My thanks go to Else Müller, who in August 2014 gave me the opportunity for a long talk about her life's journey. This portrait was created from the documents kindly provided by Mrs. Müller and from my conversation notes.
Love life and feel the grass under your feet
The name Else Müller is inseparable from Autogenic Training (AT) according to Prof. Dr. J.H. Schultz connected.
Her simplified and more contemporary version of this relaxation method, which she calls "innovative autogenic training", works in a playfully easy and pleasurable way. With the autosuggestive basic formulas of AT: "calmness", "heaviness", "warmth", combined with corresponding word pictures or integrated into short stories and fairy tales, she creates an access for adults and children alike. 17 published books. Numerous CDs have reached a total of millions. Most of them have remained on the book market as longsellers for 30 years. In the meantime Else Mueller became 80 years old.
You can't tell that she's eight decades old. Lively, open and full of energy, she radiates youthful joie de vivre. Her presence immediately captivates me.
Tasteful and distinctive, this is how she dresses, this is how she lives. White, gray and a bright warm red dominate their rooms. Everything is bright and clearly arranged, an atmosphere of tranquility. A bouquet of red roses shines in front of the cream-colored wall in her living room.
Her favorite place to have breakfast is on her balcony in the morning, she says. Decorated with flowers it runs from east to west. There she catches the sun as often as possible. Until last year she was still energetically training future relaxation educators. Only now, at the age of 80, has she decided to take it easy. Unfortunately, the "all-knowing" Nothing about her on the Internet, only her numerous book titles can be found in the relevant databases.
"I never had a computer," she confesses. That's why she was never online. The web has remained alien to her; yet her life's journey is worth a long entry. Her life actually began quite unspectacularly. Even into her third decade of life, her life was no different from that of most women. Born and raised in Frankfurt in 1934, she remained loyal to her city throughout her life. After her secondary education she does a commercial apprenticeship and marries early, at the age of 18. But then, in 1962, at the age of 28 and with two small children, she is drawn to the adult education center in Frankfurt. She organizes and leads "mothers' discussion groups" for the first time. Topics with which she is familiar. An activity born out of her own living environment and the need for exchange. Else Müller's "Mothers' Circles" are soon successful and gradually develop into "Women's Discussion Circles".
Her husband has always supported her, she notes. However, with the restriction "as long as her family does not suffer as a result of her work". A common attitude until the late 60s, in which the husband had to give his consent to any professional work of the wife, respectively. Was legally authorized to simply prohibit her from doing so as well.
The bourgeois nonconformist
In the years that followed, she repeatedly invited renowned speakers to discussion meetings, was active in public relations work for women at the adult education center, organized and led u.A. Weekend seminars, panel events and training courses. She also works as a freelance journalist.
The political atmosphere of departure of these years gives her efforts the decisive drift. Many things that had previously seemed unchangeable in society began to move. From the mothers' circles and women's discussion groups, the "political" women's forums develop, which critically examine the traditional role of women and want to break through the existing role patterns. At the height of this development, Else Müller organized a political educational trip of the forum leaders to Hungary. In 1972, she co-initiated the campaign "Frauen wählen Frauen" ("Women vote for women"), which set itself the task of promoting the proportion of women in parliaments.
The many activities and opportunities of those years sometimes seem to have overwhelmed her. What was going on inside her? How did she come to break out of a bourgeois, secure way of life?? What drove her? Or was she simply carried away by the spirit of the times and the rebellion against the "old ways," as so many are? The answer to these questions is ultimately revealed by her curriculum vitae. She says: yes and no!
The personal awakening
The social awakening undeniably also became Else Müller's own personal awakening. It was not easy for her during this time, she says. She has often been the target of hostility, especially from her female comrades-in-arms. She felt little of the proverbial "women's solidarity" at that time.
Coming from a middle-class background, she has never denied this influence. She shows this above all in her outward appearance. For some she is therefore a problem. She refuses the trendy protest look of jeans and parka. She wears her hair non-conformist long, but she never appears in public without make-up. This is what sets her fellow campaigners against her! Whoever shows himself like this clearly does not belong. Competitiveness and jealousy played an important role back then, she suspects. She was even accused of a "lack of left-wing consciousness". Although the attacks from within her own ranks cause her a lot of trouble, she does not change her appearance. It took a therapist to tell her that her individuality was also a sign of character and inner strength.
In the mid-70s, her personal situation also becomes difficult. Her marriage begins to falter. Finally ended in separation. Existential fears weigh her down, and yet she continues on her path undeterred, even in these times of crisis. Coeducation in schools becomes one of the important issues she advocates, especially because she wants to help her children have this opportunity.
New educational opportunities
In 1974, at the age of forty, she enrolled as a guest student in courses offered by the Department of Education at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. At the same time she begins a 2-year training in bioenergetics according to Gerda Boyesen.
All over the world, women are now setting out on their own professional future, independent of the care provided by their husbands. "Late" women like Else Müller, out of an existing family because the children have grown up or out of financial necessity after a divorce, equipped with the pill and a whole new desire for life. For many women, their own studies fell by the wayside. The well-being of the children and the husband's career had priority. Now it is time to seize the new opportunities that suddenly present themselves and to reorient one's own life once again. An unprecedented era of self-determination and freedom begins for women.
