A Conversation with Laure Maurin (Lacanau, France)

Interviewing the Body with Laure Maurin

I know Laure Maurin very well since I have the chance of being married to her for 10 years. She trained in narrative practices in France, at the Fabrique Narrative, the school I founded 15 years ago. Her unique background as a yoga teacher, special educator and Narrative therapist allows her to create a new approach to conversation by merging her three skills. She presented her work in 2019 at the Narrative Camp organized by Peggy in Vermont, and also in France and Europe. The feedback has been very enthusiastic and a book is in the works. Laure’s work opens up new possibilities for all therapists who work with people who are experiencing physical pain or have a damaged relationship with their bodies. It was a privilege to interview her at our home in Lacanau on Valentine’s Day. In French with English Subtitles.

Pierre Blanc-Sahnoun,  Reauthoring Teaching Faculty and Founder of la Fabrique Narrative

 

Interviewing Laure Maurin about her work

1Laure can you introduce yourself?

Hello, I am Laure Maurin, I am a narrative therapist. Before becoming a narrative therapist, I worked as a special educator in institutions with children with physical and mental disabilities. I have also been a yoga teacher for about 20 years, I am a mother of 3 children and also a grandmother.

2How did you get the idea to ask questions to the clients' bodies?

When I trained in narrative therapy, I was influenced by the narrative posture, because in narrative conversations, it was possible at last to take into account the affective side, the emotions, which I had not often encountered in my work as a special educator and in my previous trainings. I think something was missing in the narrative conversations as we practiced them in France. I was very cautious through my experience in yoga and working with people with no access to verbal language or paralyzed bodies. I had to develop a reading skill of people’s bodies, and I noticed that during these conversations, sometimes they would have impatience in their legs, breaths that would freeze, arms that would close. I considered all these signals that their body was sending to me and tried to incorporate them in the conversation.

One day I had a client, a young law student, who was completely burnt out, really tired, she could not think anymore. The idea came to me to ask if there was a part of her body that would like to be interviewed and what part would it be? My intention was to get her out of her “mental” and back into her body. She offered to interview her brain, while saying, “but my brain thinks like me, it’s not going to tell you anything more relevant.” So I was very surprised to hear another voice coming from this young ladie’s brain, which said to her: “please trust me, please stop exhausting me, I need to rest”. She was very surprised to hear herself say that. And when I continued to do this sort of experiment, I often had the same feedback, people were astonished, surprised to hear themselves say things that they would not have thought they could say. That’s when I realized that in this direct interview with the body, other stories were possible, doors were waiting to be opened

3What pushed you, or gave you the authorization to map this work and to continue it?

During a meeting with David Epston in Bordeaux, he led a workshop that we called “the explorers”, and he proposed that we be creative with our skills. Well, my tools were this relationship with the body, which I had explored and exploited with yoga and in my various interventions as an educator. I didn’t necessarily dare to tell people to lie down on a mat to observe their bodies a little better, but thanks to breathing exercises and scrutinizing their bodies, little by little I was able to work on my intention to make people come back into their bodies. But what does it mean to come back into one’s body? how? With what tools? what protocol can we set up in narrative conversations to allow people to re-associate? I based myself on Milton Erickson’s hypnosis work. Erickson has this same intention and always with this posture as in narrative conversations, decentered and influential, to bring the person back, and to question her feelings to allow her to re-associate with her body, her emotions, her feelings.

4Would you have some concrete examples of questions that you ask when you do this type of interview?

Yes, I’m going to tell you about a man who had back issues, so I interviewed his back. First of all I start by asking him:  “How does it feel Mr. Back to have been chosen to speak?”

5So now you're addressing the back?

Yes, I address the back, these are the very first questions of the interview, because I think that François’ back (this gentleman was called François) had no opportunity to express himself, I found that it was important for this first question to have his feelings about it. “How is it for you right now?” We are always in the present, here and now, when we question the body. “Can you tell me about a pleasant sensation?” (How was it? Hot, cold, dark, bright, soft?) “What do you need?””How will it be like for you when you get what you need?”Afterwards I won’t necessarily talk all the time with François’ back, I try to find, as in the Remembering conversation, allies to François’ back, other parts of the body with which he communicates.”What other body part wouldn’t be surprised to hear you say that?” “Do you have anything to say that you would like François to remember?”and the next question after that could be: “How will you know that François has heard what you have to say, what will he do to acknowledge it?” And then, once the conversation with the body is over, I come back to François and ask him: “What did you hear in this conversation with your body that will make tomorrow different for it?” I go back and forth.

6So I have the impression that there is a particular language when you interview the body that is really based on sensations, colors, smells, textures?

Yes, smells, textures, but there can also be images that come up, otherwise we’re going to be more about sensations, we can ask the person if they want to give a name to this part of the body. In the conversation, I continue to interview either the back or the larynx, or the heart or the belly, but sometimes when I feel that the person may be a little embarrassed, he or she may want to give a name to the sensation or to the part of the body that is speaking.

7Don't people tend to go back into their mind from time to time and how do you react when the client goes back into their head like this?

