Alba & Emotional Effector Patterns: Clarifying Our Language
Alba is starting to become a shorthand term, used in reference to the emotional effector patterns discovered by a group of scientists in the 1970s. We create shorthand terms all the time in our attempts to simplify language, and find faster or easier ways to describe things. Consider how we commonly use Google now, rather than saying we are using an online search engine or browser, instead we say we will “Google it.” Likewise, common household products, like facial tissues are now referred to by their brand names, like Kleenex, instead of the actual product. These shorthand names can make language easier, but sometimes the resulting cost is that we skew meaning or lose perspective of the origins of a word, product, or technique. This is what is happening with the current language used when referring to the emotional effector patterns as “the Alba patterns” or just “Alba.” I have even seen people refer to it as ALBA, inferring that it is an acronym representing a longer title. I think it is time for all of us, including myself, to clarifying our language around the emotional effector patterns, so that we can clearly represent their origins, while also give credit to those who have created specific styles of teaching the patterns, which are two separate things.
Let’s first look at how and when the emotional effector patterns were discovered. In the 1960s and 70s, Susana Bloch was a full professor of neurophysiology who specialized in brain function and its relationship between biology and psychology. Her initial research was with animals. In the early 1970s, after a full career in brain research of animals, she proposed a shift. While developing psychology courses for the theater school of her university, she changed the focus of her research to how the brain functions with human emotions. From that point on, she and her colleague, Guy Santibáñez-H from the Medical School’s department of Physiology and Psychology, made remarkable discoveries on physiological activity and emotions. They also collaborated with Pedro Orthous, professor of Dramatic Art from the Drama department. We will refer to them as the BOS team (using the letters from their last names to create BOS).
The BOS team conducted research on emotions, monitoring the respiration rates as well as the heart rate, arterial pressure, and muscle tone of subjects reliving emotional states while under hypnosis. They wanted to measure as many physiological changes occurring during basic emotional states to see if specific universal patterns could be identified. The BOS team revealed a distinct pattern of physiological changes for each of the six basic emotions. Each emotion pattern consisted of involuntary physiological activities (brain activity, heart rate changes, modifications in skin conductance, etc.) as well as voluntary activities (facial expression, breathing patterns, and posture changes). The BOS team discovered our human biological emotional effector patterns.
Emotional Effector Patterns are precise breathing and muscle movement patterns. Each effector pattern has three parts: (1) a breathing pattern, (2) facial expression, and (3) postural attitude. All three parts work together to create one effector pattern, or biological code, that directly stimulates cells and organs. The resulting pattern creates a physical code that opens the door for one particular basic emotion to express throughout the entire body. If we need to develop a shorthand for these patterns, maybe call them HEEPs, for Human Emotional Effector Patterns. It would be far more accurate use of an acronym.
After the HEEPs were discovered, instructional methods started to emerge. The BOS team was the first to hypothesize that if a person learns the voluntary patterns discovered for each basic emotion, they could physiologically activate that emotion. For example, if a person started the breathing pattern identified with tenderness, and also adopted the facial expression and postural changes associated with tenderness, these voluntary actions would then trigger activities in the brain and heart rate also associated with tenderness. The entire body, inside and out, would then be engaged fully in the basic emotion of tenderness. In addition to testing the teaching of emotional effector patterns, and their resulting effects, they also created a neutralizing or clearing pattern and a step out process, to assist learners in shifting out of emotional states. This was the development of the first method for teaching the emotional effector patterns they called the BOS method.
Susana Bloch continued research on the emotional effector patterns throughout the 1970s and 1980s. While acknowledging that the scientifically discovered emotional effector patterns were published and available for anyone to read about and explore, she also recognized the need to develop specific approaches and tenets for teaching the emotion patterns. She proceeded to move beyond the BOS method for teaching the patterns and refined and trademarked her own system for instructing people to physically evoke emotions using the emotional effector patterns. Her system for teaching the patterns is called Alba Emoting™, derived from the Spanish word for dawn (alba) and the English word for expressing emotion (emoting).
The Alba Emoting method of teaching includes instruction on the emotional effector patterns, neutral, and Step Out as well as the incorporation of three tenets for instructional practice: style, ethic, and aesthetic. In general terms, the style of teaching Alba Emoting includes starting emotion pattern application with the breathing part of the pattern and initially applying each pattern with high intensity. The learner is given the space to experience the effects of the pattern without concern for perfecting the application. Eventually the individual’s system adopts a resonance with the imposed emotion pattern, and the emotion adapts into a less mechanical and personal style of expression. The ethic of Alba Emoting is meant to ensure that an instructor has a mature and spiritual approach to the philosophy of life and is using the patterns not as a tool for negative manipulation of people but for the good of humanity. Finally, the aesthetic tenet is a reminder that the emotional effector patterns are biological patterns that essentially serve as an approach to reconnecting with nature. Therefore, it is recommended that some semblance of nature is present when teaching the emotional effector patterns as a visual reminder of their roots.
