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The text of the booklet posted below is now included in slightly revised form in my textbook on orgonomic midwifery, which is now available. See our forthcoming publications page for more information.
Muscular Armouring and Orgone Therapy
It has occurred to me that this site does not say much about muscular armouring, Reich's first major discovery, and the one that placed him on the path to the discovery of the orgone. It is also important in that this is what often attracts people to orgonomy to start with. When I first read The Function of the Orgasm in the ninteen sixties, (it is still in print in the UK, Reich's only volume available here), finding out about this discovery was a hugely relieving realisation. It confirmed many intuitive realisations about myself, other people, and our wider society and our culture. These intuitions made me feel that I was either mad or there was something deeply pathological about the world that had been foisted on me as a child. It turned out that I wasn't mad after all and that the intuitions were founded in reality. I will post the text of my booklet Everyday Orgone Therapy at the end of this page, software permitting. Posting a whole booklet is a difficult job on one.com and I cannot be sure it will work, but I will try. That booklet explains the basic concepts of orgone therapy through common experiences of everyday life and attempts to take it out of the highly technical world of 'character analysis' and 'defence mechanisms', and so on.
So...what is muscular armouring?
Most people know unconsciously that muscular armouring exists and what it is. Almost all of us use everyday idioms that assume the existence of armouring. The obvious UK example is the talk of the British stiff upper lip. This is a way of stopping oneself from crying and anyone knows that when someone's upper lip starts to twitch the defence against crying is about to collapse and that they are about to burst into tears. Most of us would recognise the hardened, dead, unexpressive eyes of someone who has not allowed themselves to cry for years, possibly not since they were a small child. Hitler prided himself on being able to emerge smiling from a thrashing by his violent father.
All cartoonists and actors know unconsciously about armouring. It is the stock-in-trade of humour and satire. When cartoonists exaggerate to the point of the ridiculous they are almost always picking on a character defence. A character defence is another basic concept in orgone therapy, a collection of mechanisms, and emotional blockages that a person uses to defend themselves against painful experience and awareness, originally stemming from childhood distress and deprivation. We can often give these defences easily recognisable names: mother's little helper (if you can't get love, at least get some sort of recognition that you exist by making yourself useful, even indispensable); daddy's little soldier, (a strong little chap who never complains or reveals that he needs love and tenderness to appease his violent, militaristic father); the class comedian (fend off ridicule and bullying by making everyone laugh); block off all your feelings and aesthetic responses to life because of your parents' and teachers' inability to respond to these feelings (so you work hard at your maths and get applause for your cleverness, while your needs go unmet).
To put it psychologically, Reich discovered that what we think and feel are not just processes going on inside our brain and head, (as neuro-scientific psychology automatically assumes), but are deep organic functions involving our whole bodies. Someone who has blocked their capacity to cry, for example, has not just made a decision in their head. They have formed involuntary, permanent muscular tensions in and around their eyes, mouth, and throat, and possibly even lower down in the organism, to prevent the involuntary movements that occur when someone cries. Intuitively, a less armoured person who has retained thier capacity to cry will sense the hardness and lack of ability to feel in someone who cannot cry. This inability to cry is a very common form of armouring in western culture. It is by no means the only site of armouring, though it is a very common one. I have just chosen it as an example that I think most people will readily recognise.
Reich found that it was much more effective therapeutically to work physically with patient's muscular armouring than it was to conduct talking-only pyschoanalysis. Releasing chronic muscular tension produced deep therapeutic effects very quickly and released large amounts of energy that were then available for positive use in a person's life. An awareness of bio-energy, eventually orgone energy, was one of Reich's main therapeutic tools and led him to make profound discoveries about how humans function emotionally and physiologically. He discovered that an unarmoured person can spontaneously reach out towards the world (expansion, pleasure) and that armouring, built in fear of the world, prevents this movement and also inhibits the natural physiology of the organism, in particular the autonomic functions that we are rarely aware of, unless they go wrong and cause illness (contraction, anxiety).
He also discovered that inhibition of breathing played a major part in this process of armouring and the blocking of feeling and sensation. He devised a way of re-mobilising his patients' breathing and this is a major element of orgone therapy, as the fuller breathing generates more bio-energy and drives suppressed feelings to the surface. This simple breathing technique is very effective as form of emotional first aid in a crisis and also as support in childbirth. If we help a woman in labour to breathe more fully in this way that Reich discovered, it usually, if she is not too severely armroured, has an extremely positive effect on her labour, reducing pain levels and encouraging her capacity to surrender to the involuntary movements of birth.
