Mankind in the modern era has always struggled with our own body. Modern consciousness has had a dominant myth that we must control the body at all costs. The ego processes of the mind, aided by religion, have become opposed through fear of the animalistic nature of the human body, its impulses and desires.
The unconscious mental part of man has become identified with the body not just as a truth, but also as a grouped fear of our uncontrollable aspects of humanity, and both have been seen as repositories of dark forces and what must be hidden and disowned.
Both religion and the scientific age of man have attacked these parts of ourself as “that which is not to be spoken or named”, a bit like Voldermort in Harry Potter. The main religions as well as the atheist religion of science, have both agreed that the valued aspect of our human condition lies in the higher realms of spirit, mind, and rational thought.
Science and religion then fall out between themselves over the existence of spirit in man, and so we are left regardless with a culture and set of sciences and religions that promote the myth of the body/mind split. As with most myths the average person takes on such realities without reflection and investigation and so we find a modern evolution occurring in Western society where the body, and our unconscious natures, are treated in degrading ways, or denied and minimised.
We now live in a society where the rational left front brain logic and its attachment to the individual ego dominates people’s reality. Many people have as a result developed an unhealthy relationship to their body. This can manifest in one of two main ways with each being an extreme form of disconnection to one’s own relationship to the body.
The first form of disconnection from the body is the neglect or abuse of the body via poor diet, lack of exercise, addictions, lack of grooming and cleanliness, and defacing the body via excessive piercings, tattooing and cosmetic surgery. Many people live their lives in their heads and basically ignore their bodies and just clothe their bodies against scrutiny and the external elements. They have no relationship with their bodies, and find no pleasure with or in their bodies.
Such people often attempt to numb out or medicate their bodily impulses via addictions such as drugs, alcohol, food and internet based distractions such as gaming, social media, and videos. Some people actually hate and attack their bodies via self harm, and other unconscious forms of mutilation which include piercings, tattoos, and allowing others to abuse and debase their bodies.
Some sexualise and sell their bodies for money such as in the pornography and sex for money industries. Shame is a dominant theme of such people who identify with the self hatred and low self esteem that runs them.
At the other end of the scale the rejection of the body and the self is shown through perfectionism and its related forms of narcissism. Such people reject their own humanity and instead create a false self both in the mind and the body. In this context the body is not acknowledged but instead used to support and create a false and idealised image outward to the world. The body in its humanity is rejected and instead punished by extreme compulsive exercise, and mutilated by cosmetic surgery.
Such a body is normally camouflaged by dressing in glamour and power dresses and garments, augmented by perfect makeup, and time spent in salons whose business is to “perfect” your appearance. The body becomes just another object to be used to create a grandiose and perfect illusion that implies power, success and some stereotyped version of beauty.
Such people have pride as a dominant theme as pride allows them to override the deeper and repressed felt sense of shame, self hatred and low self esteem that runs the first group of bodily disconnected people. In this way they are still part of the first group but instead of collapsing into the shame, they instead rise above the shame and become more-than-human. The first group identifies with being less-than-human which relates to their feelings of shame.
The narcissists cannot bear to feel their shame and so cut-off all feelings so as not to feel the shame. You cannot cut-off just one type of feeling. When you shutdown to any one type of feeling you actually shutdown to all your feelings. Narcissists are people without feelings.
The perfectionists do feel their shame and have a lot of inner feelings. Their strategy is to cover them up with a false self of perfectionism that projects confidence, assuredness and achievement to the outside world. Their inner world is full of anxiety, torment and self doubt coupled with the base level of shame.
In all these ways both types of the bodily disconnecting people are also disconnected from the wider “body of humanity”. This is a spiritual dilemma as when you reject your humanity and fail to love yourself you are doomed to become alone and out of step with the interconnectedness of the universe. Disconnection in the “herd instinct” in the human brain promotes unease mentally or at the bodily level dis-ease which becomes medical disease.
All therapy paths and all spiritual paths that are healthy are about healing the less-than-human and the more-than-human extremes or polarities of human existence, and finding grace and holiness in our essential humble place of our humanity.
There are many transformation gurus, self proclaimed healers, “churches”, gurus, and groups who seek out those who are both “less than human” and those who are “more than human”, and exploit them towards the “more than human” extreme form of being and spirituality. In this age of Narcissism these “false prophets” are everywhere and have gained traction with their deceptive messages and often New Age pseudo-science dogmas, and blended spiritualities.
