Back to Publications | Back to Home Page


Posture, Movement, and Personality

by John Lawson © 1987, 2008

Body and Mind

Motility and Mobility

    In order to exist in the world, individuals must be able to take a stand, change positions, and express themselves by means of word and deed.  The variety of stances and postures which characterize human beings is related to the assumption of an upright, bipedal carriage.  While the ability to stand upright and walk on two feet is a common feature of the human species, acquired during a lengthy period of evolution, this skill must be learned anew by each person in the course of his or her individual growth.  The human frame allows for a comfortable upright stance, but anatomy alone does not guarantee that such a stance will be attained.  Factors influencing personal growth and development may either facilitate or impede the establishment of postural balance.  The posture that an individual habitually assumes reflects the developmental history of the person.  That history is recorded in the musculo-skeletal system as a pattern of balance or imbalance in the segments of the body in the field of gravity.  The word "posture" is derived from the Latin word ponere, meaning "to place or put."  Thus posture includes an active, assertive element by means of which we place or put ourselves into position.  Posture is intimately related to movement. 

    There are many ways to understand movement in relation to life.  According to Moshe Feldenkrais, "Without movement, life is unthinkable." [1]  Movement, however, takes different forms.  In human beings, a distinction can be drawn between motility and mobility.  In terms of this distinction, motility refers to the basic pulsatory movements that are associated with spontaneous functions, such as the beating of the heart, the respiratory process, and peristalsis in the digestive tract.  Mobility, on the other hand, is chiefly represented by the displacement of a material body in space.  Walking, running, and jumping are examples of human mobility.  Whereas plant tissue is motile when viewed alive under the microscope, human beings (as well as most other members of the animal kingdom) have the added quality of mobility.  Such mobility is related to posture, for the stance we take in life - our position in the face of life's challenges - is integrally associated with out ability to move and with the quality, range, and scope of the movements we execute.  In the course of their personal history, individuals assume basic postural attitudes as a result of movements that have been selected and learned under the pressure of specific environmental conditions.  One of the results of this process is the development of personality.

    There is a relationship between personality and character, though the two terms are often used interchangeably.  Alexander Lowen has suggested that "It would be well to differentiate the concept of personality from that of character...  The personality is an expression of the life force in a person and is probably the extension of that force into the environment...  The main thing about the character is the fact that it represents a typical pattern of behavior or an habitual direction." [2]  The word "character" is derived from Greek and Latin words meaning "engraving tool," or the mark made by such a tool.  The personality of an individual is engraved in his or her character.  The word "personality" itself is derived from the word persona, originally meaning "mask."  In classical drama, the actor wore a mask in order to conceal his true face.  The role of the actor, however, could be understood in terms of his movements and his voice.  For the purposes of the present discussion, it is enough to emphasize that posture, movement, and personality are intimately connected.  The nature of the connection can best be understood by considering movement in relation to human growth.

    Both motility and mobility are basic aspects of movement that evolve throughout the course of personal development.  Of the two aspects of movement, motility is the more primitive.  Cells, for example, are motile, but not all cells in the body are mobile.  Sperm cells belong to the latter category.  By means of the whip-like action of their flagella, or tails, they are able to propel themselves in a swimming motion.  Sperm cells are able to travel.  Epithelial cells, which line various body cavities, such as the respiratory tract, may be ciliated, and through their serpentine action they assist in the movement of foreign particles in a given direction.  Their movements are coordinated.  On the other hand, the cells that compose the tissue of striated muscles change their shape as they contract or expand, yet they remain stationary with respect to their relative positions in the muscle.  The basic pulsatory function of all living cells and the undulatory processes of cytoplasmic streaming are primary instances of motility.  It follows that in living forms motility is the basis of mobility.  The quality of any organismic movement may thus be understood, at one level, as an expression of the intensity of biological pulsation.

    One of the characteristics of most animal organisms is the capacity to move independently in space.  In human beings, this ability is evident prior to birth, as the kicking of the unborn child in the womb of the mother indicates.  Such kicking may be felt by placing a hand against the mother's abdomen during the later stages of pregnancy.  After birth, the movements of the infant are obvious.  The motility of the infant organism can be seen in the ripples of expressive movement that pass over the tiny abdomen and face.  Gross mobility is present with the movement of the limbs and the turning of the head as the baby lies on his or her back.  The powerful sucking movements of the infant at the breast are an early, clear example of coordinated activity.  Immediately after birth, the eyes of the baby are open and mobile.   What characterizes the variety of movements of the human child during the process of growth and development is the increasing coordination and meaningfulness of activity.  At first, for example, the movements of the baby's limbs seem random as the infant hits and kicks prior to attaining the ability to execute such actions as lifting the head or rolling over.  However, such seemingly random movements are not without significance.  Mabel Elsworth Todd writes: "In the newborn infant, the spine is straight and very flexible, with all joints moveable.  The first muscles to attain power are those of the lumbar spine and pelvis...  By much vigorous kicking and crying during the first months of its life, the baby develops those muscles which are needed to produce and stabilize the lumbar curve into its convex direction toward the front, to counteract the primary concavity of the thoracic curve." [3]

    In the process of individual development, the basic motility of the growing person is translated into patterns of movement.  Thus an infant learns to lift and turn its head, to roll over, to push itself up into a sitting position, to crawl, to walk, and to stand, all in an order which involves the gradual integration of movements into an increasingly diversified and coordinated set of responses.  How the infant is handled and whether the baby is given firm yet gentle support during the course of his or her early apprenticeship are factors crucial to the unfolding of a comfortable posture in life.  The history of the developing person is etched into the patterns of neuro-muscular activity that constitute the repertoire of movements of the individual.  In addition, vital functions are indissolubly linked to patterns of movement.  This is most evident with respect to breathing.  Again, Mabel Todd comments: "The apparatus for breathing, which appeared simultaneously in the racial pattern as vertebrates came onto the land, continue to be closely associated in the growth of individual organisms and their functions.  They are intimately related through mechanical and nervous tie-ups between appendicular and respiratory structures, also between both these and the cardiovascular system by which blood is conveyed from heart to lungs for aerating and back to the heart with its load of oxygen." [4]

    Mobility in humans, therefore, evolves out of the basic motility of living functioning and results in the establishment of a structural framework involving posture and patterns of movement.  That framework then delimits the basic pulsatory rhythms and functions of the organism.  Motility and mobility continue to be intimately related throughout the life of the individual in the form of personality and character.  Just as movement patterns and posture are learned in the context of the relationship of the child to the surrounding world, personality and character can be seen as the result of a process of self-education in relation to the formative environment.

    Given the reciprocal influence between motility and mobility in human functioning, it is inevitable that one of the fundamental ingredients in posture and movement will be the emotional disposition of the individual.  Such a disposition or pattern is reflective of personal history.  The phenomenon of emotion, which literally refers to movement (L. emouvere: "to move out"), can be understood in light of the experience of pleasure and pain.  In terms of the "pleasure principle" elucidated by Sigmund Freud, human beings are motivated by drives that lead to basic biological gratification.  In Freud's view, such gratification is accomplished through the release of organismic tension.  Such organismic tension beyond a certain point - as in hunger or sex - is experienced as painful.  In his book Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud makes an interesting comment: "... we would readily express our gratitude," he writes, "to any philosophical or psychological theory which was able to inform us of the meaning of the feelings of pleasure and unpleasure which act so imperatively on us." [5]  On the basis of Wilhelm Reich's investigations, it is possible to suggest that the foundation of pleasure and pain lies in the fundamental motility of the living organism.  The pulsatory quality of biological motility, involving alternating expansion and contraction of the organism, leads to the accumulation of tension.  The homeostasis of the organism requires the release of such tension, which is experienced as pleasure.   All emotional responses are rooted in the build-up and release of biological energy.  We all know the experience of exploding in rage, bursting into tears, convulsing with grief, crying out in pain, striking out in anger, and jumping with joy.  All of these expressions of emotion entail an opening up and a moving out on the part of the organism.  The capacity for such emotional expression is filtered through the limiting postural structures and movement patterns that have been learned in the course of personal history.  It can be seen that just as human beings undergo an apprenticeship in movement - an obvious example of which is learning to walk - people also go through a period of personal tutelage in which they learn a specific range of self-expression on an emotional level.  Posture, movement, and personality are thus integrated emotionally in terms of the character structure of the individual. 

