- Born 1947, married, two children
- Studies in law and social science, with focus on sociology, economy, social psychology and psychology
- Certified in social science, state examination in Law- and Politics
- Full training in (body-) psychotherapy, Gestalt-therapy
- Full training in coaching, supervision and systemic consulting
- Since 1978 activities and projects in the field of health-management, psychotherapy and psychosomatics
- Since 1978 teaching assignments (Münster University, Witten/Herdecke University et al) and lectureship at international congresses
- Since 1980 coach and consultant in the field of economy, industry and politics
- Since 1982 occupation as publicist and media-expert
- Since 1999 member of the editor of the “Psychotherapie-Forum”
- Since 2012 member of the international advisory board of the International Journal of Psychotherapy
- Since 1991 staff-member at TRIAS International (training for business coachs)
- 2007-2012 CEO of Keese & Sollmann GmbH consulting
- 1988-2011 President of the German Association of Bioenergetic Analysis (DVBA)
- Member of the German-Chinese Academy of Psychotherapy (DCAP)
- Member of the international Institute of Bioenergetic Analysis (IIBA New York)
- Member of the German Association of Gestalt-Therapy (DVG)
- Member of the German Society of Political Consulting (degepol)
- Member of the German Association of Journalists (DJV)
- Executive Coaching of top-management und key-persons in executive- boards, CEOs, opinion-leaders et al
- Integrated optimization of the interplay between leadership, personality and organization
- Leadership in extraordinary stress-situations (crisis management)
- Integrated Consulting of family-owned enterprises
- Career and / or transitional coaching
- Analysis, consulting/coaching of publicity competence of leadership, management, politics (internal/external publicity) plus integrated reconcilement with the communication strategy of the company/political party
- Diversity / Gender Management, Age Management
- Coaching in the interplay of nonverbal appeal, personality and behavior patterns in relationship with specific requirements of the job.
- Health-coaching, stress-management, Burnout
Some publications are: „Bioenergetik in der Praxis“ (1985), “Visionsmanagement” (1993), “Management by body” (1996), “Schaulauf der Mächtigen” (1999), “Einführung in Körpersprache und nonverbale Kommunikation” (2013)
German, English and Dutch
Certified in Coachpools of:
Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, PwC, RWE, Lufthansa, Thorborg, ERGO et al
I’m professionally busy in three social / intercultural fields. There I work insofar integrated, as I am especially interested in the overlapping activities between persons, acting in their professional environment.
The three fields are:
- As a coach and consultant, I support executives, management and board „on the job“ as well as politicians and political parties. Basically, I am focused on the interaction / interplay of role, functions and responsibilities on the one hand and the people as a person on the other hand. Topics include: leadership, change, conflict resolution, burn-out, gender etc.
- As a body-oriented psychotherapist in private practice I work with people on their problems, on their personal development, and verbal as well as nonverbal perspectives, ie body-oriented approach to the issues / problems and the people. Decisions and development must always be seen on both levels.
- Work and life are now increasingly taking place in public or in relation to this. The “public” may be in-house or external. Often this is also related to media staged public. People, managers, politicians as well as business / parties are always, whether they like it or not, faced with their public impact. One of my other business fields of activity, therefore, is to assist people to recognize these effects and to influence this (concretely and / or strategic).
Basicly I address to this in my job under the following aspects:
- The (personal) characters and their specific behavior patterns,
- The importance of body language and appropriate action,
- The verbal and nonverbal communication,
- Explicit and implicit interests, needs and goals,
- In the particular (especially cross-cultural) context / environment..
In addition, I communicate by writing about important issues of my work (books, articles, web blog), as a speaker at international conferences, through university teaching and in the training of counselors, and through membership in specific (professional) associations.
(English translation of an article, originally published in German)
The Bioenergetic Analysis (bioenergetics) allows access to the topics / problems of understanding and acting on the level of interaction between the body and the analytical process. This is possible because the body is functionally identical to the person. Feelings, thoughts and issues of life of an individual manifest always in the expression of the body. A diagnostic identification of these aspects is precisely possible because of the shape and motility of the body. It is necessary that one is able to read the language of the body.
The psychoanalysts Wilhelm Reich, Otto Fenichel and Sandor Ferenczi had put the body into the focus of their interest. Since then, a variety of body psychotherapeutic schools developed. Alexander Lowen, founder of BA/bioenergetics, met Reich in the seminar to discuss the psychoanalytic theory and therapeutic practice and the social importance of the same. The impulse itself by being involved in a therapy with the experience of one’s body and the interaction of personality / character structure and corporal / body expression, Lowen got motivated and started his life’s work by developing the bioenergetic analysis / bioenergetics as a model of understanding and practice of Body Psychotherapy . Lowen tried to integrate in his work and in the conceptual development of body psychotherapy, well proofed analytical concepts and both the medical treatment and the prophylaxis of neuroses (Prophylaxis includes the educational dimension: to enable people to a specific treatment, caring and development of one`s own body).
Bioenergetic Analysis (BA) is an energetic body orientated psychotherapy method. It is based on relevant theoretical and practical concepts which are related to the following levels: (body) experience, (self-) expression, interaction and relationship. It assumes that all physical and mental processes are just different expressions of a single life process. Once a person is aware of his body, he experiences his body emotionally, and when he works with him, and activates / energizes his body, he gains a new relationship towards himself and he will find new ways of physical-emotional balance and wellbeing.
The BA is clearly related to the emotional world, of the embodied world of feeling, to the person`s life history and the various ways of influencing these feelings and aspects. It is based on the concept that the mental-emotional field of experience / expression and the physical field of experience / expression do have one source only. As both fields are integrated with each other, this helps to emerge a very specific personality in the process of the development of the individual life history (biography).
