Core Energetics: Through the body to the joy of life
“Start moving your hips.” The type of instruction that can start a Core Energetics class led by Hana Hniličková. You shy away, resist, or enjoy how great it is. Feelings will come, both pleasant and unpleasant. Maybe pleasure that you can feel in your own body, or maybe pain. You experience, you push the range of your boundaries, and through the body, you arrive at your own truth.
The same therapy that can easily be described in a few lines, in reality, can take several years to truly understand. “Body-centered therapy combines both psychotherapeutic work and developing movement potential. We access the client's truth through the body, which has its own memory and intelligence. It actually helps us not to be fooled by our own minds, which are always smart enough to justify our current attitudes. But that doesn't mean that we somehow exclude the mind from therapy. On the contrary, we try to identify and acknowledge everything that comes up. This work can go deep, which is also why it tends to be long-term. The client goes through the therapeutic process, resolves something, and moves on; it's a matter of one to two years,” says therapist Hana Hniličková, who leads individual and group Core Energetics sessions in Prague. We talked to her about this psychotherapeutic movement, which originally comes from America.
“You have a body, and in that body, there are various closed boxes. Sadness, anger, rage, and other emotions that you may not even know about. You're blocked. Let's touch on sadness, for example. Someone might say that their mother died, but that they never let themselves cry about it. Another says how weird it is that they cried for days after losing their cat. One becomes aware of the feeling, cries, experiences it, accepts it, and suddenly the box dissolves. A space in the body becomes available. Sometime later, we touch another closed box and another space becomes available. Gradually the blocks in the body and mind dissolve, we become more open, both to our own inner experiences and our surroundings. Energy flows freely through us, we feel freedom.”
We're amazing, but we won't show it to anyone
Next to the black boxes, there are also beautiful places. The best in us. “Paradoxically, we are often ashamed of this part of ourselves. You're great, but you don't show it to anyone. Therapy helps you unmask yourself, your image of how you want to be perceived. You allow yourself to uncover your nature, which you hide in everyday life. Along the way, you will probably come across dark places, but you will certainly find hidden treasures.” The determination to work on oneself must be possessed by the client. “Everyone has their own pace, and everyone deserves for us to proceed exactly according to their needs. All the clients I've worked with have been courageous. The rate and speed at which we progress in the therapeutic process are set by the client.”
“The direct path to one’s own truth goes through the body. You stop lying to yourself. And stop pretending outwardly.”
Therapy is done individually with a therapist or in a group of several people. “You are among different personalities, the environment has to be safe for you, and you can only feel safe after mutual trust has been built. That's why therapy takes so long. There is a tendency in our society not to trust anyone and to rely only on ourselves. When you come into therapy with that mindset, imagine how long it will take to really trust the therapist and the other members of the group. Only then will you allow yourself to be honest, with yourself and with others.” For many people, gaining trust in the therapist, and the group members, if applicable, is the most important thing they take away from therapy.
“When people start being honest with each other, you get a lot of feedback. The group is tremendously rich in that respect. It brings the necessary context. One will say, ‘I'm ashamed of my appearance.’ The other replies, ‘please, why would you be ashamed. I would never be ashamed if I looked like you.’ The third says, ‘I'm angry that you're saying that.’ Everyone comments and you start to piece together the reality. What you think is just your imagination, your vision of the world. It doesn't actually match reality all that well. On average, it's 80% fantasy, only 20% reality. By being honest with others, we can improve this ratio in favor of a more realistic vision of the world and ourselves.”
Is Core Energetics for me?
“It's not that everyone needs therapy, or that everyone has issues to address. The measure is one's own satisfaction. If you're happy in your life, it doesn't matter that you might not have a family, or you're not living up to society's standards, or you're doing a job that doesn't fulfill you. It earns you money so you can pursue something that makes you happy. It makes you feel good. It's about where the line of contentment goes; it’s about whether you feel a certain balance.”
When balance is absent, when something is missing in your life (and you may not even know exactly what), when heaviness prevails over lightness, then you should pay attention. “I am most often approached by people who are in physical pain, but maybe it’s psychosomatic. Or another specialist will advise them to try something extra, some therapy from a different angle. For example, one of my clients was told by another therapist that she was very disconnected from her body, so she sought help to feel more in her body.” People come with all sorts of problems, needs, and assignments. One special group, according to Hana Hniličková, is mothers. Either moms of young children who need a lot of support, or experienced moms who are dealing with a particular problem with their little ones. Core Energetics is not for children, but they can benefit from the effects on their parents. “If parents are experiencing some major issues with their children, I recommend that they start working on themselves. When they find out what their own truth is in the relationship and what their own needs are, they will be relieved. This will show up as a result in their daughter or son. There is a strong bond in the relationship between parents and children; if you help one of them, it helps everyone.”
What is the goal of therapy?
