ABOUT GERDA BOYESEN
History and Core Concepts
Gerda Boyesen was born in Norway. Gerda was both a Reichian and a clinical Psychologist. Initially, having attended personal therapy with Dr. Raknes, Gerda became inspired to work empathetically with people who suffered emotional and mental health issues. In her work as a psychological assistant in an asylum, she witnessed the severe medical treatment of patients. She sought through her own learning to bring interventions of compassion and was moved by the results. Her development was further enhanced when she took a diploma in physiotherapy. Having trained in Aadel Bulow-Hansen massage, she discovered that one can evoke emotions from the body during massage. She learned to work on the whole body to change posture and breathing. She found frequently surprising reactions with patients and when affirmed, release was achieved.
Gerda learned particularly from Dr. Braatoy whose philosophy was to believe in the patient, as they were ultimately the one who suffers. He allowed symptoms to inform the work. She believed that a radical change of feelings could be achieved through small postural changes. Through this, trauma and residual stress stored in the body can be released. This allows the possibility of working directly on neurosis and the relief of psychosomatic symptoms.
At the same time, the Austrian doctor Wilhelm Reich, a student and colleague of Freud had made the discovery that feelings and memories were stored behind strong muscular armoring. He began to use massage in his psychotherapeutic treatments. Through this treatment, Gerda witnessed enormously effective therapy, which brought change to the personality and clear, meaningful dreams.
She took further studies with Dr. Oleson who specialized in Lymphatic disturbances. This afforded her an insight into issues related to stress and oedema. She understood body fluidity and how it works on the vegative and nervous systems. Gerda was then able to make the connections between varioud theories which she had been taught.
Energy attracts water. Our nervous system works with minimal pressure changes. Changes create an condition which we perceive as fear, stress or rage, if we repress these feelings our energy can be stored as fluid in the body and effect our libido (the life force). Nervous fluid affects the whole vegative system. Release of this through massage can restore well-being and what Gerda described as a ‘cosmic energy’, a feeling of peace. Gerda’s theory about neurosis and blood circulation led her to derive the theory of psycho-peristalsis.
Examining fluid in the muscle membrane while massaging, (knowing that this was connected to libido) she observed the synchronicity between feeling fluid with her fingers and sounds in the tummy. Using a stethoscope she heard the sounds clearly and began to understand the methods needed for emotional symptoms and psychosomatic relief. She discovered that the intestine is also an emotional and pathological canal, responsible for the digestion of repressed feelings and stress. She understood deeply what language had long known ‘That one does not just digest food but also problems’. Through research on her patients she developed these theories further.
Primarily Gerda believed that fluid follows emotion and when massaged through her technique of emptying, the symptoms were relieved. The equivalent of this in psycho pharmaceuticals like valium is, it extracts this fluid in a chemical way giving temporary remissions. Developing her massage techniques, Gerda determined that through massage and the psycho peristaltic circulation, the unconscious repressions of stress, feelings and trauma could be made conscious. This gives an opportunity to the client to work consciously for awareness and change with the patterns that create stress. She believed that all neurosis that sits in the vegetive system, the instinctual system and intestines could be dissolved through psycho-peristalsis and from within the intestinal wall. The dissolution of stress is a natural process once the right treatment method is given.
Gerda observed intestinal sounds while working with pockets of blocked energetic fluid located in the muscle, muscle membrane, the connecting tissue, the skin or aura.
This energetic fluid shows itself as pain or chronic illness. Much life pleasure is stored in these pains and when released can bring back the life streaming’s and feelings of joy and beauty.
Gerda believed that working bio-dynamically therapists could achieve excellent results. She felt that the cognitive interpretations of many analysts are too far away from the clients conscious awareness and while may be intellectually right, they do not reach the deep feeling of the client.
One must always think in terms of physical law. When energy is blocked, the muscle contracts, it attracts fluid and gives rise to symptoms. When the fluid is released and the muscle relaxes, the tonus returns and then it is possible to work on other methods.
She then developed with Reich the concept of vegetotherapy, working with the breath and the body while lying down. She believed that the vegative system is the foundation of neurosis. By observing the still body and the breath, streaming can emerge. This may at first be frightening but through verbal or emotional expression, the release can lead to cosmic streaming’s or chi.
This has the same results as Asian medicine. Gerda believed that the concept that fluid attracts energy is the missing link between medicine and complimentary medicine.
Gerda continued to explore, develop and deepen her work during her lifetime. It involved therapeutic, preventative and scientific principles.
The essence of biodynamic psychology and it’s therapy is to work with the life force and its principles. Life force has many names including Ki, Prana, orgone energy and bio-energy. It takes a midwives approach in accepting, guiding and trusting.
The presence, attitude and intention of the therapist are key to creating a safe environment for the client. This allows the client to simply “be” and take the space offered for healing.
My personal belief is that it is imperative that the therapist has a heart connection to the work and knows within themselves the vulnerability and susceptibility of the heart. I recall Gerda telling us during our training that ‘without the heart in this work…you are nothing’. Your theories become jargon.
In our era of much awareness and integration many are seeking relief from the pressures of a world filled with technology and materialism. They seek a real connection to spirituality and meaning. Having lost the wisdom of our ancestors we seek this through yoga, mindfulness and other ancient methods of body consciousness in an effort to access our life force.
Many methods present feelings of wellbeing, however, if we continue to hold repressed armoring of energetic fluid in our body, these techniques often serve to increase the armor and leave us lacking true connection with our inner spiritual self.
To continue our understanding in areas of psychology, medicine, physics and biochemistry we must draw on various disciplines and integrate them with the ancient teachings related to chi energy and prana. Through integration of all phenomena of our sciences we can move towards being open to that which we do not understand.
Carl Jung believed that our psyche was not in our brains but in our bodies. His studies held a huge influence for Gerda as with the studies of William Reich who developed separately his understanding of the psyche in our character structure. As psyche is soul, our soul is held in the visceral body. Through working with the breath, body, and the active imagination of the unconscious dreams, we can find that connection to our own inner mystical self.