PBSP Archives - Embodied Living

Pesso Boyden System psychotherapy (PBSP) is a body based psychotherapy. It identifies deficits from our past that lead to unhelpful patterns of thought behaviour or state in the present.

Tools and techniques

PBPS psychotherapy uses ‘tools and techniques such as objects, figures and real human beings to heal the deficits by working on the stage of both our present and our past and directing a new healing drama. In this way, you experience the therapy is a cathartic release but also a pleasurable healing experience.

Healing the deficits

We hold these deficits in our body. For example, that feeling of dread, lump in the throat, panic, tightness, or rage.  When we receive the healing in the experience of the structure (the term for a PBSP session) we can let go of the past and become who we truly are.

Meeting unmet needs

Importantly, Pesso therapy uses the stage of both the present and the past. The client simply starts with the ‘here and now’ problem which leads him or her safely into the past which needs healing. In meeting these unmet needs from our past it gives us a sense of satisfaction or wholeness. Moreover in doing so we can become who we truly are and live with more pleasure, satisfaction, meaning and connectedness.


Watch this little animated video to give you a taste.

Contact us to find out more

We need men! On Sunday 12 November, I’m offering men the opportunity to learn how to listen to the wisdom of their bodies, change unhelpful, emotional states or patterns in their behaviour.


I will be running a free personal development workshop (What the Body Knows) which will help delegates understand what their bodies have to teach them, how to let go of the past and live a more fulfilling and happy future.

Men can harness more of their masculinity and power in ways that serve them to find more pleasure and satisfaction in life.

As a registered clinical psychotherapist and certified yoga teacher, I’ll help men and women raise an insight and self-awareness in a safe and balanced group.

The full day will feature a combination of theory and exercises drawn from body psychotherapy and yoga. These simple yet powerful practices have proven helpful for many symptoms and patterns including anger issues, persistent headaches, addictive behaviour, anxiety, worry, tension or sleeplessness.

We hold onto feelings and past experiences in our bodies and it’s only by truly understanding what our bodies have to teach us, that we can never really let go.

Pesso Boyden based psychotherapy (PBSP) is a way of enabling you to experience the full intelligence of your body mind, come to terms with your past and make changes in your life for the future.

The workshop is also available to women who feel at a turning point, either in a professional life, partnering, parenting or simply wanting something new in their future, at a cost of £15.

The workshop will run on Sunday 12 November from 10:30am to 3:00pm at St Albans House, St Albans Road Stafford. If you’d like to get involved or find out more about the workshop, please contact me on 074111 78380 or email sue@embodiedliving.co.uk.

Our bodies know more about our happiness and the things that have happened to us in our lives than our conscious minds are aware of. Pesso Boyden system psychotherapy can help you tap into this wisdom.

The body holds the negative

We may notice tension or tightness, and have no awareness of what’s triggered it. Our faces and other areas of our body hold onto negative experiences and emotions. Without knowing it our expression may show a subtle sadness, anger or fear. Certain areas of our bodies are more highly enervated than others: in particular the face (eyes, jaw, and throat), hands, abdomen (diaphragm), feet, and pelvic area. They are very quick to tense up and slow to release.

Emotional tension at its root

All physical tension has emotional tension at its root. We think of someone who upset us and our jaw tenses, we see a place where we were once unhappy and lonely and our throat tenses around a lump, we might smell something that takes us back to a fearful situation and our stomach feels like a knot. The trouble is, we are often not consciously aware of the link between the sense and the emotional reaction. So we are left stuck or consumed with the emotional reaction.

Feeling helpless

This isn’t a problem if the emotions are positive or transcendent; such as love, joy, or awe. But when the cycle is negative we are left dis-empowered: which builds on the sense of shame. For example, two friends of mine recently went for a walk around some gardens, it was sunny and warm and the two friends were chatting and enjoying themselves. They walked past a gardener watering a bloom of pink roses, they saw the man carefully tending to the flowers and smelt the strong smell of the roses. As they continued the one lady felt elated, and joyful, yet her friend started to feel inexplicably sad and a little anxious.

These two had done a lot of self-development work and got interested in what was going on for themselves. When they got back they talked about this and one friend realised that seeing the gardener had reminded her of her childhood and her father in their garden when she was a child, a very happy time for her. The other lady realised that the smell of pink roses and the blooms reminded her of when her first husband told her he was leaving her for another woman, he had taken the opportunity on a walk in the local park. She remembered the incredible sadness and fear she felt on hearing this from a man she still loved.