Spontaneous movement is an important part of orgone therapy and its aims. Reich studied people's sexual responses in great detail and realised that muscular armouring interfered with people's capacity for surrender to the involuntary movements of the orgasm. The end-aim of his therapy was to remove all permanent blockages to these spontaneous movements and to restore the capacity for full emotional expression and sensitivity.
When Reich was able to release muscular armouring in his patients they always reported sensations of something moving within themselves. He wondered what this 'something moving' was and this naive wondering led him straight to the discovery of the orgone. He had always assumed a bio-energetic point of view in his attempts to understand how people functioned. Eventually he discovered a tangible, measurable, usable bio-energy, which he named the orgone. The history of this discovery is told by him in The Function of the Orgasm and The Cancer Biopathy. (These two books were originally published as Part I and Part II of The Discovery of the Orgone.) (See also C O R E's booklets on the topic.)
Below is the complete text of C O R E's booklet on this topic. My apologies for the strange things that one.com's software does to the footnotes and references. There are two footnotes marked in the original with asterisks with the notes at the bottom of the page in question, but copied to the web-page, they are all herded to the end of the text. There are only two in this booklet and I am sure intelligent readers will be able to work out which one refers to which asterisk.
Everyday Orgone Therapy
This introduction to the principles of orgone therapy has grown out of my difficulties in presenting Reich’s therapeutic discoveries to audiences to whom the concepts of orgone therapy are completely new. It has slowly dawned on me that all the main concepts and principles of orgone therapy, though newly discovered and developed by Reich, are in fact, part of our everyday experience of life and other people. We can present them in medical or psychological jargon and refer listeners to The Function[i] or Character Analysis,[ii] but we can also present them by referring to our listeners’ experience of other people and their own interactions with others in their daily lives. Discussing this idea with a colleague, I threw out, almost as a bet, the suggestion that one could put the necessary ideas across to an audience of newcomers to orgone therapy without referring once to Reich and his writings. (I did not mean by this to downplay Reich’s discoveries and his enormous contribution to psychology, but just to find a more accessible way of conveying what appear to many people to be difficult concepts. I always acknowledge Reich’s primacy in the field and my indebtedness to his writings and discoveries.) I suspect that most of the difficulty in ‘understanding’ these concepts is internal and emotional. The principles themselves are not difficult.
To me Reich’s discovery of human armouring is his greatest feat. As a child I sensed that there was something unreal and irrational about people which I found difficul to accept or understand. Few adults seemed to practise what they preached. Most of them seemed completely unable to do anything that would lead to happiness or the achievement of the goals that they advocated for others, especially us children. Adults who preached courtesy were rude, who preached chivalry were callous and brutal, the religious were ungodly, vicious, and hypocritical, the educated were stupid, socialists were selfish, conservatives happily accepted war and destructive change, and democrats hated those who disagreed with them. When I read of Reich’s discovery of muscular armouring in The Function it was a revelation and explained so many feelings that I had had about the people I knew and the world forced on me as a child. Why had everyone missed this obvious fact about human beings? I apparently managed to salvage my sanity by forming strong attachments to a couple of sane, loving, and genuine human beings who I was lucky enough to encounter. Their presence in my life was a wonderful, lucky accident.
It is so obvious that most people. Possibly all of us, know about armouring. People refer to it in their comments about themselves or other people. It seemed to me that it would not be difficult to explain the concept of muscular armouring by referring to people’s own everyday experience rather than to clinical or scientific writings.
So…how does our own experience of other people help to explain muscular armouring? Let us start with a simple thought experiment. Imagine I have recruited 12 experimental subjects. Of the twelve six are easily able to cry and all tell me that they have cried within the last week and that when moved by a painful or sad experience or an upsetting memory they easily cry. The other six are completely unable to cry and cannot remember when they last cried. It was probably sometime in their childhood some years ago. These twelve people are in the same room as you, socialising, chatting, drinking tea or coffee, mixing. Would you feel able to pick out those able to cry and those who were unable to?
Most people without any formal training in orgone therapy agree that they would probably be able to tell the difference between those who could cry and those who could not. I think this thought–experiment makes the point that most people acknowledge that ‘psychology’ is not merely something that goes on inside people’s heads, even though clinical and academic psychology still behave as if it was. I don’t know and haven’t asked people how they would recognise those who can cry and those who cannot. I imagine they would probably mention a certain softness and aliveness in the eyes of those who can cry and a deadness or hardness or emptiness in those who cannot cry. I immediately think of the psychotic face of a dangerous criminal when a violent crime has been committed. The police search for the perpetrator and have his portrait published in the newspapers. I see the dry, hardened, expressionless eyes, the dead cheeks, the unsmiling mouth, the rigidly held jaw. We do not need to be an orgone therapist to recognise these aspects of a face, even if we only do it unawares. What will you do to stop yourself crying or experiencing this deep. painful feeling?
