Existential Phenomenological Psychotherapy – “Psychosomatic Oneness”
By Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D., Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, A.B.P.P.
Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D., Writer, Michelle Mae, Transcriber, Erin Johannesen, M.A., M.D., Editor
It is really [our] being in the awareness state that phenomenology makes sense. When you are not in awareness, it’s like gobbledygook. That is why many of these understandings of phenomenology, or even of Eastern philosophy, are through an oral tradition; one gains understanding not necessarily by reading it, but through hearing it. Then, [as you hear it,] you are in the field with the person who is talking; [you are] hearing it and experiencing it in that [immediate] way. In terms of psychotherapy itself, it [phenomenological psychotherapy] can’t be learned by reading books. It’s alive. There are some people who write, who are such good writers, that they write from the field, so when you see those words, [when you read the words they have written], you feel the field. That is why it’s best to read the classic people, rather than reading the interpreters, even though it may be more difficult. You can read the text on some of these things, and you think you know it. You have information, [but] so what! [It’s incomplete if] you’re not really open to the experience in your own self.
Today we will discuss psychosomatic oneness. In this way, this discussion follows yesterday’s [topic] of oneness and lack, or of oneness and fragmentation. Another way of speaking about psychosomatic oneness is mind/body oneness and the separateness of these two dimensions. Winnicott used to say that the mother introduces the baby’s mind to the baby’s body and the baby’s body to the baby’s mind. This [statement] is a metaphor for describing the relational context for the development of an embodied psyche. The sense of embodiment, Winnicott called ‘indwelling’. Experientially, the psyche is felt to reside in the soma, and the soma dwells within the psyche. The mind, when things go well, dwells within the body, and, in a certain way, the body [dwells] within the mind. Awareness as the ‘field of awareness’ is the medium. There are three players in this game: The linguistic mind or the symbolic mind, the awareness field, and the body.
The experience of embodiment is wonderful, blissful, soothing, comforting, and one feels whole, intact, presence, alive, and even complete. The self soothing function works well, and one feels how one’s body holds and contains the sense of self. In this aliveness of the awareness field, of energy and lightness and spaciousness, there is this feeling of ‘at oneness’ with one’s own embodied beingness. The awareness field naturally permeates the body; this [permeation is felt] when things are going well; it is pervasive and connects the different parts and dimensions experientially, knowingly, and feelingly. The field integrates and holds the mind and the body. The field permeates the mind and body. Both feel open, porous and connected [as] oneness…
This embodiment is not necessarily a static experience, or a permanent experience, but is in flux, reflecting, more or less, variation within the various poles of experience, sometimes more in the mind, sometimes in the body, sometimes, simply in the medium of awareness. It is dynamic, fluid, and sometimes stasis does happen, and then the system rigidifies and stuckness happens. It [embodied awareness] is a great attainment, and it happens developmentally over time, with each epoch having its own challenges to become embodied and to live in the sense of oneness of mind and body. When our mind is completely in the awareness field, then our body is in it [too]. That, [that being in oneness-in-awareness,] is a leap into liberation. The mind rests in body through the medium of the field. The mind is not separate from the body.
This embodiment is never complete once and for all, it is onwardly [in an ongoing way] unfolding. And so, we work to refine, to maintain, and to sustain both embodiment and the sense of oneness of the mind and the body, of psyche being in soma and [of] soma being in psyche. The interconnectedness, the oneness, is further refined too, so this [interconnectedness is] in, is within, the context of psyche and mind/body.
There is another little step. The interconnectedness, the oneness, is further refined to the mind, to the heart, and to the lower body connections; stream [or streaming] within a stream emerges. That is why [as you experience the field of awareness,] you start going into [or experiencing sensations along] all of these meridians and energy centers. They [the meridians and energy centers orchakras] are metaphors [for the interconnected, energetic streaming within the body], and that is why they [these connections and streams] are in one system and not in another. They are powerful energetic metaphors; they are realities.
But then you [can] go into another system of energetic metaphors: [We can enter also into] subtle realities that are focused a lot on the [emerging or unfolding] system of the inner heart essence [as] being connected to the mind and [as] having the support of the lower centers… In working with the body, it’s good to know that; [it’s good to know these energetic streams and connections]. It [an embodied, energetic streaming] is further refined in the heart, mind, and lower body connections through the medium of the field. Potential space can permeate the entire system [of mind, body, and awareness] when it, [the experience of interconnected oneness] is optimally functioning.
