“A potent tool for personal growth and transformation”
For more than a two decades now, I have been practicing, and exploring an unusual form of therapeutic bodywork. It is known as Bioenergetic Alchemy™ and has its origins in the bodywork philosophies that emerged originally from Alexander Lowen and John Peirrakos (the founders of Bioenergetics) and their interpretations of Reich, Freud and Jung.
So when I teach Bioenergetic Alchemy™, I stand on the shoulders of giants. I first discovered Bioenergetics in group therapy sessions in Pune, India. And in the Active Meditations of the Indian Mystic Osho. I later deepened my knowledge of Bioenergetics with my therapists & teachers Guy Gladstone and Amadis Camell at the Open Centre, the longest running personal growth centre in the UK.
I teach today an adaptation and development of my studies over the course of 7 years of therapy and trainings at the Open Centre. I am still developing this profound body of work, and continuing my studies at the Open Centre.
Alexander Lowen met Wilhelm Reich in New York in 1940, and trained with him until 1952. He studied Reich’s energy principles and character analysis. He also had personal therapy with Reich from 1942 to 1945 before becoming a Reichian therapist himself. In 1953, he split from Reich and his research on the “orgone”. Lowen then developed “Bioenergetic Analysis” as his own creative contribution to help people clarify the complexity of the mind-body split.
Lowen de-emphasised sexuality treating it as one important area of human life rather than the key issue. he abandoned the term organ and talked about bioenergy as something similar to ordinary metabolic energy.
Lowen also tended to stand the client literally on her feet, rather than – like Reich – lying on her back. where reich stressed the importance of surrender, lower spoke of the need for grounding, the capacity to stand up for oneself and move forward in the world, although he also recognised that the healthy ego needs to give space to the body involuntary expression.
John Pierrakos, MD developed the Core Energetics and is the founder of the Institute of Core Energetics. Core Energetics theory comes from the premise that emotional, mental and physical disturbances are symptoms of blocked energy due to an individual’s adaptive responses to environmental deficits or injuries in childhood.
John Pierrakos saw Core Energetics rooted in the rich legacies transmitted through the ages by philosophers, scientists and physicians who taught about the existence of a creative essence within us. His mission was to be a model of living as something much larger than the individual’s quest to differentiate and express him or herself. He, like Teilhard de Chardin, believed in the sacredness of life and that there was an evolutionary plan in every living organism. He believed that the ego and body are one and that the act of surrender to all of our feelings will ultimately lead us home, allowing the embodiment of spirit. He saw love as the most powerful force in the universe. We are love. Our purpose is to love and our character defenses are essentially blocks to loving.
Pierrakos was greatly inspired by Wilhelm Reich. He resonated with Reich’s character analysis positing that blocked energy shapes the body, creating life–denying patterns. Reich’s theories were based on energetic processes such as Armoring, Orgasm Reflex, and Charge & Discharge which he came to observe in his research. Reich contradicted Freud by saying that all impulses are inherently good and instead of curbing their expression they need to be encouraged to free a person from neurosis. He developed a therapy called Vegotherapy and treated his patients based on these principles.
John Pierrakos and Alexander Lowen were both students of Wilhelm Reich. They collaborated to build on Reich’s work, co-founding The Bioenergetics Institute in 1955. They introduced the concept of Grounding whereby a person is energetically connected to the earth, lending a sense of inner security. As a result, the ego now more rooted in the body, becomes more resilient, flexible, and able to surrender. While Reich worked with his patient’s breath while lying on a bed they saw the importance of a person’s upright position enabling a whole range of movements. The exercises they developed are designed to open the energy flow in the body, freeing blocked impulses as well as the consciousness of repressed memories and feelings.
Bioenergetic Alchemy™ is a 21st century reboot of the body psychotherapy masters of the 20th century, it is a dynamic fusion of Bioenergetic Analysis, Core Energetics, Humanistic Group process work, Breathwork and active meditation. A system of embodying experience.
Rooted in Seth’s personal experience and trainings it is a synthesis of work explored over a lifetime. Rather than a therapy it is more an education in feeling. A focus on grounding, working to loosen muscular armouring and surrender to emotional impulses.
One of the most significant contributions to contemporary psychotherapy was made by Wilhelm Reich. He was the first psychoanalyst to include the importance of deep relaxation of the body, as well a champion of emotional release work with people. A sizeable majority of body psychotherapists draw directly or indirectly on the pioneering work of Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957); originally a respected psychoanalyst, a theoretical and technical innovator who in the 1920s and 1930s was responsible for hammering out much of the shape of modern psychoanalysis. Reich became convinced that the internal logic of Freud’s ideas pointed directly to the body and he gradually began to introduce bodywork into his clinical practice.
This step was thoroughly unacceptable to most analysts and was only one of Reich’s unorthodoxies. he was also at the time a communist and believed (inline with freud own earlier work) that neurosis and anxiety were caused by lack of physical sexual satisfaction rathe than by purely mental stresses. however reich developed a view of sexual satisfaction which went much deeper that the ordinary one. he argued that full (body) orgasm and the accompanying release of body mind tension, is only possible if we have already worked through much of our bodily and psychological resistance against surrendering to your own impulses.
Exploring this resistance to surrender leads us into the whole array of childhood relationships, and the many ways in which surrender and opened can come to seem impossibly dangerous. reich suggested that unexpressed feelings and undischarged anxieties are bound into the structure of the body mind though pattens of muscular tension – what he called armouring, which appears equally on a somatic level, “Muscular armouring” and on a psychological level “character armouring”. For Reich “every muscular rigidity contains the history and meaning of its origin” and that history and meaning can be recovered through therapy.