That you will tense something up to hold out against the painful feeling will not be a strange idea to most poeple, I think.
Obviously, deciding to stop oneself crying is a fairly extreme example. What other things might a person do to themselves to avoid the awareness of emotional pain? People talk of gritting their teeth and getting on with something unpleasant. Presumably this gritting the teeth refers to a setting of the jaw to control an urge to cry out in pain or protest. People recognise a rigidly held jaw as a sign of determination or deliberate courage. It goes with these attributes because to be grimly determined or courageous we have to suppress fear. The opposite to this attitude is a trembling chin and bursting into tears.. Again, these physical defences are readily recognised by most people and are the routine meat of comedy, cartoons, and jokes. An unconscious awareness of armouring and character defences is the very stuff of comedy and cartoons, both in the creator and the audience.
So…we have established the case for muscular armouring. What exactly is a character defence? We can explain this by using the example of the person who never cries. This person will presumably have adopted this attitude towards life to stop himself feeling emotional pain, but he may also have done it to stop others gaining pleasure at his discomfort or their power over him, as a violent, persecutory parent or teacher will interpret crying as a a sign of weakness and powerlessness. (There is an episode on Hitler’s life when his violent father thrashes him and he proudly records how he emerges from the room smiling afterwards.[iii] In his philosophy of life a real man, a real Aryan or Nazi, would accept unflinchingly the most severe physical punishment, even when it was unjust.[iv]) Other attitudes probably go with the inability to cry, perhaps a hard stomach to resist his own vulnerability, a rigid chest to protect himself against his inner yearnings to be loved and accepted for who he is, without having to earn approval by performing.
All these attitudes form a character defence that stamps this person’s way of being in the world, his reactions to others, to challenges to life, to emotional conflicts, and his sexuality that will strike anyone who meets him. If he is a public figure, cartoonists and mimics will seize on these defences and lampoon them mercilessly. If he is a mere mortal getting on with his life as best he can, his intimates will still be aware of these cartoon defences - the dead eyes, his unexpressive face, his stiffness, his lack of contact with feelings, both in himself and in others. While the cartoonist will picture the public figure as dry-eyed and calm while the International Monetary fund dressed up as a surgeon hacks off his arm and a leg as payment for the country’s debt, the wife of the unknown little man will in the middle of a row cheekily pinch his forearm and say bitterly, ‘It’s OK. I was just checking that your’re still alive.’ They are both, the cartoonist and the wife, exploiting their awareness of his inner deadness to make a point.
I have picked out here a single, very obvious, even exaggerated character defence to convey the point, that we all recognise the existence of character defences and the way they affect a person and their interactions with others.
This phrase sounds quite technical, doesn’t it? I can imagine asking a roomful of people what they think it means and not getting many accurate replies. However, if we go into it a little more, I think most readers will realise that they do indeed know what character structure means and that they again use this knowledge all the time without being aware of it.
People of my generation all know the anti-German joke about not mentioning the war, the implication being that the Germans were sensitive about the part their country played in World War II and don't want to be remeinded of it. Families say similar things about an individual if they know that a certain topic will upset a particular person. (The family equivalent might be - for God's sake don't mention his prison sentence, her sacking by the council, his traffic accident, or the day the roof was blown off the house.) This means that the whole family knows this particular event or experience is still emotionally threatening to the realtive in question. If the topic is mentioned, the individual will explode into a distressing or boring tirade which will ruin the family celebration. In other words the family knows that we all have an emotional archaeology: some things are buried just below the surface and are still being processed by an individual, are still part of his or her current emotional life, and some things are buried away for ever, apparently, and are not threatening.
Related to this is the fact that people have very different tolerances for different emotions. This man who decided at a very early age that he was never going to cry again will almost certainly feel quite threatened by the sight of someone else crying, especially if it is another man. He will be much more able to dismiss a tearful woman as ‘a woman, and what do you expect of women?’ At the other end of the spectrum we find people who are quite happy with soft feelings – sadness, tenderness, compassion, sympathy, and empathy, but may be really disturbed by anger, for example, or simply plain energy in motion, as expressed by someone who is active and committed in their actions. Once we start looking at people from the point of view of orgone therapy, these differences are quite easy to understand and observe. You may not be a trained therapist, but you will probably find that you are able to grasp these basic principles.