Since developing this method in the late 1980s, Susana Bloch has trained a small number of trusted instructors to teach the emotion patterns and use the Alba Emoting™ teaching method. The teachers she personally certified continue to share the benefits of these scientifically supported patterns and to honor the foundations of the Alba Emoting approach to teaching, while also gradually developing their own approaches to teaching the emotional effector patterns.
Between 1999 and 2004, I trained for over seventy hours in three different workshops where the Alba Emoting method was used, including two in which Susana Bloch was a companion instructor. After serving as a teaching assistant for two additional workshops I was invited by Susana Bloch to come to Chile and study with her, as well as learn how others were teaching the emotional effector patterns in Chile. In October 2005, I spent a sabbatical with Susana Bloch in Chile, where she and I designed a full month’s private teacher training course for my studies of the emotional effector patterns and the Alba Emoting system of teaching. She helped me refine my practice of the emotion patterns, observed me teaching others, and then had me work with her on designing, planning, and teaching workshops. She also arranged for me to meet with and observe the teaching of other Chilean teachers.
Lately I have been re-reading my daily journal entries written during my time in Chile, and watching the video footage of my interviews with Susana. It has helped me refresh my perspective and clarify my language use concerning this important discovery in physical emotion regulation. My notes and video footage clearly reflect a time and place where the language used around the emotional effector patterns was clear and distinct. However, time and the desire to shorthand our language has muddied the verbal waters a bit too much, and I am just as guilty as the next person in contributing to this murky verbiage. However, my walk down nostalgic research notes and interview footage has awakened a determination to rectify the language gone astray.
Now I will stop writing for a while and use my online search engine (not Google) to research on the internet. Later I will purchase more facial tissues (not Kleenex) for my house. Meanwhile, every day I will work on clarifying my language use when referring to the differences between the emotional effector patterns and the teaching methods for the patterns. Maybe I’ll start calling the emotional effector patterns HEEPs. At least that would be accurate.
Written by Laura Bond, Master teacher and teacher trainer of the emotional effector patterns and Alba Emoting™ (Copyright, 2017 Pure Expressions, LLC)
 G. Santibáñez-H and S. Bloch, “A Qualitative Analysis of Emotional Effector Patterns and their Feedback,” Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science 21 (1986): 108–116.
 Susana Bloch, Pedro Orthous, and Guy Santibáñez-H, “Effector Patterns of Basic Emotions: A Psychophysiological Method for Training Actors,” Journal of Social Biological Structure, 10 (January 1987) 1-19.
 G. Santibáñez-H and S. Bloch, “A Qualitative Analysis of Emotional Effector Patterns and their Feedback,” Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 21 (1986): 108-116.
 G. Santibáñez-H and S. Bloch, “A Qualitative Analysis of Emotional Effector Patterns and their Feedback,” Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 21 (1986): 108-116.
 Susana Bloch, Pedro Orthous, and Guy Santibáñez-H, “Effector Patterns of Basic Emotions: A Psychophysiological Method for Training Actors,” Journal of Social Biological Structure, 10 (January 1987) 1-19.
 Susana Bloch, The Alba of Emotions: Managing Emotions through Breathing (Santiago: Grafhika, 2006), 25-55
 Susana Bloch, interviewed (video recorded) by Laura Facciponti at Susana Bloch’s house in Cachagua, Chile on October 5, 2005.
As we celebrate the month of Love, consider all the ways that loving relationships bring meaning, security, contentment, joy, and even health benefits to our lives. We receive tender love from our mother at birth, and from that moment on seek loving relationships and all the positive emotions wrapped around such relationships throughout our lives.
When we engage in loving and nurturing relationships that result in reinforcing positive emotions, we actually increase our levels of oxytocin (a healthy neuropeptide). Studies have shown the emotion of tender love, and consistent exchanges of actions often associated with this emotion like hugging, caressing, and loving touch produce high levels of oxytocin, which induce states of relaxation, low blood pressure and increased feelings of trust. The nurturing act of breastfeeding also produces oxytocin, and so breast milk nourishes the infant while also providing social-emotional reinforcement, feelings of trust and social sensitivity, and yet inhibits separation distress.
Loving relationships can also lead to more joyful play. The saying, “Too much work and not enough play makes Jack a dull boy” now has plenty of scientific support. Joyful play is essential in childhood for building endurance, intellectual resources and increasing creativity. As you mature play also fuels brain development. Yet, joyful play is not just for children. Adults need their own kind of joyful play. Play reinforces the practice of pushing your limits, making you want to achieve your highest potential and crosses over its influence into many areas of your life, including your intellectual, physical and artistic behaviors.
