The Importance of the Body in Therapy

All body expression has meaning. Consciously or unconsciously it reveals a person’s history and their personal stories. Movement happens deep in the body as an impulse and moves outward toward the environment in spontaneous expression of feeling. When this spontaneous expression of self is not accepted by the environment (parent) this movement is blocked, and an adaptation takes place in the psyche and soma. Mind and body are one. What takes place on one level also is recorded on the other level… If expression (feeling, movement) is blocked over and over again, the body will develop chronic muscle holding or blocks to stop energy/impulses from moving through the body. These blocks in the psyche/soma become our character structure or personality.

Breathing is a gauge of energy in an individual. To breathe fully is to feel fully.

An example of this would be the child who was not allowed to cry, “big boys don’t cry”. The impulse to deeply cry when hurt would spontaneously move through his body and be expressed. However, if the environment (parents) do not accept this natural expression “big boys don’t cry”, the child must stop the energetic flow of feelings and move into an adaptation to please the parent and to be loved. On a body level we hold back this energy of the feelings by contracting the muscles of the chest, the diaphragm and the belly, we stop breathing deeply and tighten the jaw to stop the expression. On a psychological level we adapt, “I won’t cry and you’ll love me”.

Therapists are well versed in observing body language in diagnosis and charting client’s progress in therapy.

The therapist can easily see the client who is “uptight” or those who “lack energy”, or cant’ make contact with their eyes, and those whose voices and facial expression don’t fit the feeling that they are having, and the ones who don’t seem to breath at all. There are clients who don’t feel present, who are split away from contact and feeling. As the therapist works toward expression of feeling with the client it will be noticed that there will be a difference in energy in the client’s being, and he will be more contactful and in touch with himself and others.

In Bioenergetic Analysis theory, therapists are trained to work with the deep chronic muscle holding of the body and feeling state of the individual. They study the person’s character structure in terms of the body structure, energy movement and expression of feelings. The opening of the chronic body tension moves energy through the muscle blocks releasing feelings and expression.

In order to open chronic muscle blocks in the body the therapist helps to release the contraction so that the natural energy of the body can flow freely. This is done by stressing the contraction so it will release. An expression of this in your own body, would be the tightness you feel before running (the contraction), and how you feel after (release). The warm tingle is the energy, the deep breathing and healthy glow are because the tension has been released and the body flows in a natural way.

Breathing is a gauge of energy in an individual. To breathe fully is to feel fully. When breath is held or constricted, the body’s ability to produce energy is depleted. When energy is reduced, movement, feeling and expression are also reduced. Remember the child who was not allowed to cry? How did he stop the tears? The child had to constrict his breathing, his chest, diaphragm, belly, neck and jaw. There is an abundance of energy held in those muscles in order for him not to cry. As the therapist opens these chronic muscle patterns, energy and spontaneous movement of feeling can take place and be expressed. The client can cry out those locked up tears of his history. Relief and relaxation from tension is then experienced. Opening these chronic muscle blocks takes time and repetitive work, as they are part of the structure of the body. As the client works the unconscious becomes conscious, the tension releases, the body softens, breathing becomes full, eyed contact present and the body becomes congruent with the feeling state. The client is grounded in the self and the body takes on it’s natural rhythm and grace. Feelings deepen and are full bodied, the cry, the laugh are full of natural energy and the flow from inward to the environment is unblocked and free.

Barbara A. Thomson is a Bioenergetic Analyst in private practice. She can be reached at (760) 944-7448