What is Bioenergetics?
Bioenergetics is a way of understanding personality in terms of the body and its energetic processes.
A pioneer in this field, Alexander Lowen, M.D. developed Bioenergetics as the study of the human personality in terms of the energetic processes of the body. It is a therapeutic technique to help people get back together with the body and enjoy the life of the body to the fullest degree possible.
Dr. Lowen created Bioenergetic Analysis (BA) as a psychotherapeutic modality that combines work with the body and the mind to help people resolve their emotional difficulties and conflicts, and realize their potential for pleasure in life, enhancing health in body and mind.
BA starts with the reality of the body and its basic functions of breathing, motility, feeling, and expression. BA examines the body-mind’s restrictions on these functions: physically in one’s body, emotionally in one’s feelings, and intellectually in one’s understanding. BA differs from other forms of therapy in that it combines analysis of personality and character with body techniques and physical exercises to recognize and release chronic muscular tension - a necessary step in overcoming feelings, behaviors, and attitudes that detract from life. BA recognizes the ability of the body to heal itself, and promotes that process.
More than just talk
Dr. Lowen wrote of the purely verbal therapies that they may "help a person become conscious of his tendencies to deny, project, blame, or rationalize, [but] this conscious awareness rarely affects the muscular tensions or releases the suppressed feelings." At the same time though, a purely physical treatment of "body work as massage and yoga exercises has a positive value, but is not specifically therapeutic in itself."
Bioenergetics is an adventure in self-discovery. It differs from similar explorations into the nature of the self by attempting to understand the human personality in terms of the human body. This form of therapy has helped people achieve good health -- in body and in mind – for more than half a century.
More than any other modality, it explores the inexorable link between the body and the mind. "It integrates a 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." From a Bioenergetic point of view, the energetic processes of the body determine what goes on in the mind just as they determine what goes on in the body.
Chronic muscular tension
BA helps to release chronic muscular tensions that have become structured in the body. These restrictions on living are not voluntarily self-imposed. They develop as a means of survival in a home environment and culture that denies and suppresses body-values such as pleasure, compassion, and joy, instead promoting the ego-values of power, prestige, and possessions.
The therapeutic relationship provides a place of safety in which healing begins. The Bioenergetic therapist reads the body, resonates with its energy, feels the emotions, listens, hears, and answers the words. The language of the body (posture, gesture, breathing, motility, expression) is in focus as it reflects the person beyond the guise of words, or a mask of expression – from the past into the present and future.
The physical Bioenergetic exercises address the energetic aspect of the individual, including self-perception, self-expression, and self-possession; one’s self image is aligned with the reality of one’s self. Work with body contact, boundaries, grounding, and the understanding of muscular tensions as indications of somatic and psychological defenses against past trauma are examined diagnostically, and utilized therapeutically.
It is equally true that most people are unconscious of the bodily handicaps under which they labor – handicaps that have become second nature to them, part of their habitual way of being in the world. In effect, most people go through life on a limited budget of energy and feeling.
Three basic principles
Bioenergetics aims to help a person open his/her heart to life and love. This is no easy task. The heart is well protected… To go through life with a closed heart is like taking an ocean voyage locked in the hold of the ship. The meaning, the adventure, the excitement and the glory of living are beyond one’s vision and reach.
“Grounding, Breathing, and Vibration are the three basic Bioenergetic principles.” A person who doesn’t breathe deeply reduces the life of her/his body. If one doesn’t move freely, the life of the body is restricted. If one doesn’t feel fully, it narrows the life of one’s body. And if self-expression is constricted, the life of the body is limited. A person does not “have” a body, a person is a body.
The goal of therapy is more than the absence of symptoms - it is feeling aliveness, getting a taste of pleasure, joy, love, and taking things more easily – it is vibrant health.