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The Four Life Paradigms
Energy and Awareness
Bio-energetics or bio-inergetics
The False Heritage of  ‘Functionalism”
Psychodynamics and Biodynamics
Inergetic Movements of Awareness
Contents cont.
From Emotional Somatology to a Somatology of Mood
From Emotional Empathy to Organismic Resonance
From Somatic Psychotherapy to Organismic Healing
Therapy and Thinking
Organismic Thinking and Organismic Medicine
Organismic and Organisational Health

 ‘Energy’, ‘Character’ and Inner Relationality
A Relational Critique of Reichian and Neo-Reichian Therapies

 Peter Wilberg



 Not all roads lead to Rome. Not all models of life, the human organism and human relationships are congruent and capable of being integrated in a grand biological synthesis. What follows is a critique of the philosophical and scientific foundations of somatic psychotherapy in its current forms, a critique that I believe is critical to its further development, to maintaining its philosophical and scientific seriousness and — last but not least – increasing its social relevance in the current world. The principal message of my work is that psychotherapists should cease to regard themselves as treating the symptoms of a disturbed early relation to another human being – an external relation to a ‘primary’ other such as the mother. Instead, they should recognise that an individual’s ‘primary relation’ is to their own inner being and not to another human being. Then and only then will they be able to see their client’s problems as the individual expression of a general social pathology of human relations. This general pathology has two sides:

  • an inability of individuals to make direct contact with the inner core of their being.

  • an inability to make direct inner contact  with others from the core of their being.

 I am sure that there are many good somatic psychotherapists who are capable of getting in touch with their own core and thereby helping others to do so (if only in the context of their sessions and their professional relationships with clients). I must admit, however, that I have yet to meet a somatic psychotherapist capable of making direct contact with others from their core. Most that I have met, however grounded they may be in themselves, seem to relate to others outside the context of therapy from their head and heart rather than from the ‘inner ground’ of their being and from the core that leads into it  – from their hara. Thus whilst somatic psychotherapy lends itself to the cultivation of ‘deep sensing’ and deep, organismic resonance with clients, I am less sure that it lends itself to the cultivation of  ‘deep response’. By this I mean the capacity to respond to a client directly from one’s core rather than with what “comes up” from it – and to directly re-late or bear back a message to the core of another human being rather than working with what “comes up” (see Diagram 1).


Diagram 1



Let me emphasise that by the term ‘core’ I do not mean any ‘centre’ from which energy rays out from the self towards other people and the world. And I certainly do not mean the heart, which is neither the physical nor the spiritual centre of gravity of the human being – all Christian sentiment notwithstanding. Neither however, do I mean the hara or abdominal centre, if by this is meant merely one radial centre or ‘chakra’ amongst others, albeit one that is seen as a centre of strength or an ‘energetic core’.

  By ‘core’ I mean a centre of awareness that is precisely no centre, an ‘inner ground’ that is in essence a bottomless abyss (Abgrund) – for it opens into a sphere of unbounded interiority. It is through our own unbounded interiority that we are inwardly linked to other beings in a continuum of being.

The Four Life Paradigms

 What I believe somatic psychotherapy essentially lacks – not alone but together with psychoanalysis, science and global capitalist culture as such – is any concept of inner relationality. This it cannot develop, as long as it accepts the standard scientific model of the human being as a localised centre of awareness bounded by the physical body and surrounded by an unbounded field of extensional space. 

  This is also the basis of Reich’s pictorial model of the human organism: a circle with a finite radius and a centre, nucleus or ‘core’. A centre from which energy can only lead out. A centre from which no breakthrough can be made into another type of space: an unbounded space of inner relationality, which I call intensional space.

  Reich defined ‘life’ as essentially a movement outwards from an energetic core to an organismic periphery. A definition that Alexander Lowen turned into the basic axiom of ‘bioenergetics’, though at the same time he did openly acknowledge the inherently Western, not to say, American, bias of this life paradigm and the values it embodies: values that encourage the individual to ‘reach out’ from a bounded centre or core towards unlimited ‘expansion’ and ‘growth’.

  The paradigm is modified by the understanding that life also involves a pulsatory polarity of outward and inward movements, of expansion and contraction, contact and withdrawal, ‘outstroke’ and ‘instroke’. In order to straightaway offer the reader a framework for understanding what is wrong with this modified model it is helpful to see it as one of four basic life paradigms.


The First (modern Western) Life Paradigm
Life is an outward movement of energy from self to world.

The Second (ancient Vedic) Paradigm
Life is an inward movement of awareness from world to self.

The Third Life Paradigm (found in both Western and Eastern cultures)
Life is a pulsatory cycle or rhythm of outward and inward movements of energy and awareness.

The Fourth (mystical) Paradigm
Life is an inward movement from self to world. The inward movement of awareness from world to self is the condition for a deep inner relatedness to the world and other people.

 The Fourth Paradigm is a mystical paradigm, suggesting that inward movement from world to self is not to be understood merely as a regressive retreat into oneself, but as a movement that leads into deeper levels of relatedness to the world and other people. It is not the contraction of an organismic periphery or the withdrawal of energy to a core. It is an inward movement of awareness and not of energy, an inward movement of awareness that reaches into and through one’s own core. This inward movement of awareness, far from being a withdrawal of energy to a core is the very condition for the outward release of energy from that core.

