As seen in Goop: Why Surrender

Emotional brick walls are tough to run into. The fact that most of the time we’ve built these walls ourselves is distressing—unless you look at them as a huge opportunity for growth, which is how Boston-based therapist Aimee Falchuk sees it. Falchuk specializes in helping people move stuck emotional energy, and so spends much of her time working with clients on learning to surrender, clearing the path to move forward emotionally after trauma, loss, and other types of pain. As Falchuk explains, surrendering is not giving up or shirking responsibility, but “consciously and actively choosing to get off the insufferable ride of forcing our way through life.” While some moments may require us to soldier on and others to fight back, Falchuk maintains that we often have far more to gain by accepting ourselves and what is. Here, she outlines how to bring the practice, and power, of surrendering into your life.

A Q&A with Aimee Falchuk


What does surrender mean? What are we actually surrendering to?


Surrender is an act of acceptance—the acceptance of what is, of imperfection, of limitations, of disappointment, of pain, of death. Although we need a certain amount of intolerance of what is to fuel our passion to make the world a better place, so much suffering comes from our resistance to what is: We don’t want to accept it, or we don’t like it, or it doesn’t feed our immediate needs.

It is an act of humility to surrender to what is. When we surrender, we turn our ego and self-will over to a deeper wisdom and knowing within us—our higher self. When we surrender to our higher self, we let go of the painful distortion of certainty, duality, and separateness, and we embrace the truth of uncertainty, connection, and unity.

Some of us surrender to God or the universe—a power greater than ourselves. Whether we surrender to our higher self or to these energies, we are working through the more superficial, defended layers of our personality, those child parts of us that think we are all-knowing and all-powerful. In this way, surrender is an expression of our maturation.


Why is it so hard to let go?


We may tell ourselves that to let go of something is an act of resignation. We may have been taught never to give up—to fight to the death—so there may be a belief that we aren’t measuring up to expectations by loosening our grip. Or we may associate surrender with being alone and lost, and chaos ensuing. But surrender is neither resignation nor defeat, nor an abdication of responsibility; quite the opposite: Surrender is a self-affirming act of personal responsibility. It’s about consciously and actively choosing to get off the insufferable ride of forcing our way through life. It is an active, self-loving choice in securing our own personal freedom.

We also anticipate the discomfort of the feelings that might come with surrender. We invest a lot of energy into going after what it is we want, and behind that energy is a deep longing for something. When we let go, stop pulling or pushing, or step away, we feel the impact of that—we might feel loss, grief, terror, or disappointment. The sensation of these feelings can be overwhelming and many of us weren’t necessarily taught how to express them.

In my practice, I work with clients on containment—the ability to tolerate the energetic charge of feelings. Tolerating feelings, particularly more intense ones, can be challenging. For those of us who have experienced trauma, for example, feelings can elicit a threat response: Our nervous system alerts us that we are in danger, and we discharge that energy by unconsciously acting out, or we suppress the energy through collapse or withdrawal. We fight, we flee, or we freeze. When we are unable to contain our feelings or tolerate their energetic charge, we will find it difficult to let go of controlling or avoiding them.


So the distortions of our mind and the challenge of tolerating our feelings are obstacles to surrender. Are there other things at work here?


I explore the impact of self-will, fear, and pride with my clients; it’s not hard to imagine how these defensive postures affect surrender. For example, I have a very strong self-will: When I want something, I am like a dog with a bone. All my energy goes towards getting what I want. While there is a higher-self quality to this determination, there is also a forcing current of energy behind it that makes all sorts of unreasonable demands. Underlying this forcing current of energy is fear—fear that I will never get what I need or that I am not supported by the universe, that I must do it all on my own. Out of fear, my self-will empowers itself, tightens it grip, and fights even harder for what it wants.

Pride, on the other hand, maintains our idealized self-image—the self we think we need to be for self-preservation. Pride presents itself as a kind of invulnerability, or a need to be right or perfect. Pride is born out of humiliation and rejection and has the job of protecting our heart from further pain. Because surrender is an act of humility and an acknowledgment of our perfectly imperfect humanness, the humbling process of surrender can feel humiliating to someone who’s very proud.