    While a motor component to human growth and development is evident, it is also true that the basic substance of human experience includes sensation and feeling.  The word "feeling" can be traced back to root words meaning "to grope."  Sensation, as it is defined in the dictionary, denotes "excited feeling."  Through the study of the nervous system, it is known that sensation and feeling are linked to movement. Sensory experience in human beings is related to the transmission of impulses along nerve pathways to the sensory cortex of the brain.  These impulses may originate at the surface of the body or deep within the organism.  The totality of such impulses, integrated neurologically, is a central aspect of human self-perception and awareness.  While sensation itself is evidently much older than the evolution of the nervous system, it is clear that in human beings the evolution of the nervous system has occurred in relation to the organization and coordination of sensation and feeling.  Moshe Feldenkrais has drawn attention to the role of sensory experience in human development.  He declares: "Subjective reality is the first, the richest, and the most important to our emotional, mental, and physical well-being...  The nervous system, glandular balance, digestive organization, cleansing apparatus, skin, defecation, and micturation all provide an immense amount of sensory stimulation, far more than we usually care to think." [6] 

    By "subjective reality," Feldenkrais means those sensations which have their origin in the internal, vegetative functioning of the organism.  Similarly, Wilhelm Reich has stressed the importance of "organ sensation" as a primary basis of self-awareness. [7]  Reich, Feldenkrais, and others have drawn attention to the manner in which primary sensory experience is subject to a process of apprenticeship in the course of individual development.  Feldenkrais remarks that in the course of personal growth, "Step-by-step subjective reality will give way to a slowly growing complex of sensations of a special kind - sensations which surrounding people approve or condemn." [8]  In other words, fundamental self-perception with respect to basic organismic processes is formed in the context of environmental support or rejection. [9]  This process is part of the "education of the self" that makes up the personal history of the individual.  The effect of such education becomes evident in the postural attitudes and the movement patterns of the adult human being. 

    In order to comprehend the significance of posture and movement in relation to personality, it is necessary to view human functioning as a whole.  Such a vantage point makes it possible to understand the fundamental physical basis of personal security and balance that is an elemental part of self-esteem and emotional equilibrium.  It then becomes possible to appreciate that psyche and soma are united at the level of the deep energetic processes of the individual.  The mental world represents and expresses what takes place in the body, and the body finds its life extended and rationalized in the realm of consciousness. [10]  The advantage of considering personality in terms of the concrete physical coordinates of posture and movement lies in the fact that posture and movement are objectively observable aspects of human individuality.  Human beings can, to a considerable extent, be understood in terms of clearly identifiable traits that, in the course of individual development, have become structured into specific patterns of movement and behavior correlated with characteristic forms of experience. 

    Recognition of the interrelationship of posture, movement, and personality has practical implications.  The old parable of the wine and the skins serves to illustrate this point.  One cannot pour new wine into old skins, for to do so will cause the wine to spoil.  If old wine, however, is poured into new skins, the skins may burst.  In the practical task of altering the human condition along more positive lines, function and structure - experience and behavior - must be respected in their essential unity.  In this fashion the growth of the person can be more effectively promoted.


Movement and Growth


    In considering posture, movement, and personality as interrelated facets of being human, it is important to recognize that these features of individual existence are reflective of a person's history.  All human beings who are free of congenital deformities are born with a certain genetic constitution which represents a more-or-less workable inheritance.  At the same time, each newborn infant is a developing human creature subject to the demands of his or her own organism as they are mediated by the environment.  Posture, movement, and personality in the adult individual will reflect the history of the interaction between the growing human and the world. 

    After the baby is born, the process of learning to live in the world begins.  It is necessary to realize that the infant has definite needs, and whether or not these needs are met is critical for the development of the new person.  The quality of the child's contact with the mother and others who are close to the baby will be either positive or negative.  If positive, the free functioning of the newborn organism will be nurtured.  The primary means of such nurturance during the early postnatal period and for some time afterwards is through "touch," extending the use of that term to include eye contact and voice in addition to stimulation of the skin.  Obviously, the role of the mother is important in this regard. 

    In a sense, the mother-child relationship is the prototype of all later relationships, at least as far as questions of fundamental biological security are concerned.  This is not to deny the importance of the father.  Freud states: "I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for the father's protection." [11]  The infant and the very young child, however, do not reflect upon the significance of the father as protector.  Rather, what is experienced directly is the need for contact with the mother.  This is most evident with regard to breastfeeding, a function which only the lactating female can provide.  In strictly biological terms, the body of the mother is the immediate environment of the infant after birth.  Even if a man should serve as a mother substitute, the natural differences between the body of the female and that of the male will come into play. In this regard, Lowen remarks: "In my opinion, it is contact with the mother's body that is particularly important in the early years.  I don't believe that a father can substitute for a mother in this respect; his body lacks a quality of softness that hers has."  [12] 

    If the mother is intended by nature to be the primary person in the infant's and young child's life, this does not mean that the father's presence is insignificant.  In fact, those fathers who make genuine, positive contact with the infant and child, in addition to the indirect support and protection which they provide, are important contributors to the baby's sense of well-being.  If the father is present at the baby's birth, he may well be the first human to look into the infant's eyes.  In contrast to previously popular views, there is currently a growing recognition that the infant is capable of making eye contact directly after birth. [13]  While such contact may not involve an active focusing or a precise differentiation of images on the part of the infant, the emotional quality of eye contact with the baby can be felt.  The quality of this contact serves as part of the apprenticeship of the new being in the world and is important to the child's basic sense of security and involvement in life.  It has been said that the eyes are the "windows of the soul," and the soul of the infant is exposed to the world of other people's experience through eye contact.  The eyes, via the optic nerves, are functionally an extension of the brain.  There is, no doubt, a positive effect on the newborn infant resulting from open, honest, and loving expressiveness emanating from those persons in attendance. 

    The adult capacity for human intimacy is largely established on the basis of early childhood relationships.  Writers such as Ashley Montagu have discussed in some detail the importance to the infant of pleasurable skin contact with other human beings. [14]  In addition, direct observation of animals in the wild has substantiated the particular importance to primates of contact with the mother.  For example, Jane Goodall, in her study of chimpanzees remarks: "... we have been repeatedly impressed by the extent to which the growing [chimpanzee] child depends on his mother.  Who would have dreamed that a three-year-old chimpanzee might die if he lost his mother?  Who would have guessed that at five years of age a [chimpanzee] child might still be suckling and sleeping with its mother at night?" [15]  The chimpanzee is acknowledged to be the living species most closely related to human beings.  The findings of various scientific studies and the evidence of anthropology attest to the importance of the dependency period of infancy and early childhood with respect to establishing a sense of security and a basic trust in life.  It must be emphasized, however, that the quality of the contact between the child and the persons in the immediate environment is what is decisive.  In this sense, it is not enough simply to hold an infant; the warmth, vitality, and caring of the touch are important.  The motility of the adult organism makes an impression upon the child.  Once again, the posture, movement, and personality of the parents or parent substitutes are integral to the development of the posture, movement, and personality in the child. 

    One of the principal ways in which the motility of the infant and child is regulated at a physiological level is by means of respiration.  Breathing and biological energy are intimately related.  Human beings obtain caloric energy by eating food, and oxygen is required in order to free the energy of foodstuffs for the body's use.  Lowen has commented on the importance of oxygen in this process.  He writes: "The combustion of food is not unlike the combustion that occurs in a wood fire which also requires oxygen to maintain the process.  In both cases the rate of combustion is related to the amount of available oxygen." [16]  In a similar vein, Reich observes: "Poor breathing must do severe damage to the internal respiration of the organs, i.e., to the supply of oxygen and the elimination of carbon dioxide." [17]  Certainly, there are several pathological conditions, such as asthma and emphysema, that are recognized to involve disturbed respiration.  What is not so widely recognized is the fact that far less than adequate respiration may prevail in the absence of diagnosed pathology.  The effects of such disturbed respiration are necessarily related to a disturbance of motility and energy level.  In addition, since deep and optimal respiration involves extensive participation of the skeletal musculature, habitually inhibited breathing will involve patterns of chronic imbalance in the major muscle groups of the body, thus affecting posture and range of movement.  It is significant that in the infant the establishment of a healthy breathing pattern is related to nursing.  Lowen writes: "An infant sucks air into its lungs just as it sucks milk into its mouth and digestive system.  And because both functions use a common mechanism, a disturbance in one of the activities will affect the other." [18]   In its connection with breathing, the significance of breastfeeding is sufficiently important to warrant a closer look at some factors involved. 

