The physical experience (felt sense) of our feelings, thoughts and perceptions is at the heart of integrative body psychotherapy. How does it feel to be in our body when we are sad or angry, for example? Can we express this sadness or anger appropriately so that our entire system can relax again? Moments of great sadness or anger often result in us cutting ourselves off from the associated physical and emotional experiences so as not to have to feel them any longer. But in the long term this leads to emotional flattening and muscular armouring.
IBP has an impressive personality model which can be used to explain relationship conflicts really well. Conflicts arise within partnerships as well as from relationships to our social environment (family, friends, job). In this sense, IBP can also be described as one-on-one relationship therapy.
In a multi-layered reflection we discuss your way of relating. How are you connected to your environment or not, as the case may be? The proportion of abandonment and flooding in our being provides good insights into our protective and character style with which we try to protect ourselves in a non-rational way from being hurt again (defensive behavioural strategy). This avoidance behaviour is supplemented by an offensive behavioural strategy («agency»), in which we try to please; in doing so we often do not adequately observe our limits and increasingly exhaust ourselves (until we reach depression).
Illustration of shell modell
As you can see from the above illustration, agency and protective and character style reduce or prevent contact with our core self. IBP is a humanistic approach and therefore assumes that each person is good in themselves. They are capable of unconditional love and are free from fear. This is a condition that we can observe beautifully in newborn children. They are still free from life experiences, conditioning and influences.
Suppressed anger and sadness are examples of elements that nurture our fear and distance ourselves from our true self. Agency and protective style act like a filter between our core self and the world. The aim of successful psychotherapy is to discover and change these unconscious mechanisms.
The basic fault symbolises our fundamental injury in our primary scenario, which is anchored in our consciousness in the form of negative cognitions. Such cognitions can be expressed from our life experience in the nuclear family as follows: «I am worthless!», «I am unlovable!», «I am to blame!», etc. Essentially the basic fault always relates to the topic of love, appreciation and recognition. All people desire very simple things such as: «I would like to be seen!», «I would like to be heard!», «I would like to be understood!», «I would like to be loved for who I am!». Unfortunately this appreciation and recognition is often denied. Consequently this early life experience results in many sad and painful experiences in which it is repeatedly confirmed to us that we are not right, we are not seen, heard or understood, that we are unlovable, that we are not loved for who we are. This is the ideal breeding ground for protective and character style and agency!
When a protective style becomes automatic and slides into the unconscious mind, then it becomes a characteristic of our being. An example of this attitude could be: I am a closed, clinical person or I am a desperate and needy person!
Agency refers to the fact that as children and later as adults as well, we try to please those around us by not remaining true to ourselves and putting our own needs behind external demands in the hope of sought-after love, recognition and appreciation.
It is not wrong to have protective or character style and agency. Everyone has it! Yet it also prevents us expressing our true dream of life, charity and co-existence. The result of this confusion is fear, loneliness, a feeling of being lost, addiction, (auto-)aggressive behaviour, narcissistic megalomania, depression, personality disorders, delusional parallel worlds, compulsive thoughts, compulsive impulses, compulsive actions etc.
I hold Jack Lee Rosenberg in very high esteem, because with the IBP method he has created a simple tool that encompasses so many problems of a social nature and at the same time provides an effective path towards a solution. If we learn to understand our life system, how we function; if we learn to take care of our personal breathing space and our limits; if we learn to express our needs adequately and appropriately, then we can heal ourselves and also become a valuable member of our community and society because we are no longer part of the confusion. Our self and our actions make us a role model for the world. We do not attach our expectations and demands to society. We give and live what we hope and wish for ourselves from other people.