Harmony between our true masculine and feminine energies also affects our ability to surrender. Masculine energy is activating, initiating, doing energy. Feminine energy is receptive, being energy—energy that can wait for things to be revealed. When the two are working in balance with one another, the creative process is underway: We are doing our part to activate and initiate, then stepping out of the way with trust in the process. If the feminine or masculine is in distortion—in the form of aggression, impatience, over-activity, or an unwillingness to receive or trust—then surrender is virtually impossible.

The final challenge is that some people find pleasure (albeit negative) in not surrendering. I had a client who wanted to work on her stubbornness. She described much of her identity in terms of needing to stand her ground. As she energized this place in her during a session, she screamed, “I will never let you win. You will never get me. I will never give in.” As she said these words, a smile came to her face. She looked strong and empowered. As we analyzed the process, she spoke about her relationship with her mother, which she described as a constant and epic battle of wills. She was able to see how her stubbornness was a pseudo-solution, giving her the sense of autonomy and self. In this way, her stubbornness felt life-affirming, and it made her feel powerful, she felt pleasure. The unconscious pleasure we get from holding on can be a real disincentive to let go.


Can you speak about the relationship between faith and surrender?


This gets at the relationship between masculine and feminine energy—of doing our part and then stepping aside. Implicit in stepping aside is a willingness to be in a period of uncertainty; this can be difficult. Most of us don’t like uncertainty. It doesn’t feel safe and safety is a basic need. Learning to be with uncertainty, and trusting that the only thing certain is uncertainty itself, is a way to address that need for emotional safety.

I saw a social media post the other day that read, “Have a deep trust in life.” This is the essence of surrender: having a deep trust in life. This can be hard, particularly if we have experienced loss, trauma, disappointment, or hurt. But until we build or repair our relationship with trust, we can’t willfully surrender.

Our relationship with trust and faith is an active practice in that it asks us to work to discover—and clarify—our distortions. One of my most significant and painful distortions has been my image of God. As a child, I formed an image of God as this distant, withholding, punitive man. So for me, when I would stand at the edge, faced with the choice to either hold on or to turn my will over, that image of God—not so supportive or inviting—would appear. Working through this image, understanding when and why it formed, and seeking a more truthful relationship with God (as I understand God) has been an important part of my own journey with surrender.


What are some signs that we may need to surrender or let go?


When I hear people express a chronic frustration with a situation, I get a sense that something needs to be let go: There is a lack of patience or unwillingness to accept what is. They are full of demands. There is a frenetic, forcing, holding, or push/pull quality to their energy. They aren’t breathing—at least not deeply. They may describe tension in their jaw, back, and shoulders. There is intensity in their eyes. When they stand, they may lock their knees. All their energy may be in their upper body, reflecting their unwillingness to let go and feel the support of the ground beneath them. You can also sense it in their thinking, which is fixed or narrow: Talking in absolutes is a good indicator that something has to give.


What are practical ways to prepare to surrender?


We cannot will, or force ourselves, to surrender—which is just another form of control. A better option is to give ourselves the time and space to understand and feel what stands in the way of letting go.

A word of caution: Letting go can elicit fear, terror, rage, and pain—it can unground us. We need to go slow, be kind and patient with ourselves as we let go. We need to establish a sense of safety, practice self-care, and rely on the support of trusted others.

Uncovering Distorted Thoughts and Images

Surrender requires a certain level of consciousness. At lower levels of consciousness, we are bound to the limitations of our ego and self-will. (A note on ego: A healthy ego is what allows us to survive loss, disappointment, and so on. It’s the distortion of our ego in the form of self will, control, pride, idealized self image, lack of humility that prohibits surrender.) As we expand our consciousness, we create energetic spaciousness and mental flexibility—things we need to be able to surrender. We expand our consciousness by examining our beliefs and the images we hold, discerning what is truth and what is distortion. Start this process by asking the following questions, and seeing what you discover:

What is it that I want? Why do I want it? What would it mean if I didn’t get it? What do I believe I have to do to get what I want? Do I believe that if I don’t vigilantly steer the ship I will never get it? What are my images of others, God, or the universe in relationship to this thing? Do I feel supported or do I feel like it’s all on me? What do I get from not surrendering? How does it serve me? What would I have to feel or experience if I let go?

