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Reich’s Map of Body Armor: Abdominal Segment

 

Reich delineated seven segments of armor. As a review of my prior posts, we have covered the ocular, oral, cervical, thoracic and diaphragmatic segments. The remaining two are the abdominal and pelvic segments. At a point in the therapeutic process when all these segments have been sufficiently opened, the energy can be released effectively throughout the body, and particularly in the lower half. Reich called this energy economy in that energy is created and released efficiently. This supports a healthy mind/body because tensions and stasis that build up are released regularly through the open channels of all the segments. With the opening of the final, pelvic segment, sexual contact becomes more gratifying, with full surrender and release of the body’s excess energy. This allows for expansion, deep relaxation, and complete pulsation within the autonomic nervous system (ANS).The sixth armor ring is the abdominal segment. It includes the large abdominal muscles, as well as the muscles of the back. The side muscles hold tension as well and can indicate stasis when the patient is ticklish in this area. The abdominal segment is important in that the nine meters end-to-end from the esophagus to the anus are lined with sheaths of neurons that influence our mental, emotional and physical states.

The gut or second brain, as it is sometimes referred to, reflects and contributes to our emotional wellbeing and is quickly responsive to stress. Like our first brain, it develops patterns of coping from early on that are connected to our character defenses, experiences, cognitions, and past traumatic events. These patterns become lodged in the circuitry of the second brain and replay repeatedly throughout our life. The second brain is a functional mind/body concept, founded on scientific research. It fits with Reich’s model and his focus on rebalancing the ANS.

The concept of the emotional gut is critical to our understanding of digestive sensitivities, reactions, and symptoms. Essentially, nerve cells in the gut act as a second brain, which controls our gut all by itself and coordinates with the brain in our heads. The gut responds through a network of neurons that line its interior. This mass of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters, helps determine our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases. The second brain contains 100 million neurons – more than either the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system. And it is a self-contained network of neural circuitry with neurotransmitters and includes 95% of our serotonin and proteins. It monitors the entire digestive function as well as emotional responses that influence that process.

Our dual nervous systems are reflected in our gut reactions to events and situations. When we experience anxiety or depression, we often have alterations of GI function. Stress can over stimulate nerves in the esophagus causing a feeling of choking or constriction. And the fight or flight hormones from the sympathetic side of the ANS stimulate the gut to constrict, possibly at the same time we are digesting food. We can feel chronic, uncomfortable sensations like ‘butterflies’ in our belly, or have chronic symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea or constipation. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is defined by a pattern of pain, cramping, bloating, gas and other chronic symptoms. IBS is caused, in part, by too much serotonin. Our every day psychological/physical experience is dependent on messages from the second brain below the brain above.

There have been studies showing that early life stress in young rats separated from their mothers caused the layer of cells that line their guts to weaken and become more permeable, allowing bacteria from the intestine to pass through the bowel walls and stimulate immune cells. Experts in this new field of neurogastroenterology discovered that patients with chronic gut disorders often had early childhood traumas. We can develop unhealthy patterns within the second brain that erode the healthy functioning of the body’s tissue and its secretions. These patterns can last a lifetime unless interrupted therapeutically.

Orgonomic intervention can, over time, help regulate the fight or flight responses thus reconditioning the second brain’s responses. By opening the breath, softening the musculature, releasing the pent-up memory and feeling, and altering the character style, the embedded patterning of the second brain changes. These changes reinstate the balance of the parasympathetic part of the ANS. Thus, exaggerated, over-reactive fight or flight responses diminish over time and are utilized when realistically required. As we understand our characterological propensities, we discover how we perpetuate unhealthy patterns that impact all systems within the body. First and foremost, we must change our character style so that it stops perpetuating destructive programs. Throughout the character work, behavioral suggestions on self-regulation, life style changes, and stress management can create real transformation. As you can see, the abdominal segment is complex and significant to our health and wellbeing.

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