A conversation about Leibgedächtnis (body memory)

  • Thomas Fuchs Dr. med., Dr. phil., Karl Jaspers-Professor für Philosophische Grundlagen der Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie; Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik, University of Heidelberg, Germany
  • Roger Russell MA, PT, Feldenkrais Practitioner; Feldenkraiszentrum Heidelberg, Germany
  • Ulla Schläfke Feldenkrais Practitioner; Feldenkraiszentrum Heidelberg, Germany
  • Sabina Graf-Pointner Dipl. Soz. Päd, Feldenkrais Practitioner, Erlangen, Germany
Keywords: Leibgedächtnis, body memory, Feldenkrais Method, embodiment, emotions, phenomenological psychology


Two years ago I suggested to the IFF Feldenkrais Research Journal editor Cliff Smyth that Dr. Thomas Fuchs’ ideas about subjective body memory, which he calls Leibgedächtnis in German, would offer a valuable perspective for understanding the Feldenkrais Method. In November 2014 I began a series of conversations with Professor Fuchs with my partner Ulla Schläfke, and at times with Sabina Graf-Pointner joining us.

Dr. Fuchs, or more correctly, Dr. Dr. Fuchs since he has doctorates in psychiatry and philosophy and is professor in the medical and philosophy faculties at the University of Heidelberg, has a wide knowledge and a gentle manner. He knows the Feldenkrais Method through Barbara Pieper and Daniel Clenin, who have worked with him for many years and held leadership positions in the IFF. Our talks with Professor Fuchs have ranged over many topics, including this one about Leibgedächtnis. In the future, the other transcripts concerning themes of embodiment, philosophy, and emergent learning processes will be published.

Author Biographies

Thomas Fuchs, Dr. med., Dr. phil., Karl Jaspers-Professor für Philosophische Grundlagen der Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie; Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Dr. med. Dr. phil. Thomas Fuchs is a native of Munich, Germany where he studied medicine from 1981-1988. During his medical studies he was troubled by the exclusive objectification of the living body, and became interested in the first-person, subjective perspective of our embodied self. He broadened his studies beyond medicine to include philosophy and the history of medicine. It was in this later field that he received his first doctorate (MD).

In the following years he received training in neurology, psychiatry and psychotherapy in Munich. In 1997, he became supervising psychiatrist at the Heidelberg University Hospital and holds that position until today. Continuing his studies in philosophy, he received a Ph.D. in philosophy with a dissertation about the phenomenology of the subjective body, space and the concept of the person. In his work as a psychiatrist he has been able to weave together his fascination with medicine and the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, which goes beyond the objective physiology of the body to the subjective experience of what the Germans call the Leib or Leiblichkeit – the personal experiential dimension of one’s own body.

Since 2005 he has been professor for psychiatry and psychotherapy in Heidelberg. In 2010 he was appointed Karl Jaspers Professor of Philosophic Foundations of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Heidelberg. He has led two major research projects, funded by the European Union, concerning the subjective, first-person experience of one’s own body and the experience of self. These projects have included several conferences in Heidelberg with researchers and therapists from around the world. Since 2008 he has been a fellow of the Marsilius Center for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies in Heidelberg. Since 2010 he has also been head of the German Society of Phenomenological Anthropology, Psychiatry and Psychotherapy (DGAP).

He serves as editor of several professional journals, is a member of several professional associations and has published several books, conference volumes and countless articles. A popular lecturer, he has given talks at conferences on several continents; he is an avid traveler.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Fuchs
Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik
Voßstr. 4, D-69115 Heidelberg, Germany
e-mail: thomas.fuchs@urz.uni-heidelberg.de
homepage: www.thomasfuchs.uni-hd.de

Roger Russell, MA, PT, Feldenkrais Practitioner; Feldenkraiszentrum Heidelberg, Germany

Roger Russell MA, PT is a Feldenkrais trainer. He is American, and is educational director, with his partner Ulla Schläfke, of the Feldenkrais Zentrum Heidelberg. He had the luck to learn the Feldenkrais Method with Moshé Feldenkrais in San Francisco and Amherst (1975-1982). Since his first experience of Feldenkrais lessons he has been intrigued by the ideas and the way of thinking that led Feldenkrais to his extraordinarily creative methods. He has studied physical therapy, movement science, evolution, sensory-motor development, psychotherapy and neuroscience in pursuit of more understanding of Moshé’s ideas. Realizing that these different fields of study needed to be understood in a larger frame he became interested in epistemology and philosophy, which led him to the door of Thomas Fuchs at the University of Heidelberg.

Ulla Schläfke, Feldenkrais Practitioner; Feldenkraiszentrum Heidelberg, Germany

Ulla Schläfke is German and has been fascinated with people and their individual differences since she was a teenager. She learned languages (Spanish, French and English) in order to engage with people in different cultures. Leading the administration of a training institute for teachers and psychologists, she recognized that many of the methods of humanistic psychology could give her new insights into human nature, and she learned many of those methods, including Transactional Analysis, Theme-Centered Interaction, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Coaching and Organizational Development. An encounter in a conference led her to the Feldenkrais Method which she learned in Hawaii, Paris and London (1988 – 1991). She is a Feldenkrais trainer and leads the Feldenkrais Zentrum Heidelberg together with Roger Russell in Germany.

Roger Russell and Ulla Schläfke
Feldenkraiszentrum Heidelberg, Bergheimerstr. 31, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany
e-mail: feldenkraiszentrum-hd@t-online.de
homepage: www.feldenkraiszentrum-hd.de

Sabina Graf-Pointner, Dipl. Soz. Päd, Feldenkrais Practitioner, Erlangen, Germany

Sabina Graf-Pointner, Dipl. Soz.Päd (FH) is a Feldenkrais practitioner and complementary health practitioner. She was born in Munich,Germany and has been a teacher of dance and movement since 1984. She has been a curious practical researcher of human behaviour in many parts of the world and has studied dance and movement in Munich, Bolivia, Barcelona, Boulder, Colorado, San Francisco and New York. Understanding movement and approaching it from the mind’s side was equally important for her, which led her to study philosophy, psychology and pedagogy. A Feldenkrais Assistant Trainer since 2005, she is presently seeking her accreditation as a Feldenkrais Trainer Candidate. She has led a Feldenkrais centre in Erlangen since 1993 where she teaches Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration, and gives advanced trainings and supervision for Feldenkrais teachers.

Sabina Graf-Pointner
Feldenkrais-Praxis Erlangen
Schleifmühlstr. 19, 91054 Erlangen, Germany
e-mail: sabina.graf-pointner@t-online.de
homepage: www.feldenkraispraxis-erlangen.de

How to Cite
Fuchs, T., Russell, R., Schläfke, U., & Graf-Pointner, S. (2016). A conversation about Leibgedächtnis (body memory). Feldenkrais Research Journal, 5. Retrieved from https://feldenkraisresearchjournal.org/index.php/journal/article/view/24
Hypothesis and Theory