Grounding the Body to be in Present Time
by Richard Boyd, Body Mind Psychotherapist, Energetics Institute, Perth, West Australia
Aspects of Creating Bodymind Awareness and Health
One of the key differentiation points between Body Psychotherapy and conventional counselling and psychology is how the body is viewed and treated in the therapy process. Conventional counselling and psychology tends to minimise the role of the body in the diagnostic and treatment process, and is more inclined to refer clients for medication of bodily symptoms and issues arising from emotional and mental disorders.
Anxiety and depression are classic examples of this medicating approach to bodymind interconnection disorders. A cognitive approach through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT) is often accompanied by a required course of anti-depressant and/or anti-anxiety medication. The lack of body context means the body is not brought into therapy and then all that can happen is it must be treated as an irritant or side issue in therapy.
None of us can escape our bodies even though one notices many people ignoring, abusing or neglecting their own embodiment. One cannot but notice the many forms of dissociation, avoidance, neglect, reconstruction, augmentation and adornment that mask, and reveals an unhealthy relationship between the ego and the body of that person. In almost all cases what we are witnessing is a person who is in energetic terms basically what we call ungrounded.
The concept of “grounded” and its counterpart “ungrounded” comes from the Reichian and Bioenergetics era and lineage of body psychotherapy. Being grounded has a basic meaning of how our bodymind is connected to and safe in making contact with each part of the self and of the earth we literally stand on. An ungrounded person has some form of disconnect, split, or dissociation between one or more parts of the body with the rest of the body, or of the body to the earth, or of the mind to the body.
The ability to “stay grounded” is then not such a simple state of being which we can each take for granted as being who we are. Just because we have a body and bio-mechanically stand on the ground it is not enough to assume that a person is grounded. The opposite is often true
Many people in society are not present in their bodies and are not present in this immediate moment in time. They may be unresolved with their past and distract themself via their basic attention in the present moment being placed on inner images or inner representations of old wounds, hurts, and issues. This is a common form of anxious state that dogs people and means that their mental faculties are not truly processing their environment moment to moment. They are distracted.
Likewise some other people are not present moment to moment as they are fantasising about the future. They may be unhappy and suffering in their present time circumstances and instead they distract themself by projecting their minds forward in time. The future does not yet exist and so such a state is robbing that person of the only moment that does exist, and that is the present moment.
Such persons who obsess or find themself living in the past or the future are often referred by others interacting with them as being “off with the fairies”. Some people alternate between obsessing and thinking about the past and then drift into future fantasies. However they are truly present very little of an average day. They have a body, they walk on the ground, but they are ungrounded and not present much of the time.
The truth is that this way of being and doing life is a defence. It is a form of dissociation that serves us in preventing us from facing and feeling suffering and threats. It is an attempt by the body and the mind to allow us to survive and exist but in a very compromised way that can only lead to further dissatisfaction, feelings of emptiness, and possibly more trauma.
The famous Tibetan Buddhist Yogi and enlightened master Shanti Deva described these people as living in a sleep of ignorance. Such people he noted wasted this precious human life and the opportunity to “wake up” and find true meaning, purpose and accomplishments in life as a result. Their life is lived “as a dream” and they create the causes for manifest suffering.
We are born as an embodied being with consciousness. Our grounding happens from within the womb through our mother who grounds us firstly within her own being. This is what is often called the symbiotic bond. Childhood developmental medicine now describes the formative shaping of any infant as being 9 months in-utero or in the womb, and then 6 months formation outside the womb in the outside world.
This framework describes that we do not functionally and fully form till 6 months outside the womb. If we had developed further in the womb then the mother would have died when giving birth to an infant too big to fit through the pelvis of most women. Nature devises solutions to all these problems.
The first 6 months is also the critical time for the child not only to complete formation, but also to adopt a “grounded” state. Grounding in this sense is not about the child being physically on the ground, it is about being physically touched, cuddled, and held in safety. We find our ground through our parents and our family.
Groundedness starts at birth when we are held and touched and loved by our mother and the wider tribe or family. We learn the pleasure of touch as we are touched and often for many we were abandoned into cots and into rooms separate from our mothers at this crucial bonding and safety creating stage.
