||The New Therapy (full article) by Peter Wilberg|
Recent decades have seen a proliferation of ‘new’ therapies or ‘approaches’ to therapy. The reader would therefore be forgiven that the use of the definite article in the title of this article – ‘THE New Therapy’ – suggests a grandiose claim to present yet another new form of therapy, but one superior to all. Is not such a title, with its implicit claim, immediately suspect in itself? Not if we consider that every time ‘a’ new form of therapy is named a new terminological adjective is attached to the noun ‘therapy’. Adjectives such as ‘psychodynamic’, ‘cognitive’, ‘body-oriented’ or ‘somatic’ do of course serve the obvious purpose of distinguishing and ‘branding’ different forms of therapy, as well as helping to place them in a particular historic tradition or framework of thought, whether psychoanalysis or cognitive science. And yet the very multiplicity of adjectives applied to the noun ‘therapy’ may also prevent us from properly considering the assumptions on which our understanding of therapy as such is founded. It is a different matter to compare and contrast two or more forms of therapy and to ask the more fundamental question - what is ‘therapy’? All understandable suspicions notwithstanding, let the reader be in no doubt. This article is not intended to make grandiose claims for ‘a’ new form of therapy (and to position it in the ‘market’ of existing therapies by branding it with a new and exotic name). And yet through the definite article in its title it does indeed lay claim to outlining the foundations of an entirely new understanding of ‘therapy’ as such, one with profound implications not only for the practice of psycho-therapy but ‘therapy’ in its most general sense, including medical and psychiatric ‘therapies’. The philosophical foundation of The New Therapy is ‘The New Phenomenology’ - essentially a new understanding of the innately field character of subjectivity and consciousness. The praxis of The New Therapy – what I term ‘Inner Bodywork’ - is based on on a new understanding of the innately embodied character of the individual soul or psyche – and the capacity of our inner psychical body or ‘felt body’ for directly sensing, resonating with and responding in a healing and transformative way to the inwardly felt body and dis-ease of another human being, whether this ‘dis-ease’ be thought of as ‘mental’ or ‘physical.
All previous forms of therapy - without exception - have rested on some or all of the following, fundamentally false philosophical assumptions:
- that the human soul or psyche is a consciousness bounded by what we perceive as the human body.
- that consciousness is something localisable in the individual body or brain.
- that ‘subjectivity’ consists of separate and point-like personal subjects of consciousness and that consciousness has its source in such subjects.
- that ‘mind’, ‘soul’ or ‘psyche’ consists primarily of subjects of consciousness on the one hand and objective contents of consciousness on the other.
- that consciousness or subjectivity as such can be reduced to the property or product of some particular object of consciousness, for example the human brain.
- that specific contents of consciousness such as thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations or illness symptoms can be thought of as a causal effect of other such contents, for example aspects of bodily or brain functioning.
- that knowledge or cognition as such is essentially consciousness of a localised object, external or internal, physical or psychical on the part of a localised subject or centre of consciousness.
- that human beings and the human body and mind can be fully understood from the outside – as perceptual or intellectual objects of cognition.
In contrast to all previous forms of therapy, The New Therapy is founded on the following field-phenomenological understandings:
- that the human soul or psyche is a field of consciousness or ‘free awareness field’ unbounded by what we perceive from the outside as the human body.
- that all subjectivity or consciousness has an essentially non-local or ‘field’ character.
- that all personal ‘subjects’ of consciousness are but bounded areas or portions of larger trans-personal fields of awareness.
- that subjectivity or consciousness cannot, in principle be reduced to a property of product of any object of consciousness.
- that all contents of consciousness, whether ‘inner’ or ‘outer’, ‘pyschical’ or ‘physical’ are phenomena emerging from and within fields of awareness and not causal effects of one another.
- that knowledge is not cognition of localised ‘objects’ on the part of a set of localised ‘subjects’ of consciousness but consists of subjectively experienced phenomena emerging within non-local fields of awareness or subjectivity.
- that other human beings and their feelings can only be understood subjectively, through a proprioceptive feeling awareness of them.
‘Phenomenology’ is founded on the central insight that we are not self-enclosed consciousnesses that first receive sensory data or ‘input’ from the world around and then mysteriously convert this data into a conscious perception of this world. This accepted scientific model of perception is circular. First it assumes a world of pre-given objects independent of our own self-enclosed consciousness – a world from which our brains receive 'inputs' in the form of sensory data. Then it ends up seeing this world – the phenomena which are supposedly the very source of the sensory input received by our brains – as nothing more than a phantom visual projection or output of our brains. Phenomenology challenges this ‘scientific’ model of perception – a model that by its circular nature explains nothing at. The traditional phenomenology of Husserl recognised that consciousness is consciousness of a world around us - not a type of blank sheet on which ‘impression’ or sensory ‘inputs’ from this world are ‘received’. Hence consciousness cannot be thought of as contained within the body What I call ‘field phenomenology’ goes further, recognising that all experienced and perceived phenomena emerge from and within a field of awareness that embraces both our entire inner and outer world.
What is called ‘Phenomenological Science’ therefore, as opposed to the so-called ‘physical’ or ‘natural’ sciences (including the human sciences) recognises that the most basic and self-evidential scientific ‘fact’ of all is not the ‘objective’ existence of a world of pre-given beings or bodies localised in space and time. Instead empirically – experientially – the most basic scientific fact of all is the field of awareness within which all beings and bodies are subjectively experienced as phenomena present or emerging within it. Fields of awareness, however, cannot - in principle - be explained or reduced to the property, product or ‘result’ of any phenomenon or phenomena experienced within them, just as dreaming cannot be reduced to or explained by any thing or things we happen dream of - any phenomenon or phenomena we subjectively experience within the field of our dreaming awareness.
According to The New Phenomenology, subjectively experienced ‘phenomena’ are not merely subjective mental ‘representations’ or ‘appearances’ of a world of pre-given objects. Nor are they merely ‘projections’ of a localised subject or subjects. Instead every experienced phenomena - being itself an individualised or personified portion, expression and embodiment of a common trans-personal or universal field of awareness – is innately imbued with consciousness and therefore constitutes a distinct consciousness in its own right. Being and bodies on all levels and of all types - from supposedly insentient particles, atoms, and molecules to cells, organs and organisms and the human body as a whole - are essentially but the experienced or phenomenal form taken by bounded units of consciousness or organised structures of such units, all emerging from and within fields of consciousness or consciousness in its field character (what in other works I term ‘awareness’*).
*see my writings on The New Yoga of Awareness, including my books entitled The Awareness Principle – a radical new philosophy of life and science and Meditation and Mental Health – an introduction to Awareness-Based Cognitive Therapy.
The most basic assumption of almost all forms of therapies is that human psychical awareness is bounded by the ‘physical body. This assumption in turn, is founded on an unquestioned metaphysical framework bound by the old Aristotelian logic of identity. This metaphysical framework permeates all the sciences, based as it is on the idea that the universe is a step-by-step evolution or construction of separable and pre-given ‘unit identities’ in the form, for example, of elementary units or quanta of matter or energy. Applied to human psychology and physiology, the individual is seen as a structured set of bounded and separable biological ‘units’ (genes, cells etc.) and/or bounded and separable psychical units (for example feelings, persons or ‘internal objects’ and their ‘object relations’). The individual as such is seen as a complex unit identity built up from sets of biological and psychical sub-units, with the group as a larger set of such individual units. This set-theoretic model of reality as a step-by-step construction or evolutionary organisation of sets and sub-sets of separable and pre-given ‘units’ related only in the form of complex ‘systems’ is the dominant scientific model and ‘mindset’ - one that also pervades psychology and physiology, psychotherapy and medicine.
