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February 2022: An In-Depth Look at Character Analysis

character analysisWe started the new year in a bit of a fog. January was challenging what with the Pandemic, threats of Russian incursion into Ukraine, and Putin’s ever-present KGB style, polarized politics that could not even pass a Voting Rights Bill.

Now we wander tentatively into February. Thich Nhat Hanh passed at 95 in Vietnam. I will dedicate my next blog to him.

As a kick-off theme for February, this blog will focus on my ongoing book club; the theme is character analysis, character armor, character defenses, and how to derail destructive styles that alienate others and prevent the Self from emerging. Working with Character armor is a mainstay of Reich.

Utilizing my book: Whole Therapist, Whole Patient: Integrating Reich, Masterson, and Jung in Modern Psychotherapy, I have hosted an online Book Club for the past 3 years. I pick a different segment: one or two pages that allow for a specific focus on each detail, so one doesn’t need to rush through the passages. Each passage is quite dense.

Our most recent session of the Book Club has centered around Character Analysis and I would like to extend our discussion to the general audience.

Discussion points from January book club:

  • Discuss the importance for a therapist to state the obvious.
  • Discuss ways in which patients use character defense to hide real issues, feelings and pain.
  • Discuss various characteristics that describe the patient in therapy sessions.
  • Describe ways to break character defenses.

Here is a passage from Dr. Frisch’s Blog from August 30, 2017, Reich’s Understanding of Character and Body Expression which relates to the discussion:

For example, if a client habitually withdraws as a way to cope with life, that defense is unmasked and deeper feelings are released that have been bound in layers of armoring (the term Reich coined to describe character and biophysical defenses). Then the client learns a more effective and expansive way of relating by developing skills in self-expression rather than relying on retreat. Another example is if a client is emotionally controlling with outbursts of dramatic expression that dwarf the other; that habit is sheared away such that deeper feelings that drive the dramatic display are revealed and new ways of relating are instated. Harshness in style and tone is a sign of character and biophysical armor.

Here is a passage from another of Dr. Frisch’s Blogs from May 9, 2013, How Does Character analysis Differ from Traditional Analysis? which relates to the discussion:

A passage from the blog that relates:

These defensive patterns are very obvious to the trained eye and character analysis highlights and engages them with the client. As therapists using character analysis, we interrupt the unconscious or conscious approaches that do not serve and ask the client to look and feel how they are being in the present. We are more interested in illuminating the unhealthy defensive modes than in using a primarily interpretive therapeutic approach. We work less with history, story, and intellectualized modes because we want the raw, felt a sense of contact with how we are.

Only then can we face ourselves honestly, experience the painful origins from our past with real feeling, and move forward in a very different way.

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