Sunday, 11 May 2008

"Die Mütter! Mütter! – 's klingt so wunderlich... Das ist es auch.Göttinnen, ungekannt euch sterblichen"

My Mother and my Grandmother, Gt Yarmouth, Norfolk, 1927

Doch gibt’s ein Mittel..........Die Mütter sind es!
This quotation is from Goethe and is to be found at the beginning of a book written by Károly and Magda Ákos. This book, called Dina, has two parts, just like Goethe’s Faust in which these quotations can be found. I have known “Dina” since I was a student and it is the book that I recommend to all families who are just embarking on their conductive journey. I have been delving into it recently and reflecting on some of the things that Ákos and Ákos write about and on how I relate this to my work.

Mother's Day
My notes for the posting have been in my bag for a couple of weeks now. I twiddle with them while riding the ICE train to my work in Würzbürg but I have decided it is time to get them out of the bag and on to the blog as it is Mother's Day here in Germany, or will be by the time this is finished. What better day to post a blog about a book for mothers?

Many other countries share this Mother's Day. according to Wikipedia more than they do any other day of the year. In England this moveable feast is already long past, three weeks before Easter (March 2nd), in Norway it was in February and in Israel sometime between 30 January and 1st of March.

In my opinion every or any day should be a day for honouring mothers.

Anthropogenic Cooperation
In the preface to Dina Károly and Magda Ákos describe the capacity that a person has for adaption or learning that is needed constantly throughout life to adjust in all given situations. They describe the early development of this capacity and how it influences people's whole life. They explain how in dysfunctional people this capacity to adapt to new circumstances is not so advanced, or has been lost completely, or has never been learnt.

They state:

“Conductive Education strives to restore the missing ‘orthofunction’. This helps to overcome the dysfunction and the individual will gradually be socialised”

Ákos and Ákos go on to explain the necessity of “anthropogenic cooperation’ – an inter-cerebral relationship between two or more brains, that, they say, is

“...necessary for the development of the human ability for adaption”.

They state that this relationship is usually between a child and its mother, but it can be with anyone who is in close contact with the child.

In my work with adults we have the same inter-cerebral relationship between conductor and client. Within the group one sees the same kind of relationship developing between its members, all helping each other in the process of learning to adapt to their new situation. This unity between the clients in the group can often be so profound, so special, that the care, the interest and the motivation that they show each other produces an amazing working atmosphere, perfect for teaching goals and for being successful in reaching them.

Magic moments
This unity grows of course with the group, and it weaves its spell on newcomers too. No, it isn’t magic, although there were newspaper articles describing it as such when telling about the British trainee conductors setting off to the Petö Institute in the late eighties. They used headlines such as “Angels of mercy” and “Miracle workers” !

Conductive Education is far from being magic, it is hard work, something that my artist friend (see my blog, "Nicht auf zugeben", Monday, 14 April, 2008) will certainly testify. During our work together he has many a time turned to me with a quizzical look on his face and asked Zauberei? ( magic?) when he has achieved something for the first time. My answer –“If it is it is you who is working the magic”. He still finds it hard to believe that it is what he does that allows him to make magic which in turn allows him to produce the movements that he wishes to perform.

I know him well. I can advise him down to the last millimetre how to move his elbow so he can grasp his mug and when it works I must admit it can appear to be magic. Slowly this client is taking over this fine tuning of his movements, he is adapting, he is adjusting, learning to weave the spell in all areas of his life (see my blog "Plinths or parties, wall bars or hills and dales", Friday 11 April, 2008). He is learning because he developed "anthropogenic cooperation" with members of his family and with me, the conductor.

Cycles, circles, spirals
My work at the moment is mainly with adults, my “children” have all grown (conductively) up. They are now my teenagers. I also have groups for Parkinson’s disease, adult cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and stroke, and there are also the babies and the toddlers just starting with their conductive upbringing. Slowly I am turning full circle and, when families with young children approach me, I recommend the book Dina to them as an introduction to Conductive Education, to guide them in their first steps of their conductive journey through life. The book is intended as a “practical manual for living”.

