Touching And Being Touched: The Hand As A Brain

Stanley Keleman

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Keleman, S. (2014). Touching and being touched: The hand as a brain. Retrieved month day, year, from

doi: 10.12744/tnpt.06.01.2014.01.

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The hand is a cueing organ that teaches the cortex via the tactility and kinesthesia of motor action. The hand is a small body in dialogue with the cortex and has an important relationship of self-knowing that cues action.


The life of the body is the life of action and feeling. The life of the body is the conversation with itself as well as with the world. The life of the body is based on action, and understanding its action as a way of regulating and forming its action and feeling and expressions.

The way the body speaks to itself from the outside to its inside and from the inside to its outside is through its hands as much as it is through speech or facial expressions. The hands are action organs; they know these two worlds kinesthetically and tactically. The hands are extensions of the body wall and the cortex that communicate to each other and influence the behavior of each other.

When you see public speakers or people in large social gatherings, when you see students and teachers speaking, explaining or listening, you don’t really pay attention to their hands unless they’re gesticulating wildly in front of you, spreading their hands and contracting them. But most people who are listening and talking, even when their hands are at their sides, you can see that their hands are stretching and turning, fingers touching, fisting and un-fisting, as if they inhibit or intensify emotional expressing.

I have come to understand that the style of hand expressions are not only a way to communicate to others the emotions that are present, but also to communicate to the cortex and cue the body to join in the expression or help manage the expression. The hands are a form of involuntary acting and a cue for how to act. The hands greet and meet the world as an extension of the body, as agents of the cortex or as independent agents telling the organism what is going on. Hand expressions communicate to the organism and its cortex what it is doing and cueing by its expression what the body is doing back — in a pulsatory feedback tide to itself. Hands are organs of behavior, organs of locomotion with an independence of behaving in fear, rage and tenderness, as well as the ability to mobilize the body to join in. I realized the hands are an extension of the brain and they are a little brain talking back to the big brain. The hands are a way the person manages their muscular social expressions. The use of the hands as organs of expression become important influences in how a person can manage their primary emotions and differentiate their pattern of expression. Hands and body, hands and cortex are in a relationship of generating actions and experience, or inhibiting acting and experiencing of how we are in the world.

This has important influence in helping people experience and learn how they are bodied in the world and can manage excessive excitatory and emotional acts and their accompanying feelings. Most importantly it influences the organism’s internal communication about how it’s using itself and how to give more or less emphasis. If you actually make a fist, you’ll experience how quickly your whole organism is prepared for a specific act and feeling association. Disassembling the fist alters the action pattern and feeling, brings memories to the fore and a new perspective of self-managing or reorganizing the pattern.

The hand is an organizing organ, turning inherited behavior into differentiated acts that form new anatomic-behavioral-spatial time gestalts, which generate maps of expressions and experiences in the cortex. The hands, like the face, are important organs for forming multi-dimensional gradients of feelings and duration generated by muscular effort. The cortex learns about making space-time to organize a world of interior and exterior relationships through the voluntary extending, twisting, turning and squeezing of the hands. The hands, like the face and the body’s postural muscular emotional expressions, form a language of communication between the body and itself and the world around it. Both the hands and the face form the brain, but it is the hands that make the time-space dimension in the cortex.

How we use our hands, through voluntary muscular effort, to create a motoric pattern of expression — for example, to hold, cling or make a fist — creates a muscular neural pattern, a somatic spatial gestalt and cortical synaptic map of the layers of tension in the muscular pattern. This muscular behavior has a pattern of excitability and elasticity in the cortex and in the hand. Slow distinct muscular acts of stiffening, adding tension — or disassembling and using less muscular effort in the hands — organize distinct behavior geometries in the hand, the body and the cortex. The muscular, neural and body gestalts are three connected, but distinct, patterns. The relationship of these bodied muscular neural structures is the ground of motoric, tactile, emotional and cortical knowing.

