Balancing Your Body and Mind

What is Bioenergetics?

Credit: Dr Jonathan Clarke

Credit: Dr Jonathan Clarke
Wellcome Images

Bioenergetics is a way of understanding personality in terms of the body and its energetic processes. These processes, namely, the production of energy through respiration and metabolism and the discharge of energy in movement, are the basic functions of life. How much energy one has and how one uses his energy determine how one responds to life situations. Obviously, one can cope more effectively if one has more energy, which can be freely translated into movement and expression.

Bioenergetics is also a form of therapy that combines work with the body and the mind to help people resolve their emotional problems and realize more of their potential for pleasure and joy in living. A fundamental thesis of bioenergetics is that body and mind are functionally identical: that is, what goes on in the mind reflects what is happening in the body and vice-versa.

As we all know, mind and body can influence each other. What one thinks can affect how one feels. The converse is equally true. This interaction, however, is limited to the conscious or superficial aspects of the personality. On a deeper level, that is, on the unconscious level, both thinking and feeling are conditioned by energy factors.

The energetic processes of the body are related to the state of aliveness of the body. The more alive one is, the more energy one has and vice versa. Rigidity or chronic tension diminishes one’s aliveness and decreases one’s energy. At birth, an organism is in its most alive, most fluid state; at death, rigidity is total, rigor mortis. We cannot avoid the rigidity that comes with age. What we can avoid is the rigidity due to chronic muscular tensions resulting from unresolved emotional conflicts.

Every stress produces a state of tension in the body. Normally the tension disappears when the stress is relieved. Chronic tensions, however, persist after the provoking stress has been removed as unconscious bodily attitude or muscular set. Such chronic muscular tensions disturb emotional health by decreasing an individual’s energy, restricting his motility (the natural spontaneous play and movement of the musculature), and limiting his self-expression. It becomes necessary then to relieve this chronic tension if the person is to regain his full aliveness and emotional well-being.

This is bioenergetics.

— An excerpt from The Way to Vibrant Health by Alexander Lowen, MD and Leslie Lowen. Bioenergetics Press.