    If one observes an infant at the breast under favorable circumstances, it is evident that for the baby breastfeeding is a pleasurable experience.  Not only is the baby receiving nourishment, but the contact with the mother's body is an obvious source of gratification.  I do not think that it is possible to compare favorably the experience of a warm, alive nipple in the baby's mouth to an artificial nipple used with a bottle.  The primary distinction is that in one case the nipple is alive, in the other it is not.  Physiologically, the mother's nipple can be compared to other areas on the surface of the body that are congested with blood, such as the lips.  While it is possible to comment on the mechanical superiority of a real nipple, it may be more satisfactory to illustrate the difference between the real and the artificial teat by an analogy that can be appreciated by both men and women.  In contemporary Western culture, kissing on the lips between a male and a female who share a mutual attraction is a pleasurable experience.  Would it be possible to obtain the same degree of pleasure by kissing an artificial, rubberized set of lips, even if one were being held in the arms of one's beloved?  No one relatively free of inner conflict regarding the experience of kissing could fail to prefer a real set of lips to a non-living substitute.  The same may be said to refer to the child during the act of nursing.  Breastfeeding is pleasurable to the infant and stimulates deep breathing and organismic expansion in a natural way.  It is also an act that establishes a bond of security between mother and child.
The infant learns to suck - literally to draw life into itself; and in this process the baby learns that natural aggression is both pleasurable in itself and nurturing in the result.  In this process the mother achieves the pleasure and satisfaction of added closeness to her child.

    Another factor which affects the developing posture, movement patterns, and personality of the child is the way in which the baby is handled.  As with all elements of the adult-child relationship, a significant question to ask is: how would the adult - were the situation reversed - choose to be treated?  In this regard, it is evident that many adults and parents do not view young children and babies as actual persons.  Yet the infant and the young child are indeed persons and are distinguished from adults partly by the greater degree of malleability and openness in their functioning.  This heightened plasticity of newborns, infants, and children means that attention must be given to how the young human being is handled.  The head, neck, and torso should be carefully supported when the infant is picked up.  Generally, such support needs to be provided in all instances when the baby is carried and moved.  Not to provide such support is to create unnecessary strain throughout the baby's body.  It is a simple matter, when lifting the baby from the supine position, to slip one's arm underneath the small torso, supporting the head and neck with one hand, while using the other hand to support the baby's lower back and pelvis.  When the baby is lifted in this way and brought up into a position against the chest of the adult, firm support is given along the axis of the infant's body, and the lifting is a comfortable and pleasurable experience.  When the baby is held, contact can continue to be provided along the axis of the body while the head is gently supported.  The basic postural reflexes in the young child are in the process of development, and the manner in which adults provide support and contact is part of the young human being's organic apprenticeship. 

    In spite of the importance of providing adequate support to the infant and child during the dependency period, several instances of parental misuse are extremely common.  That such instances are common can be easily verified by direct observation of parent-child interaction in public settings.  For example, it is not unusual to see very young children lifted suddenly into the air by the wrists or by one arm.  Similarly, when carried, many young children find themselves grasped by a single arm of the parent in such a fashion that the child's back is pressed against the parent's hip or ribcage, with the parent's arm hooked around the child's midriff in the area of the diaphragm.  This may be a good position for executing the Heimlich maneuver or for choking off the breathing of an opponent in hand-to-hand combat, but it does no good to the child, who is being transported as if he or she were a sack of potatoes.  What is at issue is not necessarily the intentional inflicting of pain on the child, as in the case of direct physical or verbal hostility - but rather a form of unthinking interference in the natural functioning of a dependent being whose basic motility and neuro-muscular coordination are in the process of formation.

    It is possible to elucidate the significance of adequate support for the infant and child in terms of the overall issue of security in life, and this has been done with considerable insight by both Feldenkrais and Reich, whose complementary analyses have been elaborated independently.  A brief consideration of their findings is instructive.

    In his work with infants and young children, Reich reports observing an instance of "falling anxiety" in a three-week old baby.  According to Reich's description, the infant showed signs of marked anxiety as he was taken from his bath and laid on his back upon the table.  Reich suggests that the movement of withdrawing the child from the bath may have been too abrupt or that the cooling of the still wet skin as the baby was lifted may have contributed to the anxiety response.  In any event, he reports that the infant "... began to cry violently, stretched his arms backward as though to gain support, tried to bring his head forward, showed sheer panic in his eyes, and could not be quieted.  As soon as the attempt was again made to lay him down, the falling anxiety appeared just as violently." [19]  In Reich's view, "... the sensation of falling is a purely biophysical occurrence brought about by rapid withdrawal of the biological energy from the periphery of the vegetative center of the organism." [20]  He concludes that, whatever the immediate stimulus to the falling anxiety, "... the mechanism remains the same: loss of peripheral plasma motility, accompanied by a loss of the sense of equilibrium and of equilibrium itself." [21] 

    Reich's analysis of the phenomenon of falling anxiety is complemented by the research of Moshe Feldenkrais, whose perspective is oriented toward comprehending the conditioning of the basic neurological reflexes in the human infant.  Feldenkrais comments on the relative lack of conditioned reflexes in the human infant, when compared with other species in the animal kingdom.  He notes, however, that if the infant "... is suddenly lowered, or if support is sharply withdrawn, a violent contraction of the flexors with halt of breath is observed, followed by crying, accelerated pulse and general vasomotor disturbance." [22]  In considering this situation, Feldenkrais makes the following statement: "The similarity of reaction of a newborn infant to withdrawal of support, and that of fright or fear in the adult is remarkable.  The reaction to falling is present at birth, i.e., inborn and independent of individual experience
.  It is therefore right to speak of the instinctive reaction to falling." [23]

    According to Feldenkrais, the instinctive nature of falling anxiety can be understood in terms of the physiology of the human nervous system.  The vestibular branch of the
VIIIth cranial nerve (vestibulocochlear nerve) supplies the organs of equilibrium in the inner ear.  The semicircular canals serve the function of registering changes in acceleration of the body, while the otolithic apparatus provides orientation with respect to slow movements.  Feldenkrais concludes that any "... sudden, sharp lowering of a new-born infant elicits the whole series of reflexes which are the reaction of the baby to falling.  The first experience of anxiety is therefore connected with a stimulation of the vestibular branch of the VIIIth cranial nerve." [24]

    In Feldenkrais's view, there is an evolutionary basis for understanding the unconditioned, reflexive nature of falling anxiety in the human infant.   Human beings are descended from arboreal primates whose life in the trees presumably constituted a selective pressure favoring an anxiety response to falling.  Violent contraction in the area of the thoracic cage, holding of the breath, and flexion of the head (the "body pattern" of anxiety) offer greater protection and a chance of survival in case of a fall.  Lowen, citing the anthropological study of John Pfeifer on human origins, makes the same point, relating species considerations to factors in personal history.  Lowen writes: "The phylogenetic history of the human animal reflected in the human infant's need to feel secure is the predisposing cause of falling anxiety.  The effective cause is the lack of holding and physical contact with the mother." [25] 

    It is clear that the issue of security reaches deep into the needs of human beings and that the appropriate handling of infants and children is crucial to the satisfaction of the natural requirements of young humans for a healthy upbringing.  The need for security and contact also extends to the need for an environment free from excessive noise and from overstimulation in general. [26]  It is evident that social conditions in contemporary society militate against the satisfaction of this requirement.

