On Body Therapies

Over time mainstream psychoanalysis has become more cerebral.  However on the margins, significant work has and is being done on involving more of the body in psychoanalysis.  For instance, here’s a psychoanalytic body therapy session by Lora Wilson Mau (it’s rare to find these descriptions – I highly recommend reading the entire post):

The dance/movement therapist sensed tension the moment the client (let’s call her Abby) walked into the room – it was present in her body language and the tonality of her voice, underneath the superficial pleasant verbal greeting.

After Abby had found a comfortable seated position on the floor, the therapist simply asked Abby – without thinking about it – to make a short gesture or movement. Anything. “Don’t think about it, just do it.”

Abby, without a second thought, quickly extended both her arms into the space in front of her, just about head level. She also, without thinking about it, yelled a short “aaaagh!” as she pushed her arms out with great force.

The room was quiet as the therapist allowed the expression to be fully acknowledged. She then asked Abby to repeat the movement but to now do it slowly…

As Abby began slowly and silently pushing her hands out in front of her, with just as much intensity and strength as before but without the speed, she immediately understood what she was doing and why. She did not verbally state any of this at the time, just made a mental note of the insight and continued exploring as the therapist directed her.

You see, there had been a death in Abby’s family just 10 days prior and she had been acting as the “strong” one, the support person for everyone else. She had not really given herself an outlet to express her own grief because she was trying to hold everything for everybody else. (Again, Abby did not verbalize any of this while it was happening but was able to recount it and other insights after the movement experience was over.)

When Abby slowly pushed her arms out in front of her, using great strength, her immediate thought was “Noooo More!”

The body predates language, and sometimes the body as a means of expression is much more powerful than words, and as in the session above, words and ideas and revelations can proceed from them rather than merely vice versa.

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