Pulsation and body-oriented psychotherapy

Neo-Reichian Pulsation is a method of body-oriented psychotherapy, which in it’s turn is one of the main streams in modern psychotherapy and practical psychology. There are several dozens of schools and methods in the world now, which can be united under this name.

The story of this trend’s formation begins in 1930-s and has a number of roots. However only several schools, which had their start with psychoanalysis of Z.Freud, can be called psychotherapy in the full sense of this word. Main of them are: Bodynamic Analysis, Bio-dynamic, Bio-energetic Analysis, Bio-Syntheses, Somatic Psychology, Neo-Reichian work with body and emotional expression (or Pulsation) - a method, developed in the Radix Institute in South California.

The pioneer in the body-oriented psychotherapy was an Austrian doctor, psychoanalyst and scientist Wilhelm Reich. He carefully developed as theoretic base and the practical method of body-oriented psychotherapy.

At the heart of W.Reich’s approach is the postulate about unity and inextricable bond between body and mind, physiological and psychological processes in human organism. Every psychic phenomenon has its reflection in the body and vice versa, any physiological changes affect the psyche. So through a certain work with body one can achieve qualitative changes in the psyche ( in emotional state, behavior). « Therapy of soul through working with body» - that’s the main idea of body-oriented psychotherapy, as put into words by Alexander Lowen - founder of the Bio-Energetic Analysis.

Any outer impact on an organism immediately reflects both in psyche and in body. Truly, remember your reaction on a sudden fright, what happens with your body? - breathing almost stops for a moment, and after that it becomes discontinuous and frequent, heart beats fast and «leaps into your boots». You feel as if your life energy coiled up and was pulled somewhere down and inside… Every emotion - anger, joy, delight - has it’s own match with a range of certain physiological reactions, which is characteristic for it only.

In case the outer impact is quite strong and painful ( there is a risk of physical or psychological trauma), or if it repeats regularly, then in order to protect the organism from such a destructive influence the body rearranges itself in a certain way, building up an inner protective armor. Muscles get tense, breathing becomes more shallow, metabolism ( metabolic processes) slows down, generation of energy in the organism decreases. The result of it is that the person cuts himself in such way from painful feelings and traumatizing experience. Being afraid of getting into traumatizing experience again the person unconsciously keeps these protective structures inside. Eventually one stops feeling and realizing this armor, these tensions, and they become persistent.

In this way, trying to protect oneself from painful feelings a person puts on a shell, «muscular armor», as W. Reich called it. Over time the traumatizing situation becomes irrelevant, but the armor remains. And it continues to protect the person from painful memories, for chronically tense muscles keep inside suppressed emotions: fear, anger, despair, shame, sadness… The armor protects from a new experience as well, which can lead to undesirable experience again. But soon the «guard» turns into a «jailer», the armor becomes a prison, for it cuts one off some part of his, making a split in the organism’s integrity; energy can no longer flow freely in the body - the person becomes only half-alive. Shallow, superficial breathing reduces general production of energy; fear and rejection of negative feelings limits the ability to experience positive feeling as well, which gradually leads to depression and distress.

« Armor can be superficial or lying deeply inside, soft like a fur coat or solid like metal. In any case it’s function is protection from displeasure. However, the organism pays for this protection with a significant loss of it’s ability to experience pleasure.» W. Reich
Muscular armor gets formed not as much as a result of some extremely devastating and traumatizing experience, but rather in more casual situations related with the process of our upbringing in a family, the process of «adjustment» of little human’s wild and spontaneous energy to it’s socially acceptable expressions ( from parent’s perspective). Considering openness and vulnerability of a small child’s psyche, we may say that this process of adjustment often comes to an «extremely devastating and traumatizing experience».

«We are all psychologically, socially, and religiously conditioned. Most people are not even aware of it. Parents and family, the schools and churches, all force children to live and think and feel in a restricted way, far below their potential. We learn that boys are not supposed to cry and girls should not be angry. We are told that everyone must hide their sexual and loving feelings - or better yet, not even have any. We do what they want because we need their love and approval to survive: we strike a bargain for that approval. In order to be good, we become emotionally dishonest and cut off from our real feelings - in other words, phony. We grow up fearful, guilty, angry, and depressed, twisting ourselves out of shape to fit into someone else's ideas of who we should be. But trying to fit into someone else's mold creates tension and ultimately rage. Who wants to be forced into a fixed shape against their will?

As a result we become sick, both physically and psychologically. But what exactly is repression? Many of us have an inkling of it, but few of us have a grasp of how it relates to our own lives.

Repression requires us to renounce what is vibrant inside us, and to become dull both energetically and emotionally. Our breathing becomes shallow. We swallow our tears, we hold back our anger, we even suppress joy and laughter. We force our unexpressed feelings into the unconscious where they remain buried alive, festering secretly, like suppurating wounds.

Repressions manifest as rigid character attitudes such as the man who becomes extremely anxious if he does not live his routine life precisely by the clock; or the woman who, in spite of her longing to share love with someone, rejects men out of an old unconscious fear of her own father's rejection of her. But they also manifest as muscular tension in the body, a tension that is maintained by the constant effort to keep at bay whatever is hidden in the unconscious».
Aneesha Dillon

According to postulates of body-oriented psychotherapy, any dissatisfaction in our relationships with the world, people or ourselves is a breakdown in interaction with our own body, our own energy, it is an impact of inner limitations, influence of the protective armor.

In the course of Neo-Reichian body-work a direct impact on the muscular armor takes place, it allows to release chronic tensions living in the body and therefore to liberate the energy kept within them. Often this process leads a person into the past, towards displaced and suppressed traumatic experiences. And here a possibility is created to fully relive this experience, to release repressed emotions, to complete all the incomplete gestalts of the past. In this way the blocked energy in the body is released, that’s the way the muscular armor dissolves.

The therapeutic value of reliving emotionally charged situations of the past is related with several points. During the work participants of the group ( or a client in the individual session) obtain a possibility to dive into a state of age regression and not only remember some emotionally meaningful episode but to completely relive it. At the same time a person is fully conscious of where he is and what is happening now. Therefore, on one hand the person literary becomes a child, on the other hand, he has an access to a perception of an adult. This creates a possibility to realize and accept the feelings and traumatic memories which were once suppressed and displaced, and they get integrated with the grown-up part of the person. Trusting and supportive atmosphere in the group assists this process, for it distinctly differs from the traumatizing situation of the past. When the feelings are accepted and integrated, the organism assumes wholeness, and the protective function of the armor looses it’s meaning. Moreover, re-experiencing of emotions from the past is accompanied with a powerful motor and physiological expression ( catharsis), which allows to impact on chronic muscular tensions and helps to remove them.

Participants of the workshop not only make an inner trip to the past, reliving and transforming the traumatizing experience, they also meet anew their own energy - spontaneous, alive, free; they start to feel their own body in a new way, with trust and gratitude. The inner state is being filled with peace and fulfillment, as well as with a feeling of a greater aliveness, energy and joy.

About group-work in detail