The Formative Dynamic : The human organism inherits a readiness to act and form 

The forming process is experienced as the awareness of a readiness to change and remember our muscular emotional mental acts and experiences. Being able to change and remember our inherited acts, attitudes and experiences grows the awareness of a developmental dynamic and the ability to remember and repeat our voluntary acts and experiences of change. To organize a structural behavioral shape and organize another bodily organization with voluntary muscular effort (VME) extends the ability to participate in making transitions and creating new inter- and intra-relationships. The ability to voluntarily influence transitions personalizes the kinetic emotional chain of the soma to influence its daily life. This is the ground floor of the concept of Formative Psychology® that the individual is a voluntary agent of self-regulating and forming differentiated muscular neural acts and relationships.

The body and its cortex co-body each other through learning to use voluntary muscular effort, making it possible to generate and develop an experiential relationship between the muscles and the cortex. This co-bodying relationship develops a personal style of attending that is associated with being intimate with ourselves — muscularly, emotionally, imaginatively. We are all part of this forming process, personally and collectively; how we participate in the innate forming process gives satisfaction and meaning to our efforts and creates a personal embodied life.

Embryology gives us a clue to how the behavior of the hand has evolved. The hand arises from the early body wall as buds that become paddles, then hand and arms. The early evolutionary functions show the formation of an organ that acts to interact with the world around it, like fins that interact with the water and move the organism though water space through a series of self-organizing responses. The paddles are always connected to the body. The actions directly affect the body, its brainstem, the limbic system and later its cortex and vise versa. The hand is a paddle that becomes a fin and later a brachiating limb of clenching that is in direct contact with the environment — be it water or trees, temperature or air or water currents — and communicates this to the body’s brain, using this information to make its own responses to the pressure it asserts. The cortex remembers these motor sequences and its qualities to construct not only a map of the world in which it is embedded, but also the realm of its patterns of motor responses, especially its voluntary ones. The hand is a motor sensory organ, an extension of the body wall that is negotiating between the external world, its internal world’s liquid and solid shapes and its own structure. The hands as they develop become agents of a complex somatic emotional cognitive social communication, in feeding, in grooming and in exploring one’s own as well as another’s body.

The hand is a complex agent of generating somatic shapes and information of influencing behavior within the body proper, in that it is a small brain (like the carotid brain in the neck) interacting with the cortical brain.

The body viewing its hand and its changing shapes, and its early voluntary efforts to move, are about experiencing its hands changing shape muscularly and cortically. This begins the first stages of the I-you relationship of the organism to itself. The body’s cortex experiences the muscular acts of its hands; begins to know them muscularly and the hand’s range of readiness to respond. There are two reams of experience: The hands seen and felt at a distance from the body, and the hands in the cortex inside the body. I can put these hands in my mouth, in another’s mouth, I am here and I am there. This is the beginning of a self relationship of involuntary and voluntary acts. It forms the dimension of a self-influencing and self-knowing organization, which leads to the unique human experience of the body relating to itself and influencing its responses. To be able, with voluntary effort, to influence its acts and be influenced by its muscular acts creates a relationship: A space-time structure, an internal anatomic dimension. This gestalt is a relationship of a vivid less bodied (neural) experiencing and a vivid internal somatic muscular-excitatory-pulsatory experiencing. Voluntary muscular work with the hands emphasizes that they are agents of the body able to manage and influence general patterns of actions and emotional expressions that makes embodied life a dynamic complex of relationships that are experientially fruitful.

The hand is an organ that literally creates maps of its acts in the space around it and the cellular space within it and in its cortex. By its voluntarily created gestures, the hand defines a somatic shape and its different stages of shapes in its trajectory of completion. The changing of the hand through applying muscular pressure creates a series of motile, porous and rigid structures connected by the different shapes which form wave shapes in the space it occupies, be it aquatic, atmospheric or biological. The point is that the hand actions are an organizing pattern of different maps: Muscular neural and environmental. Voluntary muscular gesturing with the hands organizes patterns whose sequences, durations, intensities of force and excitement are able to be remembered, recalled and repeated by the cortex. This insures making a memory that can enhance practicing, planning and editing behavioral acts with intended possible outcomes. This generates a somatic dimension within a personalized space-time shape identified as “this I can do with voluntary muscular effort,” and is the beginning of narrating an action story of our voluntary formed personal embodied life.

