The Language of the Body, Alexander Lowen

An introduction to a whole new aspect of personal development: the psychology of the body

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The Language of the Body, Alexander Lowen

 

This book is an introduction to a whole new aspect of personal development, that of the body.

Not simply exercising and eating right.

Alexander Lowen takes it to a much deeper level. He is talking about bioenergetics.

This is a specific form of psycho-therapy based on the mind-body connection. What happens is that often, due to negative childhood experiences (or just the reality of living), an individual can develop certain unhealthy tendencies (called neuroses) such as neediness, passivity, or not feeling. This is expressed in the body in the form of muscular weaknesses, imbalances, or muscular holding patterns.

Bioenergetic therapy has two aspects: to do basic psychoanalytic therapy (based on character structures) and the relieve tensions and fix imbalances in the body, which work in tandem to heal the individual.

The goal is to establish health, which is defined by Lowen in the book as “spontaneity and adaptability to the rational demands of a situation.”

Let’s talk about the book a little bit.

I’m gonna say right off the bat: it’s not a self-help book, that’s for sure. It’s a psychology book, which is more in-depth and comprehensive than the former.

Lowen spends the first part of the book discussing old-school psychological concepts like the ego, the superego and the id. He also goes into the pleasure principle and the reality principle.

About half of the book talks about the different character structures and the psychologic and bioenergetic characteristics they possess. The character, as Lowen states, “represents a typical pattern of behavior or a habitual direction. It is a mode of response which is set, congealed or structured.”

You may know some of them: the oral, the masochistic, the passive-feminine, the phallic-narcissistic, the hysterical, the schizophrenic, and the schizoid characters.

Each of these have their own neuroses, most of them rooted in childhood, and each of them tend to have specific somatic characteristics.

Lowen gives in-depth analysis of each of these, and also brings up examples from patients he’s treated who exhibited these problems.

Here are a few more aspects of bioenergetic therapy to give you a better understanding of what it entails:

A big concept is the idea that the front of the body is associated with tender feelings and sensitivity, while the back is associated with aggression and non-tender feelings. So for example, people with weak backs tend to have trouble being self-assertive, while people with tight muscles in the front of their bodies tend to lack feelings.

Another principle is that of “grounding.” This states that “all energy finds its way eventually into the earth.” Many people who do not show great physical contact with the ground (through weak feet, unsure legs) also exhibit the habit of being out of touch with reality.

I really enjoy this topic, even if it is relatively unknown to most of the world. But I’ve tried some somatic bioenergetic therapy on myself, and it just leaves me feeling great!

I would say this therapy has a lot of potential for the world. Too many people overlook the body when examining themselves.

As for the book, I must say it was heavy to read sometimes. But if you’re on board with me as to bioenergetic therapy, I must recommend it. I’ll try to find one that’s a bit less theory and more practice. In the meantime, I’d check out Elliott Hulse. He’s a strength coach who often uses these concepts.

 

Favorite Quote:

“To be free of the physical restraints imposed by chronic spasticities, to be liberated from the fetters of unconscious fears— this and this alone would make man capable of that love in which his deepest heart feelings are expressed with his strongest aggression.”

 

The Verdict:

A very good in-depth look at bioenergetics. A lot of theory, but great view of the practice.

8 Laws of Nature

8 Laws of Nature

It’s a sad fact that many people disrespect Nature. They pollute it, or else treat plants and animals as generally “stupid” or less intelligent than us.

They fail to grasp one important truth: we are a part of Nature, not separate from it. To show contempt or disregard Nature is to show contempt and disregard reality.

I’m going to offer a different perspective on the matter.

Nature is brilliant. More so than we can ever comprehend. It’s called the “miracle of life” for a reason: it’s an incomprehensible feat that we will probably never grasp.

Here are 8 ways nature is brilliant. These 8 Laws of Nature may allow us to honor it a little bit more than we do. These are also crucial concepts to understand for your personal growth.

The important thing is to understand that WE ARE A PART OF NATURE. We are subject to these same laws. So to understand these laws will permit you to understand your life, your psyche, and will aid you in your personal development journey.