Any lack of touch and of nurturance, coupled with abandonment creates a lack of safety in the infant and they start to retreat into their heads and become safe and uneasy. Such children fail to achieve secure attachment with their mother and as a result they lose their grounding through the mother.
We then must learn to crawl, stand and walk which all further develops the grounding of the infant to the earth and they learn to use their bodies to stand in their infantile power. As we individuate from our parents we learn to stand our ground, find our boundaries and develop a self that includes our grounded natures.
A child traumatised in the early years or along its developmental path will show some wounding in the body, the energy system, and the formation of defences in the mind and the body. Frozen states of musculature assist in creating blocks in energy flow and assist in the loss of grounding that results from such contractions and blocks.
Many people have some form of developmental traumas as a result of their childhood journeys that was not perceived in the infantile mind as safe, supportive or loving and nurturing. For instance research now shows that depression is more likely to occur in adults who have experienced a chronic lack of support and insecurity during childhood.
Likewise a lack of early life play has been linked to susceptibility to depression and lack of well modulated social abilities. Play is one of the key developmental tasks that fosters grounding in children and their resulting pleasure and acceptance of their bodies as part of their essential and healthy self.
Many children now play only in front of computers and on gaming consoles inside homes where the head and intellect dominate. The disconnection from the body in our current society is becoming a dominant lifestyle through technology and sedentary habits, aided by real and imagined fears that the outside world of nature and community is unsafe and boring.
Creative play and make believe has gone the way of the dinosaurs. We now demand to be stimulated and entertained and distracted from our unease resulting from the disconnected way we live. Neuroscience has noted that the core process for self-representation appears to involve central midbrain regions that hold neurosymbolic representations of the body as part of self.
Neuroscience studies have shown that literally as soon as the child hits the ground a massive level of neural formation activity takes place. The child is literally software and windows of opportunity open up in this early years where experience and sensation will foster the development of major neural networks in the brain. In a later stage of childhood development a form of “pruning” occurs and those areas of under-developed stimulus will be cannibalised in terms of neural real estate in the brain for functions that appear to be more directly and more regularly needed.
If we live our early life “in our heads” we will wire neural networks and pathways that promote living in our heads. Our brains adapt us to throve and survive in our environments and so a person who lives an ungrounded childhood wires up to live an adult ungrounded state of reality.
Different cultures show different basic genetic inheritance traits in the formation of body structure. Races of peoples often have some basic common body structure in their heritage which allows for variations as some percentage of the overall population. Cultural mixing can change and morph this genetic mix and ancestral inheritance factor.
The environment can also affect and shape the outcome of childhood development. Studies have shown that we need to engage with our outside environment to remain in mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Some therapists now use nature walks with their clients to aid in the healing of such states as depression. The body has a sort of “use it or lose it” policy that mirrors our brain and its pruning policy for unused neural networks.
Some Asian cultures often show this effect. The lack of land mass in places such as Singapore and Hong Kong, coupled with the more recent multi high rise apartment living spaces, creates an ungrounded environment from which to grow up in. The cultural value system of these countries is geared for heady intellectual achievement and minimises bodily engaged practices like play and exploration. This is partly due to lack of opportunity to play and explore the minimal and heavily built up land mass.
The result is that many adults from theses cultures are intellectual giants but live constantly in their heads, and have more or less slender or even atrophic bodies which often appear under-developed and unlived in and so show a child like quality. There is a genetic predisposition at play here but this cannot entirely explain the overall outcome.
The accompanying personalities are often reserved and emotionally repressed, with an over emphasis on thinking and material achievement as their identification. This is partly based on behavioural, cultural and value driven considerations but this is not the whole story.
The key is the relationship to their bodies. The bodies lack identification in their ego and instead external materialistic symbols of wealth become the new identity and are compensations for their negated body image and wider self image. Power, status and wealth often become the dominant drivers and values in a person who creates a false self. The negation of the body is one form of living from a false self.
Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen both predicted that if as a society we abandoned our bodies and lived in our heads that distress, disease and ungrounded states of energetic being would result. Body psychotherapy notes that engagement of one’s own body on a daily basis is an essential foundational basis for health.
