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