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The Body is the Past, Present and the Future

© Siegmar Gerken Ph.D., ECP, HP (Psychotherapy)

Closing lecture at the Body Psychotherapy Congress: Psicoterapia Corporal in Venezuela, October 2011.

Dear friends, this has been a very dynamic and colorful congress. 
Thank you for the honor of the last presentation:
The Body is the Past, Present and the Future
I will look at these topics from different aspects: 

  1. Traditional
  2. Organismic
  3. Bodypsychotherapy – practice and professional outlook

A) Traditional:

Most of you have possibly experienced Yoga – the oldest body-oriented discipline known to us.

Originally it was a meditation technique. The second Sutra from Patanjali describes to achieve a “one-pointedness of mind”- that means, that with the right structuring of energy, we can achieve balance.

But when the Yogis realized, that some disciples did not show progress, they became aware, that they needed to involve the body and they developed the Asanas (body positions). At that time these positions where chosen by the Guru for the disciple, to further the meditation, like we as bodypsychotherapist today design exercises for our clients, so that they can experience the connectedness of body and mind. 

In the eastern thinking, especially at that time, the notion of personal development with specific parents in a specific environment and with a culturally pre-formulated expression of sexuality has not been explored or challenged.

Some thousand years later, around 400BC we hear of Hippokrates' medical theory of physiological reasons for different behaviors (sanguine, melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic) and again 200 years later of Galens typology of temperaments.

The Canon of Medicine then another 1000 years later (coming from the Arab world) introduces the Psyche, Emotions and the Spirit to the appearance of the body. It influenced medicine and the thinking about Body and Spirit until almost 1850. This was the first comprehensive description of the influences of a body-psyche-soul- unity and its interwoven processes.

As we know, Freud stressed the unconscious and with that let more and more go of exploring the body.

It was then Wilhelm Reich to establish the functional understanding of a Psychosomatic Unity and who began to develop therapeutic techniques by fully including the dynamics of the body and the psyche.

Most of us stand on the shoulders of Wilhelm Reich. AND at the same time it was necessary in the 70 years since then, to advance into our evolved bodypsychotherapy of the present.

B) Organismic

On a transpersonal congress in September , when I lectured on the process of personal development and the body with its frozen patterns of history, a participant tried to challenge me with the question: “Does time exist?” I only invited him to look into a mirror and to realize and become aware over the last few years, that also his body resembles the Past, the Present and the Future.


In the 7th week of our gestation nerve fibers from the brain as well as from the spinal cord attach to muscles - that means from this moment on, the brain structures information from the muscles and the body can be informed by brain impulses. That means ALL our information in our developmental phases have an imprint onto the brain or are influenced by reaction patterns that we have formed and which we hold as Personality Reaction Patterns and with that as representations in our body-mind-system - or as I call it, in our Body-Field™. At certain times and life conditions, especially in times of distortions and conflicts, the disturbing or un-integrated representations may become active and we work with them in the PRESENT. When a client says, this is "old material" – but we see, that s/he is touched by it in this moment, then it becomes the present experience in the NOW.

This is the material, that we work with in the therapeutic session or in our own personal awareness process. Our competence and art as body-oriented psychotherapist is, to make these moments an experience for the person, so that they not only analyze, but can also feel into the situation and develop a comprehensive insight and understanding.

The mobilization of energy then and the Practice in Being, as I call it in CORE EVOLUTION – allows the person to expand beyond the present limitation of the Consciousness of the Personality - that means they stay in the continued process of reconnecting with the Original Intention and Pulsation of Being, by practicing Mindfulness in the application of Bodypsychotherapy (see also the Cycle of Life in Core Evolution on www.CoreEvolution.com)

By supporting the realization of a person’s potential, we guide the person into the future - and we practitioners here have all seen many wonderful moments of growth and transformation that inspires us to do the work we are doing.

C) Bodypsychotherapy - practice and professional outlook

I have been lucky that I could experience the first seminars with therapist from California in 1971 – and I have been even more lucky to live in Esalen, Big Sur in 1976 – the birthplace of many new ideas and therapies at that time, that also strongly influenced Bodypsychotherapy.

The premise was: “ get the energy moving; kick and scream. Get all these repressed feelings out – and in the evening then we did Zen-Meditation. I personally was structured and wired, that I got a lot out of it. Whereas some other people possibly had been re-traumatized and left hanging with a lack of integration.

Therefore one of my main questions in our trainings is today: “ why are you doing, what you are doing?” That does not exclude intuition., But I want, that you reflect carefully and with empathy, knowledge and an open mind, on what basis, theory and experience you are leading your process or interventions. With every generation society and science is changing every 20 -30 years – with that, we also need to adapt with our work.

By refining our techniques over the years and applying the emergence of new knowledge in psychology, biology, physics and especially the field of neuroscience, we evolved more and more into a respected stream of therapy, especially in Europe.

Our German BodyPsychotherapy organization and to a degree also the EABP, financed publications and translations, some research and is now strongly working on a common goal for bodypsychotherapy, which has a good chance in conjunction with Humanistic Psychology to be soon accepted as a third force next to Psychoanalysis and Behavioral Therapy.

The Future will have the terminology: Integrative Bodypsychotherapy.

In September, on the bodypsychotherapy congress in Berlin, we ratified a common curriculum for this. However, practitioners will still decide to deepen their knowledge in the long time experience and practice of some modalities.

These days we are living in a world of neuroscience. It opens a fantastic understanding of the functioning of the interaction of brain and the body – for me it is so far not the body and the mind – that will take much longer. Often now, we find the tendency to quote neuroscience all the time, almost as a final proof of what may be happening, or as evidence of a certain underlying feeling or behavior, by pointing out reactions or oxygen uptake in certain areas of the brain.

Our life’s are much more complex, therefor let us not loose out of sight, what else influences behavior and our reaction: it is social environment, life situations, culture, being loved and liked, etc..

Science will not directly help our clients to stop suffering, but it will help us to not continue outdated insights and to develop new approaches and applications.

Besides that, science will not be able to describe the seat of the soul or our personal essence.

Don’t understand me wrong – as most of you have seen in my other presentation, I am doing research myself, and I am with other colleagues in the EABP-Scientific committee. Especially since we are involved, we also want, that our profession gets more and more respected in the field of therapy and medicine and other areas of society. That is why we want to caution for simplifications and naive quoting of science.

When I ask my good friends who are professors in neuroscience and genetics questions, and I cannot clearly specify my question, they mostly answer: “ We cannot really answer that”. – If I ask a therapist, I often get a 15 minute definite answer with the ‘latest truth’, why we have been right all these years. Here we have to reflect more on our own attitude.

The Future will be: 

And above all, let us keep in touch with our humanity and the mystery of life, and the love we share with all sentient beings.

So that the journey in this vessel, our body, is a harmonious and fulfilling one.

I am looking forward to develop with you Bodypsychotherapy into the future.
Thank you all - Gracias.

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