A Bit About Bioenergetics
Bioenergetics was developed by Alexander Lowen in 1956. He worked with information from Wilhelm Reich’s middle period as a psychoanalyst where Reich related psychological experience to the body’s energetic response. In studying the resistance of patients in the clinical hour during the 1920’s, Reich noticed an encompassing attitude, a defensive structure, that he called “character.” He felt this was foreign to the patient’s true nature. This false self, a necessary adaptation for survival from childhood, was observable in a gesture or posture, a turn of the head, a limp handshake, a look in the eye and many other incongruities between body and spoken language. Contactlessness, muted aliveness and deadness, were energetic representations of character. Reich came to feel that addressing the body’s response accessed the emotional foundations for behavior not always available through talk. This concept is finding support in recent brain research concerning trauma. While addressing character issues verbally, Reich engaged the patient somatically using breath to push through blocked energy in the body; this was done while the patient was lying down. Lowen technically expanded the Reichian approach by exploring the body standing up in a variety of postures and defined five character structures related to Freud’s developmental stages.
Bioenergetics has been working with the psyche-soma correspondence for over 40 years. Generations of clinicians have updated and refined the work. Standing between psychoanalytic and somatic traditions, Bioenergetics has developed a clinical history of self-reflection and has a unique role among other useful somatic disciplines that are not analytically based. Along with advances in therapeutic technique, Lowen was able to build a vigorous international community with societies in Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, England, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. These communities have supported The International Journal of Bioenergetic Analysis since 1991 along with international conferences held every two years.
Toward Analytic Somatic Therapy
There has been a movement in Psychoanalysis in recent years to recognize and include the body and its functions in the process of analysis. Just as many analytically trained therapists are untrained in somatic awareness, so many somatic therapists are not aware of current analytic theory. Analytic Somatic Therapy weaves these two disciplines into a congruent system that supports understanding the human condition.
The insights of Tustin, Winnicott, Bick, Anzieu and others have gone far toward including the body in analytic work. Recent brain research, in particular the work of Antonio Damasio, provides a substantial insight into the mind-body relationship and supports a body-oriented psychology rich in symbolism and meaning.
Analytic, somatic, and neurobiological insights are deepened within the context of Analytic Somatic Therapy. Learning to read the language of the body depends upon training in a body-oriented discipline. The Analytic Somatic Therapist participates in the practices of inner attention and felt experience before interpreting the experience of others.
Close study of major psychological theories and concepts support the understanding of the human experience. The therapist holds an understanding of the complexity of human development and the interruptions to that development that may occur. The body may be able to express and release its disturbances in ways that traditional talk therapy has difficulty in accessing.
Neurobiological research is currently redefining much of what we understand about the mind. Resilience, resistance, and restoration are major topics to be explored through Analytic Somatic Therapy.