In my early forties, I decided I wanted to experience a form of body therapy known as structural integration (or, more popularly, “Rolfing,” after the originator of the method, Ida Rolf). This process involves deep massage and manipulation of the muscle fasciae to realign the body in more appropriate relation to gravity, to correct imbalances caused by entrenched muscular contractions, and to open areas of blocked feeling and energy. When treatment is successful, it leads to a general freeing up of the capacity to feel, greater awareness of and sensitivity to one’s own physical processes, improved overall coordination, superior balance, and increased energy. Not everyone gains these benefits to the same degree (or at all), but for me it was very much the right treatment at the right time in my development. I felt lighter than I had in years. I experienced a general deepening of self-awareness. I felt freer emotionally. I felt as if walls within myself had dissolved. And I had more energy. I was not surprised that I felt better. What did surprise me-what I was completely unprepared for was the change in my perceptiveness concerning other people.
During this period I was leading a number of psychotherapy groups, and my clients volunteered that they could notice changes in me week by week as the Rolfing progressed. I had had very little formal training in working with the body in psychotherapy, yet I found I was now able to “read” bodies to a new and astonishing degree. Slight changes in facial expression or eye movements, shifts of posture, subtle variations in ways of standing or sitting, changes of skin color, alterations in breathing patterns all suddenly seemed to convey volumes of information to me as clearly as articulate speech. It was as if, in becoming more transparent to myself, I had shifted to a space that allowed others to become more transparent to me.