Else Müller takes part in a practical additional course "Family Therapy" for four semesters through the department of "Educational Sciences" and finally ends up as an intern in the social hotspot "Frankfurter Berg". This activity turns out to be an unexpected opportunity, because the work under the supervision of her lecturer G. Feldmann, gives her the opportunity to take the exam as an external candidate for the Diploma. Social worker to register. A kind of second educational path that opened up at that time. In 1977 she successfully passed her exams.
The pedagogical career
She finds her way to autogenic training through her father. He had learned this relaxation method at an early age. Successfully applied to himself.
Having fallen into a deep crisis herself, she suffers from sleep disorders and, like her father, seeks help in autogenic training. Through the well-known Frankfurt doctor and psychotherapist Heinz Mosebach, she subsequently trained as a trainer for autogenic training. Together with him and others, she also struggles during this time to realize a major project, the founding of the association "Familientherapeutische Praxis Frankfurt e.V.She founded the "Autogenic Training Center", which is also intended to offer psychosocial help to destitute families. Together with Dr. Mosebach she takes over the chairmanship of the association. After much back and forth, in 1976 they actually achieve recognition of the model by the magistrate of the city of Frankfurt and thus a subsidy for the practice, which is finally opened as the first such facility in Germany in 1978.
To earn some money during the semester break, she applies for a four-month job as a recreational teacher and instructor in vacation clubs in Marbella and Cran Canaria in the same year. She also seeks recreation for herself in these vacation paradises, because her private problems, her studies and her work have exhausted her. Today she laughs when she remembers that time. It was a pleasurable. Very well paid work has been. Unbelievable what was still going on back then. 1979 she receives her diploma in social pedagogy. Starts as a freelancer with courses in the field of health prophylaxis. She offers autogenic training, meditation and women's courses on various topics. She works at family education centers. Group therapy in a clinic for psychosomatic diseases. From 1983 onwards, she finally receives various teaching assignments in the field of teacher training in Hesse. In the meantime, she has opened her own psychotherapy practice. Opting out of the association project team. Her treatment focuses on psychosomatic disorders and stress prevention.
Innovative and creative
Between 1980 and 1983, she developed breathing therapy exercises that she called "Progressive Breathing Training. In addition, she develops the method with which she is still known today: "Innovative Autogenic Training" (IAT). An extract of decades of work with classical autogenic training (AT) according to Prof. Dr. Schultz. It was created because she had the idea to include fairy tales in the autogenic training for children. She also writes her first two books during these years. "You feel the grass under your feet" was published in 1983 by Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt. A theoretical introduction to the method, with a collection of fantasy and fairy tale journeys. Until today it has remained a bestseller. A non-fiction book dealing with autogenic training and proper breathing is published in the same year by Rowohlt, Hamburg.
She wrote most of the stories of her first book in a single night, she said, on vacation in Italy. She only added the formulas of autogenic training to these stories later. But until this method was fully developed, it was still a long way.
Both books are so successful right away that she receives orders for more, so she continues to write. Books with fairy tales, travel impressions and fantasy journeys follow, all with a high number of editions. In 1985 she was invited to give a lecture at the International Medical Congress in Vienna. Another public recognition of her work. She has arrived.
Meditation and Poetry
In the 90's she turns to a further combination of relaxation and language. She is engaged in creative writing. Finds her way to Japanese haiku poetry. A form of poetry that is easy to learn and has a meditative character. Observation of nature and the mindful perception of a single moment make a good haiku. This fits perfectly with relaxation. About Autogenic Training. To write a haiku is to practice Zen meditation, even if most Westerners have little idea of it.
1999 her book "Wenn die Kraniche ostwärts ziehen" with the subtitle "Haiku-Meditation und Kreatives Schreiben" (Haiku Meditation and Creative Writing) is published by Kösel Verlag, Munich. It includes instructions for creating a haiku writing workshop, enriched with a large portion of her own haikus, which say much more about her and her life than facts could. These poems open up a deeper access to the person that Else Müller is in her innermost being. They speak of pain, of loss, of love and of hope and besides that of a deep connection to nature and a feeling for the world "behind the visible world". They reveal that she has always been a spiritual seeker as well.
The soul dances
Else Müller was always sensitive to the spirit of the times. To this day she is interested in life itself. I experience her open and critical, both for her own development and for the social currents. For her, the private is always political. This conviction was the motivation for her women's political work. Pedagogical-therapeutic work. However, her path did not lead to the feminist movement or to party political activities, but to an independent, committed pedagogical and writing career. Relaxation, meditation, spirituality, interpersonal relationships are her most important life themes. Storytelling! To exude an atmosphere of well-being! Warming up with fairy tales. Feeling safe! Experiencing meaning! These are her concerns. She can convey this very well. From these abilities she developed her own relaxation method, especially suitable for children. It seems to me that until today she has always remained a bit of a child herself: Curious, wondering and open to miracles.
"Behind the evening star,
Hides the world
Of fairies, mermaids and elves." (1), she poetized.
Keeping the love and joy of life has been the most important thing in her life, she says. So far, she says, she has still managed to do that. Her positive aura and the consistent success of her books give credence to this particular focus on life.