Lack of awareness

For many of us, we have no awareness of the processes, and the sadness or the fear may stay with us for a while; it seems to come over us for no reason. Deepening our sense of shame, perhaps.

Sometimes our bodies speak to us by way of persistent headaches, sleeplessness, stomach disorders, numbness or a constantly tense muscle that gives us pain somewhere. Our bodies are reacting to unconsciously re-remembered past experiences that we haven’t fully processed and are loaded with negative emotions such as anger, shame and guilt. In an attempt to self-soothe these painful emotions (and even to continue to repress them) we often turn to compulsive eating or drinking patterns which aren’t the best for us in the long term.

Learning to develop awareness

If we can learn to increase our awareness of what our minds are processing and what our bodies are ‘telling’ us in the moment to moment wisdom of the felt sense inside, we can begin to have more choice about how we react to it. We can even begin to understand what it is that our bodies are re-remembering. It is because the origins are usually traced back to unresolved early memories (before the age of 7) that we get stuck. Not necessarily because the memories are terrible or traumatic. But because at that age our brain has only developed to the second level of its three part structure: the most important ‘processing’ part of our brain hasn’t yet come on line. The cortical brain only starts development around the age of 7 years and is only fully developed into our late teens or older.

Infantile neurology

So if little 4 year old Charlie has a fight with his older sister who is teasing and being mean to him and is provoked into a tantrum and hits her with a plastic track, his mum smacks him so hard he cries and he is sent to his room for a couple of hours. He doesn’t fully understand that the punishment he gets is for his behaviour.

He fails to take away a message that anger and aggression are natural little boy reactions; yet need to be contained in a loving and accepting way by sensitive parents who don’t have their own issues with anger. He internalises a sense that he is a ‘bad boy’: along with the guilt and fear that are linked to the anger.

Adult consequences

And this belief impacts on adult Charlie who is now afraid of his own anger, squashes it, becomes the nice guy desperate to please everyone (it appeases the guilt). Doesn’t do conflict and lacks assertiveness in relationships (fears the ‘consequences’ if he stands up for himself so tends to be walked over), yet has rare moments when he completely loses it, leaving him bewildered and scared.

Pesso Boyden system psychotherapy and healing

If we can take Charlie’s 49 yr old adult brain back to the event at 4 his, now online, cortical ‘executive’ functions can make meaning to resolve the event and when that happens the negative beliefs and emotions are resolved. And Charlie is free, he has more choice in how he reacts and behaves. Hereby the wisdom of the body through the ‘felt sense’ informs the higher functions of the cortical brain, new meanings are made and Charlie is free from past patternings. In a way, Charlie’s brain has been ‘rewired’.

Many of us may not get much in the way of difficult symptoms but we remain unaware of what wisdom is held in our bodies. If we could learn how to bring this to the surface and process things it will enrich our lives.

Pesso Boyden therapy workshops

Sue is running half day experiential workshops designed to help us look at what our bodies can tell us about ourselves. The aim is to raise insight and self-awareness. In a small, safe groups (6-8 people) we’ll use some gentle and powerful Pesso Boyden experiential activities to look at what surfaces from our bodies and what meaning we make in the world.

Read more about PBSP here.

Find out more about our PBSP modality here



Many of us, from time to time, question who we really are. We may have moments where we feel we are truly being our ‘self’ and other times where we sense we are putting on a mask or a front. Pesso Boyden System psychotherapy (PBSP) will help you become more true to our self and feel less anxiety and more pleasure and peace in your life.

We hold onto the past

Yet we hold on to feelings and experiences from our past that that limit us. If we can begin to understand that our current reality is woven from the fabric of our past experiences we can realise that we are often ‘trapped’ in living according to an old map. But what if we want to change and truly move forward in our lives?

Pain rather than pleasure as default experience

Many people experience pain rather than pleasure. Frustration instead of satisfaction. Despair as opposed to meaning and alienation not connectedness. Yet all of us in this existence can get to enjoy the bliss and joy of living.

Experience the bliss of living

This is far more accessible to those who have been reared by and have lived according to the demands of our genetic nature where we had our complex developmental needs met at every stage by sensitive and ‘good enough’ parents. Those lucky few! But what of the rest of us? How do we change our minds? This body-based psychotherapy, is one of the most profound personal development modalities you might experience to change your life and become who you truly are.

