ROST is the abbreviation for Resource Oriented Skill Training the name for the psychomotor skill training used as a key component in Relational Trauma therapy.
Psychomotor skill training was an essential part of the methodology in “Skolen for Kropsdynamik” the psychomotor-school, I (Merete Holm Brantbjerg) was trained at 1975-1978.
The skill training was further developed in Bodynamic Analysis and from 2003 and on I have further developed and refined it together with my co-trainers in the Training in Relational Trauma therapy and in all open workshops.
Psychomotor skill training has been my specialty ever since my psychomotor-training.
The skill training builds on knowledge about psychosocial skills connected to our motor-skills and on knowledge about defence-mechanisms represented in the muscles.
From the beginning it has fascinated me, that it is possible through simple and precise bodily exercises to awaken resources and skills in the body and that it in the same time is so challenging to do it in a way that can be integrated in the personality. I discovered myself as a psychomotor-student that sensations and parts of me, that had previously been unavailable to me, awakened. I felt aliveness and sensuality. I felt my centering, an experience of coming home to myself deep inside my body. That awakened hope and joy. And I experienced, that I couldn’t stay in contact with these resources. Maybe within a couple of hours or a day they were gone again and I didn’t know how I had lost them again. That was frustrating and painful.
These experiences both the alivening, hopeful ones and the frustrating, painful ones started the drive in me, that has led to my method-development. A curiosity and inner necessity for grasping the mechanisms behind our access to and our loss of access to psychomotor skills and resources connected to them.
The development of psychomotor skills is an integrated part of our personality-development. Muscle-activity is part of any psycho-social skill.
Muscles in our arms are involved in regulating contact through grasping, holding, pulling, letting go, pushing away, keeping at a distance etc. Grasping with the hands is also part of grasping cognitively.
Muscles around our physical balancepoint support both physical and emotional centering.
All the musclegroups in the trunk participate in containing and expressing emotions, sounds, energy. (In the article "The Body as Container for Instincts, Emotions and Feelings" you find a series of psychomotor exercises connected to coping with emotions")
The muscles in the back are involved in holding us upright and they provide support for moving forwards and for facing the world with the frontside.
The muscles in the legs hold skills, that relate to stading and walking staying upright, stepping forward or backwards, stand firmly, ground through the feet.
Muscles on the outside of legs and arms are involved in boundarying.
In this handout you can see a simplified overview of psychomotor skills connected to 5 overall muscle-groups: Muscles on the backside, the frontside, the outside, the inside and the muscles involved in rotation.
Psychomotor skills can be systematized in many ways. The goal of the categorization of skills made in ROST is to describe categories of skills, that matter in a trauma-healing-process.
The categories of skills are:
Coping with emotions
Coping with high arousal-states
The presence skills are: Flexibility, centering, grounding, boundaries/containment, regulating contact (arms, eyes and breathing) and orienting. These six skills are basic to all other categories.
In this exercise manual you find short descriptions of each of the presence skills and concrete exercises. The manual starts with exercises done sitting on a chair, which makes it easy to use them in many daily life contexts. You also find a guiding for how to relate to the exercises. The manual has been updated summer 2017, so it is adapted to the teaching in Relational Traumatherapy now.
You can also watch the video on the frontpage of this site - it shows examples of instructions in some of the presence skills to support getting present in the context of a conference.
An example of a couple of exercises, that can support presence here and now:
Pay attention to your body right now. Which concrete body sensations do you notice?
Notice your feet and your sitting bones, especially if you are sitting down. Move into a symmetrical position with equal weight on right and left side. Sense the connection between your body and the ground sense that your weight is meeting the ground and the ground Is meeting you. Take some time to let these sensations come to the foreground of your awareness.
Become aware of your centre-area the area in front of your lowest lumbar vertebras, in the centre of the body. Sense that your breathing can touch the area with a widening on the in-breath and a gathering on the out-breath.
Then make a cross-movement, where your right knee and left elbow move towards each other and then left knee and right elbow. The movement can be done both standing and sitting. When you have connected to the rhythm of the cross-movement, then experiment with dosing it differently. You can make the movement big, powerful, with a swing to it where knees and elbows meet physically or you can make very small movements, barely visible, where shoulder and hip lightly move towards each other or you can almost just think the movement. Or you can find options somewhere in between. Go for ways of doing the cross-movement, that increases your contact with you centre-area, meaning that you feel it more. Be open to the possibility that a low dosage of the movement can have a powerful impact. For some people it provides more contact to the experience of centring, when you do the movement small. For others it supports centering better, if you do the movement with more physical power and for others centering is supported in different ways dependent on how the movement is done.
The principle of dosing used in the guiding above is a core aspect of ROST and of the development, that has been added to psychomotor skill training in the Moaiku context.