The extended family
At the very beginning of Dina is this quotation, from Goethe’s Faust, Part 2:

Doch gibt’s ein Mittel..........Die Mütter sind es!”

In the English version of Dina this is translated as:

“There is a way…. the mothers!”

I would change this slightly and say that there is a way – it is the extended family. If you have been following my blog you will realize that a lot of my work takes place in the heart of the family.

Only relatively few people have the privilege of living near enough to a Conductive Education centre to allow a child to attend daily. As a student at the Petö Institute I had met many families from all over the world who had separated from a spouse or other children for weeks or months on end in order to provide Conductive Education for their child with disabilities. This was often a very difficult and disruptive time for the families.

Although Conductive Education is generally carried out in groups it is essentially an upbringing, and the early years of a child’s upbringing takes place in the home.

When I began working in Germany I saw the dilemma that families were facing – should they travel to Budapest or to a far-off German conductive centre, or begin a conductive upbringing at home? I began to work within the family unit 15 years ago. I wanted to work with the very young children in their own homes, surrounded by everyone who was familiar to them, including grandmas and grandads, brothers and sisters, Mum and Dad, and neighbours and friends – the extended family. Every one of these people then learns, at the same time as does the child, how to channel the child’s activities in the way necessary for physical and mental development. The child is in a familiar environment and it is this environment which must be conquered first, before moving further afield (to Kindergarten, to school or to study).

Most of my clients have at sometime in their childhood attended a conductive group, often a summer camp. I have often advised this so that the child is not always so isolated and can begin learning to interact with other children. The experience of attending a conductive group is also invaluable for the parents who can make contact with other families and build up a support network. They discover that they are not alone on their chosen conductive paths.

Choosing of the conductive path is not the most difficult step. Actually following it is more difficult and turning it into a life-style for the whole family requires a lot of energy. Meeting other families in similar situations can be a help but I think that families need something more concrete. This is why, early in my conductive career, I decided that I would offer to work with the whole family within the framework of the home, and work towards developing a conductive life-style/upbringing for the child. In my experience this method works very well. The only disadvantage is that, as only one of two self-employed conductors working in this way in the whole of Germany, I can reach only a small portion of the families who need this guidance.

Some of these families I have grown with over the course of years, some are still growing. Others I worked with for only a few weeks or a few months. In all cases we achieved what was best for the child and the family at the time. They all learnt what they needed for their development at that given moment. Some families go on to chose a different way, but most continued with a conductive upbringing with or without my physical presence in the home. Often my presence has continued for years through telephone calls and emails!

Károly and Magda Ákos have explained in Dina how some mothers (families) "naturally" have the ability to provide the learning situation for their disabled child, especially when there are more siblings from whom the mother can learn, but most need more expert guidance. The "instinctive" behaviour of a normal child no longer works with a child with a dysfunction.
Normally a baby naturally begins to show a mother (family member) what it needs, whether this is to be fed, to have a clean nappy or a more interesting toy the whole family responds instinctively to these needs, for example a baby who grabs and pulls a sibling's hair may be given a toy with something to grasp and pull instead.

These first stages of development occur between the baby and the mother (family).Dina states that the infant with a disability

“...does not need treatment to over come his dysfunction, instead the mother needs competent help to enable her to establish “anthropogenic cooperation” with the infant in spite of the difficulties resulting from brain damage. This is why the infant can catch up with the normal development.” ( page 2)

Ákos and Ákos also wrote that it is important for the mother to be aware of her ability to initiate the child’s personality development. When she understands this:

“...she can with very little instruction overcome the baby’s interrupted personality growth and also reduce the symptoms of movement disorder”. ( page 5)

A healthy child will trigger a mother's desire to play together. When development is dysfunctional these unconscious reactions to the baby’s behaviour need to be made conscious:

“ Without instruction a mother will unconsciously neglect the mother child cooperation necessary for the physical and mental development of a handicapped child.” ( page 10)

As well as recommending Dina as an introductory book to Conductive Education, I also recommend that the child attends a mother-and-child group when possible but what happens for the family who live in a village 60 kilometres from the nearest town and 200 kilometres from the nearest CE centre, or the families who are not able to follow the method described in Dina? I hope that this is where I can step in, where my work can begin, guiding the child and the mother (family) on to an interesting, magic, soul-enriching, exciting and often difficult conductive journey.

