• ©Rainer Mahr
  • The definition of energy in Bioenergetic Analysis
    • The development of bioenergetic analysis is presently governed by various attempts to connect it to psycho-analysis and other therapeutic concepts. This trend simultaneously leads to an underestimation of bodily processes and views which I personally regret a lot. There is no doubt that these concepts also allow for good psycho-therapy. But the focus is being lost that man is a biological as well as a physical being who by his biological processes create or express psychic and spiritual issues. However, for myself, especially this bodily view forms the important contribution bioenergetic analysis can bring to the different psycho-therapeutic scenarios. Lately, in human sciences the bodily aspects have gained a great importance. For example, present discussions in neuro-biology and in philosophy about the ego, the self, about consciousness and spirit are based on such a biological understanding. Our ideas about these states in people will change fundamentally and nobody will be able to stop that development because the new ideas are much more connected to the reality of the human being than the old views, they have more ‘grounding’ (Metzinger, 1996).
    • There is no doubt that bioenergetic analysis can confine itself to the psychic events with their images, emotions, and attitudes as well as their expressions within the body. But what is really interesting is HOW this interaction does function, how through bodily interventions psychic events are being influenced and vice versa. And, if in forming the concept it is being stated that through bodily interventions psychic experience can be influenced then it must also be described how this is going to happen; and this can only be done in terms of notions and processes by which the body is functioning, with those of biology and physics.

      Aside from Lowen’s view, bioenergetic analysis nowadays especially stresses the importance of ‘relationship’ in psycho-therapy. But what is ‘relationship’ really, how does it function seen from a bodily point of view, and why is it so important for bodily processes? With respect to forming a theory for bioenergetic analysis it is not sufficient to seize this notion without reflecting it and just work with it.

      In the re-orientation of bioenergetic analysis discussions about the concept of ‘energy’ have played an important part. Alexander Lowen - consciously and with reason - did not describe this term extensively in bioenergetic analysis, but he mentioned that it needs to be some kind of electrical energy and by this he clearly showed a physical understanding of energy (Lowen,1979, p 33). In the times following, also psychic phenomena have been described as energetic events. Because of this mixing of psychic and physical processes the term ‘energy’ resultingly became more and more unclear and even useless. Meanwhile there are colleagues in bioenergetic analysis who think of this word as being misleading and superfluous.

      But: what will happen to the concepts in bioenergetic analysis if the term ‘energy’ is being reconsidered as a physical phenomenon? I believe it can then help to describe and further develop bioenergetic analysis in theory as well as in practice by using a more solid and more real base. This will be sketched in this talk.

      1.The definition of energy in physics

      In physics there is a general definition of ‘energy’ and besides that it is being detailed in various specific forms which can be observed.

      According to the general definition energy is the ability to do work, to act on something (Tipler 1995, pp 129).

      This definition describes energy not at all as a material substrate but as an event, as a process. Everything I do, change, form, destroy in this world is an energetic process. The energy of e.g. petrol is its ability to run a motor and move a car by this. According to this general definition of energy all the bioenergetic activities which change the liveliness, emotional responses, the thoughts and the behaviour of a person are energetic processes. Besides this, every action of a body to breathe, to make love, to think, to sustain and reproduce itself, if it becomes activated by neuronal, hormonal or metabolic activities, it is only possible by means of an energetic process. Referring to this general definition of energy it is correct to talk about flow of energy, speak of blocked energy and of energy work, of the energy level which can be high, low, or concentrated in certain body regions (Lowen 1979, pp 33). There is no sense in thinking that a muscle e.g. is filled with a material substrate or is empty, that a substance moves as energy stream through the body and is dammed up at a certain place.

