Book Review: LIFESTREAMS: An Introduction to Biosynthesis

by David Boadella. Published by Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1987, 220 pages. Price approx. IR£12.00.

If you are a humanistic psychotherapist and you have not read this book yet I highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible. You may not be drawn to explicit bodywork but that should not put you off. This book is about more than the body and bio-systems. It is a basic text that should underlay any training in psychotherapy. Indeed I would recommend it to anyone who is involved in healing – mental, emotional and physical. I also think that people concerned with the birth of children can learn a lot from this work.

We often talk about centring, grounding, energy centres, boundaries etc. Sometimes our use of these words and the ideas behind them can be fuzzy and unclear. Boadella not only uses these terms but explains richly and unambiguously what their therapeutic context is.

The eleven chapters of this book take us on a journey from conception to spiritual awareness and each step is clearly and graphically described. He describes three main elements in his therapeutic approach. These are Centring, Grounding and Facing. He explains: “The therapeutic work of centring is concerned with re-establishing a functioning rhythm in the flow of metabolic energy and the balance between the two halves of the auto­nomic nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic). This means help toward restoring emotional balance and harmonious breathing. The thera­peutic work of grounding is concerned with establishing a good relationship between voluntary and involuntary modes of movement. How we hold our­selves reveals something of how we stand in the world, how we feel and who we are. Changing postures involves the possibilities of strong emotional reaction and the uncovering of deeply ingrained character attitudes.” Finally, the therapeutic work of facing is work with eye contact, voice contact and the integration of language and perception with feeling.

Because embryological insights are basic to Boadella’s therapeutic approach a clear understanding of development in the womb and the transition to life outside it provides an essential background against which to understand the emotional history of the body and its organisational plan. The chapter entitled “Embodiment Before Birth” is a marvellous statement about the wonder and mystery of the creation of a human life and marks Boadella as a person with great respect for humanity and for the mystery of healing.

Boadella makes careful and well thought out links between the various physical systems of the body and their emotional counterparts. He refers to the work of Boysen, Reich and Lowen, among others, to illustrate, and clarify his explanations.

Chapters five and following bring the embryological basis for Boadella’s approach into the adult world and the adult body. As therapists this is the realm with which we work initially. The author explains the emotional and physiological links to be found and worked with in the blocked client. Again he draws on the work of Keleman and others to illustrate his development of the theme.

Throughout the book Boadella talks about the importance of breathing and he gives a special chapter (6) to this fundamental element of bodywork. He says: “… Re-balancing the emotional energy is so intrinsically linked with the re-balancing of the breathing that I consider working with one inseparable from working with the other”.

This is a great book and can be read again and again. Each time new insight crystallises. Buy it.

Alan A. Mooney