In contrast to the sciences based on this set-theoretic model, Phenomenal Science presents a field-theoretic model of reality- one which understands every unit of which is is constituted as an expression of its surrounding field. Implicit in the set-theoretic understanding of reality is the identification of any bounded unit identity (the circles in the diagram) with its internal sub-units only. Yet just as these sub-units are expressions of their surrounding field (the inner field of the unit represented by the space within each circle), so is the unit as a whole an expression of its surrounding field of emergence (represented diagrammatically by the space around each circle). The basic principle of the field-theoretic model of identity is that each bounded unit identity is both an internal boundary of its own external field as well as an external boundary enclosing its own internal field. Unit identities as such, represented by the circles in the diagram, are thus essentially field-boundaries of identity - each of which is just as much defined by its ‘background’ or surrounding field (German Umfeld) as by its internal field (Innenfeld). Diagram 2 represents a field-theoretic model of identity in which each sub-element of a ‘set’ is seen as an expression of its surrounding field (grey-shaded) and the set itself as an internal field-boundary of a yet larger field. Instead of a model of identity based on unit identities arranged or structured in nesting sets, we have a model which recognises unit identity as an expression of field-identity. Thus what we perceive or experience as the ‘space’ within and around any bounded thing or entity, self or person is in essence part of the same singular space or field of awareness which is the source of all unit identities or beings. And since every unit identity emerges from a common source field of awareness, all such units are innately related through that source field – independently of any complex structures of relatedness.
Diagram 2. The
Field-Phenomenological Model of Identity
(the grey-shaded space around and within each bounded unit
identity or ‘body’ as parts of a singular spatial field of
awareness which is their common and uniting source).
‘Self’ and ‘Soul’
Only a field-phenomenological understanding allows us to articulate a precise distinction between ‘self’ on the one hand and ‘body’ and ‘soul’, ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’, on the other. ‘Soul’ is the inner space or field of awareness bounded by any ‘body’, ‘self’ or ‘unit identity’ and whose internal units (the circles within circles in the preceding diagrams) constitute both contents of consciousness and ‘sub-selves’ in their own right. Both ‘self’ and ‘body’ on the other hand (represented in the diagram by the circles as such rather than the spaces within or around them) are essentially a porous field-boundary or ‘skin’ of awareness. A boundary is not itself anything bounded. Hence both body and self have themselves an essentially unbounded or field character. They do not constitute a containing or encapsulating boundary but one which both distinguishes and unites the inner field of awareness of any body and self and its surrounding field of awareness. The relation is echoed in the relation between the Greek word psyche – meaning inner ‘life breath’ and the Greek word for ‘spirit’ (pneuma or surrounding ‘air’ or ‘wind’). The relation of soul and spirit – psyche and pneuma – is comparable to the relation between the breath or air within us and that surrounding us. This relation in turn is embodied in the form of breathing or ‘respiration’ – the words ‘spirit’ deriving from the Latin spirare – ‘to breathe’ – echoed also in such words as ‘in-spiration’ and ‘ex-piration’. The self as a ‘unit identity’ or ‘unit of awareness’ is thus closely related to bodyhood – not because it is anything merely contained within or bounded by the body, but because it is the dynamic and uniting boundary between those inner and outer fields and spaces of awareness that constitutes the common essence of both selfhood and bodyhood.
The modern scientific term ‘psychology’ is understood to imply scientific knowledge ‘of’ or ‘about’ the soul or psyche. The root meaning of the Greek word psyche itself however, is ‘breath’. Does this mean that modern ‘psychology’ understands itself as a science of the breath? Far from it. Instead it identifies the soul or psyche with the human ‘mind’, and knowledge of the psyche with insight into the functional workings of this ‘mind’. This concept of ‘psychology’ is the result of a long historic identification of knowledge with having a proper ‘idea’ of things – with seeing them correctly. Indeed the very word ‘idea’ comes from the Greek idein (‘to see’) and like the Latin videre (uidere) and the modern term video is related to the Sanskrit word for knowledge (vidya) – a word which also has the root meaning of ‘seeing’ (vid). Yet the identification of knowledge with seeing contrasts with an ancient wisdom, Eastern and Western, in which knowledge in the form of ‘seeing’ and intellectual ‘ideas’ was understood not as the starting point but as the end-result of the cognitive process – a process that was understood as beginning not with seeing but with breathing.
In the West, ‘theory’ and theoretical disciplines are still thought of as the foundation of ‘practice’ – of practical disciplines and applied knowledge. In the East, on the other hand, those practical disciplines known collectively as yoga were understood to be the very foundation of all theoretical ‘ideas’ and ‘insight’. At the heart of yoga was an understanding of the bodily foundations of all intellectual knowledge. Together with this went an understanding of the human body as a breathing body and not merely one equipped with sense organs such as eyes. That which was blindingly obvious to all – the fact that the human body could survive without seeing but not without breathing - was taken as a vital clue to the essence of the human being. Indeed it was taken as a clue to the essence of reality, truth or ‘being’ as such. The ‘old psychology’, which existed long before the term ‘psychology’ was coined, was one in which the word psyche still retained its root meaning of ‘breath’. The New Therapy restores this older ‘psychology’ by once again understanding the psyche as a type of ‘breath’ and psychical processes as a type of breathing – a breathing not simply of air but of awareness as such. Behind this lies the recognition of the field-spatiality of awareness - which fills and flows in the spaces around and within our bodies in the same way that air does.
In Greek culture the word soma originally referred simply to a lifeless corpse devoid of psyche or ‘life-breath’. Only later did the word soma come to refer to the living body of the human being, and the word psyche to its sensed interiority or ‘soul-space’. Today the very term psychology has become a contradiction in terms, referring to a ‘science’ in which the soul or psyche has no place, or in which it is identified with the mind or brain. Its connection with the individual’s inwardly sensed body is completely ignored. Only in the work of the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott do we find a recognition that mental health has to do with the psyche-soma as opposed to the mind-psyche — our capacity to dwell and feel at home not just in the mind-space of our heads but in the inner ‘soul space’ of our bodies.
As the Japanese philosopher Sato Tsuji has pointed out: “It is the great error of Western philosophers that they always regard the human body intellectually, from the outside, as though it were not indissolubly a part of the active self.” Viewed from the outside, self and body are both seen as something bounded by our own skins, and separated from others by an empty space filled only by air. But there is a deep reason why the root meaning of the Greek word psyche and pneuma meant ‘breath’, ‘air’ and ‘wind’, and why the words ‘spirit’ and ‘respiration’ have a common derivation from the Latin spirare – to breathe. For in what manner and at what point does the air we breathe in become a part of ‘us’ and ‘our’ body? And at what point or in what manner does the air we breathe out cease to be part of ‘us’ and ‘our’ body? The question cannot be answered except by suspending our ordinary notion of self and bodyhood. Our felt body has no physical boundaries but is an awareness that, like the air we inhale and exhale, also flows between us and the world. The deep connection between awareness and breathing was well recognised in the spiritual traditions of the East, where meditation meant centring both awareness and breathing in the abdomen rather than the chest. In our increasingly globalised Western culture, on the other hand, individuals tend to identify themselves almost entirely with their head and upper body awareness. Not being grounded in lower body awareness, individuals lack a sense of abdominal centredness and ‘umbilical’ inner connectedness with others. For both their breathing and awareness are disconnected from the abdomen, that abode of the soul which in Japanese culture has always been understood as both the physical and spiritual centre of gravity of the human being.
Field-theoretic psychology understands the ‘ego’ as something quite distinct from the soul or self, comparable to a locus of awareness at the apex of a pyramid or cone. The ego is that ‘I’ or ‘eye’ whose cone of vision transforms the circular field-boundary of awareness into a fixed boundary of identity dividing Self and Other, and treating everything within that boundary as ‘me’ (the objectified self) and everything outside it as ‘not-me’ (the objectified other).
Diagram 3. The ‘Ego’ as localised subject or ‘I’, separating and objectifying what is experienced as self and other, ‘me’ and ‘not-me’.
