Healing Developmental Disruptions: Using the body to make psychotherapy more effective
Psychological problems are generally not solved; they are more often resolved. Something in a person has changed. In Bodynamics we are able to access and build these changed states more directly. By using the body, we can help a client establish a new and felt sense of competency in the areas being worked on verbally.
We generally work verbally with the here and now, on how an issue is appearing in a clients life. These issues usually imply that certain abilities or feelings were not learned or accepted at a related developmental age. As a child, they had to resort to protective responses – to give up aspects of their self, or of their relationship with caretakers.These developmental disruptions typically occur around the motor, mental, and psychological abilities coming online. As opposed to traumatic experiences, which are imprinted primarily in the autonomic nervous system, these lesser but cumulative effects are imprinted mostly in the voluntary nervous system, the mind, and the muscles involved. The resulting protective behaviors, once adaptive, are now the source of many contemporary issues.
From a client’s presentation we can usually get a sense of the related developmental stage. As they talk we look and listen for signs or changes – verbally, emotionally, or physiologically – indicating that some ability or resource is lacking. Familiar examples of these resources are grounding or centering, energy management, self-assertion, support, or some interpersonal skills. Then, from knowing the psychological function of the muscles, we can activate a specific muscle from that stage to move the work forward and deepen it. Using a muscle will simultaneously do two things: it will evoke the corresponding developmental age and themes; and it will help to build or release missing abilities from that stage. As these abilities develop and stabilize, often rapidly and with emotional expression, they can lead to a felt sense of competency in this area.
By using the right muscle at the right time, we simulate a present-day scenario related to the original feeling of disruption. That was when the protective behavior was first needed. Now, however, their experience is from a more resourced place, and one with connection and support from us. All these conditions encourage a felt sense of competency in this area. Their once reflexive or sensed need for protection is now absent or seems less urgent. And this allows people to change lifelong patterns in a flexible and liberating way.
Since the use of a muscle also evokes the themes of the stage being worked on, we have found it to be very supportive to affirmatively relate around those themes. Additionally, we have learned that meta-processing, i.e., therapist and client together discussing the experience of the new sense of competency, furthers the integration of the developing abilities. And it also brings to awareness nascent competencies in other areas. Working toward these changed states is changing our understanding of effective psychotherapy.
“In a real sense all of life is interconnected.
All men are caught in an inescapable network
Of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
I can never be what I ought to be
Until you are what you ought to be,
And you can never be what you ought to be
Until I am what I ought to be.
This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Detroit 1961