What we learn from bio-energetic body language can save us a lot of heart ache, or not.
For example, it’s easy to spot an Olympic athlete because their body gives away clues to their drive and commitment. Their physical appearance tells us a lot about who they are. But what can we discern of their energetic body? Can we tell if they are an energetic psychopath, masochist, or rigid from across the street?
Recognizing the energetic body is important in any modality of healing whether body work, nutritional counseling, or undergoing psycho-spiritual therapy. The energetic body is also known as Character Structure. There are five classical energetic body types. To understand what to look for, we must look to the past.
One radical Austrian psychiatrist, Wilhelm Reich, pioneered an important body of research about what he called ‘character armor’. After graduating from the University of Vienna in 1922, he studied neuropsychiatry under Sigmund Freud and worked closely with individuals suffering from anti-social personality disorders. Reich’s system of psychotherapy focused on character structure rather than an individual’s constellation of neurotic symptoms. Muscular armor, as defined by Reich, is the reflection in the body of character armor, or chronic blocks to authentic feelings. Unconsciously, these blocks are frozen in the body creating muscle contractions that run against the awareness of inner-feelings.
As muscular armor develops, so do maladaptive behavior patterns.
All of us exhibit armoring that is felt through energetic patterns we developed in childhood. These are energetic defense mechanisms which become an energetic personality type. These defense mechanisms help us cope with everything from trauma and repression, to violence and/or abuse. Reich’s character armor types are: schizoid, oral, psychopathic, masochist and rigid. These names may sound derogatory, but every 'body' falls into at least one of these categories. Observing these structures with detachment, we can understand our own subconscious influences.
Further, character armor can be identified through other energetic processes, such as the Eastern chakra system. Chakras are energy centers located in different areas of the body. Reich’s work influenced a new field of bioenergetics researchers and consequently, a group of psychologists. These professionals, looking to bridge the mind/body connection through different forms of therapy, transformed the study of character armor into revolutionary approaches to healing. One of Reich’s students, Alexander Lowen, developed the method known as bio-energetic analysis.
Understanding the 5 structures begins by learning the unique self-expression or character armor protecting the physical body. Today, this expression is quite literally known as “body language.” As the body develops, it responds to the environment with individual strengths and weaknesses.
Every ‘body’ tells a story
Psychopath: Even though slightly different, the energetic and behavioral forms of psychopathy overlap in a few key ways. The first is fearless dominance and the second is the subject’s high level of creativity, whether altruistic or destructive, evidenced through a gift for communication.
The upward streaming flow of energy is the hallmark of this character structure. The upward stream appears as a gift for verbal communication, singing, political debate, or other forms of art like acting on the stage, law, or forensic drama. The armoring was developed in childhood and shows by school age. Typically this pattern develops when one parent forces a child into a pattern of betrayal or one-sided loyalty through emotional seduction against someone else. Most often, this betrayal is against the other parent. The child is used as a weapon with the philosophy of, “Side with me.” A similar philosophy is,“Might Equals Right.” This is because the character structure perceives conflict and challenge at every turn and the armoring must come out with dominance and strength to beat the opposition at all costs.
The musculature: a slim trunk, almost skinny legs, with flow or expansion of energy upward, emanating power and strength through strong well-built shoulders, expressive eyes, and usually an elegant neckline. The pelvis area remains loose.
Their hidden fear of this character structure is rejection by someone they love. Their defensive coping style is challenge/hostility, dominance, and conflict to avert the possibility of intimacy. Because their trust was broken at a tender age, they use their power to restore a sense of imaginary justice. They become rejecting or unavailable and closeness can only be tolerated as an advantage. They are well-known for championing the underdog, but this is only done from a place of superiority and possibly even grandiosity.
Strengths: When healed and in alignment, the psychopathic structure will release the tendency to control, manipulate, and fight with others and allow their deep feelings expression in reality. Then, they become strong allies, defenders of social justice, and can be successful advocates for large global causes.They have very clear perception and will give sound advice.
Rigid: This character armor has a stiff, tight, and inflexible body. While standing at rest the posture of the body will be erect, with well-toned muscles, and the energy system is highly charged up. An alternative term for rigid armoring could be, ‘Achiever.’ Individuals with this character armor focus on practical matters of achievement through perfectionism and high expectations. This pattern uses the body as a screen with which to project the ideal version of their ‘self’ or identity onto.
The hallmark pattern of rigid character structure is achievement. The cognitive and emotional processes born out of the perfectionism are: logic, pragmatism, accomplishment, hard work, rule following, discipline, fear of commitment, and verbal adroitness.
The orientation of outward achiever reflects a deeper rejection from a parent at the approximate age of 3 or 4 to the age of 7. The illusion of perfectionism marks a split from their internal truth, which is a feeling of vulnerability, connected to a loving parent. This body structure quite literally shows a rejection by one of the parents of the child’s true self.
Typically the parent who rejects the child has a false ideal of perfectionism as well. The child learns from the parental patterning that openly loving is unaccepted so they begin to use self-control to reduce pain from the loss of safe emotional contact. Achievement becomes an end game. As a way to reduce emotional pain, they learn to make up for it in other ways.
Attention comes from conventional socially-accepted forms of achievement such as approval, praise, and positive reward.
Strengths: When in alignment rigid armoring can let go of the inner voice or critic which bombards them with negative self-talk. They allow themselves more room for error. Less depression and anxiety is the result, which runs at high levels when not aware. Also, less black and white thinking controls their viewpoint and they are able to accept more diverse forms of inner-expression.
Courtney Marchesani is an intuitive, coach, and the creator of Intuitive Soul Languange. Courtney helps people affected by traumatic life events to recover their soul power. She teaches the methods of transpersonal empowerment and healing through ancient wisdom traditions, body language, and modern expressive art therapies. Her works have been featured in OM Times, Huffington Post, and Elephant Journal.