Energy and Awareness

 Energy is what relates things externally in extensional space – linking them as bodies in space and time. But awareness is intrinsically an awareness of ourselves in relation to something or someone other than self. In opposition to bioenergetics and what has come to be known as ‘energy medicine’ in general, I put forward the hypothesis that awareness is the very inwardness of energy – the medium of inner relatedness between things and people. What I call ‘inergy’ consists of patterned flows and figurations of awareness. Organisms are not living ‘things’ that we are aware of. They are themselves organizing patterns or figurations of awareness – Awareness Gestalts.  The cell is not a thing ‘with’ awareness. It is itself a figuration of cellular awareness – not our awareness of cellular activity but essentially the figurations and flows of awareness that constitute that activity. The human organism too, is not essentially an ‘energetic body’ – a body composed of energy whose patterns and flows we can be more or less aware of. It is essentially a body of awareness, composed of those flows of awareness that constitute what I call inergy.

To talk of a person’s bodily ‘energy’ seems to imbue it with more tangible ‘objective’ reality than the mere ‘subjective’ awareness we have of it. At the same time however, it is an evasion of the basic question of what is more real or fundamental – measurable properties of bodies or qualities of awareness as such. When we are aware of a person’s warmth as a human being or perceive the radiance of their gaze we are not speaking of any physical heat or light energy emanated by their bodies. What we are aware of is no ‘thing’ at all – even a thing we like to call ‘energy’. It is a quality of the other person’s own awareness of the world – their felt inner relation to it.  That is why it is not energy that  relates things and people inwardly. It is aware inner relatedness that energises. Energy is the outward expression of inner relatedness – of inergy.  All measurable outer energies are the expression of inergy, of qualities and movements of awareness linking both things and people. Conversely, there is not a single form of energy, whether light, heat or electrical charge, that does not have its own inergetic counterpart.

  The distinction between movements of energy and movements of awareness and their dynamic relation — inergy – is one that somatic psychotherapy, with its continuing attachment to the principles of bioenergetics and biodynamics, has yet to grasp even in principle. What I term organismic as opposed to orgonomic physiology, bio-inergetics rather than bio-energetics, is the science of these dynamics, based on the understanding that the human organism is not the physical body nor an energy body but a body of awareness. What follows is an entirely new set of dynamic laws relating flows of energy in the body to flows of awareness in the organism, and in particular the principle that inward movements of awareness from periphery to the core release an outward movement of energy from the core to periphery.

Bio-energetics or bio-inergetics

 Reichian orgonomics and bio-energetics are based on the idea that character is a form of pathology based on chronic muscular restriction of the outward movement of biological energy from core to periphery, embodied in muscular armouring. Understood organismically, muscular restriction of biological energy moving from core to periphery is a substitute for true strength and depth of character. Strength and depth of character is not muscular character rigidity but the discipline necessary to mentally restrain an outward movement of awareness. Only through this mental restraint can awareness be turned inward from one’s entire organismic periphery and concentrated at one’s core. It is when the concentration of awareness breaks through the core (as if through a black hole) and into the unbounded interiority of intensional space that fresh energy is released from the core (as if from a white hole), energy which then impels and fuels outward movements towards the world. 

  The inward movement of awareness from periphery to core is the essence of the depressive process. Only if this fundamentally healthy movement inward is halted before it reaches down into and through the individual’s core, do depressive states result. States of withdrawal are not failures to reach out and make contact with other people and the world but the result of a mental failure to actively encourage and deepen the depressive process — go deeper inside oneself and make deeper inner contact with oneself and others of the sort that will then automatically release a new outward movement of awareness and energy, that will release e-motion. Reich understood fear physiologically, as a dominance of the sympathetic nervous system leading to a circulatory withdrawal of energy from periphery to core. I understand fear and anxiety phenomenologically as a highly charged awareness that is stuck on the organism’s periphery, fearfully oriented towards the world, or entirely lost in it and cut off in a schizoid manner from the core of the self.

  Reich opposed fear to love, identifying the latter with a pleasurable outward streaming of energy from core to periphery, energy that is then released in orgasmic discharge. From a bio-inergetic perspective, this is a confusion of love with sexuality and aggression. The latter are both based on simultaneous outward movements of energy and awareness. But love itself is an inward movement of awareness, and the felt inner relation to another human being that comes when awareness breaks into the intensional field linking us inwardly with other beings. It is this inward movement that releases the flush of outward moving energy that is biologically released in sexual activity. 

  Reich’s error began with Freud, who also identified the human organism with the human body, and therefore identified human relationality as such with sexual relatedness – with Eros. And despite all talk of the ‘trans-personal’, somatic psychotherapy still follows in the footsteps of biological medicine in seeking an individual biological basis for human unhappiness and relational dis-ease – for example through looking for clues in embryology and intra-uterine life. Understood bio-inergetically, the organism is not shaped in the womb. It is the womb that we never leave, a matrix or organizing figurations and flows of awareness from which we constantly give birth to our own bodies. 

  Following Freud, with his concept of opposing life and death instincts, of Eros and Thanatos, Reich himself was led to the idea of a life-negative as well as a life-positive energy. A true biology or science of life does indeed require a true thanatology or science of death – but this is ruled out in advance by treating life and death, Eros and Thanatos, as opposing drives or energies. Understood organismically, thanatological or death processes are an intrinsic part of life. They include not only the process of aging but everyday processes such as tiring or going to sleep. The chief characteristic of these natural thanatological processes is that they involve a simultaneous inward movement of energy and awareness, leading them back into the inergetic fields and inner dimensions of awareness, which are their source. 


  • Energy is the medium of outer relationality.

  • Awareness is the medium of inner relationality.