The energy concept
The energy concept of BA sees man as a „reservoir of energy“ that comes into contact with the environment. This process usually starts and develops in our culture (in all cultures!!) mostly via the relationship to “mother (figure)”. The experience and the embodiment of one`s own personality and the herewith connected individual way of relating to the “mother (figure)”, and later to one`s father, influence the whole life of an adult human. The way how one lives relationships is among others very individually characterized by gratification, conflict resolution, self-presentation and dialogue.
The BA does not only rely on the word, the verbal expression! For Alexander Lowen it is a way, to understand the personality by understanding the body (experience and expression) and its energetic processes. These processes, i.e. the production (charge) of energy through respiration and metabolism and discharge of energy in motion and movement are the fundamental processes of life. How much energy you have and how you use this energy, determines the way you respond to a situation, to life. The more energy you can put into free movement and expression, the better you can deal with different situations, with life.
When life can be understood on the one hand as an integrated unit of the whole organism, the BA emphasizes life as an essential process of arousal. The bioenergy / charging and discharging have an organic, physical basis. This will find it`s expression as a river of excitement in the feelings and physical sensations. This goes far „beyond all anatomical boundaries“.
Perhaps you know this: perhaps you once have already felt in the upper part of your body that anger aroused and that this anger charged up arms, face and your eyes? This can bring up the feeling of „the collar to be too tight.“ If a man is so angry that he sees „red“, his retina (eyes) has been flooded with blood actually. One can also feel anger but cold and “white” (as we call it in Europe) and then you will look „pale with rage“, based on a narrowing of the peripheral vessels which prevents the blood from coming to the surface of the body. Then there’s the „dark rage“, in which the sensation is overlaid by a dark cloud of hatred.
These emotions, feelings and physical sensations are the perception of internal movements of the „energetic body associated with its natural rhythms and vibrations. These „inner movements“ are referred to as motility of the body. For a baby, this can be easily observed when one follows the constant interplay of movements like waves on a lake. These are caused by internal forces, without being subject to the arbitrary interference. All voluntary movements always have an involuntary component, which can be understood as a basic motility of the organism. The involuntary and voluntary activity are integral components of liveliness and spontaneity of human actions and movements. If it is missing or it is reduced, the body movements are mechanical and lifeless. Expressive movements always include elements of feeling, which always turn into involuntary components. These components are not under conscious cognitive control. The integration of voluntary and involuntary movements, as well as conscious and unconscious components leads to movements that are always an expression of emotion, simultaneously carried by emotion, coordinated, targeted acting. (see Lowen, 1981).
BA-psychotherapists therefore look at people in terms of vitality. Since each person is unique, people differ by the individual nature of their liveliness, the depth of their feelings, the sensitivity and self-organization. Feelings, attitudes and behavior can be identified by making clear how much energy a person has, how much he feels physically and can activate or in contrast how much he resists or denies and holds back in, as Wilhelm Reich emphasizes (1973), in his „muscular armoring „.
The body finds its form and structure in the energetic process and as energetic process. His particular form / structure is an expression as well as the source of the biographical development of this process. The respiration plays a key role in the energetic process of metabolism. It is closely related to the muscular action / reaction and to one`s feelings. When the feeling changes, the breathing will also change and vice verse. Breathing is to a large extent a muscular activity. A change in respiration is expressed thus also in a modified muscle activity and vice verse.
The richness of one`s own history and one`s individual experience and the various patterns of tension and holding back in the body will find their psychological / psychic relevance in the character structure. It corresponds as psychological component of the form and movement of the body and functionally is identical to it. It is very resistant to all influences from outside and to change. The entire pattern of excitement and tension controls the power and the use of one´s own bodily energy, the life energy. You cannot understand (and work with) the energy dynamics of a person without the concept of the character structure. (Schwieger 1998).
Induced (by specific experience) limited mobility and charging of the body causes new emotional problems in the future. This can lead to conflicts with the demands of adult life. If the (by anxiety induced) situation from childhood is not solved and the experience is displaced, usually the pattern of physical tension remains. By this the person unconsciously avoids such painful situations. Man therefore reduces by this his self-expression, holds back the feeling of joy in his life, thus his potency to develop himself in life.
The personality or character structure thus functions on the one hand as an individual survival concept, as it protects against the „outside world“ and the repetition of similar painful experiences. On the other hand, it hinders the expression of the „inner, emotional world“. It shows the kind of dialogue capacity of the person or it`s limitation.
Lowen (1975) talks basically of five different character structures (or patterns) (schizoid, oral, psychopathic, masochistic and rigid), which in their individual meaning represent the personality and the character structure. Problems and talents / resources are represented in these character structures. They characterize the person`s survival and dialogue capacity or pattern. At the same time they allow conclusions on the biographical history, they way how these patterns had developed.
Closely linked to the personality development specific illusions are connected: if you cannot change the threatening reality, one flees into these illusions, in order not to fall back into the previous experience of deeper despair. Finally in desperation the person often has the will to give up a higher level of vitality and change. The person then hopes that the illusion will end the despair and continuing waiver, i.e. to stop feeling this or feeling oneself. These illusions can also be seen in the body expression ( body reading of the body language ).
In the character structure, and this is a core concept of the BA, important biographical conflicts are “effectively preserved“. Physically much energy is bound or hold back, and this leads to higher grade of fear (potential).
By this the circle is completed: experience leads to holding back energy and vitality. This makes the fear to grow unconsciously more and more. This finally leads to the avoidance of such situations. This reduces life experience, self-expression and fulfillment one`s own needs and wishes.
