Published in the Journal of The Rolf Institute®
In a sense, support is what Rolfing Structural Integration® is all about.
Dr. Rolf realized that if a body related in a balanced way to the gravitational field, that field becomes a source of lift and support rather than struggle. But our experience of support or the lack of it is not only a physical phenomenon, such as feeling that “my legs dont support me”. We also experience it psychologically: “Im feeling a little insecure”. And even spiritually: “I wish there were something in the universe I could depend on”. The issue of support has significance and meaning that go far beyond the vertical stacking of body segments.
Support is a central theme for every human life
We must have it to exist, function and grow. If we cant get it in a natural easy way we must try our best to support ourselves in whatever way we can: with tension, with holding and bracing, with rigidity. Most of us have our own version of a compensatory pattern of support, a pattern of holding that serves to make us feel more secure, more supported.
Support is the catalyst for change
Crucial for change, support is especially needed for the process of change. Any transformation requires some kind of support for it to be secure and lasting. Unsupported changes or openings in the body are bound to be only transitory or temporary experiences if there is no foundation for them to stand or build upon. Many times we cannot easily evolve or maintain our potential level of openness or integrity because of difficulties or uncertainties about our support system; be it our legs, our relationships, or our place in the universe. If this is the case, we are bound to revert back to our old, more “secure” patterns.
True Support vs. False Support
When our true support is not available to us for whatever reason, we suffer in innumerable ways. We feel unsupported in all walks of life. We experience insecurities and uncertainties of all kinds. We have doubts. We are anxious and afraid. We are not able to truly trust anything. At some level we feel shaky and unstable. We somehow feel disconnected from what is most real in us.
All of these, “symptoms” can be more or less covered or defended against and so not be conscious or obvious. We are all familiar with some of the psychological manifestations of false support such as hard-headedness, rigidity, stubbornness, and willfulness. Regardless of our outer posturing or how we prop ourselves up, a state of deficiency and supportless-ness will be present to the extent that real support is missing.
We simply need a minimum amount of support in order to live our lives. If we are cut off from our real support, some kind of compensatory support will be created and is no doubt operating. We just have to feel supported and secure in whatever way we can. False support is the next best imitation when the real thing is not available to us. It is a way that we can shore ourselves up. Though it functions in a similar way to real support, it is not a natural part of our being-ness; it is compensatory, an attempt at creating genuine effortless support. The difference in the true and the false is in the source from which they come. One flows from our core; the other is manufactured by ego and maintained by tension. One is just being; the other is a bracing.
As Rolfers™, we see false support all the time, and much of our work deals with this layer of experience. It is the domain of compensation, character armor, holding patterns, contractions, rigidities, and efforting– the bodies manifestations of ego identification. It is how we hold ourselves in all kinds of ways to compensate for our lack of real balance. It is not that this kind of support is bad; it serves an important function, but it does so while exacting a tremendous price from us in terms of energy, tension and pain. Our unique patterns of compensations must gradually and gently be unwrapped to allow us the possibility of tapping into our true, intrinsic support which naturally arises from within.
In the Rolfing Structural Integration® concept, true support comes when the body is in alignment. We call this being in your “Line”. When certain relationships are established in the body, we can let go of our tension and holdings, opening a channel of potentiality, a space that can become filled with a supportive kind of presence. It is this presence that is true support. True support gives us the sense of having a firm, solid foundation to stand on. This supportive feeling is experienced both physically and psychologically. We know where we stand. We are certain in our stance, our hearts, our minds, our lives. Having a foundation imparts a sense of security. Security and support go hand-in-hand. When we are supported we feel stable, solid, relaxed. When we are supported, we are naturally secure and confident. This inherent confidence will be evident in terms of our bodies, our actions, our words, everything. There is an unquestioned sense of certainty, and so an implicit confidence about ourselves and our world.
Support gives the experience of being grounded. There is a sense of being grounded in the world, a feeling of being connected to reality in a very basic, fundamental way. Its like we and the universe have the same roots. There is a sense of really living in our bodies, of being really present in the flesh in a concrete, definite way. Nothing is abstract; everything is concrete, present, defined, and grounded in the here-and-now. We are connected to and part of existence in a very direct, basic and solid way. This supportive presence is a firm support, but at the same time it has a sense of resiliency. It is solid and immovable, yet responsive and adaptable. We are planted and grounded like a mountain, but capable of flowing like a liquid. When we move, we flow; and there is a sense of real will that is free, capable, unalterable, yet still flexible and flowing. There is a certainty and a confidence about the flow, as if it is an aligned force that just moves. There is no stuttering, no hesitation, no fear, no doubt about our actions, our perceptions, our movements. At the same time, there is complete responsiveness to the moment; there is absolutely no rigidity, stubbornness or holding of any kind. Here is no effort involved in either the support or the flow. It all happens with no effort whatsoever. Trust: implicit in the experience of true support is a very basic kind of trust. It is a feeling of trusting ourselves, our bodies, our environment without even thinking about them. It is a trust that is ultimately steady, enduring, and unshakable, regardless of external circumstances. We find ourselves simply trusting and being secure in reality, trusting what is happening and in what may happen.
“Humans have always developed in the gravity pull of the earth and still live within it. They must make their peace with this field of energy. To the extent that they fail to make peace and mistakenly carry on the war, gravity wins every time. The energy of this field can enhance or dissipate the energy of the individual man. You cannot change the position of the energy field of the earth, in space, but you can change the energy field of the man.
The question remains: to what extent could Rolfers create a small population able to live within the gravity field without an on-going, everlasting war, without the constant expenditure of precious human energy merely to carry on life within the gravity field? If we could create such a population, what would be its characteristics? I am not interested solely in physical structure, although that is really of basic importance especially in terms of physiological well-being. What will be the psychological and emotional characteristics, the behavior both of the individual and of a group composed of such individuals? How would these more vertical, demonstrably more conscious individuals compare with random, less conscious humans who tread the surface of the earth today?”
-Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D. 1977