On Forms of Vitality
Exploring the dynamics of foolishness
This foolsletter has been preoccupied with movement. Everything moves. Sure. But this understanding is far reaching. As I therapist, I use movement every day to begin to understand ‘what’ is happening with someone and how they are making their way through the world.
With movement, one can get a pretty good feel for another way before we begin speaking . Movement in human understanding is more important than language. More important than your story.
If you were to come into my office, I’m certain you’d have a lot to say. The details to you would likely be very important. To me, less so. I stat noticing what your words are doing. Your story tells me what you want me to think of you. Your actions, movements and dynamic way of showing up in the world? That tells me the truth.
This isn’t original thought. Several years ago I came across the work of Daniel M. Stern MD. Stern studied babies. He died in 2012. He was known for his work that connects research and practice and vice versa. His work is mostly known by clinicians. He’s popular in Europe, especially in the Italian Gestalt therapy community.
This work has been so helpful that I’m hoping to popularize it among the self help crowd. There is much to be gained by detaching human experience from the frequently wrong stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the world.
Stern argues that there are five aspects to the dynamics of human experience. The word dynamic is a fun one.
Dynamic: of a process or system characterized by constant change, activity or progress.
We are always changing. Those with us are doing the same. As clinicians, leaders, partners and parents, we have the opportunity to observe, describe and attend to this aspect of peoples lived experience.
In his book Forms of Vitality, Stern wishes to “call attention to an aspect of human experience that remains largely ‘hidden in plain view.’ This is the experience of vitality. It is rarely talked about, yet vitality takes on many dynamic forms and permeates daily life.”
My goal here is to help you have a new and different relationship with your vitality1 by being better able to articulate what that is like. In order to do that, I've looked at how what motivates movement - fear or desire and how that impacts the intention or direction of our vital energy.
Stern suggests that there are five elements that make up vitality. The fundamental and primary thing for something to be living is movement. The other aspects are connected with that. Thus said, Stern’s five forms of vitality are:
Force / weight / intention / intensity
Over the next few weeks I’m going to use stories and examples to explore these concepts further both with yourself and the people you relate to every day.
How does this strike you?2 What would it be like using active, concrete, movement based language to describe experiences?
Here’s an experiment. Keep track of your day. When you tell someone about it, or write about it at the end of the day, tell the story not with narrative details or conjecture, but use metaphor to describe how things went in terms of movement, time, space, direction and force / intensity.
Does this make things spin differently for you?
Let me know below!
Vitality: the peculiarity distinguishing the living from the nonliving. 2 : capacity to live and develop also : physical or mental vigor especially when highly developed.
notice the language…