Here are some key principles of Pesso Boyden body-based psychotherapy for personal development

The Basic Needs

We have five basic needs that are part of our ‘genetic drivers’ or our human operating system. And these needs have to be met in childhood by good enough parenting.

The needs are for:

  • Nurture
  • Support
  • Protection
  • Limits
  • Place

These basic needs have to be met first of all physically in the first 5 years or so of life, then symbolically from years 6 to 10 or so and then we are able to do it for ourselves (we learn this in our teens) and be an autonomous independent adult being. It goes without saying, that all of us, to some degree or other, have gaps in these basic needs.


Our ‘memories’ consist of a combination of energy (emotions are energy), which leads to action (the aggressive behaviour that comes from the energy of say, anger) and the interaction that results from that (perhaps blame or punishment) and then the resulting meaning that we make of that (anger is bad, therefore I am bad). The negative or traumatic experiences create the old map that we become trapped in and are bound to repeat. Take the numerous men and women who consistently choose abusive partners. Strangely this ‘choice’ of relationship ends up seeing people repeating past traumas in an unconscious attempt to find a solution and an end to it. Whoever we choose as our partner, they will never be able to fulfil basic needs that weren’t met in our childhood, they are never going to be the mummy or daddy that we so desperately wanted to please or satisfy us. Yet we are locked into a constant quest to have these deep needs satisfied.


The mind is often thought to be in the brain but do you realise that we have a brain in the body? The very definition of consciousness is the microtracking of the moment by moment experiences coming from our senses in the here and now. As Damasio says, consciousness itself is the ‘feeling of what happens’. The feeling experiences of our bodies is the definition of consciousness, but we need to become aware or conscious of this felt sense in order to take control of the glorious human show that is uniquely ‘me’. In the Pesso system we say that we need to awaken the observing, executive part of the ego that has the overview of consciousness (the pilot) and which can run the show in a way that gives us more pleasure and fulfilment in life. When you properly learn the ability to microtrack your inner experience states, you come into contact with who you really are in this moment, who you have been for some years. You come home to yourself.


Who has watched a terribly angry or upset child having a full-blown tantrum turn from being red in the face to almost blue? They need an adult to hold them to help them recover and regulate their high arousal levels: in this contact they get limits. As an adult the person will then have an embodied sense of what it is like to have been held lovingly in a state of high emotional arousal and to trust that emotions like anger or aggression can contained, and are not ‘unlimited’. And ‘good enough’ parents will later teach that boy to express his feelings in words. But if the child has the opposite experience and is punished or blamed for the expression of emotions, instead of being lovingly limited he will have a less healthy relationship with his emotions. Having this experience of ‘loving limits’ in childhood can help people to feel their power and to trust that they can handle it, thereby trusting themselves more.

These principles are some of the foundations from Pesso Boyden system psychomotor and many of them are common sense or somehow intuitive to us. I will write more about the basic needs and our human operating system in another blog.

Read more about PSBP psychotherapy


“it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”

It’s an old adage from neurolinguistic programming (NLP), and it was Richard Bandler, the co-founder of NLP, who said it. It was controversial at the time; and of course we are entering the realms of magical thinking if we think we can change the past.

We cannot change the past

The past happened. Fact. And our past is immortalised in our memory. But our memories are far from factual, and far from fixed. Think about how unreliable witness statements are seen to be in the eyes of the law. And have you ever experienced talking to a friend or family member about a childhood memory? But both of you seem to remember the same thing in a very different way?

How memory is coded

Memory is coded in each of us in a very subjective way. Memories consist of the emotions the interactions and the meanings that we each, individually, make at a certain time. Subsequently, every time we recall a memory, there is the potential to change the memory. If this happens, that memory is put back into your ‘memory banks’ changed. Our memory can, literally, play tricks on us, as with each recall we change it put it back, change it put it back.

Neuroscience’ view

The Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux had to say of this discovery:

“Most neuroscientists, myself included, believed that a new memory, once consolidated into long-term storage, is stable. It’s as if every long-term memory had its own connections in the brain. Each time you retrieve the memory, or remembered, you retrieved that original memory, and then returned it. Reconsolidation theory proposed a radically different idea — that the very act of remembering could change the memory. Therefore, every time you remembered, you’d recall the memory as it was the very last time you remembered it, rather than the memory that was created the first time. And it would be replaced as a new representation. This theory suggested that the very act of remembering might render memories fragile, subject to change or perhaps erasure.”

