Open and Close
This time we will continue with another core value from Haptonomy,
“open and close.”
Every organism, even the unicellular ones, can open and close.
Flowers open in the morning and close by night.
We can open and close our eyes.
Our heart will open and close when it pumps the blood through the
Even our digestion is a matter of open and close.
In the former session I talked about the house metaphor.
We have doors in our houses so we can open and close them.
In a similar way we can open and close our body .
When we feel glad, comfortable and safe we will open and when we
are angry, scared or sad, we will close.
Some people are in their behavior too open or too closed.
Why would that be a problem?
Well, lets first have a look at someone that is too open with the
house metaphor in mind.
When the door is too much open , there are too many stimuluses .
Specially in these days where there are so many impressions and
stimuluses , you can easily get overflowed by the 24/7 available
When you are too closed you can get lonely and isolated.
You will also not be able to imagine and share the feelings of others
and hence have less empathy.
A natural rhythm between open and close is very important for our
well being and mental health.
Now take a moment to realize which pattern is more familiar to you.
Are you most of the time too open or too close ?
Normally there is a good reason why you open yourself too much or
close yourself too much.
When during your childhood your caretaker had no time or attention
for you, you reach out to try to connect.
When contrarily your caretaker needed you too much and came too
close , in other words there was no attunement for your needs, you
had to close.
Don’t worry about this right now.
Just pay respect to your own pattern and may be something will
chance during the following sessions.
Now I want to show you 2 clients from my practice .
One of them is too open and the other is too closed.
This is the first time in this video I will show you how I work with my
clients in my practice.
( I will do 2 treatments with clients on the couch and show how we
use the sense of touch to become more open or closed and create
You can also do your own exercise.
Just imagine all your pores in your skin are small windows and doors.
First open them, feel and fill the space around you.
Then do the opposite. Close the windows and the doors and lock
yourself under your skin.
Which movement feels more comfortable ?
Try to find the delicate balance between open and close , inside and
Between yourself and others
By using the sense of touch you can discover your open or close
pattern and find ways to establish the right balance.
I have now spent time on introducing Haptonomy and how the sense
of touch plays a crucial role in this movement.
I have talked about the core values of Haptonomy,
– The touch
– Base attendance (in your pelvis area)
– Being at home in your body ( house)
– Open and close patterns
– Affectivity and mutuality between people
– Vitality and resilience
In future sessions I will show you how haptonomy can be applied in
areas like health care , sports and raising children.
In my practice and in day to day life I hear a lot of people talking
about being yourself.
However how can you be yourself if you don’t feel yourself.
If you are not familiar with your own feelings and your own body it is
not easy to have open and intimate relationships.
Later on I will tell more about the importance of the touch within
But first you have to feel and to know what is going on in your own
Let us use a metaphor to make it clear.
Most people live in a house .
When I ask them about the interiors of the house they tell me about
the furniture, the colors and the atmosphere .
That is not a surprise because we live in our house every day.
You can compare our body with a house.
We live in this “house” from our first till our last breath.
When I ask them to tell me more about their interior, they often have
How is this possible ?
Most of the time they feel their body only when there is a lot of fear,
pain, tension, anger or sadness.
It is like repairing your house when there is already a lot of damage.
It seems that we care more about our real house or car than our own
This can be caused during our childhood when we learn to ignore the
signals of pain , fear , anger and discomfort.
We learn to encourage ourselves, to be strong and ignore your
I will talk about this in future columns.
Now lets go back to the house metaphor.
What is most important when you want to build a stable house ?
Of course you need good fundaments.
When we compare this again with the human body, your legs and the
pelvis area are your fundaments.
In the former session we experienced and exercised that this area
gives you gravity and balance like the house fundaments.
When for example you feel during a long time a lot of fear , your
head takes over the control of your body.
Just feel the movement of fear in your own body, you will try to
control the situation with your head and lose the feelings with your
basement in the pelvis.
It is like you are living on the attic of your house .
This seems very safe because from the attic you can see a lot, hear a
lot but when someone comes close ,you are not aware of it.
