Hands of Life: Use Your Body's Own Energy Medicine for Healing, Recovery, and Transformation
By Julie Motz
My own journey into energy healing has been an attempt over decades to truly inhabit my body, although this was not at all clear to me when that journey began. It started one February night in 1970 with my introduction to Fusion Groups, in the heyday of the human potential movement. The current glut of tabloid talk shows, in which everything is being shoved out of the closet and into our faces is, I believe, the cultural residue of this movement, and basically a healthy one But before Oprah there was Synanon and its many offspring; and before nationally syndicated show-and-tell, there was the encounter group.
Run by Mike and Sonja Gilligan, Fusion Groups were a brilliant and effective example of this genre; the basic format involved fifteen to twenty-five people, including the two group leaders, sitting in a circle. After going around once with names, someone would "ask for the involvement" of the group and talk about some aspect of his life for which he wanted support or help The person speaking would often not have a clear idea of what he was feeling about what he was saying, and it was the group's purpose, among other things, to supply this clarity.
I came into the groups at the suggestion of a fellow cinematography student at the graduate School of the Arts at Columbia University. I had missed ten days at the beginning of the semester because an episode with an overdose of sleeping pills had landed me in the emergency room, the ICU, and then the ward of the very hospital where I would later practice my healing skills. No one at school knew what had happened to me, but apparently the cloud of depression I walked around in when I came back was intense enough for someone who cared to notice.
My first direct experience of the group process (of which I was, for the first few weeks, a fascinated and terrified observer) came when someone in the group-a woman who was, not coincidentally, much like my mother-forgot my name when she was addressing me in the circle. I hadn't consciously allowed any feeling about this to register, when I suddenly heard Sonja's voice, very loud in my ear, although she was sitting halfway across the room: "How do you feel when someone forgets your name, Julie?" I stared at her blankly, my mouth dry, and couldn't think of anything to say. Except for an eerie sensation of being detached from everything in the room, including the chair I was sitting on, I wasn't aware of feeling anything. "I think you're angry," Sonja said, after what seemed like a gaping chasm of silence. "I have a knot in my stomach.
By a mechanism I did not yet understand but developed some theories about later, she was feeling in her own body my angry response to being slighted, which was, at the time, below the level of my own perception. Terror, almost tantamount to shock, was holding the anger at bay. Following Sonja's instructions, although I felt barely able to stand, I walked to a place in the circle facing a bare wall and visualized my mother standing in front of me. Taking a deep breath and making fists, I attempted to shout the word "Liar!" at her image. Twenty minutes later, after feeling I was going to faint or die, and after much encouragement from the group, I actually felt the strength of the anger moving through my body. I returned to my seat feeling more real than I had in months.
Six months before, I had finally gotten the courage to leave a man who was intensely jealous and physically abusive. I also left my old therapist, angry that she had not counseled me to get out of the affair. The new one to whom she referred me ended up seducing me, and the insanity of that affair had ended with the sleeping pills. During this period I had gone back to living with my parents and was thus thrust back into ancient terrors. I dealt with them by detaching myself emotionally through depression. On some profound level I was raging, as I had been for years, about the wounds inflicted on me as a child. Bulimia had been one method of deflecting this rage, but it hadn't been sufficient. When I wasn't depressed, I was paranoid, feeling that the world could fall in on me at any moment-that I had no substance, no reality. What I really was missing was a connection to the anger that could defend me and give me the energy to both ground myself and move forward.
That night in the group, for the first time I allowed my body to feel the power and the truth of my anger surging through me. I felt as I had not felt for many years-as if I belonged to the human race and to myself My sense of being some kind of freak who couldn't feel or function the way other people could would not disappear completely for a long time. But I could smell freedom and sanity in the air-the freedom to feel, and the sanity of knowing exactly what I was feeling. It was intoxicating.
The Energy of Emotions
Anger was not the only feeling with which the encounter group concerned itself, although it appeared to be the one that most people had to experience fully in order to get to the other feelings. The Gilligans and others in the human potential movement were, I believe, the first people to identify anger as a good feeling-not something to be avoided, suppressed, or even gotten rid of but a necessary force of nature, to be felt, understood, and used.
Sonja Gilligan's unique contribution was to realize that there are four and only four basic feelings:
1. Fear is the same as excitement. It is the feeling state of perception. Fear tells you what is safe and what is danger oils, although we have been trained from child-hood to identify it only with the perception of danger. Hate is the defensive form of fear.
2. Anger, negatively identified with a "kill" feeling, is the emotion of action. If your fear tells you that what you have perceived is safe, your anger carries you forward to get what you desire. If your fear tells you it is dangerous, your anger gives you the energy to fight or flee to protect yourself or what you value. Resentment is the defensive form of anger.
3. Pain, in the emotional sense, is self-knowledge. It is the feeling that comes up when you have either achieved what you have pursued or protected what you value and love. It puts you in touch with the core of your being and frequently moves you to tears (although people also cry to hide anger or fear). It also comes up when a loving feeling from someone else touches this core and reminds you where you live-a child's hug or a great artists painting, poem, or symphony. Contempt is the defensive form of pain.
4. Love is the feeling that flows out from you, once you know who you are, to connect you to other people. It is sexuality and creativity. Joy is the defensive form of love.
The defensive form of a feeling is one that attaches itself to another feeling, so that we feel neither one clearly. We use the defensive form when the feeling itself seems too risky. After years of training ourselves to use defensive feelings, the defensive feelings often use us, taking over and denying us access to the basic feeling.
I was as fascinated with Sonja's theory as I was excited by the effects of the group process on my life I became seized with a desire to understand how these forces called feelings manifest themselves on a physical level, and I made inquiries at the lop biology research centers in the city: Rockefeller University, Columbia, and NYU. To my great disappointment, the physiology and biology of emotions wasn't on anybody's research agenda.
During this time I began to conclude that emotions are some kind of energy. After six months in those laboratories of emotions, the Fusion Groups, I found myself mysteriously endowed with the power to feel what other people were feeling, just as Sonja had done with me Since I could do this over the telephone as well as face to face, visual clues did not seem to be a factor. Somehow feelings just traveled across space from someone else's body into mine. Even more interesting, this ability to feel other people's feelings-even feelings they didn't know they were having-was something that most people in the groups acquired in time. Apparently it was a skill that could be learned.
I believe that other people are giving us information about their emotions all the time (just as we are always in the process of having some emotion ourselves, even when we are sleeping). We're not trained to believe that these informational signals have any meaning or importance, so we usually don't focus on them. Occasionally when we are in the presence of someone with a great deal of unacknowledged or suppressed rage, we may feel extremely uncomfortable, or suddenly very sleepy, without knowing why. But the feelings are out there everywhere, all the time, available to everyone
Learning to identify and interpret these physical signals as fear, anger, pain, or love is something like learning how to track with an Indian guide. At first, you are amazed that he can tell that a deer stood next to this particular tree, or that a fox came through the underbrush at just this point. Then the guide shows you the place where the buds have been stripped from a branch, or some dry leaves displaced along the path It's not that you didn't "see" these things. They passed across your visual field, just as they did across his. But you didn't "notice" them, because you had not trained yourself to consider such signs as bearers of important information.