The BA as a body psychotherapy therefore works with the physical tension, the breathing, the shaping of the body and personality by the life experience / history, the individual mind and the relationship constellations in childhood and in everyday life today. The BA explicitly and specifically works with the process of respiration, the differentiated (body) perception, the physical (self-) expression. This is supported either by specific exercises / settings or by looking at this process on the level of transference and countertransference. (Lowen 1981, 1984, Koemeda-Lutz 2002)
The „grounding-concept” probably is the best well-known concept of BA. It shows and helps to experience how good you stand on the ground that means how good you live in reality and can respond to it adequately. It is an essential expression of human life and it shows how your inner excitement and charge is connected to your body, your sexuality, the earth (ground), which represents reality and its specific functions and needs.
Man can by his grounding discharge excess energy and tension. The downward flowing bioenergetic energy often is emotionally experienced as anxiety. When „falling down“ or “letting go” most people have a fear of falling down, which is usually suppressed. This is one of the most deeply-rooted fears of people. In addition to this, the increasing vibration in the legs – as well as all the other involuntary bodily responses during discharging – intensifies the experience of body sensations and related feelings. The person feels in contact with the sensations and feelings. So in a deeper contact to himself, to his Self. He experiences more inner emotional safety by his ability of standing (grounding) and his balance. He knows where he is, how he stands on the ground, in reality and who he is and that he is someone important.
The BA offers important models of understanding and action models in order to learn how to work as a psychotherapist or consultant or coach with the body and the emotional dynamics, the understanding of this and the relationship to others. It also explains the active, targeted influencing of internal body dynamics, of certain regulatory processes. The BA also supports the personal and physical decision related to the needs of the organism and the specific expression.
Some important internal circulations that are effected by the work are:
• The connection of breathing and movement
• Specific work on one body segment
• The initiation, support and promotion of semi-autonomous body reactions (such as trembling, vibrating, deeper breathing)
• The connection of breathing, voice and auditory feedback processes
• Energy charge, discharging, and integration with the personal experience
On the communication level, interaction and relationship level the BA also touches and works with the „external body“ circulation. These refer to the imagined or unconscious internalized objects (which were “born” in early childhood) or to the concrete, real interaction / dialogue between the people being present in the group or the context.
Some of the body’s external circulations are:
• Link from the new experience resulting action and dialogue / exchange with other people
• Conscious Experience of grounding, breathing and contact with a counterpart.
• Reading body / bodies under stress as diagnostic experience and diagnosis
• Integration of posture, movement and interaction with the opponent, another person.
Other key concepts of the bioenergetic work are:
• Working with sexuality and relationship as well as relating to others
• Working with stress positions, energy mobilization in order to improve the (self-)expression and stress-management
• Slow-motion work to improve the inner perception of the person and getting with these aspects in communication
• Working with falling exercises and the experience of letting go or experiencing the emotional flow and it`s expression
Bioenergetic Analysis is nowadays a scientifically based, well-known and with high reference / reputation accepted psychotherapy method in the field of health sciences, Mental Health (Koemeda-Lutz, 2003). The effectiveness is confirmed in several international (meta-) studies. As well as in other fields of social work, consulting and coaching.
The interplay of body work, working with psychodynamics and life history as well as with the design of the transference relationship to the therapist always is based on a thorough diagnosis and the indication which is related to this diagnosis. (Hoffmann-Axthelm, 1989-2000; Sollmann, 1984, 1988, 1996).
Bioenergetic Analysis is helpful and indicated in the following fields or related to the following aspects or issues : neurotic disorders, trauma therapy (Berceli, 2010), personality disorders (Lowen, 1980), psychosomatic problems.
And to all other work related issues: on the job, in stress situations, in leadership, communication, cooperation and fields of change.
If you are interested in the literature, please let me know. I will send the titles to you.
(this article is already being published in German)
Stressmanagement, body language and bioenergetics
(original title: bioenergetics in practice)
by Ulrich Sollmann
Stressmanagement and regeneration are basic requirements, which help to be successful under the intense demands of daily life and of the straining job. At the same time they help to feel personally relaxed and inspired. All this is based on the careful and specific analysis of one´s own stress-profil. The author points out:
- Stress in daily life and the function of stress,
- A stress-modell as melange of personality, patterns of behaviour and the influence of the setting,
- The bioenergetic approach to analyse and to understand the personal stress-profile,
- A unique concept of exercises which are mostly based on the bioenergetic analysis of Alexander Lowen ( more than 150 excercises, most of them are illustrated by photoes ).
- 1. Gymnastics for the soul: ( 14 pages )
- Mangement of globalization and complex developement in society
- Completely stressed
- On the stage of the inner theatre
- The art and inner guide of irritation
- Laughter is the best programm
- 2. Bioenergetics: ( 123 pages )
- Bioenergetic guidelines for the excercises
- Excercise and self-experience
- Bioenergetics and grounding
- Mode of action and cycles of doing
- Excercises and more excercises
( for the whole body, the energy-mobilization, for special segments, breathing-excercises,
- 3. Stress-Modell: ( 18 pages )
- Definition and concept of stress
- The setting of stress
- Energy and personality
- To feel healthy again
- 4. Expression of the body and personality: ( 13 pages )
- Excitation and identity
- To become a person, to become social
- The vivid and active life
- The body and the ego
- The hierarchy of feelings and inner conflicts
- 5. Stress-profile and bodylanguage: ( 43 pages )
- The analyst
- The communicator
- The manager
- The worker ( who is reliable )
- The successor
- Special indication for the excercises concerning the five patterns
- Modell of personality:
- Body level
- Level of experience
- Behaviour/reaction under stress
- Normal, typical acting
The characteristic of this book / what is new:
- The first book which connects bioenergetic excercises and the concept of understanding
- The book also integrates the up-to-date stress modell
- This modell is deepened and specified by two aspects:
– it explains the new concept of stress-profile which means the structure of typical
experience and behaviour under srtress, which is based on childhood-experience
– it also developes the concept of understanding the self-produced stress
- It is written in an everyday life language ( can be understood by everyone )
- It is the first time, that the bioenergetic charactere structure concept is transferred into
the everyday life language ( a non-therapeutic language )
- The book is published in German and Italian and is on the market since 1984 ( two editions and two new editions, with new chapters )
- The book was also base for transmissions on German radio and TV.