Exploring Our Inner Negativity

As we begin to explore our belief system and uncover our distortions, we can go into deeper levels of our defenses and connect with the negativity of our inner will—what houses what I call The Big No (or the lower self). The Big No is the part of us that won’t—won’t surrender, won’t trust, won’t connect, won’t live fully.

I encourage clients to explore this inner no through their bodies and specifically through sound or movement, to vocalize their “no.” Whisper it, say it, scream it. Move the body. Have a tantrum. Own the no that lives inside. Clients often describe this as liberating and even pleasurable, for it’s a hidden truth that lives in them but never gets to be revealed because the outer will is so busy saying yes.

When we make contact with this inner no, we may discover things like our laziness—the part of us that doesn’t want to do the work. Or we may discover that we won’t trust others, God, or the universe. Maybe we find we won’t surrender because we want to punish or make others suffer. Maybe, like the client I mentioned, we feel powerful in not “giving in.” Whatever you discover, understand that this inner no thinks it is protecting us from pain, which at one point in our life it actually did. As we become aware of this inner negativity and see how it no longer serves us, we can begin to release it from its duties and transform it into higher-self energy.

Building Our Container and Learning to Contain

As we work through the layers of our ego and our inner negativity, we will most definitely come into contact with deep feelings that are different from the ones we feel in the more superficial layers of our personality. These deeper feelings can be incredibly intense and painful, but it’s important to trust them, to become familiar with our feelings, and comfortable expressing them. This process is called “building our container”—think of it as creating the space within yourself to have your feelings and to hold the energetic charge of your feelings. As we build our container and our capacity to tolerate our own feelings expands, we no longer need to quickly discharge energy through reaction, acting out, or withdrawal. We are now able to contain our feelings and ourselves, to consciously choose where, when, or if expression feels necessary. All of this impacts our ability to surrender. 


How does this work change us?


These reparative experiences transform our energy and expand our consciousness, and in time we begin to see the shift in our energy: We may find ourselves walking away from arguments and choosing our battles more consciously. Our mind may be more flexible about that thing we’ve been wanting. We may be less attached and more open to different outcomes. We may feel less of a need to stand in our pride or self-will. Our breath is deeper and our body feels more relaxed and free. Our movements may feel more spontaneous and less controlled. We may find more pleasure and gratitude in life. These are signs that we are in the process of surrender. At first, this shift of energy may leave you feeling empty. Trust that it is okay. Recognize that so much of your identity has been tied up in fighting the good fight and that giving up that identity can be disorienting and a feeling of nothingness is normal. Trust that this place of nothingness is perhaps the beginning of something new.


Can we get away with not surrendering?


Surrender is often forced upon us in crisis. The Pathwork Lectures, the spiritual lectures associated with my work, note that crisis occurs to make structural change possible and that “crisis is necessary because human negativity is a stagnant mass that needs to be shaken up in order to be let go of.” I take crisis as an invitation to address the negativity of our individual and collective distortions—our fear, pride, and self-will, our closed hearts and minds. When we don’t surrender, when we stay in distortion, we perpetuate and pass on this negativity.

I have learned that when I resist surrender I am trying to cheat life. I can impose my will on life and force my way through, but doing so skips over the necessary life lessons of patience, acceptance, faith, and humility. On some level, I suppose we can be successful in life if we skip over these experiences, but I think our higher self knows that we pay the price of that success somehow, be it through shame, or guilt, or low self-esteem. More importantly, we miss the opportunity for real growth.

We can’t really escape that which life asks of us. Life wants us to heal and evolve and that can be hard at times—very hard. But if we do it, if we do the work to be able to surrender to that deep knowing place in us, and partner with those greater energies that surround us, our experience of life deepens in ways we could have never imagined.

10 Reminders for Practicing Surrender

  1. Take note of the places in your life where there are forcing currents of energy. Where do you feel most frustrated? Where are you imposing your will and way onto something or someone? What are your demands?

  2. What is the impact of your forcing currents on your body, your breath, your mood?

  3. What are your beliefs about this thing that you want? “I want it because…” “I have to have it because…” “If I don’t have it then…”

  4. What images come to mind when you think of letting go, of stepping away and letting things happen?

  5. What do you get from not surrendering? How does it serve you? What don’t you have to do or feel by holding on?

  6. Explore your resistance to letting go. Start with “I won’t…” (Trust? Feel? Accept?)

  7. Build your container by finding safe places (and people) to experience and express your feelings about what you want, about not having it, and about the prospect of letting go and letting things be.

