What is the Mind Body?
The Mind Body refers to our society’s growing interest in yoga, meditation, mindfulness, pilates, massage, and aerobics to improve health, reduce stress, and integrate the mind, body and spirit.
Mind Body Psychotherapies
The goal of Mind Body psychotherapies is to blend traditional talk therapy with the engagement of an individual’s posture, gesture, and micro-movement processes of the body. Therapy approaches I draw upon are:
• Somatic Experiencing (see the Trauma Resolution section)
• Formative Psychology
• Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy
Formative Psychology: Micro-Movements for Exploring our Body Shapes and Life Attitudes
Formative psychology uses micro-movements to help individuals explore how their feelings, thoughts, and attitudes get formed in specific ways they hold in their bodies. For example, we may have learned to not cry by “biting our lips, clenching our jaws, stiffening our neck or tightening our stomach muscles,” until it has become a habit and we are unaware we do it. So, if we try UNDOING these ways we use our body, we can bring awareness to how we use our muscles to shut down feelings or thoughts and, through exploration, DISCOVER new ways of using our bodies that allow feelings of joy, sadness, power or tenderness. The effectiveness and HOPE of Formative Psychology is one discovers there are often multiple ways one can shape oneself in relation to a problem, person or oneself, and, thereby, one opens up lots of choice and options for how one can be embodied and come to solutions to one’s life challenges. Also, one can practice these in one’s life at a voluntary level or catch one’s self mindfully and reverse course.
Example of the Five Steps of the HOW Process of Formative Psychology: Interpersonal Relationships
1. What do I notice about my posture and self-image towards an imagined particular person? (Confident, reserved, relaxed, withdrawn, assertive, submissive).
2. What do I do muscularly to make this somatic pose?
3. How can I make it more or less with micro-movements (the accordion)?
4. What happens when I destructure my habitual somatic pose?
5. How do I use myself to make a different somatic self-image or do I return to my former one?
Formative Psychology uncovers behaviors and feeling processes deeply ingrained and often beyond our conscious awareness. Behaviors we don’t even “think” about or notice, but which can create unwanted consequences. It is very effective in “unwrapping” these sequences of behaviors and then “rewrapping” more favorable behaviors with better outcomes.
On Formative Psychology, I recommend the books Your Body Speaks Its Mind, Embodying Experience, Emotional Anatomy, Bonding, Patterns of Distress, and Love: A Somatic View by Stanley Keleman.
Biosynthesis: Macro-Movements as Motoric Fields for Enhancing our Sense of Space, Power and Receptivity
A motoric field is the space within which a large macro movement takes place. For example, throwing a baseball takes place in an extension field (outward movement) and also involves the canalization field – focused, purposeful movement. Individuals can explore moving their bodies in large macro-like ways (1) to invite them to fully embody their feelings, thoughts and goals, (2) to experiment with new ways of moving, (3) to bring more choice to habitual ways of moving, (4) experience the “felt sense” and meaning of their actions and (5) to integrate their voice, sense of power and vulnerability with their breathe and achieve more congruence in their over all being and sense of self-hood.
The Nine Motoric Fields
The are four pairs of motoric fields plus one additional one:
Flexion Field involves the curling inward of the body towards the self. This allows developing capacity of self-nourishment and exploring denied needs and possible fears of collapse.
Extension Field consists of outward movements, like stretching, reaching out, and the opening of the self. This helps a person sense their personal space and boundaries, and develop the ability to reach out and explore their environment with heightened awareness.
Traction Field involves pulling things or people towards oneself. By pulling a physio-rope, an individual can explore saying “I want or give it to me or hold tight” and examine the quality and capacity to pull toward the self.
Opposition Field pushes things or people away from the self. Here clients can develop their boundaries and right to say “no” by using their hands and arms to push, using a pillow, and sense if their power is enough for the world and whether the world can handle their power.
Rotation Field involves rotating the body towards or away from something or someone. This improves the capacity to rotate away or towards, enhances orientation, taking of unknown paths, flexibility, and/or gentle rocking movements.
Canalization Field is focused, purposeful movement. Clients explore and develop capacity for direct, focused movements, using direct eye contact, sensing purpose and commitment, and even exploring one’s capacity to kick or punch in slow motion at first, then with more energy, first in the air and, ultimately, making contact, perhaps, with a pillow on a couch. The goal isn’t cathartic, but to develop a sense of one’s ability for direct, focused movement.
