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Reich’s Concept of Armoring

Wilhelm Reich developed the concept of armoring in reference to character and body armor. Initially trained as a psychoanalyst with Freud, Reich veered from standard theory and practice and over time conceptualized a very different paradigm. He practiced with an engaged style in the here and now, interacting with how patients presented in the office and toward him.concept of armoring

Reich created the term character armor. He meant that we all have coping patterns – stylistic character defenses that we develop throughout our life, usually starting before we can think or talk. We scope out our life situation with parents, caregivers, and early schooling, and figure out the best way to adapt. Depending on how our life unfolds, our defensive structure either becomes more adaptive or becomes problematic. Reich called our habitual demeanor, stance and attitude character armor. Our dominant, submissive, pleasing, withdrawn, petulant, stubborn styles, for example, become a uniform we wear in relationships – our suit of armor.

Therapeutic Concept of Armoring

As Reich’s work progressed scientifically, his focus turned to the body and the way it mirrors the character in all systems. He found that our bodies embody the template of our personalities and conform to those dictates. Reich discovered the basic pulsation in the universe and that healthy organisms and organs have natural expansion and contraction. That life energy pulsates. When we are armored, our pulsation is interrupted and the movement restricted; the energy flow throughout our body is impeded. We may experience this as a lack of sensation, aliveness, a stiffness or tension. Armor can develop into painful sensation if places in our body have chronic holding or are under-charged. So our physicality speaks as well as our voice. Our armoring reduces our creative capacity, our natural expression of our unique Self (Ambien).

If we allow expansion, we naturally experience new ideas and interests that we have energy to pursue. As we reinstate our natural pulsation by interrupting our character and dissolving our body armor, we naturally and spontaneously embrace life in the way suited to us. When we are imprisoned in unconscious ways of being, we lose flexibility necessary for healthy adaptation.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Hi … my name is Melissa, and In May 2020 my muscles started stiffening to the extreme) from my hairline down my neck, from the shoulder to neck areas, and down my upper back in between my shoulder blades. No one can figure out why I am in chronic pain from the stiff muscles.

    It got progressively worse by the end of June, and I have been in a lot of pain since then. I could not turn my neck any way ie, left to right and up and down without experiencing pain.

    I started physical therapy (PT) for it, to try and loosen up the muscles. I think it is slowly helping, but what happens during the week in between appts is when doing the PT exercises, as well as stretching my neck and upper back, each time I do it, it is as if I’ve never stretched … those muscles are still extremely painful and tight. Even if I loosen them up, hours later it will be the same tightness all over again.

    Also, the stiff muscles started causing daily headaches that were turning into migraines. I got bad enough that I had to go on a medication to stop them from happening because it was ruining my quality of life.

    I have experienced trauma throughout my entire life (from kindergarten to now, I’m 48). I have always been in fight or flight and am always hypervigilant (it is rare for me not to be … I am very alert, picking up on a lot of little things such as facial expressions, body language, and tone voice … my therapist has even commented on this.

    When I read about body armoring, it sounded like something that might be the cause of everything I am going through. I’ve been trying to find symptoms of body armoring, what it feels like, etc, and I haven’t found an article that stands out to me where it is fully explained.

    I am wondering if body armoring is the cause for all of my still muscles that will just not go away. No one knows why this is happening, and for this long.
    Thank you for reading, Melissa.

    1. Melissa, you are accurate about your experience. Your unrelenting tension is due to your trauma and the repetitive psychological and somatic holding. Please check out my book, Whole Therapist, Whole Patient: Integrating Reich, Masterson, and Jung in Modern Psychotherapy, available on Amazon:

      Thank You!

    2. Melissa:
      I don’t know if you’ll come back to this site. If you do I want to encourage you to not give up. My body armoring was horrible in my 30s, and I developed migraine/tension headaches. It’s very common to have this as a survivor of trauma. I say that because of meeting so many people with the same condition. Yoga helped me for a while, but most of all I was re-traumatized in a job I had. It reactivated feelings from the trauma in my family of origin. Anti-depressant also helped, but getting another job made a big difference.