It sounds simple: the ability to reach with what is. To not run away, to see life as it is. To not flinch when the going gets tough and things get challenging. Pain, or our “negative” emotion (meaning the one we don't want to feel because it’s unpleasant), cannot be dealt with, it must be experienced. “If we hide it somewhere, it will jump out at us twenty years later. The moment we touch it and admit to ourselves that this is what we feel, relief follows. Yes, it hurts, but not forever. When we go through a process like this, it frees up a lot of energy, thus giving us room to experience joy. We no longer have to compensate for any unpleasant feelings with something external, like food, or try to numb them with alcohol or cigarettes. After a while, a space of inner peace will emerge, our deeper, wiser, authentic self. We may not have access to it all the time, but we already know it exists. We stop surviving, instead, we live fully.”
And so in therapy, for example, you run into a big cube. “When you allow yourself, in a safe space, to experience your conflict, that heaviness, anger—or whatever—that is your truth at that moment. You bang it away, you breathe through it, you let your legs vibrate. You repeat this three times and the anger is gone. You get it out.” The therapist supports you in the process, accepts your journey, and you know it's okay. You get relief.
“The goal of Core Energetics isn't to dig into your difficulties, it's to help you enjoy life more.”
Push the boundaries of your comfort zone
The entire therapy process is also about getting somewhere beyond your comfort zone. Clients usually prefer doing this in individual therapy, just one-on-one. You become aware of certain things about yourself that you didn't see or know before. You begin to react to yourself and others differently than you were used to. “One of the therapeutic goals is just to help people shift their tolerance level. Slowly we open up, slowly we expand our boundaries, we can do more. Because bad things are always going to happen to us in life, the world is not ideal and neither are we. Working on ourselves with the Core Energetics method widens our window of tolerance, we can handle difficulties more easily. We learn that it's not the end of the world, and we also know that we are brave enough to go through such a difficult situation. And then open ourselves up to joy again.”
“But not everyone wants to reconfigure their lives. Therapy is not a separate organism, it usually leads you to a situation where you feel that you need to change something in your life, change something in the settings you’ve grown used to. “Wow” moments come to you, and for some, it can be difficult to fit your therapeutic self into everyday life. They feel they need help, but now is not the time to change. It's okay. The client just comes in for some insight and comes back later when they are ready for a change, or they don’t.”
What is a person like after therapy? How are its effects imprinted in their behavior, in their everyday life? “It's individual, but you generally feel a great recovery right from the start, which is visible to those around you. The revival then usually brings more movement, fun, and joy into your life. The goal of Core Energetics isn't to dig into your difficulties, it's to help you enjoy life more.”
From COVID to the world of color
We're having this conversation sometime between the 4th and 5th COVID waves. Hana Hniličková joins those who see opportunity in times of uncertainty. “I think we can use this time for ourselves. There is uncertainty all around us; it was here before and it will be here later, we just weren't used to admitting this. Let's look for certainty within ourselves, then external circumstances may not have such a great influence on our lives or frame of mind.”
“I wish everyone to have a good life despite the external difficulties. To manage it as it is. To have the determination and the will to get through those difficult, uncomfortable times, because there’s space for joy just on the other side. When we accept reality as it is, the whole world becomes more colorful and real.”
Information about Core Energetics classes can be found on the CORE THERAPY website.
Core Energetics: How it came to be
Core Energetics was developed by John Pierakkos, an American psychiatrist of Greek origin. He was drawn to the ideas of doctors, scientists, and philosophers who worked with energy systems and spoke of the creative power within humans. One such person was the Austrian-born American psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich. John Pierakkos built on his teaching that energetic processes are taking place in the body. They are either free or blocked. But blocks can be moved and dissolved with movement and exertion. Based on Reich's work, Pierrakos and his classmate Alexander Lowen, another prominent American physician, founded a body-therapy movement called Bioenergetics. Later, Pierakkos enriched his approach with a psychospiritual teaching called Pathwork, which his wife, Eva, introduced to him. Pathwork corresponded with his years of experience working with clients. And thus, the Core Energetics method was born. A type of psychotherapy that, through bodywork, helps to gradually open up the issues that block and limit a person's life.
Mgr. Hana Hniličková is a certified Core Energetics therapist. She completed her four-year training in the Netherlands, where she had the opportunity to meet teachers from all over the world. In the Czech Republic, she graduated from the Faculty of Law of Charles University and worked as an attorney for several years. She tried Core Energetics first on herself. Therapeutic work also led her professionally. She first joined the non-profit organization Post Bellum and Memory of the Nation, where she led educational projects. Later, she decided to train professionally at the Netherlands Institute of Core Energetics and has been working with clients as a therapist since 2018. She teaches exercise classes inspired by Bioenergetics and Core Energetics. She also continues to work at a non-profit. She lives and works in Prague and is raising 3 children together with her husband.