One particularly theory, called Broaden-and-Build, reinforces these benefits of joyful play and contends how they lead to building enduring personal resources. The theory holds that when you play with loved ones or within a positive and supportive community, all the positive emotions begin to interplay and the emotions act as a cause-and-effect chain resulting in a broader personal perspective and more flexible actions. For example, as you feel the joy in play, you push limits and develop interest in new things. You then explore new information and experiences, and expand yourself in the process. Then as you grow from this broader view on life, there is the urge to sit back and savor your surroundings, finding more contentment and feelings of tenderness and love. The theory also suggests a recurring cycle and sustainability of these emotions, thereby becoming a constant, and so as you establish this new norm, there is more desire to regularly play, explore, savor, and love.
As you celebrate the month of love, consider the many ways in which love serves us all and perhaps give an extra hug to that special friend, cuddle with your four-legged pets, laugh and play with children and adults alike, savor kisses with your special someone, and extend extra tender touches to your elderly wisdom keepers. Let LOVE prevail in your life. The benefits for all involved are deep and far reaching.
The information in this post was adapted from excerpts of The Emotional Body book, by Laura Bond. To learn more about the book and the opportunity (available until March 2nd, 2017) to reserve a first edition limited print copy of the book, click here. If you are interested in learning more about Emotional Body workshops, click here.
 Fredrickson, Barbara L (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the upward spiral that will change your life. Three Rivers Press, NY, pg 94.
 Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. New York: Oxford University Press
 Sherrod, L.R., & Singer, J.L. (1989). The development of make-believe play. In J. Goldstein (Ed.), Sports, games and play (pp. 1-38). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
 Panksepp, J. (1998). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, psychostimulants, and intolerance of childhood playfulness: A tragedy in the making? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7, 91-98.
 Fredrickson, B.L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300-319.
Expressing and purging feelings of sadness is an important part of being human. There are times in our lives when we need to give this emotion the attention it deserves. However, it is just as important for us to recognize when sadness no longer serves us well. Chronic or prolonged states of negative emotions, like sadness, release higher levels of stress hormones and can compromise the immune system. Chronic sadness can also eventually lead to depression. It is vital to our health and well-being to learn how to shift away from and fully release high stress emotions, like sadness, but many don’t recognize how this emotion is chronically present in day-to-day posture, and much of it largely influenced by our use of technology.
Our modern technology-centered lifestyles are contributing to the rise of depression. The rate of depression has increased tremendously across the entire industrialized world. In the United States the rate of depression is 10 times higher today than it was two generations ago, and roughly one in four Americans will suffer from major depression at some point in their lives. In developing (third-world) countries clinical depression cases are much lower, and in hunter-gatherer communities, like the Kaluli people of the New Guinea highlands, depression is practically non-existent. 
Modern technology (computers, internet, social media, cell phones, televisions) have in one sense made our lives easier, but along with these conveniences also comes social isolation, less exercise, and limited exposure to sunlight and the natural world. We are spending most of our days and nights indoors and often curling our bodies around computer keyboards, tablets, and cellphones or slouched in soft furniture watching television.
Slumped, or sinking and folding posture can affect self-esteem, decrease communication efforts, and increase the use of sad and brooding language. In a study comparing upright and slumped seated postures, researchers found that upright participants reported higher self-esteem, more arousal, better mood, and lower fear, compared to slumped participants. The study concluded that upright-seated posture can reduce negative mood and increase positive mood, and recommended the use of upright posture as a simple behavioral strategy for reducing negative emotions, like sadness, and building resilience to stress.
5 Physical Adjustments to Help Reduce Sadness
Spinal compression is a part of sinking posture, sending strong signals of sadness to the brain. Decompressing, or lifting and lengthening the spine, sends the opposite signal of happiness and lightness. A good way to feel the difference between the two states is to intentionally compress the spine and then decompress it.
- Start by sitting in a firm chair, and place a hand on top of your head and gently push your hand downward. Do you feel your spine press downward slightly, compressing?
- Then, by gently grabbing the top of your head, or a little bit of hair on top of your head, gently pull upward, encouraging your spine to decompress.
- Try this a few times, until you get the sense of this compression and decompression movement, then take your hand away and try doing the same action without pressing and pulling your head.
- Then try the same exercise while standing. After finding the lifting and decompressing state, try to maintain that for a while as you walk around and sit back down.
- See how long you can maintain this posture before it compresses again.
Elevating your posture will counteract the slump. A slumping posture feels like gravity is pulling your shoulders down more, moving them toward your hips.