When I feel that, and you can see it by the movement of the eyes, I can simply ask the person if it is ok for them to come back to their breathing for a while, to settle back into their seat, I let the silence settle a bit, before continuing. But if they need to come back to their mind at some point to express themselves, I let them do so.

8Are there any questions to avoid so that the person stays in his body and does not go into the mind?

I couldn’t quote questions to avoid it, all I can say is that if you are in your body when you interview the person, if you are in the unconditional reception of all that the other person brings in her emotions and that you are just there to simply welcome, you will see that the questions will come by themselves.

9You have said that this work is like a "body to body", what does that mean?

It means that if you are too much in the mind, your questions will fall into the water, they will not have any resonance, whereas if you come to question while being yourself in tune with your feelings, your emotions, what the emotions of the person you are facing bring out in you, your questions will start from another place and they will resonate differently for the person.

10This is what makes David Epston say that "this is about your body speaking with the client’s body"?

Absolutely, through breathing, through the posture, which is the posture of the narrative conversation, decentered and influential, but also through a synchronized body posture and breathing.

11When you watch Michael White's videos, don't you have the impression that he did this instinctively?

Instinctively, intuitively, Jung said that we have two kinds of mind, the “reasoning mind” and the “intuitive mind”. Today in our society, we honor the servant, the reasoning mind, but we have completely forgotten the gift. I think that Michael White actually worked with this gift of being completely in a “body to body”, in a total presence with people.

12 Do you mean that the body interview offers the opportunity to reconnect to our intuitive part?

Absolutely in the sense that when we interview the person’s body, in our posture as therapists, we have to interview the person from our own body. We must be completely connected to this intuitive wisdom, to this body which is itself connected to the unconscious and which will bring out another form of questions, another form of conversation. A conversation with silences, with breaths, with times of floating. When I question the body, I never look at the person in the eyes, I let my gaze float and I am very connected to what I feel, to the emotions that bloom in me, to the emotions that the person is feeling.

13When did you start teaching this work?

About four or five years ago, it was during the Narrative Francophone Conference in Nantes where I proposed my first workshop.

14Did the fact that in France there are mostly corporate coaches who have trained in Narrative approaches contribute to make the body disappear from the story?

It is true that here, Narrative ideas have been transmitted and applied a lot in the corporate world, even if these last years it is changing, we talk about “wellbeing at work”, but the body was poorly taken into consideration.

15Do you have other projects to spread your work?

At the moment, I am teaching workshops in French-speaking narrative therapy schools, and I have the idea of writing a book about this work. As far as the feedback from the workshops that I lead is concerned, I hear about “reconciliation”, “reunion”, and “returning home”. A lot of emotions are linked to these conversations with the body, in the sense that people say they are amazed and surprised to hear themselves say this. It shows that they are really speaking from another place of themselves, so they are recreating a different dialogue with themselves.

16You often say that you would have liked to know his methods when you worked with disabled people.

I would have liked to known the Narrative ideas when I was a special educator, because of the posture that we propose and especially all the possibilities to enrich the stories and the identities of these people who were labeled as autistic people, psychotic people, multi-handicapped people… behind these labels, I met very beautiful people who would have deserved Narrative conversations.

17Maybe in the future this type of conversation could be useful to social workers who work with this kind of public?

I am also thinking about other ways of interviewing the body: do we interview in the same way the body of someone who is in good health and the body of someone who has chronic pain? I also think of all the women who had for example a breast removed, how to help them to reengage a dialogue, and in this dialogue how to help them to find a different relationship with their body which has perhaps been abused. working on the relationship that we have with our body makes it grow and nourishes it.

18Is there anything else you would like to add?

I hope that in our society we will take the body more and more into account in the sense that I make a parallel between the body and nature, and if we take good care of our body, if we are reconnected to our bodies, we will be reconnected to nature and therefore we will perhaps hurt it a little less.

Laure Maurin (Bordeaux, France) is specialized in education and early childhood. For more than 10 years, she worked as an educator for disabled children in a day hospital, a therapeutic and educational institute, and an emergency home for juvenile offenders. Trained in the early childhood sector, she taught for more than 7 years to childcare assistants on child development, caring education, welcoming children and having a child with a disability. Mother of four children (and grand-mother of 4), Laure shares her experience and skills for a positive and caring education.Laure trained in narrative therapy at the Fabrique Narrative in Bordeaux, in Paris and with David Epston, David Denborough and Jill Freedman. She accompanies young people and teenagers in narrative therapy. Laure has been practicing yoga for over twenty years, trained at the French Yoga School for four years, and leads meditation and yoga workshops. She likes to accompany people with disabilities through body language and narrative practices. She hopes that each person can find, at his or her own pace, a better knowledge of his or her body, breath and being in its entirety. For the past three years, she has created a method of conversation based on the relationship one has with his body, linking her practice of narrative ideas, and her experience in yoga and hypnosis. She first proposes a narrative conversation about the relationship the person has with their body, following this conversation and after a protocol of re-association of the person with their body. She then interviews the body, as an outsider witness of the conversation it has just heard. At the end of the interview, the person in turn reacts to the words of the body that she has just heard. Laure conducts workshops in France and Belgium to train narrative practitioners in her work.