Psychosomatic conditions are physical illnesses caused or aggravated by mental factors such as conflict or stress. So when we talk about a psychosomatic process, we’re talking about how feelings lead to physical problems. In other words, it’s about how mind and body are related and function together.
Mind and body function identically. This simple, natural relationship is almost always misunderstood. Let’s clarify it.
Free Flow vs. Blockages
With health, biological processes flow freely, and unneeded energy can be freely released to avoid symptom formation. Mind and body function seamlessly together. But people block the free movement of health by means of armor: chronic muscle tension and rigid attitudes. These blockages give rise to physical symptoms and emotional issues.
Chronic muscle tension results in stress ailments such as headaches, TMJ jaw pain, digestive problems, or such. But I’m not a physician. I’m a holistic psychologist, and I’m limiting my focus to mind/body knowledge I use daily in my practice.
Chronic muscle tension and rigid attitudes function identically. Let’s consider attitudes.
Rigid attitudes lead to many problems, such as in relationships, work, learning, and basic instincts like self-preservation. People whose thinking is rigid become their own worst enemies. Their perception suffers. They can’t see the world as it is. Their emotions get distorted and then they either hold back too much, or they say or do things that make matters worse.
A lot of people end up feeling nothing, but with a nagging sense that there’s more to life and somehow they’re missing out.
A Tight Jaw
Consider a person with a tight jaw. A person’s hardened jaw may contain age-old impulses to bite. Does this seem odd? It’s not uncommon for a disappointed or angry baby to bite before learning to hold back. This learning process leads to armoring.
Armor: Impulse and Defense
Armor begins when impulses flowing outward to the muscles get blocked. The child defends against the unwanted impulse to bite by tensing his or her jaw. At first, it’s a conscious effort, but later chronic jaw tension develops into permanent armoring and is completely unconscious.
There’s always the impulse and the defense against it. Defenses block impulses. One’s total mind/body defense adds up to emotional armor. Armoring keeps both the impulse and its defense out of the person’s awareness and control. Armor is the common functioning principle underlying mind/body disorders. The damming up of energy fuels disease and dysfunctions.
It might surprise you, but a blocked impulse stays right there. In our example, the impulse to bite remains bound and forgotten in the growing child’s jaw muscles. Old emotions don’t just go away. They get stored up in one’s armor and form the underlying root of adult emotional issues and illness.
Superficial results are widely recognized. For example, an armored jaw leads to higher levels of anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, pain from grinding one’s teeth, etc. The person may make mean, biting comments that push others away, a vicious cycle of tension, pain, and trouble.
The Deeper Disorder: Blocked Energy
The underlying problem is rarely recognized: With blocked energy, a stasis develops, and this lack of biological motion deadens normal pulsation so that periodic orgastic discharge of excess energy is not possible. Bodily symptoms worsen.
The mind (psyche) functions identically. Perception and feelings get blocked, including emotion, sensation, awareness, thinking, and natural impulses. Emotional and work problems develop and worsen. The unified function of mind and body armor is to block what would be life-positive.
Blocked energy drives symptoms. Emotional problems are commonly thought to be caused by dysfunctional thinking or chemical imbalances, but the realm of life energy has a deeper, more powerful influence than thoughts or chemicals.
The Psychosomatic Process
Backed up energy is the culprit. It leads to mind/body armoring, which deprives the living organism of pulsation and circulation and leads to stagnation, lack of orgastic release, and psychosomatic disorders. This is the common situation.
What symptoms an individual will suffer depend largely upon the pattern of blockages (armoring) in his or her body. Symptoms usually don’t develop in childhood but later in life when armor can no longer bind enough energy to contain the emotion or impulse. Relieving armor, when possible, allows greater health.
This knowledge is based on original research and writings by Wilhelm Reich.