In the therapy itself we normally work first with emotions and sensations that the individual has some contact with. It may be obvious to the therapist working with the man who cannot let himself cry that this is an important part of his character structure, but it would probably be pointless to tell him this early in his therapy. The information would simply bounce off his armouring. Once his therapy had advanced somewhat and he was beginning to make contact with his feelings or his lack of the ability to feel, he might become aware of his inability to cry or just feel that something was missing. This feeling, that there is something missing, is familiar to most people, I think, especially if they are involved with another person in a close relationship. They may not be able to put a word to it, but we all have some instinctive feeling for a whole person and notice, if only unconsciouly, when someone has lost a large part of their emotional persona. That is the tragedy of armouring, that although the process helps us to feel more comfortable at the time, once we have formed some armouring for the sake of self-protection, we have lost an important part of our humanity. We are disabled, just as much as someone who has been unfortunate enough to lose an arm or a leg, even though other people may not normally notice the loss at first sight.
The Segmental Arrangement of the Armouring
This heading is my own version of Reich’s title in Character Analysis – The Segmental Arrangement of the Armor,[v] part of chapter XV, The Expressive Language of the Living. This is one of his best writings and those wishing to understand armouring and how it works should read this again and again. It is full of therapeutic wisdom and acute observation. (It also appears in Selected Writings.) We could refine this concept and it would appear complex and detailed, but the principle is simple and known to almost all but the most unaware, that is, armoured individuals. It is simply this – that certain feelings belong to certain segments of the body. There seven segments; the eyes, the mouth, neck, shoulders and chest, diaphragm, stomach, and pelvis. In Reich’s medical terminology, the ocular, oral, cervical, thoracic, diaphragmatic, abdominal, and pelvic segments. He counted the arms and legs as extensions of the chest and pelvic segments.
A segment, as in a segment of a worm, is a collection of muscles working across the body together as an emotional unit. Energy, emotional charge, moves along the body. Think of someone wanting to shout or cry. If this has always been frowned on, even prohibited, in their childhood, they will supress this impulse in their voice by ‘strangling’ it, and also, possibly by immobilising their diaphragm. It is a cliché to talk of a strangled voice, and most people recognise a severely suppressed voice, a strangled voice, when they hear one. This is yet another simple example of how everyday awareness of armouring is part of everyday English. The strangling is muscular tension acting across the impulse upwards of the natural voice. Reich uses medical terminology for the segments and calls this the cervical segment. Cervix means simply neck. It is almost familiar nowadays as the neck of the womb, more accurately called in medical terminology, cervix uteri. I think everyone would expect a voice to be strangled in that area, but other emotional blockings are less obvious. There is a very graphic diagram by Reich showing the rings of the segments and the flow of bio-energy along the body.[vi]
Strangling one’s voice in this way will almost certainly be part of controlling anger, even rage. Now, when someone is angry, they will not just want to scream and shout. They will probably want to hit someone and will cetainly clench their fists and wave them about aggressively. These impulses will be inhibited in the chest and shoulders.
We would expect sexual feeling and impulses to be blocked in the pelvis, as indeed they are. But the character of the blocking and the amount of energy that someone’s armouring allows down into the pelvis will vary greatly according to their other armouring. For example, armouring in the eyes can block enormous amounts of energy, and so someone with very armoured eyes will have a reduced energy level in the pelvis. They might therefore not feel very threatened by their sexual impulses and sensations, but in therapy, if the armouring in their eyes had been released, their sexual sensations might suddenly feel much stronger and more threatening. This might produce something we often see in orgone therpay, the strengthening of armouring lower down the body on the release of armouring in a higher segment. Of course sexual sensations and impulses are not really threatening. They are only felt to be threatening, if we have been told repeatedly as a child that they are ‘dirty’ or ‘disgusting’ or ‘wicked.’
The common thread to anyone’s armouring pattern is armouring in the diaphragm and the effect that this has on the breathing.[vii] The more fully we breathe, the more bio-energy we generate, and therefore the higher is the charge behind any feeling we may be having. An early stage in orgone therapy is simply to guide the client towards breathing in a fuller, deeper way, allowing their diaphragm to swing more fully. This breathing generates more energy and the higher energy charge starts to push against their armouring. This effect starts to make the client aware of their armouring, an important stage in orgone therapy. The fuller breathing also produces effects on physiology, such as improved circulation, a slowing of the heart-rate, and a general relaxation. An expectant mother at the end of her pregnancy will start to have Braxton-Hicks contractions, if she breathes like this for long enough. We can make use of this in everyday life, People who have had orgone therapy and are familiar with these effects will often lie down and ‘have a breathe,’ if they are feeling stressed or tired.