Activation Field consists of swift movement with vitality. Here clients explore their ability to mobilize energy, such as brief, quick movements, a surprising gesture, or carrying out a sudden action. An individual can access a lost capacity of assertiveness. Rhythmic jumping may help access a sense of joy or hope.
Absorption Field involves resting, stillness, a taking in, and a slowing down. Entering a still or restful state allows an individual to experience the self as a source of being versus only a center of doing. Contacting receptivity and taking it easy are possible here.
Pulsation Field refers to the rhythm and quality of one’s in-breathe and out-breathe. The individual can explore the in-breathe as nourisher and builder of charge and the out-breathe as expression and letting go. Then, depending on whether an individual places emphasis on the in-breathe or out-breathe, they can be helped to bring balance as well as coordination with each of the motoric fields.
For more understanding of Biosynthesis and Motoric Field work, see David Boadella’s book Life Streams and his article “Shape, Flow and Postures of the Soul: The Biosynthesis Concept of the Motoric Field” in Energy and Character, Vol. 30,2, April , 2000.
Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy for Accessing Feelings
Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (EDP) has three basic ideas: (1) there are certain FEELINGS that we were NOT ALLOWED to have in our families, e.g. anger, sadness or even joy, (2) that alot of our ANXIETY or DEPRESSION has to do with keeping us away from experiencing our feelings in a satisfying way, and (3) that our anxiety and depression, since painful, tend to cause us to engage in protective behaviors that help us feel safe and but also, unfortunately, can result in our staying away from the feelings that could ultimately, if felt in a full manner, help reduce our anxiety or depression and result in our having lives that are happy, fulfilling, effective and meaningful.
Three Helpful Skills/Experiences
(1) Anxiety Pathways and Regulation: Mindfulness as a Way towards Calming Anxiety
The Mind Body aspect of this model is its model of the pathways of anxiety. Anxiety can manifest in the (1) striated, outer muscles, (2) the inner smooth muscles or (3) in the cognitive brain area. So, one way EDP helps the client reduce and regulate their anxiety is by having the individual actually sense the locale and quality of the anxiety in their body. This often, paradoxically, can help reduce the anxiety. Another tool is to ask the cognitive question: What is the worst that could happen and then help do a reality check that often helps calm the nervous system down.
(2) Seeking Feelings and Learning to Distinguish Feelings from Anxiety, Protective Behaviors and Thoughts
A key skill an individual learns is to distinguish their anxiety from feelings. Learning this skill can help an individual notice their anxiety, calm it down and then seek out their actual feelings about something or somebody. Fully felt affect (feelings) contains lots of good information about ourselves and others and allows us to make good decisions and to feel alive and real. And it is often better to be real and feel pain than to live on the surface of life and feel anxious and a bit crazy.
Individuals also learn to distinguish feelings from behaviors or thoughts that can keep them away from their feelings. For example, a person might feel a scary feeling, then get anxious, and then start talking alot. In this example, “talking alot” can result in the client “talking over” their feelings and thereby keep them from experiencing their feelings and, thus, not be able to experience satisfaction or creative insight.
(3) Being Safe and in Control while experiencing Feelings
When a person can calm his or her anxiety and avoid unhelpful behaviors or thoughts, even if for only a moment or two, then the door can open up to experience his or her feelings. At first, this may be challenging. Often with the experience of anger comes a fear of loss of control. So, one works with the individual to help them experience their anger and be in control. The therapist educates that healthy anger is critical for (1) pursuing one’s needs and wants and (2) creating boundaries and having one’s “no.” With feeling sadness, a client may fear drifting into depression. So, here again, one distinguishes healthy sadness from depression, which is often a muscular constriction keeping a person away from the genuine sadness that allows for the release from unresolved grief. Finally, it may sound curious, but some people find the full experience of joy difficult to contain. Thus, the full range of positive affects is also worked with very seriously. This is a key to finding personal balance.
In Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, the therapist often will simply ask: How do you feel about that? The therapist and client then work with the feelings, anxiety, protective behaviors and thoughts that arise from that simple question. This is a useful therapy for working in an intensive way with a client, processing in a micro-like fashion. This characteristic of EDP is shared with Somatic Experiencing. I often combine the two models, since symptoms of trauma and attachment wounding are often intertwined.
For further interest on EDP, I suggest the books The Transforming Power of Affect by Diana Fosha, Treating Affect Phobia by Leigh McCullough, Co-Creating Change by Jon Frederickson, and Restoring Resilience by Eileen Russell.