Space and Information
The exercise was to find the muscle tension in our body that was like an old friend. And the workshop leader had us tighten those muscles and then walk around holding this tension and looking at people and things, the light and the windows, to see how it affected our existential state, our being. Well, I picked the tension in my brow between the eyes. And as I got up and walked around the room, I sensed that I was feeling very suspicious and anxious. I was thinking, “I don't want to make an ass out of myself in this place.” I didn't trust the leader. In fact, I didn't trust anybody in the room.
(Chuckles) In other words, I found myself in a very worried state.
Now he asked us to go back, loosen up that same muscle area, and the take the same walk. When I did this, I found I had an entirely different experience. This time, I felt free, I felt almost as though I'd been Rolfed.
I looked at the leader and said to myself, "What the hell do I have to worry about him for?" For several minutes after that, I walked around the room feeling almost contemptuous and strangely arrogant.
Through bioenergetics we discover the best balance for our ecological needs, on a body-type to body-type, culture-to-culture basis.
Without this knowledge, we are bound to keep stumbling over our own projections (guns, gods, maybe even orgone boxes). No matter how much ecological mastery we acquire, old habits left unattended die hard.
Migration, peaceful or perhaps otherwise, as well as changes in culture and climate, particularly with respect to infants and the youthful, may also help. But if we could lessen, in both body and word, the burden of inherited absolute language, myth, superstition and ideology upon our children by each of us substantially clearing our own decks bioenergetically, who would not choose to do so? Perhaps this is an even greater legacy than anything we can leave them materially.
A favorite metaphor: Imagine you are looking out to sea, navigating a course from where you stand to some distant point on the horizon. Pick an angle and imagine that to be your current course. Now shift that angle a few degrees in either direction and trace the line out to approximately where it would end up on the same horizon. Notice how just a slight change in course at your end results in a major difference in where the passengers will wind up on the other side. Now think of your children and consider what even a little extra self-knowledge on your part might mean to their future. By freeing up even a little extra inner space for yourself, you may be liberating them to excel in ways about which we can only dream.
Pure information assumes a mastery of context: social, political, economic, ecological . . . context. A science of pure information, a human science, cannot, by definition, be without conditions, but is rather about, however fleetingly, a mastery over conditions.
. . . Another pitfall of bodywork is when people do it too mechanically. Then it's not much different from people talking in circles. This can be even more true of some of the people that come in specifically for bioenergetics. I often have a little bit more trouble with them because their preconceptions make them harder to get to. They're no longer very connected with their bodies, even when they're doing the exercises. Somehow one has to show them that this is therapy and not a gym class. (R)
In bioenergetics, knowing when to let go constitutes an essential part of control. Bioenergetic falling exercises are very good for learning about this.
Knowing how and when to let go, in combination with advances in outer technology, can create the ecological conditions reasonable for the flow of pure information. Some of the early city planners were aware of all this, before impulse and culture steamrolled over architectonics. Nothing is so obviously devoid of charisma to egos with an appetite to whet as empty space. Yet successful change is now as much about knowing when not to build as knowing when to build anew.
Through a socially well integrated yet deeply personal sense of how and when to let go, we can gain a new and vitally needed level of control over our patterns of behavior and consumption, no matter whether they are driven more by words, images, or better homes and gardens.
The chief driving force in the expansion of our knowledge can be the joy we take in each other rather than our fear of an enemy. Our essential understanding of the world can rest on love rather than rage, and yet still be science, and not superstition. In order for this to happen, though, first we must all become much better at seeing through our often finely honed competitive habits and change many of them into truly all-inclusive, cooperative ones.
If the sense conveyed by the language of pure information could be expressed in one line, it might be: "This works for me." Other examples: "Look at the tree." "Here is the spoon." "I love you."
What qualifies these expressions to be part of a larger science? Freedom, context, condition, ecology.
