“Radix work taught me how to live more fully. Deep in my muscles, in the power of my feelings and my thoughts my life force surges, ebbing and flowing in a rhythm I’ve learned to control in the pursuit of a more fulfilling life rather than reacting to outside influences.”
- from a Radix student
Our Roots In Vision
A feature that distinguishes Radix personal growth from other neo-Reichian disciplines is the attention given to vision. Although one aspect of vision is seeing in the literal, sensory sense, the word “vision” carries the implication of a larger context. We talk about being able to see ahead, of envisioning our future. We talk of seeing and understanding, of external reality, of seeing clearly what is in front of our eyes at this moment. And we talk of internal reality, seeing clearly into ourselves and acknowledging the truth about our self-image and our memories.
The very first group of five Radix students participated in an experimental class with Chuck and Erica Kelley in 1969 called “Education in Vision and Feeling.” This was a unique synthesis of two systems of bodywork: natural vision improvement methods derived from William H. Bates, and emotional release techniques derived from Wilhelm Reich. As Bates was the pioneer in freeing the senses, Reich was the pioneer in freeing feelings. Chuck brought a long background of research and experience as an experimental psychologist specializing in vision, and was a certified instructor of the Bates Method. Bates had identified stress and muscular tension around the eyes as a significant cause of visual dysfunction and had devised a variety of techniques, developed further by Chuck’s teacher, Margaret D. Corbett, to bring relaxed tone to those muscles, thus affecting the shape of the eye for better vision. This concept correlated naturally with Wilhelm Reich’s discoveries about “muscular armor.” Reich described the “ocular” segment as the first of seven segments in the body, each of which encompassed specific patterns of muscular armor. Kelley saw it was important to release ocular armor in his students so that they could see and be seen as their work progressed.
This original group spent the first half of every class doing Bates relaxation techniques, gentle breathing, and tachistoscopic training, in an atmosphere of serenity. In the second half of every class the whole group worked in a small sound-proofed room, receiving individualized Reichian work for his or her specific bodily blocks to emotional expression. In these “Intensives” emerged the underlying anger, the pain, the fear and also the joy. The most important aspect in each session was to allow feelings to show fully in the eyes.
These students were primarily near-sighted (myopic). They came hoping to improve their poor vision and were intrigued by the notion of working with the emotional causes underlying it. After twelve weeks there was indeed significant improvement in their vision, but what gave everyone greater pause – teachers and students alike -- were the general improvements in the students’ character, functioning, relationships and their overall sense of aliveness. These factors were more important to the students than their improved vision! (Kelley, New Techniques of Vision Improvement)
From that time, Chuck decided to pursue primarily the neo-Reichian work, using the armoring of the eyes as his starting point. “Vision Improvement” required a great deal of time and patience, and although formal programs were offered they attracted only a few trainees with that particular patience. Janet Goodrich, who later founded her own effective program worldwide, was one of these. Others have developed unique approaches to vision and feeling work, but Laura DeNuccio is the only one to receive a Certificate in Education in Vision Improvement. Nonetheless, all Radix teachers are well versed in both Bates’ and neo-Reichian concepts and techniques for vision enhancement. They are familiar with the particular visual characteristics that identify particular blocks to feeling expression, and they know, too, that no matter where feelings may originate in the body, they must be integrated in the ocular segment to make significant change.
Other ocular techniques include voluntary movements of the eye muscles in coordination with the breath and pulsation of the life force through the body, such as closing tight and opening wide, following a flashlight in random movements, visual contact with others using phrases such as “Look at me” or “I don’t understand.” Other exercises leading to involuntary movement and expression of feeling often combine thinking with feeling, such as when the student remembers “not being seen” as a teenager or “having to watch out” as a child. The ability to visualize plays an important role. Having imagination means having the capacity to see images; visual scenes and guided imagery have always played their part in Radix ocular work. Early “trips of the imagination” were designed specifically to enhance vision, perhaps by seeing grains of sand in one’s hand then following a seagull down the beach and away over the ocean to the horizon. They were usually designed, too, to enhance as many senses as possible – touching that sand, hearing the waves, and so on.
Visual imagery is not to be confused with fantasy that is disconnected from awareness, however. As Chuck said, "Memory and fantasy are powerful tools to aid getting into the feelings. Creating the fantasy image of figures from our past (e.g., mom, dad), and saying our feelings to them, can not only loosen a flood of feelings, it can be an aid in straightening out attitudes and clarifying emotional relationships. Fantasy is a useful secondary technique for opening the feelings, but should never replace direct work on the armor. We employ memory and fantasy techniques freely in our work, subject to the condition that the student become able to sustain the feeling discharge with eyes open, body soft, with awareness directed to a partner in the here-and-now.” (Kelley, Education in Feeling and Purpose)
It is apparent, then, that the functions of the ocular segment are not only seeing and sensing the environment. Blind people still have most of the functions of this first segment working for them, functions such as perceiving, thinking, fantasizing, imaging, imagining, understanding, conceptualizing, visualizing, looking ahead, and foresight. It is not surprising that, as Chuck developed his program of Self-Direction and Purpose along with Feeling, “vision” remained an integral part of the work.
As surgical technology makes it increasingly easy to correct the mechanical aspects of seeing, it will be interesting to assess the impact such corrections have on psychological and emotional functioning. Does the sudden ability to see without glasses impact emotional behavior? Do “new eyes” bring a spontaneous flow of radix to the ocular segment, and improve functioning beyond limited sensory behavior? Perhaps a Radix teacher will study such changes and offer observations in the future.
Bates, W.H., 1920, The Cure of Imperfect Sight by Treatment Without Glasses. New York: Central Fixation Co., 1920.
Corbett, M.D., 1949, Help Yourself to Better Sight. New York: Prentice-Hall.
Huxley, A, 1942, The Art of Seeing. New York: Harper.
Kelley, C.R., 1971, 1980-81, Segment One Program, a Pre-training Radix course (unpublished).
__________, 1974, 1970, Education in Feeling and Purpose. Vancouver, WA: K/R Publications.
__________, New Techniques of Vision Improvement. Vancouver, WA: K/R Publications.
Reich, W., 1961, Character Analysis. New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy.
www.eyerobics.net (Jerriann Taber Ph.D.)