      2. Various forms of energy

      With this general definition that energy is the ability to do work it is not yet clear what the quality of this ability is and how it shows up in certain circumstances. In physics one talks of mechanical energy, potential or kinetic energy, electric, or electro-magnetic energy according to the specific circumstances which are considered and described. Water in a large reservoir i.e. just rests, but it can have a huge effect once it is being moved. Its ‘dammed up’ ability is called potential energy. When the gates of the dam are being opened the potential energy of the water is transformed into kinetic energy. This then runs a generator which further transforms the kinetic energy into electric energy. When this energy is sent through a coil the coil turns into an electro-magnet, an electro-magnetic field is created which can move metallic objects. Then, the electro-magnetic energy is re-converted into kinetic energy.

      With these distinctions it is possible to describe which kind of energy - the ability to do work – is required to achieve a specific effect. To e.g. run a generator potential energy is useless; at first, it must have been converted into kinetic energy to activate the generator.

      Similarly, within the human organism the general definition of energy does not help in describing which kind of energy can attain a specific effect. But this is necessary to guide or modify biological or physical processes in a distinct way.

      As a result, the definition of energy needs to be more precise and distinct in BA. It has to be investigated which kind of energy guides human actions and behaviour and by which energetic activities they can be modified in the body-centred therapy process. Is there anything like potential, kinetic, electric, or electro-magnetic energy in our organism?

      3. Kinetic energy in Bioenergetic Analysis

      In a course of Tai Chi I had taken a posture in which I moved my right arm to the front. My teacher asked me to bring more energy into the fingertips of this arm. I was confused and did not know what to do: should I move more blood, more tissue liquid towards my fingers or what kind of energy was he talking about? After a certain time I recognised small circulating movements in my body. Nearly not noticeable my trunk moved to the right, just on top of my right foot. Now my teacher tried to attack me and I could easily without any effort defend myself. I did not only feel stronger, I really was stronger. I had gained an increase in energy by a change in body posture, not by a flow of any substance into my fingers.

      By the changed body posture my body’s centre of gravity had moved caudally towards the floor as well as the turning point of the body. So the body becomes more stable and can use more mass and forces for work to be done. Looking at it from a physics point of view the mechanical energy of the body is improved. My body really has more power. The nerves of the muscle cells send this reality as a message to the brain and then I also feel stronger, more secure, more energetic. Thus, when we work with changing the body posture in BA and try to bring a body into movement, then we modify its static conditions, its mechanical energy, which means we are doing energy work. By this the person becomes more stable, can do a lot more and more efficient work, can move other things or ward them off. With this kind of energy work we create a bodily reality at first which then is perceived by our emotions and by our brain and can afterwards be built into a new self image.

      Naturally because of the physiological conditions in the human organism there is also the possibility to visualise a stronger self image which then accordingly changes the body posture and the movement patterns. But – besides the experience in bio-energetics – some developmental and physiological processes in the brain support the assumption that the path starting from a changed body posture and movements towards a changed self image is faster and more efficient than the opposite path starting from the brain going into the body (Roth 1997, pp 178).

      This form of bioenergetic energy work – it could be named ‘mechanical energy work’ – is concerned with a change in body posture and movement pattern. It’s not about the well known stress positions (exercises) which are supposed to influence completely different physiological structures.

      It could be an attractive task to develop a repertoire of such ‘mechanical energy work’ exercises. In that the ideas stemming from Tai Chi or from other eastern arts of combat could be a great help. An important difference of this kind of movement work with respect to the well-known bioenergetic training program lies in the precision of the induced changes. Often, tiny exactly defined changes (movements) determine the weight distribution of the body, the energy level and the consciousness. 

      4. Energy work by means of musculature

      The energies we as human beings need for living and absorb every day stem from the nourishment of biological products, and at first sight the connection of vegetables, meat and wine to the described physical energies is not clear.

      But we know that our body in a very complex metabolic process alters the food in such a way that we can use it for our purposes and that this process needs sufficient amounts of oxygen. As an end product of this process the smallest energy unit in the human organism, the chemical compound ATP (adenosine-triphosphate), results (Silbernagel 1988, pp 38). Considering ATP is not important as a substance itself, more important this compound acts as an energy pump, thus being involved in a process. Each cell needs ATP for its life and survival. In the process of interaction between cell and ATP the cell regularly absorbs only a few electrons which have been taken from ATP and built into the cell. I.e. all we really need for living are - besides air and oxygen - electrons, elementary particles well known in physics

      If I myself as a bioenergetic therapist aim at increasing the energy level of my client, for perhaps she suffers with anorexia nervosa, then I need to take care that by means of food and metabolic processes more ATP - and thus electrons - are available in the cells of the client’s body. Thus, the question concerning a person’s food and how his food is digested is by no means unimportant and we should take much more care in BA.

