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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 Manic Depressive Character

This post continues our discussion of Phallic Character types. In our last post, we described the Chronic Depressive Character , a phallic type distinguished by repression in the oral segment. The Manic Depressive also has an oral block, but it is the unsatisfied type. Please refer to my post on the oral segment as it discusses the oral repressed and unsatisfied types that color all the major characters.

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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 Character Types: The Hysterical Character

This post continues our discussion of Wilhelm Reich’s schema of character types. 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.

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Reich’s Character Types & The Genital Character

 

This post will begin my series on Reich’s Character Types. 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.

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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 Concept of Contact

 

My blog has focused lately on a delineation of armoring and the seven segments of armor. I will move on to another relevant concept, contact, contributed by Reich to the field of psychology and psychiatry. Elsworth Baker in Man in the Trap aptly describes contact: “Contact requires movement of energy above a certain minimal level plus excitation. Where the organism is free of blocks there is a free-flowing plasmatic movement which gives rise to sensations (organ sensations) and a three-dimensional perception of the body.”

What does this really mean in our daily life? When we feel in contact with another, there is an exchange of energy, feeling, body sensation and excitation. An interesting personal, psychological, political or philosophical conversation can engender an experience of contact. Our cognitions, feelings, and body sensations intertwine and we feel ‘alive’ in the interaction. It can be a simple discussion between two people about prosaic items, like plans for dinner, an event you are going to, or a project you are taking on together, and you enjoy the mutual contact and exchange.

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Reich’s Map of Body Armor: Pelvic Segment

 

We have arrived, in our delineation of the segments of armor, at the final, seventh segment: the pelvis. Once the other six segments have been opened, releasing the pelvic segment will allow us to experience a complete flow of energy and circulation from the top of our head through to our feet. Energy can circulate and be released through work, pleasurable activities, exercise, and sexual expression. The pelvis should be flexible, mobile, and move with ease so that it can allow energetic movement rather than become a block to expression. This openness from head to toe creates a sense of well-being, health, ease of movement, and relaxation. Relational intimacy also increases as our expressions flow more freely and we can make good contact with others.

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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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