I got a new life and a new body with SOV vegetotherapy”, says a patient of Kjell Standal, Bergen, Norway
Sitting comfortably with the therapist, he received two clear instructions. Firstly, it was important to understand that he would have to do the work himself. The therapist also emphasized that he would come along for the whole journey, all the way down through the darkness. This created assurance and trust.
“Already during the first treatment session, images popped up before my eyes, and a lot went on. Eventually something happened which I experienced as important! I had du ask Mr. Standal what was happening, and he explained that it was pent-up rage being released.
The pain in my chest let go after a very short period of time, but the path forward was still long. “I felt as if there were an enormous pile of pancakes of varying thickness which I had to work my way through. Every time I have made some progress and felt pure as a newborn, a new round of darkness appears. I have had to cancel holidays and go home for treatment, and I’ve had massive downturns at home. However, along the way I’ve gotten a new life, my energy is back and I really have renewed faith in the future. The time I spend with my family is totally revived, and now I am excited about what the future will bring and who is actually about to reveal himself within me”, he says.
Through the treatment, he has reached some clarity about quite a few incidents from his childhood which he could not remember by himself. Also, as for the incidents he does remember, he now has an understanding of the consequences these actually have had on his development. The incidents may for instance be comments and statements from adults in his earliest years of life. The words, which as a child he had to accept and interpret as the right of an adult, came to rest in his body as flicks of a whip.
Reveals the secrets of the body
“ – Vegetotherapy is experience-oriented, with few words being said.
If, in the first few hours, the patient does not experience anything considered to be significant to her/him, we may give up”, says Kjell Standal. He is a psychologist, specializing in clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology, as well as a vegetotherapist, with his own practice in Bergen.
The body remembers
How is it possible that your body may remember incidents forgotten by yourself long ago? “Everyone has met people who say something pleasant and try to smile, while we actually perceive them to be baring their teeth. This makes you more likely to trust the body’s message than the words and the feigned smile. The person concerned does not personally know what it’s all about, but the body remembers and communicates its history and pain.
Bodies may say that persons have a lot to carry. Some people carry others’ lives in the sense that they take on responsibility for others way beyond what is acceptable. This may lead to aching arms and a bent back! Some are chronically frightened and meet others with fear, without remembering what once scared them so thoroughly that the emotion got stuck. Vegetotherapy aims to heal the whole person; the thoughts, the emotions and the body. This is a process which needs time.”
For most people, the pain and suffering may be traced back to the first years of childhood, when the personality was developed in close contact with the care providers. Four traumatic incidents are the same for many of the patients who come for treatment. They may have been beaten, forcibly fed, locked up or abused. These are often circumstances of which the patient is unaware, but which are uncovered over time.
“Children are good at forgiving their parents. They have to do so in order to manage and to ensure that they survive physically. Someone has to give them clothes, food and shelter. In my view, it is meaningless to talk about a happy childhood, one may instead say that it was more or less dramatic. For many, the issue is that they have pushed aside the pain and are clutching on to an illusion, so that they at least may have something of value to look back on”, says Standal.
The therapy entails that the patient focuses on his/her body’s signals and gradually will be able to penetrate further and further into his/her own conflict. Comments, questions and hints from the therapist, based on the observation of physical symptoms, may be clues.
“Sometimes we experience that red blotches from blows appear during the treatment, bruises may reappear where they once have been and even blood may trickle out. This is strange and difficult to comprehend, but for some it is part of the healing process.
The therapist has extensive experience in reading a person’s history of development by using visual observation and registering the body. Body language, manner and behaviour, as well as posture, vocal pitch, gestures and fat distribution are studied thoroughly. Depending on how the patient introduces himself through lying down on the bench, the therapist creates a hypothesis of how the treatment should be set up.
“The basic conflicts which are the source of the pain, should appear gradually in the conscience of the patient so that a new chance is given to cope with them. For instance, the rage which was held back in childhood must now be allowed to be expressed in its full force. Reliving the painful incidents is a prerequisite to becoming free”, says Kjell Standal.
Vegetotherapy is a therapeutic method, whose starting point is that all emotional burdens manifest themselves physically. Disrespectful treatment, beatings and abuse become deep-seated and lead to pain and suffering. With the help of therapy it is possible to uncover the body’s secrets, experiences that are forgotten, repressed or which happened before the patient had the language to explain.
Lying down with knees lifted and with the soles of the feet touching the bench, will increase the patient’s chances of exploring within and listening to the body’s stories. The position is inspired by that which Standal says may be referred to as the human basic position. The name comes from the similarity with the position of the foetus in its mother’s womb and the infant’s position when it is placed on its back. The child pulls his legs up, knees resting on his stomach, enabling free movement of the pelvis. In the course of the treatment, many patients will spontaneously move like an infant.
The first instruction is that the patient is asked to empty his/her head of thoughts and to breathe as usual. When the patient is lying down in this manner, the blood pressure will fall, while the vegetative system becomes active. Thus, the disturbed places in the system will be activated as well, and the symptoms will increase. This is a good starting point for treatment.
In self-regulatory and experience-oriented vegetotherapy, which was developed by Victor Lindén, and further developed by Standal, the therapist should not use touch as the basis of approaching the patient. The treatment must proceed at the patient’s own pace, and any touching which is not carefully considered and accepted and understood by the patient, may have a detrimental effect. The patient should always be able to have eye contact with the therapist.
Vegetotherapy was initially developed by Wilhelm Reich, a doctor who started as part of the group around Freud, but who later went his own way. Among other things, he was preoccupied with the autonomic (not voluntary) nervous system and its effect on how we perceive and react to burdens, both physically and emotionally. Together, the autonomous nervous system, the immune system and the hormonal axes constitute the vegetative system. Illness, whether mental or physical, may be seen as a disturbance of the vegetative system.
Here is a link to more information about the practice.