  8. Rest and practice self-care.

  9. Notice any changes from step one in your thoughts, body/energy, and behaviors. Acknowledge them!

  10. Repeat: Surrender is a practice.

Read the original article online:

Aimee Falchuk, MPH, M.Ed, CCEP is the co-founder of Core Boston where she has a private practice. Aimee is also an emergency services clinician, and facilitates workshops around the country. She will be one of the speakers at the Great Jane conference in Austin, Texas in December 2016.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of goop, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Aimee Falchuk
As seen in Goop: The Anger Detox

Anger is one of the most human and base responses, and we often respond to it with a deeply-held aversion as being too primal to be meaningful. According to therapist Aimee Falchuk, that response is wrong: Anger is a vital force that often expresses the truth of our feelings, and stifling it is harmful and deceitful to ourselves. Falchuk comes from the school of Core Energetics, a practice rooted in a Reichian theory of body-centered psychotherapy. In short, it revolves around freeing or moving stuck emotional energy in order to liberate the consciousness. Below, she explains why refusing to honor our anger is dishonest to the spirit—and how to express and channel it in a way that serves.

Anger: The Restorative Path

by Aimee Falchuk

Anger is energy. It can be loud and messy and alive. Anger is the energy of a protesting child expressing his natural frustration with his environment. It is the energy of the passionate advocate who needs anger’s assertive quality to instigate change. And anger is the energy that when in distortion can be destructive. Anger serves a purpose. It serves our higher self when we stand up for our truth and when we use it to fuel our passion to create. But when acted out, it serves to keep us out of connection with others.

Some call for mindfulness, objectivity, and inner calm as a way of dealing with anger but what if doing so creates a bypass to experiencing and understanding it in its different forms, which in turn diminishes the role it can play in our healing? And what if in the process of demonizing anger, we shut down the potent energy source contained in anger, energy needed to manifest the things we want so deeply in our lives?

“What if in the process of demonizing anger, we shut down the potent energy source contained in anger, energy needed to manifest the things we want so deeply in our lives?”

In my practice I welcome anger. I often insist upon its expression. Why? Expression implies movement. Movement implies the opening of closed or blocked spaces. The opening of space brings us into consciousness. Consciousness allows us to act more in line with who we are. When we act in alignment with who we are we can bring all we are to all we do. In essence we no longer need to act out. We can now be in a place where we can choose what’s right and express what’s wrong. We call that self-regulation, the marriage of truth and goodness, authenticity.

So if anger is just energy and consciously allowing it can lead to a deeper and more authentic experience of life, why do we shy away from its expression?

I offer the following possibilities.

Socialization and Disconnect From Our Natural Impulses

Anger is predominantly driven by the limbic system. Unlike the cerebral cortex which makes up our thinking, evaluative more rational part of the brain, the limbic system is emotional and reactive. Despite a greater acceptance of the felt experience, we still live in a culture that places great value on our cerebral cortex. We are far more willing to tolerate the rational mind than what we deem as the ‘irrational’ instincts of our emotional one.

“We are far more willing to tolerate the rational mind than what we deem as the ‘irrational’ instincts of our emotional one.”

Thus to allow ourselves to feel our anger we must be willing to disrobe from our armor, our defensive shield that keeps us contained by reason and will. We need to allow ourselves access to our emotions and innate impulses. Most of us have disconnected from certain emotions and impulses over time, as a way of protecting ourselves—it was often their expression that ‘got us into trouble.’ We have as a response habituated ourselves to reason and containment at the expense of emotion and impulse. We have to come back to these impulses and be willing to sit in the messiness, chaos, and uncertainty.

The Right to Protest

Children protest against the denial of their basic needs. This protest is a natural response to environmental frustrations and often in protest of boundaries being violated. And yet we often struggle with such an outburst of energy. We can’t tolerate the protest, which then begs the question of our tolerability towards our own protest, our own natural response to environmental frustrations, our own boundary violations. In my practice, I often hear ambivalence or even an outright rejection of one’s right to be angry. And I have seen a correlation between this ambivalence/rejection and feelings of self-worth. After all, we can only allow ourselves to be angry, or set boundaries if we feel we are worth our needs being met and that we have the right to say yes or no.