Neuroscience has found that experience which includes bodily experience then encodes itself within our DNA. International Neuroscientist and psychiatrist Eric Kandel notes that as we learn our individual brain neurons alter their structure and strengthen the synaptic connections between them.
Interestingly he noted that emotional experience assisted long term memory formation where neurons changed their anatomical shape and increased the number synaptic connections they have to other neurons. Our bodies both generate and receive experience.
Kendel was able to demonstrate how when we learn we actually alter which genes in our neurons are “expressed”, or turned on. This is basically how we encode memories and experience into our brains, and probably into our bodymind through other gene expressions.
Given each cell in our body contains all our genes then potentially as some theorists now postulate, our entire body may serve as a database of memories, learnings and experience. Neuroscience calls the process by which we alter which genes are expressed or turned on the “transcription function”. The transcription function is influenced by what we do and think.
Our body senses play a key role in the process of learning and take in information that is beyond intellect but yet still information and stimulus that shapes the gene based transcription function. A key time in life is the early infanthood where our brain and bodies are forming and evolving into their adaptive stance and expression in life. Here the body is the vehicle of learning and experience.
In our early years we all need plenty of touching, being held, mirroring and modelling by those around us. In some traditional cultures this somatic or body based contact and stimulation means that the child may literally never touch the earth or ground until their second or third birthday. The family is the source of grounding long before it becomes that of mother earth.
Such children learn they can trust others to hold them and support them when need be. They in turn then emotionally feel “sure of the ground they stand on” in terms of their own place in the world as being safe, secure and supportive. Such persons from these cultures show a relaxed embodied nature and a supple pelvis and body as often reflected in their ability to dance and play. They are relaxed about the ground they stand on and are not like many Westerners who appear to be rigidly bracing in fear against the earth they stand on.
An ungrounded person on the other hand will be seen to have often suffered some form of tactile deprivation in these early months and years of life, and may have been abandoned rather than supported in these critical years. They often become avoidant to touch or crave touch as a result.
Such persons are common in Western culture where they may have been raised in cots rather than held and carried about. They may have been placed at an early stage in Child Day Care Centres due to the fact that both parents had to work to survive.
They may have had parents at the end of the day were ungrounded in themselves due to the stress of working lifestyles, and so while physically present in the home, the parent was self absorbed, split off into their own thinking, or too tired to connect with their child.
Whatever the cause, the child starts to build defences from a place of abandonment, neglect or not feeling supported, safe, or from a lack of confidence. Most commonly the child starts to enter their heads from which to live, and abandons their body in the process. They form mental defences whilst the body stiffens or deadens and forms its own muscular and postural defences to block feelings and energy flow.
Such a person will more or less have signalled to their brain from early childhood that safety, survival and defence is an important adaptive orientation for the developing brain. The neural pruning will start to prune neural circuits and developmental capabilities away from growth and free play and exploration processes, and instead reinforce and evolve further the survival response and vigilance processes with its associated organs and systems of the body.
We do not get an active choice in this process. Children are more or less unconscious in their brains and their brain wave activity for nearly the first 2 years of life. A grounded personality will be shown to have been nurtured in a way that led to being able to feel they have the inner and outer resources to “stand their ground” and that they have a right to exist and claim their share of whatever is on offer.
The grounded person has actualised beyond what Maslow described as survival or safety needs and is more or less in a zone of higher actualisation of play, exploration, and fulfilment seeking in various ways. When challenged they feel resourced to stand tall and firm and use their choice of survival responses as and when needed on a situational basis. This survival mode retreats into the background once the threat is dealt with.
The ungrounded person will more or less live in survival response mode for much of the time. They do not feel safe, they have shaky foundations with the earth or ground they stand on, and they do not have a healthy relationship with their own bodies. They are typically a “head” or “live in their head” and so appear and act disembodied. The act of living in the past or in the future then becomes just one way such “heady” and often intellectual people attempt to cope with their reality.
Energetically we find that the energy of that person is upwardly rising. One finds “hyper” people and they may be hyper-active, hyper-aroused, hyper-vigilant, hyper-talkative, and have tight and sinewy hyper-tonic muscles which show the bracing against fear, threat, and the very earth itself. They are ungrounded.