By the time you come downstairs you may be too late and things may
be taken away from you.
The fear chases you out of your body and you can not react
So haptonomy is all about living in your whole house or body from
the basement to the top.
Let us do now a new exercise .
Sit down on the chair and put your feet on the floor.
Be aware of your body, ask yourself some questions.
Do you feel more at the right side of your body or the left side ?
Do you have more sensory awareness of your head and shoulders ,
the upper body or your pelvis and legs, the lower body ?
Try to describe the physical sensations in your body, for example it
can feel empty, stressed, cold, small….
Just start with this.
Later on we will pay attention to the emotions that are behind these
But don’t be in a hurry, I will guide you step by step to become more
familiar with the lost sense of your own body.
In the next session I will further explore the house metaphor .
Then I will introduce the next core value of haptonomy:to be open or
to be closed
What this means you will see the next time
I show you a little toy, may be you recognize it, it is a tumbler.
When I give it a push, it goes the right, it goes to the left and after a
while it stops again in the middle.
I also have a clown and he has lead in his pelvis and his buttocks.
When I give him a push, he goes far to the right and far to the left but
he keeps smiling because he also ends in the middle.
This middle center piece is also situated in our pelvis and buttocks.
The Japanese call this center “ Hara “ which means a bearing center.
This area is also the center of gravity and balance.
When our movements and gestures like talking, walking, singing,
dancing originate from the middle they are elegant and graceful.
The center itself remains unmoved but ensure consistency in all
When life is pushing you and you go far to the right or far to the left
you just have to remember the tumbler or the clown.
Try to stay stay in your pelvis and buttocks.
It will give you power and resilience.
Let’s do an exercise to experience this in your own body.
Just sit in your chair and put both feet on the floor.
Take a moment to be aware of your body.
Then your open your right hand and you are going to sit in your hand.
Just wait a while.
Put your attention to your pelvis and buttocks , may be you can feel
that you start to breathe deeper and your right should will sink a
After about a minute you take your hand away and you take again a
moment to be aware.
Is there any difference between your right and left buttock ?
Which one feels better ?
Then you take your left hand and do the same at your left side.
After a while your right hand come again under your right buttock .
You sit now on both hands and stay here as long as you feel
After a while again, you take your hands away and ask yourself if you
feel a difference and what that difference is ?
Now comes the last part of the exercise, the most important part.
Once you feel the firmness and stability in your pelvis , you can rise
your body from within and still feel your balance and gravity.
Stay in touch with this feeling when you are in touch with someone
When you practice this regularly you will be able to make connection
with others without losing the sense of yourself.
You stay with your own stable basement.
The abilty to touch and feel will increase when you stay in touch with
this stable basement.
This is a condition to reintroduce and experience again the Lost
Sense, the Touch.
In the previous column i shared with you how haptonomy came
into my life and what it meant to me.
So in this column i will give you a short introduction in
Haptonomy and what is aims to achieve.
Haptonomy is a movement that originated in the Netherlands
and in the mean has spread over several European countries.
So what is haptonomy ?
We have 5 senses. We can see, hear, smell, taste and touch.
As a child we use our touch to explore the world around us .
Babiesy’s and little children often put stuff in their mouth to feel
how it is like.
When we grow up, we learn to look around and listen carefully,
but we don’t learn more about the touch.
This isThat’s a pity because we lose something very important.
We need the touch to feel what is going on in our body and the
world around us.
If you are unnot familiar with your feelings and your own body, it
is not easy to have open and intimate relationships.
Loving and caring touch may be the key to a healthy sense of
Haptonomy is a movement to reintroduce and develop our
touch and feelings.
The word Haptonomy is derived from 2 Greek words: hapsis
which means sensing, touching and connecting and nomos
which stands for rules and norms.
In our body we experience sensations, emotions and feelings.
The body has a memory for positive and negative feelings and
imprints.Just take the example of a dog.When a dog has been
mistreated and hit by his boss his body will always remember
In case of fear you will notice immediately that the dog will try to
These memories are also present in our bodies.