Diagram 3 shows the ego as such a localised centre or ‘subject’ of awareness, separate from and objectifying the individual’s own non-local field of awareness and identity and turning both Self and Other into objects of focal awareness (‘me’ and ‘not-me’). The black centre of the circle at the base of the cone represents the inner counterpart of the ego or ‘I’ - an ‘inner self’ or ‘inner ego’. The ‘outer ego’ functions principally as the outer ‘I’ and outer ‘eye’ of the inner self - using focal awareness to identify and objectify phenomena in the self’s outer, environmental field. The inner self, on the other hand is the inner ‘I’ and inner ‘eye’ of the self, being the link between its inner soul-field and that of every being and every phenomenon in its outer field.
Seen from a conventional set-theoretic or ‘holistic’ perspective, a ‘whole’ is the unity of its parts. Seen from a field-phenomenological perspective however, each part or unit identity can also be seen as the unity of all the wholes or ‘sets’ of which it forms a part or unit. That is because all unit identities – selves and sub-selves emerge from the multiple overlapping inner fields of larger units. Diagram 4 shows a single unit identity not simply as a common member of three overlapping set but as a unit emerging from the overlapping fields of those sets.
Diagram 5 shows how, from a field-theoretic perspective we do not need to postulate any processes of ‘introjection’ or ‘internalisation’ to understand how the overlapping field-identity or ‘bi-personal field’ of two individuals, A and B, automatically gives birth to twin sub-units or sub-selves.
These are the A aspect of B or A(B) – for example the John-aspect or ‘John-ness’ of Jill - and the B-aspect of A or B(A) – for example the Jill-aspect of ‘Jill-ness’ of John. In a word, from a field-phenomenological perspectives, since we are each parts of one’s another – elements within each other’s field awareness and field identity, there is no need to posit process of projection or transference.
After any interaction with another individual we are left with a residual field sense of the other person’s presence. If we attend to this residual sense of the other in their absence, it can take shape as a new sense of ourselves – allowing the aspect or sub-self of ourselves most in resonance with another individual to take shape as a new sub-self or unit identity within our own field identity – which overlaps with that others. The concept of psychological ‘projection’ on the other hand, ignores the bi-personal field of identity. Such ‘projection’ can only arise when, instead of ‘owning’ a particular sub-self of our own present in the bi-personal field we identify it purely with the other – experiencing all aspects of the bi-personal field as aspects of the other alone and not of self and other. Thus John recognises the Jane part of himself – his ‘Jane self’ – only in the form of Jane herself. Dis-identification from the bi-personal field – and from the parts of ourselves represented by others – is both a diminishment of our larger field self or identity and a block on empathic field resonance with others.
The New Therapy and ‘The New Psychology’
Traditional psychologies and psychotherapies are all essentially ‘ego-psychologies’ in the most literal sense, stemming as they do from an essentially ego-centric view of the human being as a bounded unit identity, reducing the soul or psyche to the interiority of this unit identity, and employing only the focal awareness of the therapist – used to localise and objectifying psychic contents independently of their field of emergence. Recognising and relying only on focal awareness and not on field-awareness, the latter is mistaken for a bounded personal or impersonal ‘unconscious’ and its analysable contents. This ‘unconscious’ is then seen as a realm into which we can ‘introject’ or ‘internalise’ others – rather than as a field of trans-personal consciousness - a field-self overlapping and linking us in resonance with the self-fields of others. The result of such misconceptions is effectively whole variety of soul-less ‘psychologies’ and ‘psychotherapies’ – all of which treat the ‘soul’ or ‘psyche’ as a bounded unit of awareness or identity rather than as the field dimension of both awareness and identity. Constant attempts are made to reduce the soul or psyche to some unit or structure of units – whether biological cells and neurones, libidinal ‘drives’ and dream ‘contents’ (Freud), unconscious imaginal ‘archetypes’ (Jung), ‘internal objects’ (Klein), or a pattern of social relations incorporated by ‘the self’. Selfhood as such - unit identity and its structures - is not seen as an expression of the soul or psyche – of field-awareness and its patterns. Instead ‘the soul’ is reduced to a unit identity or to a social structure or ‘system’ of unit selves.
In The New Thinking unit identities are not seen as mere building blocks, elements or units which form themselves into group structures or ‘sets’. Instead, every self or unit identity is the emergent self-manifestation or selving of a group field. In the old psychotherapies there is talk of the ‘subject’, ‘ego’, and/or ‘self’ but no concept of the soul or psyche as such. Even Jung identified the depths of the psyche with a world of images belonging to ‘collective unconscious’ rather than with the collective field of consciousness from which such images arise. The New Thinking and The New Phenomenology combined as The New Psychology - a genuine science of the soul or psyche which does not reduce the latter to body or brain, ego or subject, persona or self - or to part of a ‘systemic’ structure - but understands it as the field-identity and field-body of the individual.
The ego as an abstract ‘subject’ of awareness finds expression in language every time we use the word ‘I’ as the subject of a verb and its objects or complements. For every thought or utterance of the form ‘I feel X’ or ‘I do Y’ implies an ‘I-dentity’ that has no determinate qualities of its own, and that remain untouched, unaltered or ‘immune’ from all ‘it’ feels or does, experiences or perceives. The ego is experienced as a disembodied mental or intellectual centre of ‘subjectivity’ or ‘selfhood’ – one that bears no relation to our actual subjective self-experience, for that has to do with our ever-changing bodily sense of self. For no sooner does our felt bodily sense of self alter in any way, than we seek to ‘immunise’ ourselves from this change by objectifying it through ego-awareness - transforming our felt and field awareness of self into a focal object – ‘a feeling’. Feeling ourself (‘our self ) in a particular state for example, we transform this altered bodily sense of self into ‘a feeling’ that is the private property of that self in the form of an unchanging mental ego or ‘I’ that ‘has’ or ‘possesses’ a feeling of tiredness. The word ‘I’ represents that mental ‘ego’ or ‘subject’ of awareness that objectifies all elements of our direct subjective experiencing of self and other. The function of this mental ego or ‘I’ is to prevent what feel or do from in any way altering our felt bodily sense of self - of who this ‘I’ is. All considerations of the role of ‘the body’ in psychopathology and psychotherapy however, have consistently confused the so-called ‘physical’ body of the human being with their subjectively felt body. The physical body is the felt body as it appears from the outside within a field of awareness. The felt body of an individual on the other hand is nothing but the felt bodily shape and tone taken by a field awareness as it is experienced from the inside. The felt body is thus essentially a field-body unbounded by the apparent contours of the ‘physical’ body – for its only boundaries are the boundaries of an individual’s awareness field.
The soul or psyche is not reducible to the mind, nor is it a product of the physical body or brain. Instead it is the field-self and field-body of the individual. Consequently, The New Therapy recognises that ‘mental’ health is intimately connected with the body – not the physical body or brain of the individual but their felt body. All forms of illness whether called ‘psychological’ or ‘physical’, have their source in a ‘dis-ease’ experienced in the individual’s felt bodily sense of self and felt bodily sense of connectedness to others. The aim of The New Therapy is to heal or make whole the individual’s felt bodily sense of self and to deepen their felt bodily sense of connectedness to others. This means cultivating their capacity both to feel their own soul and that of others in a bodily way and to actively embody the way they feel themselves and others. Yet our beliefs about the body can seriously limit our direct experience of our own bodyhood and that of others. What can be termed the ‘embodied mind’ is the mental boundary we place on the field of our bodily awareness. If we believe that we are self-enclosed consciousnesses bounded by our physical bodies, then that is how we will experience ourselves and others.
The mental belief itself limits the field of our bodily awareness to the boundaries of our physical body, and prevents us from enlarging that field to embrace the entire space around us and every other body within it. If a therapist believes their consciousness to be bounded by their own physical body, it cannot expand to embrace, surround and feel the body of the client. Instead the therapeutic relationship is seen and felt as a relationship between two self-enclosed consciousnesses and identities, each with their internal thoughts and ‘feelings’. If the ‘embodied mind’ of the therapist is structured in this way it makes no essential difference in what way they see the client – as an unruly unconscious or a ‘case’ of some neurotic or psychotic disorder, as a personified set of genetic traits or as a ‘whole person’, as a body ‘and’ mind, a ‘body-mind’ or as an ‘embodied mind’. For whatever issues or ‘feelings’ the therapist chooses to ‘focus’ upon their awareness will remain a purely focal awareness felt as encapsulated by their own body, limiting their field awareness of the client’s body, and in this way preventing them from directly feeling the client in a bodily way. The therapist’s own bodily field awareness will not extend sufficiently into the therapeutic space to sense the most important thing of all – not any problems that the client ‘presents’ with but the client’s own embodied presence – or lack of it.