    Among those practices interfering with freedom of movement of the infant and toddler is the custom of fitting diapers too tightly or too thickly.  Such practices may provide a convenience to the person responsible for changing the diapers, but such a habit interferes with the placement of the child's legs, causing a rotation at the hip joints.  The use of playpens encourages the young child to pull himself or herself up into the standing position before coordination is sufficiently developed, thus affecting neuro-muscular balance.  Habitually placing the baby on his or her stomach makes it difficult for the infant to extend his or her gaze over a wide range, and the attempt to compensate for this awkward position will create stresses in the baby's body.  It is known that the young child is not capable of comfortably exercising control of the anal sphincter until approximately before the beginning of the third year, and it follows that "toilet training" before that time will result not only in constricting personality traits but in corresponding patterns of spasticity and holding in the musculature.  Even in the absence of adequate knowledge of child development, authentic respect for the child as a person and willingness to let the child grow at his or her own pace can help to prevent many disturbances in human functioning.  Unfortunately, such respect is not generally evident.  Partly, this is due to the fact that it is not enough simply to "let the child be."  Adults must actively attend to the child's needs, and this means taking responsibility for making positive contact with the young person.  The capacity for assuming such responsibility, however, is related integrally to the posture, movement, and personality of the adults in question.  As the saying goes, the educators themselves must be educated.  This obviously presents a significant problem. 

    It is interesting that the use of speech, control of the eliminative processes, assumption of the upright posture, and weaning are accomplished in a relatively secure fashion by the end of the third year.  It might be said that the beginning of the fourth year of life represents a kind of provisional consolidation of the organic learning processes that have been underway.  It is an observable fact, however, that the natural progression in the development of skills is often hindered by parental expectations.  The child is pressured to perform beyond his or her capacities in order to provide parents with some compensation for their own sense of insecurity.  Yet no one can exceed the limits of biological development or skip entire stages of growth without suffering the consequences. In order to comply with parental directives, the child must mobilize will power in order to achieve tasks that are better accomplished at a later time.   In Feldenkrais's words, "A sense of the futility of life, tiredness, and a wish to give it all up is a result of overtaxing the conscious control with the tasks the reflexive and subconscious nervous activity is better fitted to perform." [27]  Feldenkrais makes the following observation: "... there is a kind of learning that goes with growth.  You cannot skate before you can walk, no matter how clever you are, even if you are a genius.  You must first learn to walk.  You cannot walk before you crawl.  If you learn to walk before you crawl, you will be a cripple.  You cannot learn to speak before you are vertical.  You know why you cannot?  In the human system each part comes into function in sequence one after another.  The functioning helps the growth at each stage as a new part of the brain comes into dominance, and changes the entire way of action.  This type of learning must proceed at its own pace.  We have no say in it.  However, because this learning is done under human direction, it may be done in a different way than was intended by nature." [28] 

    The natural unfolding of the organic learning process in human development, with assistance rather than hindrance from the familial environment, has been depicted by Reich as crucial to the development of the capacity for independent action and mature judgment by the person.  Reich has designated
as "self-regulation" the functioning which embodies such a capacity.

    It is noteworthy that the sexual function in human beings, which is so clearly a central feature of life, is a realm that is characterized by internal and external compulsion.  In spite of the many forms in which hostility toward sexuality is expressed, the common denominator of these negative attitudes is a rejection of natural bodily processes.  Typically, such an orientation begins to be acquired during early childhood when the healthy curiosity of the young boy or girl is stifled or perverted by negative environmental influences.  During the Victorian age, children were widely held to be innocent of sexual feelings and impulses.  This perspective was challenged by Freud and by others.  The Victorian attitude has been supplanted by modern, sophisticated points of view in which children are acknowledged to be curious about sex and are often exposed at an early age to worldly, adult opinions.  Lowen has argued persuasively, however, that contemporary sexual "sophistication" is a defense against genuine sexual feeling. [29]  Between the extremes of rigid sexual suppression and inhibition on the one hand and permissive overstimulation on the other, natural sexual self-acceptance and positive gender identification are hard-pressed to find their way. 

    Negative forces notwithstanding, the fact remains that children are interested in sex.  When this interest is met with disapproval or prurient interference by significant adults, the result is not only a disturbance in sexual functioning, but a disturbance in posture, movement, and personality as well.  Such disturbances occur because sexual awareness is a bodily experience which can only be suppressed or altered by means of a disruption in unitary psycho-physical functioning.  The basic mechanism of such disruptions is an inhibition in the respiratory process.  This, in turn, is anchored in chronic muscular spasticities
which restrict organismic motility. 

    It is not difficult to understand why an inhibition in the respiratory process accompanies the suppression of sexual feeling, since holding the breath is a principal means of numbing sensation.  One can observe in oneself the tendency to hold the breath in the event of a painful injury, such as a cut finger, or in the case of a toothache.  Similarly, in the child, sexual feeling will be cut off by means of holding the breath when there is the threat of punishment or parental disapproval.  In this manner the child deadens his or her anxiety.  Since sexual feelings are localized to a considerable extent in the pelvic and lower abdominal regions of the body, spasticities in the musculature of these areas will be particularly involved in sexual inhibition.  With anxiety, the participation of the pelvic and abdominal segments in breathing will be restricted.  If sexual overstimulation has been the case, then the patterns of respiratory disturbance and muscular spasticity will be different than in instances where there is a history of clearly defined and consistent prohibition of sexual expression.  In this regard, Lowen has noted the significance of muscular contractions at the base of the skull which serve to disconnect sexual sensation - and bodily sensation in general - from awareness at a higher level. [30]  An overall rigidity of the body structure may likewise be present in such circumstances, or there may be an underlying holding pattern in the intrinsic musculature belying the apparent balance at the surface. 
All such factors are relevant to the sexual functioning and the psychology of the individual.  In this regard, some comments on Freud's perspective are in order.

    As is well known, Freud used the term "Oedipus complex" to describe the dynamics of the erotic attraction of young children to the parent of the opposite sex. [31]  Concerning Freud's theory, it is important to realize that the erotic feelings of the young child, though "sexual," are not the same as those of adults, either in terms of their intensity or their manner of expression.  Personal reflection bears out this view.  Who, for example, remembering the surge of sexual feelings accompanying puberty and adolescence, would compare them in urgency and forcefulness to the erotic feelings of early childhood?  This being said, it remains true that a provisional consolidation and integration of personal functioning during the period roughly from four to seven years of age involves emerging feelings of sexual pleasure that are often coupled with romantic attachments.  These feelings are rooted in bodily sensations and are part of the natural development of the child's self-image.
[32]  Under favorable circumstances, personality formation during this period lays the foundation for a secure sense of gender identity.  In actuality, however, circumstances are not often favorable.  Freud's theory of the Oedipus complex provides some important insights into the nature of the problems that frequently arise.

    Based on his analysis of his own experience and that of others, Freud concluded that the young child typically develops an erotic attraction to the parent of the opposite sex.  This is accompanied by the experience of jealousy in relation to the parent of the same sex.  The child thus becomes caught up in a "triangle" (frequently accentuated by sibling rivalry), a triangle that is characterized by actual or potential conflict.  According to Freud, the experience of anxiety
in this context (owing to the fear of punishment) culminates in the child's repressing his or her sexual feelings.  A period of sexual latency then commences and lasts until puberty, at which time physiological changes stimulate a renewed efflorescence of sexual feelings.  Freud considered the Oedipus complex and the latency period to be biologically rooted in prehistoric experiences and events that left a phylogenetic impression on the human psyche.  In his opinion, the failure to repress satisfactorily the sexual attachments of early childhood is responsible for neurosis. [33] 

    Freud's view that the Oedipus complex is a biologically determined, invariable occurrence in human beings is subject to criticism on the grounds that the set of conflicts and attachments that he describes results from relationships that apply only under specific social and cultural conditions.  This is the criticism advanced by Reich, as well as by Bronislaw Malinowski and others. [34]  It was Reich who, following upon Freud's initial insights, discovered that unresolved sexual and psychological conflicts are anchored in disturbed functioning at the somatic level.  A similar conclusion has been reached independently by other investigators, such as Feldenkrais and Ida Rolf. 