Likewise there are religions, individuals, groups and “churches” which shame their audiences into believing they are not OK in their humanity, and that only by giving one’s power to that person, group, or church will the person be saved. This is just as exploitative and deceptive as the grandiose narcissist.
The great spiritual teachers of East and West taught an essential truth of basically a Middle Path or finding one’s God connection within one’s own body which then is a temple of worship and humble grace. In this way the great spiritual teachers emphasised that the true church or body of God is not bricks and mortar but the indwelling spirit or the body of the person who carries that connection to one’s God.
Our healing path in the West is to find our way back to an authentic relationship with our bodies that has a spiritual realisation that sacredness of the body is an essential truth in all parts of our being. The body and mind are one and can only notionally be separated. Holiness is about being whole and not divided or split, or about rejecting any part of ourself as being wrong, bad or shameful.
It was announced over the weekend in the media that Melbourne and Perth would be hosting kiddie beauty pageants involving pre-school and above children. In this pageant competition the little girls are groomed, dressed and “dolled up” in adult themes that betray their innocence as children. There is judging and prizes. Unfortunately this trend is but one further manifestation of the increasing sexualisation and earlier loss of childhood in our children.
It is an accepted psychological truth that a person’s early years, if they are good, sustain a person throughout their life, just as a bad childhood damages them. Nothing is more vulnerable than childhood and childhood has never been more under threat. The trend in our society is that the experiences which nourish and help shape children into their adult lives are now being compressed into an ever dwindling window of time, and where childhood is being devalued so much that many parents seem increasingly restless to get their children’s childhood over as quickly as possible.
Psychiatrists define sexualisation of children as the imposition of adult models of sexuality on children and adolescents, and categorically state it creates psychological harm to children. They note the implied or explicit linking of self-worth with popularity in terms of sexual attractiveness, with a negative impact on self-esteem.
Parents, mass media marketing, peer pressure, single parent and double income family systems, are all propelling our children into premature adolescence as if innocence, magical thinking, wonder and make-believe are detrimental and should be replaced with “the realites of life” as soon as is possible.
Studies of children have confirmed that many children feel pressure to grow up too quickly and to dress, act and behave as “mini-adults”, often to impress parents, or have parents impress friends by parading them out like Barbie dolls or spunky, cool little dudes.
The planned children’s beauty pageant can be interpreted as part of an emerging narcissistic, dysfunctional form of raising children that is damaging and abusive to the children who undergo such experiences. A child is not able to comprehend the damage to itself that such involvement will create, and will be a willing participant from a place of wanting to please the parents, and from a place of not being able to have a mature mind that could give consent to what it is being asked to do. A parent placing a child in such a role or situation, is in my opinion abusing the child, and abandoning their responsibilities to parent the child towards a psychologically healthy adulthood.
Social commentators now refer to the emergence of a “raunch culture” which pressures girls to have sex early and against their will. Studies of Generation Y by respected researchers such as La Trobe University Sociologist Anastasia Powell reveal trends of sexualized imagery in media, music and popular culture taking its toll on the young.
Boys and men are encouraged by the same imagery to adopt aggressive roles in sex with women, to degrade and objectify them. A 2008 Australian Latrobe University investigation of 3000 year 10 and year 12 school age students from across 100 public and private schools, found that 38 per cent of female respondents having had unwanted sex, from a total pool of 40 per cent who replied they have had sex at all. Also over 30 per cent had not used a condom, over 30 per cent have had oral sex with more than 3 partners in the last year.
Television and media are now directly shaping children’s reality through children’s and teenage shows, where marketing of products is included along with portrayal of the key characters as mini-adults, who role model for children how they should dress, act, think, behave and speak. Think of such shows as Hannah Montana and the Bratz girl dolls franchise and programmes. The degree of sexualisation of the dolls and the actresses is disturbing yet we face a time when Hollywood, business and Media distributors are largely acting under self regulation which translates to permissive and sexualized themes being a valid option for children’s products to express.
Sexualised products appearing on the market for children include padded bras, G-Strings, high heel shoes, pole-dancing kits, babies T-shirts with sexualized messages. The children are often too young to understand the sexualized nature of the product, and often it is a sexualized or narcissistic parent wanting attention for themselves, who creates a “show pony” effect on their children, and effectively use the children to prop up their own low self esteem or narcissistic ego supplies.
Retailers of such products defy challenge of their “right” to market such products, saying it is just “fun” or not to be taken seriously. They dismiss the notion that such merchandise creates a normalization of a sexualized image in children, yet admit they have no psychological training or evidence to back-up or make such statements.
