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Character armour was a construct developed by Wilhelm Reich that linked certain bodyily qualities of posture and muscular tension to habitual character structures. There is limited scientific support for this thesis and it is best considered under the rubric of pseudoscience
For Wilhelm Reich, character structures are based upon blocks--chronic, unconsciously held muscular contractions--against awareness of feelings. The blocks result from trauma: the child learns to limit his awareness of strong feelings as his needs are thwarted by parents and they meet his cries for fulfillment with neglect or punishment. Reich argued for five basic character structures, each with its own body type developed as a result of the particular blocks created due to deprivation or frustration of the child's stage-specific needs:
- The schizoid structure, which could result in full blown schizophrenia: this is the result of a wound of not feeling wanted by hostile parents, even in the womb. There is a fragmentation of both body and mind with this structure.
- The oral structure: from deprivation of warmth and milk from the mother, around age 1. The oral structure adopts an attitude of "you do it for me, because you didn't nurture me when I was young." Shoulders are usually hunched, head bent forward, wrists and ankles weak, as if to say, "I can't get it for myself."
- The masochist structure: this wound occurs when the parent refuses to allow the child to say "no," the first step in setting boundaries. The child seeks relief from the rage that builds up underneath bounded muscle and fat, by provoking others to punish him.
- The psychopath or upwardly displaced structure: this wound, around the age of 3, is around the parent manipulating, emotionally molesting the child, seducing him into feeling he is "special," for her (the parent's) own narcisstic needs. The child concludes he must never again permit himself to be vulnerable, and so decides he will instead manipulate and overpower others with his will. The body is well developed above, weak below, as the psychopath pulls away from the ground and attempts to overpower from above. This structure has variations, depending on the admixture with prior wounds: the overbearing is the pure type, the submissive is mixed with oral, the withdrawing, with schizoid.
- The rigid: this wound occurs around the time of the first puberty, the age of 4. The child's sexuality is not affirmed by the parent, but instead shamed or denied. This structure seeks to prove to the parents and others that he is worthy of love. He is often beautifully harmonious, but there is a physical split around the diaphragm between heart and pelvis: love and sex. This person has trouble with being aware of his emotions, which are strong, yet buried. This rigid structure has many substructures, depending on the exact nature of the wound, the admixture with other pre-rigid (oedipal) structures, and the gender: in women, the masculine aggressive, hysterical, and the alternating; in men, the phallic narcissist, the compulsive, and the passive feminine.
While each of these structures has blocks, and these blocks to some degree resemble "armour," it is only the rigid structure that truly has what Reich called "character armour": a system of blocks all over the body. Depending on which version of rigid one is, the rigid character possesses either 'plate' (i.e. clanky) or 'mesh'(much more flexible) character armour.
- Alexander Lowen, The Language of the Body
- Wilhelm Reich, Character Analysis
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