In contrast, The New Therapy is founded on the understanding that all ‘presenting problems’ give expression to the client’s own bodily sense of self and relatedness to others, the boundaries they have become used to place on their own field awareness – misconceived as their ‘unconscious’. It understands ‘the embodied mind’ of both therapist and client as the felt bodily shape and boundary of their own respective fields of awareness. Diagram7. shows the model of the therapeutic space and the relationship as experienced by any therapist whose own ‘embodied mind’ limits their own field of awareness to the boundaries of their own physical body, and perceives the consciousness of the client as something also contained within the boundaries of their physical body.
Here the therapeutic relationship is seen as an interaction between two self-enclosed identities whose consciousness is contained within and bounded by their physical bodies - represented as circles. The therapeutic ‘space’ is experienced only as the (empty) physical space between and around the physical bodies of both therapist and client – not as the larger bodily field of their subjective awareness.
In contrast, Diagram 8 shows the field-boundary of the therapist’s awareness (dotted line) extended to embrace and surround the body of the client, thereby enabling the therapist to also feel the unique shape of the client’s own ‘embodied mind’ – the felt boundary, more or less contracted or expanded, rigid or flexible, closed or open - of the client’s own bodily awareness field.
Diagram 9. offers a schematic representation of the relation between the physical body of the individual and their felt body, showing ‘the embodied mind’ in three ways:
· as a spatial field-boundary of awareness expanded beyond the spatial boundary of the physical body
· as a spatial field-boundary of awareness contracted or ‘shrunk’ within the spatial boundary of the physical body
· as any number of bounded fields or ‘pockets’ of awareness experienced within the spatial boundaries of the physical body (for example a person’s mental space experienced as a enclosed ‘head space’, but one separated and sealed off from a space of emotional awareness in their chest or of ‘gut feeling’ in their belly and abdomen).
The felt body is constituted by such internal or external field-boundaries of awareness, all or any of which can be experienced as psychic envelope or ‘skin’ which is more or less porous or impermeable, motile or rigid, tight or loose, shrunk or expanded, full or empty, light or dark. This ‘felt’ or ‘lived’ body can be called an ‘inner body’, but only with the understanding that it is not inwardly contained within the boundaries of the ‘physical’ body (unbroken circle) but is our inwardly experienced sense of bodyhood – one which can expand beyond the apparent boundaries of this so-called physical body. For the latter is essentially nothing but the felt body itself - but as it perceived from the outside rather than as it is experienced from within.
In traditional phenomenology, as in psychology and psychotherapy, feelings are treated as localised contents or objects of consciousness or mental cognition. Nor is an essential distinction made between feelings and feeling. Feelings (plural noun) are something we speaking of ‘having’. Feeling on the other hand is something we do – as when we feel the surface of an object. Just as a ‘feeling’ of pain arises from feeling a burning hot object, so do feelings in general emerge from the activity of feeling. We know things and people by feeling them directly. In The New Phenomenology and The New Therapy on the other hand, awareness as such is understood as that which feels. And feeling awareness is understood as a more primordial mode of cognition than mental or intellectual cognition. For feeling is essentially field-cognition, based on ‘field-awareness’ rather than ‘focal awareness’.
Feelings themselves are not simply mental or psychical contents or objects of consciousness which we happen to become aware of . Instead they are the expression of underlying moods. Moods are nothing we are merely aware of but field-states and field-qualities of awareness of a sort which colour our entire experience of ourselves, other people and the world around us. I call these innate field qualities of awareness ‘qualia’ or ‘soul qualities’. Like moods, sensual field-qualities of awareness can only be felt and sensed with our body as a whole, for they are what constantly permeate and ‘colour’ our entire bodily self-experience. As soul qualities however, they are also and above all sensual qualities of awareness - and experienced in a bodily way. In this way they are comparable to qualities of vocal or musical tone – for example qualities of sharpness or flatness, clarity or dullness, brightness or darkness, lightness and heaviness, warmth or coolness, smoothness or roughness in a person’s voice, as well as a variety of tone colours of the sort musicologists speak of, and which we experience as invisible colourations of mood or ‘feeling tone’.
Subjective awareness is not a blank screen on which we receive sensory impressions of the world. Instead awareness has its own innate sensual qualities or qualia – for example the felt lightness or darkness, levity or gravity, tone and colour of a person’s mood, their felt warmth or coolness of soul, their felt closeness or distance to others, the felt solidity or fluidity, density or diffuseness, wholeness or fragmentation of their awareness. Sensory qualities are the sensory expression of these psychical qualia - those sensual field-qualities of awareness which shape and pattern, tone and colour our entire experience of self, other and world. Subjective awareness not only has its own innate sensual qualities or qualia. It also has its own innate bodily shape, tone and texture. What we call the ‘psyche’ therefore, is nothing disembodied, extrasensory or supra-sensuous. It is the pre-reflective, pre-perceptual and pre-physical embodiment of the human being - the sensual shape, tone and texture taken by their own larger field of awareness or subjectivity. Subjective awareness and its innate sensual field-qualities are experienced through the felt body or ‘field-body’ of the human being. This inwardly felt body is not the objective, physical body of the human being as felt from within. It is their subjective or lived body, an awareness body - made up of sensual field-qualities of awareness – of qualia. (See my book entitled The Qualia Revolution – from quantum physics to cosmic qualia science.)
Emotional feelings ‘about’ ourselves or ‘towards’ others can stand in the way of directly feeling ourselves and others in a bodily way. How we feel ourselves and others is something automatically felt by others – it communicates automatically and ‘non-verbally’, whether or not it is also expressed in words and verbal communication. By simply feeling themselves and their client in a bodily way, the therapist is already responding to and communicating with the client. But by fully embodying the way they feel themselves and the client, a state of bodily field-resonance with the client is established in the ‘bi-personal field’. It is this field- resonance which then amplifies the client’s own capacity to fully feel themselves and others in a bodily way. It is difficult for someone who has not been in psychotherapy to understand what it is all about or learn to practice it. Lacking a direct felt experience of being in therapy or giving therapy they can only imagine what it is like, get an indirect sense of it through the verbal reports of others, or begin to get a feel of it through training exercises. This same principle applies also to practicing therapists seeking to understand new forms of psychotherapy different from those they already practice. It applies also to new therapies and to The New Therapy. In the case of The New Therapy however, what both the trainee or practising therapist (of whatever orientation) is being asked to imagine and feel is something fundamentally different from all old and new forms of therapy - whether ‘talk’ or ‘touch’ therapies, verbal or ‘bodywork’ therapies - namely how psychotherapy could be practiced without either talk or touch. That is not to say that the methods of The New Therapy dispense with either talk or touch, verbal insight or forms of bodywork. But its essential medium is neither – for it is a mode of wordless feeling cognition and communication that requires neither talk nor physical contact to transform the client’s felt bodily sense of self and connectedness to others.
The basic practical principles of The New Therapy are not just important in the training of and practice of therapists but are principles that are also explicitly spelled out to the client - both to create a clear contract with the client at the commencement of therapy and to provide the client with a clear understanding of its aims. These principles can be summarised as follows:
1. We can only feel our own self as a whole (our ‘soul’) to the extent to which we are able to feel our own body as a whole. Note: by ‘body’ is not meant something ‘containing’ that soul but rather as a porous and breathing field boundary between the fields of awareness within and around our own felt bodily surface as a whole.
2. We can only understand the self of another as a whole – their ‘soul’ – by attending to and feeling their body as a whole with our own.
