One of the key differentiation points between Body Psychotherapy and conventional counseling and psychology is how the body is viewed and treated in the therapy process. Conventional counseling and psychology tends to minimise the role of the body in the diagnostic and treatment process, and is more inclined to refer clients for medication of bodily symptoms and issues arising from emotional and mental disorders.
None of us can escape our bodies even though one notices many people ignoring, abusing or neglecting their own embodiment. One cannot but notice the many forms of dissociation, avoidance, neglect, reconstruction, augmentation and adornment that mask, and reveals an unhealthy relationship between the ego and the body of that person. In almost all cases what we are witnessing is a person who is in energetic terms basically what we call ungrounded.
The concept of “grounded” and its counterpart “ungrounded” comes from the Reichian and Bioenergetics era and lineage of body psychotherapy. Being grounded has a basic meaning of how our body-mind is connected to and safe in making contact with each part of the self and of the earth we literally stand on. An ungrounded person has some form of disconnect, split, or dissociation between one or more parts of the body with the rest of the body, or of the body to the earth, or of the mind to the body.
The ability to “stay grounded” is then not such a simple state of being which we can each take for granted as being who we are. Just because we have a body and bio-mechanically stand on the ground it is not enough to assume that a person is grounded. The opposite is often true.
Many people in society are not present in their bodies and are not present in this immediate moment in time. They may be unresolved with their past and distract themself via their basic attention in the present moment being placed on inner images or inner representations of old wounds, hurts, and issues. This is a common form of anxious state that dogs people and means that their mental faculties are not truly processing their environment moment to moment. They are distracted.
Likewise some other people are not present moment to moment as they are fantasising about the future. They may be unhappy and suffering in their present time circumstances and instead they distract themself by projecting their minds forward in time. The future does not yet exist and so such a state is robbing that person of the only moment that does exist, and that is the present moment.
Such persons who obsess or find themself living in the past or the future are often referred by others interacting with them as being “off with the fairies”. Some people alternate between obsessing and thinking about the past and then drift into future fantasies. However they are truly present very little of an average day. They have a body, they walk on the ground, but they are ungrounded and not present much of the time.
The truth is that this way of being and doing life is a defence. It is a form of dissociation that serves us in preventing us from facing and feeling suffering and threats. It is an attempt by the body and the mind to allow us to survive and exist but in a very compromised way that can only lead to further dissatisfaction, feelings of emptiness, and possibly more trauma.
The famous Tibetan Buddhist Yogi and enlightened master Shanti Deva described these people as living in a sleep of ignorance. Such people he noted wasted this precious human life and the opportunity to “wake up” and find true meaning, purpose and accomplishments in life as a result. Their life is lived “as a dream” and they create the causes for manifest suffering.
We are born as an embodied being with consciousness. Our grounding happens from within the womb through our mother who grounds us firstly within her own being. This is what is often called the symbiotic bond. Childhood developmental medicine now describes the formative shaping of any infant as being 9 months in-utero or in the womb, and then 6 months formation outside the womb in the outside world.
The first 6 months outside the womb is also the critical time for the child not only to complete formation, but also to adopt a “grounded” state. Grounding in this sense is not about the child being physically on the ground, it is about being physically touched, cuddled, and held in safety. We find our ground through our parents and our family.
Groundedness starts at birth when we are held and touched and loved by our mother and the wider tribe or family. We learn the pleasure of touch as we are touched and often for many we were abandoned into cots and into rooms separate from our mothers at this crucial bonding and safety creating stage.
Any lack of touch and of nurturance, coupled with abandonment creates a lack of safety in the infant and they start to retreat into their heads and become safe and uneasy. Such children fail to achieve secure attachment with their mother and as a result they lose their grounding through the mother.
We then must learn to crawl, stand and walk which all further develops the grounding of the infant to the earth and they learn to use their bodies to stand in their infantile power. As we individuate from our parents we learn to stand our ground, find our boundaries and develop a self that includes our grounded natures.
A child traumatised in the early years or along its developmental path will show some wounding in the body, the energy system, and the formation of defences in the mind and the body. Frozen states of musculature assist in creating blocks in energy flow and assist in the loss of grounding that results from such contractions and blocks.
Many people have some form of developmental traumas as a result of their childhood journeys that was not perceived in the infantile mind as safe,supportive or loving and nurturing. For instance research now shows that depression is more likely to occur in adults who have experienced a chronic lack of support and insecurity during childhood.
Likewise a lack of early life play has been linked to susceptibility to depression and lack of well-modulated social abilities. Play is one of the key developmental tasks that fosters grounding in children and their resulting pleasure and acceptance of their bodies as part of their essential and healthy self.
Many children now play only in front of computers and on gaming consoles inside homes where the head and intellect dominate. The disconnection from the body in our current society is becoming a dominant lifestyle through technology and sedentary habits, aided by real and imagined fears that the outside world of nature and community is unsafe and boring.
Creative play and make believe has gone the way of the dinosaurs. We now demand to be stimulated and entertained and distracted from our unease resulting from the disconnected way we live. Neuroscience has noted that the core process for self-representation appears to involve central midbrain regions that hold neurosymbolic representations of the body as part of self.
Neuroscience studies have shown that literally as soon as the child hits the ground a massive level of neural formation activity takes place. The child is literally software and windows of opportunity open up in these early years where experience and sensation will foster the development of major neural networks in the brain. In a later stage of childhood development a form of “pruning” occurs and those areas of under-developed stimulus will be cannibalised in terms of neural real estate in the brain for functions that appear to be more directly and more regularly needed.
A grounded state involves and engages both our body and our energy systems, which allows for present time awareness to occur. A person achieves psychological health when not living in the past or fantasising about the future. Such a person is self aware, relaxed, embodied and able then to describe their own reality with clarity and able to play, explore, socialise safely from a potential place of pleasure.
Health and wellness are states of body-mind unity. One will struggle to heal if healing strategies do not approach the human condition from such a unified presupposition. We teach a range of body grounding exercises designed to compensate for many in our technological who live more or less in an ungrounded state. Body psychotherapy goes beyond talk therapy to include the body and emotional life in the healing process.
For the complete and extensive version of this article please click the following link Grounding the Body to be in Present Time.
“Richard Boyd is a Body Psychotherapist, counselor, author, and the CEO of Energetics Institute and Corporate Energetics”
MBA,BBus,AdvDipCEBPsych,Cert Coaching AICE,AIFM,ExtDISC Certified
Visit him at http://www.energeticsinstitute.com.au/