  • Energy is the outwardness of awareness.

  • Awareness is the inwardness of energy or ‘inergy’. 

  • Inergetic movements are movements of awareness.

  • The outward movement of energy is the condition of outer contact with the world.

  • The inward movement of awareness is the condition for inner contact with the world.

  • Inward movements of awareness from periphery to core release outward movements of energy from core to periphery.

  • If awareness loses itself in outward movements of energy, its own inward movement is blocked, resulting in a depletion or inward withdrawal of energy.

  • Muscular restriction of the outward movement of energy is a substitute for mental restraint of the outward movement of awareness.


The False Heritage of  ‘Functionalism”

 The essence of biology can never be grounded in biology as a science.

 We cannot say that the organ has capacities 
but must say that  the capacity has organs.

 Martin Heidegger


In its implicit continuation of the search for a biological basis for human unhappiness, somatic psychotherapy is still heavily influenced by Reichian functionalism: the belief, shared with biological medicine, that human capacities, not least relational capacities, are the expression of biological or organic functions. It is the other way round. A pen has functions – it serves as an instrument of writing. But it lacks any capacity to write. Neither has the eye any capacity to see or the ear to hear, however much it functions as an organ of seeing or hearing. As Heidegger put it “We hear, not the ear”. Likewise we see, not the eye. The human organism is not a collection of organs and organic functions, but the unity of our own capacities as beings, capacities which are themselves embodied in organs and organic functions.

  These capacities are our capacity to engage in particular movements of awareness. Our capacity to breathe, for example, is not a result of having lungs whose function it is to draw in air and help us to draw oxygen from it. Rather the opposite: respiratory functioning, seen as so important in Reichian theory, is the embodiment of our capacity to draw in or ‘breathe’ our own uniquely coloured and toned awareness of self and world, absorb inner meaning from it, and in turn let our awareness of self and other flow out and communicate through a meaningful comportment towards the world and other people. We can practice bioenergetic or Yogic breathing exercises for years without this having any effect on our essential breathing – the in-breath and out-breath of awareness. Yet we cannot take in a ‘breathtaking’ landscape or feel ‘in-spired’ by a mental vision without this automatically bodying itself in our physical breathing, deepening our bodily re-spiration. Breathing as a bodily function is the embodiment of an organismic breath cycle, the in-breath and out-breath of awareness, which constitutes our spiritedness as beings and is the basis of essential respiration.

  Similarly, digestive and metabolic functions are not the basis but the embodiment of a truly psychoperistaltic process, the digestion and metabolism, within our organism or our body of awareness, of our lived experience of the world. This process begins with mental ‘chewing over’ but does not end until we have a gut feeling of what things mean to us inwardly.  As for the ‘mind’ itself, this is not a disembodied part of the psyche but the very musculature of the human organism as a body of awareness. With it we can facilitate different movements of awareness or restrict them, encourage them or block them. 

  Only with the help of the mind can we turn suffering from a passive experience of psychological or physiological ‘processes’ occurring within us into responsible activity – the activity of intentionally encouraging and completing those processes by turning them into true psychodynamics: active movements or dynamics of awareness.

Psychodynamics and Biodynamics

 The term ‘psychodynamic’ is now commonly used to refer to forms of psychotherapy based on psychoanalytic theory. But its essential meaning has yet to be grasped that has nothing to do with the dynamic relation between various contents of the psyche – with things we are aware of such as thoughts and feelings, sensations and perceptions, dreams and mental images. It has to do with basic movements or dynamics of awareness as such. It is through these movements of awareness, that the organism, as our dynamic body of awareness, translates ontodynamics into biodynamics, what moves us as beings of movement of and within our own bodies. Movement as such is not essentially bodily movement in extensional, physical space. Bodily movements are the embodiment of inner movements of awareness. The organism is the body with which we translate our movedness as beings – what moves us inwardly – into inner movements of awareness. For example moving closer to or distancing ourselves from another person inwardly. The organism is the body with which we relate directly to other people as beings – the body of inner relationality. Through it we feel their inergetic qualities – their inner warmth or coolness, closeness or distance, luminosity or darkness, levity or gravitas. Warming and cooling to someone, moving closer to or further from them, making contact with and touching them, holding them in our awareness or letting go of them, sounding out or being in resonance with someone, are all movements of awareness involving different inergetic qualities of awareness – qualities such as inner warmth, inner light and inner sound or resonance.

  Movements such as ‘grounding’ and ‘centering’, which are given great significance in ‘bodywork’, are not essentially bodily movements at all. No physical exercises can ‘ground’ a person in their own being, nor is the disciplined practice of
centred bodily movement (as for example in Tai Chi) any guarantee that an individual can relate to other human beings from and through their own core. Just as we can look into a person’s eyes without meeting their gaze — without encountering the other as a being, we can touch and feel someone’s body in a highly sensitive way, aware of its warmth or coolness, its energetic aura, its muscle tone and texture, without in any way sensing their organism as such – the felt tones, textures and intensities of awareness that find embodiment in an individual’s skin and muscle tone, cell and organ tone.

  The distinction between ‘psychodynamic’ and ‘biodynamic’ models of the human being is an entirely false one. The human organism, as a body of awareness consists of psychodynamics and nothing else. What both ‘psychodynamic’ and ‘biodynamic’ approaches to psychotherapy have failed to grasp is that psychodynamics — movements of awareness — are themselves bio-inergetic movements and as such are the basis of bioenergetic and biodynamic processes. Organismic awareness is not felt sensation or felt ‘energy’ but a felt sense of these basic inergetic movements of awareness itself, examples of which are given below.