3. Feelings are something we ‘have’. Feeling is something we do – our most basic way of knowing ourselves and others.
4. The aim of therapy is not to learn about feelings but to learn to feel – to fully feel ourselves and feel others with our bodies.
5. We feel with our bodies, not with our mind, brain or intellect.
6. There is nothing we need do with feelings except to feel them in a bodily way and find ways to communicate them in a bodily way.
7. All feelings, without exception, have good reasons. Only by feeling our feelings (and not simply expressing or repressing them) can we come to understand and communicate why we feel the way we do.
8. Reacting emotionally, ‘abreacting’ or ‘letting out’ emotional feelings, or acting them out through our verbal or bodily behaviour, are all defences against feeling those feelings in a bodily way.
9. No amount of intellectual insight into one’s own or other people’s feelings can substitute for feeling those feelings – for feeling oneself and others with one’s body. Indeed ‘insight’ into feelings can serve as a defence against feeling.
10. Feeling the feelings triggered in us by other people is not the same thing as feeling their feelings. Reacting from the feelings triggered in us by other people is not the same things as responding to their feelings.
11. Without the capacity to feel one’s own feelings in a bodily way we cannot feel the feelings of others in a bodily way.
12. Without the capacity to feel our own feelings in a bodily way we cannot communicate those feelings with our bodies.
13. Without the capacity to feel our own feelings in a bodily way we cannot feel and take in the feelings that others communicate through their bodies.
14. The basis of all communication is not self-expression but receptivity to the other. To communicate fully means to fully receive and be fully received by another.
15. We cannot ‘get through’ to another without first of all receiving them fully. Only through an unconditional receptivity to others do others become receptive to us.
16. We cannot change another person’s behaviour by communication unless we first receive what the other is trying to communicate through that behaviour.
17. Feelings give expression to our bodily sense of self. If felt and followed with our bodies, feelings transform our own bodily sense of self.
18. What and how we feel transforms our felt bodily sense of who we are.
19. True therapeutic change is not simply a change in what or how we feel but in who we feel ourselves to be, a transformation of our bodily sense of self.
20. Transformations in our bodily sense of self alter our bodily sense of others and allow us to relate to them in new ways.
The practical principles of The New Therapy are embodied in its principle practices. These are meditational practices aimed at cultivating the therapist’s capacity for silent, whole-body receptivity and resonance in the therapeutic relationship. These serve not only as methods of therapy training but as practices which their clients themselves can employ to cultivate their own whole-body awareness and receptivity to others. It is a basic ethical principle of The New Therapy that its practitioners should not treat its practical principles and principle practices as their private professional property, but share them with their clients as therapeutic life principles and practices. The meditational practices take the form of what I term The New Yoga - not a traditional yoga of the physical body but a yoga of the field-body and of field-awareness. Its foundation is a set of exercises which cultivate awareness of the spatial dimension of the therapist’s own inwardly felt body and that of their clients. Whether employed in therapy training, supervision or practice the purpose of the exercises to give the individual trainee, therapist or client a direct bodily experience of their own psychical awareness.
1. as a singular inner field of spatial awareness uniting their inner ‘head space’ with the sensed inner space of their chest and abdomen.
2. as a singular outer field of spatial awareness that extends beyond the boundaries of their physical body to embrace the entire space around them - and every other body in it.
3. as a spatial field-boundary of awareness through which they can literally breathe in and absorb their awareness of the whole bodily outwardness of another human being – and in this way begin to feel the inwardly felt body of the other with and within their own felt body.
It is of the utmost importance therefore that trainees in The New Therapy understand from the start that therapeutic listening is about fully feeling and taking in a client as ‘some-body’ - not just a talking head – and that this can only be achieved through a field awareness of one’s own body as a whole and that of the client.
A fundamental way of distinguishing different forms of psychotherapy is to consider the types of questions therapists ask themselves in response to the questions presented by their clients. In The New Therapy the most important questions the therapist asks themselves are not questions that demand answers but questions that develop awareness. These are questions intimately connected with the central aim of The New Therapy – the aim of sensing, restoring and transforming the client’s bodily sense of self and connectedness to others through interaction in the bi-personal field. What follows is a brief formulation of the types of question that constitute not only a basic starting point of The New Therapy but are its enduring foundation. The questions are presented below in three distinct ways – firstly as questions that both therapist and client need to put to themselves , secondly as questions that the therapist may put directly to a client, and, thirdly, as questions that the therapist can ask themselves about a client. By their very nature however, none of the questions are questions of the sort that can be answered intellectually or even ‘intuitively’. Although they are presented as verbal questions they can only be answered through wordless, feeling awareness. Their value lies in helping to both cultivate and give tangible form to our bodily, feeling awareness of self and other.
1. Types of questions a therapist can put to themselves and to the client
How much of your body are you aware of right now?
Which regions of your body are you generally most aware of?
Which regions of your body are you generally unaware of?
Where in your body do you feel yourself most strongly?
How much space do you feel you take up in this room?
How much bigger or smaller do you feel than your physical size?
How much overall ‘space’ do you feel you have inside yourself?
Where in your body do you feel the space(s) of your own consciousness?
How many separate self-contained spaces are you aware of?
How big or small, full or empty do you feel those spaces?
How aware are you of your felt bodily surface as a whole?
How open do you feel to sensing the entire space of awareness around it?
How aware are you of the singular space around and between all bodies in this room?
How aware are you of the space between and around your thoughts and emotions?
2. Types of questions a therapist can ask themselves about a client
How present and ‘there’ do you feel the client is in a bodily way?
How aware do you sense the client is of their own body as a whole?
Which regions of their body do you feel the client is most aware of?
Which regions of their body do you feel the client is unaware of?
Where do you feel the client’s sense of self is localised or centred in their body?
How present do you feel the client is in a bodily way?
How aware do you feel the client is of the space around their body?
How aware do you feel the client is of their sensory environment?
How far do you feel the client’s awareness extending into that space?
How big or small does the client feel in relation to their physical size?
How much space do you sense they feel within themselves?
How aware do you sense the client is of their body surface?
How receptive do you feel the client’s surface boundary of awareness is?
How aware do you feel the client is of the spaces of awareness in and from which their own thoughts and emotions arise?
Answering Type 2 questions can be helped with questions of the following sort:
When working with a client, how difficult or easy is it to sustain awareness of your body as a whole?
When working with a client, what parts of your body do you feel most strongly or tend to lose awareness of?
When working with this client, where do you feel your own awareness drawn or concentrated - in the space in or around your own body?
When working with a client how do you feel the space between you and the client in a bodily way – as full or empty, separating or connecting?
When working with a client, how attentive to and aware of your body and how receptive to your own silent bodily communication do you feel the client is?
The New Therapy offers a relational model of psychopathology and psychotherapy in line with recent trends in ‘Relational Psychoanalysis’. The ‘primary relation’ addressed however, is not the Oedipal relation but the individual’s relation to their own inwardly felt body and bodily sense of self. Different psychological symptoms are seen neither as ‘mental’ illnesses, ‘mood disorders’ or expressions of physical brain dysfunctions or deficits. Instead they are recognised as distortions in the individual’s relation to their own felt body and as deficits in their capacity to feel themselves and others in a bodily way. In contrast to existing ‘cognitive’ therapies, feeling is affirmed as an independent mode of cognition more fundamental than mental cognition. In many current forms of mental health treatment the meaning of a client’s pathology is sought in a hypothetical ‘cause’ or represented in the concepts, categories and constructs of a specific cognitive, energetic or psychodynamic model. The New Therapy switches the whole focus of psychotherapy from the client’s cognitive or emotional experience of dis-ease to their immediate sensual and bodily experience of different mental-emotional states, inter-personal relationships or social situations. In this way it follows Eugene Gendlin in acknowledging that meaning or sense is something that can be directly felt in a wordless, bodily way, and that “bodily sensing” or “felt sense” (Gendlin) provides a deeper foundation for therapy than any pre-established ‘body’ of theoretical concepts or diagnostic categories. The New Therapy also complements and deepens Gendlin’s psychology of “felt sense” by (a) understanding it as a form of field-sensitivity or awareness in contrast to focal awareness, and (b) by showing the relation between “felt sense” on the one hand and the felt body and felt self of the individual on the other - these being understood as a field-body and field-self quite distinct from the physical body and focus personality.