      In many psychotherapeutic schools breathing work is very important. Often the deepening of breath very quickly leads to new and strong emotional experiences and states of consciousness. This effect could possibly be the consequence of more movement of the body; very surely it is not the result of more oxygen in the blood which would increase the ATP production.

      Because oxygen needs first to be bound to erythrocytes in the blood to be able to be transported, at first the number of erythrocytes in the blood has to increase to be able to bind more oxygen. This only happens with prolonged physical activities and not just by a single exercise e.g. in kicking. Only when we are successful in triggering the clients to care more for their food and physical activities this energy level can be increased significantly. But if the organism has more electrons bound to ATP its ability to do work is increased, it has more energy in the sense of physics.

      Like any other cell also the muscle cell needs ATP to be able to increase its tension and to release the muscle fibres. Besides ATP, Ca ions are necessary the amount of which is controlled by the brain. Only if both conditions – ATP and Ca ions present - are fulfilled, a muscle is able to move, increase its tension or release. A tense or blocked muscle is more than anything else an expression of a neural pattern in the brain. Without changing this neural pattern a changed muscle tone cannot be gained. By means of stress exercises or massage the muscle’s tension can be reduced by the manipulation of so-called ‘spindles’ which gives a signal to the brain to change the tension pattern. The brain will only follow this suggestion (signal) if the change is judged as sensible. A second possibility to reduce the tension is to exhaust the ATP-storage of a cell by increased muscle activities so that the brain cannot keep the tension pattern anymore. Because now there is a lack of ATP the tension of the muscle breaks down. Emotions becomes free which have been controlled by the previous state of tension. Cathartical states which can be very effective in the therapy process do not result from an increase of the energy level - from more ATP - but on the contrary from exhaustion of the electron stock in the muscle concerned.

      Because a blocked muscle needs a lot of ATP to keep the strong tension, a lot of ATP is set free when the muscle is released. ATP then is available for other activities, e.g. big movements, for jumping, dancing, grasping.

      Sometimes muscles are chronically tense because of complete muscle cords are glued together and can be released neither by a changed neural pattern nor by a change of ATP level. In this case manual manipulation of the clued areas is a pre-requisite for any kind of change.

      Bioenergetic work related to the muscle tone is energy work in the physically defined way because the muscle is put in a state in which it can do more work and do work in a different way.

      Because a relaxed muscle needs less bound electrons – bound at ATP – it has more energy in its electro-magnetic form available. In this sense energy is released by working at the musculature. The streaming sensations we often experience when musculature is becoming more relaxed is not caused by an energy stream but reflects an improved micro-circulation of blood in the capillaries, or movements of extra-cellular tissue fluids which bear a great importance with respect to the functioning of living systems.

      5. Sub-atomical energy processes

      The fact that our organism needs electrons to sustain its life processes reminds us of the fact that we don’t only consist of cells, but also of molecules, atoms and the whole sub-atomic range. Even though this range is not defined as living structure it is so important for the maintenance and regulation of the human organism that it cannot be ignored anymore. In physics this sub-atomic range is described as energetic structures in the models of quantum physics and quantum electrodynamics. As has been shown the models of classical physics cannot be applied to the micro-cosmic world (Warnke 1998).

      Regarding the question of BA with respect to the energetic structures and actions of the human organism following hypothesis of quantum physics are of special importance:

      1. There is nothing in our universe that exists and happens without electrons. They have existed since the start of the universe and are held true of being eternal.

      2. They can only be observed, become real, when they are measured or when they hit a resistance. Up to then they exist as a possibility or probability.