The same mastery over ecology that gives us the power to sophisticate our language must not obviate our understanding of the limits of that sophistication. Essential to our learning how to civilize the animal in ourselves is an accurate and compassionate recognition, as much through playful self-expression as anything else, of just how "animal" we shall always remain. Our children, of course, given any kind of happy and loving chance, are usually very adept at reminding us of this. But this is just within the relatively narrow context of our families. At the level of international relations, where age-old habits of paranoia tend to be far more highly developed, and personal idiosyncrasies under much more intense scrutiny, keeping in touch with the kid, monkey, or bear still lurking in ourselves is usually much more challenging. A sense of humor can help, but even that is often frosted in fear.
In standard everyday political conduct, the persistent urge to keep everything tightly wrapped in protocol can lead to the exact opposite of its intended beneficial effect. Vision, clarity, and integrity don't get liberated. They get repressed.
. . . Beginning with my early childhood, I would respond to certain kinds of stress by breathing very shallowly and not letting myself feel my feelings. It wasn't just that I felt the anger and didn't know what to do with it. I wasn't even feeling the anger. I wasn't feeling the fear. I wasn't feeling anything. I was basically shut down for many years. (J)
Like many others of my generation, over the years I was taught elaborate language skills while at the same time learning how to repress or ignore negative emotions. Central to this training was the experience of sitting in classrooms for hours a day, year after year. This education has had many positive and beneficial results. But it also suggests a deep and intimate link between repressed emotion and traditional verbal expression, and that our trained ways of thinking and speaking have more than simply cognitive significance.
Given the fact that our language is still so deeply sunk in the old ways, sometimes the most efficient utterance is just a sigh or moan. And we all know how well received such things usually are by the public. Lost in high-level, hi-faluting linguistic perorations, we lose our awareness of and respect for earlier, cruder, more purely practical linguistic structures.
Without such an awareness, we forfeit any hope of a humane connection to ourselves and will just go on condescending to each other. The reason that we can mask such behavior so easily, often beneath the thin disguise of tolerance, is that everybody does it. As long as this remains the status quo, peace and science will find few real advocates. Ordered chaos may be a lot less energy-efficient, but it's a lot less emotionally challenging.
Therapy has traditionally been a way of dealing with our failure to broaden the context of pure information mode, a way of potentially helping us to cope when a life strategy that worked for one does not work for two, or what worked for two no longer works for three, four or more.
Therapy can sometimes help us find a way out of strategies that worked in childhood that no longer work for us as adults. But what about the ones that may work in the market but not at home. Or the ones that rarely benefit ordinary states of consciousness, but which work very well in a trance?
. . . I don't remember what I got in touch with first, my sadness or my rage. The intensity of the rage was unbelievable. But in finally being able to let go of some of it, I began to sense just how plugged up I'd been. You know what they sometimes say, that when you've had enough sun, your bottle's filled up? Your body can only take in a certain amount of sun in one lifetime--and that's it. After that, you're full up, and you can't empty it out. That's how I had come to feel, at least until the bioenergetics. (S)
Therapy's tradition as a formal technique is not all that long. In 1945, the discipline was less than a century old. That “psychology” developed into a science at all, as opposed to just providing us with a way to contain and label society's misfits, is largely a result of a revolution in “outer,” time and labor-saving technology that has made a focus on the emotional well-being of individuals something more than merely the suspect indulgence of the rich. Having finally raised the status and value of human feelings in our hierarchy of survival issues, in some cases we've managed to take a baby step beyond the drugged up, monkey-house status quo of our previous asylum mentality, in form if not in function.
No greater strides will ever occur, however, until we lose our fear-based approach to just about everything bureaucratic, those broader institutionalized systems still ultimately driven by a belief in the inevitability of scarcity and the warlike or apathetic attitudes corollary to it.
