In the somatic therapies professions there is a powerful set of teachings, which I have come to call the Circle of Satisfaction. In challenging, changing times, when fear and uncertainty are the order of the day, it is worth reflecting upon.
This particular circle teaching came to me through various teachers in the Hakomi Integrative Somatics discipline. I thank them for this shared insight. I hope you may find it helpful to shed some light on your personal walk at this time.
It is a circle, so it’s hard to say where it begins. For the sake of getting started though, let’s jump in with the step called Effective Action. Not a bad place to start, as it is often foremost in people’s minds. Especially at this time of the pandemic. There is currently a deep question about just what actions (or non-actions) we must take, and how effective they will ultimately be.
Of course, it doesn’t apply only to our choices to protect ourselves and our world from the spread of this virus. Effective Action covers so many areas of life and choice in each and every moment. From personal hygiene to human interaction, we all strive to take and enjoy effective action that yields the results we seek.
So, let’s say we take effective action… what follows? Satisfaction! This makes sense. If I am successful at taking effective action, this will lead to a sense of satisfaction!
Then? I can Relax! Ah, wouldn’t that be nice? To relax, let go, be complete, be able to rest from action and simply be rather than do. We are human beings after all, not human doings!
In the middle of our relaxation, we have time to reflect. This work happens on our lonely porch. In your own private room in your heart, you slow down enough to listen to the voice of your spirit within. From this rumination place much powerful insight has been delivered to humanity. Visions, theories, discoveries of awareness all arising from this inner state of being.
This place is the “final” stage of the circle of satisfaction, the place of Clarity. And from clarity, effective action arises once more. And around the circle we go again.
Effective Action leads to Satisfaction, that leads to Relaxation. And in our Relaxation, Clarity arises, and that leads us to more Effective Action!
Nice! Right? If only it could be this way. If only life could always run this smoothly.
We would protect ourselves from this virus through effective actions, that leave us satisfied, and help us discover that place of deep relaxation. Then clarity arises, about the whole experience.
Yet, it doesn’t always seem to flow so smoothly. There are blocks and danger zones along the way. In the somatic therapy world these have been termed Barriers.
Before we can take Effective Action for instance, we may meet a Response Barrier. We simply don’t know how to respond effectively, and so we may freeze and not respond at all. This can of course be a wise moment to pause and back up and look for a little more clarity before plunging ahead and making things worse!
Sadly, before we get to satisfaction, we may encounter a Nourishment Barrier. This is a formidable barrier. Myriad examples can be explored that keep us from being satisfied, keep us from being nourished. One common one is that everything we consume comes with some level of toxicity. And in order to protect ourselves from exposure to toxicity we quarantine ourselves off from all contact.
I could go on and on and on about this wicked nourishment barrier, and sadly I have seen its effects on hundreds of clients over my three decades of therapeutic practice. It’s a tricky one indeed.
In this current situation of the Covid-19 epidemic, I had a powerful reflection. Back in the 90’s, the HIV virus was making it’s way around the world. It was very frightening to many people, until finally it was understood that the virus was only transmitted through sexual contact. The remedy then was simple, though not easy for everyone. Either abstain from sex, or use protective measures to halt the spread of the virus. it worked!
Effective Action grew out of Clarity, leading to Satisfaction and ultimately Relaxation.
With Covid-19 of course, there is still little clarity. With time and experience some clarity will likely arise. Yet truly effective action that is wide spread and known is still not the current reality. Satisfaction is but a dream, and relaxation far off over a distant horizon.
So the nourishment barriers go up! Ostensibly to protect us from the ravages of toxic consumption. Which of course ultimately also deny us any chance to attain satisfaction.
But let’s just say we do attain satisfaction, somehow, someway. We find ourselves satisfied that we’ve done all that we can, and it has yielded satisfactory results. What if even then we still do not allow ourselves to relax?
Ah, there’s the rub. No rest for the weary. Soldier on my friends. Proverbs like: “A man’s work may come and go, but a woman’s work is never done!” ring in our ears. Ever and always, another dirty dish to wash. Indeed the work goes ever on and on.
A British business theorist once coined the term ingellitance. (a clever play on the word intelligence, don’t you think?) Perhaps some of you may recall this reference. Sadly, I can’t remember his name at this time, and google searches yield nothing on this profound theorist. At any rate, one of the tenants of ingellitance is the idea that “work expands to fill the time allotted.” Indeed, this is a brilliant description of the barrier that keeps us from our relaxation!
In the circle of satisfaction, this is called the Completion Barrier. It’s that wall that is often so hard to pass through. It blocks you from ever getting to that moment when you say, “my work is complete.”
Every artist who has ever painted a painting knows this well. There’s always one more brush stroke, one more use of color, one more way of bending light to bring out just the right nuance. Until finally you say, “Enough! It’s done! I can co no more.” Truly, this is a big moment. When you finally set down your brush and walk away from the canvas.
The same holds true for activists of all stripes. Is the work ever done? Can you allow yourself to be complete just as you are, and where you are? This is getting past the completion barrier. In many ways, we are always a work in progress. Being able to pause from the flurry, however, is essential to get to the place of relaxation.
In this circle, please note that without relaxation, you will never get to clarity!
Funny that, clarity. In college, I had a professor who would lay great insights upon our young supple minds. He would look at the room of blank stares and query, “Clear as mud?” Did we have any chance of grasping the great insight he was sharing with us? Perhaps some, others not. Curious indeed.
So, how is it that clarity arises? And what blocks it? Sadly enough, another block can stop us, it’s called the Insight Barrier. This is where we actually stop ourselves from having any clarity or insight! So many reasons why we might do this. Perhaps it’s easier to stay in the “clear as mud” zone? At least here you can never be accused of being dull, or dimwitted… because you admit it up front!
Ah, many a great insight has been quashed by fear of being wrong!
And so, the danger zones abound. Response Barriers keep us from Effective Action. Nourishment Barriers keep us from Satisfaction. Completion Barriers keep us from Relaxation. And Insight Barriers keep us from Clarity.
Knowing where you are in any one of these stages of the Circle of Satisfaction can help you to know where and when to pause and search for a different tack.
Indeed, you can sail in all directions, except directly into the wind!
Sometimes tacking is the only way to make any forward progress. Taking a step back, or a calculated side step is often necessary before taking a step forward!
Here we are all of us at various stages of life and process. The grand side step is underway! For my part, I support us all in being aware of all the barriers that might keep us from attaining the clarity we need to lead us to effective action, to satisfaction and ultimately to a sigh of relaxation in the midst of this great storm.
Wishing you all well with your journey through life. Keep up your good spirits as we weather this storm together. Blessings to all who provide heroic support at this time. And to all of us who labor under these conditions, may we all discover the path forward into the ongoing Circle of Satisfaction!
In loving health and peace to you all,