- It was also base for a lot of articles in newspapers and journals
- It was written for a non-therapeutic as well as a therapy interested public.
- It integrates new scientific concepts into bioenergetics.
„Words are a mask – Scenes of man`s intimacy“
By Ulrich Sollmann
Man´s intimacy can`t be understood in a well structured way. Hereby the author shows a different standpoint to the common sense opinion on man´s intimacy.
The book shows in a creative way different scenes of man´s experience, the inner process of experience of a man, of men in general in the daily life. The different levels of experience are mixed together and presented so that the reader can´t really say what or how man is.
This constructing element of the book is strongly related to what the author thinks man´s intimacy is like. The reader himself finally has to find out his personal opinion, his personal standpoint about man. But the reader is not left alone by the author. He can dive into a big variety of man`s experiences, experiences of intimacy
The author jumps through different levels of time, jumps from one man to the other, from his friends to himself, to clients in his practise as bodypsychotherapist. He talks about man under the focus of scientific research and pictures man in his daily life: when man is alone, is with his friend, wants sex or acts out with power or violence.
On first sight this looks quite chaotic. But the author then shows that this is part of man`s intimacy, of the dynamics of his inner life. He also explaines that this is a chance for a man,when he gets into contact with this inner space where so many things are possible.
- Of course a man ( 36 pages )
- Fingertalk with his children
- I am not different, I feel different
- Man in therapy
- „I urinate, so I am“
- a happy man
- sunday morning in bed when the parents fight
- Gender-meeting ( 27 pages )
- A prairie-wolfe
- to let love, to let suffer – endless
- wake up !
- the perfect family
- the change from the androgyne baby to a chameleon
- in the inner prison
- A puberty ( 26 pages )
- It can´t be me
- 40 times auto-scooter
- seduction to reality
- „…but you can´t hit your children!“
- a self-supporting touch
- Quick-change artist ( 50 pages )
- A team of real men !
- The wishes of the body – wish of a perfect body
- Entrance to the world of men
- „ I potter my world „
- „ I creep into big man´s suite“
- man´s violence destroys – but whom?
- A friendship
- Friends and enemies
- A modelling man
- Man knows about himself well ( 28 pages )
- Men as personification of the trends of the sciences
- To be in the space of the possibility of intimacy
- Stepping barfoot into a cow´s shit
- Women let suffer ( 35 pages )
- The two-intimacy-relationship of man
- Dear mama!
- Seductive breast
- The tiny tin soldier
- „…just let me go, give me my space!“
- two focussing eyes
- „she had licked off my body“
- words become mask
- Absolutely: man! ( 22 pages )
- Omnipotency as the main goal
- Shit happens
- The little difference: from man to man
- Two gossiping guys
- Without father – let´s go father! ( 30 pages )
- Eagerly waiting for the love game
- The spider- dream
- The hesitating self
- John as spider
- In the suction of motherly power
- Without father
- Men are born differently!
- Between the worlds of experience
- „ I am sorry, I hurt you!“
The characteristic of this book/ what is new:
- the first book in German which shows the inner world of man´s itimacy without being sollely an autobiographical book,
- the book is not an esoteric book like many other books on men, nore propagates the book a new ideology of understanding men,
- it is constructed, structured in the way man is structured in his inner world,
- it is a puzzle of different levels of man´s experience, pictures the author paints about himself, his friends, the clients in his practise of bodypsychotherapy, about men in social life,
- the book shows man´s contact to friendship, relationship, violence, sexuality and his different phantasies on life, women, childhood and so on,
- the author shows also the (sexual) abuse of man on the level of relationship,
- the book explains different important aspects of the dynamics of the relationship between man and woman, mothers and sons,
- the author illustrates the results of his studies of these dynamics:
– man lives in a two-intimacy-relationship ( to his mother and his wife, or to his wife and
another woman, or to different women at the same time, or to a woman and other
women in his phantasies andsoon ) and this can be typical for men,
– man is well able, deeply able to feel and to show his feelings whereas women feel in a
completely different way. This difference dates back to the age of two or three, when the
little boy realizes that he is different to his mother and when he feels alone in this
situation and when mother tries to understand and by understanding pushes the little
boy apart. To say: man can´t feel therefore has the function of devaluating man.
- The author also shows in his study that women let other women suffer. He explains this by showing how mothers relate to their little boys in the two-intimacy-relationship. One result of this specific relationship is that no woman really can feel safe in the relationship to a man. No woman really gets a man for herself. The author calls it the transport of suffering from one women-generation to the other.
- There are many case studies which show what bodypsychotherapy is like, when a man works with a man. They open up the space of intimate relationship, to which people normally don´t have contact to. A bodypsychotherapist talks and shows himself directly and personally. He lets the reader take part in a world of unknown intimacy.
- The book is illustrated with very specific drawings of men. One can get also an optical, emotionally deep impression of the men talked about in the case studies.
we are our own client or: encounter the organisation
Ulrich Sollmann, Dipl.rer.soc., CBT, Gestalttherapist, management coach
Prologue: Lowen’s personal testimony
„ When I die don’t kill me”, Lowen once said, a little sad, as the one who knew what was to happen to him. With these words he offered his personal testimony and at the same time he defined a dilemma which many founders of psychotherapy schools were familiar with. I remember well the interview of the psychoanalyst Eissler with the old Wilhelm Reich: They talked about the fate of those founders, and about the dynamics of needing to find distance to the founder, after his death. Some may call this “father-killing”, but some call it a necessary phase of finding one’s identity, one’s own power and vision which brings the development of the school to a higher state/level of meaning and/or organisation. For me this is quite natural because the founder’s charisma is gone. And from now on we are the organisation.