The foundation of the Bioenergetic Alchemy™ 4 weekly practice system is based on the archetypal elements, and the four basic feelings. Earth – Fear, Water – Grief, Fire – Anger & Air – Joy. Interwoven within these are exercises that work with our relationship with our body, and with loosening and bringing awareness to the 7 segments of body armouring. This is grounded in the theory of the 5 Character structures developed by Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen.
All foundations rest upon the Earth – the ground for all the we do. To connect with the body is to connect with the Earth and to be grounded in the biological reality of existence.
On the other side of Grounding is fear, fear heightens our awareness and floods the body with chemicals. Fear is an upward movement away from the ground. We become hyper-vigilant, restless, anxious. we can’t settle, relax or let down. It is as if we are jumping out of our skin. The nervous system and adrenal glands gets over worked and as a result the body is in a constant state of stress which becomes normal.
“Just as the groundedness of a tree routes the flow of sap from earth to leaves and from leaves to earth, so does our groundedness channel the flow of excitement from ourselves to the environment and from the environment to ourselves.”
— Stanley Keleman
“Trauma occurs only when an individual adapts to threat (a normal response) but is unable to adapt again or unable to return to pre-threat functioning… it is the inhibited (or thwarted) fight or flight that results in the freezing response which will lead to traumatic symptoms.”
— Peter Levine
To work through fear is to learn to relax, and to bring our attention into the field of the sensations within the body, to work with exercises that begin to release the excess “charge”, the tensions, and shock and trauma from the body, and to begin to have pleasure and expand our attention to a wider vista.
“Without awareness of bodily feeling and attitude, a person becomes split into a disembodied spirit and a disenchanted body”
— Alexander Lowen
“To be grounded is to be connected to our emotional-electrical currents, to the wave of our needs and images and them rhythms of actions which comprise our physical-psychic processes; the rhythms of the human natural ground”
— Stanley Keleman
If we think as the body as a vessel for the spirit, then the element of Earth provides support and containment for the fluid of spirit, much like a cup holds water. without appropriate boundaries the water flows out and the cup runs dry, with excessive boundaries however the water cannot flow and becomes stagnant and dull.
“Emotion is the chief source of all becoming conscious. There can be no transforming of darkness into light and apathy into movement, without emotion” — C. G. Jung
When grief is acknowledged and expressed we find a vital key to opening the heart. Tears arrested, truth exposed, and the heart lightens. the breath deepens. there is sense of spaciousness that emerges, allowing more room inside for our spirit.
Just as releasing emotion frees the body, we can move the body to consciously free emotions. encouraging movement where the body is frozen helps to free the emotions and restore aliveness and motility.
“E-motions are energy in motion. if they are not expressed, the energy is repressed. As energy it has to go somewhere. emotional energy moves us as does all energy… to deny emotion is to deny the ground and vital energy of our life. .. we cannot heal what we cannot feel.”
— John Bradshaw
“Increased excitation is perceived as an urge to organise feeling into action”
— Stanley Keleman
The Fire sequence is about the power to take a stand in your life, the power to live the one that you are!
“the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are”
— Joseph Campbell
Energetic vitality requires self-esteem and a confidence in ones own worth. With a basic trust in ourselves, we can better face the unknown. we have a sense of self that does not fall apart when things go wrong, that can still maintain consistency in the face of challenge. For a healthy ego, it’s ok to make mistakes.
Personal power – from the latin root podere, meaning “to be able”, power is the ability to make change and exists for one reason only – transformation. When the old has outgrown its purpose, it is time to transform it into something new. Power is not a thing, but a way. It is a process of becoming real.
“The terrain of the mysteries is the edge where power encounters power, for the mystery is the arising of powers that are uncharted and untamed, that will not follow the logic of naked force, and so act in unexpected ways”
We have the power when we dare to live authentically, we reach inside ourselves and tell the naked truth. the more we dare to take risks, to question, to be true to ourselves, the easier it becomes. Only with power can we move aside the obstacles that keep us imprisoned, enslaved and unconscious. Power is the alchemical fire that burns through the false, the unreal and is the crucible of transformation.
Working with anger – the right to feel angry! yet to be written…
“The primary nature of every human being is to be open to life and love. Being guarded, armoured, distrustful and enclosed is second nature in our culture. It is the means we adopt to protect ourselves against being hurt, but when such attitudes become characterological or structured in the personality, they constitute a more severe hurt and create a greater crippling than the one originally suffered.”
— Alexander Lowen
The nature of the body is joy, a positive feeling from within, it comes from listening to the body’s wisdom and what it communicates. The nature of the heart, is to open and to close, it is simple profound and direct. Sadly the heart can easily be damaged and wounded. These wounds can have a profound affect as they wound our body, our mind and spirit, and impact the very core of the self.
“To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive – to grief, sorrow and disappointment, as well to joy, fulfilment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before”
— Rollo May
The most common block in the heart is the absence of self-love. To love ourselves is to act respectfully and responsibly towards ourself, to enjoy our own company within solitude, and to honour our own limits.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life long romance” — Oscar Wilde
“A person who doesn’t breathe deeply reduces the life of his body. If he doesn’t move freely, he restricts the life of his body. If he doesn’t feel fully, he narrows the life of his body. And if his self-expression is constricted, he limits the life of his body. — Alexander Lowen
Most of us do not notice how we breath. We do not feel how we hold the breath or constrict various parts of the belly or chest. Our way of breathing is normal to us.
The first, most basic, step to breathwork is to feel your own breathing, and allow the breathing to become smooth and balanced in its cycle. Then, begin to notice whether your breath from your chest or your belly, and see what happens when you consciously expand parts that are normally restricted. Notice what feelings, impulses, and desires arise.