      I wish you the best.

      1. Hi Jen,

        Thank you for responding. Actually I got an email about your reply to my comment/post. Thank you for the kind words.

        Now it is 2022, and I’m doing about the same … depends if I am in the middle of a flare from fibromyalgia or not (I was just diagnosed sometime in the first coupe weeks of October of 2021).

        Thank you again for replying, Melissa.

        1. I suffered from migraines and extreme pain in different parts of body. Conscious circular breathing/Breathwork has helped immensely. Also everything goes back to the conditioning and programming that we’ve all; been learning since we were children. When emotions are bypassed they stay stored in our bodies – in our actual muscle tissue

  2. Hello Patricia,

    I have been researching on Psychoanalysis for 25 years and lecturing on cinema and surrealism. For more than three months, I have been experiencing a problem called ‘Stuck Song Syndome’. This sydrome is classified as a form of OCD. Some parts of songs (mostly rhythmic) come to my mind and dominate the way of my focusing process and then another parts of songs replace with the previous one. It seems like a ‘memory hoarding’ without any memory. My mind works like an automatical music box never stops.

    I’m a good reader of Reich and I know that the ‘obsessive character’ and the ‘obsessive thougts’ have totally different sources in his approach. Obsessive character can be cured biophysically or with some vegetotherapeutic ways. But what would you offer for this very spesific issue that is called ‘Stuck Song Syndrome’? Most of the studies show that CBT & ERP can be functional for getting some positive results but I really want to know what Reich would offer for this unpleasant experience?

    Thank you for all your efforts.

    1. Thank you for your post and interest in my method.

      The other methods you mention might be effective and you could try them for a shorter term fix; see if they work.

      With my method I see there is a compulsive element to your character that locks things in your head. Your energy is not able to move through your body in a way that dissipates
      the controlling nature of your mind. Your thinking function is too dominant and therefore you become driven with thoughts and analysis — an overly productive intellect but your body is left out of the equation.
      Character analysis and somatic work would be helpful for a longer term fix.

      All the best,

      Dr. Patricia Frisch

    2. It might be a temporal lobe seizure. Read it up on Oliver Sacks’ book about weird neurological cases

  3. Greetings,
    I engage in a type of body armoring that I’ve been doing probably since I was pre-verbal — it manifests as a complete tensing of the facial, jaw, and cervical/shoulder muscles when I sleep. The result now in mid-life is chronic fatigue, chronic debilitating neck and shoulder pain, and periodontal issues that are causing advanced bone loss in my jaws from clenching. Medical doctors treat this with botox injections or pain medication, but I would like to know what type of therapy I should be looking for to help with the root cause? Talk therapy has not been able to help me so far, nor have antidepressants medications. I feel like there must be a way to approach this issue…

    Thank you for any insight you may have!


    1. Thank you for reaching out. These symptoms of severe tension and holding can become debilitating as you well know.
      I recommend that you find a therapist that practices Orgonomy and is accredited as well as licensed as a professional clinician.
      You definitely need both components of Orgonomy: character analysis and somatic interventions. If you just do somatic work then you won’t discover
      what, how and why you hold-on so tightly. Both sides of the process allow the somatic work to be connected deeply to your issues and feelings. Do purchase my book as it explains all in-depth.

      Where are you located?

      1. Hello Dr. Patricia,

        This is Yehia from Egypt.. I have been doing my research on psychotherapy as a tool to deal with my anxieties.. what i finally came to as best way is as u mentioned both (character analysis + vegetotherapy).. but in my country I couldn’t find any professional therapist who work with patients using those techniques.. so i was wondering whether I can be treated remotely (online) using those techniques? If not i can travel monthly to europe for a day.. but will it be efficient to be treated once monthly? Thank u so much

        1. I just wanted to let you know I sent you an email in response to this comment, thanks so much for reaching out. Sincerely, Dr. Frisch

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