The Three Functions of Potency

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Potency has three basic functions in the human system: organizational, protective and healing. It is important for the practitioner to recognize when these functions come to the forefront and to have an appropriate relationship to each of its expressions.

Organizational: Potency acts from the moment of conception to organize cellular differentiation and embryonic development, maintaining tissue morphology and order throughout life, and––given the unresolved conditions present within the system––will further act to generate the best possible overall cellular-tissue organization in a moment-to-moment fashion. It is important to perceptually experience this ordering force at work in clinical sessions and, indeed, within our own system. This most basic ordering function is a primordial expression of the Intelligence that Sutherland spoke of––an Intelligence with a capital I (Sutherland 1990). In relatively recent research from Tufts University, research scientists discovered that the folding of the frog embryo into a body form has nothing to do with genes, but is an expression of bioelectric forces at work between cells, within the fluids of the embryo! In Sutherland’s terms, this is an illustration of the primordial organizing forces within the fluids of the body, that he called potency (Vandenberg L. N., Morrie R. D., and Adams D. S. 2011).

During session work, when unresolved history and related inertial issues and fulcrums resolve, you may sense the organizational function of potency coming to the forefront. Here a period of reorganization occurs, where the fluid-tissue field is reorganized into new relationships as conditional forces are resolved and are no longer organizing factors. You may sense, as this occurs, a resurgence of the potencies/life forces that folded the embryo into a body shape, as the primal midline surges and the tissues, suspended in fluid body, are reorganized into a new compensatory from.

Protective: When the conditions of life are met¬¬––and conditional forces enter the mind-body system––potency will also act in some way to protect the system from its effects. It initially does this by confining the conditional force to as small an area as possible in order to localize and minimalize its effects on the system. To achieve this, potency densifies, or coalesces locally where a conditional force has impinged upon the system. This can be readily seen in William Seifriz’s 1950’s research on the stable 50-second cycle of streaming within the fluids of the slime mold, a primordial fluid organism. This constant and stable streaming was found to always be present as an underlying factor, not affected by the presence of conditions or conditional processes. In this research, he noted that when he introduced toxins into the fluid of the slime mold, the local protoplasm densifies in order to minimize the effects of the toxin on the wider system. It does this by confining the toxin to as limited an area as possible and “meets contingencies, heals itself and thus saves itself” (Seifriz 1954). This is a direct expression of the protective function of potency within the fluids of our mind-body system throughout life.

Likewise in biodynamics, we discover and directly perceive this protective function within the human system––where potency densifies, or coalesces within the body’s fluids in order to protect the system from the presence and effects of conditional or added forces. In Becker’s language, potency acts to center the conditional force within the system. He called this the centering function of potency (Becker 1997). As we shall see below, potency acts locally to protect the system from the presence of unresolved conditional forces by generating what is called inertial fulcrums, areas of density and relative inertia which, as in the slime mold research, confines the impinging force to a limited area, in order to reduce its impact upon the system as a whole.

In clinical practice, the practitioner may sense potency coalescing in a spiral-like fashion, centering the unresolved conditional force within as local an area as possible. This will be sensed as local areas of density and inertia, which, in turn, generate various compensatory tension patterns within the human system. It is always important to recognize that within every inertial fulcrum, and every condition found in our body-mind system, there is health at work centering the unresolved issue within the whole mind-body system as best as possible, given the nature of the conditions present. It is the role of the biodynamic practitioner to orient to the health present within each condition, and to help the client’s system access and express that health. Likewise, in truly overwhelming experiences, potency may also express a system-wide protective response. As a practitioner, you may then sense density and protective inertia throughout both the physical and fluid bodies.

Healing: Under the right conditions, potency will initiate healing processes and act to resolve conditional forces and their effects upon the system. In this context, one role of the practitioner is to help a client’s system settle into states of deepening equilibrium ad stillness, where a systemic shift to wholeness and primary respiration is attained. (Becker 1997) This process is called the holistic shift. As the holistic shift deepens, potency will naturally initiate healing processes.

In our current Karuna Institute foundation training, we orient students to the presence of what is called the “three bodies” in some osteopathic practices. These are really three interactive fields: the physical body, or tissue field (cells and tissues), fluid body (field of fluids and embodied potency or life force) and tidal body (the vast tidal field of the Long Tide as it moves towards and away from a person’s midline). Each field is suspended in the other, the tissue field is the densest, suspended in the fluid/potency field which is less dense, suspended, in turn, in the vast tidal field of Long Tide, which is least dense, but most powerful in its supportive role. In the holistic shift these three bodies enter a state of deepening equilibrium––physical body suspended in fluid body, suspended in tidal body––all suspended in stillness. As this occurs, field within field, the waveforms of the cranial rhythm (CRI) and the various expressions of history sensed, will subside and the practitioner may sense the physical body becoming more whole and fluid, like a fluid-embryo suspended in a wider tidal field.

Once the holistic shift deepens, potency may express healing intentions in many ways. One common expression is a shift in function of potency from its protective function to a healing process. As a practitioner, you may sense potency as a healing force shifting in the fluid body towards particular issues in the system. Along with this, you may sense the whole fluid-tissue field reorganizing around an inertial fulcrum, expressing a specific pattern relative to its presence (classically called a strain pattern). As the local area enters a deeper state of balance and stillness, you may then sense a shift in function as the inertial potency within the inertial fulcrum shifts from protective density, to a healing intention. As this occurs, you may sense a number of things expressing. These may include: (1) local pulsations of potency within the inertial area; (2) shifts of potency from the wider fluid field towards the inertial area; (3) a welling-up and permeation of potency in and around the inertial site that may have a soft, yet powerful quality; (4) a deepening of the state of balance and the emergence of field phenomena and healing processes mediated by the Long Tide; and a deeper settling into Dynamic Stillness from which multifaceted healing processes emerge.

As these processes occur, you may also sense local conditional forces being resolved as heat and vibration, along with related nervous system activation clearing. As the conditional force and its inertial fulcrum resolve, you may sense a quality of softening and expansion in the local area and a period of reorganization and realignment to natural fulcrums and midline then occurs. As introduced above, here potency expresses its organizational function and acts to generate a new form of cellular-tissue organization, order and compensation. Commonly, as a process completes, you may sense a surge in the fluid tide as more potency/life energy becomes available within the client’s system.