    Freud's view that the first several years in a person's life, including the Oedipal phase, are the foundation for later personal growth is now a widely accepted principal in understanding human development.  Individual growth proceeds in the direction from "head to tail," and the establishment of the capacity for a comfortable erect posture, graceful and easy locomotion, and a solid sense of sexual identity is achieved provisionally by about the age of seven years.  In this respect it should be noted that the basic function of self-support provided by an easy upright posture is related to the stability of the lower part of the body - the legs and pelvic structure.  It is this same part of the body which houses the genitals.  The capacity for genuine pleasure is based on a person's ability to take a firm stand on behalf of his or her needs, including the need for sexual gratification.  Because of the
head-to-tail (cephalo-caudal) direction of human development, disturbances in sexual functioning necessarily reflect any problems with respect to the satisfaction of early needs for nurturing, support, contact, and understanding.  Feldenkrais has pointed out the connection between sexual insecurity and the overall history of personal development.  "Sexual maturity," he writes, "arrives at the end of the development period and is the most vulnerable function because of that...  Similarly, it is impossible to correct or reform adequately the general use of oneself without recovering sexual spontaneity." [35]  In the same vein, Reich declares: "The child enters the highly critical Oedipal phase with attitudes preformed, at least in broad outline, if not in their final detail.  The Oedipus complex may be likened to a lens through which the rays of the impulses are refracted." [36] 

    While it is unquestionable that later childhood, puberty, and adolescence are important phases in the development of the posture, movement, and personality of the individual, it is also the case that the events and processes of these years reflect the prior development of the person during infancy and early childhood.  Under unfavorable circumstances, the first years of life represent a period during which the natural motility and mobility of the human organism become disturbed.  This is followed by a period of sexual "latency" during which more-or-less compulsive, rigidly structured training is imposed on the young person as part of the process of socialization.  The period of puberty and adolescence then becomes the time when attempts are made to see that the young adult is "broken in," traditionally by means of sexual frustration, but more recently by means of the inculcation of socially condoned sexual impulsiveness.  Under happier circumstances, the period of late childhood, puberty, and adolescence is a time when the fundamental security and the solid personal and sexual identity established during the first seven years of life serve as the foundation for the adventurous undertaking of learning the ways of the world.  In this ad-venture, the young person is ready to meet and deal with what comes his or her way.  In the absence of significant early childhood confusions and conflicts concerning sexual identity, the period of puberty and adolescence is a time of consolidation of one's biological heritage.  There is the healthy feeling of the emergence of sexual urges impelling one toward the exploration of love.  This deepens the sense of independence of the person and provides the positive basis for an affirmative attitude toward assuming responsibility for the tasks and challenges of adulthood.  That this scenario is seldom enacted under the conditions of contemporary upbringing of children is unfortunate.  Nevertheless, there is a natural urge toward healthy functioning, and one is justified in seeking to depict a healthy process of growth and development, in contrast to the current state of affairs.  What, however, may be considered an accurate index of healthy sexual functioning?  This question requires serious reflection.  In order to prepare the way, it is necessary to consider in further detail some aspects of human posture. 


Aspects of Posture


    The assumption of an upright posture as a comfortable stance of the human species has been accomplished as a result of complex, evolutionary developments that have occurred gradually.  To say that a comfortable, erect stature has been established as a fundamental characteristic of humanity, however, is obviously not correct.  Countless individuals do not feel comfortable standing on their own feet.  The tendency toward lower back pain, for example, is widespread in contemporary society, and some authors have attributed this fact to an incomplete evolutionary shift from a quadrupedal to a bipedal stance.  Isaac Asimov, in discussing the common problem of a "slipped disk," refers to this phenomenon as "...the price we still pay (among others) for getting up on our hind legs some hundreds of thousands of years ago...  It must be pointed out that the vertebral column is not completely adjusted to the new situation." [37]  However, since the skeletal frame is positioned in space principally by means of tonus and balance of the muscular system, the question arises whether the stresses and strains of the erect carriage are not associated with dystonic patterns in the soft tissue that are the result of personal rather than evolutionary history.  Richard Leaky has remarked: "To all intents and purposes the physical evolution of humans all over the world was complete by about twenty thousand years ago.  We do not see any further major changes in the skulls, teeth and skeletons of human beings.  But what now begins to evolve very rapidly are ideas, skills, and ways of living." [38]  May it not be the case that, as a whole, human beings have generally failed to put to appropriate use their evolutionary endowment - a balanced human frame - by means of organizing a comfortable upright posture and bipedal carriage facilitated by a coordinated set of neuro-muscular responses?

    While the anatomical and structural considerations concerning balanced posture in human beings are important, they are ultimately as complex as the multiple interrelationships among all the bones, muscles, and nerves of the body.  It would be possible for a single individual to exhaust several lifetimes in the investigation of these various interrelationships.  The accumulation of such data, however, would not in itself be useful.  Only with the organization of the data into a coherent perspective would it be possible to put such information to practical use.  The perspective itself would necessarily be determined by considerations other than the data alone.  For the purposes of the discussion at hand, the issues of comfortable balance, high energy level, and the potential for graceful, harmonious self-expression are some of the primary considerations.  The framework suggested by Wilhelm Reich's elaboration of the segmental character of human structure provides a necessary focus. 

    According to Reich, there are seven basic functional groups of muscles that can be identified in human beings: these are the ocular, oral, cervical, thoracic, diaphragmatic, abdominal, and pelvic segments, which are arranged along the axis of the body in transverse rings.  In Reich's view the segmental arrangement of the muscular groups in the human body is rooted in deep biological processes that reflect evolutionary development.  Reich states: "Segmental function is a much more primitive mode of living functioning than that found in highly developed animals.  It is most clearly seen in worms.  In the higher vertebrates, only the segmental structure of the spine, which corresponds to the segments of the spinal cord and the spinal nerves, and the segmental arrangement of the autonomic ganglia, indicate the origin of the vertebrates from segmentally functioning primitive organisms." [39]  Reich's point is that there is, in humans, a segmental arrangement of groups of muscles that reflects in its functioning the primitive form development of animal life.  By relating such segmentation to expressive movement and emotion, it is possible to appreciate the development of structure out of function in human beings.  The actual relationship between form development and selective pressures in evolutionary terms is an interesting question to be dealt with in another context.

    In Reich's view, an absence of excessive, chronic muscular tension in the segments of the body allows for the free motility of energetic functioning.  On the other hand, chronic spasticities in the various functional segments constitute a kind of armor that offers protection from painful, anxiety-producing emotional experiences at the price of diminished sensory awareness as well as reduced motor control.  In Reich's use of the term, "armor" represents an habitual defensive posture and can be compared to the armor worn by medieval knights.  Just as the ponderous armor of medieval knights became counterproductive with advances in military technology and changes in social structure, the chronic defensive postures anchored in an individual's character armor become self-defeating once the immediate circumstances requiring the armor have been superseded.  Thus, the dependency situation of early childhood originally may necessitate the restriction of the child's experience and self-expression in the interest of survival.  Once the child becomes an adult, however, the set of negative conditions prompting the defensive posture can be dealt with in a more expedient fashion.  Yet if the overall pattern of muscular contractions has become set, then serious work will be required to remove the suit of armor.  Resistance to such a process of reducing and eliminating patterns of chronic muscular tension may be understood as an attempt to ward off anxiety.  The irony lies in the fact that the anxiety has been locked into the chronically contracted musculature and frozen in the reduced motility of the organism, and only by facing the anxiety embodied in one's personal history can a release from the prison of one's own armor be effected.

    Reich's discussion of the arrangement of muscular spasticities in the body is important in that patterns of imbalance are related to the manner in which an individual holds back the natural emotional motility that is functionally identical with being alive.  Since patterns of muscular contraction and imbalance are established in the course of an individual's life history, they are a key to the biography of the person.  If one is aware of the expressive quality of the bodily posture of the individual, it becomes possible to infer the general outline of the person's history without having recourse to verbal interrogation.  To use Lowen's expression, by gaining insight into the physical dynamics of character structure it becomes possible to read the "language of the body." 