The central hypothesis of The New Therapy is that all forms of physical or psychological therapy are effective only to the degree to which they heal or ‘make whole’ the individual’s felt bodily sense of self and deepen the individual’s felt bodily sense of connectedness to others. Unfortunately, both medical or psychiatric treatments on the one hand and counselling or psychotherapy on the other can also have the very opposite effect. Psychiatric or medical drug treatment may numb rather than deepen the client’s bodily sense of self and of inner connectedness to others. Counselling and psychotherapy, cognitive therapies and emotional empathy can all become a substitute for deep somatic receptivity and resonance – for ‘soma-sensitivity’.
In The New Therapy the term ‘somatic’ does not refer to the physical body, but to the client’s own subjectively felt body - their felt bodily sense of dis-ease, their felt bodily sense of self and their felt bodily sense of connectedness to others. Phenomenologically understood, ‘dis-ease’ in any form, psychical or somatic, arises from a sense of ‘not feeling ourselves’. Only through feeling our body as a whole, can we once again ‘feel ourselves’ – feel our self as a whole and therefore feel ‘whole’. Our own whole-body awareness can also turn our body as a whole into a sense organ of the soul, allowing us to directly sense the ways in which a patient or client lacks a full bodily sense of self and connectedness to others that is the basis of all dis-ease.
The body as a whole (soma) is a sensory image of the soul (psyche). The client or patient presents themselves first and foremost not simply as a ‘person’ but as some-body. To truly receive and respond to the ‘whole person’ is impossible without soma-sensitivity - sensitivity to the whole body of the client. Generally however, health professionals pay very little attention to awareness of their own body and that of the client. When individuals turn to health professionals for help, they are not just seeking medical diagnosis and treatment and/or emotional empathy, insight and support. They are looking for someone capable of fully sensing and receiving them as ‘some-body’ - not just a ‘talking head’ or therapeutic ‘case’. By this I mean someone sensitive enough to resonate with those felt bodily dimension of the client’s suffering that are so difficult to articulate verbally. The body as a whole is also a sense organ of the soul. Not finding professionals with sufficient whole-body awareness to sense and ‘resonate’ with their own unformulated, bodily sense of dis-ease, the client may feel no choice but to continue to communicate this dis-ease or pathos through some form of diagnosable ‘pathology’ – mental, physical or social.
Much use is made today of the term ‘body language’ - without ever questioning the deeper nature of either bodyhood or language. People’s relation to the ‘body language’ of others can be as superficial or deep, illiterate or literalistic, as their relation to verbal language. The real danger lies in superficial translations of body language into verbal language. If we look at someone and ‘see’ from their posture or the look on their face that they are ‘angry’, we are in effect reducing their body language to our own verbal language – to an emotion that can be described and labelled in words. This type of ‘seeing’ is just what prevents people from feeling what another person is saying through their body language.
We can look at a page of writing and see only unintelligible signs on a page, listen to a person speaking and hear only unintelligible sounds. This is an outer perception of the outwardness of language. Alternatively we can see or hear ‘words’ with conventionalised literal senses – an outer perception of the inwardness of language. But we can also read and hear what the writer or speaker is saying to us through those words – or through their body language. What communicates through the word is nothing that can be neatly labelled or interpreted ‘in’ words, but something essentially wordless – something we feel. It is with our bodies that we feel meaning directly – both the inner meaning of a person’s words and that of their ‘body language’. It is those felt meanings that communicate ‘through’ the word (dia-logos) that constitute the true depth of all ‘dialogue’. What communicates through a person’s physical body language too, is nothing that we need translate into psychological language – it is something we feel with our own bodies in an immediate sensual way. The question is – with which body?
What body is it with which we feel ‘warmer’ or ‘cooler’, ‘closer’ or more ‘distant’ to someone – independently of our physical temperature and physical distance from them? What body are we referring to when we speak of being ‘touched’ by someone without any physical contact, of moving ‘closer’ to them or ‘distancing’ ourselves from them, of feeling ‘uplifted’ or ‘carried away’? What body and what organs are we referring to when we speak of someone being ‘warm-hearted’ or ‘heartless’, ‘thick-skinned’ or ‘thin-skinned’, ‘stable’ or ‘unstable’, ‘balanced’ or ‘imbalanced’, ‘solid’ or ‘mercurial’, ‘stable’ or ‘volatile’? Are we simply using organic or bodily ‘metaphors’ to describe disembodied mental or emotional states? Or are we describing felt states of the individual’s psychical organism or inner body – states that offer us an entirely new understanding of organic disease and the somatic psyche. The New Psychology and The New Therapy are forms of ‘soma-psychology’ and ‘somatic psychotherapy’. In contrast to all other forms of bodywork or body-oriented psychotherapy however, it distinguishes the individual’s physical body from their own subjectively sensed body or felt body. It recognises the inwardly sensed body as an independent ‘inner body’ in its own right – not as an objective ‘energy body’ but as a subjective ‘awareness body’. Just as our physical body constantly reconstitutes itself from nourishment provided by food and the essential nutrients it contains, so is our inner body - our bodily sense of self – in constant need of reconstitution through the nourishment of our lived experience, and the nutrients of meaning that are extracted from it. Human beings do not live by bread alone. There is a deep inner relationship between basic physical bodily function or dysfunctions - respiration, circulation, and metabolism – and the psychical functions or dysfunctions of the inner body - that body with which we breathe in, digest and metabolise our immediate subjective awareness of ourselves, the world and other people.
In recognising he subjectively felt or sensed body as an independent ‘inner body’ in its own right, The New Therapy be regarded as a form of ‘inner bodywork’ or ‘inner-body therapy’ in the most literal sense – the use of the therapist’s own inwardly felt body to sense, resonate with and transform a client’s own inwardly felt body and self. In contrast to most forms of bodywork therapy, the ‘inner body’ is not seen as some form of objective and pseudo-physical ‘energy body’ but as a subjective body or ‘body of awareness’. This in turn is made up not of ‘subtle’ qualities, patterns and currents of ‘energy’, but rather of sensual qualities, patterns and currents of feeling awareness as such. Phenomenologically understood, the ‘inner body’ is all of the following:
· our inwardly felt body
· our body of pre-reflective feeling awareness.
· our feeling body – the body with which we feel ourselves, feel others and feel the world around us.
· our field body - the felt bodily shape taken by the larger field or feeld of our feeling awareness.
· our bodily field-boundary of awareness and identity, dividing what we feel as ‘self’ from that which we feel as ‘not-self’.
· our foreknowing body – the body with which which we ‘know’ what we wish to say or do before saying or doing it.
· our pre-physical body – the body with which we pre-enact possible actions and words before physically enacting them.
· a trans-physical body unbounded by flesh - enabling us to embrace the world in the larger feeld of our feeling awareness.
· a phonic body - made up inner tones of feelings that are phonically shaped in the same way as vocal tones.
· a formative body – the body with which we give physical form to inner feeling tones - embodying them as cell and organ tone, muscle and voice tone.
· a morphic body – made up of “morphic fields” (Rupert Sheldrake). These are not energy fields but field-patterns of awareness, each of which configures its own perceptual world or patterned field of awareness.
· a shape-shifting or metamorphic body, capable of shifting shape and tone in resonance with the bodies of others.
· a metaphoric body – the body referred to by such apparently metaphorical phrases as ‘thick-skinned’ or ‘thin-skinned’, ‘warm-hearted’ or ‘cold-blooded’, ‘bright’ or ‘dull’, ‘close’ or ‘distant’ etc.