  None of the descriptions of the ‘inergetic’ movements should in any way be considered merely as energetic ‘metaphors’ for psychodynamic movements of awareness. To do so would be to imply, for example, that ‘warming’ to another human being is a less ‘real’ example of warmth than being warmed by a person’s body. That the inergetic warmth, the soul warmth we sense emanating from a human being, is less rather than more real than energetic warmth — the measurable temperature of their body.

Inergetic Movements of Awareness


Presencing and absencing — being fully ‘there’ and fully present (Da-sein) or absent and elsewhere; inwardly nearing or distancing oneself from someone or something; withdrawing awareness to a periphery or moving into oneself  from a periphery; letting awareness ray out from a centre towards a periphery or concentrating and gathering awareness at a centre from a periphery, firming or dissolving a mental boundary of awareness, expanding or contracting a field of awareness.



Becoming heavier and sinking into oneself or feeling a lighter and less dense quality to one’s awareness; adjusting the balance of gravitas and levity, feeling the gravitational pull of one’s own inner ground or allowing awareness to float free.



Warming or cooling to someone or something, psychically hotting up or cooling down, glowing with inner warmth or seeking that warmth.



Lightening or ‘brightening up’ or being in a dark mood; being aware of oneself and others in a particular light. Turning the light of awareness inward or radiating it outwardly.



Exerting ‘magnetism’ or feeling one’s awareness charged with tension.



Attuning to oneself and others, being in tune or out of tune with oneself or others, resonance and dissonance, being in ‘sound’ health (Ge-sund-heit), inwardly sounding others out.


From Emotional Somatology to a Somatology of Mood

 Emotions are outward impulses or movements of energy expressed in physiological activity and physical movements. But these in turn are the expression of movements of awareness, which do not occur in the body or take place in extensional space. These are inergetic movements from one qualitative tone, texture and intensity of awareness to another. Inergy does not consist of indistinguishable ‘quanta’ of energy but of these qualia, which take up no extensional space but constitute the very fabric of intensional space. Inergetic fields are specific ranges of these tonal intensities of awareness – ‘feeling tones’ in short. What I call the ‘self-field’ is a specific range of feeling tones — not intrinsically limited, but bounded only by the individual’s capacity to resonate with tones outside this range. In fact, however, each person tends to attune only to a small part of their own self-field, capable of resonating only with a limited range of their own feeling tones. On the other hand they can expand their attunement to their own self-field through resonance with the feeling tones of others.

  People experience feeling tones that make up their self-field as different mental-emotional and somatic states – as different ‘moods’.  But perhaps the most critical defect of psychological, psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic discourse in general, is the failure to distinguish emotions and emotional energy from mood or feeling tone. Moods, as Heidegger pointed out, are not anything we experience ‘in’ ourselves or ‘in’ the world. They are basic tones, textures and intensities of awareness, which permeate our overall experience of ourselves and the world, lending it a specific colouration. Our bodily self-awareness is always coloured and tuned by a specific feeling tone. Such feeling tones however, are never reducible to a specific sensation, emotions or thoughts. Instead the latter are our own cognitive, emotional and somatic interpretations of the underlying moods or feeling tones that make up our self-field.

  A problem shared by both clients and therapists, patients and psychiatrists alike however, is the failure to distinguish between moods or feeling tones on the one hand – the basic colouration or tones of awareness that constitute a person’s self-field — and the way the latter are psychically and somatically experienced.  The very term ‘mood’ is employed in an ambiguous and faulty way, being used both to describe an underlying feeling tone and the mental, emotional or somatic states through which this is experienced. Once again, however, it must be emphasised that what makes a mood a mood is nothing that we can experience or express but that which lends our self-experience and self-expression a specific ‘tenor’ – colouring it like a pair of colour-tinted spectacles with which we both look into ourselves and out at the world.

  If a person has flu for example, the whole tone and texture of their bodily self-experience is qualitatively altered. They exist in an altered field-state. What they will tend to focus on however, is not that organismic field-state as such but specific psychical or physical phenomena that they experience within that field – for example a sore throat, annoyance at being ill, worries about being able to get work done, feelings of tiredness etc. Like the experience of illness, people’s experience of moods tends to be entirely passive. They find themselves in a mood that gives rise to pleasurable thoughts, emotions and sensations or alternatively they ‘suffer’ that mood, experiencing it passively as a state of depression or despair, agitation or boredom, excitement or lethargy. This, despite the fact that the specific tone colour and intensity of each person’s ‘agitation’ or ‘depression’, ‘joy’ or ‘pleasure’ etc is as distinctive as the way different composers express such moods in their music.

Understanding moods as basic feeling tones makes it questionable to speak, as clinical psychologists and psychiatrists do, of ‘mood disorders’. For the only true mood disorder is the inability to comprehend moods as moods — to attune to the basic tones and chords of feeling (however harmonious or dissonant), which constitute a given mood rather than interpreting or experiencing it as a mental, emotional or somatic state.  There is no such thing as a ‘mood disorder’ — only a lack of attunement to moods and a capacity to let them resonate within us.