Images of Anger

Images are conclusions and generalizations we’ve come to as a result of our experiences, often those in childhood. For example, the child who receives his father’s affection every time he brings home a good grade may form an image that to have his father’s love he must achieve. The child whose mother scolds her for her curiosity and self-expression may form an image that she is too much and may make herself small so others won’t abandon her.

We form images around anger, too. One might hold an image that rising above it all, being the ‘bigger person,’ being disaffected, wins them greatest favor. Or there may be an image that anger is a sign of weakness or that implicit in its expression is that one has needs and that these needs can never be met.

“One might hold an image that rising above it all, being the ‘bigger person,’ being disaffected, wins them greatest favor.”

Our images are limiting and often erroneous. Images form to protect us. They help us make ‘sense’ of why things are what they are. But they are for the most part false. Images, by design, take us out of our sensory experience and put us into our minds where we can come up with logical explanations for what otherwise feels unexplainable. Our images about anger may therefore inhibit its expression.

Anger and the Restorative Path

In examining some of the possibilities as to why we deny ourselves our anger, one can see how going towards it, is so essential to our healing. If the suppression of anger is in part the result of an erroneous belief, or a lack of self- worth, or fear of our natural impulses, imagine what life could be like if we came closer to the truth about an experience, felt worthy of our needs, and allowed our innate, free flowing energetic self-expression? How might things be different for us?

If we are willing to see anger as part of our path towards a fuller, deeper, truer experience of life then so begins our task of exploration. We can begin to parcel out different aspects of anger so that we can better understand them in ourselves.

Anger and the Lower Self

Simply put, the lower self is made up of destructive energy. It is distorted energy we are often not conscious of until we bring it to light. It is the part of us that says no to life. It creates separation. It’s the part of us that says “I won’t be vulnerable. I won’t trust life. I won’t tell the truth.” And it doesn’t care about others. It just wants what it wants. The lower self is at work when we act out, when we are spiteful and manipulative. The lower self wants to humiliate and punish. The lower self is a pseudo-solution to managing the pain that lies beneath. We can best witness the lower self by reading the newspaper. It shows up in our political dialogue where we lack empathy or a willingness to understand an opposing side. It manifests on our city streets and on the world stage in the form of gang violence, terrorism, corruption, and human rights violations.

But let’s take a more basic example to explore this lower self energy. Imagine you are meeting a friend for dinner and she is late. She is perpetually late and every time it happens you feel disrespected. You are angry but you tell yourself she is a busy person and it’s not her fault. Your friend arrives and apologizes. You tell her it’s no problem yet you still feel a rumbling of discontent inside. You know you’re angry at her but you hold an image that if you express that anger it might lead to a confrontation and confrontation only leads to abandonment and you fear abandonment more than anything else.

“The lower self is at work when we act out, when we are spiteful and manipulative. The lower self wants to humiliate and punish.”

So instead of expressing your true feelings you decide to withhold from her during dinner. Your friend engages in conversation but you offer little in return. You see her trying to reach you but you stand firm in your withholding. Another friend arrives at the restaurant and comes over to say hello. Unlike your friend at the table you give this other person all your attention. Perhaps you notice the impact this is having on your friend. And in that moment perhaps you sense some pleasure because now she knows how you feel.

The lower self feels pleasure not because we are awful people. The pleasure comes from the feeling that we have taken our ‘power’ back. We’ve done onto others what we feel was done onto us. There is a sense of justice in that.

And yet this is a false sense of power and justice. For in this scenario, you didn’t actually stand up for yourself and your hurt feelings. You didn’t give your friend the opportunity to see and learn from the impact of her chronic lateness. As a result she can’t make it right with you and distance is created in the relationship.

We must get to know and claim the destructive quality of the lower self and not just for ourselves.