      3. When there is a contact between two electrons, a radiation occurs – i.e. an emission of photons. These structures are called photons because their frequencies are located in the range of the visible light.

      4. Electrons communicate with each other by means of photon exchange, in which the photons resonate with each other. Resonance means: a radiating structure activate another one to radiate too. For example: A singer sings a special sound whose frequency is concurrent to a wine-glass. The glass becomes radiating and breaks. The better the resonance, the more alike the photons are to each other, the more coherent they are. I.e. the radiation is then bundled and enhanced. Contrary to other processes in physics which result in a decreasing energy level when radiation or exchange occurs, the energy level is increased in the case of photon radiation. Thus a communication system is created exchanging information extremely fast (speed of light) and having huge storage capacities.   

      5. If you throw a stone into water a wave is created which spreads equally to all sides. In the same way the electromagnetic waves of interacting electrons, the photon radiation, spreads in the human body and into the universe – into the future and into the past. This means that each interaction of photons, every exchange of information, is known everywhere in the universe – in the future and in the past because of it’s resonance and coherence. Two photons can independently of the distance between them resonate and take on identical properties.

      6. Light from the cells

      The photon structure is not only a phenomenon of the sub-atomic level but also of the cellular level. Many research studies show very definitely that each cell in our body, but also in plants, has such a radiation (Bischof 1995, pp 97). It is stored in photons which can be observed by suitable devices such as an ultra weak light radiation. This radiation is coherent, i.e. of high intensity, and allows the cells to communicate with each other by means of light. The flow of information happens with the speed of light without any wires and allows the transfer of big amounts of data within the organism and to the outside as well as from outside to the inside. An organism’s photon exchange with the environment happens through breathing and an antennae system of the DNA of the cell nucleus specialised for this (Popp 1984). Because the photon streams are in a biological system they are called ‘bio-photons’, but there is no difference to the photons which are described in physics.

      Although the research of Wilhelm Reich has a different background and other history than the research of bio-photons his so-called ‘orgon energy’ has identical properties as the bio-photons in many important aspects: the orgon energy is universal, coherent, observable as light emission and has functions in life structuring (Mahr 1997).

      Because the cells in our organism always and to a great extent undergo removal and renewal, their position, function and experience needs to be stored at some other place so that the organism remains intact with respect to appearance and identity. Because photons even when they are far apart can exchange information and store it, the organism can locate its knowledge of a specific cell far out away from a cell and recall it from there as a blueprint.

      Because of this and other reasons, research in bio-photons proceeds today from the assumption that the human organism has besides other self regulation circuits, an information system which coordinates all its functions and regulating processes. The structure of bio-photons seems to be extremely suited for this.

      Because of the described physical properties of electrons and photons and the correlation between them the impression results as if our universe is one single net of electrons and photons in which they all exchange information and know everything happening anywhere instantly. This net would also be the place where a human person – held and protected – could develop, and find help, support, and knowledge.

      Even when this description sounds like proving the existence of an ordering spirit, the real basis is one of a physical nature. All questions with respect to cause and sense of life are left open; these can only be answered when you leave the scientific arguments behind.

      7. The sub-atomic world in bio-energetics

      Does this view of sub-atomic energetic structures in the human organism bear any – and if so what kind of – relevance for the concepts in bioenergetic and for the daily, practical work?

      If it is true that besides oxygen photons also get into the body via the air in breathing then it really makes a lot of sense to improve the breathing capacity to increase the body’s energy level immediately  That means to increase the quantity of photons 

      If the human organism is made of a vast number of electro-magnetic elements then one can take it for granted that the body is a huge source of radiation. It produces an electromagnetic field in itself and around itself which can be perceived by people who approach this field. You can feel it and sometimes even see it. Because this field includes a wide variety of frequencies it transmits different information. One only needs to hold one’s hand parallel to each other and vary the distance between both hands to be able to feel the body’s radiating field. You will feel it as heat, coldness, pressure, prickling or other sensations. If we are sitting in a meeting you will feel the cheerful or tense atmosphere even if nobody is speaking. I.e.: we are influenced by the main electronic fields and feel them by this or that mood. By this model you can understand the emergence of transference and countertransference in psychotherapeutic processes. The electronic fields of the patient and the therapist meet each other. Both come into resonance

