The Art of Letting Go: Why Reichian Character Armor is Worth DismantlingFeb 27, 2023
“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”
Have you ever felt like you're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? Maybe you walk around with your head down, or you're always clenching your jaw. Perhaps you have a hard time making eye contact, or you find yourself hunching over to make yourself smaller. If any of this sounds familiar, then you may be carrying around something called "character armor."
Character armor is a term coined by Austrian psychologist Wilhelm Reich, and it refers to how we protect ourselves from emotional pain. This includes both the physical and psychological manifestations of defense mechanisms, such as social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, and isolation. Reich believed that character armor is often created in response to trauma and that it keeps us from experiencing both our emotions and our true selves.
While character armor may offer some protection in the short term, it can also be incredibly damaging in the long run. Not only does it prevent us from healing the wounds that led to its creation in the first place, but it also stops us from fully experiencing the joys and pleasures of life. In other words, it's time to put down your armor and start living! Here's why Reichian character armor is worth dismantling:
Disclaimer: This blog post is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. If you feel like you might be struggling with character armor, please reach out to a qualified mental health professional for help.
The History of Character Armor
The concept of character armor was first introduced by Wilhelm Reich in the early 1900s. Reich was a medical doctor who became interested in psychoanalysis after working with Sigmund Freud. He developed the theory of character armor as a way to explain how people defend themselves from emotional pain.
Reich believed that character armor manifests itself as specific physical characteristics, such as muscle tension, shallowness of breath, rigidity of posture, and color changes in the skin. He also believed that character armor becomes manifested as specific characteristic postures, gestures, and movements that a person may have. For example, someone with character armor may avoid eye contact, or they may walk with their shoulders hunched over.
Trauma & Character Armor
One of the reasons why Reich came up with the concept of character armor was to explain how trauma affects the body. He believed that people who have experienced trauma often develop character armor as a way to protect themselves from further hurt. This is because character armor acts as a barrier between an individual and their emotions.
For example, someone who has experienced abuse might develop character armor as a way to protect themselves from feeling pain. However, this can also lead to numbing other emotions, such as happiness and love. As a result, people who have experienced trauma often struggle to form healthy relationships and connect with others on a deeper level.
Photo credit : Sharn Kang @ Unsplash
Dismantling Character Armor & Healing Trauma
If you think you might be carrying around character armor, there's good news: it is possible to dismantle it! However, this is not something that can be done overnight—it takes time, patience, and practice. Here are some tips for getting started:
-Awareness: The first step is becoming aware of your own character armor. Pay attention to your body language and see if there are any patterns or habits that you've developed over time. Also pay attention to your thoughts and emotions—do you find yourself numbing certain feelings or constantly trying to keep them at bay? If so, this could be an indication that you're carrying around character armor.
-Breathwork: Once you've become aware of your character armor, start practicing some breathwork exercises. Breathwork helps release tension in the body and allows you to connect with your emotions on a deeper level. It's also incredibly grounding and can help reduce stress and anxiety levels.
-Therapy: If you think you might be struggling with a character armor related to trauma, therapy can be an extremely helpful resource. A therapist can help you work through your emotions in a safe and supportive environment. They can also provide coping mechanisms for when triggers arise.
Carrying around character armor can be emotionally exhausting—not to mention emotionally constricting. However, it is possible to dismantle your character armor through awareness, breathwork, and therapy. When you do, you'll finally be able open up, heal from past traumas, and experience life more fully. So what are waiting for? It's time to put down your armor and live!
Photo credit: Chaney Zimmerman @ Unsplash
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