A Bioenergetics Pioneer -
A Conversation with Alice Ladas
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I am pleased to see The Alexander Lowen Foundation present a historical and educational feature: a profile of Alice Kahn Ladas, Ed. D. Active in Bioenergetics in the 1950s, she continues her activism today.
Alice’s story is particularly interesting. Despite her strong early involvement with Lowen, Pierrakos, Walling and the Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis (IBA), inter-personal and academic conflicts regrettably precluded Alice’s acceptance as faculty member in the IBA, even as she continued her association and activism during the following decades.
In my opinion, it is an example of conflict and ambivalence, created by IBA founders and leaders, my Dad Al Lowen included, that has contributed to the difficulty in presenting the Bioenergetic work to the world at large.
The fact that one of the central points of contention revolved around a question of female sexuality: the role of the clitoris, and specifically female ejaculation, is not surprising. While the truth of that question has no bearing on the validity or efficacy of Bioenergetics as a modality of psychotherapy, it tremendously affected the Bioenergetic Community and its members, most certainly Alice, at the time. Similar affects continue even today within the community.
In the end Alice never understood the reasons for her non-acceptance. My belief is that it was an unfortunate clash of ideologies, not an issue in reality.
While it is important to assure that Bioenergetic trainers and practitioners are both adequately trained, and sufficiently grounded and knowing of their own selves, it is equally important that leaders of Bioenergetics (or any group) recognize and do not act out their own narcissistic or psychopathic ideological agendas. Ideologies are little more than collective illusions. It is the problem we all face with the leaders of government, business, and institutions today: narcissism and psychopathy reign supreme; in fact, it is celebrated and cultivated in the media.
The history of Bioenergetics is intertwined with the freedom movements of the last century, including the “sexual revolution,” the women’s movement, alternative health and medicine, and the “human potential” movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Alice Ladas was there.
We at the Foundation look forward to exploring these issues in the future. For now, we hope you enjoy this profile of Alice Kahn Ladas, Ed. D.
“Who we are is demonstrated in what we look like, how we move, and what our expressions are.”
Dr. Ladas speaks about Alexander Lowen's contributions to psychiatry, new awards for Body-psychotherapy research, women’s sexuality, and the way to bring Bioenergetics into the main-stream.
“I was always interested in women being able to own their own bodies and use their bodies the way they wanted.”
Our conversation with Dr. Ladas continues, exploring her disagreements with Alexander Lowen, the women of Bioenergetics, and the evolution of the women’s movement.
“I work with words and I work with the body.”
Dr. Ladas concludes by speaking about nutrition, health, and integrating Bioenergetics with other modalities in therapy.
Interviewed by Yaniv Gafner for The Alexander Lowen Foundation
On Feb. 23, 2011, Dr. Ladas received the Smith College Medal, which is awarded to "those alumnae who, in the judgment of the trustees, exemplify in their lives and work the true purpose of a liberal arts education.
The Citation from Smith College
"Before Second Wave feminism, before women’s and gender studies, and well before the Pill, you embraced a radical notion: women are sexual beings and their sexuality is their own. Raised in a society discomfited by the body and its functions, you resolved to educate American women in childbirth and breastfeeding, teaching the first Lamaze class in the United States and advancing the work of the La Leche League through your doctoral dissertation at Columbia.
Body-psychotherapy, a field you helped to found, recognizes that “thoughts, words and attitudes take place within our bodies” a vital therapeutic acknowledgement for those healing from trauma. For advancing rigorous research on human sexuality, for speaking boldly to an often prudish culture, your alma mater is proud to honor your achievements and award you the Smith College Medal.”