“Loose your mind and come to your senses” Fritz Perls
From the days of Freud, there has been a recognition that our body is significant in our experiencing. Oftentimes, symptoms are not entirely mental or entirely physical, they show up in both these manifestations of experience simultaneously.
Back in the 1940s, Willhelm Reich, a student of Freud’s, wrote “the spasm of the muscle is a somatic side of the process of repression.” His language is more fitting for his time than hours, but what he’s saying is that when we have feelings that have got stuck, they get stored in the body as tension. They become like a body armour, or character armour, perhaps in some way protecting us, but simultaneously giving us a rigidity that does not help us act with grace and flexibility in our lives.
Fritz Perls, the co-originator of Gestalt therapy, focused particularly on non-verbal communication, in the form of gestures, facial expressions and body movements. Gestalt is a reference to wholeness, and in Gestalt therapeutic work is seen as a way to complete patterns that are unfinished, releasing the client from the need to keep repeating the same unfinished business again and again in their life.
I like Lakoff and Johnson’s much more recent statement that “the mind is inherently embodied.” If we look and listen carefully, our body provides clues about our mental processes, where they are free flowing, and where they are stuck. Lakoff and Johnson go on to say that thought is mostly unconscious, I would add to this that the bodily representation of it is too. I guess this may be why it is sometimes easier for those close to us to notice what is happening for us than it is for us to see it ourselves.
So, how to use these insights? Perls invites us to ‘Loose your mind and come to your senses.’ I find this invitation quite wonderful. Loosening the grip of reason, of left-brain logical thinking, can bring into awareness so much more information, so much more insight. Be it through art, music, dance, sculpture, doing things that lessen your rationality and make space for the direct experience of your five senses can be powerful ways to learn more about the patterns of your experience and behaviour, and can allow learning and if needed healing to take place.
So, how will you let go? How can you invite your playful, unconscious self to come to the fore, to show you what you may not yet be seeing. Pick up a pencil. Let your voice fly. Move your body freely. Do whatever calls you, go on…give it a try!