At the moment of conception, we come into existence as a creative spark, a particular expression and materialization of being which is grounded in the Eternal. From conception we begin the process of differentiation; becoming a unique expression of being, with the ultimate conclusion being a return and reunification with the Eternal, the Source, at a higher state of consciousness.

Nearly from the outset this grounded but differentiating being is faced with threats to the self (i.e. environmental in utero threats such as toxicity or chronic maternal stress, unresponsive or over-responsive parents during childhood, threats of violence, etc.) and responds by developing protective armor (somatic: “body armor,” personality: “character armor”), known in psychodynamic jargon as “ego defenses”. This armor builds in one’s body, posture, feelings, behavior, and ways of relating. While in the moment protective, over time these defenses become rigid patterns of relating to one’s environment which prevent the natural, uninhibited expression of the true self. These inhibited or repressed expressions get stuck in our nervous, musculoskeletal, and respiratory systems, along with having a significant impact on the functioning of sensory perceptions and neurological networks. These detrimental calcifications of the organism over time express themselves in symptoms which Western psychiatry has defined as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress, among other constructions of mental illness; while their physical expressions include such widespread dis-eases as cancer, heart disease, headaches, and chronic back problems to name but a few.

Within this framework, therapy (healing) can be understood as a process of disarming the defensive, rigid personality which prevents the true self, the creative spark of being, from authentically expressing itself in the present moment. Effective methods of healing vary widely, but they share a common theme of facilitating the expression the unexpressed or to put it another way, empowering that which has been disempowered. For superficial character is constructed by countless experiences where the human organism feels threatened and seeks to alleviate the threat via some defensive reaction which is fundamentally an attempt to escape powerlessness. Having escaped this feeling of helplessness through whatever means necessary, the organism then often takes note of the defensive strategy used and keeps using it for protection- be it dissociation, muscle tension, hyper-emotionality, or rationalizations. The problem is that as the present situation changes these defenses become artifacts of past reactions to perceived threats, no longer helpful for engaging the present moment.

What is needed is more than bringing the maladaptive nature of such strategies to the attention of those seeking healing. We must go beyond this and seek to create the experience of expressing that which was unexpressed in those moments of threat. And not merely as a re-enactment of a historical scene, but as an experience of bringing parts of the self to the present that have not been present. For when a part of the self is armored (walled off) it becomes shunned from being a part of one’s self-expression in the present moment. One is raped, and the sensual and seductive aspects of the self are disowned; a girl shows assertiveness, gets repeatedly labeled “bossy,” and disowns the assertive aspect of the self; a boy cries over the death of his dog or the ending of a friendship and is told “boys don’t cry, quit being a whiny little girl,” and the compassionate aspect of the self is disowned. When someone comes to the present situation they thus come as a self that is missing many of its parts. Therapy at its core is an invitation for these parts to join us in the present moment; to kindle that creative spark that is the self into a being that is aflame with life and presence.

This work is a task of re-orienting the self to the present moment, and to its own presence in that moment. As therapists we lead our clients in a dance, a dance in which, while maintaining structure, we provide opportunities for the fullest expression of the self to emerge. As in dancing, the lead often fades into the background as the partner’s movements blossom into an ecstatic expression of being. The partner can always trust in the full presence of the lead who contains the dance, and it is this trust which becomes the basis for the most disinhibited movements to emerge, for the fullest expression of the self. And it is in such expressions that authentic healing takes place.

 

 

 

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