To all mothers out there: you are not alone.

I do not agree one hundred percent with what Mephistopheles said to Faust, that the way is through the mothers alone. I believe the way to be through the extended family. It is through the Kindergarten, the school and the university. It is through the driving-instructor, the piano-teacher and the football-trainer, and through the guidance of a conductor.

I believe that, Mephistopheles was sending Faust to mothers to discover more about the feminine side of the human character. Perhaps it was this that Ákos and Ákos were referring to when they quoted Goethe at the beginning of Dina, that all the qualities shown by a mother are needed in all the people who come in contact with the disabled child, in order to provide everything necessary for the child’s normal development shown – in order for the child to begin to weave some of that magic.

In my posting “And back to the Seele” (Sunday 20 April, 2008), I wrote about discovering the Seele, the soul. Maybe this is what Faust was searching for, how to get in contact with his soul and maybe this is the quality that mothers have that produces the unity, the anthropogenic cooperation which, as Ákos and Ákos wrote “ is necessary for the development of the human ability for adaption".


Mephistopheles talking with Faust

“Die Mütter! Mütter! –'s klingt so wunderlich.“ ... Das ist es auch. Göttinnen, ungekannt euch sterblich....“ (“The Mothers!-Mothers!- that sounds so strange”…So it is, goddesses unknown to man….”). Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust, Part Two, 6218

“Doch gibt’s ein Mittel... Die Mütter sind es!“ (“There is a way... the mothers.”). Wolfgang Goethe, Faust, Part Two, 6211 and 6216

Dina - Ákos and Ákos

Károly Ákos was a physician and his wife Magda worked as his assistant. His daughter Kis Magda was a group leader at the Petö Institute. He and his wife wrote in Hungarian, and also in English and German. Károly Ákos first met András Petö in 1948 and came to admire some (though not all) of hs ideas. After Petö’s death in 1968 Ákos was offered the position of Director of the State Institute. He declined butwent on to co-write the book Conductive Education together with Dr Mária Hária who later became the Director of the Institute.

Mother's Day

ICE train

Conductive Education

Mária Hári and Károly Ákos, Routledge, 1988.

Previus postings of relevance

"Nicht auf zugeben", Monday, 14 April, 2008
"Plinths or parties, wall bars or hills and dales ", Friday 11 April, 2008
"And Back to the Seele", Sunday 20th April, 2008

“After I had discovered CE and gone on to study at the Petö Institute I made many more discoveries. The most important of these was discovering what I now call my soul…I discovered that I was absorbing Conductive Education not only through my brain, but also through my body, something like osmosis, and it seeped deep into my inner self, into my Seele. "

“Not all teachers, therapists and other “people professionals” find the path leading to a full conductor-training in Budapest. Do they then ever find the means to do the job they are appointed for? Do they discover their Seele?”

Anthropogenic Cooperation -an inter-cerebral relationship between two or more brains,Ákos/Ákos, Dina.

1 comment:

Norman said...

Susie, although not at all about CE, I recommend to you a book "Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain" by Sue Gehardt ("how the earliest relationship shapes the baby's nervous system").

"Sue Gerhardt lives in Oxford, where she is a practising psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice. She also works with the Oxford Parent Infant Project (OXPIP), which she co-founded in 1998. This charitable organisation provides parent infant psychotherapy to around 50 families each week." see