  If someone complains of ‘black moods’ of rage or deep depression, for example, what they are most often referring to is not a mood but the thoughts, emotions and impulses which a particular mood gives rise to in them and through which they passively experience or ‘suffer’ it. If they then get violent or kill themselves this is a way of giving active expression to a fundamentally passive experience of a particular mood or feeling tone.  What this person lacks is not a chemical to alter their passively experienced mood from black to some other colour but the ability to actively attune to the underlying feeling tone of their ‘black’ thoughts, emotions and impulses, and to resonate with them. Put in other terms what they lack in their passive experience of a ‘black mood’ is precisely the ability to actively blacken their mood or tone-colouration of their self-experience. Here I am not talking of simply encouraging people, as Arnold Mindell does, to actively amplify negative mental, emotional or somatic states as such. This is helpful only in so far as it helps people to attune to and then actively amplify the basic colouration or tone of feeling underlying these states. Only in this way can they come to accept them as self-states or selves  — parts of their self-field with which they were previously afraid of or uncomfortable with.

 From Emotional Empathy to Organismic Resonance

 Comparing moods with colours let us say that an individual has a certain range of moods which we can describe as intense red, blue, dull grey, black, murky brown, radiant yellow, soft pink etc. Alternatively we could give them labels such as ‘anger’, ‘sadness’, ‘despair’, ‘depression’, ‘joy’, ‘warmth’ and ‘softness’ etc. Let us say that they are familiar and comfortable with certain of these moods and less at-ease with others, which occasion a definite dis-ease. Or that they are conscious of a conflict between the way they experience and express themselves in one mood as against another. Or that certain of these moods are experienced as bringing them into conflict with the moods of others.

  A therapist can focus on the patient’s mental, emotional, somatic, social and even spiritual experience of a mood or moods, and/or on their bodily or behavioural expression. Alternatively, the practitioner can seek to resonate with them as moods in the primordial sense — attuning to the specific feeling tone of this particular client’s disordered thought or language, this client’s depression or despair, rage or agitation, aggressive behaviour, this client’s inner voices etc. Neither clinical detachment nor emotional empathy are the same thing as this organismic and essentially musical resonance. Only through this resonance however, can a therapist:

  • get a feel of  the client’s self-field, of the different qualities, tones and intensities of awareness they emanate at different times.

  • get a sense of those qualities, tones and intensities of awareness which they are  ill-at-ease with and which they experience and express in a negative way, and help them through resonance to resonate with these unfamiliar feeling tones rather than passively suffering them as mental, emotional or somatic states.  

All this is quite different from ‘emotional empathy’ — reading  the body, registering that a client is suffering emotionally in a certain way, working to identify the emotions involved, identifying or ‘empathising’ in a bodily way with these emotions and encouraging the client to feel and express them.  Nor does it make any difference whether such empathy is experienced in a deep somatic way and described as ‘somatic resonance’. Once again, to be aware that someone is in pain does not mean that we feel the specific quality or tonality of this pain. Similarly, to be aware of a feeling or emotion, whether in another person or in oneself, is not the same thing as attuning to its specific quality or feeling tone. Someone can see that another person is sad and genuinely empathise with their sadness without attuning to its specific qualitative, tone and intensity – without attuning to their sadness.

  The distinction between ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions’ on the one hand, and feeling tones on the other is crucial to understanding the difference between emotional empathy and organismic resonance. In previous writings I have defined the human organism as the musical instrument or organon with which we give form to feeling tones, embodying them in cell and muscle tone, the tone of our voice and of our language, of our gaze and of our facial expression or look.  Organismic resonance means letting the specific tone, texture and intensity of any mental, emotional or somatic state resonate within us and thereby permeate and colour our self-awareness. Only in this way does it cease to be something we are aware of and instead lead us into a newly toned and coloured awareness of ourselves. Only in this way can mental, emotional and somatic states be experienced and understood as the mental, emotional and somatic expression of organismic states – of self-states.

From Somatic Psychotherapy to Organismic Healing

 Every person, as they experience themselves in everyday life, inhabits only a limited portion of their own inergetic field – the larger range of tones and intensities that constitutes what I call the self-field.  When we are ill or simply ill-at-ease, we do not ‘feel ourselves’. That is not because we are victims of a bodily disease caused by foreign bodies of one sort or another but because our dis-ease is a transition to a new and hitherto foreign experience of ourselves, a transition from one self-state to another. The organismic healing process is not simply one of getting back to normal and ‘feeling ourselves’ again, but  of allowing ourselves to pass from not feeling ourselves to feeling ourselves in a different way – feeling another self . By this I do not mean a  ‘sub-personality’ we identify somewhere inside ourselves – a ‘part’ of ourselves that we feel. I mean instead a new mood, tone or quality of awareness that transforms our overall or ‘holistic’ experience of ourselves and the world. Giving mental, emotional and bodily expression to this new basic mood or feeling tone is an important part of the healing process, but only if the starting point of self-expression is not the mental, emotional or physical state that disturbs us in the first place but our attunement to the basic mood or feeling tone underlying it.  For only then can we find a mode of ‘self-expression’ that gives form to a new sense of self in resonance with this mood or feeling tone – rather than experiencing it as a mental, emotional or somatic disruption of our familiar sense of self. Organismic healing is ‘self-healing’ in a more essential sense than this phrase is ordinarily understood – not something ‘I’ do to alter and transform a psychosomatic state, but the converse: letting that state alter and transform my very sense of this “I”.