“Dosing” a psychomotor exercise means that you can experiment with size, speed, rhythm, amount of physical strength, when doing the exercise. You are active yourself in finding your own direction from within, your own inner authority instead of having the authority placed in the exercise or in what you think the trainer wants you to do. The interaction between the person guiding an exercise and the one or ones who are receiving the guiding is changed.
Through individual dosing the exercises can be adapted to different bodily patterns impacted by either tension (hyper-response) or giving up/low energy (hypo-response) and the different patterns and dosing-styles are met equally. Low or high dosage is equally valuable. The goal is to find a dosage or more than one that supports the individual in accessing sensations that feel resourcing bodily and emotionally.
This norm of giving equal value to high and low dosing invites equal contact and acceptance of differencies in energylevel which means that automatic dominance- and submission-patterns go more in the background.
You can read more about “dosing” and other core aspects, that clarify ROST as a psychotherapeutic method, that can be used both when working with personality-development and with trauma-healing in the following articles: Resource Oriented Skill Training as a Psychotherapeutic Method and The Relational Aspect of Resource Oriented Skill Training.
As described above, an abundance of skills are connected to our muscles we are born with that potential. In the same time it is not just easy to access or stay in contact with these potential resources. We all know the pain and frustration of “loosing ourselves” not saying no or yes in due time, not bringing forward what matters to us, behaving in unbalanced ways, not being able to sense ourselves etc.
When we have this kind of experience, it means that some of the psychomotor skills have gone “lost” to a bigger or smaller degree. Skills an be fully or partially unavailable as part of a general defensive pattern or as an acute “solution” to a stress-full situation.
The focus of Resource Oriented Skill Training is to establish or re-establish contact to psychomotor skills through regulating or negotiating the defence-patterns represented in the muscles: tension and giving up/low energy (hyper- and hypo-response). The negotiation with the patterns happens through a dosing process, that both respects the defence-patterns, as they are, and invites change.
Extract about muscle-response from the article: Hypo-response the Hidden Challenge in Coping with Stress:
“Muscle response is the term used in Bodynamic Analysis to describe levels of muscular fullness and presence.
Bodynamic Analysis differentiates between 3 types of response neutral or balanced response, hyporesponse, and hyperresponse, and also between different levels of hypo- and hyperresponse.
A muscle can be characterized by “full” presence corresponding with the muscle’s psychomotor function being readily available to a person’s consciousness and freedom of choice.
A muscle can be characterized by tension /hyperresponse) corresponding with the psychomotor function being controlled and held back. Free access to use the skill in action is not available for the person, since the choice is impacted by a pattern of control.
Finally a muscle can be characterized by loss of energy, deadness, lack of fullness (hyporesponse) corresponding with a person’s access to the psychomotor function being impacted by giving up, distance, loss of energy, or inability to act. A strong hyporesponse means the skill disappears completely out of reach of conscious choice.
Hypo- and hyperresponse are seen as coping or defence strategies brought into use when we are confronted with situations or experiences where we can’t find a way for our inner experiences and our impulses to be contained in interaction with the social context we are in. The confrontation between our personal experience and acting impulse and our surroundings’ rejection, denial, etc. has to be solved in some way. Muscular giving up or control are possible “solutions” making way for adapting to the context we at a given time must function within. These “solutions” leave us locked in “decisions” expressed as locked patterns.”
Two training-principles are essential when negotiating with hyper-response, tension and with hypo-response, giving up/low energy. Tense muscles can be invited to let go, relax or release held back energy. Muscles impacted by giving up can be invited to build up energy, keep energy, become active.
The above guiding into bodily presence contain examples of both principles.
Bringing the body into a symmetrical position with both feet on the ground and both sittingbones in the chair and inviting the body to land, let our weight come down to the ground and the chair holds an invitation to let go in tense muscles. Letting ourselves be carried by the ground instead of working hard to carry ourselves.
The invitation to experiment with different dosages in the cross-movement around the physical balance-point contains both principles.
If you do the cross-movement in a high dosage-style big movements, swing in the movement, maybe add a sound when finalizing the movement energy is released. Tension in muscles can let go, if you do the movement that way. You can come from static tension to dynamic activity and the impulses and emotions, that were held back come closer to consciousness.
If you do the cross-movement in a lower dosage smaller and slower movements or really small movements energy is built up in muscles the energylevel in the muscles heightens. This way of doing the movement invites hypo-responsive muscles out of giving up. The impulses and emotions, that were given up come closer to consciousness.
See this model, that shows the movement from hyper- and hypo-response to balanced response through modification of the defence-patterns.
In the article Hyporesponse - the Hidden Challenge in Coping with Stress, you can read more about the specific challenge connected to working with the hypo-responsive defence-pattern.
If you are interested in more information about the psychological potential in each muscle, you can buy the book: ”The Body Encyclopedia: A guide to the Psychological Functions of the Muscular System” Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic written by Lisbeth Marcher and Sonja Fich.