The readiness to act is where the action is

The hands, as extensions of the body, are always in a readiness to be responsive and influence what the organism is doing, its behavioral shape. It is a readiness to disassemble or reassemble a gesture or expression and to differentiate it, to manage boundaries by extending or contracting, to avoid under or overreaching, or to alter emotional intensity and intent in order to form new expressions and new relationships.

The hands, like the body, are always in different stages of readiness to respond to changes in locomotion, orientation, emotional responses or situations within itself or of the surrounding world. There is a motoric muscular readiness to reorganize an anatomic structure or to resist reorganization, as seen in touching to groom or avoiding grooming. Working with the hands teaches the body and its cortex about this readiness to share, link or delay expressions.

The hands are primarily a communication system, a language of the body speaking to itself and others. The hands link inner ear, eyes, mouth and larynx. They link muscles, cortex and the organs of balance, to give orientation and expression. These voluntarily made connections have an organized anatomic behavioral space-time structure, with an excitatory, tidal intensity of neural-muscular-emotional-cognitive experiences that have durations, which we call memories. Using voluntary muscular effort forms distinct cortical-skeletal-muscular organizations of motoric electrical knowing. This muscular cortical behavior is actually the body’s readiness to complete or repeat an act that gives a personal cortical emotional order to the inherited body’s upwelling’s. A Formative behavior’s structure of the intensity, time and intent of excitatory pulsation creates a somatic time-space dimension of experience of self and world. This is an elastic equation of acts, thoughts, feelings and memories for how we are bodily in the world.

The hands communicate shifts in intent, intensity, duration and meaning which can evolve and mature an organism’s individuality of being in the world. The body and the world, the cortex and its body, and the hand and its body and cortex are influencing communication with each other, effecting each other’s shape, expressions and experiences. Sign language is a great example of how voluntary efforting with the hands influences expressions, experience and meaning.

When we extend or flex the fingers, we experience the interaction between an act in process and the innate sense of the readiness to facilitate or inhibit its progression. The primary organization is in a dialogue with its muscular-neural-feeling readiness to regulate intensity and intent. Think of swelling and gathering back, or of asserting and withdrawing, of any emotion, desire or expression that fosters new experiencing or restores old ones.

Using VME to make a fist in steps, going from the porosity of extension, to the rigidity of contraction, and to the density of compression, we can experience the organizing stages and how voluntary influence affects intensity, duration and cortical attention. This relationship between what is going on and what is inhibited is a field of muscular-neural gradients of readiness to complete or abort completion. A field of possible acts, rather than determined acts, emerges. This dialogue of voluntary measured, distinct, slow, muscular steps develops a differentiated step-by-step internal external cortical-muscular sequence of acts with its own intent, time and spatial organization. This voluntary muscular effort makes evident the sequence of under-formed readiness to form distinctness, as well as the dialogue of forming connections between a behavior’s inherited structure and a voluntarily formed shape, time and relationship space. of personal structure.

The hands are anatomic agents of voluntary morphogenesis: The hands are forming agents of a personal embodied existing

The human organism has established relationships with the world, adapted itself, changed the world now in the immediate time it has entered into the project of forming a relationship with itself through its own deliberate voluntary efforts. Its voluntary relationship with itself forms a personal embodied self and lifestyle. This voluntary muscular and cortical effort, which expresses the evolutionary process in an individual, is my interest.

The body and its hand, from early life on, are an essential informing and forming agent in creating a personal embodied human dimension. It establishes that touch is a primary way of knowing the world, it brings food and its fingers and objects to its mouth to touch it from the inside. To touch the world is important as it is a means of knowing by doing. How the hand touches its own body, puts pressure on it and how the organism responds is also a touch — one from the outside in, one from the inside out — that generates information from patterns of acting.

