Should We Idealize Releasing?March 30, 2016

These days, the language around release pervades the movement and healing world.  When the use of language becomes trendy, I think it’s wise to step back and ask ourselves what we really mean when we say release?

The definition of release is:  “allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free.”  If we focus on releasing tension as the ultimate goal in stress or trauma treatment and healing, I think we might be misguided.

Before we focus on releasing, we need to understand why the tension or restriction is there and what purpose it is fulfilling whether it’s physical or emotional tension.

Our bodies are held together with tensile integrity and so are our psyches.  Tensegrity is a term first used in architecture by Buckminster Fuller.  We have now come to understand the same properties of tensegrity apply to the human body.

Physical tensegirty is the property of skeleton structures that employ continuous tension members and discontinuous compression members in such a way that each member operates with the maximum efficient and economy.

Here are some pictures of human-made structures built on the principle of tensegrity.  Imagine taking one of the points of tension away.  The whole structure collapses.

tensegrity1 tensegrity2



We need tension to keep our bodies moving through the world and we also develop a psychological structure and ways of coping with life that allow us to move through the world as functioning people, going to work, taking care of family, doing what we need to do and sometimes we develop coping strategies that were once survival based that might become dysfunctional.

If we focus on releasing both muscle tension and emotional tension and pain as the ultimate goal without asking the question:


We might not be fully understanding the complexities of healing our bodies or our minds.  We can only truly release when we have a sound physical and psychological container to release into.  Otherwise, we might release and then need to habitually pull ourselves back together.

Sure it feels good to release emotional or physical tension and pain.  It can be extremely cathartic to let go.  But what if the act of releasing and the highs of catharsis are just that, highs we chase?

For example, how many people love feeling pain during exercise because of our good it feels after or love hard myofascial release that only feels good when it stops or those of us who need intense emotional pain and the accompanying expression of that pain to get to a more calm place?  I’m not saying catharsis is bad.  In fact, 90% of my clients cry during our first meeting but that’s because I create an environment or a container where it’s SAFE to let go.


I like to think we could replace the language of release, let go etc. with the idea of regulation in both our physical and psychological tensegrity.  We need to focus on creating a sense of stability and safety both physically and emotionally, sense our boundaries on both levels to have a safe and regulating container to release into.  We can also look more kindly on our physical and emotional tension as things that have gotten us this far in life that we need to  pay homage to instead of pathologize as maladaptive.

Have you ever noticed how certain muscles that hold tension become the enemy in certain movement or healing circles.  Or how over eating or compulsive behaviours become things about ourselves that we feel shameful about.  But the truth is they were survival strategies at one point.

We can only let go of what has become maladaptive movement patterns, muscle tension or emotional coping strategies or even addictions when we feel safe to do so.

We might consider blending the idea of bridging a need for safety with the ability to release on every level of our beings.

More to come on this topic but here are some initial thoughts.

Be well.