A Friday evening with Michael Soth (part of Humanistic Psychology Workshop series - AHP and Self & Society Journal)
Supposedly, according to the latest trends, ‘embodiment’ is now a good thing. Apparently, it’s in fashion. It wasn’t 35 years ago when I first discovered it, as a thoroughly disembodied and mentally-identified teenager, reading Reich and then coming to London to study with Gerda Boyesen in my early 20’s. How times change!
But what is that ‘embodiment’ that is being branded and sold now?
Is it what we had in mind 35 years ago?
And how has what we thought of ‘embodiment’ then changed over the years?
What might ‘embodiment’ need to look like in the 21st century?
How is it being misunderstood, appropriated and used these days, especially in how it is being grafted onto the ‘talking therapies’?
What would a useful, wholesome and productive application of ‘embodiment’ to counselling and psychotherapy look like?
In an age of narcissism epidemic, as demonstrated by celebrities all over the media, the body is used as a fashion accessory, as an advertisement for Self rather than as an incarnation/expression of the Self.
As Winnicott observed, for us to develop a sense of the “psyche indwelling in the soma”, we need a relational space where we do not feel pressure to adjust our gesture to Mummy’s expectation, whether that Mummy is personal, social, cultural or ‘therapeutic’. For many of us, and many of our clients, the imagination of the body has become Hollywood-ised and Disney-fied, as well as commodified.
So the longings for – and the therapeutic agendas towards – ‘embodiment’ create dilemmas for therapists of all kinds – psychological and complementary. How can we do justice to the valid intuitions of embodiment without exacerbating its postmodern contortions, confusions and misappropriations?
How can we practice from a ‘psycho-somatic’ perspective that is rooted in Reich’s recognition of the “functional identity” of body and mind – or what these days we might call an understanding of the integral-systemic ‘holographic’ nature of the “fractal self”?