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Reich’s Phallic Character Types & the Chronic Depressive Character

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.

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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.

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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.

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Reich’s Concept of Armoring

 

Wilhelm Reich coined the term armoring as a reference to character and body armor. Initially trained as a psychoanalyst with Freud, Reich veered from standard theory and practice and over time conceptualized a very different paradigm. He practiced with an engaged style in the here and now, interacting with how patients presented in the office and toward him. 

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