The Philosophical Backgrounds of Bodymind Integration

 15 July 2020 by Dirk Marivoet

The Influence of various philosophical forces on Bodymind Integration

by Dirk Marivoet © 2016


  • Central to “Bodymind Integration” (also known as “PsychoCorporal Integration”) as taught at the IBI is the view that mind and body are inseparable and not in a causal relationship with “each other” because they are dimensions of the same phenomena.
  • Other assumptions and principles of Bodymind Integration are that:
    • there is a fundamental connection in the world, driven by energy and consciousness;
      • the idea of an “energetic flow” (example: Jack Painter’s model) that is considered at the core of human experience. “Activation and deactivation, facilitation and inhibition, can serve as central concepts for the description of energetic processes manifesting in the regulation or dysregulation of activation states, or in pattern formations that simultaneously represent information. Complementarity of consciousness and energy means that states are constituted of energetic patterns of activation as well as by consciousness processes, and that these are mutually conditioning each other.” (Wehowsky, A., 2015)
    • pathology occurs due to the loss of connection to the essential self.
      • the focus of the approach is on intrinsic health of the ‘essential self’;
      • the focus is also on the embodied, actual experience; this experience can be described in a descriptive way;
    • the work is both interpersonal and intrapersonal; bodymind integration is practiced in relation to the therapist; it is a mutual undertaking of therapist and client done with curiosity; both therapist and client change through experience; there is no set end goal;
    • in a suitable climate, individuals discover their own healing process and self-regulation.
  • “Bodymind Integration” proposes a clear theory that contains progressive insights from philosophy, humanistic psychology, body-oriented psychotherapy, bio-medical sciences, amongst others (see below).


  • As an existential approach, “Bodymind Integration” treats any aspect of a particular individual – body symptoms, sensations, feelings, images, thoughts, subtle energy, spirituality – currently most accessible as a way to connect
    • “Bodymind Integration” treats embodiment as an intrinsic and important feature of human existence.  It re-associates the spirit with the body in order to more deeply appreciate life; It helps dissociated parts of our spirit that have been fragmented from our body back into our body, re-united, re-associated.
    • In “Bodymind Integration,” a „somatic mindfulness” is encouraged which includes the detailed moment-by-moment tracking of sensations, feelings, emotions and impulses to movement, as well as the use of charging and discharging of energy through the working through and completion of a „natural energetic cycle” (see also below).
  • As a coaching, counseling, self development and body psychotherapeutic approach it is a powerful way of making a profound and authentic contact with the Self in order to restore and promote energy balance, cognitive understanding, insight and equilibrium. The therapeutic alliance in “Bodymind Integration” is the powerful joining of forces that stimulates and supports the long, difficult and often painful work of personal transformation. The practitioner conception here is not of an uninterested observer technician, but of a fully living human companion to the client.
  • “Bodymind Integration” is a resource-oriented approach. It emphasizes helping clients establish connection to the parts of self that are already organized, coherent and functional with interest, curiosity and exploration.  It tries to work inwards from that point to the more defended, disorganized, ignored, dysfunctional or excluded aspects of a person’s being, without however making these elements the primary focus of therapy or becoming a regressive model.
    • Blockages in the natural flow of energy (see chart below) are dissolved in unique tailored sessions (different for each client) through the use of both : hands-on-bodywork and non-touch guidance depending on the client’s needs, encompassing a process of titration (the bit by bit discharge and minimization of dis-regulation or excess load as a result of traumatic suffering) and pendulation of internal experience (the gently back and forth rocking between contraction and expansion, between fear and safety, between anger and calm, between grief and acceptance, between inaction and action,…) in order to mitigate overwhelming, or not yet integrated emotional states, all while keeping the nervous system activation within a “window of tolerance.”
Stages in Natural Energy Flow
  • “Bodymind Integration” as a holistic bodywork approach: A focus on the body (guided by 12 steps ( or paradigm sessions) in Postural Integration® and 12 steps (a paradigm energetic cycle) in Energetic Integration® (also included in Postural Integration® and Pelvic-Heart Integration®)), brings dissociated parts of our spirit that have been fragmented from our body back into our body, re-united, re-associated. Specialized holistic sexological work, called Pelvic-Heart Integration focusses on and supports the integration of the split between love and sexuality (heart and pelvis), sexual ability, satisfaction and a fulfilling quality of life. 

