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July 2022: Inspired by Adversity, We Create our Own Intrapersonal Shift

inspired by adversityFor July and August, I am taking a break from writing a blog. I am taking time to relax and spend time with family and friends.
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There are difficult situations we all face: rising rates of Covid, Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine that challenge us on a daily basis, and shootings and gun violence that are painful and horrifying to witness.

Other difficult challenges invade our psyches, be that health issues, personal challenges, hardships and stress.

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Let’s take our moments to breathe and relax. I always love a good book to fall into and enjoy the saga! I particularly like historical fiction.

Thanks for your continued support and I hope you are all taking time to relax and enjoy the summer months!

June 2022: Reich’s Character Types: The Hysterical Character

Climate change is and should be our number one priority. Because it is so difficult to face, we turn the other way; it is too challenging to grasp. We may make small efforts, but they pale in comparison to what is actually needed. It is not a top priority across the globe because winning elections is more important than issues of climate change.
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The school shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde have horrified us. The death of the children is intolerable! The shootings in Buffalo were an outgrowth of blatant racism. In both shootings, the offenders were 18 and able to procure guns at their young age.
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Ukraine is in a phase of the war where it’s faltering as Putin continues to absorb land. These are hard times, it’s difficult to look anywhere in the world and feel encouraged.

Despite all of this we will find resilience in the face of darkness: hopefulness in the face of pain. We will keep our faith in all that is good.
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Reich’s Hysterical Character Type

Continuing on with character types from last month, we revisit another blog from June 2014, Reich’s Character Types: The Hysterical Character.

This post continues our discussion of Wilhelm Reich’s schema of character types, with a focus on his Hysterical Character. As I stated in the last post, I will add further types from Object Relations Theory to complete the typology at the end of this series. I will present Reich’s types initially as he delineated them to give you a clear sense of his system and how he evolves the types out of the psycho-sexual developmental stages. I will eliminate some of the extensive elaboration and specificity within his typology so my readers don’t bog down. This post will include historic contextual markers relevant to Reich’s theoretical evolution and the development of this specific character type.

As part of the Genital character which we discussed in the last blog, Reich includes the Hysterical Character type, referenced as: genitality with anxiety as a subset. This diagnosis has roots in ancient history and the Middle Ages where hysteria was discovered and designated as a medical condition thought particular to women. When Sigmund Freud began his seminal work in the field of psychoanalysis, hysteria was at the forefront of his developing understanding that “medical pathologies” can be traced to the mind. Freud’s launching pad was the work of French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, who investigated hysteria in-depth. Serious symptoms like paralysis and fugue states (behaviors displayed, but later not remembered), became an impetus for Freud’s research and he published a series of articles on hysteria and the mental etiology of these conditions. Freud delineated how hysterical symptoms are a conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms, i.e. paralysis, fugue, or selective amnesia. Freud and his student Reich attributed hysterical symptoms, including overdramatic behaviors and emotions, as the unconscious mind’s attempt to protect from psychic disturbance.

Reich’s discussion of the hysteric type is, of course, influenced by the times he lived in. During the period of his mentorship with Freud and after separating from Freud (1918-1934), Reich incorporated Freud’s analytic concept of libido or biological sexual energy and, after years of research, expanded on it and scientifically validated the existence of biological energy. He ultimately named it Orgone Energy. Freud, on the other hand, moved away from his earlier concept of libido and reduced it to a psychic concept without physical basis.

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May 2022: Reich’s Character Types: The Genital Character

In these difficult times, we endure Putin, who slams us against the wall of a most unhealthy character presentation: a psychopathic, brutal bully.

We watch the tenacity and determination of Zelensky who represents integrity as the world watches; wanting him to succeed.

Many battles to be won; many in the world have united and that is promising.

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We make our way through the ongoing pandemic with new variants that cause continued fear and vigilance.

On top of everything, we enter the controversy of Roe vs. Wade; and the issues of women’s reproductive rights and freedom.

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The following is a comprehensive blog that I originally posted in June of 2014. It introduces Reich’s entire system of character typology. It begins with the healthiest of characters: the genital character.

Our character types are relevant, and I hope you enjoy the blog.

This post will begin my series on Reich’s Character Types; starting with the Genital Character. I will utilize additional input from Object Relations theory to amplify the content, particularly at the end of the series. Reich’s character type typology gives us a map of how developmental passages combine with nature and nurture to influence formation of our defensive structures and, over time, define our consistent way of being. This system of organizing character types is functional in that it does not pigeonhole people in a black and white way. Most people fit into a defined character type with some consistency, yet we are also all unique, therefore adding shading to an individual’s description. Reich’s character typology creates an elegant map that correlates with his schema of body armoring. This is a comprehensive and integrated approach to the mind/body: the character types organize the body structure and vice versa, affecting the entirety of the body, including the autonomic nervous system.

In classical analytic theory, it is understood that development is a complex interaction between our genetic, energetic template combined with early attachment progress, family dynamics, external situations (i.e. war, death, relocation, medical issues, etc.) and other influences that effect how our lives progress. Reich wove all these factors together and defined the inevitable fixations and resulting armoring as they occur during various developmental stages. This tapestry defines how and where the energy can get concentrated or blocked. Symptoms occur when there is blockage at various points of development.

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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.

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Your Authentic Self

your authentic selfA major goal of therapy is to help our clients build, often from the ground floor up – to find your authentic Self. Many of us suffered adversities that impinged on the developing Self as it traversed the earliest developmental years. There are significant stages of development that culminate in young adulthood where our sense of self becomes stabilized as it manifests in our inner life and in activations (actions) in the ‘real world’.

The Self is formed in years 0 to 5 and becomes consolidated in the teen years and in an additional launch phase after high school — further solidifying in college and/or early career years. Fantasy, for example, plays a role in our toddler years (if allowed) as we learn to create imaginary tales that later become the basis of our creativity and translate into unique life endeavors.

If life conditions are sufficiently healthy to foster and support growth in personal awareness and self-examination, we develop qualities needed to persist: frustration tolerance, ability to stick to our endeavors, resilience, discipline, and emotional intelligence that allow the maturation of the authentic Self.

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