Such phrases are not merely verbal metaphors of psychical states and relationships but describe actual characteristics of our inner psychical body - the psyche-soma (Winnicott) or ‘somatic psyche’. The physical body is no mere source of linguistic metaphors – it is a living biological language of our inwardly felt body. Similarly, somatic symptoms are living biological metaphors of inner body states. The inner body is a ‘metaphoric body’ because it is the body with which we ‘bear across’ (metaphorein) and metaphorically embody these states.
In what relation do today’s psychotherapists and ‘mental health’ professionals in general stand to the medical model of illness, and in particular to the medical treatment of somatic symptoms? The question is a politically charged one because the professional boundary between somatic medicine and psychotherapy is one closely guarded by the medical establishment. At the same time many mental health professionals still defer to medical authority and the medical model, at least when it comes to ‘somatic’ or ‘organic’ illness.
This is something of a paradox given that:
1. the majority of patients present to their local physicians with problems seen as ‘psychosomatic’ by the medical profession itself.
2. most physicians completely lack the professional training and skills to sense and resonate with the psychological dimensions of somatic disease (eg. the ‘loss of heart’ that may be experienced and expressed through physical heart symptoms).
Psychotherapists and counsellors tend not to be sought out by patients who see their symptoms as purely somatic, and their ‘illness’ as something purely physical. As soma-psychology, The New Psychology recognises not only a hidden psychological dimension to somatic symptoms and physical illness but a hidden somatic dimension to so-called psychological symptoms and ‘mental’ illness. Many people recognise that the division between psychotherapy and somatic medicine, mental and physical health, is an artificial one, maintained only by their institutionalised separation. Until now however, there has existed no framework of thought that truly transcends the artificial separation of ‘mind’ and ‘body’, psyche and soma – not only in theory but in therapeutic practice. The Psychology and The New Therapy provide such a framework, acknowledging as they do that the ‘soul’ or ‘psyche’ has its own independent bodily dimension and exists as an independent inner body in its own right – the somatic psyche or psyche-soma. As a new form of soma-psychology it provides the key to a fundamentally new understanding of so-called ‘psychosomatic’ or ‘somatiform’ disorders. As a practice of whole-body sensing or soma-sensitivity it offers the key to a fundamentally new approach to both ‘psychosomatic’ therapy and ‘somatic psychotherapy’, both psychotherapy and somatic medicine as such.
It belongs to the very essence of The New Therapy therefore, that it is not simply a new form of ‘psychotherapy’ but a new understanding of therapy as such – one that transcends the division between psychotherapy and somatic medicine, and is no less applicable to the understanding and treatment of ‘somatic’ symptoms and ‘physical’ health problems than it is to the treatment of so-called ‘psychological’ symptoms and ‘mental’ health problems. In contrast to so-called ‘psychosomatic’ medicine, The New Therapy questions the very use of the term ‘psychosomatic’, implying as it does that psyche and soma are two separate entities whose exact relationship then needs to be explored. Instead it is based on the understanding that psyche has its own intrinsic somatic shape and its own intrinsic somatic functions – the perceptual patterning, respiration, digestion and metabolism of the individuals awareness of themselves, the world and other people. Somatic illness is not ‘psychosomatic’ in the accepted sense – a somatic ‘effect’ or ‘expression’ of some disembodied psychical dis-ease. Instead it is the embodiment of disturbed functions of our psychical organism as such – the soma-psyche – the ‘inner body’ through which we exercise our capacity to breathe in, digest and metabolise all we experience in our inner and outer field of awareness. The New Psychology and The New Therapy are therefore also the foundation for a fundamentally new approach to medicine - The New Medicine. Dis-ease of any form with a subjective sense of ‘not feeling ourselves’ i.e. not feeling our self as a whole and therefore not feeling healthy or whole. Hence the basic healing principle of The New Therapy - the more we feel our body as a whole, the more we feel our self as a whole – our psyche or soul - and the more we will therefore once again ‘feel ourselves’ in a way that is healthy and whole.
The central practice of both The New Therapy and The New Medicine are dependent on the practitioner’s own soma-sensitivity and their capacity for somatic resonance. This is the capacity to identify with another person’s mental-emotional states and ‘feelings’ in a bodily way, as felt tones and sensual soul qualities (‘qualia’) of their inner bodily self-awareness. Again it must be emphasised that when we speak of someone feeling ‘fragmented’, ‘frozen’ in panic, ‘hollow’ or ‘empty’ inside, walled in ‘up to the neck’, ‘volatile’ or about to ‘burst’ etc. these are not simply emotional metaphors but literal expressions of felt inner body states. These felt states are also field states of awareness which can be sensed as states of our own inner bodies through somatic field resonance. When we see someone hunched up or laid back, smiling or frowning, laughing or crying, then their posture or facial and voice expression not only gives outer form to an inner tone of feeling, it also induces a similar feeling tone in us through somatic field resonance. Somatic field resonance is a resonance of outward form (morphe) and inner feeling tone. In this sense it is the essence of what biologist Rupert Sheldrake has called ‘morphic resonance’. The whole art of the soma-psychologist lies in their ability to use their outward sensitivity to the body of the patient to resonate with their inner body – with the felt tone and texture, shape and substantiality, lightness and darkness, density or diffuseness, spaciousness or narrowness of another person’s own inwardly sensed body. Inner body states may be conveyed not only by the body language of the other but by the inner resonances of their verbal language. In particular, it is of great importance for the soma-psychologist to listen for significant somatic metaphors used by a patient, and to then sense and resonate with the inner body states that may constitute the literal inner sense of these metaphors.
At the heart of both The New Therapy and The New Medicine is an understanding of the therapeutic process as a resonant healing cycle leading from soma-sensitivity to both the words and body language of the patient to somatic field resonance with their inner body. Somatic field resonance in turn is what facilitates a transformative response on the part of the practitioner.
The resonant healing cycle:
1. Soma-sensitivity (whole-body sensing)
2. Somatic resonance (whole-body identification)
3. Somatic response (whole-body communication)
The practitioner for example, may find themselves outwardly sensing a quality of ‘frozen immobility’ in the felt body of the patient. Only by actively identifying or resonating with this sense of ‘frozen immobility’ (feeling it in their own inner body) can the therapist begin to respond to it in a healing way – for example by gradually transforming their own inner body state from one of ‘frozen immobility’ to one of ‘warm fluidity’ or ‘fluid warmth’. The key word is ‘gradual’. For it is only through establishing and staying in resonance with the patient’s initial state that the practitioner can (a) use their own inner body to exert a resonant healing effect on the client’s dis-ease (b) sense the degree to which their own transformative response is exerting such an effect. If it is not having sufficient effect then the resonant healing cycle must be either renewed or intensified at one or the other stage, for example by renewing somatic resonance with the patient’s felt dis-ease, or gaining a more accurate somatic sense of it. Central to this art of healing resonation is the practitioner’s awareness of the bi-personal or ‘dyadic’ field between practitioner and patient. If the practitioner is successful in resonating with the patient’s felt dis-ease this resonance will be experienced by both patient and practitioner as a shift in the felt quality of this field. For the therapist’s resonance with a particular quality of the client’s felt body and felt dis-ease will both automatically amplify the patient’s own awareness of it and intensify the field-resonance between therapist and client in a way that is tangibly felt by both.
In order to properly understand the practices and experiences of inner-bodily sensing, resonance and response that lies at the heart of The New Therapy it is of fundamental importance to recognise that our innermost feeling awareness of self and other is something that communicates directly and wordlessly to others through the language that is the body, requiring neither talk nor touch, words or physical contact, to do so. In this way, The New Therapy embodies the most primordial understanding of 'psychology' possible – not as one or other form of scientific or therapeutic discourse ‘about’ the psyche, but rather as the silently embodied speech or 'logos' of the psyche – its word 'become flesh'. As 'Inner Bodywork' it is based on the principle that the human body as a whole is both an inner sense organ of the soul and its outer sensory image - thus serving as the potential medium for a profoundly rich, highly differentiated, and intrinsically healing form of silent soul-to-soul communication. The function of both conceptual theory and verbal communication in The New Therapy is not to replace the silent inner speech or logos of the soul or psyche itself - but rather to reflect and deepen our felt bodily awareness of it.
