Taking A Closer Look
Bioenergetics and Pathwork
Bioenergetics, developed by Alexander Lowen and John Pierrakos, is an evolution of their studies with Wilhem Reich, an Austrian psychotherapist who was instrumental in putting body~centered therapies on the map. The premise is to release chronic tension(s) in the body that are related to mental/emotional/psychic distress, and to feel the feelings that are being avoided through holding in the body. In Lowen’s book “Bioenergetics” he talks about the main tenets that are central to understanding how and why it works.
- YOU ARE YOUR BODY: “A dead body has no mind, it has lost its spirit, and its soul has departed.” It’s a simple fact ~ we do not exist as a human being outside of our body and when you feel alive in your body, you are more engaged and present with life. When your body is tired and depleted, you are less available. When we are in our body, we feel our emotions and when we want to avoid feeling, we leave our body, or interrupt the physical flow of energy by holding it somewhere with muscle tension. How does our physical energy change when we disconnect from our spirit? Or when we overuse our intellect? Every part of you lives in your body.
- KNOW YOUR MIND AND MIND YOUR BODY: “mind has a directive function with respect to the body…..it can direct a person’s attention either inward or outward, toward the body or toward external objects. In effect, one focuses one’s energy either on the self or on the external world” It is important to be mindful of ourselves and the external environment. Our mind helps us to observe and understand who we are and the world we live in. When we direct our mind internally too much, then we are self~centered and when we direct all of our attention outwardly, we have no sense of self. To develop fluidity of mind between the inner and outer worlds is the goal. I have a favorite exercise of closing my eyes, connecting within, then opening my eyes and observing the external environment while remaining connected to my inner self. Give it a try!
- MIND, BODY, EMOTION, AND SPIRIT ARE CONNECTED: “The amount of spirit a person has is determined by how alive and vibrant they are…..the connection between energy and spirit is immediate.” Think of how many times we use the term “in good spirits”. For me personally, when I am in good spirits, my energy is flowing, I feel alive in my body, my mind is alert yet quiet, and I feel joyful. Take a moment to reflect upon a time when you were in good spirits. How did your body respond? What were you thinking? Feeling?
Pathwork is a series of lectures promoting and supporting spiritual~psychological growth with a strong focus on developing self~awareness, self~responsibility, self~love, and self~acceptance. Eva Pierrakos verbally channeled the material to a small group of people over a period of time and each “lecture” was transcribed into written form. There are 258 in total and all applicable in the work of Core Energetics Therapy. A few concepts in particular have become the center scaffolding, such as Mask Self/Lower Self/Higher Self, True and False Needs, and the yes/no current.
- Mask, Lower, Higher Self:
The Mask Self is our self~idealized image, i.e. the way we present ourselves to the world according to what we want people to see or what we think they want to see in order to be loved and accepted. The self~idealized image is built upon false beliefs and images about ourselves and the world in which we live. Developing at a young age, these images and beliefs are over generalizations in response to life experiences. For example, “my parents don’t want me, there’s something wrong with me, I’m unlovable” may be a formed belief because their parents worked a lot and sometimes they were too tired to spend quality time with them at home. We carry these beliefs with us as we grow and become adults, integrating them into our view of self, and effectively generating life choices that reinforce the falsehoods. The mask is our trickery, our smokes and mirrors, designed to distract everyone from our true, vulnerable selves. We know when the mask self is around when we feel confused, and/or are judging, criticizing, or blaming ourselves or others. I invite you to consider your self~idealized image. How do you want to be seen? What do you think people need to see in order for you to be loved and accepted?
The Lower Self is our first line of defense. It is our “no” to being open, trusting, unified, courageous, to be guided by wisdom, i.e. our higher self. It is our child consciousness who wants things to be the way they want it and right now! Lower self energy is direct, demanding, and driven by fear, pride, and will. It is our resistance ~ no, I will not open my heart to loving and being loved (I’m scared I will get hurt ~ fear), no, I will not ask for what I need (I’m so good at taking care of myself I don’t need others ~ pride), no, I will not reach for what I want (instead I will do something else that is unfulfilling ~ will). Take a moment to connect with your lower self. Feel it in your body. Ask yourself “what are my demands of the world? what do I say no to even though it costs me joy? what am I afraid of? how do I see myself as superior to others?”.
The Higher Self is the Real Self. It transcends duality, is deeply peaceful, generates mature love, embraces pleasure, unifies individual and collective consciousness, feels it all, says yes to life. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and feel into your Real Self. What do you notice? What are the qualities of this higher self energy?
2. True and False Needs: Our real needs as a child are those that we can not meet for ourselves, for example, survival. Beyond survival we need love, encouragement, reassurance, acceptance, hugs, and so on. Real needs of an adult are “self~expression, growth, development, reaching one’s spiritual potential and everything that accrues from that. This means pleasure, love, fulfillment, good relationships, and a meaningful contribution to the great plan in which everyone has his or her task.” (Pathwork Lecture False Needs, True Needs). When any or all of the needs are not met as a child, they are carried into adulthood and become false needs, coexisting with the adult’s true needs. More specifically, it is avoiding feeling the pain of the unfulfilled need that creates the false need. When feelings are not fully experienced they remain stuck in our energy along with the psychological, physical, and spiritual aspects. Tapping into the body’s tension patterns helps us to discover these hidden, trapped feelings and brings consciousness to the child’s unmet needs.
3. Yes and No Current: Thinking again about energy and how we use it, the yes~no current is another way of looking at how we use our own energy; we use it to say yes to life and we use it to say no. Let’s not be confused with when we say yes to the things we really DON’T want or no to the things we really DO want ~ that’s a distortion of the true yes and no. In the Pathwork Lecture, it says “…….the yes~current is the expression of….the life force….. it is all that strives toward union, wholeness, harmony, fulfillment, fruition. It is truth and love in its substance and manifestation. It is life-embracing and accepting. Its movements are smooth and harmonious…..”. Now what about the no-current? It is the opposite of our yes. It opposes truth, harmony, and union. It resists, it lies, it ignores, it is unaware. It is resistance and avoidance.
Think about saying yes to something, whether it’s a new job, a plan to travel, a relationship……whatever it is, notice how it feels energetically. Does it align with the description above, even if the words differ? Think about saying no to something in your life that would bring joy and pleasure, that you know in your heart would bring peace and harmony. How does it feel? What are the qualities of this no?
HOW DO BIOENERGETICS AND PATHWORK WORK TOGETHER?
In all honesty, the best way to understand how these work together is to experience it! Apart from that, here is my explanation:
Through the body (Bioenergetics) we can discover where and how we are holding our defenses (Pathwork i.e. Mask Self, Lower Self etc). Through the body we are able to move and release our defenses with physical expression. Through the body we are able to know our mind, fully experience our feelings, become familiar with our yes and no currents, , and integrate all of our parts into wholeness. Imagine all of these pieces as energy currents and the body as the grounding cord. Each current finds it place and interacts harmoniously with the others creating a freely flowing, vibrant, energetic being. Know your body. Know your energy. Know how you are directing it. This is the beginning of the journey towards wholeness.