Peace without Fear, Boundaries without Violence: The Work of Paul Linden, Ph.D.

By Dana Levy

Think of a time when you felt challenged, threatened, or in conflict. Let it settle into your body a little bit. (If you’re feeling delicate as you read this, don’t overdo it.) Take some time to ‘taste’ the way your body feels. How does your body respond to challenge, threat, or conflict?

If you’re like most people, you may narrow yourself physically, shrink or contract yourself, shorten your breath, and possibly clutch or hold around your belly. The response may be intense or mild, but your habitual responses, the actions you do in your body, are likely the same.

This is the “distress response,” as Paul Linden refers to it. He also calls it “smallifying.” “When we are threatened or challenged, or hurt, we contract or collapse our posture, breathing, and attention—this is called the distress response, and it is usually experienced as feelings such as fear, anger, helplessness or numbness… These powerful physical responses hijack the rational mind and compassionate heart and move our thinking and acting toward oppositional and violent ways of dealing with the challenges we face. Being hurt or hurting someone often leads to dehumanization of the other person and of oneself too, and out of this comes more violence and more distress. When the distress response gets locked in the body, that is the trauma state.”

Linden developed a body-based approach of working with the distress response, for survivors of abuse and other trauma. It’s also for people looking to learn self-defense, reduce stress, or improve physical capacity, as well as for those looking to be more grounded and compassionate in their lives.

When he began practicing the Japanese martial art of aikido, Linden found that he could not easily master the physical techniques, so he began developing movement awareness experiments with his own breathing, posture, muscle use, balance, and so on. Using “the intellect in service of body awareness,” Linden went on to become an advanced practitioner and teacher in Aikido. (He currently holds the rank of 6th dan, or 6th degree black belt, having practiced and taught for over 50 years.)

Linden practiced and incorporated insights from several other arts and systems such as yoga, the Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais Method (of which he is a certified instructor), Non-Violent Communication and Isshin-ryu karate. He also earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Physical Education.

Being in Movement®

From his aikido center in Columbus, Ohio, he began teaching people how to apply his body-based movement awareness principles to stress management, conflict resolution, improved athletic and musical performance as well trauma and abuse recovery, eventually naming his approach Being in Movement®. As a master somatic educator, he works with practitioners, professionals and clients throughout the world.

Linden will be in Salt Lake City next week (September 13-16) to teach people the skills for becoming more embodied, expansive and grounded in situations of challenge, conflict or pain.

“The opposite of and antidote to the physical state of smallness [of the distress response] is a state of centered expansiveness. This state of calm alertness and compassionate power moves our thinking and acting toward empathic, assertive and peaceful ways of handling conflicts,” Linden says. “And living in the present with compassionate power breaks the chains that bind people to their past trauma.”


Paul Linden in SLC, Sept. 13-16, 2019

  • Friday, September 13, 6-8pm, Introductory lecture at Inbody Academy. Donation-based. Reservations:
  • 14-16 (Sat-Mon) Being in Movement® training, held at Inbody Academy. $425. Details and registration:
  • Linden has published articles and books about his work including healing from trauma, Embodied Peacemaking, basic and advanced body awareness skills, and several children’s books; most are available on his website,

This article was originally published on September 4, 2019.