Anger as a Defense Against Other Feelings

Anger can be a tool we use to avoid other more painful feelings. Anger can be used to justify holding on to a person or situation. So long as we are angry we don’t have to move on. Anger can keep us stuck in place. Maybe it’s important therefore to think about the ways we use it as a defense against feeling or movement. Anger is powerful energy and when we otherwise feel powerless it can often feel like the most logical energy to grab onto. But we must not use it to protect us from the feelings underneath, be it pain, or grief, or disappointment, or the essential need to accept the limits of the human experience. We need courageous faith here. The willingness to have faith that we can let go of our anger and go into and through those feelings we fear we won’t survive.

Anger and the Higher Self

Our higher self knows when we have been wronged. Our higher self will let ourselves feel the pain of being made to feel unimportant. In our higher self we can set healthy boundaries and tell others how they make us feel. In our higher self we know we are worthy of standing up for ourselves and that doing so serves others in their own evolution as well as the evolution of our relationships. In our higher self we can be afraid of what ‘confrontation’ may bring, but there is a certain knowingness in this place that we have no other choice but to speak up and show our heart. In our higher self we have challenged the image that expressing our anger results in abandonment and instead recognize the truth that not expressing our anger is really a way of abandoning ourselves.

Our higher self also knows anger revs the engines of change. There is passion in anger. It is a vibrational energy that runs through our body and awakens our mind to possibility. When we see suffering in the world or an unmet need we can tap into the higher self quality of anger to take action.

“In our higher self we can be afraid of what ‘confrontation’ may bring, but there is a certain knowingness in this place that we have no other choice but to speak up and show our heart.”

It is up to us to explore these different aspects of anger in ourselves. We need to get to know the images we hold about anger through self-observation and confrontation. We need to reveal the parts of us that punish, withhold, humiliate, or lack compassion. In safe places we need to let ourselves be the protesting child with all our impulses and irrationality. We need to move our bodies, and let the held energy move through us. We may need to scream and kick. We need to trust that we can survive and tolerate the movement of our own energy and the expression of our feelings.

If we do this work to acknowledge our anger, understand its source, and let it move through us appropriately, we can then come into our higher self. From this place we are in our true power and can use it to stand up not only for ourselves but for the world we want to help heal.

This is the restorative path.

Read the original article online here:

ANGELENOS, TAKE NOTE: Aimee is doing two workshops in LA this month. On the 23rd, she’s tackling body image as understood by Core Energetics with Lubna Khalid at the Center of Aliveness on Cole Ave. The next day, she’s teamed up with Toronto-based David Sutcliffe to take on the timely issue of political consciousness—they’ll discuss how our past affects our political consciousness and how to create more evolved political dialogue (we just wish she’d do the same workshop with the candidates). Email Aimee to claim a space.

Aimee Falchuk, MPH, M.Ed, CCEP is the co-founder of Core Boston where she has a private practice. Aimee is also an emergency services clinician.

Aimee Falchuk
As seen in Goop: Understanding How to Move and Manipulate Energy

Energy is a palpable, animating life force—one that we can all understand in the context of how we feel from day-to-day (sluggish, over-tired, or on the flip side, invincible). Usually we attribute our low energy days to a lack of sleep or bad food. But it’s significantly more complicated than that, according to therapist Aimee Falchuk, who believes that our energetic systems might very well be impacted by physical, emotional, and cognitive blocks we’ve picked up from childhood. Falchuk, who practices a Reichian theory of body-centered psychotherapy from the school of Core Energetics, spends her time helping people free or move stuck emotional energy so that they can tap into their full potential. (For more from Falchuk, see her piece for us on how to use anger productively.)

Energy & Consciousness

by Aimee Falchuk

We often complicate the word energy by trying to define it in scientific or mystical terms. All we need to understand energy is to get quiet and feel into ourselves or our surroundings. For example, when we feel present, our energy is grounded; when we feel attraction or repulsion, we may feel an energetic charge; when we laugh or cry, we may feel a discharge of our energy.

Certain situations or people can deplete our energy. Alternatively, in places where we don’t feel we are enough, we may cling onto others using their fuel source as our own. Even boundaries are a matter of energy: We may bind our energy when we want to create separation, and let our energy flow openly when we want to come close.

One of the first things we learn in school is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed—but that it can be altered. Energy can be sped up or slowed down. It can exist in a closed system in which the energy is held or bound, or it can exist in an open system in which the energy flows. Uncontained energy can cause a system to become frenetic or fragmented. Depleted energy can cause a system to collapse.

