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The Schizophrenic Character

In our daily interactions with intimate others we look into their eyes and may feel responsiveness, a steadiness and presence in their eyes as they look at us. We have a sense that we are in ‘eye contact.’ Yet for most of us there are limitations in our ability to make satisfying eye contact. If we extend our circle out from intimates we might notice how difficult it is for people to look with a steady gaze or to have clear eyes that are readable. Some ocular holding is common, meaning that our eyes, including our ability to see clearly, perceive reality, sense reality through our physical sensations, tolerate eye contact from others and come forward through one’s eyes, have been compromised. We count on the integration of the ocular segment with our other capacities of sensing, perceiving, feeling and thinking to give us a clear grasp of reality.

Reich stated that a serious eye block starts in the first ten days of life. He was referring to the mother-infant dyad and how the eye contact evolved between the two. Did the infant look into warm eyes that enveloped with safety or was the caretaker distressed, distracted or expressing meanness in his eyes? The absence of early attachment synchrony is a factor in the development of an ocular block.

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Reich’s Character Types: Phallic Character Types & the Narcissistic Character


Reich divided his types into Categories: Genital, Phallic, Anal, Oral and Ocular Types. These are correlated with developmental phases of growth, affecting the character and their biophysical/energetic progression. If an individual does not sustain the Phallic level, he or she may drop back to a Pregenital level (an earlier level of development) because those fixations or blockages dominate the picture. I will be covering the Pregential characters according to Reich and Object Relations in future posts. For the next few posts, I will be discussing Phallic Character Types, the first one being the Narcissistic Character Type.

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Reich’s Concept of Substitute Contact


Last month, I discussed Reich’s concept of contact. This month, I will delineate the opposite idea, what Reich termed substitute contact. We are aware of this relational barrier more than we might realize. As I stated last month, contact requires a certain amount of energy above a minimal level, plus excitation and authenticity. Contact requires an energetic exchange that is felt by both people and includes a genuineness founded on a felt sense of self and awareness of the other. Substitute contact falls below that minimum level and the interactions can feel insincere, artificial, and therefore disturbing, disappointing, or empty.

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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).

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Reich’s Map of Body Armor: Diaphragmatic Segment


As we travel down the body designating the bands of armor, we have passed the thoracic segment (see my last post) and are now at the diaphragmatic, or fifth segment. This band of muscles separates the upper body from the lower half. It is the gateway to the pelvis. It affects the openness of our breath. If this band is tight, our breath is stopped from easily moving into our abdominal cavity. Even if our chest is mobile, we can still have immobility in the diaphragm.

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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: Ocular Segment


In my last blog post, I discussed the general concept of somatic armoring including character armoring. I will hone in now on Reich’s map of the body and what he called the segments of armoring. There are seven segments delineated and I will cover them over a series of posts.

As Reich defined various character types, he also outlined how these various defensive styles manifest as blockages in the body. His schema of blockages started with the eyes and head, and ended at the pelvis, correlating the segments with how energy circulates from top down.

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