The Invisible and Visible Body

The brew of involuntary and voluntary motor acts forms the cortical world which includes the sense of self-awareness and identity in a situation, of “this I can do,” “this I can recall,” “this I can apply.” It means the recalling of a muscular map, a neural, cognitive, imagistic and emotional map along with its associations.

Think of the shapes in water when we swim, or the shapes the hand makes in thick liquids, or the sounds from playing an instrument or using a tool or what is going in the atmosphere in gesturing. The shape of the body in its engaging in relationships with people, of simply walking through the air, brings about shapes in the body, the cortex and the environment — three related, yet different, experiences that generate other experiences that say “this is me.” The hands, like the body and the cortex, create somatic shapes in the space around them and in themselves. Think of a fish in water making a shape in the water it displaces and also having a shape made by the water. As a porpoise, otter or whale dives deeper, its body shape changes and so does the water space around it. Humans who live in a gaseous molecular ocean also change the space around them as they change themselves, as can been noticed when they become more compressed or porous when rage, terror, depression or erotic arousal dominates.

This is a recognized anatomic structure and behavior with its associated experiences, the personal sense of I. These motor cortical interactions are a co-bodying process of muscular neural acts. Their intensity, intents and their mapping are co-bodying each other in forming a distinct, personal dimension of the organism creating an anatomic personal embodied world within itself, as well as with others, with its voluntary muscular efforts.

VME as an agent of Morphogenesis and of Embodying Voluntary Effort

The story of the hand and its muscular neural emotional expressions are an inter-organismic and inner-organismic communication. The hand is grounded in the embryological emergence from the originating membrane — the early body wall as a paddle — to an organ of co-expression, interaction with world and self-forming. The hand differentiates from an organ with the main function of locomotion to an organ of social and personal communication. From its voluntary acts of generating and transmitting information back and forth from body to cortex and back, in a pulsatory tide of communications connections, which are all forms of touching oneself. How the body contracts and subcontracts with voluntary effort is a self-touching that brings knowing into a bigger dimension, muscular and neural excitatory tensions, patterns of internal and external relationships and its formed meanings that we call self.

The Embodied I and Thou

The hand as an agent for evolution, of relationship, of creating a spatial dimension, of linking mouth, breath sound, hand, fingers, eye, and cortex in a interacting creation of a motor awareness that generates action, perception, intent and information of intent and planning. The hand is an organ of voluntary touching that brings about the evolution of its own body. Its clenching, extending, bending, rotating, tearing and pushing generates self-knowing. Its planning to act and its ability to influence its acts before and after happening. VME in the body, its hands and cortex are morphogenetic fields comprised of old and new acts, sensory feeling patterns and cognitive states. They interact and make order in the continual influx of data interacting with the library of memories of past motor acts that organized space-time somatic relationships and of muscular neural emotional maps with its associated warmth, intensity of excitement. This organization of an inherited somatic behavior and its changing muscular gestalt is the basis of forming a personal embodied I, or this “I can do” self, grown from personalizing the involuntary. The relationship of voluntary muscular cortical efforts using the hand to its own inherited body brings about personalizing the unknown body and including it in its voluntary formed body.

The organism’s ability to plan, by remembering a motor sequence of moves and to use them again or define them to create other affects — from pointing to poking, or indicating direction, to rotation — is similar to acts of thinking, imagining, rehearsing. The hand as an agent of planned voluntary acts also creates an awareness of its organization of acts, its intensity, duration, and intent and consequences, which form a dimension of a personal self and identity. The hands as agents of self-knowing and self-forming transcend what was given to create what has never been programmed. An embodied ever changing, yet stable, relationship of the body to itself.

The organism’s hand has the freedom to move voluntarily, vertically, horizontality, rotationally and in a multitude of angles and force to create anatomic shapes and maps, which are spatial muscular organizations in the cortex. This brings about the development of repeating and reorganizing somatic behaviors, muscular-neural-emotional structures which open doors to new possibilities of organizing a personal world inside ourselves and in others.

