Author Topic: Reichian Growth Work by Nick Totton  (Read 895 times)


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Re: Reichian Growth Work by Nick Totton
« Reply #30 on: April 15, 2015, 07:51:25 am »
 It will be obvious already that the four spheres we are considering overlap with each other.Much of what we have said about the physical body also involves emotions, energy and ideas;once life force is on the move it functions in all modes at once. We are distinguishing only thedifferent starting points for the process.On the other hand, emotions and physical sensations have a particularly close link. The word'feeling' can be used for both kinds of experience, and in practice during a therapy session theclient may make no distinction between what they are feeling physically and what they arefeeling emotionally. Other people, however, may find it very hard to link the two - it is acommon expression of cut-offness to have bodily experiences with no emotional content, orvice versa. You can also find yourself in a separate 'witnessing' part of your being, coollyregistering the experience, deducing, 'Ah, now my voice sounds angry/sad/ frightened.' Allthese are fine as starting-points; the goal is to re-connect with the unity of our experience

Many clients do not feel ready or able to engage with bodywork when they begin therapy. Theprocess seems too intimate, too invasive, perhaps even meaningless to someone who doesn'texperience themselves as 'living in' their body.Thus therapy will always start with the sorts of contact that
available, but with the long-term goal of coming to grips with whatever is blocking bodywork. This is not meant to implythat bodywork is more 'fundamental' than other approaches; the same will apply in reverse,for example, with a client who finds bodywork easy but treats it purely physically, making noemotional connections. With a number of clients, then, the starting point will be anexploration of their emotional world, during which the therapist is hoping to bring to theirawareness how they resist specific kinds of feeling. Just as bodywork focuses on the musculararmouring against movement and breathing, so here we are looking at character armouringagainst feeling and expression.In this sort of work it is crucial that the therapist be in touch with her own feelings and herown defences against feeling, in order to explore those of her client, just as in bodywork weneed to be in touch with our own breath. One of our fundamental tools for understanding inthis area is registering the emotions which arise within ourselves during the session. Thesefeelings and attitudes will almost always reflect what is going on
inside the client
. To makeuse of this information, however, we must be clear enough to disentangle it from our owncharacter, our own habits of feeling which will 'rise to the bait', this is one of many reasonswhy therapists need to receive regular therapy!When two people are relating strongly, their emotional states are linked; a feeling in one willproduce an echo in the other without anything being explicitly stated. So our internal reactionshelp us see how the client is resisting feeling, resisting expression. Often a client will insistthat 'nothing is happening', no emotions of any sort are being experienced. If the therapistknows herself well, however, she may for example perceive a wave of sadness or of fearwhich doesn't come from her own process. She can then feed this back to the client: 'I sense alot of sadness in the room at the moment, is that to do with what you're telling me about?'What
happen is almost more important than what does. A client may find it very easyto cry, for example, but almost impossible to get angry, or even assertive. The therapist mustobviously validate and support the tears, but she must also notice, point out,
on the'missing feeling' which those tears may be covering up. An apparently inappropriate edge of anger or confrontation within
during the session is an important clue to what ishappening. It may also work the other way round: if I feel angry with a client perhaps they are
me to be angry, almost encouraging it - because this is what they are used to. Littleof the resistance to feeling will be conscious, of course. As we have emphasised, the purposeof armouring is partly to make feelings unconscious. But we still communicate thoseunacknowledged feelings all the time, and a therapist can be sensitive enough to mirror back the feelings her clients are rejecting in a way which validates their pain and defensiveness, butwhich also invites and challenges them to re-own their hidden self.
 Exercise 22
 You might find it interesting at this point to think about which feelings you yourself find it easy to express - and which ones are unacceptable or unavailable to you. Are you someonewho 'never gets angry'? Or are you apparently 'fearless'? Or perhaps you approach most situations in the expectation of being hurt? After you have made your own list, try asking oneor two people close to you how they see you; the result may be illuminating.
