This second article of the Fresh from the Continent Series will give you a deeper understanding of Sophrology and allow you to discover its Founder.
Professor Alfonso Caycedo founded Sophrology, a new discipline meaning “study of consciousness in harmony”, in 1960. He was an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical School of Barcelona and a doctor, neurologist and psychiatrist at Barcelona Hospital Clinic. Born in Colombia, Professor Caycedo travelled the world in search for new answers to provide better mental health care. He thought that in modern society people are more concerned about the external world and they are not looking after their inner world (feelings, body/mind awareness, insights). Society was too influenced by conditioning and more research was needed into practices such as meditation to bring a sense of calm and balance.
Professor Caycedo wanted to find an alternative form of therapy for psychiatric patients to avoid traumatic interventions like electroshock therapy. He spent his lifetime studying the human consciousness and how it can change its states and development. His pioneering explorations into the human psyche allowed Caycedo to discover new ways of treating psychiatric patients that would not deteriorate their psychological abilities (like the aforementioned electroshock therapy or induced insulin comas).
In order to bring more harmony, Sophrology works on consciousness using a scientific and medical approach to allow patients to have a better quality of life. Caycedo coined the term Sophrology in 1960 and created the first Sophrology clinic in Madrid in the same year. Consciousness, according to Caycedo, brings together all the elements that make life meaningful.
According to Sophrology there are three types of consciousness:
• Pathological consciousness, when there is an element of disease or instability
• Ordinary consciousness, in other words are day-to-day way of being without much awareness
• Sophronic consciousness, when there is an enhanced state of consciousness brought about by meditation, self-awareness, feelings of harmony and balance
The aim of Sophrology is to bring the Sophronic state to the forefront of our being and maintain a sense of balance and wellbeing. This in turn generates positive emotions and a generally more positive outlook in life.
Sophrology as a philosophy is based on consciousness using a set of principles and pillars, one being phenomenology, ie. the study of consciousness and direct experience.
The practice of Sophrology allows its students to create transformation by positively engaging with body or mind: the Sophrology technique is based on noticing sensations, creating positive visualisations and attitudes and reinforcing gestures which, repeated regularly, engender a sense of harmony and wellbeing. As you progress in your practice, you can reach a more profound connection with your body and your mind and discover a new reality.
Sophrology is based on a set of principles to help consciousness positively develop:
– All techniques used in Sophrology engage positively with body and mind. Their aim is to reinforce and positively stimulate consciousness; Sophrology doesn’t ignore “negative” experience. It is acknowledged in the practice which in itself develops the positive resources of the individual through values, inner resources, thoughts and behaviours;
– As body and mind are so closely related, Sophrology exercises allow to deeply connect and transform through sensations and perceptions
– Adaptability: the method needs to be adapted to the client’s needs by the Sophrologist who will choose the best suited protocols
– Objective reality: in order to guide someone else, the Sophrologist needs to understand and perceive his/her own state of conscisousness and therefore practise daily
The use of dynamic relaxation is the main pillar and the protocols used for each client are very specific and tailored. The levels of awareness are reached by taking into account how the client feels after each session: ideally, the person who is practising Sophrology should share or write down their sensations and feelings, particularly with regards to any changes they feel internally, both about themselves and about the external world. It is called phenodescription.
Professor Caycedo and His Research
Caycedo studied hypnosis and relaxation techniques, in particular he further explored autogenic training, a relaxation discipline that uses self-suggestion, developed by Johannes Heinrich Schultz.
Professor Caycedo travelled to Switzerland in the 1960s and met Professor Ludwig Binswanger, a phenomenological psychiatrist. Travelling further afield to India and Japan, Professor Caycedo learned about Buddhism, Yoga and Zen discipline.
Between the late 1960s and the early 1980s Professor Caycedo worked in Barcelona at the Faculty of Medicine. During that time Caycedo developed the Sophrology technique further and embarked on a programme to popularise it.
During the 1980s Caycedo also focused on social responsibility and travelled back to his native Colombia to set up a charity making Sophrology available to disadvantaged people and to inaugurate an international Sophrology school.
By the late 1980s Sophrology started taking different forms and different directions, which concerned Professor Caycedo who wanted to keep the original Sophrology philosophy as true and consistent as possible. In November 1988 he led the 4th Sophrology World Congress in Andorra. Caycedo noticed that Sophrology was becoming splintered and its identity was getting lost. As a result, Caycedian Sophrology was born as a discipline to retain the essence of Sophrology.
From 1992 onwards Caycedian schools were founded around Europe, notably France, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy and Belgium.
During the 1990s Professor Caycedo worked on creating a structure for Sophrology, which is now the current form with 12 levels or degrees.
It is now his daughter Natalia Caycedo, who is a Doctor in Psychiatry and Neuropsychology who is leading the International Academy of Caycedian Sophrology. As a teacher and scientific director, Natalia continues to develop her father’s vision, discipline and philosophy.
Sophrology in Today’s Society
More than fifty years have passed since Sophrology was first founded and it is still as relevant as it was in the 1960s. In fact, Sophrology is still in its infancy and has a lot of potential. From being a strictly medical treatment Sophrology has expanded and is now applied to various fields including sports performance and education.
In today’s society Sophrology can be a valuable tool to help deal with stress, deal with health issues, prepare for birth, and give guidance for self-awareness and self-development. There is still so much more to explore about Sophrology, both in terms of Sophrology’s potential and in terms of uncovering our own inner resources.
Professor Caycedo’s daughter Natalia carries on the work of her father; she founded Sofrocay, an association dedicated to the study and promotion of Sophrology.
A Message from BeSophro’s Founder Dominique
As some of you may know I started Sophrology when I was very young. By 20 years old, I had intensively practised the 12 levels of Sophrology and both the way I felt and my life had significantly changed. Sophrology has always been a part of my daily life just as it is today. Later, when I decided to train to become a Caycedian Sophrologist, I studied first in Switzerland with Raymond Abrezol and then I knew that I wanted to continue my training with Alfonso Caycedo. I remember feeling a mix of huge excitement and worry about meeting him. What if the man whose teachings I had followed for so long over the foundation years of my life was not exactly my cup of tea….what if his teachings were not the same as what I had learned and practised?
When I finally attended my first lecture with him, I discovered someone totally dedicated to his creation and who really believed in the infinite resource that consciousness is. A highly scientific researcher, fully grounded but also who was able to see beyond, to bring his vision for the world, a clearly knowledgeable man. He was very courteous and I always found that his eyes were a mix of mystery and gentleness, the mystery that you often find in those who know, whose life have given them a kind of wisdom. Guiding us into the practice was the best part! His voice had a very low pitch that immediately allowed you to connect deeply, and his terpnos logos (the way Sophrologists call the way they talk to the client through the practice) was straight to the point. He wasn’t afraid of repeating the same words in the same rhythm, a bit like a mantra, allowing us to explore the very deepest part of our consciousness. Being guided by the person who is at the source of the method was an amazing experience and I feel very fortunate to have crossed his path.
Have you ever wondered how Sophrology could help you? At BeSophro, I am offering individual, group and even Skype sessions, just get in touch if you would like to know more: firstname.lastname@example.org.