Grounding is a practice and concept that precedes Reich and Lowen. The concept was already present in other bodywork traditions such as Chi Gung, and of course it was present in folk wisdom.
Grounding as an impressionistic term is readily accepted by most people-- there seems to be a real need for the concept. To move from metaphor and define grounding operationally, however, is somewhat more difficult. It seems to refer to a single experience, but the definition or description can be approached in several ways:
- An alignment and dynamic equilibrium of the lower body (pelvis, legs, ankles, and feet) that permits vibration, creates balance, provides a sense of security, and allows agile movement. 'Fear of falling' is the opposite of this.
- A actual strength of the connection between feet and ground. One is then not easily 'knocked off one's feet.' Chi Gung and Tai Chi speak about this in a very literal sense. Alexander Lowen speaks of this at times literally but mostly speaks about it in an interpersonal or social conflict sense.
- The ability of the body to undergo a charge-discharge cycle without a misadventure of some sort occurring.
- An actual transfer of something between the lower body and the earth, in either direction. This, if it happens, is certainly not electricity,but it tends to call forth the image of electricity.
'Groundedness' is perhaps a slightly different concept, describing how grounding shows up in a lifestyle. Groundedness is shown by:
- An emotional poise that prevents undue illusion or being carried away with ideas or feelings.
- A consistent sense of self
- True humility, or absence of the need to be superior or 'higher' than others.
- An acceptance of the natural order. This includes an adeptness and calm when working with actual substances affected by natural laws (practical arts). It contrasts with a tendency to be comfortable with abstract concepts, products of imagination, and man-made systems, but be awkward with and shun work with actual substances and forces of nature.
The opposite of grounding is 'upward displacement', which describes an emphasis on getting 1) above the waist, 2) above the neck, 3) above the brainstem and midbrain (into the cerebral cortex), and 4) above other people. Upward displacement often results in underdevelopment of the lower body. Some writers have tried to make upward displacement into an asset as well, calling it 'skying.' It might be possible, as a thought experiment, to conceive of a 'too-grounded', too-earthbound' condition that needs lifting, but it is hard to think of any modern real world examples. The opposite of grounding, at least in the psychological sphere, is derealization, discussed below.
Pierre Janet and 'Realization'
Janet's concept of realization is a psychological concept not a physical one, but it is closely allied with the concept of grounding, and I think beneficial. Realization more narrowly focuses on the senses and perception and their effective functioning in harmony with the ego,. Realization, and its constituent processes of personification and presentification are actually artifacts of recovery. That is, they are recovery from derealization, depersonalization, and de-presentification. which stem from loss of the body. When the body is not in contact with the environment, the 'here', the 'now', and the 'me', is lost. In modern English the word realization is usually used to mean gaining a new understanding. The meaning here is somewhat different, more akin to 'making real,'but the meaning is not entirely different.
- Realization This is regaining the feeling that something is actually happening, and the implications of what is happening matter in some way. There are consequences for our personal existence. De-realization is an increasing disturbance in our age. People can intellectually grasp and manipulate the content of what is happening, and perhaps can distinguish actual events from fictional events, but have no relationship to what is happening in either. No adaptive response is forthcoming, even in serious matters..
- Personalization This is taking personal ownership of experience. Without this, there is no way to connect present with past and future in a biographical sense of self
- Presentification Is the act of both being and acting realistically but reflectively in the moment. Awareness of both the external and internal environment is synthesized but not confused.
The best way to accomplish realization (combat derealization) is to reclaim the life of the body, this was a very strong point Alexander Lowen made in Betrayal of the Body.