 

  1. The Law of Polarity

“The nature of nature is polarity.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

For every man there is a woman. Yin and Yang. Summer and winter. Predator and prey. Hot and Cold. Life and death. Sweet ‘n’ sour ;). You get the idea.

This is an important concept, especially in understanding the opposite sex. We NEED polarity to exist, or else no difference WOULD exist. To deny your masculine or feminine side is to deny part of your being, the part that separates you from the other. There can be no “good” without “bad” (more on this later).

Once you can appreciate the power in this concept, you can start to appreciate different aspects of reality. Everything is just one side of a coin. This contrast makes up the beauty of the world.

 

2. The Law of Growth

This one’s pretty straightforward.

Here’s the truth: everything in nature grows. It is either growing or dying. Guess what? The same applies to you, too!

If you’re not growing yourself cognitively, physically, emotionally, spiritually, well, I got news for you: you’re dying. At least on the inside.

Everything needs to grow to live. And no, standing still doesn’t count. A tree, no matter how slow, is still ALWAYS growing, and that’s all that matters.

Growth is essential to life.

 

3. The Law of Impermanence

“This too shall pass.”

Nothing is permanent. At least in the physical world. Your money will eventually be spent, your marriage will end (at least when one of you dies), your pet will die, and your computer will crash eventually.

This sounds like kind of a downer, doesn’t it?

Well, look at it this way. If everything is temporary, it gives you a strong incentive to enjoy it while it lasts.

This fact also introduces an important concept in personal development: detachment.

If you are detached from things, you can enjoy them fully, without having to worry about them being taken away or clinging onto them.

But don’t underestimate the work this will take. It will take years.

Despite what you might think, this detachment puts you in a place of power: without attachments to anything, you are free. Free to do whatever you want, free to take risks, free to embrace change, and free to express yourself.

 

4. The Laws of Non-Linearity

Think of anything in nature. A rock. A tree stump. A stream, a dune, a bird, anything. And notice that there are no straight lines.

Straight paths don’t exist in nature, only in what Man has created. Architecture, a piece of paper, the sides of the device you’re reading this on.

So going with the same theme here: we are a part of nature. So if we take this law and apply it to your life, here’s what we get:

There is no straight path to success.

There is no straight path to self-actualization.

There is no smooth relationship.

There is no straight path to anything. Anything you strive for will require many twists, turns, and dead-ends. So be prepared for them, embrace them, don’t fight them.

 

5. The Law of Nature’s Cyclical Nature

Along the same lines as the previous two laws, this one deals with cycles. Cycles in Nature may refer to the seasons, life and death, orbits of the planets, the water cycle, reproduction, or any number of other cycles.

This laws states that everything has a cyclical nature. The good times will inevitably lead to bad times, then to good again. The good emotions come and are replaced by bad ones, then good ones again.

The Hindus understood this. They believe time to be cyclical rather than linear, unlike in the West. As they say, it “begins to end and ends to begin.”

So if you’re going through a depressive time right now, have no fear. Know that this is part of a cycle. This is your winter. Have faith that spring will soon be upon you.

This goes for anyone reading this: life is a cyclical flow. Learn to surf it. Know the bad times will come and pass, and appreciate the good ones while they last.

 

 

6. The Law of Contribution

Everything in Nature plays its part. And when the time comes for it to pass, it gives back to the system that gave it life. When a plant dies, it’s trunk becomes the home for colonies of insects. When an animal dies, it feeds all the others that make up the ecosystem that it lived in.

Contribution is a part of Nature. Whether intentionally or not, this fact is basic to Nature.

So what are you doing to contribute? Here are some suggestions:
Do some community service.

Volunteer.

Donate to charity.

Start a conscious business whose main goal is to better the world in some way, not accumulate as much money as possible.

My version of contribution was to start this blog and spread the knowledge I’ve gained from doing personal development.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not about what we can get for ourselves, it’s about what can we do for others?  How can we leave this world a little better than how we found it?

 

7. The Law of Holistic Positivity

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare

What the heck is “holistic positivity?”