A slightly different way of seeing the process is that the therapist is throwing the spotlight onwhatever behaviour
resists contact
. Character is a system of defence; it rests on the childhoodrealisation that the world is dangerous, and should not be approached with honest directness.In particular we should not be open with people in authority, which is how the therapistappears. She is dangerous, because she may - indeed, is actively trying to - open up dangerousemotions. Right from the start- we as clients are unconsciously trying to control the situation,to put limits on it, to make it less spontaneous and contactful, trying in fact to sabotage thetherapy which is costing us so much money and effort!A client may, for example, enter therapy with an apparent deep trust and faith in thetherapist's ability to help them: a biddable compliance with all suggestions, and boundlessenthusiasm for the results. Wonderful! The unwary therapist basks in the satisfaction of beingadmired and appreciated, yet somehow nothing seems to lead anywhere; there is nodeepening, no discovery. Eventually the therapist is forced to realise that all this trust isinauthentic: the clients real message is 'I'm a good boy/girl, don't hurt me'. When the clientcan begin to experience their fear and suspicion of the therapist then something real can startto happen.Another client may begin therapy in a truculent, suspicious and complaining way. Nothing thetherapist does is right, no session ends in a satisfying resolved way. It's always left uncertainwhether the client will come back next week. Nevertheless they do keep coming back, theymust be getting something out of it Could it be that what they want, yet are fighting, is tosurrender, to be small and trusting and looked after?These are just two examples of the many ways in which people's conscious feelings onentering therapy can be contradicted by deeper motivations. Part of the therapist's job is tolook beyond the surface presented to them; not in a distrustful and cynical way, which wouldsimply represent their own character armour, but with heart contact and an awareness of whenand haw whatever needs to happen isn't happening. Our basic belief is that everyone enterstherapy in order to become open - however hard they may resist that openness! As therapistswe seek to ally ourselves with that wholesome and authentic aspect of our client, by revealingthe wholesome and authentic part of ourselves.Working to uncover a client's deep feelings involves being in touch with what their bodies aredoing, especially their breathing and posture, it means listening to the unconscious messageswhich may utterly contradict the words they say - 'I feel happy and relaxed', yet my shouldersare tense, my arms folded and my breathing shut down. It also involves looking at theircurrent life situation, often in consider-able detail. But even though we expect to do a gooddeal of counselling in the course of our work (in the sense of helping people develop betterstrategies for managing their lives), therapy is not counselling; our main concern with currentevents is how they illuminate a person's fundamental patterns formed in childhood and earlier,their basic expectations of how the world will be, which function like scripts to direct thecourse of their lives.
 What we have just been saying about feelings clearly concerns a person's thought processes;their ideas about how things are. Generally, however, we are less concerned with someone'sexplicit ideas than with their silent
: 'You can't expect to get what you want fromlife.' 'Everyone lets me down in the end.' 'If I want love I have to earn it,' 'Anger only gets youhurt,' 'Women are born to suffer,' 'A real man never cries.' These are a mere handful of the

common assumptions people make about life - any one of which will have fundamentaleffects upon how they go about things, and therefore upon what happens to them.Our assumptions tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies. If we believe that everyone is out forthemselves, then we will act in a suspicious and self-centred fashion which discourages otherpeople from being open and sharing with us. If we believe that anger will get us hurt, then wecan easily create that hurt - by punching a wall instead of a cushion, for example, or simply bythe way in which our fear makes us hit out clumsily and awkwardly. If we expect not to getwhat we want, then we want things we know we can't get And so on.
 Exercise 23
 Try to make a list of all your habitual, favourite assumptions about reality, on the lines of theabove examples. Do this down one half of a page - quite fast and without thinking about it toomuch; then opposite each statement, write a contradictory statement Try saying these out loud, and see what it feels like!
 It could be said that this kind of thought is fundamentally a
. Our bodymindremembers the existence-threatening situation which stamped a certain view of life onto us;the tactic which allowed us to survive then becomes our basic strategy for confronting lifenow. But life changes all the time - we are constantly meeting with new experiences, if wecan let ourselves recognise them. Through therapy, we can open up a certain spaciousness inour lives, which involves among other things the capacity to
more clearly; to perceive,to reconsider, and often to change, our lifelong assumptions about 'how things are'.Of course these are not merely intellectual notions: their power comes from their intense
charge, which is always anchored in the structure of our
, in the ways that
is allowed to move in us. Yet there is a definite role for the mind in therapy. There aretimes when it can be crucial to understand the logical flaws in our approach to existence - if for no other reason, to motivate us to carry on with the work despite its uncomfortableness.This is the constructive aspect of the way in which thinking, operating from our heads,distances us from the immediate authenticity of feeling and sensation. Our capacity foranalysis enables us to step back to gain perspective, to witness our own process rather thanimmersing ourselves in it.The question is whether this distancing effect is voluntary or involuntary; whether it is simplya flight from the anxiety which feelings and sensations can bring up in us. Many people cometo therapy needing to 'get out of their heads' - they have been affected by our culture'semphasis on sterile and exaggerated rationality, and have lost touch with their emotions. Aswe have stressed, feelings are not open to argument: they are simply
, to be lived throughand completed.But other people - or the same people at a different moment in their lives - may be excessivelyinvolved in their feelings in an addictive or a flooded way, going round and round the sameemotional cycle rather than completing it and moving on. At such a point a therapist mightwell say 'Yes, that's how you feel, but what do you
about that? Do your feelings reflectwhat is actually happening in the here-and-now?' The client is thus invited to use their powersof analysis, to clarify and peel away fossilised emotional attitudes.