- Start by slumping or slouching, and you may feel that your pelvis rocks back, or your low back presses back slightly, to decrease the space between your shoulders and hips.
- Now, go in the opposite direction and, working against gravity’s pull, lift back up again, sit up high on your “sit bones” and at the same time, decompress the spine.
- Try sitting in this posture for at least a few minutes, relaxing the muscles enough to allow your stacked skeleton to support the posture, rather than muscle tension.
- Try standing and walking with this elevated and decompressed posture.
Closing and folding posture initiates strong sadness signals throughout the body, and also sends messages inside and out of powerlessness and defeat. Opening up your posture will provide remarkable benefits to your health, self-esteem, confidence, and relationships with others.
- To help you unfold, let’s look at what the fold looks like. Place a hand with your fingers pointing in toward your sternum, the vertical cartilage in the middle of your chest (or breast bone), and gently press inward, causing your shoulders and arms to curl forward.
- Then angle your knees and toes inward toward the midline of your body, and let your hands rest on top of each other in your lap, or cross your arms over each other, in the form of a self hug. Look down at your arms, or at the floor. This is a full body inward fold.
- Then, move everything in the opposite direction. Unfold and open up your posture. Lift your head up, focus your eyes directly out into the world, roll your shoulders back slightly and open up your chest area as you also elevate your torso and decompress your spine.
- Maintain this open sitting posture for a while.
4. Relax & Open the Face
The entire body, from head to foot, is constantly engaged in reciprocal neurological activity and certain muscles in our faces initiate an emotional response with the slightest movement. Sadness is triggered by muscles pinching in the forehead, just between the eyebrow area, where it looks like your eyebrows are knitted, or trying to meet in the upper area of your forehead, creating what some might call a worried look. This expression, along with narrowed and tense eyes (which triggers anger), is commonly seen on people peering at their computer screens, or staring down at their phones or tablets. Become aware of facial muscle tension, and try to release this tension when interacting with technology. Give yourself a few facial massages occasionally as you work to release tension, or indulge in a couple big yawns to really stretch out the muscles in the face and take a deep breath and stretch. Try this facial muscle exercise to help open up your facial muscles.
- With your mouth gently closed, send the corners of our mouth toward your ears (abducting muscles), essentially widening your closed mouth and perhaps feeling a smile forming.
- Then try to complete the same action with your eyes. Send the corners of your eyes toward the ears. This will be a very subtle movement and may feel quite challenging due to the small amount of movement possible in comparison to how much the mouth moves.
- Include the muscles in the tops of your cheeks, and just under your eyes. You may feel more movement toward your ears now.
- Can you also do the same with the muscles in your temples, or sides of your forehead?
- Can you feel the sensation of your face opening and widening? If not, try moving your muscles in the opposite direction, toward the bridge of the nose. Moving muscles in the opposite direction sometimes gives us new information. You might feel as if your face is starting to pinch or grimace. Then, move the muscles back out again, abducting them toward the ears. You might feel more movement in this direction now after having explored the opposite direction.
Practice this a few times until you get a sense of how to do the exercise. Then, consciously practice a subtle version of the open facial expression, along with the elevated and open posture as much as possible when using technology.
5. Adjust Your Technology
Is your computer set up to help you maintain positive emotional states? If not, make the necessary adjustments to support an open and elevated posture.
- Elevate your monitor to the height where your head is when you are consciously decompressing or lifting up through the spine, and your head does not need to tilt up or down to look right into the middle of the screen.
- If you work off of laptop, place it on a box or stack of books, and use a wireless keyboard and mouse.
- Use a keyboard with a wide design, so your hands don’t pull your arms and shoulders inward too much to type, causing your entire posture to fold.
- Make sure your chair supports an elevated and open posture. Adjust the height of the chair so your feet touch the floor comfortably. Sit in the middle or the front of the seat so you don’t lean back or slouch into the chair while typing.
Take some time to practice these exercises and become acutely aware of your posture when sitting for long periods of time. Adjust your computer workstation and acquire the accessories to support an elevated and open posture. The emotional and physical benefits are well worth the time and effort, and will be long lasting.
(This article was based on information and exercises from a new book, The Emotional Body, currently in development. Visit The Emotional Body book development web site and consider making a tax deductible donation while also reserving your First Edition, Limited Print copy of The Emotional Body. The lessons in this article are based on the Alba Method, a physical method for emotional regulation. If you are interested in learning more about Alba or taking one of our workshops, visit www.breathxpress.com)
 Collingwood, Jane. How Does Mood Affect Immunity? PsychCentral.com, May 2007
 Gómez-Galán, Marta & Dimitri De Bundel, Ann Van Eeckhaut, Ilse Smolders, Maria Lindskog. Dysfunctional Astrocytic Regulation of Glutamate Transmission in a Rat Model of Depression, Molecular Psychiatry, online 28 February 2012.
