skip to Main Content

Reich’s Map of Body Armor: Oral Segment


I discussed the ocular segment in my last post and will now move on to the oral segment. This segment includes the mouth, jaw, throat, and back of the head. Presence of armoring in this segment can be quite apparent both in behaviors and physical symptoms.

In infancy, our first critical need is to obtain nourishment, which is met through our mouth with milk from mother’s breast or bottle. As we pass through the oral stage developmentally, we can experience degrees of satisfaction, frustration, or deprivation. This stage, with its emphasis on feeding, includes contactful nurturing; a warm, relaxed, and secure bodily and emotional context; and a resonant bond with the mother or caretakers that allows for abiding trust to establish and grow.

If we have a disrupted bonding experience, we can have two reactions: either we are forever seeking satisfaction or we are cut off from ever having any satisfaction.

If we are constantly seeking satisfaction because we chronically feel tension or an oral charge to release, we may find ourselves trying to relieve the tension or charge with over-eating, talking too much, smoking, buying things, drug addiction, alcoholism, or other behaviors focused on taking in constantly through the mouth to relieve anxiety. We need, want, crave, and gorge on experiences, food, material stuff, trying to secure supplies, and avoiding pain. If we are not taking in, we may feel highly anxious, tense, and restless, and crave satiation to relieve the building tension.

If we never experienced pleasure and satisfaction early in our lives, we may become a more ascetic type. We might tend to be “tight-lipped” and uninterested in oral gratification at all. We wouldn’t enjoy food that much and may tend to compensate for our feelings of deprivation by creating a disciplined life characterized by more abstinence. With a repressed ocular block, we may deny ourselves pleasure, feel contracted, be judgmental about pleasurable pursuits, and behave with rigidity. The tendency to be overly controlled and controlling goes along with this type.

The oral segment regulates our expression. The oral unsatisfied type might be over-talkative, attempt to manipulate through constant expression, can cling, and be demanding and devouring. The mouth is open a lot!

The oral repressed type is avoidant of communicating, sparse in conversation, can hold in feelings, and tighten down and distance in relationship. The mouth has a severe, flat expression.

Oral armoring can be seen in habitual expressions: sarcastic smiling, continuous smiling, or a contemptuous or smug grin. The chin may be collapsed or pushed forward. The throat can be pinched in a way that results in a whining sound or weak voice. There can be continuous coughing, swallowing, and fear of choking.

The entire facial presentation is effected by oral armor. The face can appear frozen if the mouth and voice are rigidified, or slack and saggy with a needy formlessness. As we develop early in life, our spontaneous expressions, communications, and feelings may be inhibited by our family/societal norms. Thus, we literally swallow down our feelings or distort our facial expression to conform to expectations. Our entire face may reflect both our inner pain and our distorted expressions.

I have delineated the extreme versions of this block. We can experience oral armoring to a lesser degree in our tight jaw, teeth grinding, and tension headaches emanating from our clenched jaw.

Many feelings are held in the oral segment: anger, sadness with a chronically downturned mouth, and fear that wants to scream out with an open mouth. When the mouth is armored, all feelings are stymied as their natural expression is blocked.

When this segment opens with therapy, it allows our mouth to be supple, expressive, and able to take in and experience satisfaction and pleasurable sensations. We express ourselves with an open mouth without a need to devour or control. Our mouth makes contact with all the expressions available and enables a spontaneous and regulated life.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I recently discovered the very restrictive armoring around my throat and found how it’s release also affects my sexual performance. I had hints about my throat from incidents in my past but didn’t really understand their meaning. Once a long time ago when I went to my weekly therapy session my therapist said. “You’re an artist and you’ve been coming here for over a year and I’ve never seen any of your work. Why don’t you bring something in next week?” Thinking that my most immediate and spontaneous work would best reflect the workings of my mind, I quickly executed two pastels just before going to my session. One was of a very advancing, extroverted figure-just a head and neck of a black man.The figure filled the whole page. Most prominent was the neck. It was long and volumetric and had rows of vertical bands under the skin. The second figure was of a little , timid looking guy that faded into what looked like a sketchily drawn floral wallpaper pattern. When I got into the therapy room the therapist had me place the pictures -one against each of two ottomans that were on the floor to my left. One ottoman was near my chair and the other near hers. We sat facing one another. There was about 14 feet of space between us. We were almost through with our session and never once were the paintings mentioned or- for my part – even consciously noticed- when I suddenly blurted out in a panic: “Oh my god! They’re coming together.” Without missing a beat Kathy my therapist said: “And what will happen if they come together?” I replied: “I’ll be lost.” After we went down the stairs at the close of the session-a familiar beaten path-I mistakenly took the wrong turn and walked into the bathroom. Looking back at her in confusion she said:”It’s okay, you just had a shift.” I recognized later that day that what had occured was the unintended setting into motion of the shuttling technique used in gestalt therapy. The surprising incident taught me that I could only feel myself when I was either way out there as my hyper animated, highly talkative self, or completely still, and in a deeply contemplative frame of mind. Otherwise, I didn”t exist. I realized I simply couldn’t cope with the grey areas of life. Well, there’s so much more I could say about my throat discoveries, successes using gestalt techniques on my own, chakras , an instantaneous healing of a severe sore throat involving a premonition, a sodalite stone and a healer, etc. etc. etc., but I’m afraid this is turning into a novella. Hope you found this interesting .
    A sincere seeker,
    Glen Caturia

    1. Thank you for reading my blog and engaging. I appreciated hearing about your session, your throat block and insights as well as the topic of your art work.
      You had a really good insight as well as to your two sides that rule out the middle ground.

      Throat blocks are tenacious. As you continue to vocalize in therapy and investigate the timid guy under the animated one you may deeply feel into your passivity and its oigins as well as how those attitudes manifest

      With appreciation,

      Dr. Frisch

Comments are closed.

Back To Top