    If one considers the skeletal musculature as a whole, it is evident that, apart from the segmental arrangement of the muscles, there is a general relationship between the larger skeletal muscles and the internal organs of the body.  In conformity with Reich's understanding of character armor, it is clear that the larger skeletal muscles serve the function of protecting the vital centers of the organism. Such a function, while relatively obvious, is not generally noted in standard anatomy and physiology texts, where the muscular system is described primarily in terms of action upon the skeletal system for the purpose of effecting movement. [40]  The muscular system itself, to a considerable extent, serves as an intermediate layer of tissue between the skin and the major body cavities, the contents of which may be said to represent the vital core of the person.  Such an arrangement is analogous to the structure of a living cell, which is comprised of a surface membrane, the inner cytoplasmic substance, and the nucleus. [41]

    As Reich has indicated, the expansive flow of unimpeded biological excitation in living organisms is from the centers of energy production in the core outward toward the periphery of the body.  It is also true that there is a longitudinal movement of energy along the axis of the body in organisms that have developed to the level at which a head and a tail end can be distinguished.  Interruptions in the flow of excitation related to chronic restrictive patterns in the musculature will be anchored in the various segments into which the organism is divided.  In human beings, this means that certain characteristic patterns of restriction can be distinguished according to the stage of development at which self-expression becomes habitually limited.  To cite one example, the importance of the oral zone in infant life is intimately related to breastfeeding, and a premature disruption in the nursing process will be reflected in a disturbance of excitation in that area.  Such a disturbance, in turn, will be evident in the oral segment of the adult, in whom one will find problems of neuro-muscular coordination in the region of the mouth, along with corresponding psychological inhibitions.  It is also the case that any segmental disturbance in the flow of excitation from core to periphery, anchored in muscular contraction, will necessarily be reflected in a disorganization of the overall body posture.  This is inevitable, since the muscles which together constitute a given segment of the body also work together with muscles in other segments to balance the person as a whole in the upright position. [42]  Thus while the segmental armoring of the musculature entails a restriction in motility and in expressive movements, any such restriction will affect the overall mobility of the organism and will distort the posture of the person.  Since movement and posture are basic aspects of human adjustment to the demands of the physical world, understanding the implications of structural alignment in the field of gravity and the mechanics of gross movement is an aid in bringing energetic functioning down to earth in a concrete way.

    Among those perspectives focusing on the significance of posture and movement
in relation to personality is the point of view elaborated by F. Matthias Alexander.  In Alexander's words, "...it is impossible to separate 'mental' and 'physical' processes in any form of human activity." [43]  While Alexander is not unaware of psychological dynamics, his method focuses on movement patterns of the body.  He writes: "I prefer to call the psycho-physical organism simply 'the self,' and to write of it as something 'in use,' which 'functions' and 'reacts.'" [44]  Based on independent study and self-exploration, later confirmed and elaborated in his work with students, Alexander proposed that there is an almost universal tendency in modern culture for individuals to shorten the spine as part of habitual restrictive patterns of movement.  The central aspect of this tendency involves a contraction of the extensor muscles of the neck involving a total body pattern of excessive tension.  This type of reaction may be understood in terms of the "startle pattern," which has been recorded on film.  The startle response is "... a 'total reflex' that involves the relationship between head and trunk ... [It is] the stereotyped postural response to a sudden loud noise." [45]  It involves especially a strong, coordinated contraction of the upper trapezius and the sternocleidomastoids, as well as other muscles.  Certainly such a postural configuration in which the shoulders are raised and the head is pulled down toward the thoracic cavity is indicative of anxiety.  The tendency to shorten the spine, which Alexander calls to attention, is part of an overall body pattern of contraction.  In order to counteract this pattern, Alexander suggests, it is necessary to allow the spine to extend and lengthen as an essential part of every body movement.  Indeed, he maintains that the "true and primary movement in each and every act" is precisely this vertical lengthening." [46]  In order to facilitate a more natural movement pattern and a more balanced integration of the postural reflexes associated with an improved use of the self, Alexander outlines a program of psycho-physical reeducation conforming to three basic principles: "{1} Let the neck be free (which means merely to see that you do not increase the muscle tension of the neck in any act). {2} Let the head go forward and up (which means merely to see that you do not tense the neck muscles by pulling the head back or down in any act). {3} Let the torso lengthen and widen out (which merely means to see that you do not shorten and narrow the back by shortening the spine)." [47] 

    A number of considerations may be pointed out with respect to Alexander's perspective and approach.  On the one hand, Alexander is aware of the challenge in carrying out a reeducation of the individual in terms of neuro-muscular coordination and self-use.  He notes that the problem "... with which we are faced is that human beings to be educated to-day are already saddled with a more or less debauched kinesthesia, a condition in which psycho-physical reactions are abnormal and harmful." [48]  The task of the instructor, in Alexander's method, is to bring about an improved kinesthetic sense by assisting the pupil to move according to the principle of inhibiting unnecessary and parasitic actions (such as tightening the neck and pulling the head down) in order to facilitate natural lengthening of the spine as opposed to flexion or hyperextension.  In this endeavor, Alexander is aware that there is an emotional component, or anxiety pattern, associated with shortening the spine.  He relates this emotional pattern to the "fear of falling."  He points out that in the average person, "... the fear reflexes are being unduly excited by the fear of falling, and by the general unreliability of the psycho-physical processes..." [49]  Excessive imbalance in the total muscular system of the body and a characteristic anxiety pattern are seen to militate against the feeling of security and the establishment of dynamic equilibrium in the field of gravity.  Alexander's focus on freedom of the neck as a primary constituent of poise and equilibrium is in agreement with the observations of Feldenkrais, who writes: "The first manifestations of consciousness will appear with the control of the head which allows the child to follow and direct itself toward moving objects or sources of sound.  Soon afterwards, the head begins to right itself to a special position in which the plane of the occipital opening indicating the anatomical orientation of the head on the atlas, is slightly rising forward...  At the beginning, the head tends reflexively to this position, in whatever position the body may be." [50]  The balanced functional relationship of head and neck is a primary factor in movement and is an important element in maintaining what Wilfred Barlow has called "postural homeostasis," that is "... the steady state in which the body keeps itself balanced." [51] 

    Another factor which serves as a helpful organizing principle for the analysis of posture is the segmental arrangement of the human body in its relation to the earth's gravitational field.  In the words of Ida Rolf, "Symmetrical, balanced pattern in a man's segmented aggregate of material units allows his lesser [energy] field to be reinforced by the greater [gravitational] field of the earth." [52]  The primary segmental units to which Rolf refers are the head, thorax, pelvis, and legs.  The question of posture then becomes a matter of the easy alignment of the major body segments in the field of gravity.  Feldenkrais has speculated that, with adequate knowledge of the dynamics of the body segments, it is theoretically possible to "measure posture." [53]  A principal objective criterion of adequate posture, whether measurable or not, would be the easy alignment of the segments of the body in the field of gravity such that superfluous muscle tension is absent.  This would correspond to a low moment of inertia in a state of dynamic equilibrium.  To a considerable degree, such equilibrium corresponds to the potential for free self-expression of the organism.  With respect to motility, true dynamic equilibrium involves unimpeded flow of biological energy.  Kinesthetically, it entails a well-ordered sense of coordination and a body image rooted in the unimpeded flow of proprioceptive nerve impulses, with the cooperation of those other facets of the human nervous system crucial to the spatial orientation and the coordination of organismic responses.  Under the pressure of present environmental circumstances of a social and cultural nature, such postural balance can only be approximated.  Nonetheless, one of the advantages of considering movement and posture in relation to personality is that movement patterns and structural organization of the individual are objective, palpable factors integral to the life of the person.  Such factors reveal a great deal about the subjective world of the individual.  The reason why this is so is that posture, movement, and personality are directly related to the sensory awareness of the individual.

