Restoring the capacity for feeling and purpose in the stressed twenty-first century requires re-regulation of dysregulated vegetative systems. Re-regulation is a different undertaking than other types of changes. Alexander Lowen consistently wrote about the increasing barrier modern social conditions posed to living with pleasure and feeling. My own opinion is now in the second decade of the 21st century, re-regulation and decreasing baseline arousal almost always has to be undertaken as a pre-requisite to the more classic Reich and Lowen 'release work.'
First, growth and development of arrested functioning cannot restart under stress. Stressed systems do not develop, either in strength or discrimination. Under stress, behavioral repertoire my increase, but that is defensive and not really growth, except maybe growth in defensive tendencies. Nietzsche may have said what doesn't kill a person makes them stronger, but he was only thinking of survival, a fundamentally defensive stance. No pleasure arises from defensive tendencies. However, our mainstream culture mistakes this behavioral complexity (in academia, business, social relations), as human development, missing its defensive nature, and not seeing the cost in biological and emotional terms. Behavioral therapy, while body-based in part, often misses this distinction, and cognitive therapy (especially along the lines of Albert Ellis) absolutely misses it.. It is possible to increase determination and tolerance for 'withstanding' a situation without increasing real satisfaction. Unless there is a strong independent reason for persisting in the behavior (like earning a living) the change will not be sustained.
Adaptive Band: Trauma therapists have long-recognized that healing arises in the middle range of arousal--that too little arousal is avoidance and too much arousal is re-traumatizing. Judith Bluestone working with the autistic spectrum recognized the same thing and coined the term 'gentle enhancement' This concept that there is a middle band of adaptation is applicable to all human growth work. The threshold is reached much more quickly than most of us realize. Even the 'classic' application of Reich and Lowen therapy in the 60s and 70s, with its emphasis on 'breakthroughs, may have erred in the direction of strong stimulus that produces an adaptation that is subtly defensive and consists of 'performing' openness. Staying with the work steadily may be more efficacious than 'hitting it hard'
Allostasis: The human body has a thermostat-like function to maintain internal conditions at an optimal level for functioning. This is usually referred to as homeostasis. With external challenges (stress) the set-points are often shifted in what is meant to be a temporary compromise. If stress is prolonged however, these shifts become fixed and this is known as allostasis, which is not wholesome adaptation but a semi-emergency action. The most common of these shifts are sympathetic shift, dorsal shift, and high arousal. Allostasis leads to physical burnout and emotional depletion.
The conditions of industrialization largely obliterated the boundaries of growth and respected only the boundaries of survival. Present social norms actually expect all people to function under a level of stress that make real growth difficult. The dominant cultures of the last few centuries have had a distaste for indigenous, folk, or sub-cultures that did not prioritize production, but these cultures largely were seeking to remain humane.
Re-regulation often requires slowing down and simplifying life, not for its own sake but to regain contact with the body and the self, and to conserve energy for growth. In re-regulation, gentle and subtotal effects are not only allowable, they are preferable. Our culture and our healthcare system certainly is uncomfortable with 'mere' enhancement, and with skill based interventions. Far too much we look for a 'fix' that obliterates symptoms quickly. But 'fixes' are necessarily dysregulating. 'Holistic' is an under-defined term, but I suggest a treatment is holistic when moves the organism toward re-regulation.
Capture: For remediation of a dysregulated vegetative system many things have to happen at once. Only addressing one element of a dysregulated system may in fact increase the dysregulation, and this is the hole that allopathy often finds itself in increasingly with this era's epidemic of auto-immune and inflammatory diseases. Trying things sequentially and discarding them quickly seems scientific but it is faulty from a holistic point of view. In practice, several approaches may have to be slowly added and continued together for anything to start to improve. For instance, nutrition, psychological work, neuro-muscular retraining, increasing vitality, increasing expression, touch, and sensory work may all have to be undertaken simultaneously. Only with capturing the many manifestations of imbalance at the same time can balance be slowly regained.
This requires some faith in folk wisdom (and the wisdom of mothering, and the wisdom of the body) because the extremely reductionistic process that currently dominates science will be confused by the concurrent and uncontrolled nature of this. However all life, and certainly all life worth living is an uncontrolled and concurrent undertaking. It is important to start approaches one at a time, with the most promising or 'lowest hanging fruit.' As a practice seems to have some benefit, others are added. It is important not to dabble but rather to have some fidelity because every beneficial approach is in its partial way meant to be a complete capture of the homeostatic issue it addresses and picking and choosing very casually may negate the possible benefit.