Bodywork is Not About Altered States

An altered state refers to an altered psychological state, not an altered bodily state. An alteration of bodily functioning may underlie the altered psychological state, but this temporary bodily functioning is not balanced, as in growth into a new homeostatic point, but rather imbalanced, as in a physical derangement that is not sustainable, although it may be safe for short periods.

Examples of altered states are hyperventilation, hypnotic trance, fasting, restraining bodily functions unnaturally, being immersed in an artificial group where social norms are upended, risk-taking, falling as in parachuting or bungee jumping, chanting, extended prayer, extended dancing, hallucinogenic drugs, sensory deprivation, sauna or sweat lodge, extended aerobic exercise, or sleep deprivation, and this list is not exhaustive. (Meditation is a practice that may result in altered states, and subject to the cautions written below, but it would be too simplified to consider it only that.)

Altered states are termed such because they are discontinuous with the habitual psychological functioning of the participant. As such they provide a different experience. A different experience of course can be helpful to growth by loosening or destructuring limiting aspects in the character. Altered states are less helpful in restructuring satisfying adult functioning. The very discontinuity makes it difficult to integrate

The Reich and Lowen tradition is based on enlarging experience, and in the sixties and seventies, it was brought into a group format, and the kinesiological techniques were combined with experiential techniques that are the mainstay of large group workshops. Deliberate strong manipulated experiences however, are not the core of the tradition. Rather new experiences are meant to be incremental ones of increased feeling that could be integrated into daily life as they arose.

Altered states can give the illusion of breakthrough without undertaking the working through that real change requires. Insights may be exciting but not actually implementable in real life. Altered states can help 'shake loose' a rigid stance but the window of benefit is fairly short before re-rigidification and habituation take place. Frequent experience of altered states can weaken grounding.