In the early 1990ies the situation in the psychotherapeutic field had changed rapidly, at least in Europe:
- Scarce interest in joining a training group
- Financial problems in the institutes
- Other schools adapted bioenergetic concepts and integrated them into their own system
- Reduced number of members in the institutes
- Implementation of (rigid) psychotherapy laws
- Basic critique on the Bioenergetic Analysis
- The field of psychotherapy developed competition and/or a battle of power systems (medical doctors, psychologists, academic psychotherapists, insurance companies, psychotherapy schools etc.)
In short: the Bioenergetic Analysis is often (at least in Germany) regarded as a method somewhat between esoteric, exotic or not enough scientifically grounded.
The Bioenergetic Analysis has no lobby in the systems of power.
And the Bioenergetic Analysis does not dare stand up from within it’s own power in this power race.
This mirrors the organisational dynamics in the bioenergetic field, the current state of us refusing power as an inevitable part of our organisational development. I am concerned how we can successfully effect other power systems outside our own community, if we refuse to empower ourselves in our “own house”.
The process described above gave us the opportunity to identify with a German and/or European ground with all it’s uniqueness, specific difficulties and problems to be solved. It also rebalanced the relationship between the IIBA, the efbab and the DVBA as organisations. Phases of distance changed with phases of dialogue so that we came into contact with our specific identification and a fruitful cooperation between the DVBA, the efbab and the IIBA evolved.
We all are the IIBA!
In my opinion this process of organisational forming and learning was a necessary must for the bioenergetic community. The more we grew, the more urgent became the organisational identification. This learning process led us from face-to-face and a family-like communication (small group/organisation) to the inevitable next step: to an organisation with different ways of communication, participation, structure, roles and functioning.
The permission to be different – Or: working with the group process
“Well, you must know that I developed the Bioenergetic Analysis as a one-on-one therapy. I had enough to do with it. So if you like, develop/adapt it as a group therapy”. I remember well the discussion between Al Lowen and me at the International Conference of Bioenergetic Analysis in Mexico 1982. It was the time, when I tried to bring together my experience as Bioenergetic therapist with my skill as a therapist who also worked with the group process. I was familiar with the Bioenergetic Analysis as a one-on-one therapy in the context of a group, as it was offered by the official training program within the IIBA. There we had worked in pairs, triads or by sharing as well as giving feedback on the group level.
When a problem on the group level occurred we usually shared our feelings and points of view. Often the trainer offered a one-on-one session in front of the group, in exploration of how far the client was personally touched by the group problem. As most of us could identify in one way or another, this remained a deep experience. It became also a rich experience as we learned by identification with the trainer/therapist how to work individually with the client and it enriched our experience by the various perspectives shown in the feedback of the group.
Underlying this, a process existed in the group, which effected us as a group. This process mirrored unconscious group wishes, problems and issues. In those days however a group-process could neither be put into words nor be worked out on the group-level. Sometimes I got the impression that it would have been necessary or even urgent to integrate both: the one-on-one session in the group and the process in the group as a group.
I was glad about Al’s encouragement. I began to work bioenergetically more consciously with the process in the group I studied different concepts of group therapy (psychoanalysis, encounter, Gestalt etc.) and published articles, illustrating the way I worked in/with the group, explaining what I did, and putting things together. All this I did in order to initiate the discussion on bioenergetic group analysis.
Over time I got more and more convinced about the importance of the interplay between one-on-one sessions in the group and the process in the group. I also began to believe in the possibility of conceptualising bioenergetic group analysis. At the same time I experienced that it worked, and that more colleagues joined the discussion.
In the middle of the 80’s we therefore started an ongoing work group with representatives of all training institutes in Germany. We explained our individual experience in working with groups as bioenergetic therapists and compared this with the different training groups we had experienced as group models.
We illustrated our personal way of working with the group process by showing examples and basic working-concepts. One result out of this was the integration of a special training module “Working with group process as bioenergetic therapist” into the official curriculum.
During that time big steps were done on the organisational level in the bioenergetic field. The German Association of Bioenergetic Analysis (DVBA) was founded as well as the European Association of Bioenergetic Analysis (efbab). Both organisations were created in order to focus on collegial and scientific communication, on scientific research, on political representation of Bioenergetic Analysists and of Bioenergetic Analysis as a psychotherapeutic method. (Both organistaions do not offer any training in bioenergetics). The engagement in these activities, especially in the process of legalisation of psychotherapy (at least in Germany), and in the effort to find one’s own profile in comparison to the IIBA, both brought us together in a very specific way. Many of us were convinced that the growth of the bioenergetic community would inevitably lead to the process of organisational learning. Many of us, at the same time, also began to experience power issues. Power is of course part of an organisation. But power as we experienced it in the DVBA and the efbab also, was a necessary way to find one’s own space compared to the IIBA, one’s own identification, one’s own boundary.
The process of organisational learning in the IIBA was influenced by at least 5 other aspects:
Daring distance to Lowen
The senior trainers who together with Al Lowen had given life to the bioenergetic community – some may call them “the ideal fathers”- retired, lost influence on the training programs or passed away.
Younger colleagues became official trainers of the IIBA. The local trainers felt more responsible for the interests of the local training groups. Their efforts led to modifications of the official curriculum, concerning issues like: working with group-dynamics, integrating new scientific results, etc.
At the same time the local institutes grew older and felt mature, grown up within the IIBA. On the psychodynamic level this also can be understood as fighting against the “ideal fathers” i. e. the senior trainers, especially the “ultimate father”, Al Lowen, who was often experienced as overpowering. Finding one’s own distance to Lowen meant finding one’s own place in the IIBA. This also meant: adding a new facet of life to the IIBA as an organisation.