The hand action cues the organism to what is going on in itself and linking other maps to form more defined and inclusive patterns of acting. It develops a library of being able to say and do, “I am an agent of my own acts and intents,” “I do this,” “I can repeat acts or parts of them and realign them,” and the making of memories that can be recalled to influence forming acts. This is an apprehending and molding of oneself by one’s own hands.

The hand as a music maker, for example, begins a relationship from specific acts of remembered patterns that produce a certain sound. This interplay of making a voluntary interactions of cortex and muscle and memory of formed acts and associated self-generated responses create a dimension of muscular cortical acts, new and edited or reinforced old acts and their new relationships. Voluntary muscular cortical acts rehearse and plan new motor acts and visual images and memories of this information, of the sequences and intensities of the act and its experiences. This changes the hand gesture, the brain, the intent and consequences and the relationship that creates or reinforces the time frame of a personal world. This is the forming of a relationship with oneself and with others. It takes a self-touching to form this reality of connection and contact that enriches the cortex and embodied life.

The Gift of Slow 

Slow voluntary muscular effort (VME) is the key to accessing our somatic patterns of behavior. Slow VME influences involuntary behavior and reorganizes its structure and intention. Slow voluntary muscular acts, investigating and developing by differentiating motoric behavioral patterns, invigorate the Formative process to grow connections that forms an interior anatomic shape, and its exterior expression that links the body and cortex in a personal style of relationship’s time, intensity and meanings.

Voluntary effort that is managing the extending and contracting reflex makes vivid expressions of motile, porous, rigid and dense structures and excitatory shapes, which influence interactions that form the personal embodied entity that we call self and bestows a sense of satisfaction. Using VME in a slow style with the hands develops a range of steps of muscular shapes and behaviors that increases the range of expressions and feeling experiences as well as personal value and meaning.

In the somatic emotional exercises I teach, I encourage people to use their hands as organs of self-knowing and self-forming. They learn how they stiffen, compress or make the hand receptive or a fist of unyielding, with rigid, porous or dense intensity. They learn how they reach, touch, poke, make a sign; how they grasp, apprehend, tear apart, inspect or caress; how impatient or over-patient they are; how these acts done in slow steps generate behaviors and influence perception, collect information and make anatomic plans for acting, shaping distinct new gestures. Making a clenched fist in distinct slow steps, holding it for a time relieves tension, promotes memory, begins a relationship of the different stages of a gesture, sequencing and producing internal contact, information and memories of past acts. How to create new behavioral experiences from voluntary acts with the hand brings about the participation of the whole body and its cortex. This interaction generates the optimism and empowering of the self to manage or change itself in severe emergency events — and diminishes helplessness, anger, despair and confusion. The hand is a primary cueing system for mobilizing or managing or forming organismic acts and differentiations. Using a slow voluntary muscular style in an unhurried way makes available the time and internal space to experience how we are bodily present — and how to influence our somatic-emotional-cognitive functioning in a way that we develop a Formative interior style with a range of awareness of being bodily present.

The hand expressions are essential for the body’s planning to apprehend, groom, arouse, attack, strike and communicate. By directing angles of approach, the hand has intent and is a developing language that adds to body-brain development of thought, image, feeling and forming a personal world. Voluntary made gestures in slow motion transmit somatic motoric information as a source of self-awareness that influences the body’s experiencing, as well as teaching the body about its own external and internal spatial and time-related relationships.

Memories of motor acts and its different somatic organizations, of muscle and neural gestalts that co-body, co-articulate the different maps and their relationships to generate the personal embodied self and its responses. The interactions of the body’s striated muscle, its brainstem and basal ganglion, along with the activation of cerebellum and the prefrontal and motor areas of voluntary centers, influences the sequencing of timing and intensity, intensity of thrust and direction. This lineup of interactive neural-emotional-muscular connections within the organism is the basis of the I-Thou relationship. Using voluntary muscular effort, we generate emotional cognitive experiences, we learn that there is a locomotor hand, a carnal hand, an emotional hand, a cognitive hand, a language hand, and that the body can be influenced and formed to grow a history of voluntary form, feelings and images of a personal embodied life.