One finds that the “Warrior” or what Reich and Lowen coined the “Psychopath” as having an upwardly displaced character or body structure. Their developmental signals typically built a powerful upper body which both signalled threat to others but also was geared for threat response via aggression. Their heads may be bigger, their sense awareness organs and the accompanied sense function is hyper-aroused, hyper-sensitive, and hyper-active. Survival is the mode of living and they are over-developed in survival response mechanisms. Play and exploration become minimised forms of expression. Control mechanisms are heightened to compensate for not feeling safe.
Internally we know that humans hold in the unconscious mind which is the body itself a host of internal images, symbols and representations. This is the inner language of the unconscious mind. We normally only get glimpses of this inner world from the fragments we remember from our dreams.
This is part of our Neurosymbology. Our inner energy system holds these images and the images both bind and release psychic energy. Meanwhile our body also holds emotional energies in the body. Muscular and postural blocks to energy flow can arise from trauma and the ego wanting to protect us from painful feelings.
Blocked emotional energy flow occurs as a defence against becoming conscious to feelings as maybe these feelings were too painful, and occurring too often as a child. The defended bodymind posture is that it is better to numb out to these when this is true.
The energy dynamics in the body therefore can be quite high and laden with both imagery and emotional content. Blocked emotional and imagery content will leave us vulnerable to a form of cognitive and emotional rigidity, supported by a stiffened, rigid, and muscular contracted body.
In this way we live out an unconscious life. We are unconscious to our bodies which are more or less numb, and we do not see that the old mental images which are blocked and stuck inform our internal image based reality in a stuck pattern. We then translate this inner reality into the outer world through language.
We describe an inner world that is stuck and our language often then becomes “black and white”, rigid and full of unconscious beliefs, attitudes and conclusions about life. This is a fate line for those who would remain stuck in this repetitive and frozen world of defences, lack of safety and contraction. The defences are unconscious, too big and too entrenched for change to occur from within the person themself. An intervention will be required.
The world of inner imagery of a person can be accessed and changed by processes such as meditation which access existing internal images, and can change them, or create entirely new ones. Many people do not understand however that meditation and visualisation practices are an energetic discipline and process.
Most people identify with meditation as a process of a stilled body and a stilled mind. This is true but relies on a fundamental foundational state of the body being energised, flowing and supple. Suppleness in mediation is often referred to as a state of mind that enables one to examine the object of mind, or the visual image, and work with it.
However the container of the inner images and space of visualisations within the mind is the body and its energy system. Tibetan monks have a regular practice of chanting mantras and awakening the flow of energies and flow of inner images through the embodied vibration as initiated by the deep throated recitation of “OM AH HUM”. This preparatory work frees up the inner world for transformation via subsequent meditation and also regulates both the body and the mind.
I personally have initiations into the lineage and practice of the Medicine Buddha tradition. This involves quite an intense vibratory and imagery laden set of practices as this flowing and vibratory richness allows one to heal oneself of many bodymind ailments caused by stuckness, blocks, and “sealed knots” of the bodymind.
The healing takes place due to the compassion and good karmic nature of the mind. Both the healer and the person receiving the healing need faith and good intention for healing to occur. One then can with compassion create entrainment and cause the client to also vibrate and start to heal as well when conjoined in auditory vibrational mantra and other imagery practices.
Yoga also has a role to play here. Yoga was traditionally performed as “preparation for meditation” practice, or the meditation practice itself was contained within a wider yoga process which stretched the body muscles, deepened the breathing, and induced suppleness of body and mind for mediation.
As such yoga created the basis for muscular relaxation, energy movement in and through the body, and relaxed the person’s Autonomic Nervous System(ANS) so that the stressed nature of the person dissipated. A supple body creates a supple mind that calms under the process of inner attention that comes from meditating.
There is a key bodymind implication implicated by the process of meditation. It is quite common for many Westerners to complain they cannot meditate. They report a busy mind, they find themselves experiencing heightened states of anxiety and arousal when they attempt to be still and critically when they turn their outer attention inwards into the inner unconscious world of their images.