 Ilardi, Stephen. The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs. Da Capo Press, 2009.
 Nair, Shwetha; Sagar, Mark; Sollers III, John; Consedine, Nathan; Broadbent, Elizabeth. Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial. Health Psychology, Vol 34(6), Jun 2015, 632-641
 Porges, Stephen W. (2011) The polyvagal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, self-regulation. New York: Norton & Company. 248
Understanding and learning to manage emotional intensity levels is an important practice within the study of Alba. Here is a story from my book, The Emotional Body, describing how a film actor used Alba and his understanding of emotional intensity when working on a film project.
While teaching a college class in film acting, I was coaching an actor before a scene shoot. The actor was familiar with Alba Emoting and he was excited to see how this method translated from his stage acting practice to film acting. He recognized that film acting, particularly close up shots, requires extremely low-level use of the Alba patterns, so the expressions are not too big for the camera. He was working on reducing his expressive level just before he was due on the set for filming.
The student director of the project was watching his rehearsal and kept stopping him and instructing, “Deliver this text with no emotion at all.” The actor was confused about how to deliver the text with absolutely no emotion, so he tried a few takes using various low-level emotional choices, hoping that was what the director was looking for in his delivery. However, the director kept insisting, “No. I really don’t want to see any emotion at all.”
I finally pulled the actor aside and instructed him, “If the director really wants no emotion, I think you should show him what no emotion truly is. Use the neutral pattern and deliver the entire text while staying in neutral. This will mean that your voice will be monotone with no expressive intonation, you will have no gestures, facial expressions, and will simply stand with your body relaxed, symmetrical, and softly staring at the camera.” The actor returned to his rehearsal spot and began his text as I instructed. He looked and sounded like a robot reciting text. The director looked at him, speechless. Finally he said, “What was that?” The actor calmly replied, “That was a delivery with the closest I can humanly come to speaking with no emotion. Is that what you wanted?” The director started laughing, more so at himself than the actor, “No! Wow! Definitely not what I am looking for in this scene.”
I stepped in again, but this time I talked to both actor and director, “Perhaps we could talk a bit about what it is you are really looking for, and without using the phrase ‘no emotion.’ Then maybe we will be more successful in providing a performance that aligns with your vision.” We engaged in a brief question and answer session about the director’s vision for the moment, and soon enough discovered that the director was trying to get the actor to express a situation where only low-level positive emotions would be expressed. It was a classic situation where low-level positive emotions are overlooked, and only negative emotions are considered emotional. The actor finally knew what to do and was able to quickly provide a performance that made both director and actor happy.
Click here to learn more about the book, The Emotional Body.
Interested in attending a workshop to learn the Alba Method? Visit our Upcoming Alba Workshops page for more information on upcoming Alba workshops.
This year’s Alba Method workshop in western North Carolina will be held on the grounds of a picturesque lakeside retreat & conference center! Plan to come and stay for the week while you learn this incredible life-changing method, and all it can do for you and your profession.
To begin the registration process, fill out this workshop inquiry form. You will soon receive an email with detailed scheduling, pricing, and registration information.
Save $200 by registering before January 17th!
Alba Workshop Information: Receive 30 hours of instruction on the Alba Method, including lessons in the Feldenkrais Method® to increase somatic sensing awareness and learning. This workshop will provide somatic tools for calming, centering, de-stressing, and neutralizing emotions. In addition, participants will learn to access, embody, control, and release emotions easily, without psychological methods. All six Alba patterns will be taught, as well as neutral and step out. Participants can earn hours toward Alba certification.
Certified Instructors: Laura Bond (CL5 Alba), Jessica Beck (CL5 Alba & Feldenkrais certified), Lavinia Plonka (CL4 Alba & Feldenkrais certified) plus additional CL2 Alba certified teaching assistants.
Click here to learn more about the workshop.
We had an extremely rewarding Body of Emotion June, 2016 workshop this summer. Participants joined us from as far away as Australia, Germany, and Great Britain. We also had participants come from various corners of the United States like California, New York, Georgia, Michigan, and from places in-between. They came to the workshop to apply Alba and Feldenkrais methods to their professions as college professors, high school teachers, performers, life coaches, therapists, as well as plenty of people attending for personal development and enrichment. Below are comments provided by some of our participants who also expressed a willingness to share them with the public.
