Freud believed that the ego is primarily a bodily self, which develops mainly body sensations and especially sensations from the body’s surface. According to this, the self can be considered a mental projection of the body’s surface. Winnicott also believed that the body is where the soul resides – the soul which is manifested in the body. He perceived the connection between body and soul as a web of psychosomatic effects. Winnicott came up with the concept of the mind residing in the body, which reformulated the Freudian mind-body connection in a less biological and more psychological way. Body psychotherapist Stanley Keleman claims that without anatomy, feelings do not exist. Feelings and emotions have a physical architecture. (Keleman, 1985).
Body psychotherapy uses attention to the body to deepen awareness of ourselves as a body. The therapist and the patient direct their attention to embodiment and cultivate mindfulness – a kind of internal observer that listens uncritically to our sensory responses before they are organized as feelings or thoughts. When we can actualize our experiences through the body, our chances of releasing physical and mental rigidness are greater: we acquire a body-oriented language that joins our emotional (cognitive/affective) language and learn to create change and movement through it. Body psychotherapy is suitable for patients who wish to go through a mental-therapeutic process, incorporate their physical experiences into it, and speak the body’s language. (Rolef Ben-Shahar, 2013)
Body psychotherapy uses physical attention to deepen our awareness of ourselves as a body and believes that embodiment allows for a more complete processing of life experiences, and a more complete dedication to the life force within” (Totton, 2003).
Directing the patients’ attention to their physical experience within the verbal and non-verbal, communication with their therapist, allows them to learn a new way of relating to themselves as a body-mind complex, and to use the many and creative resources inherent in them to alleviate suffering, and support their development in a way that is right for them. (Cohen-Rokeach 2014)
Studies in neuroscience indicate that physical constructs are in direct interrelationships with emotional and mental perceptions. A significant body of knowledge in the fields of trauma, attachment and the brain supports the effectiveness of therapeutic methods that involve the body. This developing understanding of body and mind contributes to a constant dialogue between them and helps in shaping the fields of psychotherapy, science and medicine in recent decades. But neuroscience and medicine see the body as a biological entity, while the body as “a way of expression of the self”, is forgotten. Body psychotherapy’s perspective on the body-mind issue, is not biological, but holistic, meaning that it sees a person as a complete whole, thus differing from the medical or neuroscientific model. According to the holistic view, a person represents a body and mind totality that cannot be reduced to either physical or mental language. In some forms of treatment in Eastern tradition, the body and mind are seen as belonging to one undivided whole. In Chinese medicine, for example, emotional and physical expressions are not considered separate. Different from these traditional and eastern concepts, body psychotherapy, which developed in western culture, had to “earn” the concept of unity of body and mind. Winnicott put it gracefully: “I have heard it said that in the newborn, physiology and psychology are one. This is a good start. Psychology is a gradual development from physiology.” (Winnicott, 1987 p.36). (Rolef Ben-Shahar, 2013).