“Science is beginning to demonstrate what wisdom traditions throughout the world have known for thousands of years, which is that giving love and kindness—practicing love and compassion—brings health into the interior world and into the social world. It brings wisdom and well-being into the entire systems of life that we live.” (Siegel, "From Me to We").
Beyond the Boundaries of our Skin: An Introduction to Integrative Energetic Medicine by Annmarie L. Early, Ph.D.
From Mind to Brain, Body, and Surroundings The therapeutic disciplines are expanding beyond their traditional boundaries with practitioners from various fields supporting interventions that value non-lingual, body based methods for healing. We now know that new neuro-pathways can be created throughout life, and this is changing our therapeutic models.
Dan Siegel, author of The Developing Mind and originator of Interpersonal Neurobiology, states: “The locus of therapeutic action has begun to shift in emphasis from models favoring cognition—and, accordingly, top-down interventions—to models that assert the primacy of bodily rooted affect. Such experiential or “bottom-up” therapies consider insight to be the result, rather than the agent, of therapeutic change; they maintain that the deeper the bottom (in evolution, in the body, in the brain), the higher the top, and—not incidentally—the more effective and efficient the treatment…At one time marginalized treatments that focus on emotion and the somatic manifestations of psychological processes are receiving fresh consideration. Moreover, increasing evidence about the plasticity of the brain throughout the lifespan is beginning to influence not only our techniques and effectiveness, but also to galvanize our therapeutic hopes and ambitions” (Siegel, Healing Power of Emotion, p.vii).
Many therapeutic models now use experiential, body based protocols for enacting change. Eugene Gendlin’s pioneering work with Carl Rogers in the 1960’s clearly demonstrated that one session of aiding a client to attend inward to their inner "felt sense" increased therapy outcome with any chosen therapy modality a year later. The importance of learning to utilize felt sensing is a key aspect of Integrative Energy Medicine—where practitioners are trained to both understand their own felt sense and to use this knowing in their work with clients helping them to attend inward with greater awareness and precision.
Daniel Goleman’s research on Emotional and Social Intelligence point to the ability to attune to the subtle dynamics within and between human beings. He states, “Social awareness refers to a spectrum that runs from instantaneously sensing another’s inner state, to understanding her feelings, thoughts, to “getting” complicated social situations.” (Goleman, Social Intelligence, p. 84).
These developments are beginning to influence our practice as clinicians and inform the very way that we understand the process of healing. Training that both explains and activates these complex energetic systems is crucial for staying current with the developments of neuroscience and for developing applied skills with clients.
From the Seen to the Unseen The dynamics of attunement, resonance, and regulation do not end at the boundary of our skin. Science is helping us to understand ourselves as extending even further by considering our inherent interconnectedness. Dan Siegel (2013b) describes this as a movement from "me to we." This shift in thinking and perceiving involves considering our "self as surroundings"not just our "self in surroundings." We influence and are influenced by a vast web of unseen interconnections.
Physicists talk about "quantum entanglement" to describe subatomic particles that are in sync so that changes in one impact the other even over great distances. Biologists talk about "epigenetics" to describe surrounding environmental factors such as diet, social environment, and life event factors such as trauma that impact gene expression and are hereditable. The scientific discoveries informing these conversations underscore the subtle, unseen realities of the world in which we live and of which we are a part.
Working With The Unseen Energies: IEM Biologist Bruce Lipton states that, "all organisms including humans, communicate and read their environment by evaluating energy fields” (Lipton, The Biology of Belief, p.90). Although often not recognized by modern healing models, many pre-modern wisdom and healing traditions trusted the communications that came from felt sensing and right hemisphere knowing. Recognizing that all life pulses with energy, they valued and used subtle energy systems within and around the human body in their interventions and treatments.
Over the past two years, I have spent over 450 face-to-face hours learning a modality called Integrative Energy Medicine (Poulin, 2014). My interest was personal, professional, and pedagogical. I have been a psychotherapist, a professor, and a trainer for many years. I wanted to learn a modality that placed me back into a ‘not-knowing’ state outside of my previous professional training—where I had to perceive in new ways and test my sensibilities from the intuitive implicit. I wanted to learn how to access the intuitive in ways that are active in my personal life, but not integrated in my professional work.
IEM is a non-invasive, gentle approach that uses subtle energy pathways within and surrounding the body to increase balance and flow in all systems, allowing the body to increase capacities for healing. IEM conceptualizes a 3-4 foot energy system around the human body with 4 distinct layers that can be attended to and worked with. This modality uses similar capacities as felt sensing to attune, resonate, and regulate with what one might not literally see—though many energy practitioners report seeing energy visually—but can be tangibily sensed and effectively worked with through subtle attunement (Poulin, 2014). Working with the energy fields, chakras, and awareness dialogues, practitioners help the client to identify where energy flow might be compromised and facilitate a return to balance and flow in order to foster the body's own capacity to heal body, mind, and spirit.
Practitioners are trained to develop attention to emotional intelligence with their clients and sense beyond the spoken word into deeper, non-verbal ways of knowing. Expanding our understanding of healing and well-being to include energy systems within and around the body begins to incorporate the neuroscience and scientific advances from our quantum understanding of the world. Offering training to practitioners in these modalities can aid them in expanding both their understanding and skill set for effectively working with a variety of clients.
Fosha, D., Siegel, D.J., & Solomon, M.F. (2009). Introduction. In D. Fosha, D. J. Siegel, & M. F. Solomon, (Eds.), The healing power of emotion: Affective neuroscience, development, and clinical practice. New York: Norton and Co.