2016 Alba Workshop Testimonials & Comments
This was an extremely well organized, expertly given workshop. I had no idea there would be so many teachers and it was utterly exhilarating to have access to so many brilliant minds, and ideas from all over the world, no less. It was amazing to have that kind of teacher/teacher assistant to student ratio. (Stephanie Dean, Assistant Professor of Theatre)
I feel a new versatility in emotional expression, and an assurance for new creative projects. (Owen Allen, Physiotherapist & Inclusive Dance/Theatre Facilitator)
Alba is like the actor’s base or scale. It’s an essential component of the actor’s toolbox and should be incorporated into any serious actor training program. (Anonymous testimonial from workshop participant)
The Alba Emoting workshop was the most amazing, ‘eye-opening’ experience that has been beneficial to my life and career. Although aware of emotions, being able to affect them in a controlled manner has given me the skill to finally feel my own reactions to situations, but also understand how a character I am playing also feels. Thanks for such a great experience and allowing me the new knowledge to connect with my body and emotions. (Thomas Berry, Theatre Arts Professor)
It was a wonderful experience and workshop. The alba/Feldenkrais training, as taught by these instructors, feeds the soul as well as my professional practice and personal development. New insights come with discussions, training, and building on previous layers of experience for continued growth and development. Thank you, to all, for your time and devotion to teaching these practices with such care and dedication. (Catherine Dietrich, Acting and Dance Instructor)
It’s been a delight! The instructors are all dear people who I am proud to know. The work…works! I found tools and exercises that I will definitely use with my students who are confronting, or are wrapped up in, deep emotions. I really enjoyed experiencing the personal development track this year & had a significant and healing emotional experience. The work for actors is powerful and liberating. Thank you! (Dana Smith, Professor of Theatre)
I feel special, informed and ready to do more with Alba and Feldenkrais! (Jackie B. Daniels, Associate Professor of Theatre and Communication)
This workshop really allowed distinctions that were incredible for the work I do. I have tools and skills that were beyond my wildest expectations. I loved storytelling from the Alba perspective. (Jean Griffis, Coach)
Have you ever heard yourself or someone else say, “I have conflicting emotions about this” and then follow with an explanation of what was in conflict? Most likely what was described were two or more viewpoints on a situation. For example, “I am sad that my best friend is moving, but so happy that she is pursuing her dreams,” or “I want this promotion, but I am scared that I don’t have enough experience to do the job well,” or “I want to have a pleasant conversation with this person, but every time we talk I get so angry.”
Such recognitions are common and healthy admissions that our bodies are not unified with one clear feeling or intention. Acknowledging these moments helps us understand and address complex situations, like the friend moving away. It also provides us with an opportunity to sort out conflicting emotions so that we can make a decision, as with the fear in the promotion opportunity. In this case a person might need to address the fear and see if it is a justifiable reason not to pursue the new job, or simply a healthy challenge that will promote personal growth. Then there are times, like the final example where a conversation is constantly transformed into an angry exchange. Emotions in conflict can be protective measures based on past experience or instinctive perceptions that trigger guarding or warding off a potential aggressor. All of these examples provide us with opportunities to examine and self-reflect as we navigate the bumps in life’s road.
However, what if our conflicting emotions were more like an inability to express an emotion without another emotion hijacking the situation? In such cases someone would want to express anger, but ends up crying along with their attempt to be serious and strong. In another situation embedded fears keep a person from receiving or expressing tender love or sensual touch, and they find their bodies suddenly overtaken with tension, pulling back from the affection they actually desire. These moments of conflict are considered emotional entanglements, where a person wants to express one emotion, but can’t without another one seemingly permanently attached. It’s like a plant wanting to grow and bloom, but it can’t because the weeds entangled around its base gradually grow up the stem and hold the plant back from its potential. Entanglements are formed by life experiences, where a person has received messages or lived situations where these emotions were strongly associated with each other and have resulted in dual expressive states, where a person finds that one emotion cannot be expressed without the other.
Someone who has entangled emotions might think “I want to address the group seriously about something that is important to me, but I keep getting teary eyed and my voice quivers” or “Every time I try to speak tender words of love and caring, I get choked up, so I remain silent and I fear I appear cold and uncaring” or “I feel as if I have been taken for granted and I want to stand up for myself, but every time I try to confront the situation I weaken, pull back and fail to speak up.”
These entanglements may feel as if they are permanent parts of our lives or personalities, and that we must live with these limitations. But that is simply not true. They can be un-entangled. I have seen it happen constantly in Alba Method trainings, and I have personally experienced it within my own study of Alba. During an Alba training, as we practice the embodiment of each pure emotion, we learn to sense exactly when and where another emotion creeps in and tries to attach itself to the other. Through gradual repetitive practice the associated emotion becomes detached from its host, and the two become their own independent emotions again.
