The Current Relevance of Body Contact in Radix Work - a discussion compilation

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In light of changes in our culture over the past twenty years, how valid do you believe Chuck’s body-contact work, as described in his article of 1988, to be today? How much touching do you use in your own practice? What is its value to body psychotherapy in general?  You may download Chuck’s 1988 article here.

 

Jay Rubin wrote:

I just heard the news of a ten-year-old girl’s having been punished with after-school detention for the “crime” of consoling a same-age/same-sex friend with a ..GASP!!.. hug.

How would today’s culture be different if Chuck’s principles of bodywork and body contact had received a wider audience within the educational, psychological, and social work environment? The principles he outlined for working with the bodies of those blocking fear/trust, anger/love and pain/pleasure have not changed. These principles, if used correctly, could alleviate or eliminate many of the so called “behavioral disorders” which have been visited upon our youth and their parents by “Big Pharma” and the symptom-obsessed allopathic medical community. To me, the pathologizing of childhood itself and the early and prolonged drugging of kids is the “gateway” to life-long drug dependence, denying children the opportunity to naturally integrate their feeling and thinking as they move toward the responsibilities of adulthood.

Nor can we ignore the emergence of various communicable diseases in the last twenty-plus years. Backing-off from necessary touching in Radix sessions in fear of the inevitable fluid-swapping that occurs in body-to-body human contact is a serious hindrance to performing the work well. Yet, these new and growing threats are real, and I can understand the retreat, the “regression,” of bodyworkers away from the body and into the relative safety and “acceptability” of the head-tripping varieties of psychotherapy. Too, the past few decades have seen a hysterical sexualization of nearly all forms of touching, especially the touching of the young by the older, leaving me to wonder how many parents deny their kids heartfelt hugs and other physical expressions of affection for fear of coming under suspicion of onlookers as pedophiles.

 

Ron Hook wrote:

Half of my professional life is officially under the medical model where it is hazardous to touch because of the crazy legal environment. It is at the same time hazardous not to touch because deep and early emotional repair work cannot be done without it. A reading of the popular psychoneurobiological literature (Segal, Schore, Cozolino, etc.) will support that the only way to reach the early core is with something other than talk. They refer to the “idio-retinal light” in the eye of the mother that induces responses in the infant that begin literally to shape the emotional/social components of the brain.

This is no surprise to us as Radix practitioners, but it is profound to the psychologists. The good news is that it brings them a step closer to our line of thinking. We know that the “idio-retinal light” is Radix in one organism encountering it in another (a newborn). Those of us who are skilled at our bodywork craft have tools that can help reach into this early character-forming territory with an adult client. We understand quality of contact, and the real meaning of encounter. So, I find myself hopeful that at some point we’ll converge with the world of psychoneurobiology.

Body contact is so essential in the healing process that it is laughable to me that it comes into question. But, innocent practitioners can be confused in their evaluation of whom they should do it with and when, and whom not. I very much appreciate Chuck’s step- by-step descriptions of when it’s ok, and when it’s not. This helps to keep the (sometimes too loose) boundaries of the practitioner in tact. In the mental health field people form (sometimes too distant) boundaries with a diagnosis. Either way, professional success with body contact is guided by a valid and clear boundary-forming theory held by a conscientious practitioner.

The heart of my message is that there is an opening for us and our understanding of body contact with neuroscientists who understand the neuroscience of relationships. And, there are more and more of them. We have no choice but to make these alliances whenever we can.

Gregor Barnum’s path diverged from direct body work since 1984, but he adds a significant dimension to the topic. He wrote, in part:

… I never thought Chuck/Reich’s work was about touching as much as working with “the other’s” field. To me the course is not selling the Baconians on such “truths;.” rather it is for us all to do the research needed to understand these fields, for without such research we are still doing what psychologists do; we are not doing what this works was designed for. We need to understand the radix as not an abstract, rather as the substance for the deepest questions of our times, to unravel and bring into form for our children…

… While I hear your concern, Ron, for boundaries and the continual battle to move the mechanistic mind away from their Baconian morass, I still would like to push you into the possibility that there exist forces the Baconian mind will not fathom within their frameworks. You will hear contempt and the pounding arguments against “life force;” you will not hear a readiness to sense deeper….

 

Aneesha Dillon wrote:

I completed my training as a Radix practitioner in 1974, and have worked intensively with Radix principles and neo-Reichian techniques for more than 30 years. I learned Radix body work personally from Chuck and Erica, and I use touch liberally and intensively, much as they did. That style of working became rooted in me at a time when deep work on the body and emotions was considered cutting edge in our professional milieu. We ‘wowed’ them at Esalen, Quaesitor (London) and Zist (Germany).

I very much like how Chuck has spoken in so much detail about how and why to touch, or not to touch, in the Radix work, and what supports the process through touch. He is very clear about defining the parameters of touch in Radix work. (Although, I must say, I always objected to Chuck’s use of the word ‘to handle’ a student’s body—sounds so meaty or impersonal. But I think it might be a ‘generational’ use of the word.)

I developed my own Pulsation neo-Reichian group work from a combination of Radix paired feeling structures and warm-ups, Osho Active meditations, and a lot of dance, movement, energy work, sharing, and also silence. My practice took place in an international meditation and growth community in India and Europe, a gathering of seekers that was touch and contact friendly, sexually active, and AIDS free.

Although I noticed, during my years away from the US, a swing towards conservative morals and values, I was dismayed to see attitudes becoming so ultra conservative in mainstream America. The sexually repressive atmosphere, as expressed in Jay Rubin’s reference to the “hysterical sexualization of nearly all forms of touching” became stifling here.

I have just returned to the US and my intention is to start my work in California, where I live now. I have not thought to ‘tone down’ my use of touch. In fact, I imagine that because very few others are doing anything like Pulsation/Kelley-Radix in the San Francisco-North Bay Area, there might even be a particular demand for my work here.

I have always felt that this work is not for everyone, and Radix will not appeal on a mass-market scale, nor should it necessarily do so. I trust that the right people will find me here and my work will grow. I can see that adjusting to the American market is going to be quite a shift for me, and it will take time to find my way here.

However, just because mainstream thinking might hold the more traditionally strong touch of the Reichian approach as perhaps too much, or possibly, as crudely old fashioned, those attitudes do not negate the value of that style of work, and I intend to continue to work and teach in this way, and to continue to refine it as needed.