by Maggie Locke, M.A., MFT, CBT and Nicole Dockter, LCSW
There are times in therapy when words cannot express what you are experiencing inside.
You may be touching experiences in childhood’s very early weeks and months, before you had words. You may be uncovering the emotional overwhelm that accompanies trauma. You may be glimpsing something only dimly recognized from the past, something unknown to the conscious mind.
In each of these circumstances, as well as in many others, expression other than language can often give deeper understanding.
One powerful form of therapy that provides such access and insight is Bioenergetic Analysis. Bioenergetic Analysis is a traditional, psychoanalytically-based therapy that works with the body as well as words. Established in the 1950s by psychiatrist Alexander Lowen, it developed directly out of the pioneering psychological work of Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich in the early 20th century.
Bioenergetics explores the language of the body: its musculature, holding patterns and chronic imbalances, often manifested in various medical and mental disorders. A Bioenergetic therapist will pay as much attention to these bodily expressions as to what the client says verbally.
In Bioenergetic therapy, one learns to “tune in” to bodily sensations, particularly as they accompany thoughts and emotions. One comes to understand how they relate to important issues and relationships. As bodily awareness grows, one forms a stronger, fuller sense of self—no longer a self narrowly defined by the thoughts of the mind, but also experienced in the wisdom of the body.
For example, a young woman suffers from chronic and severe neck and shoulder pain that gets worse each time she must speak before professional peers, a task often required of her. In Bioenergetic sessions, she is encouraged to deepen her breathing and feel more contact with the ground, through specific exercises. She moves with and against the contractions in her neck and shoulders, paying attention to the physical sensations as well as the thoughts and feelings that arise. As she expresses herself to the therapist, sometimes in words, sometimes with simple sound, she comes to recognize important associations. She realizes that the contractions started when she began to develop sexually and her previously loving father became critical and cold. She remembers wearing baggy clothes to cover herself, curling in her shoulders to hide her developing form and protect herself from his hostility. She intuitively sensed her father’s withdrawal had something to do with her becoming a woman.
By her early 30’s this posture had become a rigid holding. Through her work in Bioenergetics, she gradually loosened the contraction, freed her breathing and came to accept the value of her personal and professional qualities. She became more comfortable in her body, and felt more free to express herself naturally. She lost her fear of speaking publicly.
Most importantly, the result of her therapy was that she felt more integrated and complete as a person, and therefore, more fully alive. She was able to pursue healthy pleasure in work, love and life.
This is the ultimate aim of any successful therapy. Bioenergetic Analysis directly addresses the body, so often marginalized in our contemporary mechanized culture, and helps return us to our full humanity.
If you would like to experience the energizing yet calming effects of basic Bioenergetic exercises, a newly released DVD takes the viewer through some of the basic movements easily and safely. These exercises are excellent to use to prepare for a challenging workday, or to release stress at the end of the day. It also includes a relaxing 10-minute body centered meditation. The DVD is available online at www.StresslessWorkplace.com.
For more information about Maggie Locke, go to:
Maggie Locke, M.A., MFT, CBT
For more information about Nicole Dockter, go to:
Nicole Cardoza Dockter, LCSW