Body Psychotherapist Ellen Gayda Defines 'Body Inhabitance' | Do You Live in Your Body or Have You Gone Fishing?

Una Burke’s designs are inspired by historic tragic events and body accessories that convey stages o a healing process. Her conceptual wearable art pieces are associated with the cause, the physical and psychological effect and the healing stages of human trauma.

Anne Becomes Ellen Gayda’s Patient

Anne here, ripe as always to share details of another life adventure — in this case, being treated by Philadelphia-based, body psychotherapist Ellen Gayda for a serious gym injury, not properly diagnosed or treated in over a year.

The physical therapy exercises that should have made my body heal were aggravating my condition further. Simply stated, I had dislocated my pubic bone, causing a host of problems on stairs and walking generally. It’s my fault for letting the problem go on so long without consulting another doctor or professional like Ellen.

It’s true that I moved from New York to Philadelphia in late 2010, leaving me without professional help in my new home city. My new apartment has a world-class gym downstairs, and I convinced myself that just getting back to regular exercise and my physical therapy would get me on track. Arriving in Philadelphia on a cane, I gave it up in early 2011. Progress at last!!

In reality, I wasn’t making progress at all — or inhabiting my body.

Muscles, nerves, my entire physical core was busy adjusting to the injury, with strained muscles remolding themselves, working to hold up my body in new ways. The fact that I couldn’t see — looking into a 7’mirror —  just how out of alignment I had become, reinforces the fact that I was not inhabiting my body at all.

This concept called body inhabitance — the focus of Ellen Gayda’s upcoming workshop on October 16, 2011 — applied to me, too. To say that I was out of touch with my body is an understatement. Having recovered in record time from hip surgery in 2006, I refused to accept this debilitating physical condition called ‘gym injury’.

Just a Little Bit of a Fraud

This writer who was busy telling readers the story of how she finally made peace with her body from 2004-2005, coming to love the woman in the mirror and working hard to remake her into babe status, which she achieved and celebrated — was gaining weight, and not a little. One can’t be in the gym every day for an hour doing intense exercise and then stop, without paying a heavy price.

I was a pretty messed up woman physically, the day I met Ellen Gayda. Eager to get on her massage table for a new opinion on my injury, Ellen said “not so fast”.

She startled me with her questions, moving from a discussion of my exact injury to personal questions that I’ve discussed with a psychologist years ago. Ellen never doubted my very real physical injury for one moment. But early on she began probing my relationship with my physicality, if my mind and body operated in harmony and if I actually inhabited my body or dragged it along with me because we are inseparable in life.

I was honest with Ellen, answering all her her questions — many of them focusing on my relationship with my body since childhood — truthfully. This is easy for me to do, not only because I’ve been analyzed and read many psychology books, but because I took a very personal journey into my body when I picked up the camera and began photographing myself about eight years ago.

This journey is the focus of my unpublished Sensual and Superyoung book — which became it’s own little disaster in 2005.

The day I looked in the mirror and admitted that I totally loathed my body about eight years ago, is the day I took responsibility for my own body inhabitance — or so I thought. Never had I worked in such concert with myself on diet, exercise, keeping a journal, and dealing with my physical self up close and personal with the camera.

Reflecting now on this self-centered Anne trip, I’m not certain that the journey to the new me was as holistic and cohesive as I believed at the time.

Philadelphia body psychotherapist Ellen Gayda of

Making Good Progress

A few weeks into my treatments with Ellen — which began in mid July — my progress was amazing.  Her incredibly powerful massage treatments had diagnosed my dislocated pubic bone problem immediately; she snapped it into place; and we moved to put my body back together again, as it’s supposed to be. I usually see Ellen back-to-back with my chiropracter who works in a complementary way to her and has also contributed heavily to my progress.

There’s nothing like a visit to the Dr. Office to deal with weight gain. Seriously shaken after my first visit with Dr. Norman Huertgen, I bought a new scale the next day, let Ellen write down the bitter truth in her Anne pages, and went on a diet.

I’ve lost 20 pounds today in seven weeks and am reclaiming myself again — after I swore this would not happen to me — for the second time in a decade. Dr Huertgen said today “Anne, don’t take this the wrong way, but ‘WOW’!”. Ellen just said “Jesus!”

Ah yes, I know my dear, nurturing health professionals; I told you I am babe material — perhaps that’s my problem, the same one that haunts millions of women worldwide.

In introducing people to the theme of her workshop on the power of inhabitance, Ellen says that “the truth is, most people selectively inhabit themselves!”

When physical injury occurs we tend to pull away from the site of pain; when traumatic episodes happen we remain frozen in time. Emotional hurt may have you decide to leave your heart behind; living in your head may work until your body reminds you that you need to pay attention. Self judgement creates a negative self image that separates you from your self.