      Most schools of psycho-therapy agree that the relationship between client and therapist plays an important role for working effectively in therapy. This relationship is established with the therapist being ‘empathic’, through ‘resonance’, because therapist and client ‘have the same wavelength’. Already these words which describe in many languages the relations between people give a hint to the connection with photons. If a  photon of the therapist resonates with the corresponding photons of the client, then both of them have the same information, these photons are identical according to the model of quantum physics. For that to happen they (the client and therapist) don’t have to talk to each other, they don’t even have to be in the same place.

      Therapeutic work based on the relationship would then aim at influencing a person’s photon structure. But this is work using the energy system of a person. I.e. based on the physical understanding of energy, work using the relationship and work using the energy do not exclude each other, just the contrary. Only in using the relationship one can contact the deep layers of a person, relate to his sub-atomic structure.

      To allow this deep exchange of information and to foster it the therapist needs to be able to tune to his client very exactly, especially to the frequencies he (the client) can receive.

      Bioenergetic work in this case is clearly different as in cases when a client is confronted with his muscle blockages or is brought into movement. Techniques of meditation, centring of the body in itself, working with visualised images or with the own body and its sensations are well-known paths to come into contact with the deepest layer of the human organism. This layer, however, is not to be seen as a purely psychological one, but it is the deepest physical level the person lives and develops on.

      8. Summary

      Whenever bioenergetic analysis talks of energy to describe bodily processes it uses the definitions and the understanding of the term ‘energy’ in physics.

      In bioenergetic analysis an energy of mechanical type is known when body posture and movement patterns are changed in such a way that people get stronger and can do more, and more efficient work. The changed state of being changes the state of consciousness and the self image.

      Bioenergetic analysis can do energy work in a physical way of understanding by looking at the way and kind of nutrition and by encouraging a specific and continuous physical training. Thus, metabolism, breathing and the energy production in terms of ATP are being influenced.

      Through the various methods to change muscle tensions, on the one hand neuronal patterns of behaviour are being modified and on the other hand energy in the form of ATP is set free for movement patterns that are wanted. This is energy work in the sense of common physical definitions: Conditions are being created such so that muscles can do their work in a more suitable way.

      People because of their physical structure radiate electro-magnetic fields of specific frequencies. When the fields of two people get in touch with each other, both persons participate in different ways in the thoughts, moods, emotions, bodily states of the other person. All this happens without any verbal communication.

      Many phenomena and effects in the psycho-therapeutic process can be under-stood and described this way, e.g. transference – counter-transference.

      Psycho-therapeutic processes, no matter of what specific kind, can have an effect upon all layers of the human structure, including the sub-atomic layer with its electron and photon structure. Especially these sub-atomic structures reveal that information processes are strongly dependent on resonance phenomena. The relationship important in the psycho-therapeutic process is established among other things through resonance of the therapist’s and client’s electromagnetic fields.

      Seen from a biological and physical view of the human being, because of their energetic structure, bioenergetic analysis cannot renounce working with relationship in the therapeutic process.

      BA should not give up its energy concept to further develop its theory and practice. With its physical and energetic understanding of psychic processes, BA has for a long time described interrelations which only gradually are considered in the western world and gain importance.

      The here presented energy concepts of physics are also only models of reality and will change again and again. But these models are well suited to describe and further develop the bioenergetic concepts. We do not need a definition of energy on our own. We don’t have to be ashamed to speak of the energy in our body. What else should we be besides this energy classical and modern physics talk about? There is nothing else in this universe – everything is energy: matter, nature, the human being, his spirit, God.


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      Mahr, Rainer. (1997): Das Konzept der Orgonenergie von Wilhelm Reich. in: Forum der Bioenergetischen Analyse. 1/97, pp.69 - 75

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