  Organismic healing is distinct in principle from any approach to medicine or psychosomatics, which identifies the human organism with the human body, which seeks a biological basis for disease in genes or intra-uterine experience. For organismic medicine understands the human organism and not the uterus itself as the primordial womb within which we dwell before birth and in which we continue to dwell after birth. This womb is not part of the material body but is the very mother body (Mutterleib) from which we constantly give birth to ourselves — translating inergy into energy, patterns of awareness into motor and mental patterns, feeling tones into cell and muscle tone, movements of awareness into bodily movements. It is dis-ease understood as a form of organismic pregnancy allowing us to give birth to a new sense of self. It is healing understood as a form of midwifery or maieusis — allowing one to give birth to a newly toned sense of self, a newly toned bearing towards the world.

  What role can the therapist play as midwife to this organismic healing process? By organismic healing I understand a form of therapy based on the therapist’s own organismic awareness – the use of their own inner body or psychical organism to receive and respond directly to the organism of the client. This is a quite different matter to  ‘working on’ or ‘with’ the client’s mental, emotional or somatic states, and the ‘issues’ associated with them. But once again I am calling attention to a major paradigm shift, this time in our understanding of the therapeutic relationship and of what has hitherto been called ‘somatic resonance’ or ‘vegetative identification’. Just as there is an essential difference between inergy and energy, between the organism and the physical body, between feeling tone and emotions, organismic resonance and emotional empathy, so there is also an essential difference between, on the one hand, things that a therapist or client is aware of – that ‘come up’ in the course of therapy – and, on the other hand, basic qualities, tones and movements of awareness as such.

A somatic psychotherapist may become aware of a particular posture or stance, look or facial expression, word or tone of voice that they feel is significant – indicative of a mental, emotional or somatic state. Resonant organismic contact and communication with the client is possible only if they (1) attune to the specific tonality of this bodily or verbal sign (2) let this tone resonate within their own organism (3) inwardly ‘read’ this resonance and (4) respond to it inwardly with their own organism before (or instead of) responding to it outwardly through some form of therapeutic intervention or interpretation. To do so requires an unusual capacity to modulate the tone of their own organism, using it as a musical instrument or ‘organon’ (the root meaning of ‘organism’) to respond to the music being played to them by the client.  It is one thing to hear someone strike a chord on an instrument, feel its resonance and respond by interpreting its emotional meaning or helping the player to do so. It is quite another thing, to respond with a chord of one’s own. The fact that music therapy is one of the least developed and most marginalized of all forms of therapy, has, I believe, a deep significance. Its significance lies in the fact that music – tonality — belongs to the very essence of the human organism, and is the basis of all human communication. A resonant therapeutic response to a communication from a client is above all a tuned and toned response, one that not only echoes the feeling tone of the communication but bears back or ‘re-lates’ a modulated tone.

  Here we need to first of all abandon the notion that the use of the term ‘resonance’ in connection with therapy is in any way a ‘metaphor’ borrowed from physical science. The fact that vibrations are set off in the ear and in the body as a whole by sound waves coming from a loudspeaker says nothing about a person’s resonance with the music being played. It may be an example of resonance in the physical sense but tells us nothing about resonance in the essential sense – as an inner relation of beings rather than an external relation of bodies. In this essential sense one tuning fork can no more be said to ‘resonate’ with another than a chair can be said to ‘touch’ the ground on which it stands. Resonant contact and communication with another human being is a form of inner vibrational touch — not merely a form of deep receptivity to another human being but of active inner response to that being, one in which what sounds forth from our own being modifies and modulates the subtle harmonics of the feeling tone we let resonate within us.

  The condition for such a modulated tonal response is the therapist’s contact with their own ‘inner ground’, a contact that rests in turn on a listening attunement to their own fundamental tone (Grundton). This fundamental tone is comparable to a grand chord combining and supporting all the qualitatively toned intensities of awareness that compose their own inergetic field. As such it offers infinite potentials for resonant attunement to the feeling tones of others, for these feeling tones are essentially wavelengths of resonant attunement linking us to others through the inergetic field of our own organism. But just as verbal communication rides on modulations of vocal tone, so also is there a type of wordless communication that rides on modulations of feeling tones. This has nothing to do with what is ordinarily understood as ‘non-verbal’ communication. Indeed, the very term is meaningless – for what words themselves communicate is in itself nothing essentially verbal but has to do with their wordless resonances and the wordless inner communication that takes place through them. 

  It must be emphasised therefore, that in speaking of tones and tonality I am referring essentially to organismic feeling tones – to the resonances or tones of silence that are communicated through a person’s words and through their tone of voice, through their muscle tones and through the tone of their gestures and of their gaze. Hearing these tones of silence demands a type of listening which is the very opposite of whole-hearted attention to others and heart-felt empathy with them. This is a listening that in itself constitutes the inward concentration of awareness from our own organismic periphery towards our organism centre — a still-point of silence in the hara. Going into this still point of silence opens up our hearing to a world of inner sound – to the inner resonances and tones of silence that ring out from the client’s own organism. Only then can we begin to read these resonances, a process that can take anything from minutes to days or weeks. To read resonances however, it is essential that we allow them to linger within us, sustaining them long past the point at which they were first conveyed to us though sensory impressions of a client’s words or body language. For this capacity for active inner recollection of sensory impressions is vital. Letting a person’s words continue to echo and resonate within us long after they have been uttered, and recalling the tone of their looks and facial expressions long after they have changed, are two crucial elements of this recollective activity.



·        a body of awareness — the body with which we breath in, digest and metabolise awareness allowing it to circulate within us and drawing meaning from it.  

·        an inergetic body composed of  qualitative tones and textures, intensities and streamings of awareness.  

·        a dynamic body — translating basic inergetic motions of awareness

·        (‘psychodynamics’) into energy, e-motions and biodynamic  motions.  