The Practice

The mouth is the entrance and exit to the body’s interior; it is a gateway. The hands are also a gateway for taking in and giving to, for offering, holding and possessing. They are organs whose elasticity generates muscular and emotional responses in ourselves and others and makes differentiated expressions, like in speaking and gesturing. How we touch, with fingers bent or stretched flat, with stiffness or porosity, conveys attitudes and intentions. The hands are organizing organs like the mouth, an opening in the body wall, an organ of ingestion and respiration that opens and closes in varying degrees and emotional expressions, from its pressing together, to a smile of recognition or pleasure, to the grimace of disgust or pain, to the pursing of contact or of shaping speech. The hands, like the mouth, can highly differentiate expressions. The significant difference is that the hands weave through space, shape space and operate at a distance from the body, forming a spatial relationship.

The hands help organize a spatial dimension in the cortex, which I believe the mouth does not do. The fingers of the hand have a special relationship, one that is able to organize distinct sequences of steps, like in counting, which is an organizer of sequencing, and to differentiate specific small acts and make linear time and space, as in pointing or holding up the palm to delineate a boundary inside our self or for others.

Using voluntary muscular effort to slow the organizing of the hands’ gestures of extending its fingers, and then making a fist, organizes different gradients of muscular and excitatory intensity and defines the stages of an expression, like holding can be clinging, clutching, protective and tender. Voluntary muscular effort creates a spatial time dimension, an elastic internal somatic space-time organization of pulsatory morphing, turning, twisting and untwisting surfaces with many layers, to which the cortex gives duration and repeatability. Voluntary, slow, muscular effort connects skeletal muscle action patterns into an anatomic motile and stable web of motoric-neural-emotional-spatial attitudinal gestalts that layer and extend the soma’s instinctual and personal bodily world.

The practice of using voluntary muscular cortical effort is actually the developing of a function to influence and differentiate anatomy, emotion, behavior, relationship and intent. The hand and its body and cortex talk to each other just as much as the hands talk to others. Gestures of extending, flattening, compressing, squeezing, cupping, holding, receiving, pointing, poking and twisting tell others something about our emotional intentions. This gesturing also communicates with the organism and its cortex, forming a triad that influences the behavioral intent of the body’s connective, neural and hormonal tissues. The hand’s gastrulating expressions generate a neural geometry, a spatial organization in the cortex that can be replicated.

The hand is an orienting organ that organizes its expressions, which mobilize back and forth action patterns generating many somatic shapes essential to the story of our history of existing. The body, its cortex, and its extensions — the hands — are in a kinesthetic, excitatory, tactile-neural-visual pressure relationship, in which voluntary muscular effort organizes excitement waves that expand the soma and also gather it back to give it more stable form. The hand as a pulsatory organ creates and inhibits the tides of excitement. It creates waves of expansion and waves of compression and it extends, making elastic the tides of desires, emotions and imaginative cognitive expressions. This wave of expression and its gathering back of the motile under-formed swell gives continuity and repeatability like the heart’s systole and diastole. It is an elastic tide of many shapes and shades of experiences that give continuity, coherence and meaning through voluntary effort.

The Exercises 

How the body’s cortex uses VME creates an ongoing attentive tension of localized and digitalized pressure of porous, motile, rigid and dense states. This self-pressuring anatomic gestalt extends the personal presence of the organism within itself. How we voluntarily participate in our self-managed forming brings the satisfaction of self-reliance and the generation of relationships that are the meanings of our personal embodied life. How we touch ourselves — with what kind of attitude, emotion and intensity, for how long, with a flat hand or a cupped hand, or a pushing and pulling hand that uses big force or tender force to elicit strong or tender responses — opens a door to a knowing anatomic space-time architecture, an organizing gestalt of the different shapes of the ages of our life cycle. This is the dynamic of depth we associate with the feeling of being mature.