Learning the Alba Method of Emotion Regulation not only provides reliable tools for sensing and controlling emotions, but it also helps us free up emotions that have been held back or entangled. It is an incredibly liberating moment to experience, and to witness, when an entangled emotion is finally released from the weeds that held it back and we are liberated from a lifetime of frustration and worry over this confined aspect of our expressive capabilities.
To learn more about upcoming workshops on the Alba Method visit our Upcoming Alba Workshops page or contact Laura Bond at Laura @ breathxpress.com.
Study the Alba Method of Emotion Regulation!
June 10-18, 2016 in Asheville, NC Three phases of Alba study and the opportunity to select the level that best matches your interests, or plan to attend the full week of training!
All three phases of study are taught using universal methods appropriate for people interested in personal development, as well as for specialists like somatic educators, life coaches, therapists, healthcare workers, and performers.
Calming – (June 10–11) 12 hours of instruction on how the Alba Method and Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement technique provide somatic tools for calming, centering, de-stressing, and neutralizing negative emotions.
Controlling – (June 10-14) 30 hours of instruction on the Calming phase as well as learning to access, embody, control, and release emotions easily, without psychological methods.
Connecting –(June 16–18) 18 hours of advanced instruction (after taking Controlling phase) on the Alba Method and its application to self expression, communication, and performance methods.
Certified Alba practitioner, Robert Fertman, is hosting a free conference call with Laura Bond. During the conference call Laura will provide information about Alba Emoting (Alba Method), how it is taught, and answer questions about the method and upcoming workshops.
The call will be held Tuesday, December 8th from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm (EST).
Alba Emoting was first used to train actors during its initial development in the late 1900s. It is now a sought-after and highly valuable technique for use in various professional fields, including coaching and therapy. The Alba Method can be used to facilitate emotion awareness, regulation and transformation. It can also be used to help coaches and therapists better recognize their own and their clients’ emotions.
Alba training workshops focus on teaching participants how to replicate the six respiratory-postural-facial emotional patterns. This is a slow and intensive training process (typically taught over 5-7 days with 4-6 hours of study each day) where participants learn to replicate specific breathing patterns and also isolate muscles in the face and body that organically trigger the basic emotions. Once these patterns are successfully applied by the participant, an emotional induction is felt. Participants then learn to control and master these patterns, as well as apply them to simple daily activities like walking, sitting, speaking, and interacting with others. Throughout this training process participants gain a clear and de-personalized knowledge of how emotions are felt throughout the entire body and how they are expressed in various activities. Mixed emotional states are demystified, because practitioners can now de-construct these complex expressions down to their basic components and recognize where and how the mixes are coming in and being expressed. Participants gain incredible personal insight on their own expressive habits, as well as learn how to read the emotions expressed by others so much more clearly.
Training in the Alba Method can be achieved on various levels, and Alba Associations and Boards indentify their practitioner’s knowledge and allowable use of the technique in the form of certifications. Certification Levels (CL) are awarded from Level One (Personal Use) all the way up to Level Five (Academic Level and Teacher Trainer). After each workshop, participants are informed of their certification level and provided with clarifications on their qualifications and abilities for using, sharing, coaching, and/or teaching the patterns to others. However, it is ultimately up to the individual to determine how they would use this method within their own profession, and ascertain its appropriateness. Nancy Mercer, a therapist and CL1 Alba Practitioner, offers that “both therapists and coaches have strong ethical guidelines that precludes them practicing in a discipline for which they have no training. Navigating this grey area seems to be a normal part of practice. The therapist has an ethical responsibility to use techniques and methods that are appropriate and relevant to the client’s needs and related goals of therapy—so the Alba Method would be used only in this context.”[i]
The Alba method, and the science behind it, is a stand-alone technique that can be used by coaches and therapists toward meeting their unique and discrete goals and objectives. Psychotherapy and coaching naturally overlap and it is up to the coach to be clear where the line might be crossed into therapy.
Coaching can be distinguished from therapy in a number of ways, explains Deanne Prymek, Newfield Network Director of Programs and CL2 trained Alba practitioner.
“Coaching, as defined by the International Coach Federation[i], is a profession that supports personal and professional growth and development based on individual-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is forward moving and future focused. Therapy, on the other hand, deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past which hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with present life and work circumstances in more emotionally healthy ways. Therapy outcomes often include improved emotional/feeling states. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life.”[ii]
Nancy Mercer further explains the distinctions between these two professions by stating, “Therapy can be defined as the treatment of mental and emotional disorders through the use of psychological techniques designed to encourage communication of conflicts and insight into problems, with the goal being relief of symptoms, personality growth, and behavior modification.”