    In his discussion of the formation of mental conception, F.M. Alexander makes the following statement: "... our approach to life generally, our activities, beliefs, emotions, judgments, in whatever sphere, are conditioned by... the standard of reliability of our individual sensory appreciation." [54]  Stated simply, the way we see the world depends on our sensory awareness.  If our sensations are numbed, inhibited, distorted, exaggerated, or perverted, so too will be our vision of the world and our conception of life in general, of others, and of ourselves. [55]  If the musculature of our legs and pelvic structure is chronically contracted, we will "understand" rigidity to be the inevitable price to be paid for security.  If our shoulders are hunched and our chests deflated, we will look at the world through a perspective of despair.  If our back is strained with the burden of an exaggerated lumbar curve, then we will feel spineless in the face of life's adversities.  The set jaw of characterological determination and the stiff-necked attitude of habitual rebelliousness make of reality an adversary to be conquered.  The withdrawn stare framed by the spastic musculature of an immobilized ocular segment allows only the mirror image of a fantastic and receding dream to reach our awareness.  Pinched gluteals and overly tight abdominal muscles require that we approach the world as something to be squeezed for dear life.  How we perceive and act in the world is integrally related to our posture, movement, and personality. 

    All basic physiological and psychological processes involve a structural and functional component such that the degree of stress to which a person is subjected mediates biochemical and neurological activities. [56]  This is true at the deep emotional level of organ sensations, in terms of which it becomes possible to understand the truth of such expressions as being "moved" by desire (sudden increase in organismic motility) and feeling one's heart "open up" (parasympathetic excitation of the cardiovascular system).  Wilhelm Reich has emphasized the significance of organ sensations in providing a solid basis for contact with oneself and the world.  He comments: "The living organism perceives itself and its environment only through its sensations.  On the kind of sensations depends the kind of judgments developed, the reactions based on these judgments, and the overall picture commonly known as 'world image.'" [57]  Although form follows function in the development of human structure, it is also true that once a given structure is established, that structure mediates functioning.  One aspect of structure which evolves in terms of responses of the organism to the conditions of the environment is posture.  Together, posture, movement, and personality constitute a functional whole.   The question arises, however: does the organism merely "respond" to the pressures of the environment, or are there forces within the organism which actively seek gratification?  Are there needs which demand satisfaction?  Are there desires which require fulfillment?  These questions lead to a consideration of the fundamental needs of the person. 


The Needs of the Person


    Along with other animals, human beings experience certain basic needs which must be fulfilled in order for existence to continue.  One way to characterize such needs is to designate them as "instincts."  The word "instinct" refers literally to the experience of being "poked, aroused, or incited from within." [58]  Another word which may at times be used interchangeably with the word "instinct" is the word "drive," which the dictionary defines as "... an inner urge that stimulates a response..." [59]  Technically, however, an instinct must be distinguished from a drive.  Ashley Montagu writes: "A drive is a very different thing from an instinct.  An instinct is a phylogenetically determined fixed action pattern designed to react to a specific stimulus in an organized and biologically adaptive way that is characteristic of a given species." [60]  A drive, on the other hand, "... is a tendency, initiated by shifts in physiological balance, to be sensitive to certain stimuli of a certain class and respond in any of a variety of ways that are related to the attainment of a specific goal." [61]  Given these considerations, it is interesting to note the manner in which Freud has addressed the issue of human needs.  Freud writes: "By a 'drive' we can understand, for the moment, nothing other than the psychical representative of an inner, somatic, continuously flowing source of stimulation, as distinct from a 'stimulus,' which is produced by single excitations coming from without." [62]  In terms of Freud's early considerations, the two primary drives are identified as hunger and sex.  He writes: "I took as my starting point the saying of the poet-philosopher, Schiller, that 'hunger and love are what moves the world.'" [63]  If, for our present purposes, we focus attention on hunger and sex as two primary human urges originating within the organism and demanding satisfaction by way of release of tension, some considerations may be ventured regarding the relationship between human needs and the development of posture, movement, and personality in the individual.

    According to Reich's perspective, the basic life processes may be understood in terms of organismic pulsation. [64]  This view suggests that life, functioning within an enclosing membrane, expands and contracts rhythmically.  As part of the process of expansion and contraction, the living organism incorporates nutritional elements from the environment, thus adding to the quantity of energy enclosed within the membrane.  Part of the added quantity is used to replace energy expended in the process of living.  As an aspect of this process, metabolic waste products are excreted from the organism.  Some of the nutritional elements added to the organism are utilized in growth.  Energy in excess of the requirements for survival and physiological growth is discharged in movement.  One form of movement, culminating in an intense release of biological energy is the orgastic convulsion, which Reich has described as a basic means of discharging excess biological tension in living organisms.   Orgastic discharge in this basic sense designates a natural function operating on the unicellular level (e.g., reproduction through division in the amoeba) as well as on the multicellular level (e.g., the sexual orgasm in human beings).  Following Freud, we can suggest that in human beings hunger is "psychically represented" as a sensation of "lack," while sexual tension is experienced as a sensation of longing for pleasurable release from a state of excitation and fullness.  There is a sense, then, in which the two drives - sex and hunger - are interrelated dialectically in terms of the energetic charging and discharging of the organism. 

    If the dual relationship of hunger and sex is brought into the foreground as a means of reflecting on the basic developmental process of human beings, it is possible to understand the fundamental importance of need gratification in the formation of human posture, movement patterns, and personality.  All of these three features of human life are rooted in the basic drives of the person.  Because of the malleability of the human organism and the relative paucity of inborn patterns of behavior in human beings, there is considerable latitude in the range of human postures, movement patterns, and personality types.  This range is largely reflective of organismic responses to environmental pressures exerted during the formative period of individual growth.  If character structure is to evolve in a healthy fashion, then human needs must be gratified in basic ways.  Otherwise, chronic disturbances in the gratification of basic human drives will be embodied in distortions in posture, movement, and personality.  This is necessarily the case owing to the relationship between disturbances in need gratification and patterns of habitual, excessive neuro-muscular rigidity and disorganization.  When the needs of the organism are repeatedly frustrated - especially when this has occurred during the formative stages of development - the person is literally thrown out of balance.  If this process is severe, we say in popular language that the person is "unbalanced."  In fact, the individual who fits this description will suffer from a loss of balance that is both psychological and somatic.

    If the capacity for meaningful, pleasurable living is to be established in spite of a personal history of deprivation, then the dynamics of posture, movement, and personality must be integrated in a positive way.  In such a process of personal reeducation, character itself must undergo constructive change and growth.  We may say, therefore, that the integration of the person in terms of posture, movement, and personality is a basic index of healthy human functioning.




[1] This quotation is taken from undated promotional material distributed by the Feldenkrais Guild.


[2]
Lowen, A. The Language of the Body (New York: Collier Books, 1971), p. 121.

[3] Todd, M. The Thinking Body (Paul B. Hoeber Inc., 1937; unabridged republication by Dance Horizons Incorporated, 1801 East 26th Street, Brooklyn, New York, undated), pp. 93-94. 

[4] Todd, p. 10.

[5] Freud, S. Beyond the Pleasure Principle, trans. J. Strachey (New York: Bantam Books, 1959), p. 22.

[6] Feldenkrais, M. The Elusive Obvious (Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications, 1981), p. 82.

[7] Reich, W. Ether, God and Devil & Cosmic Superimposition, trans. T. Pol (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973), Ch. III, pp. 53-77.

[8] Feldenkrais, The Elusive Obvious, p. 83.      

[9] Stanley
Keleman has addressed this issue, stressing formative factors in individual development.  See Emotional Anatomy (Berkeley: Center Press, 1985).  Keleman writes: "The history of the developmental organization of tubes, spaces, and motility [within the body] gives a sense of how we function, what our insides feel like, and how we feel in general.  Motility and movement display one pattern under distress, and another when we are in normal situations." (p. 3)  "The development from child to adult involves possible insults from external sources - parents, siblings, peers, or education....  When insults to form occur, excitatory currents are changed and, consequently, so are the shapes we assume." (pp. 62-63)
 
[10] Consciousness - like other fundamental aspects of human experience - is resistant to satisfactory definition.  Freud refers to consciousness as "... a fact without parallel, which defies all explanation or description...  Nevertheless, if anyone speaks of consciousness we know immediately and from our most personal experience what is meant by it."  An Outline of Psycho-Analysis, trans. J. Strachey (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1949), p. 14.