Clenching the hand into a fist slowly, you can experience that at a critical contraction there is also a simultaneous stretching, an extending. These opposing tensions create a distinct layering of expressions and a readiness to diminish or support a bodily act. The ability to voluntarily influence and differentiate this readiness pattern alters the gestalt of an emotional threatening reflex response, be it a loss of balance that creates an instability of the posture, or a pride or bravado brought on by a reaction to rejection, or feelings of disgust, dislike or shame.

As we begin to learn the different levels of muscular force that the emergency reflexes use, and how much force it takes to voluntarily differentiate these emergency patterns, we acquire more self-knowledge for forming the multi-layered playground of embodied life’s experiential presence in the world.


Conceive of three ranges of somatic territory — the outer social world, the middle family or friendship sphere and the internal personal world — each having a body wall, a boundary or a shape, an organized structure that sustains this somatic gestalt over time. That allows an elasticity of interaction between the layers or spheres of connection and behavior. We can image that the hands are part of the body wall and manage the locomotion between the social, the family and personal somatic structures and relationships. We can then see the hands as an extension of the body wall that can be stretched, contracted, under formed, formless.

Flex the fingers of the hand toward the palm, forming a cup of holding or containing, or a rigid closed fist of possessing, or a compressed fist of protecting, having an impenetrable boundary. Experience slow voluntary muscular effort, flexing and extending from a semi-porous rigid shape to a compressed shape, affecting the whole body in a first stage pulling up in rigidity, then pulling the torso back, making a distance, and then a compressing hunkering down of hiding, by pulling into itself. The extending or disassembling compressed and over-rigid fist toward a softer receptive cupping, containing hand changes the pulling in or back distancing, which accompanies a receptive soft hand, a torso shape. If you let the hand go limp, you have a porous hand and torso. If you stretch the fingers stiff to over-reach, there’s a sense a loss of boundaries.

In this exercise we can notice that the hands and the body shape are connected and influence how we are bodily, cortically and emotionally present. We can experience the influence the hands have in informing the body and its cortex of a shape of behavior to support or reject. This protocol is immensely useful in helping a person manage their emotion’s life, anger and fear, or in forming a way to manage anxiety and the layers of contact and how the hands teach the cortex and the body proper about dimension, relationship and expressive differentiation, much like a piano player or a painter. The hands are a little body, a small brain interacting with the bigger body and cortex to form a personal dimension of existing by forming a personal life. Without hands we would have no tools, no sense of voluntary making changes and forming a world inside or outside our self. The hand teach us the enormous value of touching and managed motor acts that help the cortex learn the skill of dimension and differentiation and the forming of a human dimension of voluntary learned skills of communicating and forming.


The ongoing reorganizing muscular cortical acting and readiness to act is the basis of solving emotional and mental dilemmas, through the personal effort of knowing how to alter expression and experience. Working with slow muscular effort, the cortex gets to know its own and its body’s forming pace and sequence of assembling, dispersing, pausing and organizing steps, which are a dimension of experiencing the elastic, complex motile web of its muscular-emotional-neural, multi-dimensional, embodied world.

Working with the hands in a voluntary measured style influences the body’s larger muscles of immediate response and changes the intensity of the readiness to differentiate and alter emotional experiencing. Small twisting and untwisting of the hand allows the body to experience the various gradients of muscular-neural distinctions in behaviors which emerge from the library of inherited muscular emotional acts of shrinking, pushing back or hitting, to not only form new expressions but also new relationship connections.

Making a fist in slow motion, using increased muscular tension to extend or bend the fingers back shows three levels: To clench or stiffen, to withdraw or pull back by muscular contracting, or to pull in by squeezing with muscular compression. These gradients of muscular tension can be influenced by voluntary effort to reorganize a deeper, wider pattern of connection, a differentiated more complex labyrinth of neural emotional connections and relationships which deepen or add volume to bodily expressions and relationships.