Because of the many experiential and developmental difficulties – such as dissociating, lack of linking or of connection, splitting, fragmentation, mirroring, and accidents or illness, – most people experience psychosomatic problems, [problems of] being and living within this body. This mind and this body are two elements, or poles, of self experience, and the field of awareness is the medium. You don’t have to know a lot, but you do have to know something, and if you know that, [if you know these two elements or poles of self experience and the awareness medium,] you will be able to help people with mind/body problems. If not, [if you don’t know that,] you are going to get stuck, because the mind cannot connect with the body and the body with the mind. You can do verbal visualizations and things like that, but unless there is a medium, there will be no connection.
Many human difficulties, [that is,] corresponding, interpersonal difficulties, reflect the lack of psychosomatic embodiment. Obsessive compulsive styles, certain eating disorders, addictions, chronic pain, states of deadness – and none of this is causality – are all the same phenomena, circularly discussed, in one way or the other. States of deadness reflect mind/body splits and diminutions of both awareness and the awareness field. If I have a collapsed awareness field, I am going to have trouble in the mind/body area. It doesn’t mean you have to take a course like this [one] to have awareness, but if my field is collapsed, I will, in time, have trouble in the mind/body area. [I may be] very located in the mind, highly abstract, etc., or I can be located in the body [and so may be] without linguistic expression and reference – “What’s going on?” “I don’t know.”… That is not an act of bad faith; it is linguistic disconnection.
People who are highly abstract, highly symbolic, and not connected to the body will have trouble with reality. They will have trouble being oriented in the world. Their orientation will be messed up, [will lack clarity,] and they will not know where they are at, or where they are going, or for sure, you won’t, if you are in a relationship with them. Life becomes very hard for that person, not as a function of bad will, but as a profound sense of disorientation. Thinking becomes the only medium of experience, and it doesn’t work. Diminutions of awareness and of the awareness field can result in the poles of mind and body becoming separate, less connected, and in lessening of the continuation of oneness. That is why in phenomenology and in certain forms of this way of thinking… the word, ‘spirituality,’ is not a word. This [this sense of ‘spirituality’] in phenomenology already is all natural; it is the natural life. [In other words, in the realm of phenomenology as the aliveness of experience, ‘spirituality’ is inherent in everything; it is naturally and already imbued in us as us and is inseparable from us, as it is inseparable from every experience.]
The awareness field plays a role in our body, in our movement, and in our thinking; it is the flesh, in a certain way; it is the medium. It can be highly amplified, and it is potential space in the fullest sense of that term. Living in it and through it, and gaining some expertise to work with that which already is, can help bring us forth [and so, can help us to] integrate states of oneness. When Sharon and I used to study with Dr. Yan Xin, he would say, “If your hormonal system is off, you cannot be in the Chi Gong state,” or with a lot of effort, you can be, but the body issue is really important. The states of Chi Gong support hormones, so you get this circular indwelling thing [you get a naturally occurring interconnectedness and a streaming within streaming] constantly. In that way, you don’t locate in causality; [you don’t locate] in that moralistic sense of cause and effect.
Many difficulties with embodiment of mind, through the medium of the alive awareness field, can reflect all of these different influences, where the mind and body are really [not working together, or are perhaps too effortfully] working. [We may encounter these difficulties] in [experiences of] accumulated trauma – not a big moment, but ongoing subtle moments, such as not being touched as an infant, or as a child, – or [we may encounter these difficulties with embodiment of mind] in [experiences of] specific traumas, such as incest, physical abuse, or critical and harsh psychological treatment that can result in negative internalizations about the self and the body, or [can result] in splitting the body from the mind. [In other words,] the mind might be good, but the body is [experienced as] fundamentally bad.
Or, for some of us, the mind itself can become the object. Then one enters a non-relational life. Rather than [my] being beyond my mind at all [when I am] in contact with a situation and with the people in it, instead, as I’m growing up, the mind becomes the object; my own thoughts become the object. As I get more and more organized around the thoughts in my mind as the only object, then I’m entering the non-relational life. [As psychotherapists,] we’re not just listening to content; we’re trying to become observers of process. [And in this particular process,] one becomes located in the mind and is neither in the body, nor in the medium of awareness. In a way, this [approach] is a very concrete operational way of working with people, if that phenomenon [of being located only in the mind] is taking place. So, you start, like a mother, introducing that person to these dimensions. It’s very step by step. Negative internalizations, including not only experience in systems [such as in family and cultural systems], but also interjected experience, which is more direct, more primitive – such as medical procedures early in life – can contort embodiment. [In the case of a medical procedure early in life,] both the procedure itself and the internalization of the experience can contort embodiment, like one [layer or one contortion occurs] and then a second layer [and a second contortion] and on and on. When subjectivity becomes located in an ego state, then the experience of highly contained psychosomatic wholeness is limited. So one goes through a lot of medical procedures and enters a paranoid-schizoid state, meaning, “What’s going to happen to me next??” Then you get these different [or differing] messages, [such as “I’m in a safe place, but I don’t feel safe”, or “I’m told that I’m OK, but I don’t feel OK;”] it’s all unclear, and victim states start arising, and subjectivity can be in that state and in the encapsulation. [In other words, subjectivity or ‘beingness’ can be caught in the encapsulation of self when self is held in a victim state.] Psychosomatic wholeness is deferred.
