top of page

What is SomatoEmotional Release?

This article is included on this website with the express permission of the Upledger Institute.


by John Upledger, D.O., O.M.M.


What Is It?

SomatoEmotional Release is a therapeutic process, the objective of which is to rid your mind and body of the residual effects of past injuries and negative experiences.

Where Did It Come From?

The concept of SomatoEmotional Release was developed during a three year period (1977-1980) while Dr. Zvi Karni and Dr. John Upledger were working together as researchers in the Department of Biomechanics at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Dr. Karni was a visiting professor with our department on leave of absence from his position as Chairman of Biological Engineering at the Technion Institute in Haifa, Israel. Dr. Karni holds doctoral degrees in both Biological Engineering and Biophysics.

Our mutual research mission was to explore the possible areas wherein the fields of Medicine, Biology, Physics and Engineering might integrate to better serve humankind.

Energy Cyst Formation

The concept which developed as a result of our work together is that physical forces which were put into a victim's body at he time of an accident or injury may be dealt with by that victim's body in one of two ways:


  • The injured body may immediately begin dissipating these forces and the natural healing process will follow.


  • The physical forces imposed upon the victim's body may be retained rather than dissipated.

If these forces are retained the victim's body must adapt to this deposition of abnormal physical force. The adaptive response is to isolate or "wall off" the abnormal force so that a sort of "energy cyst" is formed. This energy cyst represents a localized area of increased particle activity which is synonymous with increased entropy. By this we mean that the ions and molecules are moving in a disorganized and chaotic way so that they are not performing usual work and serving the whole body efficiently.

This situation of localized, disorganized particle activity or energy cyst formation within the victim's body produces the necessity for adaptation so that normal "body business" such as conduction of energy can be carried out. We call the energy cyst an area of dysfunction. Normal body energy must detour around the energy cyst. The dysfunctional area does not cooperate with normal and vital tissue and fluid motion. The energy cyst actually inhibits normal body function.

The reasonably healthy body can adapt to and work around these energy cysts. However, extra adaptive energy is required to carry out bodily function with this area of disorganized and uncooperative activity in its midst. As the years pass and the adaptive energy required for function is spent the adaptive pattern of the body begins to lose some of its effectiveness. Symptoms and dysfunctions begin to appear which become more and more difficult to ignore and suppress.

The name Energy Cyst was suggested by Dr. Elmer Green, director of the Menninger Foundation, following his observation of our work using this process.

What Makes Injury Force Result In Energy Cyst Formation?

The most powerful determining factor which causes energy cysts to form is the emotional status of the victim at the time of injury. When powerful negative feelings are dominant in the victim at the time the external forces are imposed, these forces will probably be retained and energy cysts will be the result. We have seen over and over again that those people who retain the effect of injuries and accidents are those same people who harbor anger, resentment, fear, etc. regarding the incident. Once these negative feelings are discovered and released the body dysfunction with its attendant symptoms are free to leave the victim's body.

How Does SomatoEmotional Release Work?

We have observed, since we began to develop this therapeutic process, that the victim's body seems to be of "two" minds. Part of the victim wants to maintain the status quo. After all, life is present and the body is working even though that work may be inefficient and painful. Why risk a change? Another part of the victim is striving for improvement which means that the energy cyst must be dissipated, thus ridding the body of the need for adaptation and discomfort.

During the therapeutic process of SomatoEmotional Release we act as facilitators in cooperation with the part of you that wants to get rid of the abnormal energy cyst formation. In order to do this we encourage the positive aspects of your body-mind and discourage the negative aspects. We will help you express the energy cyst from your body by facilitating your body's memory of the injury and thus ending the suppression.

This facilitation is accomplished by touching you, tuning in to what your positive body would like to do and assisting in this process. The usual result is that your body will assume the positions it was in when the external injury forces were imposed upon it. As this occurs we can feel the tissues of your body relax as the energy cyst is expelled. We can also feel heat radiating from the areas which have been retaining the injury forces and we can frequently sense a force leaving your body along the same direction line from which it entered.

You have probably guessed by now that the SomatoEmotional Release process requires extreme sensitivity on the part of the therapist and an attitude of trust and positivity on the part of the patient. It can be a mystifying experience for both parties involved. It is very difficult to describe in words, but once the release of an energy cyst has been experienced it is clearly understood without the need for verbal description.

What To Expect As A Result Of SomatoEmotional Release Therapy

During the therapeutic session the release of the energy cyst frequently results in a re-experiencing of the pain, fear, anguish, anger, resentment, etc. that was attendant with the original incident. This re-experiencing of the negative aspects of the original injury is a very good sign that the treatment has released, at least a part of - if not all of, the retained problem. When this type of reaction occurs you should not try to suppress the pains and emotion. You should concentrate on the memory and try to re-experience it to the fullest extent possible. Once you are very familiar with the whole incident we must then eradicate the attendant destructive negativity and convert it to the positive energy.

SomatoEmotional Release is not always a pleasant experience but the results are worth the effort required to complete the process.

bottom of page