Energy Concepts and Body Psychotherapy
Lisbeth Marcher, Bodynamic Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
When we work with clients or train therapists one of the models we use is – a “Model of energy fields”, developed by Lisbeth Marcher. This energy model is especially inspired by Danish spiritual teacher Jes Bertelsen and Lisbeth’s studies of intercultural issues. We use this model to find out how an issue that we are working with interrelates in the greater picture. It is important for us to know which other fields the issue has to be integrated with.
In the model, we talk of energy fields, which can be compared to auric fields. Each field has 7 levels (in the model they are not all mentioned). The fields and levels are overlapping, so that one field overlaps the neighboring field a lot.
Some of the fields we talk about are:
- The physical field, which is IN the body
- The etheric field, which is both IN the body, and partly a little outside the body. In the aura field, it is the field that can be seen right outside the body.
- The astral field, that is connected into the nervous system in the body. It takes up space a couple of meters outside the body, when we think of the lower levels of the field, and far away when we think of the higher levels.
- The mental field, that is connected to the top of the body – to the brain and in particular to the mental processes – and this field stretches very far away.
- The field of Self, that is the field where the consciousness experiences expansion: knowledge without thoughts.
- The open field, that is a highly meditative field.
- The field of Oneness (Cosmos).
Getting higher is not getting better
From empirical experience, we know that this model is helpful for clients. By using it they can learn to sense which energy field and -level they are at, and whether they have skipped a level. It helps them to orient themselves. It is important to know all levels, in order to know one’s resources.
It is possible to differentiate the fields based on the frequency of the vibrations. (Each time you come up higher in Energy, eg. in a piece of client work, the vibrations get faster) .
Bones have lower vibration than nerves, and that’s why they are more solid – and it is like this all the way up through the energy fields – the faster the vibrations, the “higher” level.
“Higher” is not the same as better – the model is a description of all the fields and levels.
Body sensations are BASIC
This is how we use the model. No matter what level you are located in, the principle is
- to integrate it down into the physical field
- to sense it and differentiate it from the neighboring fields and levels.
Integrating down into the physical field means that one’s body sensations – one’s ability to sense and verbalize the sensations – is paramount, is the MOST important among equally important levels.
Body sensing means that you can stay in contact with yourself, which means that you can contain more energy from all fields. You can then keep contact with yourself even when the amount of energy and -vibrations gets faster (higher).
This also means that you keep a level of contact with others, and constantly are able to come back to “this is what I sense”, and become conscious about the level you presently are at.
Losing the connection with the body, and the body sensations, means losing real contact with yourself and your Body Ego – the most early formed Ego, developmentally.
When the body sensations are “clear and strong”, you can increase the level of energy by movement and physical exercises. Eg. by forceful movements and by standing in stress positions for a long time (like Bioenergetic positions)
It is by choice that we help increase the level of energy, to such a force, that the energy can be transformed up into the emotional level in the astral field – and at this level the client can then express emotions and/or contain emotions.
Only when the client has learned to express emotions in such a way that they can be contained, is it appropriate to increase the energy in the emotions – and this in such a way that they can transform to higher astral levels, or up into the mental field. In the latter, the energy can first be expressed in thoughts and then contained with thoughts. These in turn are moving in the direction of a form without thoughts, empty mind, in order to transform the energy to the next levels and to the field of the Self….
Impact on the “Mental existence structure”
When we work with a person that has an active “Mental existence structure” (Schizoid, in Reich’s terms), we are dealing with a client that has surplus energy in the abstract level in the mental field. At the same time this client lacks general energy in the emotional level of the astral field, and has a lot of fear at this level. Such clients often have little awareness of this, so it is appropriate to start with mental understanding of the importance of feelings and body sensations. The client will then experience herself met and understood.
Next, we work to have the energy come down into the emotional and the physical levels, in such a way that it also becomes integrated cognitively.
After feeling trust and safety, by experiencing herself understood (met by the therapist at a place where there is surplus energy) we help her bring the energy down into the physical level – the level of body sensations – and then from there up to the emotional level.
