Name, Surname: Böhlke, Kristina
Nationality: German
City Country: Hamburg, Germany
Study Program: Biotechnology, Ph. D. Position
Employer: Self-employed

Dr. Kristina Böhlke was born in Hamburg and spent parts of her childhood in Indonesia and the Netherlands. Her political commitment began at 16 and she founded a BUND nature conservation group, 10 years later she joined the SPD. After her TU doctorate, she switched to public administration, worked in the research ministry and finally became a state councilor in Hamburg before she became self-employed as a consultant and trainer.

“The Mind is Already Stretched to Capacity”

The Hamburg emotion trainer Kristina Böhlke on biology, the sense of body awareness, and her role as a mediator between politics and science.

You studied biology at the University of Hamburg. How did you then come to study for a PhD in biotechnology at Hamburg University of Technology and how did that influence where you went from there?
It was an elegant way to switch university without having to switch the city where I was studying. At Hamburg University of Technology’s Graduate College I discovered interesting environmental topics (the environment has always moved me), and at roughly the same time as I started work on my doctoral dissertation I was elected to the Hamburg regional executive of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). That influenced me and it became clear to me in the course of work for my PhD that I was interested in knowledge—not in every “grain of sand” on which to build my career but in the “beach of knowledge.” That is why it was logical for me to organize research for others. My role is basically that of an interpreter, translating between politics, administration and science.

What did you learn from your studies over and above purely subject-related aspects?I owe a debt of gratitude to my doctoral supervisor, inter alia because he entrusted me with “non-doctoral” tasks. I coordinated with eight European partners an application to the European research framework program, for example. That was an enormous amount of work but I learnt a lot in the course of it. It was the basis of competences for which you are grateful sooner or later.

Did you make a conscious decision toward the end of your scientific career when you chose to work in a government ministry?
Yes, that was quite clear and my intention. I had begun to be bored with the subject of my dissertation and that is not a good sign. One of my role models is the environmental scientist Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, who once said you should do something new every five years. It was a good match for me that I was able to move to Berlin as a consultant at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

You took the five-year rule to heart and then spent five years as head of project management at the DESY research center in Hamburg.
I had just renewed my five-year contract there when Hamburg went to the polls in February 2011…

…the election in which the SPD won an absolute majority and Olaf Scholz became Lord Mayor of Hamburg.
That’s right. He asked me if I wanted to take up the position of State Secretary at the Ministry of Science and Research. I had previously been a member of the SPD’s Hamburg regional executive, chaired by Olaf Scholz, for several years. I could have carried on well without a political appointment, but the temptation to help shape science policy in Hamburg was of course enormous. So I couldn’t really refuse, especially as an offer of that kind isn’t one you receive every day of the week.

A year later you turned your back on politics. You were in poor health, suffering from burnout. Did you see that crisis as—in the final analysis—an opportunity?
I had resigned, and as anyone who is conversant with burnout knows, you aren’t suddenly healthy again, that takes time. I now think that destiny dealt me a blow for which I am duly grateful. It gave me an opportunity to think long and hard. Did I really want to carry on like that? I had spent fifteen very intensive years like a hamster in a wheel—without a break. And at some stage or other the body no longer forgives the sheer exertion.

What did you do?
I took training courses and learnt how to handle stress and conflicts. And then realized that in the future I wanted to focus on that kind of “emotion training” as a separate activity. In the final analysis I am now back to biology as a trainer—because I have always been interested in how human life functions. I recently registered my “Körper-Biologik” (Body Bio-Logic) trademark. It deals with inner leadership, or self-perception and self-control. Much of what I can now do and pass on to others would have been a great help to me back then. I believe it is because my body can sense very well if something is not right.

How does Körper-Biologik® work?
They say that between two people the chemistry must be right. In reality it’s the physics. Everyone has an aura or radiance, and radiation it is, physically speaking. The aim is to know your own body so well that you can distinguish. Does what I now sense or feel come from me or from you?

For whom are your courses suitable?
For anyone and everyone. At the city of Hamburg’s Center for Education and Training I offer training courses on, for example, “Emotionally Competent Leadership for Executives.” Or speakers come to me who want to demonstrate authentic emotions onstage. They would like, for instance, to tell a dramatic story without emotionally abusing or re-traumatizing themselves. My training courses are in principle all variations on working with the body. That is why I call it Körper-Biologik®. I practice with people how to regain their bodily emotional competence. I don’t offer advice on what to wear. My advice is on how I embody what I want to communicate. With your body posture you can influence inner bearing—and vice-versa.

Can you give us an example?
People very often tell me they must first write down what they are about to say. Yet it is much more important to consider what you want to radiate and prepare to do so physically. Once that is sorted you can be sure the right words will follow by themselves.

Do you have a motto for life or work?
“Let go of control, take over leadership!” My mission is to make people more self-aware, and I mean that physically. To deal with themselves more consciously and, building on that, to deal with where, for example, a bad mood comes from and whether that’s the way you want to be or you can reroute it. All of that happens at the physical, bodily level. Sooner or later, emotional blockades cause physical pain. That is why the body is important for me as an instrument—because the mind is already stretched to capacity. We are constantly making plans and to do lists, but the body knows better and can show us the way.  

What would you ask an omniscient research scientist from the future?
Has quantum physics taught us to understand better how it is that we know things that we cannot actually know? I knew, for example, that my grandmother had just died at the other end of the world.

What advice would you today with your experience give to students and young graduates?
Follow your passion. A decision taken directly after graduation is not the last word on the subject for your entire career. So don’t be afraid of first doing what is on offer and what you feel like doing. It is also important to delve really deep into a subject in whatever area, such as when working on a doctoral dissertation. I didn’t find it easy, but it was important for me.

If you were the President of Hamburg University of Technology what would be important for you?
Science must take an interest in what is going on in society and society should show an interest in scientific topics. What with climate change and pandemics we need science, and because we are currently experiencing them, science ought also be capable of communicating!