What is going on is not well understood by many meditation practitioners. If a person has more or less lived in a “fight or flight” state of stress, anxiety or trauma for many years they have attuned their Autonomic Nervous System(ANS) to be outwardly vigilant. This keeps them safe. The brain employs numerous survival responses and attention circuits to aid in this process.
When you ask a traumatised or stressed person to shift from outward to inward attention of their senses you simply make them feel unsafe. For that person the process of outward attention is a survival response. If you take it away and ask them to turn inwards they hyper-arouse, the brain feels stripped of a defence, and they feel unsafe.
Their brain responds by forcing attention back towards an outwards focus but in a now hyper-aroused state. The meditator notices this arousal as the busy “monkey mind” which now has heightened energy flow through the mental attention processes and they struggle to settle. The experience puts off many a novice meditator who decide that meditation does not work for them.
Normally we find that such a person has some degree of trauma and has compounded this over time by becoming body phobic and by training their brain to be distracted and they may live in past or future mental states, or have excessive recurrent mental thinking. They will need trauma resolution work, and to become grounded before they will succeed in deep and stable meditation processes.
There is an implication here for the role that blocked and frozen energies play in a stiffened and defended body. Our internal word of images is normally only witnessed and glimpsed by ourselves in dreams or when we undertake meditation that simply observes our mindspace. These images are the inner language of us all and are considered the language of the mind.
Earlier I mentioned that many people find themselves unable to remain in the present moment. They either drift in their mindspace to unresolved issues from the past or they drift to fantasies about the future. This process occurs in part not just from thought processes but also from the frozen inner images or representations of those events that remain trapped in the bodymind.
I have had numerous clients over the years who have come to myself for therapy or counselling in an attempt to come to completion with past events or fantasies about the future. There have invariably tried talk therapies of various types, and tried mental strategies such as those offered by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT). These clients have found that these approaches have failed to deal with the problem.
In many cases they have learnt strategies to “reframe” their thoughts and the underlying feelings. The problem is that this is like mowing the lawn. By this I mean that if I mow the lawn to make it look neat and tidy and to take the top of any weeds it certainly creates that outcome for a short while.
Talk therapy and CBT strategies act in this way because they do allow the short term memory of the person, and the waking consciousness to come away from a session, or by applying these tools, to reframe the mind to a new equilibrium. However what does not occur is that the roots of the problem are tackled and pulled out. Just like my lawn the weeds and unkempt nature of growth soon come back and spoil my manicured and mown lawn.
The lawn of mind is no different. If one does not attend to the frozen images, the blocked energies, and the body in its muscular contractions and defences, then these foundation stones of thought and waking consciousness will simply produce more of the same old unwanted old habitual thoughts, images, speech, and behaviours. The weeds will have grown back.
Most people in Western society do not possess the discipline to keep mowing their lawn minds daily and to use compensating and reframing techniques as a regular practice. Most simply give up as they seek cessation of the negative habits of mind rather than a set of tools they must drag out and use to maintain themself. Most of us are too busy to take on yet another task, another obligation, even when it may serve us albeit temporarily.
In Buddhism we speak of such mental tools to overcome negative states of minds as opponents. An opponent is a type of mind that we cultivate at the next moment that one finds oneself generating a negative thought. We neutralise that negative mind with a combination of mindfulness that acts to alert us to the fact that a negative mind thought has arisen, and we oppose it or neutralise it with the tool or image that we have learnt.
I refer you to my article on Meditation and Mindfulness Strategies at this point if you wish to learn more about this process. The process on mindfulness is a container or wider aspect of mind into which one must then insert these mental tools so as to apply them in a timely fashion for them to have a desirable effect. Unfortunately many people find this multi-disciplinary effort all too much and abandon the whole process.
Such people then normally reach for the quick fix. They either start to drink more, drug more, sex more, work more, or distract themself more on the internet or in a hundred other ways. Some follow the “Yellow Brick Road” to the new age gurus of quick fix solutions who promise to change you through some unique solution or method.