The “Back to the basics project”
When Al Lowen visited training groups all over the world, he was shocked by the fact, that they did no longer work with the body as it had been usually taught in the IIBA. He started a re-identification process which was accompanied by the restructuring process “back to the basics”. Trainers had to officially identify with the basic ideas of Lowen’s Bioenergetic Analysis.
After having resigned from the presidency of the IIBA, Al Lowen recaptured his old role in the IIBA like an “angry father” confronting his “children” with his values, his point of view on the world, his way of understanding the Bioenergetic Analysis and therapy. Al seemed to do this in order to bind all trainers and colleagues.
This “Back to the basics project” also was connected to the self-commitment of all trainers to Lowen’s basic bioenergetic concepts, to his way of working with the body.
The “Back to the basics project” also led to some unsolvable conflicts within the IIBA. Some trainers separated from Al Lowen and the IIBA, others were rejected by Lowen.
On an organisational level this can be judged as a normal development in an organisation, especially normal as the founder of the organisation still lived and / or still was actively striving for clarity of his ideas, his concepts and theories. Asking for everybody’s “confession of faith”, Lowen tried for the last time in his life to implant his heritage, the principles of the Bioenergetic Analysis, into everybody’s heart and soul. This was also the step of a father who was professionally convinced, but felt personally helpless, disappointed and angry. He needed to protect his “life-work”, because he subconsciously felt that his organisation had changed.
Even though this step was very much criticised, it also helped many colleagues to win more distance to Lowen and his concepts, thus increasing their independence. This distance which is extremely necessary for gaining one’s own standpoint, one’s own professional identity,allowed all colleagues to meet with Al on a mature ground.
Additionally, this distance also helped many of us to complain without getting too sad. It helped the anger which covered tears when saying goodbye to Al Lowen, to him as the “ultimate father”. This anger was also an encoded cry of our own helplessness and loneliness facing the future without Al Lowen. This future seemed like looking into the mirror seeing only oneself, and we anticipated how difficult the future and the restructuring of the organisation would be.
Years later Al Lowen regretted in his autobiography the “back to the basics period”. He confessed, that it had been wrong to force the bioenergetic community to a commitment in such a rigid way. Lowen seems to know about the role and function of his personal narcissism in the process of development of the IIBA. The narcissistic wound of the “back to the basics period” is however deep. Many of our colleagues, who turned back from Lowen in those days go on devaluated Lowen as “bad father”. This helps them to cope with their own narcisistic structure which remains being hurt. But this also depends the gap between our own history and an innovational process in our community. To make it short: rejecting Lowen as “bad father” seems to justify the rejection of the bioenergetic analysis in toto.
Therefor it is more than urgent for us to communicate openly and more specifically on that period and it’s influence on the acceptance as well as the innovation of the bioenergetic analysis. But also to communicate more generously that will mean less narcisitic alert among ourselves.
Role and function of the Bioenergetic Analysis in the professional community
When Al Lowen retired from being president of the IIBA, a deep transformational process started on the organisational level. Parallel to this, the organisation of bodypsychotherapy grew in Europe and expanded to the USA. The bioenergetic community did not join this organisation. It tried to find it’s own way. The main focus was to build it’s own globally functioning organisation as a net of affiliated training institutes which guaranteed close to the same standards and level of training. But it also risked to be regarded as an isolated and arrogant school of psychotherapy.
This step meant taking a risk, yet it was an important phase of consolidation of the concepts of Bioenergetic Analysis, and of anchoring the identification with Al Lowen and his ideas in various countries. The IIBA as our organisation remained a founder ruled organisation with it’s particular elements, structure, culture and dynamics until the middle of the 90’s. This made us strong, important and well known. As “sons and daughters” of Al Lowen we took advantage of his publicity, of his millions of sold books which were translated into many languages. We benefited from his fame. We benefited from the fact that clients came to our offices in huge numbers to work with bioenergetics after having read Al’s books or having seen him on TV.
On the other hand this separated us too much from other schools of bodypsychotherapy (at least in Germany and in Europe).
All this was shaken, when Lowen retired. Soon we became aware of our situation. We had to restructure the IIBA, and could no longer feel safe in the deep identification with Lowen, his books and his concepts. It also led us to the experience that we were not familiar with organising ourselves in a different way than we were used to in Lowen’s time. Trying to do so was painful. Things did not function as we hoped. Our Growth developed much slower than we wanted. Our trust in people was damaged during the time of the new managing director who (within a short period of time) wasted some hundred thousands of US-$, all the resources Al had left behind for the IIBA and it’s future after retiring.
Many of us, disappointed, lost identification with the Bioenergetic Analysis. Many of us were not motivated anymore to be engaged in the organisational field. Many of us also resigned under the sobering disillusion that we were not yet prepared for our own organisation. We did not yet have an organisation with a clear vision, solid strategies, a well grounded program, convincing roles and functioning which is trusted by it’s members.
Today it is not clear yet whether we have reached the turning point, when disappointment and resentment change into solid trust and fruitful activities. We have to fill the power vacuum which Lowen has left behind. But who dares pick up the power in the organisation? The “old father’s” power in the “brother-and-sister-organisation”? Who is courageous enough to decide things on an organisational level? To decide, to step forward in the competition within the own family?
What makes it so frightening?
It’s more than urgent that we grow up and take over the role. It is necessary to develop a solid professional organisation, to be well known in the therapeutic community. But most of all, to survive as bioenergetic community. To do so, also means to pick up the power Al has left behind.
Bioenergetic Analysis and sciences
For the last 15 years colleagues tried to integrate various new scientific concepts into the Bioenergetic Analysis, like “Neuro-physiology, Baby-research, and so on”. This led to a beginning anchoring of the Bioenergetic Analysis in the field of other scientific theories. It also led to critical views on Lowen’s concepts and to separation from the Bioenergetic Analysis and / or the IIBA as an organisation. We found out where the Bioenergetic Analysis is lacking explanation or clear enough theoretical background/backing. On the other hand we began to realize where other sciences can learn from us. But how about the culture of communication in the bioenergetic field on these issues? And I mean by that – how about the targeting and organisation of such a dialogue? The official integration of these issues into the concepts of Bioenergetic Analysis as well as into it’s curriculum. And how do we join the scientific dialogue in the scientific field itself? On scientific congresses?