[11] Freud, S. Civilization and its Discontents, trans. J. Strachey (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1961), p. 19.


[12] Lowen, A. Narcissism: Denial of the True Self (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1983), p.187.

[13] See, for example, Leboyer, F. Birth Without Violence (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), pp. 78-84. 

[14] Montagu, A. Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).

[15] van Lawick-Goodall, J. In the Shadow of Man (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1971), p. 241.

[16] Lowen, A. Bioenergetics (New York: Penguin Books, 1975), p.46.

[17] Reich, W. The Cancer Biopathy, trans. A. White (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973), p. 159.

[18] Lowen, Bioenergetics, p. 132.

[19] Reich, The Cancer Biopathy, p. 385.  (Portions of the original passage appear in italics.)

[20]
Reich, The Cancer Biopathy, p. 386.  (The original passage appears in italics.)

[21]
Reich, The Cancer Biopathy, p. 387.  (Portions of the original passage appear in italics.)

[22] Feldenkrais, M. Body and Mature Behavior (New York: International Universities Press, 1975), p. 84.

[23] Feldenkrais, Body and Mature Behavior, p. 84.

[24]
Feldenkrais, Body and Mature Behavior, p. 84.

[25]
Lowen, Bioenergetics, pp. 214-215.

[26]
Feldenkrais argues that a fear of loud noises is the first conditioned reflex in the infant, owing to irradiation of impulses from the cochlear to the vestibular branch of the VIIIth cranial nerve. See Body and Mature Behavior, p. 85. 

[27] Feldenkrais, The Elusive Obvious, p. 69.

[28] Feldenkrais, The Elusive Obvious, p. 117.

[29] Lowen, A. Love and Orgasm (New York: Collier Books, 1965), Ch. 1.

[30]
Lowen, Narcissism: Denial of the True Self, p. 59; p. 130.

[31] The term "Electra complex" was introduced by Carl Jung in 1913 "...as a synonym for the feminine Oedipus complex in order to bring out the existence of a parallel, mutatis mutandis, in the attitudes of the two sexes toward the parents." 
Laplanche, J. and Pontalis, J.-B. The Language of Psycho-Analysis trans. D. Nicholson-Smith (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1973), p. 152.  Freud rejected this term.

[32] See Caplan, T. and Caplan, F., The Early Childhood Years: The 2- to 6-Year Old (New York: The Putnam Publishing Group, 1983).  "Sex in the early childhood years is concerned with interest in the body...  All young children naturally handle their genitals.  Normal children are interested in exploring all parts of their bodies...  When they touch their genitals and find that this produces an agreeable sensation, they are likely to repeat the action." (p. 213)  "Spontaneous sex role activities occur when children are in free-play situations.  Not only are sex-role patterns acquired at an early age, they actually are practiced throughout the early childhood years." (p. 214)

[33] See Freud, S. An Outline of Psycho-Analysis, Chs. III and IV; also see Freud, S. The Ego and the Id, trans. J. Riviere (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1962), Chs. I and II.  In Freud's view, the unsatisfactory repression of Oedipal drives may reflect the presence of either overly severe or inadequate super-ego development.  (An attempt to understand the Oedipus complex in terms of a combination of biological drives and cultural pressures is presented in
Lowen, A. Fear of Life {New York: Collier Books, 1980}.) 

[34]
See Malinowski, B. Sex and Repression in Savage Society (New York: Meridian Books, 1955).  Many contemporary researchers in the field of human sexual behavior hold the opinion that the latency period, as well, is a cultural phenomenon.  Masters and Johnson remark: "Cross-cultural studies clearly show that if a society is not repressive toward childhood sexual rehearsals, such play continues and may even be more frequent during the preadolescent years."  Masters, H., Johnson, V., and Kolodny, R., Masters and Johnson on Sex and Human Loving (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1985), p. 130.   

[35] Feldenkrais, M. The Potent Self (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), p. 130.

[36] "The Impulsive Character" in
Reich, W. The Impulsive Character and Other Writings, trans. B. Koopman (New York: New American Library, 1974), p. 33.

[37] Asimov, A. The Human Body: Its Structure and Operation (New York: New American Library, 1963), p. 47.

[38] Leaky, R. Human Origins (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1982), p. 61.

[39] Reich, W. Character Analysis, 3rd edition, trans. T. Wolfe (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969), p. 370.

[40] See, for example, Tortora, G. and Anagnostakos, N. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), Chs. 10 and 11.

[41] The skeletal musculature itself, with its fascial wrapping, is arranged in layers that can be seen as consisting of more superficial strata making up a "sleeve" surrounded by a deeper, intrinsic "core."  See Rolf, I. Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures (New York: Harper & Row, 1977). 

[42] The organization of physical structure in terms of myofascial relationships is addressed by Thomas Myers in written publications and on video. 
See Myers, T. Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists (London: Harcourt Publishers Limited, 2001).  Also see Myers, T. Anatomy Trains Myofascial Meridians {DVD, 2005} Kinesis Inc., 318 Clarks Cove Road, Walpole, ME, 04573, www.AnatomyTrains.net).  

[43] Alexander, F.M. The Resurrection of the Body, ed. E. Maisel (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1974), p. 161.  (Italics in the original passage.)

[44] Alexander, The Resurrection of the Body, p. 163.

[45] Jones, F. Body Awareness in Action: A Study of the Alexander Technique (New York: Schocken Books, 1976), p. 132.

[46] Maisel, E., "Introduction," in Alexander, The Resurrection of the Body, p. xxiv.

[47] Maisel, p. xxiv.  For Alexander's own account of the development of his method, see The Resurrection of the Body, Part IV.  Also see Alexander, F.M. The Use of the Self
(Downey, California: Centerline Press, 1984).  For a detailed account of Alexander's life, see Bloch, M. F.M.: The Life of Frederick Matthias Alexander (London: Little Brown & Co., 2004).

[48] Alexander, F.M. Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Downey, California: Centerline Press, 1985), p. 107.

[49]
Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, p. 232.

[50] Feldenkrais, Body and Mature Behavior, p. 114.  Feldenkrais was, at one point, a student of Alexander.  See Bloch, F.M.: The Life of Frederick Matthias Alexander.

[51] Barlow, W. The Alexander Technique (New York: Warner Books, 1973), p. 79.

[52] Rolf,
Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures, p. 30.

[53] Feldenkrais, Body and Mature Behavior, Ch. 12.

[54] Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, p. 147. 
(Part of the original passage appears in italics.)

[55] See Hanna, T. Somatics: Reawakening the Mind's Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1988).  Hanna introduces the term "somatic amnesia" to describe "...a memory loss of how certain muscle groups feel and how to control them."  (p. xiii)

[56] See Lowen, A. Stress and Illness: A Bioenergetic View (New York: International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis, 1980). 

[57] Reich, Ether, God and Devil & Cosmic Superimposition,
p. 56.  (Part of the original passage appears in italics.)

[58] The Random House College Dictionary, (New York: Random House Inc., 1975).

[59]
The Random House College Dictionary.

[60] Montagu, A. The Nature of Human Aggression (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), pp. 64-65.

[61] Montagu, The Nature of Human Aggression, p. 64.

[62] My translation from the German.  In Freud's words: "Unter einem  >Trieb< können wir zunächst nichts anders verstehen als die psychische Repräsentanz einer kontinuielich fließenden, innersomatischen Reizquelle, zum Unterschiede vom >Reiz< , der durch vereinzelte und von außen kommende Erregungen hergestellt wird." Freud, S. Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie und verwandte Schriften (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH, 1961), p. 43.  See also James Strachey's translation in Freud, S. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (New York: Avon Books, 1962), p. 60.  Strachey uses the term "instinct" in place of "drive."  For a discussion of Freud's use of the term "drive" (Trieb), see Laplanche, J. and Pontalis, J.-B. The Language of Psycho-Analysis trans. D. Nicholson-Smith (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1973), pp. 214-217.  Also see the discussion in Bettelheim, B. Freud and Man's Soul (New York: Vintage Books, 1984), Ch. XV.

[63] Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, p.64.

[64] See the discussion in Lawson, J. "The Living Body," available at the "Publications" page of this website (www.reichian.com).

Back to Top