Jet lag and new course excitement have me wide awake at 4am. I’m starting the Structural Awareness course on Sunday and as part of the pre-reading I have been leafing through Stanley Kelemans book Emotional Anatomy
Firstly let me be straight, I haven’t read the whole book yet, but if earlier today I doubted I could finish it, right now, and did I say its 4am? I suspect I’ll have it finished by tomorrow. It just got me hooked!
Kelerman, by viewing the body as a system of tubes and pumps, explains how individual body patterns are developed through ‘insults’.
‘From a somatic perspective the term ‘insults’ refers to all the events internal and external that invoke the startle reflex.’
Don’t let the word ‘insult’ throw you off as we know not all startles are a negative experience as the word ‘insult’ would suggest. I suppose my own explanation of it would be to call it an ‘assault’ rather than an insult. This may allow a broader interpretation of the word to include anything that assaults the senses, good or bad. The more I read, the more the word ‘insult’ made sense to me but for this short piece I might just use the word ‘assault’.
Now according to Kelerman the ‘startle’ response can be broken down into 6 stages: Investigation; Bracing; Aversion; Solidity; Submission and Defeat; and he has wonderful art work in the book depicting the different physical reactions.
So something happens, a fright, a surprise, there is an ‘assault’ and you get startled. Depending on how intense the assault is you may go through one or more of the stages of startle. The sequence is not defined and you may go through any stage in any order. When the cause of assault is gone you return to neutral, this is the generally understood. However if the assault is repeated or consistent ‘a reaction can persist until it becomes a continuous part of the structure’. Or a person can adopt a standard startle response to all types of assault and it becomes a continuous part of the structure’ In more familiar language, A continuous assault can feel like ongoing stress and a continued startle response is ‘being stressed’ Person A might get stressed in a submissive way where as person B might get stressed in a bracing ‘back off’ way.
Anyway this all might seem obvious to some or a new perspective to others but it’s an area of that I am eager to explore more. If it’s possible for emotional traumas, ‘insults’ to affect your physical structure then it must be possible through physical treatments to release insults from the body and break patterns of recurring injuries. I believe this because I have experienced it myself and have heard many other similar stories over the years.
But the question that really woke me up when I should have been getting sleepier relates to the surprise side of the startle response. When you sneak up on someone and scare them why is it so fricken funny! Where does laughter fit in the stages of startle!. When the insult has disappeared, we don’t just go straight back to neutral, there’s another stage, release, relief, joy, accompanied by laughter. It’s what we call ‘havin’ the craic’ and it may even be healing! So the next time you get the urge to scare the crap out of your sister, be sure to remind her its in her best interest. And maybe we can explore a new way to avoid adding insult to injury by genuinely trying to find out ‘what’s the craic?’