelings and behaviors. And these thoughts, feelings and behaviors become the ways that others know us, and the ways that we recognize who we are.
All of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are expressed through our bodies. We have gestures and expressions that come across as just our own. Have you ever noticed how you can recognize someone across the room, maybe even from the back, as they move in their signature form?
Through self-observation and through feedback of a trusted other, we can come to know ourselves through our movement style. We can even learn to recognize ways that particular stances and beliefs are demonstrated through our gestures, our ways of holding and moving our bodies.
All of this information becomes pertinent in the attempt to discover ourselves through our habits of movement. As we become more conscious of our own movement styles and propensities, including places of restriction, we can make new choices in our lives.
If our behavior is demonstrated through our movement and movement expresses the self, then we can make discoveries and changes in our thoughts, emotions and behaviors by modulating how we move.
Working with movement, we get to the heart of who we are.
Experimenting with new ways to move, we can make changes in patterns that no longer work for us.