If it is done the other way around you can break down the defense and open up emotions, but these emotions are not focused. If we think of a client expressing anger for example, it will be by pure chance whether this anger is directed towards something currently appropriate – which is the way to finish issues. Anger can always find an outlet in relation to parents, even if the anger in the moment has nothing to do with the parents – and this will most often happen if it is just an outburst of emotions.
The way to do it, is to focus it, like “I don’t want this and this, I want that” – and sense how this is in the body. This will end the otherwise free flowing energy.
So – chances for a lasting change are biggest when the following are happening:
- Anger must be focused towards persons that made you elicit it. Firstly, from your daily life, secondly regressively from situations and with persons from your childhood.
- Anger must be expressed in and through sounds, words, eyes, and movement
- Anger must be focused and expressed in sentences like “I don’t want this, I want that”, in order to end this anger.
Impact on the Emotional existence structure
When we work with a client that has an active “Emotional existence structure” (Frank Lake calls him a “hysteric”) we are dealing with a surplus of energy in the emotional level of the astral field. This person will have difficulties during stress situations to increase the energy from the concrete level to the abstract level in the mental field.
When clients learn to put words to their body sensations, they learn to hold on to what they see concretely; they learn to distinguish this from their perception of what they see. By doing this they become able to understand the situation in a more differentiated way and not only hold on to a small facet. This gives them more choices.
Most often it is very easy for these clients to sense their bodies – but they have very little cognitive awareness of the body, and this makes it difficult to contain the emotions.
So, you can say that it is difficult to move from the emotional field up into the mental field, from the concrete level into abstract thoughts.
Instead they let the increased energy from the body and the emotions transmit into the higher astral level, and this often gives out-of-body-experiences.
It is important that we help these clients feel met, by containing their emotional energy. Secondly, we teach them – by allowing the energy outburst – to sense in their bodies the amount of energy that is present, and to verbalize their sensations, together with the desire to burst out.
Thirdly, we help them to make the situation concrete, and from there, make the energy come up to the abstract level – in such a way that the clients can understand what is going on.
Since this has to happen very slowly, we have to speak in short sentences, and in statements that are non-judgmental and non-specific. Eg “a little boy should not experience such a thing ”, ”this is too much responsibility for a little girl”.
Working with symbols
Symbolic work can be done eg. by “drawing”, (like in the exercise “draw a tree”), in order to give the person a chance to talk about himself without being too close, but with a little distance. This symbolic work is important.
Eg. it is important to be able to work with your inner stormy weather – being overwhelmed like a hurricane changing into a blissful wind in the end.
If you can let the client use his body as a tool, instead of drawing or as a follow up after a drawing, what comes out will be more fully integrated.
But all the same it only becomes fully healing when the client:
- can contain the experience of his or her own inner stormy weather
- can learn to express his or her own feelings appropriately – experience the power in them, contain them, sense them, and express them in a socially appropriate way
- can integrate the above in daily life – not only being able to do it in the therapy room – whether it is in a group or it is individually.
To fulfill demands 1-3 one needs to work at all four lower fields: The physical, etheric, astral and mental fields.
The interrelation between the fields and their impact
The lower level in the mental field nearly overlaps all of the emotional field. This means, that one has to observe how the mental is integrated in the emotional. How the emotional is being integrated in the etheric and the etheric in the physical – or the other way around.
One works with the physical, that overlaps the emotional, that overlaps the mental – or reverse. It is important to start the work coming from an area that is resourced (not surplus or lack of energy) moving towards an area that lacks resources, because doing it this way dissolves the blocks, and integrates the emotions and understanding.
This is the reason that it is not useful to work in the emotional field with ”the emotional existence structure”. This is something they are already ‘too good” at – while they lack the ability to integrate the abstract part of the mental field.
This is also the reason why one has to start with the physical or the concrete thought level, because here they have balanced resources. What they do not know is how to put the concrete thinking into the abstract thinking in order to create new understanding.