. . . All this applies to what goes on inside the large corporation as well. Contrary to some kinds of conventional wisdom, the average person is now very interested in developing this sort of self-awareness, even though they might not think of it in bioenergetic terms per se. But they are usually tied to a desk or the equivalent for five or six days a week, and then maybe, if they are lucky, get to work out or do a sport. Within that context, finding a way to express oneself emotionally and connect up more deeply with either positive or negative feelings just doesn't seem likely. The barriers are both economic and social. Not so long ago, I ran a table in the lobby of a big corporation during National Depression Screening Day. Despite everyone being under a lot of job pressure, many people still made it over to my table long enough to say things like, "Hey, are you giving out free Prozac?" I had very little chance to talk to them about anything of substance, however, because they were in such a hurry. (B)
This may be purely a trick of my imagination, but I am convinced that there is a relationship between the feeling of a word when sounded and the image it represents. All words were originally sounds. We know that the sound of the voice is a direct expression of feeling.
Everywhere we underestimate the subliminal powers of language to subvert and confuse our most fervent and clearest conscious intentions, even as, seemingly inexplicably, their rhetorical spells sometimes hypnotize us into thinking we utterly control our own destinies.
Such illusions are not limited to the field of mental health. We find childlike confusions lurking under highly sophisticated masks amid most worldly conflicts of any note: the arms race, the lifers against the choicers, the free-enterprisers against the environmentalists.
When will we learn that all our knowledge, all our philosophy—and this includes science as well—is organically based, insofar as it is composed of language, which, contrary to the way we've usually been educated to perceive it, works through its continuous and intimate discourse with our bodies?
When people say, "Life is change," are they serious? Do they realize this line constitutes an utter acceptance of entropy. How long can any organism stand continual change without buckling under? Life is really as much about stasis as about change. And knowing when change is good for us and when it's not depends as much on the heart as on the mind, an idea our current linguistic orthodoxy, in its assumption that emotion is effectively centered only in the brain, would discount entirely.
Change without love, balance, freedom . . . well, we ought to have got the idea by now.
Under the existing system, entropy is unavoidable. But is it inevitable under any system? Should we not at the very least be attempting to use the energy we do have in some significant effort against entropy and towards some better balance or equilibrium between ourselves and our planet? Recognizing that in the past a ferocious embrace of entropy was in the short run often the winningest strategy overall, the lesser evil in the face of inevitable scarcity, isn't it time to notice that technological progress and a sudden radical shift in ecological context have nearly reversed the recipe for success?
These are the sorts of questions we should be asking ourselves.
“Okay. 1945?* Technology? Who cares. You still can't change human nature," the tired body speaks.
Once the mind has made it through enough context shifts and finally begins to figure out what real change might be all about, will the body be too tired to care? Relative to the person's emotional, and financial, stake in the existing context? However debilitating individually or culturally the fallout of in the entropy may be in the long run?
When operating in context (read "tradition" or "habit" or just well-traveled linguistic pathways), the emotions can lend the flagging body much energy. The opposite is also true. Out of context, emotions can sap the strength of the strongest body. So how can we fairly judge our traditions now? Where are we to look for a new framework or point of reference?
How about fight films where the wife shows up at the last minute? Our champ, who has been staggering around in the ring very much on his last legs, upon seeing his wife, suddenly, miraculously, knocks out his opponent.
Is this stereotype purely a product of tradition? Probably not. Is something akin to pure information mixed up with it? Very likely. And don't such convolutions in our motivation represent the biggest obstacle to our changing anything? We may all smell the bathwater but still love the baby.
Can our popular culture provide a solid footing for science? Well, isn't this supposed to be a democracy? If so, popular culture must be political science.
This is no time for social paralysis or the false snobbery that so often masks it. That only guarantees the reactionaries will keep stealing the context, hogging most of the air time, by default, while of course still thinking they're the "good guys" (much beleagered, perhaps, imperfect, but nonetheless, still the good guys). So make no mistake, our hedging, our confusion, our fatigue is their victory, and everyone’s eventual loss.
Copyright (@) 2018 Lee Strauss