The Whole is Greater than the sum of its Parts

In Rolfing, we do not try to understand the whole by studying the parts, we try to understand the parts in light of the whole. We try to get a glimpse of the big picture and keep it in mind when focusing on localized areas as well. The whole will not be known by studying the parts, as the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Anatomically this is the underlying reality, muscle grows into tendon which grows into bone or bone grows into tendon which grows into muscle, both views are the same. Connective tissue wraps around muscle and joins muscle together in compartments and sheets of connective tissue span large areas of the body connecting limbs to shoulder and hip girdles, diving down deep, coming up near the surface. The nervous system runs through the body, taking in information, initiating movement, adjusting muscle tone. The mind and the emotions affect the nervous system which effect the structure and the structure, the body, affects the mind and the emotions via the nervous system. All things are interconnect and interwoven in one inseparable whole.

Trying to see the whole- that is a lofty ambition but never the less something we aim towards regardless. When doing assessment we try not to jump with our eyes toward this specific problem or that specific problem right away, we try to open up our field of view, to see with our peripheral vision, which takes in and processes information much faster. Most of this is subconscious but can still inform our conscious mind. The idea is that in observation we may see and know more than we think we know, and that is when intuition comes into play. This approach more sophisticated than simply jumping to conclusions based on details. There are too many factors to consider, many of which are completely unknown. Typically western professionals recommend strengthening this muscle or that muscle, or adjusting this vertebra or that vertebra, or micromanaging how I use this muscle or that muscle to do this or that thing. These approaches can be helpful, but at the end of the day, you can not micromanage a village or a city, and that is exactly what you are doing when you try to micromanage the function of what takes the cooperation of many muscles and muscle groups, so many of which are totally imperceptible to the ordinary mind. Imagine typing a book by thoughtfully picking and pecking each letter you are going to hit before you type it. Not a very efficient or sophisticated way to type! With that example in mind, each movement and static posture a human being performs is 100 X more complex, but we generally know how to do it innately. How to be more natural, how to “allow” for better movement, better posture? That is the real question. If there are restrictions, strain patterns, or compensation patterns, they must be addressed. After having been successfully addressed then the question is, “how can I allow my body to fully express it’s self”. Structural integration is about expression, not control. An organism is complex beyond our full understanding. We can create all the building blocks for life in a lab, but we can not create life. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We can not understand a tree by studying its leaves, or a forest by the trees. We must try to take in an impression of the whole if we are to come to an understanding of what that means.

John WilsonComment