When we have negative experiences we show a similar
behavior in our gestures and movements
Of course it is easier to feel when everything is fine.When you
do not feel well it needs courage to feel
However,if you do not dare to feel the pain and sadness you
also block the nice feelings.
We often think a lot and lose contact with our feelings and
Not being able to feel our body also means feeling less of our
We need feelings to create meaningful contacts and have a
sense of fulfillment about our life.
This will enable us to handle daily life better and feel more
vitality and happiness.
Now let us start with the first exercise.
Sit on a chair and put your feet on the floor.
Be aware how your legs and feet presently feel.
Then put both hands on your right hip and you slowly move
your hands with full awareness along your leg until your right
foot and toes.
You go the same way up and repeat this at least three times.
Make sure that your end at your foot and toes.
After this close your eyes for a while and notice if there is a
difference between your right and left leg.
May be it feels more alive and relaxed.
Sometimes people say that it feels more vital and that the leg
even feels longer.
Now you do the same exercise at your left side.
Start at your left hip and slowly move downwards to your left
foot and toes.
To become more focused it can help if you close your eyes .
Make sure your hands are open, soft and remain amazed like
you feel it for the first time.
After you have touched your left leg you go from the hips to the
toes with both hands moving down on both legs.
You can also do this with your arms and whole body.
Though, the manner you touch makes a huge difference.
It is not a functional neither an effective touch but a loving and
caring touch for someone very special, yourself !
In future columns I will explain you more about haptonomy and
the lost sense .
It will improve and change your life !!
I will tell you about haptonomy and reintroducing a lost sense.
Before we start , I will tell you how and when Haptonomy came into
I am born in a big family in a small rural village in the North of the
Right in the middle of the village was the church. In this church my
parents baptized year after year a new born baby .
I am the eldest daughter and grew up with 7 brothers and 3 younger
When I was sixteen, I left home to become an au pair in England.
After this period I established myself in Utrecht, a city in the middle
of the Netherlands where I became a nurse in a hospital.
It was my goal to take care after people and give them warm
After a couple of years I became disappointed because of being too
busy without being able to really care for the patients.
So I decided to switch and become a social worker . I believed that I
would have more time to care, listen and help clients solving their
May be I have worked too hard ?
May be I tried too hard to help ?
Whatever, I became very tired and decided to work less hours.
Then I went to the University of Amsterdam to study philosophy.
Till a day in November 1986 , the day that one of my brothers died.
He was one year older but as children we were very close.
During several years as small children we shared the same bed.
Before we were going to sleep we told each one about our fears and
When I left home I did not have the chance to see him very often .
So I did not know that life was so hard for him until the day he passed
away, the day he decided that he could not live anymore.
When this happened I already worked as a social worker during many
I talked to many people about their sorrows and pains.
And all of a sudden I was in deep pain myself.
I wondered if I should consult a therapist .
But I had no words.
I was also afraid to cry because I thought I would never stop.
Then a friend told me about a new type of therapy called
She said that this therapy is more about feeling and touching than
talking and understanding.
But she also said that it was difficult to explain.
I decided to try it and contacted a Haptonomy therapist
I clearly remember my first session and was astonished and
For the first time I could really feel myself and felt what was going on
in my body.
The therapist touched me respectfully and with care which gave me
the shelter I needed so much at that moment.
For the first time I could cry deeply from within.
After that treatment I felt quiet and amazed how much a caring and
loving touch could mean to me .
I had several of these sessions.
After a few weeks I was able to deal with my pain and grief and felt
When people asked me about Haptonomy, I also found it difficult to
But I realized I had discovered something very special of which I
wanted to know, read and learn much more.
It was amazing for me to see that so few people knew about
This was exactly what I have been looking for in my life and I decided
to go to the Academy of Haptonomy to follow the education for
After graduating I started my own practice as a therapist and also
became a teacher at the Academy.
Since then I wrote 3 books about Haptonomy .
And now I will start this Vlog/ Blog to tell and teach you all about
Haptonomy so you can develop your own feelings and touch to
become more graceful and happy.
If you have questions please leave your comments below.