Home Concepts Managing Stress & Challenges Oiling the Tin Man’s Armor and Healing His Heart II: Reich’s and Feldenkrais’s Preparation for Treatment

Oiling the Tin Man’s Armor and Healing His Heart II: Reich’s and Feldenkrais’s Preparation for Treatment

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Vulnerability: Armor and Heart

In conclusion, we return to the work of Manfred Kets de Vries. He proposes that leaders are often addressing the vulnerability of those working with them, as well as their own vulnerability. The more vulnerable we are in any specific situation, the more challenged is our own psychological equilibrium (Kets de Vries, 2003). In seeking to re-establish equilibrium, we are likely to engage in splitting (separating the world into clear cut “goods” and “bads”), projection (ascribing to other people what we reject in ourselves), or denial (refusing to acknowledge what is going on inside ourselves or in our environment). These are all primitive defensive routines that we witness going on all around us today (and not just in our clients). They are routines that rigidify our persona and block the movement of energy in our body. We arm ourselves on behalf of our vulnerability.

Facing this vulnerability, we must gain a steady sense of self, gain the capacity to test reality, and tolerate anxiety and uncertainty in our life—if we are to set aside our armor. Kets de Vries suggests the following goal: “the ease with which the individual can articulate his thoughts and emotions, his ability to perceive the relationship between his thoughts, feelings, and actions, and his desire to learn . . . “  We would suggest that these goals are worthy of our efforts to shed our own armor—or work with those who are heavily armored.

This work is especially important when we are addressing the needs of women and men who face the challenge of leadership or are in the business of providing safety and ensuring equity in our troubled society. At times, they must clad themselves with armor, cloak themselves with a persona, or confront their own sense of being an impostor who might soon be exposed. They must think twice about actions that they take and about how these actions can help to relieve the inevitable anxiety that they experience. All of this is inevitable—but it need not be habitual. We should all check out own armor, our restricted movement, our persona and our impostor-fears. Are we vulnerable? Are we stuck? Do we know when to move and where to go? Are we immune or perhaps frozen in place? Answers are required.

Conclusions: Reich meets Feldenkrais

The two men never meet though their “conceptual” paths crossed at the Esalen Institute in California. Both Feldenkrais and Reich’s protégé, Alexander Lowen, provided training at Esalen. This is a legendary retreat site where body and mind intermingled during the late 20st Century. It was a primary site of the human potential movement in the United States. Furthermore, the spirit of Fritz Perls and Gestalt was alive and well at Esalen—along with the rich and provocative theories and perspectives of Fritjof Capra, Theodore Roszak, George Leonard—and Abraham Maslow

By contrast, the training provided by Feldenkrais in Massachusetts would have been less oriented toward the Gestalt-based integration of body and mind, and more oriented toward the structural mechanics of bodily movement (Feldenkrais’s background).  Differences between the orientations offered at Esalen and Amherst probably paralleled the contrast between East Coast human relations training (offered by the National Training Laboratories in Bethel Maine) and West Coast human potential training (offered at Escalon and other seaside and wooded settings).

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