The study of emotions and its direct application to therapy is a fairly new development in psychotherapy practices. Therapist and CL5 certified Alba Practitioner, Juan Pablo Kalawski explains “For decades psychological theories viewed emotions as third-class phenomena, after behavior and cognition. In recent years, psychological science has finally began to acknowledge that emotions are not just epiphenomena but rather serve important functions in organizing thoughts and behavior. Understandably, theories of psychotherapy have lagged behind in integrating the science of emotions into clinical practice. Lacking a theoretical understanding of emotions and specific methods to work with them, therapists fall back on what they know, that is, working with behaviors and thoughts and hoping that emotions follow suit. Slowly, however, theorists have begun to present coherent approaches to working with emotions in psychotherapy.” [iii]
Nancy Mercer offers that good therapy practices incorporate many different approaches, “There are multiple models and approaches to psychotherapy and some are borrowed from other disciplines. The use of Alba in therapy would be an example of this. (Other examples might be Mindfulness, Yoga, Expressive Arts).”
In the domain of ontological coaching, Deanne Prymek clarifies how the coach might use the Alba Method, “The ontological coach embodies powerful distinctions in language, moods & emotions, and somatics. The Alba method is strongly effective in supporting clients designing they’re way forward with specific practices in how they want to show up in emotion & postural stance as they prepare for that meeting with their boss, the board members, or their employees without needing to go in to the past in a therapeutic way.”Newfield Coach and CL1 certified Alba practitioner Carol Harris-Fike, further explains[iv] “Our emotions are influenced by our breath, body disposition, and especially facial muscles. It gets one out of the story and supports a shift if the client wants to go there. I support Alba as another tool for the coach in understanding and identifying emotions (in themselves as well as the client)”
Emotional awareness skills are greatly enhanced by studying the Alba Method. Not only will learning the method help coaches and therapists more clearly understand how they and their clients are expressing themselves, but after more advanced training a coach or therapist can work with a client to become more clear on what they are really feeling and expressing. Juan Pablo Kalawski clarifies this need by explaining, “Some clients can easily identify their feelings, whereas others have great difficulty. Often, clients may only be able to identify being ‘upset’ or ‘stressed’ without further elaboration. A finer distinction among emotions may help clients better identify their associated needs and action tendencies. Alba Emoting provides a clear and physical way to distinguish among different emotions. When a client has experienced the respiratory postural-facial patterns of the basic emotions, he or she is subsequently better able to recognize when those patterns are spontaneously aroused.”
A CL3 trained Alba practitioner can take the Alba Method and its use to a higher level in their practice, if they determine its use as appropriate, and actually coach a client in and out of different emotions and help them become aware of how the emotion really feels in their breath and muscles. At this level of their expertise an Alba practitioner can not only deconstruct the emotional expressions of their clients and more clearly identify if a client is blocking, suppressing, or avoiding emotions, but they can also help guide a client through experiencing the differences between emotional states. Juan Pablo Kalawski points out, “Emotional awareness necessitates actual emotional experience. This process, however, can be blocked by emotional avoidance. Often, clients avoid experiencing painful feelings due to fears of being overwhelmed by them, of being out of control or of not being able to calm down afterwards. Alba Emoting can be a valuable resource in helping clients deal with these concerns. Alba Emoting is empowering, as it provides clients with a tool to step in and out of an emotion at will.”
Therapist, Ontological Coach, and CL1 trained Alba practitioner, Ondine Norman, describes the objective, and non-therapeutic, learning environment established within Alba trainings, “Anytime you explore the emotional realm it can potentially bring up “real life” feelings for people. But the exploration is not a form of psychotherapy nor are any of the teachers of alba emoting therapists. Just as in coaching, Alba Emoting workshops may have a therapeutic impact on people because it creates a safe place to explore emotions and how to express them in the body, but that is not the point of the workshop. The purpose is to be able to explore the emotional realm in a somatic and objective way without a lot of story attached.” [i]
The Alba Method is an incredibly valuable technique that can be used in various ways to support the work of coaches and therapists as they deem appropriate to their practice and within the boundaries of their profession. Laura’s Alba Method workshops in 2015 and 2016 are approved by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) for Continuing Coaching Education Credits (CCEs). Learn more about upcoming Alba workshops here.
(This post is a segment from a larger article found through this link – Alba_for Coaches and Therapists)
[i] Email interview conducted in September, 2015
[i] International Coaching Federation web page and FAQs http://www.coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=978&navItemNumber=567
[ii] Email interview conducted in September, 2015
[iii] Using alba emoting to work with emotions in psychotherapy, Juan Pablo Kalawski, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Wiley Online Library, DOI:10.1002/cpp.790
[iv] Email interview conducted in September, 2015
[i] Email interview conducted in September, 2015