·        a womb or ‘mother body’ (Mutterleib) – filled with the fluid medium of toned awareness and made up of organizing patterns of awareness which in-form the physical body. 

·        a musical body or organon — the body with which we give patterned form to the fluid medium of toned awareness or feeling tone, embodying it in cell and muscle tone. 

·        a psychosomatic body  — the dynamic interface between the bounded extensional space of  the physical body and the unbounded interiority or  intensional space of  the psyche. 

·        a relational body — the body with which we sense, touch, move towards or away from other beings independently of the physical senses or of physical  touch or movement.

 Therapy and Thinking

Sylvia Specht Boadella has spoken of the Deep Sensing and Deep Resonance that lie at the heart of somatic psychotherapy. She has also alluded to something she describes as Doubled Presence, and which I would understand as an awareness of the basic twofoldness of the human being — the fundamental or primary relation between our outer being or Surface Self  (Ego and Persona) and our inner being or Deep Self  — a self from which I believe we can make direct contact with the inner being of others.  To the language of Deep Sensing and Deep Resonance I would therefore also add the term ‘Deep Response’, and emphasise also the importance of Deep Reading  — our capacity to stay with and sustain a felt resonance with a client long enough for it to bring something new and previously unheard into view.

 “Our thinking should now bring into view what has already been heard in the intonation. In doing so it brings into view what was un-heard of before. Thinking is a listening (Erhören) that brings something to view. Therefore in thinking both ordinary hearing and seeing pass away for us, for thinking brings about in us a listening and a bringing-into-view.”
Martin Heidegger

 Deep Sensing, Deep Resonance, Deep Reading and Deep Response are all aspects of what Heidegger understood as deep or meditative thinking.  Another, and perhaps even more important way of understanding the general pathology of human relations in contemporary culture that I referred to at the beginning of this article is to describe it as Heidegger did – as a flight from thinking.  And another way of understanding my own critique of somatic psychotherapy is that it fails to recognise that thinking itself – Deep Thinking — is what is most central to therapy. Why? Because thinking has essentially nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘head’ or ‘intellect’. Instead it is a practice of concentrated inward listening – a mindful attunement to felt bodily sense and ‘resonance’ that leads us into an awareness of our inner body of awareness – the human psychical organism.

An organismic understanding of thinking itself allows us to appreciate why it is that  a single deep thought, far from being a mere intellectual or philosophical ‘concept’, can potentially express a more profound depth of feeling — and be more profoundly moving and transforming — than any emotion, action or therapeutic intervention. Conversely, the flight from thinking manifests itself primarily as an inability to listen in such a way as to feel thoughts themselves – to sense and resonate with their deeper meaning or significance. In somatic psychotherapy, the flight from thinking takes the form of a flight from felt bodily sense or meaning, from our movedness as beings, into felt bodily sensations, motions and e-motions. This flight from deeply felt thinking can comfortably go hand in hand with the shallowest and most abstract type of intellectual or scientific theorising about feelings, about the body and the like.

  Organismic Thinking and Organismic Medicine

 To think the true nature of the human organism more deeply, to research its depth and physiology and develop a deep organismic medicine requires first and foremost a new and deeper way of thinking  – an organismic thinking rooted in our own organism itself. Organismic thinking is the articulation of the researcher’s felt sense and resonance with the patterned inergetic tones, intensities, movements and directions of awareness that constitute the human organism itself. This leads us to a new inner understanding of primary organic functions such as sensation, respiration, circulation and metabolism as the embodiment of active organismic capacities – the capacity to breath in and metabolise sensory experience. Gone is the bioenergetic notion of bodily life as interplay of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity. In its place is the understanding that autonomic activity is the activity of an autonomous self – the inner being that dwells in the womb of our own organism. This autonomic or organismic self we cannot consciously experience in waking life. Nor is it the self we dream ourselves to be. It is the self that dreams us – as it also bodies who we are, being the self that breathes and metabolises our waking self-experience, not only in dreams but continuously.  Bodying and dreaming are the two principal activities of this autonomous inner self, exercised through the instrument of the human organism. All disruptions of organic functioning are disruptions of inner contact and communication between the ego and outer self on the one hand, and this autonomous, organismic self or ‘inner ego’ on the other. The latter is not an ‘unconscious’ but a supraconscious self. It is only the ego that may be more or less unconscious of its very existence.

This understanding of the self and of the human organism was anticipated not by Freud or Reich, nor even by Jung, but by Nietzsche:

                   Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, there stands a mighty ruler, an unknown sage — whose name is Self. In your body he dwells. The senses and the mind would persuade you that they are the end of all things. That is how vain they are. Instruments and toys are the senses and the mind — behind them still lies the Self. The self also seeks with the eyes of the senses; it also listens with the ears of the mind.

