||What is Bioenergetic
- Bioenergetic Analysis is
a form of psychotherapy that combines analysis, active work with
the body, and relational therapeutic work.
The approach is grounded in an understanding of the importance
of the body—and the energy that underlies both body and
mind—to psychological development and emotional health
- Bioenergetic Analysis is
helpful with all kinds of issues, from minor relationship problems
to anxiety, depression and trauma. Change, growth and self-acceptance
are all facilitated by including the energetic and bodily structure
of the person in the therapy process.
- Bioenergetic Analysis was
developed by Alexander Lowen, M.D. as a significant modification
and extension of the character analytic techniques of Wilhelm
Reich, M.D., a student of Sigmund Freud.
Lowen has written many books on Bioenergetics, including but not
limited to: The Language of the Body, Betrayal of the Body, Fear
of Life, Spirituality and the Body, Narcissism: The Denial of
the True Self and Joy. He has also written numerous monographs
about the body and energy in physical and emotional health. Lowen
describes Bioenergetics as follows:
“It integrates work with the body,
with the patient’s interpersonal relationships, and with
his mental processes; each of which is correlated and interpreted
in terms of the others.... Bioenergetic Analysis starts with the
reality of the body and its basic functions of motility and expression.”
(Alexander Lowen, New York, 1963)"
- A basic tenet of Bioenergetics
is that the person is his or her body, and all life experience
is ultimately body experience.
The body’s expressions, posture, flexibility and motility,
energetic integrity (or fragmentation, blocks and splits), and
patterns of muscular holding tell a story of a person’s
emotional history. They also reveal the limitations and strengths
of the personality and reflect the person’s characteristic
way of being in the world. Bioenergetics is rooted in a psychodynamic
and body-oriented theory of development. It also incorporates
attachment theory, trauma theory and psychoneurobiology.
- Children learn to manage
their energy and feelings very early in life by holding their
breath, and cutting off feeling and awareness of areas of the
body (and self) using muscular tension.
When the early emotional life experience is difficult (as it is
for many) the defensive holding and tension become part of the
personality and are built into the form of the body as chronic
muscular tensions that persist into adulthood. The tensions operate
below the level of awareness and rob the person of a full, vital
experience of life. The nature of the tensions varies and depends
on how and when they developed, and the feeling that is being
repressed. The defensive holding is tied to the emotional history,
and while it once helped a child, it exacts a price later in life.
- Tensions can fragment the
sense of self, forestall emotional growth, reduce energy creating
the conditions for depression and fatigue, limit breathing fueling
the potential for anxiety and panic, or interfere with the ability
to simultaneously experience sexual and love feelings.
The holding can lead to an emotional “deadness” or
a “thin-skinned” over-responsiveness. In general,
the tensions and holding patterns keep a person out of contact
with the energetic and feeling source of the self in the body,
and predispose the person to limited, dysfunctional patterns of
feeling, thinking and behaving.
- In addition to analysis
of history, dreams, etc., and therapeutic work within the therapeutic
relationship, Bioenergetics utilizes movement, breathing, stress
positions and self-expressive exercises to work with the holding
patterns in the body.
This allows a client to access, begin to understand and then integrate
the previously repressed and unconscious feelings (and accompanying
vitality) into the mature adult self. Bioenergetic Analysis brings
a unique and sophisticated understanding of the mind, body and
core energies to bear in the process.
- Bioenergetic therapists
are non-judgemental, “present” and interactive when
working with clients.
While each brings his or her own style of Bioenergetics to the
work, they all move from a basic and empathic understanding of
the body, mind and energy. Understanding the bodily and energetic
nature of feeling allows Bioenergetic therapists to work with
sensitivity and respect for the client’s boundaries and
needs, even while working with powerful emotions.
- In Bioenergetic Analysis,
the therapeutic relationship provides a place of safety for healing
Clients are helped to release chronic muscular tensions, manage
emotions/feelings, expand the capacity for intimacy, heal sexual
difficulties, tap and own autonomy and strength, and learn new,
more fulfilling ways of relating to others. Tenderness, aggression
and assertion–and their confluence in sexuality–are
seen as core lifesaving forces.
- Bioenergetic therapists
read the expression of the body, resonate with its energy, feel
the emotions, and listen, hear and answer the words.
The language of the body (posture, breathing, movement and expression)
is kept in focus as an indicator of where a person stands on the
way to a fuller sense of self—from the limitations of the
past, to the fullness and/or freedom of the present and future.
Bioenergetic techniques are sometimes used to address the energetic
aspect of the individual. They may be used to get in touch with
feeling, enhance self-perception, or develop greater self-expression
or self-control. Bioenergetic techniques often get the client
standing on his or her feet.
- Examples of techniques include:
appropriate, supportive body contact (such as holding the client’s
head while the client stretches backward over a bench), expressive
exercises that build the sense of self and release muscular holding
(such as kicking on a mattress to access strength and release
muscular holding), and “grounding” (an exercise that
induces feeling through stretching, vibration and breathing to
build or contain strong feeling in the body).
There are many ways of working with the body, and techniques can
be powerful or gentle depending on the need. The body work helps
to open feeling, and this deepens the analytic work. In turn,
the analytic work opens the way for body work to integrate gains
at the levels of body and energy. Both body work and analysis
take place in the context of a growing, evolving relationship
between client and therapist, which supports and adds to the opportunity
to own and feel more of the self. Bioenergetic therapists incorporate
the best of today’s psychoanalytic and relational approaches
in this regard. In the words of Bob Lewis, M.D.:
- The goal of Bioenergetic
therapy is more than the absence of symptoms—it is to have
greater “aliveness”, pleasure, joy, love and vibrant