BOUNDARIES, CENTERING AND GROUNDING
Body Encyclopedia - A guide to the psychological functions of the muscular system by Lisbeth Marcher and Sonja Fich.
This book is a exhaustive introduction to the Bodynamic Analysis System developed by Lisbeth Marcher and her colleagues over the past 40 years. It is the most refined and comprehensive body oriented psychotherapeutic system I am aware of. Lisbeth Marcher has collaborated with and inspired a range of well-established trauma specialists such as Bessel van der Kolk (the body keeps the score), Peter Levine (waking the tiger) and Babette Rothschild (the body remembers).
Each chapter is preceded by an introduction: section 1 (introduction to the Bodynamic system), section 2 (psycho-motor anatomy), section 3 (character structures) and section 4 (ego functions). The book is really a handbook for psychotherapists working with the body. I use it for the most part as an inspiration during therapy where the client and I might become aware of particular tense or difficult-to-activate muscles during therapy. It is often fascinating to learn how various muscle groups relate to different psycho-developmental stages and how they often present as a ‘perfect fit’ when considering the psychological processes we are working with. Various muscles (and connective tissues) often become ‘active’ during therapy and it is possible to track this activation as it gradually moves around the body throughout the therapy. As always, the body is a virtually unlimited source of information and has its own parallel process alongside the ‘talking parts’ of the therapy. Listening to the body ensures that important developmental patterns are not overlooked and ensures that the whole person is included and not only thinking (or left) brain processes, as can happen in many traditional talking therapies.
The Bodynamic system has the advantage of recognising both hypertonic and hypotonic muscles (Lillemor Johnsen) which some body-oriented and body-work therapies unfortunately fail to include. Hypertonic (tense or rigid) muscles represent the buildup of charge as a psychological or characterological defense, whereas hypotonic (slack or loose) muscles describe the situation where the child have ‘given up’ on completing a particular psycho-developmental stage. This response is still noticeable in the adult body and presents as a lack of charge in particular (groups of) muscles. Whereas working with hypertonic muscles which includes breaking down and releasing the tension in rigid muscles through massage and exercises, is a relatively straightforward process many body-work practitioners have less awareness of how to address hypotonic muscles (which no amount of weight training exercises will restore). Put simply hypertonic muscles arise in child development as a result of receiving ‘something unwanted’ (criticism, abuse) and hypotonic states result from not getting ‘something wanted’ (attention, love, recognition), resulting in giving up basic ‘needs’. Teaching the client to identify, feel and express their needs freely is therefore an essential part of therapy.
(I will be writing more about the practical work with (re-establishing boundaries, grounding and centering here soon.)