As for the development of a new organismic medicine, this is something with historic spiritual dimensions far transcending the contemporary conflict of different models and methods of somatic psychotherapy or ‘alternative medicine’. For as Nietzsche suggested: “…perhaps the entire evolution of the spirit is a question of the body; it is the history of the emergence of a higher body that emerges into our sensibility.” He adds: “Through the long succession of millennia, man has not known himself physiologically; he does not know himself even today,”

The organism as a ‘higher’ or ‘inner’ body is, paradoxically, no body at all in the ordinary sense – it possesses no measurable physical extension, nor even a spatially extended energetic aura. It is not a body ‘in’ space at all. Rather it occupies a transitional space between ordinary extensional space and an inverse or intensional space. The inwardness of the organism is not a spatial inwardness but comparable to the felt inwardness of the word – a space of meaningful intensities and resonances. The organism is a dynamic ‘mental’ surface or boundary between the bounded extensional space occupied by the physical body and the unbounded interiority of the intensional space of the psyche.  It is through the unbounded psychic interiority of the organism that we are linked inergetically or ‘etherically’ to the inwardness of both things and people. Paradoxically however, far from being surrounded by physical space, the inner or intensional space of the organism actually surrounds and envelops what appears as physical space. What we perceive as the extensional space or energetic fields around our bodies open up within the surrounding intensional space and inergetic field of the psyche (see Diagram 2 for an extensional representation of this relation). This understanding of the unbounded psychic and inergetic interiority of the organism is the reason why Nietzsche’s guiding words are the motto of organismic research and medicine: “We should study the organism in all its immortality.” But this is “study” in the deep sense, demanding patient and profound phenomenological research, the greatest philosophical precision and the sharpest critical acuity.


Diagram 2

A representation of the unbounded interiority or intensional space of the organism, showing how  it envelops its ‘outer’ field of extensional space.



Organismic and Organisational Health

 Just as the health of the individual cannot be separated from the health of human relations, so can the health of the individual human organism not be separated from the relational health of social organisations, the workplace in particular. A secretary who feels bullied or demeaned by her boss, no less than a child who is dominated by its parents, may develop symptoms – an angry skin rash for example — as a substitute for support in resisting pathological patterns of relating in organisations. Neither her physician nor even a body-oriented psychotherapist, however, may ask the questions necessary to understand the fleshly organismic text of her symptoms in their organisational context. Doing so would shift the focus of therapy from the individual to power relations in society.  And whilst a therapist may uncover the buried pain  of an adult whose childhood was dominated by a depressed parent, they may be less willing to recognise the invisible powers that played a role in that parent’s depression – for example the anonymous boardroom in another continent whose downsizing plans led to his redundancy.  Just as the word ‘emotion’ has become an obstacle to a deep psychology of mood or organismic feeling, so has the word ‘energy’ become an obstacle to a deep psychology of power in social organisations. 

The potential depth and richness of the therapeutic relationship is itself a challenge to the superficiality of human relations promoted and sustained by capitalist culture. All the more important then, that this depth and richness is not kept within the confines of the therapeutic relationship. The very professionalisation and institutionalization of somatic psychotherapy, like that of somatic medicine carries the danger of turning the therapeutic relationship into a substitute for a transformation of human relations in the social body – the corporate body in particular. For it is there, more than anywhere else, that no value is placed on authentic human relations – as opposed to purely professional or personal relations. An authentic human relation is an expression of genuine inner relatedness to others as opposed to purely external role relationships. It is a relation in which every encounter with the other is taken as an end in itself and not a means to an end – whether this end be profit, power or therapy. A revolution in human relations can only come about through a change in the way in which each of us, as human beings, relates to our own inner being and other beings – not only within but above all outside the context of the therapeutic  relationship. For it is there in the social and corporate body that the capacity for resonant organismic contact and communication, for deep sensing, deep resonance, deep reading and deep responsiveness is most lacking.  As David Smail has argued so forcibly, it is high time for us to stop seeing the individual as a health problem for themselves and the world and to once again see the world as a health problem for the individual – including our clients. No form of therapy, which challenges and empowers clients to change themselves without empowering them to challenge and change the world, can have any lasting effect on the health of the individual or social organism. This was something that Reich, with his education in socio-critical Marxist analysis as well as individual Freudian psychoanalysis, certainly recognized. The title of Myron Sharaf’s biography of Reich – “Fury on Earth” – bears testament to his outrage at what he perceived as a general social pathology.  This critique of somatic psychotherapy is also an appeal to restore and revive the revolutionary impetus and energy of Reich’s work. At its heart is also a basic emotional question to somatic psychotherapists: where has all the fury gone?

One answer is – to war – for it is war which is all too often used to give health fury its own pathological expression. The events of September 11 and the consequent war can be understood organismically as a conflict between an ego-centred character structure in which head and heart are connected to each other but both lack a spiritual link with the hara – and its mirror image, a spiritually-grounded character structure in which both head and hara and head and heart are linked, but heart and hara are severed. The Islamic hara is a spiritual core or nucleus worshipped with the head and heart but kept well-contained — below the belt and below the heart.  Here it simmers as a dormant but potentially explosive power to be heartlessly released against the institutional structures and defences of global ego culture represented by the USA. The explosive outburst from a contained spiritual core or nucleus leads to a no less violent counter-reaction. For now an emotionally outraged and enraged ego wreaks havoc – enheartened, like the Crusaders, to identify the spiritual core of the human being with a hidden and demonic power, personified in Osama bin Laden.



Lowen, Alexander; Bioenergetics

Reich, Wilhelm; The Function of the Orgasm

Smail, David; The Nature of Unhappiness, Constable 2001

Wilberg, Peter; Organismic Ontology and Organismic Healing, Energy&Character 31/1.  See 

Wilberg, Peter  Head, Heart and Hara – The Soul Centres of West and East

New Gnosis Publications 2003

Wilberg Peter  Heidegger, Medicine and ‘Scientific Method’ – the Unheeded Heritage of the Zollikon Seminars  New Gnosis Publications 2004

Wilberg, Peter  The Therapist as Listener - Heidegger and the Missing Dimension of Counselling and Psychotherapy Training New Gnosis Publications 2004


 Note: books by Peter Wilberg available from and only.