This work comes from a long history in psychology. It started with Freud. His student Wilhelm Reich showed that you could understand and analyze the personality by looking at the body. My mentor, Dr. John Pierrakos, a student of Reich, passed on the technology of reading the body to me. You can look at a person and understand his or her personality dynamics, behavior, and potential of change. Not just for therapists, body reading can be used for jury selection, sales calls, persuasion, improved communications, and greater understanding between people.
When clients comes for therapy, we need to assess them, so that we can help them by identifying the underlying issues. Some therapists use paper and pencil tests and others the Rorschach ink blot test. Somatic therapists get their information directly from the body: posture, facial expression, muscles, and energy flow. When you tell people about themselves on the basis of what you see in their bodies, they are motivated to work on themselves. When the client hears his or her story and see it in his or her body, it motivates that person to change. For instance, if you know that you give up too easily, but someone else can see it too in your posture, that is a call to action.
When I first started to assess the body, I was afraid to ask clients to undress, so I tried to look at them with their clothing on. However, when I got past my shyness and asked people to change into workout clothes, I could see changes in their skin color and body weight, I could see scars and tattoos. I was able to give a truer analysis. Clothes make it hard to see the more vulnerable parts of the body.
A lot of people say: “Well this is my body. It is just the way I am. I can’t do anything about it; this is me.” This is not true; research from the field of genetics and epigenetics shows an interplay between events and circumstances in a person’s life and one’s genetic heritage. For instance, posture is affected by lots of things: emotional trauma, angry parents, children raised in fear, lack of food, humility, and testosterone. When I look at posture, it tells me about the life wound. For instance the shoulders may roll forward to protect the heart or to help carry the burdens of life that weigh the person down. Your shoulders may have a certain width due to genetics, but how they are positioned, whether they sag, are raised up around the neck, are injured, hunch forward, or thrust back, is determined by life events.
I try not to overwhelm the person whose body I am assessing with information. I don’t want to keep secrets from them. So I only hold back what I consider superficial and I tell them the important things. Because people can handle only so much information, I share what I want someone to think about and work on. Body readings show parts of the personality that are unknown to the person being read. That the body tells their life story and that someone else can see it too, is very meaningful to them. Bodies show what people have experienced so far in life, where they have been, their past histories. Reich wrote that the body holds the frozen history of the person, that life wounds are frozen or fixed in the body, and that what a child has experienced even in the womb can be seen in the body years later. The body tells your life story. I suggest that the body will also expose your future and you can change it to attain a better future if you are so minded.
Karyne Wilner, PsyD 4/25/2018