What we can change

But it’s not that we can change what happened to us in the past. However we change its emotional charge. The meaning that we wrap up in the memory can be updated. And if we can do that we can successfully difficult events in our past become events that happened, but we are no longer have to get disturbed or caught up in them. This is done in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. This part of the brain gets ‘damaged’ by trauma but we can reinforce healthy activity of this region of the brain in psychotherapy or yoga therapy.

How the healing works

It kind of works like this:

  • Limbic pathway (in childhood memories)
    Get angry at 4 when sister takes toy (emotional energy) > hit sister (action) > get punished by parents (interaction) > feel like a very bad boy (meaning encoded in feeling)
  • Reversal of limbic pathway, by re-presenting old memory to higher cortex as an adult (cortical pathway for remeaning)
    Little boy got mad and parents didn’t handle it well, therefore I am not bad (feeling of relief and memory is resolved)

Neurolinguistic psychotherapy

This is the basis of neurolinguistic psychotherapy (NLPt) – it frees us of the past. This is important because memory runs the show. In every moment of our lives we are subtly and subconsciously influenced by the memory of our past experiences. For example anxiety is often due to underlying and repressed anger. If we are repressing our anger (defence mechanism) part of our mind knows, and gets anxious because anger means we are ‘bad’ (see above childhood example). It is important to remember that the subconscious mind is simplistic and childlike (and incredibly potent) and makes powerful links between events and meaning.

Creating new memories

However what is even more remarkable about memory is that we can consciously create new nurturing memories that run parallel to the old unsupportive ones. This creates a deeply embodied sense of what it could have been like to have had a very different childhood experience. This is quite amazing.

Remember what Einstein (I think!) said, “The brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality.” Actually I think the brain does; it’s the body that doesn’t. We can use our imagination to create an embodied ‘felt sense’ of what a certain (positive, nurturing) memory would feel like. When we get that ‘feeling of what happens’ it changes our very consciousness (see Damasio).

Pesso Boyden system psychotherapy

In a Pesso Boyden psychomotor (PBSP) session today, a client nicely sums up the experience:

“I’ve just had a realisation that if I can live this in my mind, the perfect family situation, and create a memory out of that, then it shows how much power the old memory has got to hold me down. I’ve been buried in them, I am letting them have power only I can give them. Only I decide to give them that power and invest in those old memories. Now I realise I can place my power of thought where I want to, and not invest in the old [negative] memories, but put my energy into the new experience I have just created. It gives me a fizzing feeling all over my body and I feel connected and whole. I feel at one.”

We don’t change reality – that would be (at best) magical thinking or (at worst) hallucination. But we change the meaning that we make of reality, and in doing that we change its hold over us. And simultaneously we can create, through our imagination, in  PBSP, new parallel memories that give us an embodied sense of ‘what it could have been like’.

The two together are a powerful partnership

Memory runs the show: present consciousness is woven from the threads of memory. The present moment by moment experience therefore is ‘loaded’ with the felt sense and meaning of the negative memories from our past. Change this and you change everything.

That sense of ‘living the life you were born to live’ runs deep in our human psyche. It resounds with all of us, on some level. Have you ever watched ‘The Sound of Music’? I hadn’t until today. I had sat down to write a blog post and got completely absorbed in this wonderful film. One moment of the film touched me in particular: Maria runs back to the abbey to escape the conflict developing in her life and Sister Abbess is giving her some advice about right and wrong, choosing God or love:

“These walls were not meant to shut out problems; you have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live”.

We long for happiness

From the depths of our soul we long to connect with our true self and we hunger to find pleasure, meaning, satisfaction and a sense of connection in our life. Yet many of us experience pain rather than pleasure, frustration not satisfaction, despair as opposed to meaning and alienation not connection. Nevertheless, all of us in this existence can truly live the life we were born to live and enjoy the bliss and joy of living.

This is the goal of all of the effective personal development systems; from yoga to psychotherapy. In Pesso Boyden therapy (PBSP) we have a common sense, accessible model that helps us to understand how people act and behave as they strive to improve their lives. Developed through five decades of working with people in groups, coupled with in-depth study of the psychology of human development, PBSP helps us to understand and change the ways we have learned to limit our lives.

The Five Life Tasks

One of the most important concepts in PBSP is the ‘Five Life Tasks’: these form our basic programming as human beings, almost like genetic drivers, which when attended to and met during our life, lead to the good life.

