Understanding the basic processes of life
makes every day experience simpler and more rewarding.
What is Emotional Armoring?
“Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.” – Rousseau.
Wilhelm Reich, M.D. showed how these “chains” are made up of emotional armoring. Armoring creates distortions in our bodies as well as our behavior. Almost no one is free of this.
Great novelists describe characters physically, giving readers the sense of character distortions: the person who draws in his breath, the angry man with a tight jaw, or the stubborn person with a stiff neck. This is emotional armoring.
Emotional armor converts free laughter into a cackle or twitter. It may cause a woman to speak in a little girl’s voice. It distorts emotional expression and makes behavior stereotyped.
Emotional armor most often shows in muscle tension, but is also revealed in glazed eyes, in excessive body fat, rigid thinking, or a rigid character. It is a trap to which we gradually become accustomed. Life becomes narrower and duller.
Ocular armoring is one form of emotional armoring. The armoring exists both in a person’s brain and in the muscles of their ocular segment, which includes most of the head. Ocular armoring causes people to make mistakes in their perception. It keeps people from being able to see clearly and understand what they’re seeing right in front of their faces. With ocular armoring, people can’t tell how their behavior comes across to other people.
Armoring narrows the experience of life down from full aliveness to living at a level of mere existence. The heavily armored individual fears expansion, and pleasure gives him anxiety. Emotional armor blocks the flow of natural impulses and bends them to new purposes. Just as light is bent when it hits glass or water, armoring bends core impulses into another direction.
Consider the natural aggression of a child. Repeated punishment causes repression and emotional armoring – and the child’s natural impulses turn into spite, hatred, sneakiness, and other secondary impulses. These in turn are disguised by superficial compliance, politeness, or other cover-ups. Core impulses of love also become distorted.
Character analysis starts by treating character mannerisms. When these are resolved, one finally arrives at the core, the natural person. In the course of therapy, all human emotions are elicited, although, of course, there is no sexual activity of any kind between the therapist and patient.
Emotional issues are rooted in our bodies as well as our minds. Each person’s character structure has developed to maintain a level of emotional repression that has been comfortable, even though it can restrict energy levels and happiness. There is a time and a place for holding back ones energy. However, because our vital energy is identical to our sexual energy, constrained energy always, in some way, interferes with full sexual functioning.
Character analysis has the potential to change a person’s body as well as their feelings and values. When armoring loosens, people give way to an increasing flow of energy through all parts of their lives. Naturally, this vitality enlivens sexuality. People develop stronger sexual sensations, deeper emotional contact with partners, more physical and emotional expressiveness, and a rational sense of protection of this aliveness. Progress in sexuality occurs all along as people function at gradually higher levels.
Optimal sex is part of optimal health. Both thrive on the increased ability to feel deep, tender love and yield to intense erotic sensations, leading to involuntary convulsions of the whole body – and loving gratitude. The function of the orgasm is to discharge excess energy. Although character analysis aims toward a comprehensive approach to sexuality, it usually takes time.
For an illustrated discussion of sex therapy, click here.
We are sick because of the way we grew up. When children hold back from expressing “unacceptable” or painful emotions, they must contract the muscles that would have expressed those feelings. When holding back becomes habitual, emotional armoring is in place. Then, without emotional release, chronic anxiety sets in.
The “nice little girl” who never gets angry and the “brave, strong boy” who never shows fear and sadness have both lost the full and rational expression of natural emotions. Rigid muscles and attitudes keep them from feeling intense emotion and organ sensations.
Armoring results in dullness, numbness, suffering, blaming others, and destructiveness. It clouds perception, thought, feelings and self-expression. It undermines general health by restricting the flow of life energy and blood to needy tissues. Emotional armoring is the crucial, overlooked factor in health.
Armoring constricts energy directly, but it also consumes energy to maintain the constriction. With release of armoring, new energy is available for life, work and love.
Character analysis has its roots in biology and biophysics. Pleasure involves outward movement of energy, whereas fear and misery are felt when energy moves back toward the core of the organism. The shift between expansive pleasure and contracted anxiety reflects actual lengthening and shortening of autonomic nervous system fibers.
Expansion is a parasympathetic function, contraction sympathetic. This healthy ebb and flow constitutes the pulsation of natural organisms. With emotional armoring, the pulsation gives way to chronic contraction. Chemical imbalances also result from armoring, we suspect, because they tend to normalize as therapy progresses, allowing for gradual reduction of medication.