Bodymind Integration methods are a rich synthesis of many clinical and theoretical sources (see below): Reichian and Neo-Reichian work, Gestalt process work, Peter Levine’s Waking of the Tiger / Somatic Experiencing, role play (Mother, Father, etc.), work with the theory of the 5 elements of Chinese medicine, myofascial manipulations, etc… “


  • Integrative and Transcultural Medicine – different pre-modern medical systems. We use a rotating “poly-ray cosmology” – e.g. 2 elements (Yin/Yang); 3 doshas (Ayurveda – Kapha, Pitta, Vata); Hippocrates 4 elements water, air, fire and earth; Chinese Medicine and The Five Elements; etc. (Depending on the capacity for integration one can move up to a 10-ray system, like the Jewish Kabbalah, mapping the conditions of human consciousness and character.
  • Hippocrates’ “Character Medicine” (460-377 BCE): “Know Yourself”; “human resources”; ‘balancing the elements of a person’s character (sanguinic, phlegmatic, choleric, melancholic)’.
  • Existentialism: The Humanistic thoughts of S. Kierkegaard (1813-1855) and F. Nietszche (1844-1900)
    • focus on “hjaelpekunst” (Danish: “the art of helping”)
    • the „awakening of the individual”
    • the confrontation with the myriad of „self-soothing defenses” by which individuals preserve their „sleepy complacency”
    • the transformation of all values into authentic values, the realisation of the human capacity to create the shape of one’s own life.
  • Phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Binswanger, Boss, Laing,…), we integrate in the work and training modalities that:
    • the human being is a “being-in-the-world”, that is, as an entity whose very fabric involves an immersion and openness to the surrounding world
    • the body is the primary site of knowing the world
    • the body and that which is perceived cannot be disentangled from each other
    • through intentionality human beings “co-create” phenomena, rather than just passively register what is there
  • The Thesis of Dialogical Existence, developed by Martin Buber.  We integrate  in our work the idea that:
    • within the unfolding relationship of an ‘I’ to a ‘Thou’, the human person is born and unfolds to its full potential. When one human being addresses another human being as an “it,” both the other and oneself are diminished
  • The concepts developed by C.G. Jung. We integrate in our trainings:
    • the collective unconscious and the archetypes (animus; anima; persona(e), shadow, the self….)
    • the postulate of the reality of the soul
    • the process of individuation as a lifelong process of psychic growth, becoming and realization of the self.
    • the vision in which psychic suffering is not reduced to a pathology, but is seen as a passage in the process of individuation of the individual
  • Kurt Goldstein’s Holistic Theory of Organism. We apply:
    • the figure-ground principle from perception to the whole organism, presuming that the whole organism serves as the ground for the individual stimulus forming the figure.
  • Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory. In agreement with this theory, we suggest that neither nature (inborn tendencies) nor nurture (how experiences in life shape individuals) alone can account for individual’s behavior and personalities, but rather that both nature and nurture interact to shape each person.
  • The Gestalt-psychology / therapy of Frederick Perls et al.:
    • the existential dimension and the notion of the present „here-and-now”,
    • the existentialist responsibility for one’s own choices as well as many creative means that are useful help in dealing with conflict situations, inner disunity and fragmentation.
  • Wilhelm Reich (and diverse post- and neo-reichian developments (Alexander Lowen’s Bio-Energetic Analysis, John Pierrakos’ Core-Energetics, Stephen Johnsons additions on Character Analysis, Stanley Keleman’s Formative Psychology, etc.):
    • the notion that the body is the living memory of the experience and family heredity, as well as keeper of withheld wounding and hereditary suffering. Specialized and original work is done with what in this tradition is called character armoring. A spiritual dimension is recognized herein.
  • The Concepts and Practices developed by Somatic Practitioners like Elisabeth Dicke (Bindegewebsmassage), Ida Rolf (Structural Integration): a protocol for releasing chronic myofascial contractions, Tom Myers (Anatomy Trains: detailed anatomical insights of myofascial meridians), etc. the practical know-how and know-where of deep holistic bodywork, and from Somatic Disciplines like Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais’ Functional Integration, Judith Aston Patterning, Bioenergetics, Yoga, Eastern traditions: 1) work with acupressure points and Chinese 5-elements theory for stimulating, sedating, self-regulating, etc. purposes 2) certain techniques to work with ‘fine energy’, based on polarity therapy., etc.)