Here is a short summary of this important underlying concept which, albeit in a different language, applies as much to yogic and other systems as it does to PBSP:

  1. Satisfaction of basic needs

    The basic needs are for: having a rightful sense of place in the world; being nurtured so that we feel fully parented and alive inside; a sense of support that gives us a feeling of security and groundedness: protection to shield us from danger, give us an inner sense of power and control and help us define ourselves; and have a sense of limits, so that we know our own power is not uncontrollable, omnipotent or infinite so that we can be free and spontaneous as an adult without anxiety or a fear of not being in control. When basic needs are satisfied at the appropriate age, by the appropriate kinship figures we feel alive, secure, grounded and are comfortable both with our own power and our vulnerability.

  2. Integration and alignment of the polarities of being

    We are created by seeming opposites: the female egg and gene pool of our mother and the male sperm and gene pool of our father. Parents play a vital role in unifying our inner life by loving and accepting each other and by accepting all parts of us. If our parents don’t like each other and/or their forebears, we are likely to be in conflict with those aspects of them we find in ourselves. Such polarities may express themselves in being ‘lopsided’ in our sense of rational/intellectual vs intuitive or creative; not integrating fully both feminine vs masculine aspects of self; imbalances in either giving (the disease to please) or receiving (receptivity vs reactivity); problems integrating power vs vulnerability with deficits showing as a strong sense of shame; issues with integrating maleness vs femaleness.

  3. Development and expansion of consciousness

    The development of consciousness leads toward the creation of meaning (and as humans we are meaning-making machines!) and is a fundamental goal of human activity. From as early as when we are in the womb, our behavioural interaction with the outer world of people, objects and events registers on our nervous system and is converted into the inner world of consciousness, experience, concepts, meanings, beliefs and thoughts. However for many of us, much of this in outside of our conscious awareness, hence we have little sense of understanding it or being in control. Read my What the Body Knows article for more explanation.

  4. Development of the ‘pilot’

    Good parenting develops the pilot, by this we mean the highest level of our neural assembly (the pre-frontal cortex) , which is the highest level of consciousness and control which humans are capable of exercising. The part that is in ‘charge’ which makes choices and implements those choices in our best interest. It is also the ‘witness mind’ that part of consciousness and experience that has perspective on our experiential states (an objective distance) and, at the same time, lives those states (rather than being dissociated).

  5. To become who we truly are

    Each one of us, on some level, feels a push to become who we are and follow our inner calling. To validate and cultivate our own uniqueness and true potentiality in life and to make our own unique, personal contribution to evolution of existence. We innately sense this drive to self-realisation or self-actualisation. In many ways, those parts of us that have somehow been blocked or repressed from this ‘pushing’ force of genetic realisation, go underground and become our phobias, compulsions, bodily symptoms or dis-eases, fantasies, addictions etc.

Needs are met through ‘good enough’ parents

These tasks are far more likely to have been met in those who have been reared by and had their complex developmental needs met at every stage by sensitive and ‘good enough’ parents. However, given the sheer complexity and long period of dependency that we spend as children or immature adults, this is an unlikely achievement for most of us. Think of it this way: as human beings we spend up to 30 per cent of our life dependent (most of us don’t leave home or a surrogate home (i.e. university) until our early 20s), whereas throughout the rest of the animal kingdom only one per cent of their life is spent as dependent. This is mostly dictated by the longer time it takes the human triune brain to develop – our brains are not fully developed until our late teens/early 20s.

Living more joyously

So any personal development system that focuses on attending to completing the five Life Tasks, will help us to live a better, more joyous and fulfilling life and be the best human being we can be. PBSP is a systematic and highly respectful therapy which helps clients become aware of their internal maps or blueprints for living. Memory is essential to our living a good life, yet some memories keep us entangled in a disempowering history. Unmet needs from the past create problems when we transfer them onto people in the present. And the quality of life in the present can be diminished by the very strategies and defences that helped us survive difficult events in the past.

Becoming who we truly are

The PBSP approach utilises the brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity to provide individuals with new, ‘symbolic memories,’ embedded in the here-and-now experience of their PBSP session (called ‘a structure’). These alternative memories meet the client’s innate genetic expectations of being fully seen and understood. The effect is to lessen the power of trauma or of unmet developmental needs to disrupt present-day life. People can become more fully who they truly are, and consequently experience more pleasure, satisfaction, meaning and connectedness with others in daily life.

For more about PBSP and its approach to helping you live the life you were born to live, contact me.