Following the grassroots` dynamics of such communication you can find many initiatives being engaged with such issues. But they are not monitored enough by the organisation (the IIBA) in order to give energy to this or benefit the organisation. Well, it will take some time to get enriched by this. From Fritz Perls, the founder of the Gestalttherapie, we know that the river flows by itself. So, don’t push the river!
But be aware!
Therefore: monitoring all means creating a higher level of organisational awareness, a learning process of giving significance to certain issues, persons and results in our own bioenergetic community. This helps colleagues to participate, to find roles and functions in the organisation. This helps to trust in our own growth and the renewing of the system.
From system theory we know that development takes place at the border of a system. We now have an important chance to learn and develop by realizing what essentially are our (scientific and bioenergetic) basics and what is new. What needs to be adapted, to be changed in order to remain a reliable and important part of the scientific landscape.
Legal situation and the power game
Some years ago, at least in Europe, a movement started of establishing different psychotherapy laws. These are often dominated by the medical system. This also led to an extraordinary and scrutinizing selection of psychotherapy methods. In the end the Bioenergetic Analysis (I think except in Switzerland and Italy) has not been accepted as a scientifically valid method by the government/the law. One consequence of this is that only very few colleagues join a training group now. So we have to say goodbye to the good old times, when almost everything in the field was possible.
Do you want to be your own client?
The answer is: we have to! There is no other way out. No way back to the old times.
From a systemic point of view one can say that we begin to realize that we are our own client, although we have already been the clients for decades, just without knowing it consciously.
Being committed to Bioenergetic Analysis (as a Bioenergetic Analyst ),I am very happy to get this chance. What kind of chance do I mean? It’s a chance to apply our own thinking models, the architecture of our system, the rich bioenergetic experience on the group level and the process of organizational learning. It is my chance to do what Al meant, when he said “do it, I can’t do it any longer.”
How about tomorrow?
Of course I don’t know the answers. The chance we have is:
- To discuss openly our organisational history and Lowen`s concepts.
- To look at new questions.
- To take advantage from other perspectives like: group process, organisational development, etc.
- To really deeply in our heart feel and remember the passion we felt in our first encounter with the bioenergetics and use it as basic motivation.
- To fully realize that it all will help the organisation: this organisation, the IIBA.
We are the organisation!
Here are some thoughts about dealing with organisational learning and structuring. I understand them as guidelines, as important questions and as organisational parameter which are proven in other fields, but most of all as impetus to get engaged.
Organisational development ….
…has to do with the following aspects and we have to deal with them and to work on them:
- Where do we want to go?
- What are our targets or images of the future?
- Which experience will lead us there?
- Mission / Identity
- Where do we come from?
- Who are we?
- How are we? (Our central issues, our roles, function, tradition, etc.)
- What is our main competence? (Resources, business, etc.)
- What are our values?
- What are the hidden rules of communication within our community?
- What are aspects of good cooperation?
- What are criteria of leadership, loyalty, motivation, identification? And of Power?
- What are main thinking models?
- Strategic targets
- What do we want? (fundamentally and in the long run)
- Who has already done what?
- Do we have a future for our own?
- How is our “hardware”?
- What is our “state of the art”?
- How are our structure, our processes in the organisation?
- What do we want?
- What do others want us to do?
- What expectations do others have on us?
- By whom are we perhaps dominated?
- Who decides the success?
- The market
- What is the present situation?
- What will change soon?
- What are our “products”?
- What does the market need?
- How are the chances and the risks?
- Field of dynamics/energy
- What energy will help us from the here and now to the tomorrow?
- What energy lives in the possible resistance?
- Operative targets
- What are the operative targets?
- What are the criteria for that? Are they clear, transparent…? Are they accepted, valid?
- Concrete projects
- How can we define them?
- Who is responsible?
- What is the competence, are the resources to be successful?
- How does such a work group comes together?
- What needs to be done next? By whom? Up until when?
Please understand my paper as a personal view on our organisation, on us, on our history. On our identification and community, a community which takes it’s energy from all those different bioenergetic cultures. My ideas are not only connected to Al’s ideas and concepts of bioenergetic analysis, but of course also to his passion to live.
- Analysis made in summer 2004. I will add new sights of development within the following discussion.
- Meanwhile a deep discussion on the subject has been started, unfortunately in German language. I also wrote a new article on this discussion and the organisational perspective which I experienced within the last two and a half years. Including the intercultural communication at the conference in Sevilla 2007. So this article is very much up to date. It will take me still some time to translate into English. As soon as ist translated I will send it to you.
Waiting for Al Lowen
-A learning history-
It began as obviously in so some other peer-group. Lowen met in the 50’s and 60`s together with friends and familiar colleagues, in order to discuss the personal experiences and individual impressions, which resulted from the work with Wilhelm Reich. This happened in such a way, like I knew Al, in a committed, lively and ambitious way. One discussed, one sketched ideas, one criticized, but one also tried practically that, of which one was convinced that it could specify, illustrate or could extend one`s own psychotherapeutic practice and the theoretical understanding.
This usually happened in peer-groups. The concrete therapeutic work usually took place as single session in and in front of the group. This way of joint communication and cooperation, as a learning and training group, corresponded to the pioneer time at those days. It was naturally that you talked together, worked together, discussed together and lectured together. The constantly growing international interest in the Bioenergetic Analysis ( BA ) could be answered by this setting and this procedure effectively. One now met with colleagues from other countries, usually for some days for a workshop, repeated this in regular intervals and profited clearly from the living learning and training practice in New York. If Al then started with someone, in the context of these workshops, a single session (without the group), it referred to the special situation, as he began the single session with a analytic-biographical clarifying dialogue. This happened in order to begin the actual bioenergetic-analytic body work based on an intensive situative bodyreading. The session usually ended with a rather analytically colored integration dialogue.