If one notices the pathway of the quick fix then one observes a common formula with many of these events. It is common that spruikers construct a process which simply involves paying large amounts of money through carefully layered events which drag out the promise, and involve investment in time and money over time. You must simply do “the next event” in order to find that elusive answer.
Most of these programmes work on the gullibility factor of people. They know that there will be an increasing drop-out rate throughout the program as the penny drops for people that they are being milked in a systematic fashion. Enlightenment is simply wallet “lightenment” as the money leaves and you find the cost mounting for little real return.
One of the key types of con is the promise of manifesting the fantasies you may hold in your future focussed mind. If one examines these methodologies and speak to people who have now gone through many of these touted programmes one finds a lot of cynicism and disillusionment with what happened to them as a result.
We all have a future fantasy but very few have a written set of goals or plans for how to get there. The basis for the Law of Attraction is quite simple despite the fact there are some very complicated and esoteric variations used around the place. We are unconsciously attracted either “towards what we want” or we are attracted “away from what we fear or do not want”. This neatly sums up Buddhist philosophy that human beings “seek never to be separated from their happiness and to be free and away from their suffering”.
The problem is that the inner images we hold within us are the images that form the basis of what we manifest and attract. It does not matter if those frozen images are negative images from our past that we would run from again, or fantasies of wealth, power, and beauty that we would run towards. The Law of Attraction does not concern itself with our disposition towards the object or image we are focussed on.
What I mean by this is the fact that whether we are either attracted towards or attracted away from an object, goal, image or outcome has no meaning to the mind. The mind is solely focussed on the object itself. The mind ignores our orientation away from or towards objects. The mind is only concerned with the actual object we seek to then notice, attract, avoid, run from, manifest or associate with.
People then often ask me that if this is so then why do we not then manifest our past repeatedly and also our future fantasies. Why are not the dreamboats of the world the most wealthiest, beautiful, powerful, healthiest etc in accordance to their dreamboat wishes and fantasies?
Let’s discuss the past first. Most people in life have habits of mind and body. Indeed our brain lays down new neural circuits throughout the bodymind based on repetition. The brain and body are habit forming processes and constructs.
While this is true there is another dimension to the process. A person must bring the image into the body for manifestation to occur. We cannot manifest just from the imaginal realm alone. We must embody that image into the brain and body where it lives within the energy field and is held in neural circuits and at cellular level where that is the location of the image or memory.
If you consider the past then all our experiences were encoded into the body through our sense awareness organs taking in the encounter and making meaning of it when it originally happened. At some level that experience can be found as both image or sense recollection, but importantly it is held in our embodiment at brain or cellular level as well.
This is why the past can manifest as a strong recurrent pattern in humans. It is embodied as well as being held in the energy dimension as images. The unconscious nature of the body as representing our unconscious mind means that our unconscious self shows up wherever we go, and in every moment. Most people in therapy identify past recurrent patterns showing up in present time.
Studies show that the human brain operates from about 10%capacity in a conscious sense and about 90% in an unconscious sense. The unconscious component includes the body and how it acts as both a repository of memory, a container for energy, and as an active intelligence from its own volition. This is the same of the human brain. Our body and brain are functionally the same in this one context.
Where most esoteric and New Age theories, concepts and touted processes get it wrong with manifesting is that they tend to describe a process that ignores the body. Instead like a person fantasising about the future they tend to include the front brain consciousness and images. If we consider future fantasies again we can see how their failure to manifest occurs.
If one considers a person who distracts themself by fantasising about the future then one also notices they never normally manifest those desired images of fancy. They are like driving a car along the road and watching the mirage of water in front of the car recede in conformity to the car and the observer.
Just as you will never reach the water image then nor will you reach the actualisation of the fantasy nor manifestation process while it remains “in your head”. The difference between the past and the future is that the past did happen and you did encode it into your body, so the entire fantasy of past recollection has a basis very different from mental only future fantasy.
The future has no current basis in the body and so ungrounded people who live in their heads, and who fantasise a lot, have no firm basis to make their dreamboat images actualise. They are actually disconnected through dissociation from a truly present time grounded consciousness from where manifestation might be possible.