In effect it is a lack of accountability to the consumer as regulations are geared to more tangible and physical safety and other guidelines, and only public outcry is having a change of heart on behalf of exposed, named and shamed retailers who sell such products. Marketing is always pushing the boundaries and ethics appears to be a missing element of the thinking of many of those who sell and promote products and experiences to the wider public. Shareholders and profits appear to be the main concern of many retailers.
The attack on childhood is never more constant, and pushing the boundaries, or chasing new childhood markets, than ever before. Society is increasingly buying into this trend with a new generation of businesses now springing up to cater for children to go to Day Spas, Limousines and $1000 dresses to the teenage school balls, fashion parades, and adult theme experiences recreated for children as young as 5 years old and older.
Young teen women are presented with such sexualized adult role models as Britney Spears, Lady GaGa, Rihanna, Beyonce and Madonna from which to align their emerging sense of selves. Under peer pressure they are forced to conform to obtain acceptance from boys who also adopt the same sexualized expectations of girls from these same women role models.
At the same time these young women also attract attention from older men who are able to exploit their innocence, intimidate them with their more assured and confident natures, which can drive a young girl into the arms of a predator, and without the girl knowing how, or being able to give any real consent.
Parents are increasingly abandoning their own responsibilities to be effective guides and role models for children, and instead without question, abandoning their children in front of televisions, computer screens and other media where the new role models are questionable, unaccountable, and frighteningly absorbed into the unconscious of any exposed child. We as a society are increasingly abandoning our responsibility to our children about how to be children, we are increasingly asking our children to act like adults, but we then do not later teach them how to live, behave and be adults.
Childhood is the only safe psychological foundation and process for children to experience if they are to become secure and healthy adults. The old saying that the person who grows up too soon spends the rest of their life as a child is full of wisdom. Parents cannot afford to adopt a victim stance and say it is all too hard or not their fault. Parents have the main responsibility in taking an active role in providing a measured and balanced view of the children’s self-worth, self-image, and the creation of healthy self-esteem where they can critically challenge the sexualized messages streaming through society.
Parents need to start from early childhood in this regard, filtering content they expose their children to, and constantly creating appropriate images and messages for their children. In particular, fathers are crucial in shaping their daughters emerging sexuality via their messages and support. A parent who exposes their child to a childhood beauty pageant where the child is dressed in adult and sexualized attire, is judged by peers and adults, and there is a win-lose outcome, is being negligent, and may be using the child to live out their own unmet fantasies or unachieved goals in life.
I can only hope that Australians take a leadership role in challenging this planned series of pageants. We owe our children by rejecting the assault on the innocence of their childhood years via the objectification and sexualisation that such pageants portray.
The recent headlines about the death of Osama Bin Laden has become a rallying point for the debate on right versus wrong, the Light versus the Dark, and who owns the truth. The nature of religion is defined both by the shadow and the light, to articulate behaviours around the person who would choose the path of light, and so by definition proscribing a path that leads everyone else to some form of hell.
You and I do not need to consciously choose either path. Those who with zeal adopt any such religion will soon identify themselves and their followers as being “in the light” and everyone else as condemned and being on a path to hell of some sort. In this place the righteous mind soon forms with a sense of being special and often rigid in their views.
The problem is always with such identification that the person adopts a closed mind and becomes inflexible and not open to new ideas. Their world is viewed only through the lens of the religious and ethical ideas of that belief system and invariably they fall on the side of right, and everyone else is viewed with suspicion of being on the side of wrong, or at least as being ignorant.
Eastern thought has traditionally viewed these twin forces of good and evil as an interdependent yin-yang principle that recognises that both natures flow into each other, and wisely should not be viewed in isolation. Such thought realises that each extreme contains the other in an eternal embrace and it is wrong to isolate and judge either as right or wrong. The great Mythologist Joseph Campbell states “anyone unable to understand a god sees a devil”.
It is from this place that many reasonable people see through the hypocrisy of those who claim to stand only “in the light”. Reasonable people notice that righteous people often invoke shadow based condemnations of disbelievers with rules and justifications such as kill them, persecute them, oppress them, and subjugate them.
The righteous fail to see how they act out their shadows under the guise of a spiritual mask of self-justification and attempts to fight evil. The real evil is invariably bound up in their own natures that they refuse to see, and by disowning any such idea, then project such shadow or evil onto others, and persecute others as the wrong or evil one’s.
