Alba & Emotional Effector Patterns

Alba-vsAlba & 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.[1] 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).[2]

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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

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).[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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)

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] Susana Bloch, The Alba of Emotions: Managing Emotions through Breathing (Santiago: Grafhika, 2006), 25-55

[7] Susana Bloch, interviewed (video recorded) by Laura Facciponti at Susana Bloch’s house in Cachagua, Chile on October 5, 2005.

[8] Ibid.



About breathxpress

Laura Facciponti Bond has taught breathing work related to performing and personal expression since 2002 through UNCA classes, as well as through private lessons and regional, national, and international workshops. She is one of the few certified Alba Emoting Instructors in the USA holding a CL5 certification. She studied and co-taught with Alba Emoting founder, neuroscientist Dr. Susana Bloch, in the USA and in Chile where Dr. Bloch resides. Working closely with Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® instructors, she often partners with Feldenkrais instructors in her Alba Emoting workshops. As a result of this partnering, Laura has developed new methods for teaching conscious breathing and Alba Emoting to non-performers, as well as performers, with greater somatic clarity and sensitivity to the individual. Laura is a Full Professor at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. She is the author of TEAM for Actors: A Holistic Approach to Embodied Acting. In addition to the teaching mentioned above, she also teaches acting, directing, voice production, storytelling and public speaking. She is a Certified Master Teacher (CMT) of the Estill Voice Technique, actress, director, singer, and voice-over artist.

Posted on November 9, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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