The basis for manifestation is being grounded in one’s body, and being in present time consciousness, where one’s mind is still and tranquil. This is not the common state of being for the average Westerner, and less so now for the average Easterner as they adopt our less than healthy western lifestyles.
Many of the manifestation processes I have witnessed, researched or read about remain silent about this critical aspect or context of human consciousness in terms of how it affects the success of the manifesting process. There is a flawed assumption that attempting to manifest from a place of “being in their heads” or being ungrounded can somehow work.
Manifestation cannot be seen to work based on the evidence from those who try and from the relationship of the body to neural imagery. The mind has a powerful relationship to the body and so any thought of disconnection of the body in the manifestation process can only lead to an ungrounded fantasy as outcome.
A key problem for many Westerners is that their lifestyles create the basis for living more or less disconnected from their bodies. We cannot actually leave our body for it goes where we go but we can live a life where our consciousness in its ungrounded state constellates around the hyper-vigilance of the head and its sense awareness organs of eyes, ears, nose, mouth and mental sense.
The grounded person is embodied both energetically and consciously and has a present moment mindfulness of their body, their emotions, and their mental processes. This is not a natural state of being in present day society. Few can actually claim to live in this grounded and embodied state.
More than likely we lead distracted lives. Modern society is designed to distract us via stimulus whether that be audio-visual or by drugs, alcohol or sensations we are surrounded and bombarded by as sensory distracting experiences. We live to distract ourselves from our bodies and our feelings.
Even those narcissistic types who adorn and perfect their bodies are typically not in contact with the feelings of their bodies nor their true bodies. Their body is engaged and enslaved in an image projection exercise that is about the idealisation of perfectionism. The body is often mutilated in attempts at augmentation and cosmetic surgery to make the body serve the mental projections of the desperately needed perfect image of the mind.
The truly grounded person who is in present time consciousness feels complete and perfect in their humanity and simply shows up. They notice what is here and now and they feel a right to be there. They understand boundaries due to being able to feel where they start and stop as well as having awareness of interactions with others.
Ungrounded people tend to talk a lot as their head is bound with over charged energy that must be discharged and the mouth is the most convenient orifice to discharge the overcharge. The overcharged head energy also leads to anxiety and so the person feels tension and a need to talk and find safety through social connection and attachment.
In contrast the grounded person simply feels safe and does not feel a compulsive need to talk, to act or to react. They are full of choice in each moment. Their presence has impact for the observer to this person has unconscious mind facilities that read that person to detect if they are a friend or foe. Grounded people come across as safe for they are safe within themselves.
A grounded person knows how to engage. Their centred self awareness allows them to work sensitively with the dynamics of relationship with others. They respect boundaries, they notice subtle shifts and flow in the connection as their own energy flows in the body and becomes entrained in the wider energetic dynamic with others.
This creates safety for the other person who notices sympathetic resonance and mirroring by the other person and how they reflect back to them congruence and recognition. Groundedness comes from firstly the relatedness that a grounded person has between the body and the earth that then allows a person to have true relatedness within themself, and then with others from an embodied presence with present time awareness.
From this perspective trauma plays a key role. If we are apt to create recurrent patterns based on past events then why do we not manifest all such past memories? The reason is the impact or imprint that trauma creates and leaves as both an energetic and an embodied signature or imprint in the bodymind.
Trauma is a loud signal or impression event from the perspective of the bodymind. It creates a frozen state in the body which often is seen as frozen or contracted muscles or tissue, and it creates frozen images of the trauma event. This is seen when trauma survivors have flashbacks of the original event when they replay their trauma from a place of having been triggered by some internal or external stimulus months or years after the original event.
Likewise once in recovery from trauma and whilst doing engaging the bodymind trauma healing one notices that for many the bodymind starts to release old frozen and forgotten memories from the past which often are original trauma scenarios. Someone may remember being beaten as a child some 20 years later. The unfreezing process of trauma resolution releases imagery as the energy system starts to flow again as the client relaxes the tensions in the bodymind.
As the trauma was encoded into brain memory or in body memories then this becomes a part of the unconscious life of that person. When the trauma releases it starts to unfreeze the body which can transform from either hyper or hypo tension back towards a state of health. The energy and images starts to flow and unresolved images and energies integrate and become conscious. The dream life of such a person often also comes alive at this time as the inner symbols and representations shift and move and transform.
