by Liz Koch
Maintaining psychological health today includes a wide range of approaches. If one expands beyond contemporary medications and talk therapy there is a variety of modalities to choose from which are all very beneficial. These include body somatic awareness, nutritional/chemical balancing, family pattern dynamics, energy, light, and color therapy. What these modalities share in common is not only a holistic approach to health which includes seeing the person’s life in its wholeness, but also an understanding of all humans in context to a larger field of influence.
“Emotional or psychological distress is an indication that in some way an individual’s humanity has been compromised or violated,” explains Dr. Toby Watson, executive clinical director of Wisconsin’s Associated Psychological Health Services. “Restoration and cultivation of the integrity of the person’s humanity is the sole purpose of psychotherapy. There may be many roads that serve this purpose; however, regardless of orientation or technique, the creation of a healing environment that respects the person’s dignity, autonomy, and values is the foundation for emotional healing and is the essence of good psychotherapy.” On his web site http://www.icspp.org/ he continues to articulate that “although it is possible to hide emotional wounds through drugs, electrical shock and other forms of technology, true healing, comes from restoring and renewing the things that define and reflect our humanity. Things like intimacy, community, art, music, spirituality and play.”
Brazilian professor and psychologist Tina de Souza couldn’t agree more. She weaves together her native Afro-Brazilian traditions with her Western educational training to redefine psychological health. “Psychological symptoms and their expressions have been with humanity for a long time” she explains. “For example, depression is a rather old sickness that has been defined in many strange ways throughout history. In the Mayan Age it was viewed as a form of divine punishment and, in more serious cases, viewed as form of demonic possession. By Renaissance time, it was depicted as a sign of one having a deep soul. Today it may be defined by allopathic medicine as an illness that results from an imbalance of the neurotransmitters chemical substances present in our brain.”
Depression, she clarifies, can take on different characteristics. Using the symbolism of her Afro-Brazilian traditions, Dr de Souza looks at depression as an expression of the subtle essence of a human being. Made of fire, earth, water, and air each of these elemental qualities she feels has a well-defined psychological connotation and like other Eastern healing traditions she seeks to balance the elemental aspects within as a means of resolving emotional imbalances.
Color therapy is another tradition that can be traced back through ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and India. By the 1800s therapist Augustus Pleasanton was stimulating the glands, organs, and nervous system with blue light; Seth Pancoast used red and blue light to balance the autonomic nervous system. A then leading color therapist, Dr. Edwin Babbitt, applied colored light to the body and successfully treated stubborn medical conditions, which he said were simply unresponsive to the conventional treatments of his time. By the late 19th century, color light was prescribed in Western medicine in a variety of ways: Sunlight was used for tuberculosis, blue light and full spectrum light was effective for jaundiced newborns, and ultraviolet light was employed in surgical rooms to limit air-borne bacteria. The pioneers in color therapy, which include Dr. Dinshah Ghadiali, PhD, MD; Steven Vasquez, Ph.D.; Dr. John Downing, and Dr. Harry Spitler, all have demonstrated the powerful neurophysiological and neurohormonal effects of color light stimulation on both our physiological and psychological states.
No matter which type of therapy one tries, the intention of all holistic healing approaches is the same: to return to a state of integrity. As Souza so aptly describes “Restoring harmony brings a person back to a state of personal plenitude, whereby he can return to his original state of vibrant essence.” To restore this state of personal integrity and psychological health does not necessarily mean solving all of our problems, but it does offer a powerful sense of well being and an access to internal resources that fosters our capacity for maintaining a healthy state of being.
Health Educator Liz Koch is an international somatic educator, and creator of Core Awareness TM focusing on awareness for developing human potential. With 30 years experience working with and specializing in the iliopsoas, she is recognized in the somatic, bodywork and fitness professions as an authority on the core muscle. Liz is the author of The Psoas Book, Unraveling Scoliosis CD, Core Awareness; Enhancing Yoga, Pilates, Exercise & Dance, and The Psoas & Back Pain CD. Please visit www.coreawareness.com for workshop information and to join her quarterly newsletter.