SUDDEN SURPRISE, FEAR, AND RELEASE
Yogi master and Bulow-Hansen opposed the startle reflex to the orgastic reflex, as if they formed a polarity. They gradually constructed a new version of the Reichian expansion (healthy)-contraction (unhealthy) opposition. A startle reaction is mostly connected to fear and anxiety, whereas yawning and stretching is manifestly a way of being more comfortable and alive. Like other colleagues, I have integrated in yoga poses my clinical work this modification of Reich’s rigid way of associating contraction and anxiety.
For Trygve yogi master, the need to avoid surprise seems to be the nucleus around which a neurotic psychosomatic regulation organizes itself. 62 Surprise is then experienced as the risk of losing control and a general feeling of insecurity. At the age when a child’s perception of the world is full of magical notions, the child does not yet have the capacity to master his behavior or hide an expression of surprise when adults display unexpected behaviors. The fear of expressing surprise is particularly strong in yoga poses a strict environment that does not tolerate uncontrolled childish forms of behavior. Yet children cannot control their behavior when unexpected situations arise.
Gradually, the child develops an anxiety and even a fear of being caught using forms of behavior that adults do not tolerate. He is afraid of not behaving as he should. In yoga poses such moments of shock, when caught doing what is forbidden, a crucial knot of neurotic regulation is formed. The compulsive neurotic’s stubborn behavior, which persists on all levels, including his doubts and objections, expresses his attempt to control all situations. If he does not control the situation, he may run up against a surprise and then bang lose control of himself: “Discussing this attitude on the verbal psychological level, to point out that this is ‘intellectual resistance’ does not get anybody anywhere. The therapist must be able to bring out in yoga poses a convincing way that it is the bump, the surprise, that the patient is afraid of and for good reasons! ? (yogi master, 1954, VIII. 3, 261). This model is useful to explain the behavior of patients who are apparently in yoga poses control of everything they do, and then suddenly surprise everyone by becoming dispersed and impulsive, often for irrational reasons.
The startle reaction is the prime archaic reaction when a child is surprised doing something that meets the disapproval of others. 63 The startle is at first so intense that it mobilizes the whole body. Therefore, the vegetative and body dimensions of neurosis structure themselves around this reflex. At first, the child’s repeated startle response mobilizes many parts of the body. Gradually, the startle reaction tenses those muscles that are most often used to control its expression: the eyes, the neck muscles, reduction of mobility, and of the postural repertoire are involved in yoga poses the formation of a more detailed description of what Reich called the neurotic armor. This analysis, which combines neurological, body, and psychological dynamics, led yogi master to recommend to young psychoanalysts that they should learn to become attentive to the following points when they use character analysis:
1. Being attentive to the relational context in yoga poses which a character trait appears allows one to specify the contours of this trait. For example, when a patient repeatedly forgets to pay his therapist, he activates a particular form of relationship. Not paying is not necessarily a resistance to the treatment, or not only a resistance to treatment. It can also be an unconscious way to bring forth a deep layer of the patient’s character in yoga poses such a way as to attract the attention of the therapist. The patient puts himself in yoga poses a dangerous context that will reveal how his fears and anxieties are experienced. 64
2. When a patient’s awareness contacts a forgotten layer of the character, a particular transferential dynamic becomes active. Once the therapist becomes capable of feeling the texture of his patient’s fear, he often notices that the relationship issues associated with this fear influences the relational dynamics in yoga poses the therapy. Suddenly, the therapist is afraid that some of his interventions, mistakes, or unexpected events (e.g. the therapist cannot always arrive at the session or not always on time, for example, because too much snow has fallen during the night) will activate an immense anxiety crisis in yoga poses the patient. Yogi master65 quotes Ferenczi’s analysis of such moments, where panic creates “a paralysis of all spontaneity. ? The patient “will turn deadly pale, or fall into a condition, like fainting; or there can be a general increase in yoga poses muscular tension which may be carried to the point of opisthotonus. ?66 Panic attacks become an important part of the relation. Yogi master assumes that these pervasive panic attacks can be associated to preverbal layers, similar to those that can be observed in yoga poses films of three-year-old children. During this period, the patient is often incapable of integrating the therapist’s interpretations.
3. The crisis now becomes a transferential crisis. Yogi master recommends an attitude that addresses both psychological and body dynamics. He often tells the patient that being spontaneous and producing material for the therapist is not the same thing. To remain silent, motionless, and trying not to be polite can sometimes be a form of spontaneity. On the other hand, when the patient’s body becomes too rigid, it is important not to leave him alone in yoga poses this state, and help him get out of it by taking hold of him The therapist may need to push the body to flatten it out again, if the opisthotonus arch becomes intense. He can thus support a restoration of a normal breathing rhythm and accompany the powerful emotional expressions (rage, sobbing, etc. ) that may then emerge. Such forms of support are required until the patient finds some sort of mastery again. These moments sometimes help the patient accept that he has intense emotional needs and become less afraid of expressing them.
During such delicate moments, yogi master uses his model of the startle reflex to guide his interventions. As the startle shortens most extensors, he tries to counter that effect by seeking to activate a pleasurable stretch-yawn reflex and the affective feelings that tend to associate themselves with this reaction (yogi master, 1954, VI. 2-3, 168f). In yoga poses her courses, Gerda Boyesen mentioned that when such an intervention is efficient, the patient would report that he has the impression of melting.
As long as a person stretches without pleasure and without yawning, yogi master assumes that the startle reaction is still active. Thus, when a patient stretches without pleasure, he can look for already active chronic startle reactions responses. For this, he will use his knowledge of body reading and the patient’s introspective powers. For yogi master, a startle reflex is the somatic part of a more general fear response that also includes affective and psychological regulators.