Trauma from either a one-off episode or from ongoing developmental issues within the family affects one’s neurosymbolic representations of the self and the body. According to bodymind researcher and M.D, Alexander Lowen, trauma is widely perceived as a brain and mental condition, with little regard given to the role of the body in trauma activation, then subsequent trauma re-activation later on. The body has a key role in trauma development and trauma resolution.
Authors such as Pat Ogden(2006) describe how a function of trauma is for the brain to disown the body and its sensory and motoric experiences after trauma occurs. It also tries to disown the energy system and its now encoded trauma images for the suffering they will cause if experienced again.
Healing cannot be achieved without a person opening up to these blocked bodily pathways, whose re-integration is the key part of the trauma recovery process. Trauma is seen by trauma expert, Peter Levine, to manifest its key symptoms in both the body and the mind. Tracking trauma through the body from a state of present time awareness is key to resolving trauma. Mental strategies are secondary to this.
A key issue with trauma is that the traumatic past event(s) continue to influence how the affected person perceives themself, their world, and how they position themself in a distorted or contracted way with others around them. Unlike other situations in psychotherapy where the narrative of the clients past is reviewed and interpreted, the focus for trauma becomes present time physical embodied self awareness and self expression.
The reason for this is that the past trauma is locked into the body and the brain, as reflected in body states, postures, actions, and sensory operations including the breath, movement, emotions and thoughts. The bodily outcome is in one sense the story of the trauma when observed from its sensory, motor skills, and behaviours.
Therapy for trauma sufferers is present time focused to look at what sensory and action awareness exists, and how to re-orient the Body-Mind towards a re-integrated state of awareness, movement, impulse awareness, emotional containment, and thought and image reframing. This is the essence of assisting our brain away from operating under stress via the Autonomic Nervous System(ANS) in either chaotic collapse, or fear based rigidity.
Trauma is known to disrupt the healthy body to brain relationship as the person may become body phobic and fear and shun bodily initiated impulses and sensations. The repair of trauma through body psychotherapy is experiential approaches to get through defences and what Reich called “blocks against affect” in order to reach frozen trauma encoded in the body.
This is a somatically(bodily) based emotional experience that works to influence and consciously affect higher brain cognitive processes, and the beliefs, conclusions and inner representative images and symbols that we each hold in our unconscious.
Emotional action guides perception and insight results from the bodily inclusive, emotionally experienced processes of body psychotherapy. CBT and talk therapy cannot achieve such results from their disembodied approach to reality formation. They rely on mental insight to reframe emotional responsivity in adaptive ways which is the opposite approach of the body inclusive, bottom up approaches that body psychotherapy uses.
Both these bottom up bodily inclusive approaches, and the mentally driven top down approaches have their context and uses. However only the bodily inclusive, bottom up model can facilitate groundedness. Groundedness in turn affects our mental and emotional consciousness as well as our motivational processes. It affects a person in a deeper and more sustainable way as it is holistic in the sense that no part of the human condition is ignored or left out of the healing process.
A grounded state involves and engages both our body and our energy systems which allows for present time awareness to occur. A person achieves psychological health when not living in the past or fantasising about the future. Such a person is self aware, relaxed, embodied and able then to describe their own reality with clarity and able to play, explore, socialise safely from a potential place of pleasure.
Health and wellness are states of bodymind unity. One will struggle to heal if healing strategies do not approach the human condition from such a unified presupposition. We teach a range of body grounding exercises designed to compensate for many in our technological who live more or less in an ungrounded state. Body psychotherapy goes beyond talk therapy to include the body and emotional life in the healing process.
Please contact us to learn the techniques and actual embodied processes for grounding and creating a valid basis for health and creating sustainable change and manifestation.
Contact the Energetics Institute for more information about Depression, Anxiety, and other body-mind states of being that affect yourself or someone you love and interact with.
Richard Boyd is an experienced Body Mind Psychotherapist and the Director of the Energetics Institute in Perth, Western Australia
Mob : 0407577793