This post continues our discussion of Phallic Character Types. In my last post, we visited the Narcissistic Character who heads up the Phallic Character Types. As we discuss these types further, I will delineate various blocks that color the basic Phallic Type.
The Chronic Depressive is a Phallic Type but, due to holding-repression in the oral segment, namely the mouth and jaw, (see post on the Oral Segment) this Phallic type suffers from depression. He has all the basic features of the Phallic but, because the block is predominantly in the oral segment, his energetic movement and expression is clamped down resulting in depression. Reich stated that this diagnosis is predominantly male, though I have seen this character type in females as well.
A healthy oral segment facilitates taking in with pleasurable sensations through a wide-open, soft, receptive mouth. Also, we give out through our oral expression in the form of voice: words, sounds, and feelings, facilitating relational communication so that we may pursue our needs in the world. This segment, if restrained, reduces both what is taken in as well as expressed. If the lips are tight and thin, and the mouth clamped down, then not much goes in or comes out. There is a lack of sensuality with oral repression. The more the block dominates, the more one experiences depression. The Chronic Depressive struggles between his energetic Phallic Narcissistic features and the oral repression that drags him to earlier developmental blocks. He has maintained his Phallic station, but has a lowered energy level and, if the oral block dominates, he can give up the Phallic level completely and the depression overrides any free flow of energy.
The Chronic Depressive’s oral repression begins with a history of unmet needs. He may have missed breastfeeding or nurturance in a resonant way. So he clamped his mouth closed and harbored disappointment, sadness, and then anger in his jaw. He may have been misunderstood in his youth and wasn’t free to express himself in the myriad of ways necessary to grow up unrestrained. He didn’t feel deeply supported and seen. As a result, he couldn’t fully become himself or utilize all his energy and intensity on his own behalf. He may have realized what he lacked but did not have the confidence to be overtly angry, and instead felt guilty. If he expressed his dissatisfaction, he might risk what he had, so he suppressed his natural expressions. Underneath, he felt a grief, loss, and sorrow at not being loved and those feelings were held back as well. He might have appeared as a more serious, diligent, quiet, and well-behaved child trying to please and care-take the parent.
The Chronic Depressive can defend against his vulnerable feelings with righteousness and indignation, or with ideological or personal stances as he expresses his personal aggression in these more muted ways. He feels disappointed underneath, but has difficulty taking those feelings seriously. As a result, he may feel chronically irritated and frustrated, as his life is not satisfying and he lives with pent up aggression. He has problems manifesting, as aggression is essential to activating intentions in the world.
This Type is quite sensitive to his own feelings, and the feelings of others, as his phallic narcissistic traits are minimized by depression. The Chronic Depressive has lively, contactful eyes and can make good contact. His eyes are an expression of his sensitivity and, at times, heightened feelings. He frequently experiences anxiety as feelings churn within, and he is acutely aware. He can be generous – he often care-takes others. His care-taking impulses ward off his deep longings. He takes care of others rather than expressing his needs to be loved and cared for. He has a long history of self-sacrifice. He doesn’t want to rock the boat so he learns to adjust to circumstances and not demand too much for himself. This is his bind.
He may not appear depressed and sometimes he isn’t, as he can be quite engaged in the world. But inside, he battles with his depression. He is strong but restrained. It is the restraint that is his weakness. He can’t quite realize his own agenda – come out into the world and claim who and what he is, as a Phallic Narcissist can. His oral repressed block tempers his power and then he feels depressed.
The Chronic Depressive has a serious temperament. When the depression is activated, he can feel low energy. He will have cognitions that go along with depression, for example self-blame and criticalness. As Phallic Narcissists blame others, the Chronic Depressive blames himself and takes all the responsibility. He accepts others’ weaknesses but doesn’t offer the same tolerance toward himself.
He is extremely honest and responsible in all aspects of his life. He has a strong drive and is often is very competent, even with his lowered energy level. He is usually above average in intelligence, orderly, and conscientious. He can have compulsive traits due to the drag back from the Phallic to the oral level. This can show up in hyper orderliness and meticulousness. Yet he does not function up to his capacity. Since he does not live up to his natural energy level, he feels inadequate and then guilty about that. So he gets caught up in a loop.
The Chronic Depressive does have ample determination and doggedly keeps going. He longs to expand, express, and feel free from the psychological weight he carries but has strong inhibitions against the desired freedom. He does not let himself feel pleasure on a regular basis and modulates his entitlement. It’s as if he has to take care of others first and is reluctant to give himself what he wants. This is why Chronic Depressives make excellent caregivers and are enablers. He survives by being needed. And ignores himself by focusing on others as a way of deflecting his own anxiety and depression.
Therapy helps to mobilize and expand the Chronic Depressive’s energy. In bodywork, the chest is mobilized so he can breathe more freely. With the expanded breath and energy, he can feel his inhibited rage that has resulted in depression and release it. Also, his deep sorrow, loss, and grief can be felt through crying. His oral segment begins to give way and his mouth softens. With these changes, his energy is freed so he can direct it towards his own life and creative activation. He realizes his longing for pleasure and love and can go about changing his life. His negativity can be transformed into pleasurable life experiences. His natural drive helps him to work intently in therapy – he sticks with it and gains the benefits.