Feelings cannot be
by thoughts. If we try to do this we simply repress them, andthrow ourselves into an illusion. But thoughts can help us to understand where feelings comefrom, help us open up a space between the reality of the feeling and the reality of the situationso that we can start to understand that the feeling refers to things in the past rather than in thepresent (if this is the case). Knowing this, we are encouraged to work out, express and let goof the old emotion, rather than confusing it with current reality and unconsciously trying tomake reality match our feeling.We must remember too that our head is part of our body, and thoughts are a life functionmuch like digestion or heartbeat. Moving into a 'thought space', with its flavour of cool,distant clarity, is accompanied by a shift in our breathing and posture. The breath tends tobecome more shallow, and focus in our upper chest rather than our belly. The energy focusesin our upper body and our head; the state of our whole head armouring, and our eyes inparticular, will determine to a very large extent how free and clear our thought processes canbe - how well we can 'see what's going on'.We should also mention here the very major role in therapy of fantasy and imagination.Working in any of the ways we describe in this chapter, clients are likely to come up withspontaneous imagery about what they are experiencing - not just visual images, but using anyof the sensory channels. To take a few random examples: someone might imagine their bodyas a tree, with a great snake coiling around the trunk. Or they might suddenly smell smoke, ortaste blood in their mouth, or hear the sound of bells. Whatever the imagery that emerges, itwill be rooted in that individual's history and life issues: we can see it as a message from thebodymind, couched not in language but in sensation. Working with these fantasies - eitherwithin the session, or on your own between sessions - can be a most fruitful way of developing communication with yourself.
 In the last section, and throughout this chapter, we have shifted at times into talking about'energy'. What we can perceive as bodywork, as emotional movement, or a shift of ideas, canalso be perceived as a flow of life energy, of Orgone. A Reichian therapist may focus on thislevel, watching the energy shifts in their client as a favourite 'channel' for picking upinformation about what is going on. We may also work directly to affect the flow of energy,rather than doing this through acting on physical or emotional tension. We may use our hands,for instance, not to press or poke the muscles, but to help energy move into or around theclient's body. This is an area where therapy overlaps with what is known as 'hand healing','spiritual healing', or 'subtle energy work'.In fact, as most practitioners of therapeutic touch come to realise, there is no hard and fast linebetween bodywork and energy rebalancing. Hands that are accustomed to touching bodiesbecome steadily more subtle, hinting and offering rather than insisting; out of this danceanother form of interaction will flower, letting us realise that it has been going on all the time.It is impossible for two people, two energy systems,
to interact on an energy level.Apart from focusing and channelling energy through our hands, we can use visualisation andimagery. If we imagine, for instance, a stream of clear blue water flowing through and aroundus, relaxing and clearing our energy, then this is what will tend to happen; or if we hold in ourmind's eye the image of a hot orange sun blazing into our belly, or of a white rose slowlyopening in our chests, then the appropriate energy shift is likely to occur.

Many practitioners and healing organisations work with energy while keeping quiet about it -it seems too weird, too unacceptable, to acknowledge openly. Reichian work has alwaysacknowledged the direct role of life energy, and, as we shall see in Chapter 11, Reich evendeveloped a series of devices for concentrating that energy and dissolving the blocks againstits natural flow. He was also very much aware that a human being is an 'orgone device' - as isany other living being. Energy streams constantly through our bodyminds, at times poolingand condensing, freezing and stagnating, boiling and flooding. Working with energy is reallyno different from other levels of therapy; it is just a different emphasis of perception,employing the same fundamental concepts and directions as the other spheres. If the energywithin us shifts, then our feeling state, thought processes and body awareness will also shift:the four spheres are all inter-dependent
 Exercise 24
 With coloured pens or crayons, make a picture of your body's energy patterns as you imaginethem to be. Try to let yourself loose on this; use lots of different colours. You may want tohave a body outline to work with - but remember that your energy also goes outside your skin.This is a nice exercise to do with friends, and to do occasionally over a period of time to seehow your pictures change.