Despite its power, energy in of itself is a neutral force. It is consciousness that directs its movement. If we think of this in terms of the energy and consciousness of the human experience we may see that the more conscious we are, the more we direct our energy towards creation, connection, and evolution. The less conscious we are, the more our energy is used towards separation, stagnation, or even destruction.

Blocked Energy

In my practice I work with energy blocks and the restoration of energetic integrity. After all, we can all recall moments when we’ve felt in our flow. Our mind is open and flexible, our breath is deep and rhythmic, and we feel spacious in our body. When we are in flow, we hold a healthy balance between expansion and contraction, and activation (doing) and receptivity (being/allowing). We allow our reason (thinking), emotion (feeling) and will (doing), to work in partnership with each other. We have faith in ourselves and in the process, and we find ourselves appropriately undefended. We call this being in energetic integrity.

Most people I know, including myself, find these moments of energetic integrity short-lived. Many people will more often describe their energy as feeling blocked, stagnant, or stuck. Their thinking is fixed and narrow. Their breath is held, shallow, or uneven and certain muscles feel tight or weak. Energetically they feel ungrounded, over-bound (separate), under-bound (enmeshed), or fragmented. They find it difficult to hold a healthy balance between doing and being, giving and receiving. They are aggressive or submissive. They are either overly reasonable, overly emotional, or overly willful. They struggle with stubbornness, procrastination, perfectionism, obsessive thinking, exaggerated individualism, or conformity.

All of these are examples of energetic blocks:

Cognitive Blocks

A closed mind is an energetic block. When our belief system is fixed, we are blocked. I will often hear someone say, “this is just how it is,” or, “I’m just not that kind of person,” or “God doesn’t want me to have that.” These are cognitive blocks. When we lack faith in the process or in ourselves, our energy is blocked. In this place we are unable to turn our will over. There is no surrender here. Instead, we force our energy onto situations or people because we do not trust we will get what we need—we believe the only way in is to force our way in. Our energetic grip is tight and controlling and creates a demand such as, “give it to me,” or, “I will make you love me.” We call this a forcing current of energy.

What Creates Energetic Blocks?

One of the pioneers of body psychotherapy, Wilhelm Reich, surmised that we block our own energy to defend against unwanted feelings or impulses. He referred to these blocks as “the physical instrument of emotional repression.” As he saw it, the blocking of energy was an adaptive strategy to manage life’s frustrations.

Take a young child, for example. Every night when her father comes home, she runs to him and jumps into his arms. Each time she does this her father pushes her away either overtly or subtly. The child, feeling the humiliation of her father’s “rejection,” begins to contract and restrict her excitement and physical impulse to run towards him. She also begins to formulate a story to make sense of the experience. She may tell herself that her love is too much or that physical contact is bad. She may conclude that showing a man how much she wants him will lead to rejection or abandonment. Over time, the containment of her impulses and drawn conclusions about her experience will have the effect of pulling back her energy, of contracting.

When we meet this little girl in her adult life we may see how this energetic contraction has impacted her life. We may see her struggle with expressing her feelings. She may describe her relationships as physically distant. She may have tendencies towards perfectionism and seek the safety of admiration and adoration over the risky nature of love and intimacy. She may have a narrative that includes: “I’m too much,” “I’m not enough,” “I must contain myself,” or, “I will not show anyone my needs and desires.” In summary, she lives by a life task whose goal is to avoid rejection and humiliation, and the pain associated with it, at all costs.

This adaptive life task of avoidance directs all her energy towards ensuring its fulfillment. She will most likely rely on her will to control herself and situations around her. She will most likely live in her head where reason and intellect reside and where, with the help of her strong will, her emotions and impulses can be contained. The energy of rage and grief resulting from the original experience with her father will most likely be masked by the energy of withholding, aggression, or a numbing of her felt experience. She may report being misunderstood as cold and unfeeling. And yet this couldn’t be further from the truth of who she really is. For underneath the maneuvering and manipulation of her energy, underneath all of her distorted beliefs, is the truth that is her energetic life force. It is the energy of the child following the natural impulse to run and jump into the arms of life.

