In this blog I  will be exploring the body, the muscles, nervous systems, fascia and organs and seeing how they all relate to each other.

I’m going to try to put up a new article every week or two.

This week I want to make a general point, which you might say is political. Is our body organised democratically?

Psychologists, Neuroscientists, Biologists and Physiologists all agree that there is no such thing as the individual. Descartes thought that there was – in fact he famously said “I think therefore I AM” and he even identified the seat of this central “I” to be the Pineal Gland in the centre of the brain.

Read Daniel Dennett’s book “Consciousness Explained” for the latest evidence to show that Descartes was wrong. A multitude of experiments show that, when we make a decision, many different autonomous impulses are competing with each other and the winner comes into consciousness. We actually make the decision a few seconds before we are conscious of having made it.

Neuroscientists are exploring how different parts of the nervous system are actually autonomous agents, like separate people, who communicate with each other. Oliver Sacks, in “The Man who Mistook his wife for a hat” writes about the weird and wonderful things that happen when this communication breaks down. For instance, people who have had their corpus callosum severed (which used to be done to treat epilepsy) find that the left and the right halves of their body are feeling , thinking, sensing and interpreting different things. But the people concerned don’t notice – they maintain the illusion of being one person.

Psychosynthesis has coined the term sub-personalities for almost autonomous aspects of ourselves. So one day we might feel and act like a hurt child, the next we might be a hard-nosed businessman, the next a loving father. All of these are me – I am a community. Deeper than these, there are other members of the me-community: Carl Jung described Archetypes which can be seen as aspects of personality which are common to many humans – sort of like ‘human instincts’. Just as a horse knows how to walk without being taught (and can do so within minutes of being born) – so a human knows how to be a Mother (nurturing, supportive, non-judgemental) or a Hero (brave, self-sacrificing, resilient, on a quest). You can see these appearing in children’s play. “I’m the king of the castle”, “Doctors and Nurses”, “Mummies and Daddies” etc.

But even deeper, the Enteric System is a network of 500 million neurons wrapping round the gut. It acts as a separate brain, which knows what the body needs and creates moods and hungers to satisfy them. The heart beats even if disconnected from the brain. Organs function fairly autonomously, they are not controlled by some central controller. Each cell only communicates with its neighbours and decides what to do from the feedback it gets from these close companions, not from some global system.

So I am a community.

The question is, what is the politics of the me-community? Is it an autocracy or a democracy?

In many cases only a subgroup of this large community makes decisions and has a voice to express itself. This means that the needs and desires of the other members of the self-group are ignored and suppressed.

This is the cause of many many physical and psychological problems.

So I think that one of the main aims of therapy is to help the person to be democratic within themselves.

That’s the point of this blog – to explore how to give voice to all the members of one’s community and to help them to communicate and cooperate with each other.

Bill Palmer

Bill Palmer was a founder and an ex-chair of the Shiatsu Society UK and was editor of the Journal of Shiatsu and Oriental Body Therapy . He teaches postgraduate training courses in Spain, Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, USA, Australia and the UK. He was, for five years, a trainer for the Gestalt Trust’s psychotherapy training programme in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

He has had a varied career in parallel with his therapeutic work: as a teacher in Islington Schools during the 70’s, as a postgraduate mathematician and physicist in London University, teaching media techniques in the Central School of Speech and Drama, holding a research post in Brunel University and acting as Managing Director of Interragate, a software company specialising in Artificial Intelligence. In 1986 he founded the School for Experiential Education with Clare Hayes and Elizabeth St John.

He started studying Shiatsu with Minoru Kanetsuka in 1974 as part of ongoing Aikido practice and then with Akinobu Kishi from 1979-1980. In 1980 he started teaching Zen Shiatsu in London. From 1980-1985 he came into regular contact with children with learning difficulties at the Central School of Speech and Drama, where he collaborated with Kay Coombes in making films of treatment for babies with Cerebral Palsy. Observations of these babies inspired his research into the developmental function of meridians. He showed in detail how the development of movement in infants follows the track of the Chinese Meridian system, which led to his belief that meridians could be used to re-stimulate blocked developmental processes.

He also trained in Chinese Herbal Medicine with Ted Kapchuk from 1982-84, Wolfson Voicework with Derek Gale and members of the Roy Hart Theatre from 1985-1992, Body Mind Centering with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen from 1988-1995 and has attempted to practice Dzog Chen under the wry guidance of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche.

In 1985 he started to synthesise these influences into a form of therapy which worked at the junction of mind and body through the meridian system. This eventually evolved into Movement Shiatsu and then into Developmental Process Therapy. These forms of therapy focus on helping people to realise the choices they have in their life and to teach them to become active within those choices. They specifically do not propose that any way of being is better than another.


Thanks to peanuts

Bill says about his work: “My central belief is that we, as individuals, are not wise enough to know what is best for another person. Therefore, I don’t try to understand what to do by diagnosis and theory. Instead, I focus on helping people to feel into themselves through their body sensations, and trust their natural life process to do the therapeutic work. My work is now more like education than therapy. Since I believe the meridians to be the pathways along which the mind learns to inhabit the body in childhood, they provide one of the best ways of helping a person’s awareness to reach hidden and blockaded parts of the self. The meridians are the guides, teaching us about ourselves through the body.”

He has written over forty articles exploring this approach


Inner Qigong

I’m excited to be starting a new weekly class in Frome next Wednesday 28th March. So here is a bit about what to expect. As other posts have said, my basic standpoint is that each one of us is a community. Our inner organs each have a personality and have intentions and needs. Each muscle …

A bit of Give and Take

Article by John Brooks   A Bit of Give And Take It wasn’t a “Road to Damascus” event but a gradual awakening but there I was in the circle of a workshop feedback session questioning the familiar terms of “Giver” and “Receiver” when describing the toucher and the touched in shiatsu. Or perhaps, on reflection, …


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