The therapy relationship
 We have just described the
of the client-therapist interaction, but this is not theinteraction itself. At some stage in the work - perhaps even right at the start - the emphasisshifts crucially from the
of the therapy - melting armour, releasing feelings, revisinglife scripts, channelling energy - to the
of the therapy, and the relationship between twopeople which that form expresses.A client does a specific piece of therapeutic work; arrives at a new insight, perhaps, a newcapacity for handling charge. This is the first level of the work, and essential and valuable initself. But simultaneously, a second level is operating: the piece of work is also a
 between client and therapist.Is it, for example, an offering, like an apple for the teacher? Is it asking, for praise; orappeasing, trying to buy off criticism? Is there an unconscious goal of shocking the therapist,frightening her off with the horror of the material revealed? Is it a test? Does the client expectto be rejected if she shows her real self Is she calculatedly - but unconsciously - trying toproduce the feelings the therapist expects - or to frustrate those expectations?How, in other words, does the therapeutic work act as a
for the client's love or hatefor the therapist for her fear or anger or seductiveness or need?All this may seem a bit unlikely, a bit over the top. A therapist in touch with her own healthycore is not going around inviting her clients' love or hate. Yet over and over again, therapistssince Freud (and no doubt since the dawn of time) have found these super-intense feelingsmanifesting in their clients, bending everything to their own ends. They have had the certaintythat something
a superficially straightforward piece of work, something much moredifficult and confusing, like a great dark star bending the light from a smaller visible sun.And, even more interestingly, we discover equivalent 'over the top' responses
in ourselves;
wefeel an urge to praise or punish, seduce or reject, to need things from and do things to our clients.

This is all most alarming, or would be if we lacked an understanding of what is going on.Freud labelled this process 'transference' because, he said, the client is essentially transferringon to the therapist powerful positive or negative feelings which were originally called forth bythe important adults in their childhood. The equivalent feelings in the therapist are generallyknown as 'counter- transference'.The fundamental emotions about people which we had in childhood are the ones we tend tohave about all the important people in our lives, not just our therapists. If we were afraid of our parents' anger, we will be afraid of our lovers' anger - whether they get angry or not' Andso on with all our other feelings and relationships: rather than being able to see other peopledirectly, we tend to treat them as a screen on to which we project old memories. In the therapysituation, however, there are important and creative differences.The therapist is not, like most people, simply putting her own projections back onto the clientIn the rest of her life, she may project as readily as the next person, but she has learnt not todo so in the therapy session; or rather, to keep a distance from her projections, and to usethem as information about what is happening within the client.Also, in therapy both people are there not for any practical or emotional purpose, whichwould take their attention away from the projecting that is going on (and often sabotaging thatmain purpose). Theyare there simply in order to experience and consider what happensbetween them. There is plenty of space for projections to arise, develop, play themselvesthrough. There is space for the 'transference relationship' to reveal itself, and thus to reveal thefundamental patterns and assumptions of our lives.In classic Freudian psychoanalysis, the basic situation which arouses transference feelings isone of
. The therapist distances herself from the client in all sorts of ways: by sittingout of sight and mostly in silence, by withholding all information about herself and herfeelings, by responding with no expression of sympathy or concern. The psychoanalyst, atleast in theory, is a 'blank screen' on to which the clients project their central feelings aboutpeople - especially about people who withhold themselves!The basis of our own work is crucially different Although there are some importantboundaries in our relationship with clients (for instance, we are offering only a specifiedamount of time), we are always moving towards
. It is this active push for closeness,for deep disclosure, which provokes transference feelings - as a defence against the power andvulnerability of this contact.Because it is the relationship with the therapist which provokes such deep feelings, as clientswe find it easier to see
as responsible for
process; to see them as powerful, ratherthan recognising that the power resides equally in us and in the contact we are bothexperiencing; to see them as special - specially nice or specially nasty - rather than facingthem as simply another human being like us. Contact is only truly possible between equals.