Also, negative inversions may occur: When simply nothing happens that could have happened, might have happened, and probably should have happened. Certain forms of contact did not take place. These states of blankness, because they become internalized and entrained, can limit the depth and breadth of embodiment. Often in meditational life, people think [arising] states of blankness and spaciousness are that [are negative inversions], but it’s not quite the same. There can be a foreclosure on the extension of the field of awareness and on the multi-dimensional life. The pervasiveness of the field is impeded and becomes highly limited. Why? Because there is no extension through contact.
All of this [extending and extension], this being held and responded to, is natural. When a baby feels that holding, feels the Shakti of mother’s extension, of mother’s rocking back and forth, the baby is looking into and feeling the field, [and the baby is] moving through the whole situation of extension and resonance taking place… Many difficulties with embodiment of the mind through the medium of the alive awareness field can reflect the accumulated trauma of never being touched and so on… resulting in negative internalizations about the self and the body… and, [ultimately, resulting in] splitting the body from the mind: The mind is good, but the body is fundamentally nasty. The mind itself can become an object, and again, one enters the non-relational life.
All of these things can be overcome, but we want to know where it is in our life; [we want to become aware that these things are actively occurring in us, in our lives].
To summarize, one becomes located in the mind and is then neither in the body nor in the medium of awareness. Negative internalization and interjected experience, such as medical experiences early in life, can contort embodiment. Subjectivity becomes located in an ego state and becomes highly contained, and psychosomatic wholeness is limited. If I’m in a paranoid ego state and [if] the self is really separated from the body, [is separated] from the early pain, it’s also affecting my developing mind, and a little ego state is formed. I may get beyond it, but that [paranoid or ‘little ego’] state will be there waiting to get assimilated later into the whole thing [into the whole self].
Negative inversions [can also affect the embodiment of self and the mind/body interconnection.] [Negative inversions are] when simply nothing happens that could have happened, might have happened, and probably should have happened. Certain forms of contact did not take place. These states of blankness, because they become internalized and entrained, can limit the depth and breadth of embodiment. There can be a foreclosure on the extension of the field of awareness and on the multi-dimensional life. The pervasiveness of the field is impeded and becomes highly limited. The players of the psychosomatic drama of indwelling are the mind – linguistic in origin, – the body and its various processes, and the awareness field with its medium-like fluidity of oneness and wholeness and with the power of absorption and dissolving. When there is not much awareness, [when there is] complete diminution of awareness, experience will not be absorbed and dissolved. You may have a memory, sort of like a hawk’s [sharply observing, but from a distance,] or you may feel it [in the body, but beyond linguistic reach.] Or, it might not actually get into memory. When you can see this blankness in people, [now] it’s not so mysterious.
So, our inquiry centers on the mind and body as poles within the field, [for both of these things are] elements of embodied self. The field as spaciousness, energy, and luminosity holds and infuses both the mind and the body, and the field integrates them too. The field is the medium and the method of mind/body oneness. Winnicott called it [this area of oneness and openness] the ‘intermediate area,’ and when people were profoundly stuck, he would say…”If there is no intermediate area, change would be very hard for this person.” It was like pre-therapy, how to foster, how to bring forth this intermediate area. He was talking about awareness, not a cognition, but instead this state, transitional space, which is highly developed in certain forms of phenomenology and Eastern philosophy. Both psychosomatic oneness and the problems of embodiment are difficulties with experiencing the field of awareness; such problems are medium problems. [That is, such problems are problems with experiencing the medium-like fluidity of the field.] That is why working within the field is so fantastic for working with psychosomatic issues. Working energetically is so useful, since you are expanding, intensifying and activating the human field. So our prejudice (both Sharon’s and mine) is that the capacity to work with these energetic dimensions of the field is very useful for people.
