by Betsy Zmuda-Swanson
I’m a longtime psychotherapist, MSW by training. I fell in love with the excitement of personal change just after college in myself and in others. It’s nearly indescribable to explain what stirred in me. It was this incredibly delicious sparking of life. I was connected. Distance and differences faded. Those strong experiences ignited my direction and career in life. I was pleased and poised for my future.
Through the years, psychotherapy eventually became stolid. Working with minds and behaviors led to nominal change and energy creation. As I ventured bravely noticing what change was taking place, the thought frequently arose, Why don’t my clients just go to their hairdresser? Let her or him hear their stories and ramblings and feel better. I still held onto ‘being there witnessing another’ as the avenue for change, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted people to get a lot more out of buying my therapy services.
One of the positive effects of my late adolescent eating disorder was making my body move. I enjoyed the fluidity of movement immensely. Later, I realized I felt more grounded, more spiritual, and could embrace how different I felt inside with yoga. I started and completed the training in Somatic Experiencing. I witnessed more changes in my clients. In myself I continued to search for more structure and grounding. It took me a long time to realize how much I needed the safety and deep support from others in order to experience my barricades to my growth that paradoxically also blocked my clients from deeper growth. I wanted more concrete ways to cultivate change in others, and unconsciously myself. My desire ushered me into training in Bodynamics.
Here, in Bodynamics I am at home. Here, as a therpist what I do matters and matters even more. My clients have deeper experiences piloted by the muscles and skills we contract for. We are able to use their body and to wake up skills and resources through their muscles. Mostly as adults we do what we do because it makes sense. But, a well defined system of characterological development building from the womb to adulthood provides a scaffolding which opens absolute worlds of options. Undreamable freedoms. Freedoms to open new worlds within oneself with the guidance and support of a highly trained Other. All of this held in each person’s body often trapped, often waiting. Even skills left undeveloped like– How do I bring what is important to me out into the world when the ground doesn’t feel solid, or like it even exists? These skills are called to, supported, developed enough through specific physical muscles to be honed.
Bodynamics provides the therapist with precise skill building tools. A client who easily goes into anxiety may work on managing their energy, before exploring their unacknowledged sense their needs are too much for others. A client who repeatedly finds him or herself in deadend relationships with an unavailable partner may work on reaching. Reaching for what he or she wants. Building the muscle to take in and feel satisfied. To be able to reach for the connection they want with a partner.
In my community I am well known for working with people who have eating disorders. In the past, I found obese clients with binge eating disorders much more challenging than those with anorexia or bulimia. Now, teaching those clients to center, to ground, helps frozen shock trauma memories surface. With plenty of support we address and change those images, use muscles from Will structure to push them away, giving rise to expanded internal space. My clients find the pressure to binge is unpacked.
This Way, called Bodynamics opens avenues of change in therapy. Mutual connection is honored, engendering deep trust and respect. Each person holds within themselves the seeds of their healing. It’s our job to help them find and cultivate, and bring their healing to fruition.