Restoring Energetic Integrity

The restoration of energetic integrity requires a bit of self exploration, the willingness to take the time and the risk. The task before us asks us to do the work to become more conscious. It asks us to take responsibility for the ways we use our energy to defend and stay separate. It asks us to get to know our belief systems and the images we hold as absolutes. It asks us to feel into our body and energy and notice the places we distort and the places we refuse to bring life to. The image of a man placing his hands on his throat saying, “I will never speak up again,” or a woman with a tight shoulder girdle unwilling to reach her arms forward and ask for help comes to mind.

As you begin to become more conscious of your energy, pieces of the puzzle will come together. You may begin to see the ways you use your energy to defend against certain experiences and emotions. You may begin to see how your energy has been used as part of an adaptive strategy, how it has served you and how it no longer does. You will hopefully begin to appreciate how using your energy in this way holds you back from the potential that comes with embracing your full life force.

I believe this process isn’t just for our own personal growth. If we can understand the relationship between our own energy and consciousness, than we may be able to understand the relationship between energy and consciousness in the systems we live in, such as in our families, our political system, money, war, and the way we treat our planet. What if, for example, we understood war as the energetic distortion of power and creativity? Or what if we viewed the compulsive striving for economic wealth as a cognitive distortion of safety and scarcity/abundance?

Energetic distortions can be found almost everywhere in our society and in ourselves, and are maintained through our lack of consciousness. If we can begin to understand the contortion of energy, and do the hard work to transform it back to its natural flow, we have a good chance of effecting real change in ourselves and in the world we live in.

Helpful Tips in Getting to Know Your Energy System:

Note: This is a process of becoming aware. You can’t do it all at once so embody a spirit of curiosity and be willing to go slow.

  1. Thoughts are forms of energy. Become aware of your thinking. Start with your first thought of the day and go from there. Make a list. Notice your word choice and where your thinking feels fixed (this is how it is) or flexible (this is how it could be).

  2. Throughout the course of your day, just stop. Close your eyes. Go inward and feel into where you are. Do you feel present? What is the nature of your breath? Are you holding it? How do you feel in your body? Restricted? Relaxed? Tired and collapsed? Awake and alive?

  3. Move. Move your body. Different parts at a time. What happens when you move? Notice if any thoughts or feelings come up. Are there certain parts of your body that when energized by movement, stir something up in you? Do you feel you need to contain your energy or do you let yourself move?

  4. Make sound. By yourself, or with others, let your voice out. Energize your “yes” and “no.” Notice if one is easier than the other. Are you even willing to make noise? Just notice without judgment.

  5. Where are there forcing currents in your life? Where do you feel a relentless demand of yourself or another? Where are you forcing your will onto people or situations?

  6. What happens to your energy in the presence of others? Take note of your breath and your body. Do you expand or contract?

  7. Play with boundaries. Find a friend willing to explore energetic boundaries. Stand a certain distance from each other. As one of you steps towards the other, notice when you begin to feel their energy. See what happens to you as another’s energy enters your own energy field. Do you lose yourself at all? Do you feel less grounded? Do you feel you can use your voice and speak up and ask her or him to come closer or back away?

  8. Make a list of different feelings. Free associate with each feeling. What is your relationship to that feeling? What are your beliefs or images about those feelings? Where do you tend to feel those feelings, if at all, in your body?

  9. Where are you most comfortable meeting the world? Do you lead with reason (thinker), emotion (feeler), or will (doer)? If you lead with one, how do you feel about the others? What parts of your body do you meet the world with? Your head, heart, hands?

  10. Seek another’s experience of your energy and observe the energy of others. How do you feel in their presence? Are you invited in or kept at bay? Do you feel they hold back, hold in, hold up, collapse, or scatter their energy? Tune in and feel into it. Don’t figure it out, feel it out.

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New Yorkers, take note: Aimee is doing a workshop in NYC on Saturday, May 7th from 10am to 6pm, called Bridging the Political Divide: Awakening Our Political Consciousness. Email Aimee to claim a space.

Aimee Falchuk, MPH, M.Ed., CCEP is the co-founder of Core Boston where she has a private practice. Aimee is also an emergency services clinician.

Aimee Falchuk