We may find that the contractions and compressions of rigidity and density are easier to manage than extending and stretching, which take more effort and are laced with caution. Using the hands as agents for addressing excesses of behavior can influence this protective, cautious reluctance to extend in personal, social or work-related dilemmas of daily life and help organize an individual’s personal world.


The hands open and close with an unbelievable variety of possibilities that a slower time frame of self-regulated movements communicate to the body and its cortex. The hand movements link the inherited to the personal learned, emotional and cognitive attitudes, like pride, shame or disgust. Excesses become familiar with a slower time frame. Work with the hands sets up a dialogue of interactions with cortex and body that organizes a forming field for creating and editing our muscular cortical acts, from learning to use a tool, to learning to play a piano or a sport, with others and ourselves — thus forming a personal pantheon of motoric-emotional scenes and novel feelings that communicate and enlarge the rainbow of expressions and experiences that can be recalled and shared. Using VME with the hand in a slow, dramatized self-touching stimulates the kinetic emotional chain that extends daily life’s work of growing from obstacles. Experiences of slower, unhurried, distinctive time make memories and values that form our remembered present’s gradient of our embodied multi-dimensional existence’s experienced time.

Using voluntary muscular effort, the body’s cortex brings forward its pulsatory waves, a liquid-like tiding, an excitatory tactile voice that has episodes of vigorous, compressed, and porous clouds of sounds that stretch time and form memories of being present. The soma fills itself from its wordless tympanic landscape, where time has stopped and touch’s tenderness arouses remembered intimacies from which rise the elixir of embodied life’s glow of grace and gratitude. How thrilling to be the voice of the homeland, of what has been lived and what is being lived. This is the language of animate life which the hands and face speak of in their forming of a personal expression and a multi-dimension of the inherited and personal past and present expressions which are extended into a forming future.

In Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the composer used the kettle drums in a unique way: As a rising and setting thread of continuity, an emergent swelling symphony of heartbeat sounds, forming an emotional intensity from which float flute, French horn and piccolo songs. The bass oceanic tiding roars as an underlying constant, persistent, extended elastic wave of vitality’s undulation, a force of desire’s pulsatory time and voluntary effort’s determination to define our continuing metamorphoses which extends existence. VME with the hands and eyes, and the composer’s postural attitudes, organized the emotional waves of his body’s pulsations and counter-punctual emotional waves of tiding somatic shapes into a differentiated human dimension that sang the song of the human’s inner life. Beethoven’s symphonies are creations of the interactions of VME that transform the seasons of desire, emotion and imagination storms into the narrative of a forming human life. The body’s motile, porous, elastic tensions and intensities, its expansive plasmic chemical electric gel, are the dynamic silent gravity-free interior environment which voluntary muscular cortical effort forms into a personal embodied self, a personal developed life with its pleasures and satisfactions of having formed an awareness of a nature within the human that is the majestic expression of animate life.

The human dimension, which is the human body and its hands, and the human body and its cortex, and its heart that forms the individual and its embodied world, through voluntary muscular cortical effort, into a symphony of relationships through personal effort.



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Edelman, G. (1990). The Remembered Present: A Biological Theory of Consciousness. New York: Basic Books.

Fields, R.D. (2009). The Other Brain: From Dementia to Schizophrenia, How New Discoveries about the Brain Are Revolutionizing Medicine and Science. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Keleman, S. (2013). Emotional Anatomy [DVD]. Berkeley, California: Canter Press.

Keleman, S. & Hendrix, G. (1987). Embodying Experience: Forming a Personal Life. Berkeley, California: Center Press.

Koob, A. (2009). The Root of Thought: Unlocking Glia — the Brain Cell That Will Help Us Sharpen Our Wits, Heal Injury, and Treat Brain Disease. Upper Saddle River NJ: FT Press.

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (1990). The Roots Of Thinking. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Tallis, R. (2003). The Hand: A Philosophical Inquiry into Human Being. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Stanley Keleman, who is part of our advisory board and contributor to The Neuropsychotherapist, is an expert in Formative Psychology and somatic emotional processes in educational, body psychological and evolutionary concepts.

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