Key Questions for all Therapists:
1. How can we pass from an outer perception of the outer human being to an inner perception of the outer human being? For example, instead of outwardly seeing an look on someone’s face or in their eyes, being able to inwardly identify with that look - to feel it from within with our own face and eyes.
2. How can we pass from an outer perception of the inner human being to an inner perception of the inner human being. For example, how can we pass from simply seeing from some outward signs that someone is ‘sad’ to inwardly feeling their sadness in all its particularity – the unique and nameless inner quality of their sadness. Indeed how can we pass from outwardly seeing to inwardly feeling any state of being another person may be in – even without having words to describe or label what we see or feel?
The answer to both questions lies with the inner body – our felt and feeling body. For it is with our inner body that we can transform outer perceptions of others into inner proprioceptions of ourselves – proprioceptions of ourselves that are in bodily resonance with the way another person is proprioceiving themselves, the way they are feeling their own states of being as inner-bodily states.
The Key Question and its Answer
In contrast to the idea of therapy as either a ‘talking cure’ on the one hand, or a form of bodywork, touch therapy or medical treatment on the other, The New Therapy can best be understood through a single question – a question which applies not only to psychotherapists and counsellors but to ‘bodyworkers’, medical practitioners, and health professionals of all sorts.
The question is:
What would or could a therapist do if they were bound by two basic rules – that they could neither speak to nor touch their clients? In what way could a therapist interact with and relate in a deeply therapeutic way to a client or patient – and with deeply therapeutic benefits - without either talk or touch, without either words or physical contact or treatment?
This is ‘The New Question’ that lies at the heart of ‘The New Therapy’. The suggestion is not that therapists should give therapy entirely without words or physical contact – only that without exploring this question we fail to ground ‘therapeutic’ communication in the hidden ‘telepathic’ foundations of all human communication. This ‘telepathic’ communication has nothing to with mental ‘thought transmission’ but rather with the simple and automatic way in which each individual’s bodily feeling awareness of themselves and others communicates directly to others - and does so without Talk or Touch.
The answer to The New Question provided by The New Therapy – understood as inner bodywork - lies not simply in increased attention to so-called ‘non-verbal’ modes of communication or outer body language. It lies instead in our innate capacity to directly sense the inwardness of another person’s body – to feel their soul into our body and our soul in theirs. The answer to The New Question provided by The New Therapy is Transformative Resonation. For if we have sufficient bodily self-awareness to resonate with the qualities belonging to another person’s bodily sense of self we can also impart new qualities to it and thus transform that sense of self – transform their ‘body identity’.
This in turn is the whole aim and meaning of therapeutic change in The New Therapy - which is not simply that a client or patient can say “I feel different”, but that in a most tangible, bodily way they feel a different “I”.
‘The New Thinking’ of The New Therapy is one that transcends all previous notions of reality as a universe of pre-given things or objects, beings or bodies i.e. ‘entities’ of any sort with a fixed ‘identity’. Instead it recognises the field character not only of awareness or subjectivity but of identity as such. At the heart of The New Therapy therefore, is the understanding that ultimately “There are no boundaries to the Self” (Seth), just as there are no boundaries to subjectivity as a field of awareness. For every experience of ourselves within this field is always and at the same time an experience of something or someone other-than-self, and vice versa. Just as ‘I’ cannot experience myself tasting an apple without experiencing the apple as apple (i.e. experiencing something other-than self), nor can I experience the apple without it altering my experience of the self or ‘I’ that is tasting it. ‘Tasting’ as such - like all experiencing - is an activity that alters both self and other, knower and known.
Key Questions for The New Therapist:
1. Is this person feeling their body right now?
2. How is this person feeling ‘in’ their body right now?
3. How much is this person feeling their body right now.
4. How much of their body is this person feeling right now?
5. How and where does this person feel the boundaries of their body?
6. How does this person feel themselves in a bodily way – what is their bodily sense of self?
Key Abilities of The New Therapist:
1. To feel the body of the other as a sensory image of their soul.
2. To feel our own body as a whole as a sense organ of our soul.
3. To use whole-body awareness to directly sense the souls of others.
4. To sense and resonate in a bodily way with those sensual qualities of feeling awareness or ‘qualia’ that both colour our bodily sense of self and make up our embodied soul or soma-psyche – our ‘felt’ or ‘inner’ body and that of others.
Knowledge based on visual perception is one example of knowledge based on localised bodily senses. Traditional phenomenology remained stuck with a concept of a localised centre or subject of awareness comparable to the focal point of the retina – thus retaining a model of knowledge based on visual perception and seeing rather than on feeling and breathing – both of which are whole-body activities not reducible to the functioning of specific bodily organs. The New Phenomenology on the other hand, understands proprioceptive feeling awareness (field awareness) rather than visual perception (focal awareness) as our most basic medium of knowledge or cognition. The New Therapy is not simply psychological ‘in-sight’ therapy based on the traditional visual model of knowledge and perception but ‘in-spirational’ therapy based on The New Yoga – for it is based on the capacity to ‘breathe in’ our proprioceptive feeling awareness of other people. The New Yoga is an integral part of The New Therapy because it is the means by which proprioceptive feeling awareness or ‘field awareness’ is cultivated. The New Yoga offers a sequenced and graded progression of meditational practices which begin with the cultivation of field-awareness and culminate in a capacity for identification with the inwardly felt body and self of the other. The sequence can be summarised as follows:
exercises which enhance and expand our bodily sense of the spaces of awareness between and around thoughts and emotions.
exercises which sensitise us to field-states and field-qualities of awareness.
exercises which enlarge the field-spatiality of one’s inner bodily awareness.
exercises which expand the field-spatiality of one’s outer sensory awareness
exercises which restore whole-body awareness through ‘grounding’ in lower body awareness and ‘centering’ of awareness and breathing in the abdomen.
exercises in altering not only one’s focus of awareness but its locus – moving it between different centres of awareness in the spaces of one’s felt body.
exercises in feeling one’s entire body surface as an open and porous field-boundary of awareness through which one can breathe in and absorb one’s awareness of the body of the other.
exercises in feeling the unique sensual field-qualities of another person’s awareness within the inner spaces of one’s own felt body e.g. feeling the sensual field-qualities of their inner ‘head space’, ‘chest space’ or abdominal space with and within one’s own head, chest and abdomen.
exercises that cultivate ‘embodied presence’ and enable one to make fully embodied contact with others through whole-body awareness.
exercises that cultivate the ability to actively embody, emanate and directly communicate or ‘transfer’ different field-qualities of awareness to another.
exercises in altering the field-qualities of one’s own awareness and thereby transforming one’s own bodily sense of self.
exercises in ‘soma-sensitivity’ and ‘transformative resonance’ - transforming another person’s bodily sense of self through amplificatory resonance with the soul qualities of their awareness and direct impartation of new or transformed qualities through the bi-personal field.
Aron and Anderson (ed.) Relational Perspectives on the Body Analytic Press 1998
Gendlin, Eugene Focusing Bantam 1979
Gendlin, Eugene Focusing-oriented Psychotherapy Guilford Press 1996
Mindell, Arnold Working with the Dreaming Body Routledge 1985
Sheldrake, Rupert Morphic Resonance - A New Science of Life Park Street Press 1981
Wilberg, Peter Heidegger, Medicine and ‘Scientific Method – The Unheeded Message of the Zollikon Seminars New Gnosis Publications 2004
Wilberg, Peter From Psycho-somatics to Soma-semiotics – Bodily Sensing and the Sensed Body in Medicine and Psychotherapy New Gnosis Publications 2004
Wilberg, Peter The Qualia Revolution – From Quantum Physics to Cosmic Qualia Science New Gnosis Publications 2004
Wilberg, Peter The Therapist as Listener – Heidegger and the Missing Dimension of Counselling and Psychotherapy Training
Winnicott, Donald The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment Hogarth 1965
Books and Articles by Peter Wilberg