I would add that many of us are doing all these things simultaneously, creating a mess that takes a big toll on our bodies. Sensuality and self-esteem, sex and culture are my beat, but this entire puzzle fits together — from fashion to flogging.

The damage is potentially worse, when the person — that would be me in this case — believes that she has everything under control.

Humpty Dumpty Lives

About a month ago, I never made it to the massage table during my Ellen visit. I don’t remember exactly what she asked me — we always have a 5-10 minute touchbase when I arrive — but if ever a question convinced me that I was a fake at body inhabitance, it was hers.

Ms Smarty Pants Anne — who understands Freud’s sexual theories and Jung’s unconscious mind and Wilhelm Reich’s theory of orgone energy and a host of other mind-body connection operatives — had AGAIN flunked her own real-life assignment of keeping mind and body in alignment.

My intellectual powers have expanded in recent years; my writing is progressing, giving me the online salon I’ve always wanted; the websites are doing incredibly well. My relationships with people are thriving. But once again, I was divorced from my own body, feeling totally out of control of my physicality and living in constant pain — which I handle very well, to my own detriment.

Without warning, Ellen unleashed one of the most emotionally draining hours of my life. She showed me all the ways in which I was able to acknowledge and even discuss some pretty dreadful history in my life, BUT I never put myself fully back together again fully.

To live in my body, I needed to take it back, she argued passionately — not all the chips and broken bits that are the necessary part of everyday living — but the big stuff, the experiences that own me.  I will never forget these nightmares, in which core parts of my best self were stolen from me unfairly.

Ellen’s theory is different from the “write it down on a piece of paper and burn it rituals”.

Ellen says “Go get yourself, confront ritually and collect your heart, or your trust, or your innocence, and take yourself back from the people who injured you. They have no right to your precious parts. Until you make the decision to put yourself together on your own terms, they own you.”

image via Global Change

Taking Back Our Personal Power

For a woman, these moves are very aggressive. If you’re a regular AOC reader, you know that I believe in positive, proactive female power. I believe in women with beautiful muscles and toned bodies, not size 0 beauty standards with the expressed fashion industry message that female hips are deadly.

Note that I have no problem with some size 0s, just not ALL size 0s. And when you start telling me that women’s hips are unfashionable & we should look like boys, I want to throw a cream puff pie in your face.

What inspires me about Ellen is not only her empathy but her willingness to confront the atrophy of female power, especially in women who have spent so much of their lives giving to others as moms. You know the story of woman as nurturer—and we are.

The downside of the nurturing paradigm is self-denial, a refusal to find power and a become a true benefit to all around us by nurturing our own selves without guilt.

In advance of her BodyWord Workshop on the Power of Inhabitance on October 16, I’ve suggested that Ellen spend more time explaining both her terminology and what happens in one of her workshops to readers and prospective participants.

Defining Body Inhabitance

I find the concept of body inhabitance somewhat intellectually abstract — having failed at the goal most of my life. For me body inhabitance is not a permanent state, and we must always be on guard for losing ourselves. What counts, however, is Ellen’s opinion on this subject.

Anne,to elaborate on what inhabitance in the body is, I would simply say that inhabitance, is an emotional, psychological and spiritual commitment to be in an intimate relationship with one’s own physical body or ,as poet John O”Donoghue would say, “the soul’s clay body”. It is no surprise as our world becomes more impersonal that intimacy isn’t understood correctly, because it is rarely experienced. The very nature of intimacy is an active state of receptivity.Learning to be receptive to oneself develops body wisdom.

Intimacy is personal. There is nothing more personal than being inhabited. I am dedicated to helping individuals experience one’s own body as a dwelling place that encourages healthy communication, no judgement and allows one’s creative consciousness to express itself in its’ many languages and intelligences. Healthy inhabitance can be equated to living in your dream home with a family that loves, supports and recognizes you for who you are! It is no wonder than most have hung a sign on their own bodies that say” Gone Fishing”. Living in our bodies as our home place can be a foreign concept, especially if home life as a child was undesirable.

The purpose of the workshop is to awaken such awareness and feelings and offer new perspectives that challenge one to reclaim inhabitance in the intimate body as the best address in town.

image via Anchorage Film Festival, follow link

I smiled when I read Ellen’s comments about the ‘Gone Fishing’ sign on our own bodies. That idea resonates with me. So here’s a toast to putting ourselves back together again and all the physical, psychological and emotional benefits that come from learning to inhabit our bodies — no matter what culture, religion and all the voices that buzz in our brains tell us is wrong with the idea.

Personally, I’m for peace and self-unity. When it comes to Ellen Gayda, call me an apostle. Anne

Ellen Gayda’s BodyWord Workshop on the Power of Inhabitance. Ellen’s website which I am personally redoing next week, because it doesn’t do her justice. More than anything, Ellen needs a website that she controls — not a webmaster — so that her voice is active and frequent in the digital universe.