„Perfecting the Self Act“– The Development of the two later Power Defences in Narcissism from the Bodynamic perspective, Part 2

Live Online Zoom Workshop
October 9 & 10, 2021
10am – 6pm EDT (NYC, USA Time Zone)
Cost: $400 CAD

What actually draws our attention to a typical Narcissistic performance or act? There seems to be something irresistible to their show of professionality, of knowledge and assured competence, their “air of perfection”.

And pondering over this we might realize that we too strife to perfect our act and that we believe that if we could only reach this idealized state we would be admired and loved too. It is this typical Narcissistic tendency that in fact makes us more concerned about how we appear to others then what we really sense and feel in ourselves.  It is in these moments that we actually “choose” an idealized self-image over our own embodied reality.  One might ask oneself, how did this come about?

At the foundation of this lies the early loss of our physical centre, the core of our Body Ego due to insecure attachment and deprivation in infancy. As we have experienced in the first workshop, the loss of physical connectedness to ourselves will inevitable impact the relating to others outside. And how this deep wound (the Narcissistic “core”) of not having been met in one`s attachment needs leads to a lack of intrinsic self-value, to feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness.  We have also seen how the child later employs the “late position” in the phase of Autonomy to avoid others by object focused exploration of the outside world and how this engenders an inflated sense of an independent and expanded (grandiose) self. Lastly, we gained first-hand experience of how these psychological dispositions are actually sensed and perpetuated by specific positions, muscular tensions and movement patterns in the body.

Already at this point in a child`s development the way back to meaningful contact and deeper emotional attachment would be difficult and painful and so it starts to consolidate its fragile sense of self with two more powerful defences.

The first of the two is basically about putting other people continuously in the wrong, judging them and thus finding them inferior. This simple but powerful strategy of devaluing other people increases the value of the Narcissistic position fortifying it simultaneously. But to uphold their superiority and enhanced self-value they will need to be “right” always and at all costs.

This inner position is supported by a permanently tightened diaphragm that “splits” the body in two. As part of the “belly press” the diaphragm suppresses any emotion below that is “not right” and thus creates a hierarchy of “right” and “wrong” feelings inside that reflect the establishment of relational superiority and inferiority outside. The “inside feeling” is one of permanently having to upholding pressure and control – a sense that many of us are probably familiar with….

The last and final “power defence”, perfecting the “self-act”, is about performing perfectly before a group according to an idealized self-image. This finalizes the Narcissistic develop­ment in that the projected self-image, the performance becomes more important and more “beautiful” than the actual deeper embodied sense of self. In this “performance play” other people are reduced to mere spectators that applause the Narcissist for his self-act. The Narcissist “has fallen in love with his own act/reflection” and other people around have become expandable. At the same time, deep inside, the Narcissist still hungers and starves for real, meaningful contact and all the outside success can never really compensate for the inner emptiness and meaninglessness he experiences…..

This last defence is upheld by big powerful surface muscles that become active during the “group phase” of the child`s development, roughly from 5 to 12 years, such as the big pectoralis muscle, the powerful lateral parts of the erector spinae, the lower latissimus and the gluteus maximus. These big, powerful muscles are all employed to achieve the primary goal, the perfect self-act based on the self-ideal of the person (and here the question beckons: “Who’s ideal is it really originally ???).

Consequently, these muscles are extremely tense and form a kind of hard and rigid armor or shell around the person. A protection and at the same time a hardened case that imprisons the person, making impossible any real, deeper contact with others. We often sense this position as “hard, goal oriented, driven and powerful, but out of touch”.

In this workshop we will deepen our understanding of the later Narcissistic defences and explore individually with specific exercises how they sense and operate from “the inside”. And in this process we will gently relax and loosen these powerful defences in our bodies.

Most exercises will be done with a partner to support our spontaneous, alive and emotional self-expression giving us back a fundamental sense of mutual connectedness as well as a deeper sense of our natural dignity.

About the instructor

Michael Rupp is a licensed psychotherapist (Psychotherapeut HPG) working in private practice in Munich, Germany, since 2006. He is a Bodynamic educational therapist and supervisor.

He is part of the international trainer team of Bodynamic (Foundation) and has been teaching in Germany, Brasil and Portugal.

Before he has been working as a social pedagogue and therapist for many years, notably as facilitator for 2 pedagogic Healing Centers for children with developmental disturbances (eg. ADHS) and special needs.

Additionally he has been trained in different humanistic and transpersonal approaches like Bioenergetics, Gestalt, Inner Child Work and Diamond Approach (Logos) with Faisal Muqqadam.

