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Somatherapy (or Soma) was created by the writer Roberto Freire in the 1970s as a group therapy,[1] based on the research of the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich.[2] With the objective of freeing the individual to be more creative, the exercises in Soma work with the relationship between the body and emotions are evident in the work of Reich. They work with concepts based on the vital organisation of the self stemming from Gestalt therapy. Other essential ingredients in Soma are the studies of Antipsychiatry related to human communication and the Brazilian martial art / dance Capoeira Angola.[1] Soma groups last a year and a half, with frequent sessions, including usually one full weekend per month for the entire group, as well as frequent capoeira classes, study sessions, social activities, and two self-organized group trips. These times together allow the participants to build and develop the group dynamic, in line with the principles of Anarchism.[1] The originality of Soma stems from the fusion of pedagogy and politics within the therapeutic process, in which pleasure and freedom construct the notion of health which combats the neurosis of capitalism in our globalised society.

Soma in practice

As a therapy with an anarchist ethic, Soma seeks to understand the socio-political behaviour of individuals starting from what happens in their daily lives. Authoritarianism is reproduced in social micro-relations through games of power and sacrifice. Therefore, capitalist values such as private property, competition, profit and exploitation need to be considered as more than mere questions of market and ideology. The influence of these values on social relations (love relations, for example) cannot be denied. The results of the authoritarianism of the Government and the State are reproduced in feelings (jealousy, possession, insecurity) and situations (competition, betrayal, lies). For Soma therefore, politics begins in everyday, microsocial situations.

The rational and the logical alone are insufficient to understand the immense cobweb of socially imposed controls and their impact on individuality. This is the great paradox: how to escape from hierarchical, authoritarian relationships in which feelings and other emotional extensions of relationships are contaminated by something which cannot be reached just through ideas and thought. This 'something else', beyond reason, has long been the subject of philosophical and psychological studies. The unconscious motivations and stimuli, often contradictory, go beyond objective rationality. Even if one believes oneself to have a personal libertarian vision of the world, this may not be reflected in one's behaviour in love, familial and affective relationships. It seems to be easier to be 'free' or 'revolutionary' away from home, as examining one's own life for authoritarianisms requires a process that delves far deeper into who one is and how one came to be that way.

This line of questioning led to the creation of Soma at the beginning of the seventies. Roberto Freire, clandestine militant fighting against the military dictatorship, couldn't find in either psychoanalysis or traditional psychology, the necessary instruments to deal with the emotional and psychological conflicts of the militants who sought him for help. Therefore, he researched the work of a scientist disowned by the academia, the most radical dissident of psychoanalysis: Wilhelm Reich, and from this point, Freire created Soma.

Soma was born out of research about the blocking of creativity, undertaken in the Centro de Estudos Macunaíma, São Paulo. Through drama exercises and games designed either for fun or for raising sensual awareness, Roberto Freire created a series of therapeutic experiences which led to a rich discovery in the field of behaviour and the infinite and unique differences therein. By realizing how the body reacts in the face of common situations which require, for example, aggression, communication or sensuality, allows us to value that which differentiates us as individuals. This is essential in order to create a new and original way of behaving to combat the mass production of individuals that society dictates.

Consequently, Soma was constructed as a therapeutic process with the explicit ideological content of Anarchism. The therapy has a fixed time limit (about a year and a half), in order to avoid constructing a relationship of dependence between the client and the therapist. It takes place within four three-hour sessions per month in experiences with physical exercises or group dynamic exercises. After each experience, the group participates in the 'reading' of the session, looking to verbalise the sensations and perceptions produced by the exercise. The reading can be about oneself or about another member of the group and it is from this stage of the process that the participant begins to produce his or her own therapeutic autonomy, developing a greater vision and understanding of attitudes and political behaviour in everyday situations.


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