The Eyes Have It! … Or Do They?

By Michael Brennan, MFT, CBT

Part 1
I want to state at the outset that I consider the ocular segment to be the most overlooked and most complex segment of the human organism, and therefore, perhaps the most important. Most important for many reasons, among which is the fact that within it lies that mysterious and magnificent organ, the cerebral brain and the complicated activity of interpreting perceptions of activities both within the organism and without.

In this brief article I will discuss a few of the dynamics that I have found to be of utmost importance when working with clients in Bioenergetic Analysis. In my experience, work on this segment of the human being/organism includes, but is not limited to:

Increasing the client’s ability to identify the sensations caused by energetic movements within this segment and into this segment from other segments, whatever they are. This leading to being able to tolerate the revealing of these sensations and any accompanying emotional reaction(s) . . . then, to tolerate the expressing of these emotional reactions through the scalp, the forehead and, especially, the eyes to the other person, i.e., the human therapist.

Seeing the other person (therapist) while these sensations and emotional sensations/feelings are fluidly, excitedly and excitingly active in this segment. In other words, to see the other person while one’s own head and eyes are alive with more sensations and emotion-sensations than one is familiar with, whether the emotion-sensations are fear, anger, sadness, happiness and/or sexual excitement.

Seeing the other person see me-the-client this alive ( more flowing, fluid, expressive, vulnerable, less contracted) with these sensations and emotion-sensations and daring to see/experience the other person react to me-the-client while I am this vulnerably alive! Additionally, daring to express my (the client’s) reaction(s) to the reaction(s) that I perceive the other person (therapist) having rather than to contract and deaden myself in the eyes and head (thereby, reaffirming the longstanding shaming attitude that to be alive and responsive to what I experience in the world is wrong).

These three critical dynamics of ocular segment activity and work are of utmost and profound importance in the healthy functioning of the human being/organism in nearly all of our qualities, capacities and functionings, especially, our all-encompassing sexuality. As the client manages to tolerate this partial and disturbing dissolution of the armored resistance to sensations, and the accompanying emotion-sensations, and is seeing, therefore, with this more vulnerable, anxious/fearing vitality, the client will naturally also have a strong, usually initially unconscious, need to see that the other person (therapist) is not withdrawing or rejecting through his/her eyes. In other words, the two must “meet” through the eyes . . . the client daring to reveal and, at times, express his/her vitality and current emotional truth(s), the other (therapist), accepting and welcoming the life of the client that is coming through.

Additionally, the client commonly needs to perceive that the therapist is not moving in or toward the client in a smothering way in order to get the client to stop or diminish the aliveness and the expression. Indeed, the most significant way, I know of, for the client to experience this need-for-acceptance and welcoming by the therapist is to really see this in the eyes of the therapist while the eyes and whole ocular segment of the client are more vulnerably alive with these vital sensations and feelings.

However, while this may be the most preferred response to the client, it is not always the case that the therapist is so clearly available or affirming. When we, as therapists, find ourselves not willing or able to meet the client while s/he is in this state of vulnerable vitality, it becomes essential that the client come to identify, reveal, and then, in time, express his/her reactions to the perceived non-support or non-acceptance. On these occasions, the priority becomes the client being afforded, indeed invited, and encouraged if needed, to express his/her reaction(s) to what s/he is seeing in the eyes of the therapist regardless what it is, i.e., fear, hardness, sadness, deadness, anger, criticalness…