Development of and Founding Principles of Touching Dialogue

Written by the founder David Kirk-Campbell

In the mid 80’s while working as a Rolfer in NYC, I noticed that many clients after a series of sessions were satisfied with their body changes, were satisfied with improved awareness of how their decisions could be grounded in their body sensations and emotions, were satisfied with their improved communication with colleagues and partners and yet they longed for (read not satisfied) more closeness to their partners and peace with their own being and aloneness.

Their dissatisfaction provoked me to experiment more during sessions as to the way I touched and talked. I scheduled time between sessions to reflect and write about what seemed to work and what was a waste of time.

I had read about the five basic permissions of early child development in Bob and Mary Goulding’s books about Transactional Analysis. I thought and experimented as to how these five basic permissions of early child development interfaced with Rolfing and psychotherapy. The five permissions are to be, to be close, to do, to play and to succeed. My feedback from clients told me that Rolfing and psychotherapy were interfacing well with the permission to do, to play and to succeed and that my group of clients longed to integrate more permission to be and permission to be close than I was offering them. Their dissatisfaction puzzled and provoked me.

My thinking process went like this. The first six months after birth are the primary window in time to receive the permission to be and the first twelve months after birth are the primary window in time to receive the permission to be close. During these months, the skin is the primary organ of communication. Ashley Montagu writes in Touching - The Human Significance of the SkinThe skin….is the oldest and most sensitive of our organs, our first medium of communication, and our most efficient protector.” pp. 3 (In my opinion a must read for Rolfers.) For the infant the skin is constantly registering and signalling to the brain is my social environment safe or dangerous, am I wanted or not wanted. For the infant the amount of touch skin communication of safety and being wanted leads to more or less permission to be and permission to be close which is carried into the adult. The opposite of a permission is an injunction. When the infant does not receive enough positive touch communication of safety and being wanted the child and adult carries the injunction of don’t be and/or don’t be close.

I made the assumption that these permissions and/or injunctions are carried into the adult through the unconscious and/or the cell membranes. Back in the 80’s, I did not know if the memory from childhood was conveyed to the adult through the unconscious or the cell membranes.

I was more focussed on results. I wanted to change the injunctions to permissions. I wanted to change don’t be to ok to be and don’t be close to be close. I followed the path of my experiments and findings to develop a touch sensitive enough to reprogram the infant experience.

My first touch experiments in which I imagined different ways to touch were a waste of time. I realized my touch had to be a response to the client. It had to be a dialogue. I focussed my touch sensitivity to distinguish when the tissue signals from the client were danger or unwanted and I responded with a touch that communicated safety and wanted. The touch of the dialogue gradually became more gentle and more minimal. The touch communicating safety and wanted was a movement that they could register and perceive.

Using a touching dialogue, which responded to the client’s remembered longing for safety and longing to feel wanted, the results were profound and consistent.

At this point, I did not care if the source of change was the unconscious or the cell membranes. Instead of either/or thinking I was thinking both/and. My clients response convinced me that a deep motivational matrix was changing from negative to positive. I realized that the positive energy released needed to be channelled and put into a structure, so the lines of responsibility between client and therapist were clear. After three years of experimenting and discovering, Touching Dialogue was born. Touching Dialogue is a body centred psychotherapy which changes a client’s permission system from caution to potential, from stress to calm, from fear to courage.

The book, Touching Dialogue - A Somatic Psychotherapy for Self-Realization, which I wrote in the late 80’s, is usually available as a used book on Amazon.

About David Kirk-Campbell

David Kirk-Campbell
David Kirk-Campbell has a B. A. from Oberlin College in Philosophy and Psychology and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rhode Island School of Design in Photography. He trained in healing with Dora Kunz of the Theosophical Society.

He founded Touching Dialogue in the late 1980’s and wrote a book with the same title.

He has a European Certificate of Psychotherapy and is a member of the European Association of Gestalt Therapy. He was co-owner and co-leader of Gestalt Terapeutisk Institut from 1993 to 2008.

He likes to read Rumi and the mystical poetry of Machado and Neruda. His hobbies are making collages from his dreams, playing bridge and rowing. More interested in being than doing. 

Tlf. 2613-5759 (kl. 8-9)

A letter to your inner child from a good father - a film by David Kirk-Campbell

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David Kirk-Campbell presenting Touching Dialogue in Berlin 2010

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