Skip to content

Reich’s Map of Body Armor: Thoracic Segment


According to Reich, our most important segment is the thoracic as it contains our vital organs: the heart and lungs. When we are tense, anxious, angry, or depressed we can feel those emotions in our chest. When we are tense, we may experience our chest as if it were in a vise grip or a knot. Our anxiety may be reflected in rapid, shallow, breathless breathing. If we are angry, our breath speeds up – our muscles tighten. We may want to release our anger either with vocalizations or through hand and arm gestures. Our muscle contractions may result in chronically taut back muscles that reflect a stance of “holding back” – a rigid, detached stance that can manifest as persistent back pain. If we are depressed, we may feel a heavy weight on our chest pressing us down. Our energy level lowers with shallow breathing and we feel more lethargic and down.

When our chest is open and unarmored, we can feel softening around our heart that is experienced as tenderness or longing. We can express that by reaching out with our arms and hands to another. Our breathing stabilizes in long, slow, deep breaths. We may feel more relaxed and a deeper sense of well-being. Our chest is soft and can yield to the lungs’ desire to inhale and exhale fully. If we need to cry, our chest surrenders to the sobs. Our arms and hands are warm with the flow of circulation. The back muscles and shoulders are supple, mobile, and move with the breath as well.

This segment includes intercostal muscles, pectorals, deltoids, muscles of the scapula, spinal muscles, the chest, hands, and arms.The thoracic segment is the first place of armoring, after the eyes. Armoring in this segment occurs when, as babies, we unconsciously hold our breath in an attempt to reduce anxiety (Valium).

We are often in a state where we chronically hold in our breath – an unconscious mechanism of emotion suppression. Then the chest is continually inflated and our exhalation is strained and insufficient, which causes chronic anxiety. The armored chest expresses restraint and self-control. Our breathing energizes our entire body and mind so if our breath is minimal, so is our energy level.
In Orgonomic therapy, we focus on the thoracic segment first in order to build the energy charge during the session. That illuminates other places of armoring needing to be addressed. We loosen the thoracic segment – especially the chest and back – so the breath and feeling can flow out. We mobilize the arms and fists to express rage, or the fingers to reach out in longing accompanied by an open breath and a sigh: ahhhhhhhh. As the energy charge builds through open breathing, we help the energy move down to the pelvis by releasing the other segments, which allows this migration down the body.

As you go through the day, notice tension in your chest, allow the breath to deepen, and complete your exhalation. Roll your shoulders and release your back with your breath. Feel your heart open with warmth and reach your arms and hands out to others.

Back To Top