Why the Body?
This article is from year's past and my work is always evolving and changing. But the basic tenants from the work of Wilhelm Reich and Core Energetics are timeless. This article will give you a general idea of some of the underlying principles.
Why The Body?
Human beings are fascinating bio-psycho-social organisms. What makes up a person? Traditional psychotherapy works toward congruence in a person’s thinking, emotions, and actions/ reactions. There are many therapeutic techniques that have been developed over time to explore and improve these aspects of our life. We do exist on several levels simultaneously, but are we limited to thoughts, emotions and actions?
If we look at life and the human experience we see that there are 5 basic levels on which we function. There is the Intellect/ Thought, and the Emotions and Actions as mentioned above, and we also exist in the physical realm, the level of the Body. There is also something larger and beyond ourselves and the “seen” world, essentially the universal life force that is always present and is individuated in each of us and is expressed through us. Therefore a person is a psychosomatic unity (psyche plus soma, meaning physical) that exists on all 5 levels. Body-oriented therapy (Somatic approaches, Core Energetics, Core Evolution, Bio-Energetics, Bio-dynamics) understands that the body is profoundly affected by our life experiences and the body, in turn, affects our future.
These 5 levels are inter-related, they are separate and function independently, but they also work together. They are informed by one another and together they make up the whole person. They are formed by and affected by many forces such as genetics, culture, family history and personal experience, especially early life experiences that occur when we are the most vulnerable. Additionally, our experience on these 5 levels are being co-created all of the time. They can be influenced and changed. This is what gives therapy the potential to be fruitful. Body-Psychotherapy works on all of these levels in order have a strong chance for long-term benefits. My body-oriented therapy also understands and takes into consideration the developmental stage at which a person is impacted in order to discover how one’s experiences lead to their present request for help. The same experience would affect a 2 year and a 15 year quite differently. This developmental aspect of problems is tracked in the system and given the opportunity to heal from it's original energetic.
Our awareness, the skill we have to make sense of and use the information that comes to us, is a large part of what is impacted in therapy. Because the five levels of existence are intrinsically related, each one is a gateway to the others. Let’s use the level of emotion to see this interactive relationships. Emotions are experienced in our body, we perceive our emotion through the movement of energy in the body resulting in physical sensations. Emotions actually have a physiological component to them. Think of the language we use to depict emotion. We state we have “butterflies in our stomach” or that someone is a “pain in the neck”. We really actually feel the sensation of pain in our heart muscle over love gone astray when we are “heartbroken”. These physical cues can help us to become aware of our emotional life if we are out of touch.
E-motions are exactly this: energy in motion. The function of energy is to accomplish work. Think about a young child’s capacity to allow emotion. One minute they are playing happily and when something frustrating or hurtful happens they express their frustration or tears (if the child is in a safe environment). In just a short while, after the energy has moved, they go right on playing. Given the opportunity, we are constantly learning and using the information from the e-motion. Emotions are generated from a stimulus. The work of emotions expressed is to move the energy that is created by the reaction to the stimulus out of the body, and to inform the other levels of our being of the experience. From this learning a belief will develop that leads to action. For example if the child became frustrated or hurt by a particular game, she is more likely to choose a different game the next time. Thus: pain in her body (say the cat scratched her) affects her emotion (WaHHH!), which affects her thoughts (Bad Toy!) and affects her will/ actions (avoid that game). Here we can see the interconnectedness of all of the levels of existence.
All of our experiences are recorded in the body as images. When an experience is not fully processed on all 5 of the levels blocks may occur and lead to distortions of perception on one level or each of the levels, leading to incongruence in our lives either between the levels or between the person’s perception and what is really occurring in the present moment. This is the difference between emotions and present moment feelings. The feelings carry the past learning and images whereas emotions respond solely to the now.
Body-Psychotherapy is a fluid way of working between the levels to identify and release old images, attitudes and experiences held in our system that affect our life choices, patterns and emotional well-being. Body-Psychotherapy opens and energizes the system and allows people to have new experiences and to make substantial changes in their lives, and to experience more joy!