It’s the way the world is. Nothing is “good” or “bad” in Nature. Everything just is. And this state of “just is” we call holistically positive.

Here’s the truth: Existence doesn’t have any notion of good or bad. Everything that happens or exists is exactly the way it’s supposed to be. By the simple fact that it is that way.

Labels of “good” and “bad” are human labels. And they get us into a lot of trouble.

Do you know the story of Adam and Eve? They resided in Heaven, until they ate the apple of Good and Evil, at which point they were kicked out of Heaven.

That’s an analogy for what most peoples’ realities are. They are in heaven until they are introduced to the concepts of good and evil at a very young age. Not knowing any better, they grow up labelling things as either “good” or “evil,” which shapes their lives and goals, and colors their whole world view.

But to get rid of your notions of good and evil will liberate you. From guilt, shame, fear, and any other “negative” emotions.

This is another very important concept to understand for personal development, especially for the practice of self-acceptance, understanding judgements, and generally not beating yourself up. Ultimately it will get rid of your guilt, shame, and negative feelings towards yourself and others.

 

8. The Law of Unity

Caution: very advanced law!

This is the most advanced thing that humanity has discovered. First by mystics and sages thousands of years ago, and is now just being proven by modern science.

Everything in Nature is One. The opposite create a whole. Quantum physics is now proving this phenomenon: we know that if we separate two atoms to opposite poles of the Earth and switch the polarity on one, the other will switch as well.

Everything is interrelated.

More than that, we are all one thing. You could say we are all part of this one thing called existence. I don’t want to get too deep into this topic because it is getting into advanced spiritual work, which I am by no means a master at (yet).

Not a very actionable laws for the newbies in PD, but for those of you doing the advanced work, it is a very real law. And it’s comforting to keep in mind.

 

So there they are. The 8 Laws of Nature that we all abide to as well. Hopefully this article helped give you a more holistic view of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Communicate Effectively, Bert Decker

How to Communicate Effectively, Bert Decker

 

How to communicate… something we all think we do so well.

Communication is probably the single most important key in a professional setting, for example if you have to give a presentation or a sales pitch.

It is also surprisingly important in the personal realm: don’t want to be an uninteresting storyteller at dinner, do we?

Most of us have heard this figure, but just to reiterate it:

93% of communication is NOT what you say.

It’s your eye contact, your posture, your humor, your filler-words, your pauses. Ultimately your personality and confidence.

So let’s dive into this book.

How to Communicate Effectively was a pleasant find for me. It only takes about and hour and a half to read, and it really covers all the basics of effective communication.

Here are the 9 specific behavioral characteristics Bert Decker goes over:

  1. Eye Communication
  2. Posture and Movement
  3. Gestures and Facial Expressions
  4. Dress and Appearance
  5. Voice and Vocal Variety
  6. Language, Pauses, and Non-Words
  7. Listener involvement
  8. Using Humor
  9. The Natural Self

 

Nothing groundbreaking here, but what I liked about this book was its concise, no-bullshit approach to learning and integrating all of these points into our lives. The first part of the book covers the psychology behind communication and how to form habits. And at the end of every chapter, he gives 3-5 exercises for each of these points, and always emphasizes that these are HABITS that either need to be broken or formed.

Another thing I like about his approach is beginning by bringing awareness to what our habits are. Knowing what the problem is can be half the battle. THEN work on fixing them.

One of the most insightful ideas in this book is that communication is not a science. It is an art. All of these behavioral patterns are like different paint colors, but you can mix them, use different ones according to the situation, and explore different possibilities.

Bert Decker states in this book that effective communication really comes down to one thing: credibility.

Not credentials, but confidence, congruence, and energy.

The sale might just come down to how excited you were about the product. For a politician, showing signs of insecurity while on camera is suicide.

Credibility. The messenger must match the message.

Keep in mind this is one of the first books I’ve read about communication. There are many more communication books out there that are way more popular (but sadly I haven’t read), but I find that generally there’s not much more to basic communication than this.

 

Favorite quote:

“Communication is energy.”

The Verdict:

A great handbook for learning the fundamentals of effective communication.