  • J. Moreno (Psychodrama), Virginia Satir (Family Reconstruction and Sculpting), Albert Pesso (PBSP), Jack Painter (Bodymind Drama), and others:
    • the use of dramatization, roleplaying and dramatic self-presentation to investigate and gain insight into ones life. A variety of action methods may lead to enactment, depicting, for example, memories of specific happenings in the client’s past, unfinished situations, inner dramas, fantasies, dreams, preparations for future risk-taking situations, or unrehearsed expressions of mental state in the here and now. These scenes either approximate real-life situations or are externalizations of inner mental processes. Other members of the group may become auxiliaries, and support the protagonist by playing other significant roles in the scene in specified ways.
  • The field of Transpersonal Psychology:
    • the notion of “development beyond conventional, personal or individual levels”: the exploration of “experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos”.
  • Other fields of influence are:
    • Inter-subjectivity (Relational Psychoanalysis (e.g. Daniel Stern), Applied to newborn infants (e.g. Colwyn Trevarthen ), theory of embodied simulation (Vittorio Gallese – mirror neurons)
    • Modern Somatic Psychotherapies (e.g. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (Pat Ogden), Somatic Experiencing (Peter Levine), NARM (Laurence Heller)
    • Acceptance and Commitment therapy
    • Strengths based therapy (e.g. emotionally focused therapy, play therapy, narrative therapy
    • Elements of CBT
    • Affective Neurosciences: Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, Jaak Panksepp’s work on Basic Emotional Systems, Core-Self, Dan Siegel’s Mindsight, etc.
    • Trauma Theories stressing the importance of working with the body – derived from Bessel van der Kolk, Peter Levine, Pat Ogden, etc.
    • ‘Mindfulness’
    • Contemporary relational themes in counseling and psychotherapy
    • Cranio-Sacral therapy
  • Raffaele Cascone, in the collective book “Transforming the Self with Bodymind Integration”* suggests that P.I. (Postural Integration®) may be further improved by taking in consideration and integrating :
    • Chaos Theory (Ilya Prigogine, Isabelle Stengers – Order out of chaos)
    • Vinciane Despret’s psychology and philosophy,
    • the current shift of focus in the scientific world from genetics to epigenetics and to epigenetic reprogramming;
    • the shift from Hans Selye’s old stress concept to Henri Laborit’s discovery of the inhibition of action syndrome (l’inhibition de l’action) ( and to behavioral epigenetics,
    • The discovery of the social engagement system. (see e.g. The listening project) (S.W. Porges)
    • The anticholinergic anti-inflammatory reflex (K.J. Tracey)
  • Of influence is also Aaron Antonovsky’s (1923-1994)concept of “salutogenesis” as formulated in his theory of “sense of coherence”, which states that the healthy person has a sense of coherence – inwards towards life and inner self making him alive, and outwards towards the world, making him real. Being alive and real is what a sound person is, and loss of health is loss of the sense of coherence making the person emotionally dead, mentally delusional, and spiritually aloof.

Broader descriptive terms for this work are: humanistic, holistic, integrative, existential and trans-personal.


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About the author

Dirk Marivoet psychotherapist in Belgium

Dirk Marivoet, MSc is European certified and accredited psychotherapist (ECP). He’s also a licenced psychomotor therapist and physiotherapist (University of Louvain). He is the founder and director of the International Institute for Bodymind Integration (IBI) and an international teacher in several Body Oriented Psychotherapy Schools and diverse other training programs. Dirk is a certified Trainer and Supervisor for Postural Integration, Energetic Integration, Reichian Bodywork and Pelvic-Heart Integration (Jack Painter, PhD), a Core Energetics Teacher and Supervisor (John Pierrakos, MD). He studied extensively with Al Pesso. His work is “polyvagal and trauma informed”. After more than 35 years of working and teaching in the field of integrative and holistic therapy, he created his own comprehensive synthesis and approach, Core Strokes, which he offers worldwide in the form of professional trainings, workshops and individual sessions. Dirk is a public speaker about these and other topics and chairs the Core Science Foundation. He lives in Ghent (Belgium).

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