The Ego Functions

Several decades of research have led Bodynamic Analysis to distinguish eleven categories of psychological function, which we call the Ego Functions . Each muscle in the body, and groups of related muscles, embody a highly specific psychological content that is associated with one Ego Function, and occasionally with more than one.

The responsiveness that the therapist observes by palpating a particular muscle offers information about the client’s patterns of Ego Functions – and at the same time information about the Character Structures and the respective stage of development in childhood. Combining those two layers of information offers valuable new cognitive understanding relevant to the therapeutic process, while working with the muscles in question – either by hand or through movement – helps bring to the surface the psychological content of the particular muscle, and a host of correspondences to specific Character Structures and Ego Functions.

The eleven Ego Functions described under this model are:

  1. Connectedness – Taking in, bonding, opening the heart; accepting support, feeling “backed up”, heart contact-opening.
  2. Positioning – Existential position; stance towards life; poise for action, personal stance; standing on one’s own; position on values and norms; orienting (keeping or losing one’s head)
  3. Centering – Filling out (from the inside); being oneself in one’s different roles; feelings of self worth.
  4. Boundaries – Personal space (energetic boundaries); self assertion (making space for oneself in social contact).
  5. Grounding & Reality Testing – Ability to stand one’s ground, feel rooted and supported by it; relationship to reality; relationship to spirituality.
  6. Energy Management – Building charge, containment and discharge; emotional management; stress management; self-containment; perception and mastery of one’s own sensuality.
  7. Social Balances – Balancing one’s own needs-feelings-desires against others’ expectations; balance of pulling oneself together/letting go; balance of facade versus openness in interactions; balancing being oneself with being a group member; balance of managing stress and resolving it.
  8. Cognitive Skills – Orienting cognitive grasp; understanding (getting something well enough to stand forth with it); grasp of reality; ability to apply cognitive understanding to different situations; planning; contemplation-consideration.
  9. Self Expression & Self Assertion –  Assertion; asserting oneself in one’s roles; forward impetus and sense of direction.
  10. Patterns of Interpersonal Contact – Patterns of closeness and distancing; reaching out, gripping and holding on; drawing toward oneself and holding close; receiving and giving from one’s core; pushing away (saying no) and holding at a distance; releasing, letting go.
  11. Gender & Gender Skills – Awareness and experience of one’s own gender, experience of the appropriate gender role; capacity to contain and/or express one’s sensuality and sexuality.