Just this way of working could take account to the circumstance that Al saw the person only once or twice and nevertheless could work with him in the sense of the BA work. In addition, this way of working corresponded to the special training situation i.e. to open up a new excemplified learning field by the own practical experience in the body orientated approach.
It is obvious that one could neither work too intensively with the relationship in those days and in this context, nor work with the process, as it is usual in an ongoing therapy practice.
Thus most of us clearly took advantage out of this way of living learning. In addition, some of us risked to become victims of one`s own admiration/idealization of Lowen. Pretty often it happened that unreflected one took over context, setting, therapy relationship and concrete intervention from Al or even tride unconsciously to copy him. This often led to some involvement, to some disappointment, if not even disillusionment. One experienced by that, that the process in the special training situation together with Al, developed completely differently compared to the therapy situation in one`s own office at home, in another country, another culture and with „normal clients “. Beyond that one experienced oneself completely different at home, and I remember that quite well, regarding the professional and scientific discourse. Some of us felt encouraged in the role of a “classical Lowenian”. Some others felt a great difference to Lowen and began to clearly distinguish from Lowen, to criticize him and tried to find an own role by the distinction in the therapeutic field. This often led to an open rivalry with Lowen.
One may confront Al, he would have seen all these things not early enough and would not have promptly reacted to it. One may critizise Al, he would have had to integrate earlier other psychotherapy concepts. One may confront Al, he would not have worked with the relationship and the group process. But one may not blame him as pioneer and school founder of the BA! Al was a consistent representative of his own theory and practice and in this sense respectful in his distinction from other different therapy concepts. Thus I heard him pretty often say that, if one wanted to be bioenergetic analyst, one should first follow a grounded bioenergetic training. After that training one could of course integrate other concepts. If someone wanted to follow another therapy concept Al could live it and didn`t critizise this collegue for this. Al was to that extent unmistakably concise and consistent. In addition. I believe that his attitude was a challenge for quite a lot of collegues of us, to regard oneself in the inner mirror, in order to take responsibility for oneself. For oneself and one`s own acting, for each individual step, for a step together with Al or a step in the sense of the own interests. Then however without Lowen, but not against Lowen.
He knew about his own limits, even if critics subordinated him narcissistic grandiosity (as a pioneer you need to be narcissistic and without a healthy narcissistic mash, and this is my own opinion, you can`t be a good, successful therapist).
Al knew about his limits. He also knew about the helpful collegual support, if someone took steps, which Al could no longer go and/or was not willed to go.
I still remember very well a walk with him at the international congress in Mexico 1982. I asked him, how he would integrate the BA and the work with group process. In those days the training was organized on a group level. He told me that he would not have been engaged in this approach. It would have been his task to develop the BA as single therapy. I illustrated my work with group process and appropriate concepts, whereupon he encouraged me to follow this way and to develop the concepts. But I should not expect this from him as an old man, at that time he already had passed 70`s.
I still remember well this walk together with Al and his encouragement to follow this way. I remember well my self-commitment, to experience more the BA and to experience myself in this process in order to integrate this into my practical work. But I also remember the new desire to learn, which naturally in those days was linked with the unconscious desire for my own grandiosity. Sometimes I surprised myself with the fantasy: if I would continue in this way, if I would “copy” Al in this way, I then would be „a good “ body therapist.
I looked for more emotional closeness to Al. Therefor I decided to inform Al in detail about my scientific activity as an author. I expected by this more emotional closeness in the way of an over-identification to Al, and by this more confirmation by unconscious transference, of course also helpful professional feedback. I thus packed a parcel with some of my articles, two of my books and an audio cartridge, on which I explained to Al the publications in detail and sent it to New york. They were written in German language as I was sure, Al could not read German.
I waited for his answer, waited for weeks, waited for months, waited in vain! I still remember well this time, particularly the interplay of hope, disappointment, courage for new hope, doubt, rage and finally a radical disillusionment. I had nevertheless seen me closer in the emotional mirror caught in my own clumsyness trying to be like Al. In the effort to find my own way, my own style as therapist, not to be able to do without the special narcissistic gratification by Al. To be dependent on it.
Again going back to Al at the international congress 1986 I picked up all my courage and addressed to my parcel. To my large surprise he could insure convincingly that he had not got the parcel. For a second I wanted to examine this, test Al whether he said the truth or not. — And I felt completely ashamed. I had recognized that it was not Al but myself, whom my suspicion was addressed to. At once I felt a strange confidence, a self-assurance, neither to be dependent on Al any longer nor to need his special gratification. Of course I would have liked to get some admiration for my publications. But I learned to see myself in my own narcissistic mirror just by the way how Al had reacted. By his behavior I got the chance to see myself in the emotional mirror. To see my admiration for Al, not being the victim any more of the unconscious effort to force his admiration for myself and my publications. I began to see myself in the mirror of my own self denial i.e. not having believed enough in myself. Instead I had waited for the release by Al`s admiration.
From now on I felt especially encouraged to write more about group process and BA as well as getting enganged in the collegual discourse rather than waiting for Al. Remembering my narcissistic needy identification, as I had experienced before.
….cause trouble in the flow of information
thought………is not yet……..said
said…………..is not yet……..heard
heard…………is not yet……..understood
understood…..is not yet…….accepted
accepted……..is not yet…….applied
applied……….is not yet…….maintained
Body: sensation and perception
Psyche: feeling and association
Cognition: differentiation and choice
Behavior: decision and acting