Polarity Therapy: A Personal Journey
By Jim Feil, PTP
I’m presently in my 51st year of having some form of the Polarity Principle and Polarity Therapy actively influencing my everyday and professional life. Of course, I had exposure to versions of Polarity before that – in science classes, as well as in arts, humanities and philosophy courses. And in personal relationships, and in sexuality. But when I came across Dr. Stone´s Purifying Diet early in 1970, his encyclopedic big books later in the year, and finally met Pierre Pannetier towards the end of that year, the “die” of my personal destiny was cast in a way I could never have imagined. This article touches very briefly into my personal journey with Polarity, and with where I find myself now in relation to this great work.
I met Dr. Stone in 1971 and took three seminars with him before he retired in 1973. In those seminars I met people who would become lifelong friends and colleagues – Ray Casteliino, Cindy Rawlinson, Stephen Arroyo, and Jim Said, among others. I was so impressed by Dr. Stone and the wisdom he communicated, I left my doctoral program in English Literature in 1973 to join Pierre´s Polarity practice in Orange, CA. In his practice I saw 8 people a day, 5 days a week, either in tandem with him or on my own when he was away teaching. I learned what was possible with the general session and its variants. After 2 1/2 years it was time to move out on my own, and I settled in the Polarity mecca of the time, Marin County, CA. That was followed by sitting on the first APTA Board, teaching Polarity at JFK University, then in Orinda, CA, becoming a chiropractor, and moving to Europe to teach Polarity, now in my 30th year in Barcelona. That does it for my personal trajectory – whew! So much for the last 50 years.
As we all know, over the years Polarity Therapists have assimilated many influences into their practices and teaching, including Craniosacral Biodynamics, Pre- and Perinatal work, Somatic Experiencing, Focusing, Nonviolent Communication, and much more. For some people, these other systems may have pulled them away from Polarity itself, or dominated their thinking at the expense of the Polarity perspective. Certainly the generational changes from the time of Dr. Stone inevitably required some add-ons, and especially in the kind of process work that seemed to be needed as we worked with Polarity over time. Dr. Stone himself opened the door to this evolution of the work, summarised in the following quotation:
“Our research in Psychiatry would benefit greatly if we could reduce this jumble of man´s mental-emotional impulses to an exact science of mental-emotional anatomy, coordinated with the physical one. Then a sound Psycho-physiology and even a Pathology of these finer energy fields could be established. This would be a great step forward in the science of understanding the mystery of man’s complex being, which defies all present man-made rues and findings”. Dr. Stone, Bk III, Polarity Therapy, p.14
Dr. Stone, of course, did an amazing job of bridging the energy model with classic anatomy and physiology, in relation to the nervous system, body biomechanics and other physiological systems, as seen in the great range of his work. Polarity Therapy addresses mental and emotional blockages in various ways as well. A close reading of his work shows how he anticipated some of the concepts summarised these days in the Polyvagal Theory of Stephen Porges.
However, my engagement with Polarity led me forward in my own evolution, and in 1981 I sat in on my first seminar with Stanley Keleman, developer of Formative Psychology. In 1985 he published his groundbreaking book, Emotional Anatomy, as if heeding the words of Dr. Stone. The experience of studying with him was profound. I found a very different kind of work, yet built virtually on a polarity understanding and a shared set of principles. I discovered a different doorway into human process and healing, compatible with the vision I so much valued in Polarity. Both Polarity and Formative Psychology had developed a methodology so close to fundamental body function that they are almost isomorphic with the biological and energy laws that rule the construction, the forming of the body, as well as its growth, development and healing.
What Formative Psychology provided me was a powerful way of working more directly and interactively with the stories and clinical issues people bring to their therapists. Tablework, in a way, takes people out of their stories. What they normally organise in themselves in order to deal with everyday issues and situations falls away somewhat as they lie down and put themselves in someone else’s hands. Touching the body of course also touches their stories, or narratives to use a popular term, and what happens on the table will impact what occurs when they arise and meet their everyday lives again.
But I personally needed to supplement the basic Polarity tools with a more narrative-oriented work. Our lives are action-oriented. We work, love, play, interact, build, speak – all behaviours, all actions. As we tell our stories, which include why we have come to therapy, we make gestures, faces, show postural changes, evoke active emotion. So a story-telling process which includes ¨Being in the Action¨ of our stories as we express them, is extremely powerful. In doing so, we engage the formative process itself, that intelligence that began at conception and keeps shaping us and growing us for a lifetime.
Dr. Stone addresses the formative process and intelligence through the interaction of the elements and the three gunas. The step-down from the Primordial Mind Pattern into the caduceus, through space down to the densities of earth, and the interweaving of the elements in the involutionary and evolutionary circuitries are all part of a formative model. Keleman´s approach is more anatomical, although it identifies the Deep Pulse (or Long Tide) as the primary organising principle for all life forms. The pulse moves through and shapes the three germ layers of the embryo, the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm, as his equivalent of the five elements. We end up with a vision of what he calls the “Long Body”, which integrates our biological, our family and social, and our personal histories.
Keleman´s method of Formative Inquiry is a five step process which he calls the “Bodying Practice”. This procedure enables us to replicate in a voluntary way the embodiment intentions of our inherited, genetic ground. We participate in our own forming – in the assembling and disassembling of our habits and behaviour patterns – and evoke the great ancient wisdom we all carry within us, a wisdom capable of adapting our extended past to our present,
So this is an abridged version of where I have come to in my Polarity adventure. Each of us has our own journey, done in our own way, in our own time, in our own style. Polarity as a profession can serve our personal development and evolution, and teaches us so much about healing, living and ageing, death itself and possibly beyond. As someone once said, the work we do is less about the results we achieve through it, and more about the person we become as a result of dedicating ourselves to it.
Dr. Jim Feil, MA, DC, has over 50 years’ experience in energetic and somatic therapeutic practices and is a highly respected figure in the field. In 1971, he started his studies with Dr. Randolph Stone, the founder of Polarity Therapy, and is one of the few contemporary practitioners who is a direct student of Dr. Stone. He began studying Formative Psychology with Stanley Keleman in 1981 and went on to earn his Doctor of Chiropractic degree in California in 1986. He has taught Polarity Therapy, Craniosacral Biodynamics among other methodologies. He teaches internationally and specializes in using a range of verbal and body-oriented techniques to help resolve biological, somatic and psychological issues.