In other words, to make the flow come through all the energy levels, you start by focusing in the level that has balanced resources. This energy then “helps” you to enter at the level of the abstract thought – where energy is lacking for this issue. By this kind of integration, the emotional barrier (emotional affect-block) may loosen up and then be adapted.
It is the other way around concerning the mental existence structure. In this case, there is surplus energy in the abstract level. So here it is appropriate to start with the symbolic level – where the energy is balanced – and then follow up with either the physical sensations or the emotional field.
Clients from both existence positions have strengths in the mental field. The emotionals are good when it comes to being concrete and the mentals have a good abstract thinking process. Both character structures skip something, and they need to be helped to expand the low-energy levels.
The principle is that you first open up where the surplus energy is blocked, then focus it in a direction where there are resources to cope with it, and only then you help to fill up – slowly – the areas that are low in energy. This principle is valid in all levels and fields.
We consider the first four lower fields, up to and including the mental as the fields you work with in psychotherapy.
As a psychotherapist, it is appropriate to not focus your work in the three higher fields plus the highest levels in the lower fields, because the clients otherwise will move into a shamanistic transference. This can become destructive rather than constructive.
The Physical Field
We impact all the levels in this field, and each time we work with ways to think, ways to act, and ways to have emotions, we impact the body. It is also the other way around. Each time we create new physical patterns, we impact the emotions and the brain (through the nervous system).
Our focus as body psychotherapists is to work with bones, muscles and fascia in order to increase the flow of energy through the body, and to develop more energy and integrate this in the astral and the mental fields.
It is also our responsibility to know when to refer clients, if we think that there is a physical block, a physical illness, fixated joints, nutritional problems etc. We believe that this is the accepted practice in our field.
The Etheric Field
If you experience the problem as an etheric bloc a healer can be appropriate. This is also true when the therapist is a healer herself.
The reason for this is that as a healer you allow what we call a shamanistic transference – depending of course on the client’s own knowledge about healing. Healing is something that is done to the client – psychotherapy is something that is done in a relationship. By doing healing a therapist can promote an unconscious dependence.
The High-Astral Levels
It is even more problematic if we as therapists work with high-astral levels or the passage between the high mental field and the field of the Self. The reason for this is that by doing so we take our work from the psychotherapeutic field into the spiritual field. We become a mix of psychotherapist and spiritual teacher.
If we do this, the transference becomes a mix of a therapeutic transference and shamanic or spiritual master transference.
I believe this mix is inappropriate for psychological healing. Especially because it lifts the therapist up to a level where healthy separation from the therapist becomes impossible before the client has reached spiritual enlightment. In the same way, it is very complicated when a spiritual master becomes “a parent” that you have to separate from before you can enter into deep spiritual processes.
From psychotherapy to spiritual training
So – if shamanistic work is needed eg. when a client has a heavy spiritual imprint from shock trauma, you have to send her to a shaman or a colleague that can do this kind of work.
This means we have to keep psychological and shamanistic work apart.
A therapist can work as both therapist and shaman, but with separate clients. On the other hand, of course, we must be able to contain the spiritual or extrasensory experiences of the client, to accept them, and behave accordingly. We must help the client to separate these experiences from the psychological processes, and also to find a person, who can work with these issues, when it is necessary.
On top of this, it is important to know, that – as we get clear in the lower levels, and the flow up through the fields get clearer – then at the same time we open up for higher energy from the three upper fields.
With this higher energy, it is necessary for the client (and therapist) to start a spiritual practice. If one does not do so, this powerful energy can create an overflow in the weakest links in the system. Then physical and psychological problems can be created.
It does not help any longer to work therapeutically, because this will only create even more high-energy and with that a worsening of the process that has started.
At this point in time, it is necessary to find a way to channel that energy, and it can only happen through a spiritual practice (training) – highly developed shamanistic or meditative training. You have to find masters that can take you into training – it is something you cannot do yourself. You need reflections coming to you from the outside, from someone who is more developed than yourself.
Presented at a Panel at the EABP-conference may 1997, Vienna, Austria.