He is a member of the dgk (Gesellschaft für Körperpsychotherapie) and EABP (European Association of Bodypsychotherapie).

Part 1 available for purchase

Are we living in a postmodern age of narcissism and self centeredness? The majority of people would probably agree to this statement.

In the news media we are witnessing recurring cycles of reality shows celebrating the cult of a perfect and attractive body and the ideal of self optimisation. Our society seems to have embraced an ideology of uncompromising individuality promoting independence, performance and self actualisation at any cost.

We can see the consequences of this development in many areas, for instance in the progressive erosion of attachment and relationships, the loss of friendship and family bonds. And we are increasingly confronted with feelings of emptiness, meaninglessness and loneliness that we try to compensate for with all kinds of substitute satisfactions (like shopping) and addictions.

Meanwhile scientific research has confirmed that narcissistic behaviour or disorders are closely linked with insecure and traumatic attachment experiences early in our lives (developmental trauma). The less we experienced a loving, caring and contained bonding with our parents, the more we were forced to develop a superficial self devoid of deeper sensations, feelings and intrinsic self value.

But we dont know much yet about how exactly we lose access to deeper dimensions of bodily experience and somatic awareness or to what is called our „body ego“. Indeed we only now begin to understand how the gradual loss of deeper sensation or proprioception, the splitting of the „body ego“ and the hardening of the big superficial muscles creates a kind of „empty shell“ or armour.

It is precisely this empty shell, and the inner meaninglessness and even desperation as well as the absence of intrinsic self value that lie at the core of the narcissistic personality.

The Bodynamic approach offers us in this context a detailed description of the psychomotoric development based on the Character structure model and also points us towards effective practical treatment and sustainable therapeutic work with narcissistic phenomena:

A little infant (1 month to ca. one year, Need/attachment phase) experiences attachment to its early caretakers directly in its body based on its connection to its own center and sensations. If the baby is not met in its natural needs because of separation from the parents, or because the parents are unable to develop a secure physical and emotional attachment it will experience trauma.

To come to terms with the inadequate or missing contact outside and the intolerable emotional pain and helplessness it experiences inside, the baby will be forced to start giving up the connection to its own body or core self. The consequence is a gradual erosion, a hollowing out on a very fundamental level. This loss of a deeper sense of self experience and the resulting sense of emptiness and resignation in relation to natural attachment needs will form the core of the narcissistic dynamic. The child will start to relate to its own superficial self instead to meaningful others. It will learn different strategies and behaviour patterns in order to resort to itself, its own self image or reflection.

In the next phase of its development, called „autonomy “(ca. 8 months to 2,5 years), the child will start to move away from its caretakers and explore its close surroundings. If it experienced attachment in the phase before as painful or depriving it will start to use its motoric activity as a means to avoid close contact. To this end the toddler will tense up or “hyperactivate” its deep trunk muscles, eg the psoas, quatratus lumborum etc and in this way create a kind of division between upper and lower body. This division also further separates the child from its own center and core and its movements will be accordingly disconnected from deeper experience.

The more its new independence and its manifold activities in the outside world increase the attention and love of the parents, the more the child will lose further interest in attachment and consequently develop a superficial self that is primarily concerned with affirming itself. It will develop a marked self-centred relation to its own activity and seek narcissistic affirmation and admiration from outside to maintain its fragile sense of self and self value. If it stops, it will immediately be confronted with its deeper inner emptiness and loneliness and will thus increase its activity which will eventually mould into a fixed behavioural pattern.

In the course of this weekend we will “travel” with the help of specifically designed exercises again through the early stages of our development and reconnect with the deeper dimensions of self experience in relation to sensing, feeling and movement. We will use specific movement patterns from the relevant age levels to activate fascia and muscles – especially around the heart and belly center- to regain access to our natural resources.

All exercises will be done with a partner or within the group to enable us to make new, healing experiences through congruent mirroring. In this way we will be able to reconnect ourselves deeply to other people outside as well as to our inside (to our body ego and center).

Apart from self experience there will be a short theoretical introduction into the early stages of development as well as into the corresponding narcissistic structures.

Prior recording of Part 1 of this workshop available for purchase at $80 CAD for temporary access upon registration for Part 2.
Purchasing Part 1 is optional but strongly suggested if you had not participated.

Contact arijana@bodynamic.com, 780-709-3091

„Perfecting the Self Act“– The Development of the two later Power Defences in Narcissism from the Bodynamic perspective, Part 2

Live Online training

  • 2 Day Workshop
  • 14 Hours of Experiential Training

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