Postural Integration in Schizoid Process
We republish this article by Günther Schwiefert, who received complete training in Postural Integration, edited in 1992 in the ICPIT World Bulletin. I would like to point out that as early as the 80s there was in the field of Postural Integration (Bodymind Integration) a study and awareness of the mechanisms of trauma and the ways to resolve it safely. These studies have had a strong development in the following years leading to understanding the need for a widespread awareness of the importance of trauma in many human activities (1), and the fact that the use of integrative body techniques is of great help. ICPIT-trained Bodymind Integration practitioners have continued over the years to follow developments in the field in order to be fully trauma-informed.
In the traditional approaches of psychotherapy, such as psychoanalysis, transactional analysis, individual psychology, and logotherapy bodywork is often viewed as dangerous and offensive. The fear is that loosening body armor might bring up feelings which would flood and overwhelm the unprepared client. In the worst scenario these surfacing feelings may bring about a psychotic crises.
Bodywork, it is said, works too fast; clients cannot work through their feelings, emotions and thoughts and gain a deep understanding of their personal processes, and behavior patterns. There is also the fear that the close, intimate physical contact of bodywork – especially work like PI – might lead to transference and counter-transference so strong that it could not be easily dissolved. We readily can see how this last concern is only a projection of the personal fears and needs of anti-body-oriented psychotherapy. As body workers who have experienced a lot of physical closeness, both as clients and students, intimacy is not only not a major problem but is rather an opportunity for new openings. But the first objection — that the experience of bodywork may bring up too much in too short a time –is more significant. It is pointed out that for clients with a schizoid structure, it could be especially dangerous, since their character patterns have cut off awareness of very intense feelings such as anger, fear, sadness and rage. And, so the argument goes, if these emotions surface suddenly, schizoid individuals might be driven right into full-blown schizophrenia. l myself have worked with a lot of more or less schizoid structured people over the last years, and in my experience, on the contrary, bodywork, especially P.l., is a suitable tool to support these clients’ growth.
Most of them live in thoughts and fantasies very far from their bodies. First P.I. can help them reconnect with their bodies, and then later with their suppressed feelings. Of course, the practitioner has to take some time and should not push in any way. The strong. firm and deep touch of P.I. is a way for schizoid persons to begin to feel their bodies again. Since their awareness of the body is underdeveloped and has shifted to the head, the strong pressure of P.I. brings back body-awareness. In fact, very often these clients love deep and strong strokes, while superficial strokes make them feel uncomfortable.
Accompanying breath and energy work is also a very important factor during this initial phase of the work. The feelings of aliveness slowly returns to the’ whole body. Schizoid clients mostly experience their bodies as very dry or dead-like, because their energy is frozen in the center. Breathwork gives them, often for the first time, an experience of energy flowing through the body. This helps to shift their interest from projections, thoughts and fantasies down into the body and slowly teaches them to establish and maintain this body awareness.
Again practitioners should not push clients but help them to encounter their energy as pleasant, alive and juicy, not overwhelming and threatening. These intense and positive experiences with their bodies deepens their love and trust and anchors them in the reality of the here and now. The body is always here and now, even if it carries old tensions. The here and now is a new and important space for the schizoid client. It can be a safe space too. All the old traumas are past, and if you are anchored in the reality of your body. it is safe to look at this past.
So the first step is to help clients regain their bodies and distinguish between real here and now body feelings, on the one hand, and fantasies, projections and rationalizations. on the other. In short to feel physical sensations and trust them.
The second step is slowly to help clients widen their experience by bringing them to the full awareness of unpleasant feelings. Now they are willing to encounter pain, which at first might not be connected to any emotion. With the steady support of the practitioner the next step becomes possible: the connection of pain with deep emotions, with anger, rage, fear, sadness, and also joy, love and ecstasy. The best support for the client now comes from simple questions’, concerning the quality of the pain and how it affects them and how it would affect other people. Schizoid structured clients very often find it easier to empathize with other people than to feel themselves. The practitioner needs to help them continually come back to themselves. The acceptance of the practitioner will help the client feel a tremendous release, not only by feeling, but also by expressing previously denied emotions.
During this phase of the work, when feelings become overwhelming and the client may begin to panic, PNL techniques, such as anchoring or dissociating, may be very effective. It is important, during all this, that the practitioner stays centered and accepting, creating an atmosphere that is safe and comfortable.
With the expression of emotions, more and more memories surface, which helps clients learn to understand the connection between their personal history and their personality. The road back to a life of feeling and expression have been started. In this period it is important to support clients in building social relations, in staying open and communicating authentically. Weekly evening groups are helpful. In these it is possible to share the new aliveness and also the new vulnerability with people who have gone through a similar process. This is a process of rediscovering the real self in the body with its feelings, it is a process of loving oneself and all one’s emotions and of spreading that love to the outside word.
Articolo di Günther Schwiefert, pubblicato su: ICPIT World Bulletin, Vol. 3, Number 1, 1992, Mill Valley
- Kathering King, What Does it Mean to Be Trauma-Informed? Psychology Today, November 26, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifespan-perspectives/202111/what-does-it-mean-be-trauma-informed
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