Advanced spirituality of all traditions sees the dual nature of man as an inner struggle that we all must face and deal with internally within ourselves. The spiritually young or ignorant make it an outward facing obsession and struggle with everyone else. The wisdom about good and evil is a personal struggle that we must face which the mystical Sufi poet Rumi notes in his writings “If thou hast not seen the devil, look at thine own self”.
Even today we see New Age spirituality hiding behind “the light” and refusing to acknowledge and address the shadow self that we all possess. New Age practitioners try to emulate a spiritual form of the Monopoly game via transcendent practices and wisdoms which give them a “Go straight to Spiritual Go and bypass Jail (The Shadow) and collect Enlightenment ($200 in Monopoly game terms). This is just another form of shadow rejection and avoidance that does not work. We cannot rid ourselves of our duality, but we can embrace and integrate it into a whole inner state, that which denotes the spiritual term “holy”.
When people and society divorce their shadow then we will see such religious conflict and personification of good and evil played out in our leaders. The Osama versus Obama is but one more example of how this principle is playing out in the world.
Mankind arranges itself in many ways around the theme of light and dark, from art, literature, to our laws and social groupings and associations.
One of Buddha’s famous quotations is “The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.” What he was referring to was Grounding, which is the sensation of one’s connection with the ground. Such wisdoms as being “down to earth” or “having your feet on the ground” or “standing on your own two feet” indicate when you are fully in touch with reality through contact and the environment. Grounding helps you get into the present moment, connect with the here and now, moving you out of your mind and more into your body, enabling you to be earth-bound and more human. It allows you to connect deeply with other people, permit more intimacy and accelerate healing.
Grounding creates a flow of energy in the body, feeling fully embodied, so that your feet and legs, hands and eyes have more sensory-motor awareness, energised and relaxed. True grounding not only includes the entire physical body but also the emotional, mental, intentional, energetic and spiritual components of your life. Grounding helps you the support to stabilize and provide emotional containment when feeling stressed, overwhelmed or shocked. The main purpose of Grounding is to deepen the breath and establish a strong connection with the earth, through your body.
There are various grounding methods, some which are active and passive. Streaming can be defined as when the energy system is moving up and down freely, flowing openly vertically and horizontally, similar to the principle of the Double Helix Spiral.
One active method involves breathing and shaking. The breathing out is done through the mouth to avoid hyperventilation and also keeps the person in his body. There are two types of grounding. Primary grounding consists of 7 stages: Holding, Supporting, Nourishing, Containing, Limiting, Sustaining, Protecting, which map the stages of development of the child. Primary grounding is done mostly with the client on his back, which represents the child energy. The next phase executed is called Secondary grounding, and is done in the vertical standing position, which represents the adult energy. Most of the secondary grounding exercises involve vigorous movement of hands and arms, deep breathing through the nose and mouth, moving the body up and down, breathing in on upward movement, and out on downward movement, while pushing the hands toward the earth. Secondary grounding strongly focuses on the root/base chakra grounding. The chakras in the feet and hands open up strongly. Only when a person is grounded, is he safe enough to enable the heart to open up to healing.
Hello everyone. IBMP – Integrative Body Mind Psychotherapy is excited to have arrived in the world of blogging. IBMP are constantly researching and reviewing new information and applying analysis and commentary on the trends and issues of the day as they relate to our human condition and bodymind reality.
IBMP is not tied proprietary to any one school of thought. We seek to understand and highlight the holism of our human nature and to uncover the links between the body and mind that our materialism and reductionism linked mainstream sciences are still unfortunately using as conscious or unconscious assumptions in the way that psychological and medical information is presented to the public.
IBMP respects all contributors to the understanding of our human condition without needing to agree with them all of the time. We will seek to contribute to debate, comment and analysis of the topical issues within media and society that we take an interest in or which we concern ourselves with as a bodymind psychotherapy tradition.
The bodymind is a fascinating topic that we all can relate to as everyone. We will also post summaries of new articles that we have written which you can access on our websites. IBMP has its origins in modalities such as Reichian Therapy, Bioenergetics and Core Energetics.
The bodymind has also come to prominence in business and corporate life. The areas of Emotional Intelligence, the “energy” of brands and business, leadership, “toxic” organisations, culture, motivation and excellence are all key words that have links to our bodymind realities in the context of business.
We will post some relevant blogs on a regular basis that concern such issues and commentaries about the excesses of our business and sporting leaders when they “act out” or highlight behaviours and attitudes which require some soul searching.
Welcome aboard and we hope you find relevance, perspective, humour and insight from our blogs.