Many of the traumatic difficulties, such as childhood disease, physical and medical interventions, neurological problems of processing and corresponding perceptual cognitive-motor difficulties, are psychosomatically traumatic and, naturally so, result in distortions and diminutions, both of the innate and intrinsic awareness field as well as of configurations of the field. If you have a bad finger, you have to work it, and stretch it, and get it stronger.
Besides describing traumatic experience of the early experience of the self-object functioning and of self-object handling, in a profound way, the experience of ongoing embodiment and of the attachment/bonding capacity is the ongoing sense of self continuity of being. The relational dimension of the field is supportive and creates ongoing continuity. Again, [the experience of] attachment/bonding issues and [of] psychosomatic oneness and [of] wholeness is a circular statement…
The rupture of this continuity of embodied selfhood is experienced as agony. So, when we are suffering from a mind/body issue, we may try to take the mind/body issue out of the realm of disease. For example, let’s look at fatigue. Fatigue [is a symptom and] can always be a component of disease; but it is not necessarily a particular diagnosis. Just as with the issue of fatigue, when a person has mind/body or psychic/soma difficulties, certain agonies can arise for that person. A lot of complaints can arise for that person. And none of this [and none of what we’re saying here,] says in any way that there are not corresponding things going wrong for that person. It’s not like, you know, people used to think mind/body problems were hysteria; we’re not in that frame. The rupture of this sense of continuity of embodied selfhood is experienced as agonies.
You can also see when your body is going through some of these things, [is going through] this mind/body oneness, for a person will say, “I look like I’m together,” and, really, the person does look okay… [So,] people start searching for explanations, and they will search for explanations in their relational world. Then, their relational world comes – [and with it comes the super ego, and] the super ego is a causal thing with moralistic implications. One starts looking for causality in relational life – “You’re the problem here!” That ‘labeling’ starts really quadrupling, getting reified in your mind, creating intense relational problems, getting highly amplified because of [your] not understanding. Then one is feeling one’s self fragmenting, [and one part of self says to another part of self,] “You are the source.” [And with this sense of] ‘you as the problem,’ an enormous amount of blame takes place. If you are a psychotherapist and you believe it [and you believe what this person is saying], then you join the person in it [in blaming], and there are two deluded people at that moment. I really mean that.
The ruptured sense of continuity of embodied selfhood is experienced as agonies. What are they? For some, the agony is the return of earlier un-integrated states, such as feelings of disintegration, falling apart, breaking apart, or exploding apart. These earlier states could not be held in the awareness continuum because the event was so strong that it [the experience] becomes encapsulated within very primitive, earlier ego states. Then, either because of events, or in a random sort of manner, they [these unmetabolized experiences] start to come forth. They start arising up for people, and the horrible feelings of falling apart, of breaking apart, start to arise. Winnicott sometimes, in his wisdom, would be very careful. He would say, “The experience has already happened for you.” [In other words,] what you are experiencing now – and this statement is not a psychoanalytic, regressive interpreting of everything, but rather, it is an actuality – this [experience] has [already] taken place. It [what one is experiencing now] may not be simply a function of the immediate environment. That [understanding, or knowing,] helps the person to contain some of the drama and helps it to become, or to have it become, workable. Or, it [what one is experiencing] may be a function also of what is taking place in the here and now. Being in the here and now, the field is there [is felt at present], but everything doesn’t necessarily take place in the here and now.
Knowing these un-integrated states and developing a sense of when that state is arising for a person and that the person is [mistakenly] blaming the immediacy of their environment are really a function not only of understanding this sort of thing, but also of the degree to which you have honed your awareness with a bit more direct perception. It doesn’t mean you are mystical mahamuka,but it does mean you have some sense of seeing into phenomena. It can be very helpful for people. It can interrupt attributions which may not be relevant. The experience of falling and falling forever and the corresponding self-holding and hard response, as these primitive feelings start arising out of earlier trauma, are agony, for sometimes people hold themselves very hard. It is a way of trying to sustain mind/body oneness, fluidity, and perceptivity, but this [effort] doesn’t quite work, so it’s a kind of hardness and self-holding response. Most of the energy in this person will be a vertical thing. Even if the field is there, it will be primarily vertical, or ascending, energy, and there will not be much horizontal or relational thing; [there will not be much extension to others or to their immediate environment]. They tend to take energy and shove it down as a barrier response. Then you will have the consequence of armouring and that kind of thing. Often in my mind, these armourings are functions of the energy not being able to work in a responsive manner. Okay, so let’s take a break…