The Bodynamic – Somatic Psychotherapy and Analysis System – is a pioneering method of somatic developmental psychology and psychotherapy that integrates current research in the psychomotor development of children, cognitive and depth psychotherapy, brain research, and special emphasis on the quality of contact and on healthy relationship.
The human body is integrated into the therapy through precise knowledge of the psychological function of each muscle, based on data obtained from 30 years of systematic studies on child development and the psychotherapy experience of adult clients.
A fundamental concept of the Bodynamic System is that muscles tense up in order to accommodate the strong sensations that accompany emotions during childhood development, a condition termed hyper-responsive but under different conditions muscles may become flaccid and resigned, unable to cope with stronger stimuli, a condition termed hypo-responsive.
Marcher and her colleagues also found that each individual muscle – and groups of related muscles – correspond to highly specific stages in childhood development and adolescence, and also to specific functions of the Ego. Every muscle in each stage is correlated with its corresponding psychological function. Applying that knowledge into practice, the Bodynamic team created two original and highly evolved models that it applies directly as psychotherapy tools: The Bodynamic Character Structures, and the Bodynamic Ego Functions (both presented in detail below).
Unique to the Bodynamic System is the focus on building resources as the foundations of inner security. A qualified therapist trained in this comprehensive discipline can determine which age-appropriate resources a client needs to learn, and can then proceed to work with specific movements to activate muscles within a developmental age level. When a person retrieves forgotten inner resources or develops new ones, she or he becomes capable of approaching the deeper layers of her traumatic experiences with success. Building resources and awareness also enables the person to move towards a much broader range of choices in life.
The core belief of the Bodynamic System is that the human being is a social being motivated by a deep drive toward contact and connection with others, without losing pride and dignity, seeking what Lisbeth Marcher has termed Mutual Connection. Adult behavioural disorders are often rooted in the disruption of healthy Connection, which the client experiences during one or more stages of childhood development.
Childhood development is an amazing and complex process. Along with the normal physical milestones such as sitting, creeping, crawling and walking, the child undergoes several stages of psychological and emotional development – in effect transformation – that is driven primarily by the child’s desire to be in deep Mutual Connection with others and the world around it. Consequently this development will be shaped by the stresses (normal and/or unusual) and traumas the child undergoes during growth. As the child’s efforts at Mutual Connection are frustrated, her body and mind build defences that can be observed in both the body and the personality. With further growth, early defences become the basis of future patterns of interpersonal connection, often giving rise to new defences.
The Bodynamic System operates on the premise that defences serve a necessary purpose and are not to be broken down lightly. Defences can be agonizing, yet they represent creative survival strategies. Grasping that single fact allows us to really care about ourselves and others the way we are – rather than the way we “ought to be”.
When clients feel supported and gain the experience of new imprints of healthy connections, they are better resourced and no longer need to hold on to the old defensive postures, and they can then let go of defences naturally.
About the key Bodynamic concepts of Mutual Connection and Individual Dignity
Bodynamic Analysis is mindful of a constant interplay and intimate balance between mutual Connection on one hand and individual Dignity on the other. Character defences arise from the child’s deep urge to have the greatest possible Mutual Connection with the central people in his/her life – sometimes at the cost of her/his individual dignity.
Stated in first person, just like I can maintain or break Mutual Connection, I can either maintain my individual Dignity or relinquish it. To maintain my individual Dignity in an interaction with others, I must respect my own self so that my way of being, my feelings and my actions are consistent with my authentic self – my actual needs, impulses, preferences, wishes and views.
The way I can lose my Dignity is when my interaction with another person or persons becomes too challenging for me, to the point that inside myself I need to move away from the contact, breaking the Connection – but I don’t. Instead, I maintain the Connection but in the process I must relinquish my individual Dignity.
The Bodynamic Character Structure model is – among other things – an encyclopedia of Character Structure Positions that explain why and how a person would choose to preserve Connection at the expense of Dignity – to remain in contact with a person or a situation that she really can’t tolerate, because in that instance losing Connection is too frightening while losing her individual Dignity is more preferable of two undesirable choices.
And conversely, every person has at some point withdrawn from contact that was too challenging in order to be able to preserve her individual Dignity. This explains yet another extreme of the human condition that we often witness: No mutual Connection but a lot of individual Dignity in utter loneliness.
The Bodynamic System places priority on making conscious choices about our interactions and our ways of connecting, so that we don’t have to compromise our internal integrity – individual Dignity just to have contact. We learn to establish and maintain a balance that includes deep contact with other persons, while at the same time we honour our own Self by maintaining our individual Dignity.
These words from the Rev. Martin Luther King speak to this:
Text by Yorgis Toufexis
In a real sense all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.