special aim of freeing the pelvis and opening up sexual feeling. Some of these will be described in the next section dealing with the sexual release. It should be clear from what I have said earlier that if the pelvis is immobile and rigidly held in a fixed position, it will prevent any pressure from above passing down and into the legs where it can be discharged. The stress will then be focused in the lumbosacral region with the consequences we have seen.
Basic to any effective work with the lower part of the body is the flexible knee. Locked, knees prevent any excitation or feeling from flowing through the legs and into the feet. One of the first injunctions in bioenergetic therapy, therefore, is "keep your knees bent at all times." There are only a few other such injunctions as dropping shoulders and not pulling in or tightening the belly muscles. These simple injunctions can do much to promote better respiration and a greater flow of feeling and can be recommended for all people interested in a more alive, responsive body. They are necessary to counter the cultural dictate, "Shoulders back, chest out, belly in." The purpose of the dictate is ostensibly to help one stand straight, but it really forces one to stand stiffly.
The injunction to keep your knees bent is known to be important when lifting a heavy object. The failure to do so can lead to lower-back spasm. I have heard this injunction given by an announcer at a professional football game, pointing out that the running back who doesn't have his knees bent loses power and is liable to serious injury. Well, why not for everyone all the time when standing, since this position is a stressful one?
Patients who do not normally stand this way report it feels unnatural at first and may even give them a sense of insecurity. However, locked knees only create an illusion of security, and it is the illusion that vanishes with the bent knee position. To develop the habit of standing with bent knees will require conscious; attention in the beginning. It can be practiced while shaving," washing dishes or waiting at a corner for the light to change. After a while one feels relaxed in this new position, and then it feels unnatural and awkward to stand with knees locked. One also
Stress and Sex
becomes conscious of his legs and manner of standing. One may also feel more tired, but instead of fighting it, one gives in and rests.
The next step is to get some vibration into the legs. This is intended to reduce their rigidity. Vibration is nature's way of releasing muscular tension. When a person lets go, his body will vibrate like a spring released from tension. Our legs are like springs, and when we keep them tense too long, they stiffen and harden, losing their resiliency.
There are several ways the legs can be made to vibrate. The exercise most commonly used in bioenergetics is the bent-forward position with the hands touching the ground and the knees slightly bent. I described this exercise earlier in connection with grounding. It is always used after a person has been over the breathing stool and after he has used the bow position.
In my treatment of lower-back problems I alternate a patient between the bow position and the bent-forward position, allowing him to bend backward or forward as much as he can without too much pain. Alternating the bending loosens up the lower-back musculature, but it should be done gradually if a person is recovering from an acute back episode. Then, when his back is relatively pain-free, it is advisable for him to lie on the floor over a rolled-up blanket placed in the small of the back. This can be painful. The person is told to give in to the pain and not tense against it. If he can do this, the muscles in his back will let go. But one must not force or push this or any other exercise. Pushing creates the very tension we are trying to reduce. After a patient can do this exercise easily, he lies on a breathing stool with the pressure applied to his lower back. The stool is placed next to a bed so his head can rest on the bed. Here, too, the person is told to give in to the pain and let himself relax. One finds that as soon as one does let go, the pain disappears.
The biggest hurdle to overcoming a lower-back problem is fear, fear of pain. We have to help patients get over this fear if they are to become completely pain-free. Fear creates tension, and tension
produces pain. They get caught in a vicious circle from which there seems no way out but surgery. I never advise surgery, since it does nothing for the muscular tension that is the root of the trouble. Splinting the back may remove the pain by reducing the back's motility, but I have known people who had more than one such operation with no significant benefit. These people made remarkable improvement with bioenergetic therapy.
By restoring the motility of the lower back, one can eliminate the pain. To do this, however, the fear has to be worked through. These patients are not just afraid of the pain; they are also afraid of what the pain implies—for pain is a danger signal. They are afraid their backs will actually break. This fear comes through when they lie over the stool on the lower back. If I ask what they are afraid of when it begins to hurt, the reply will invariably be: "I ami afraid my back will break."
In my long experience no one has injured his back doing the bioenergetic exercises if he does them correctly. Doing them correctly means not using them to break through a problem but to get in touch with it on a body level. No exercise should be pushed beyond the danger point which is reached when a person becomes frightened. When this happens, an analysis of the fear is required. Questions should be asked, such as, "Where did you get the idea your back could break?" and "What could cause a back to break?" Sooner or later it becomes possible for a patient to associate his fear of breaking to a childhood situation. For example, he may recall the threat by a parent, "If I catch you, I'll break your back." This could be said to a rebellious child where the threat means the parent would break the child's spirit or the backbone of his resistance. Against this threat a child may react by stiffening his back as if to say, "You're not going to break me." But once the back has become chronically stiff, the fear of breaking is structured into the body as part of the defense.
A clearly expressed verbal threat is not always necessary to produce a stiff back. More commonly there is an open conflict of wills, in which situation the child may stiffen his back unconsciously
Stress and Sex
to maintain his integrity. In all cases a stiffening of the back denotes unconscious resistance, a holding against yielding or giving in. While the holding has its positive aspect, the maintenance of integrity, it also has the negative effect of holding against needing, wanting and loving. The stiffness blocks the yielding to crying and the giving in to sexual longing. When people cry, we say they break down into tears and sobbing. The fear of breaking is fundamentally a fear of breaking down, of yielding and surrendering. It is important for a patient to make the associations that will enable him to understand where his fear came from.
A person can't get broken unless he is trapped as children are in their relationship with parents. Patients arc not in this position. Every patient is told he is free to do or not do an exercise and to feel free to quit whenever he wants to. But patients and people in general are trapped by their stiffness and chronic muscular tensions, and they project this feeling into their relationships. Exercises should never be done compulsively, therefore, for this increases the feeling of being trapped. A person should do them as a means of sensing what goes on in his body and why. We cannot afford to go through life feeling that it will break us if we are not cautious, for then it surely will.
I mentioned that there were several ways to get the legs to vibrate. Perhaps the simplest exercise we use is having a patient lie on his back on the bed and extend both legs upward. If the ankles are flexed and the heels thrust upward, the stretch placed on the muscles of the back of the legs will generally cause them to vibrate.
Vibration of the body has another important function beyond that of releasing tension. It allows a person to experience and enjoy the body's involuntary movements. These are an expression of its life, of its vibrant force. If a person is afraid of them, feeling he must be in full control of himself at all times, he will lose his spontaneity and end up as a rigidly bound, automatized person.
Let me put it even more strongly. The body's involuntary movements are the essence of its life. The beat of the heart, the cycle of respiration, the peristaltic movements of the intestines—all