We have now established the principle of energy in motion within the organism. This moves away from the centre out towards the world, (expansion), or away from the world back into the self, (contraction). We experience these as pleasure or unpleasure.[xix] Yet again, in English there are plenty of idioms to describe these energy states. Expansion – bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, sparkling, full of beans, as bright as a button, glowing. Contraction – cold-hearted, hard-hearted, empty, dull, dry-eyed. The atmosphere at a social event where there are lots of people present in a state of expansion is often described as pulsating. An event that brings forth little expansive response will be described as a damp squib.
When a person adopts one of these contracted states permanently, Reich speaks of their having bound their energy.[xx] They have immobilised a significant emotional charge and made it apparently vanish. His probing, ferreting mind actively observed his patients in therapy. He saw that sometimes an emotion liberated in therapy, re-mobilised by the release of muscular armouring, could suddenly disappear again. When this occurred Reich wondered where the energy had gone. What had the patient done with it? They had bound it in tight muscles. This would often be visible in a sudden tensing of a group of muscles or the adopting of a particular body stance, in particular a stance where the person is holding or controlling their breath. This process sounds technical, but, again, we all recognise it in the hands of a comedian, cartoonist, or satirist. Imagine a Pythonesque sketch where a character becomes really annoyed and angry with an official or shop assistant. He is on the verge of exploding and becoming violent, when a policeman or ‘zero tolerance’ manager apppears. He realises his number is up and immediately adopts a pose of rigid, cold politeness, aloof, cool, distant. He feigns politeness, while we, the audience, can see his hands behind his back in imagination strangling someone, or his fists clenching and writhing in rage.
A more subtle version of this might be a character who manages to hold her anger or excitation in check by swinging her leg up and down under the table while her upper half stays bland and controlled. An audience watching someone doing this in a play or film would know exactly what the author and actress were trying to convey. It is easy to imagine someone adapting such a tactic as a child to avoid expressing an unacceptable emotion. Most of us will know someone who starts to twitch, move compulsively, or talk more loudly when they feel emotionally threatened or internally excited. The internal binding of energy is being threatened and starting to make itself felt. In therapy we provoke this sort of conflict deliberately in a controlled and safe way, helping the patient to breathe more completely and so to generate more energy, thereby forcing a suppressed feeling up to the surface. Most of us will remember a situation where we have seen this happen simply as the result of a real-life crisis, either in ourselves or in someone we know well. If the feeling has been particularly well controlled for many years and is released in a sudden crisis, onlookers may be quite bewildered, saying they can’t imagine how he can have behaved like this. He was always so polite and orderly. I really can’t believe it. But the feeling will have been waiting there for decades, ready to break out, given a strong emotional charge.*
These states of expansion and contraction are also reflected in the autonomic nervous system, expansion corresponding to the parasympathetic and contraction to the sympathetic. This functional understanding of physiology is the foundation of orgonomic medicine.[xxi]
Awareness of Orgonotic Movement within Yourself
As I completed the first draft of the text above, it occurred to me that readers may like to try to feel their own orgone energy in motion. If you are fairly young, healthy, and not too badly armoured, you can do this. You are probably all of these, as a very rigid, armoured person will not even let themselves read this booklet. After a few lines they will almost certainly decide that this is all rubbish and stop reading it. The section below is an edited version of part of C O R E’s booklet, Sensing the Orgone. An inevitable effect of not being too armoured is a spontaneous curiosity abut the world and oneself and a corresponding effect of severe armouring is the losss of this natural curiosity and intelligence.
Sensing your own orgone is the basic orgonotic sense. (Orgonotic = charged with, excited by, orgone energy.) You almost certainly have some inner awareness of your own orgone energy and probably use expressions that show this awareness without even noticing this.
Music that we love gives us a tingle somewhere, often down our backs. This is so common that we talk of the ‘tingle factor’ in music without questioning the words. We take it for granted that others know what we are talking about. No-one ever asks what is causing this sensation of movement within us. And if something is moving, what is it that is moving? When people have very strong feelings they also experience a similar sensation. Reich’s patients in psycho-therapy reported very strong sensations of something moving when their feelings were aroused and Reich paid attention to this. He dared to ask the forbidden question – what is moving? And when a person loses the ability to feel this movement, what have they done with their excitation. Where has it gone?[xxii]
Part of sensing the orgone is our reponse to other people. Again, this is something we all feel all the time, hardly aware of what we are doing. Younger children particularly react to people in this bodily way, with what we call a ‘gut feeling.’ Some people, the minute they walk through the door, invite a response and we sense them reaching out towards us. There is somebody in, at home. Other people seem to be a blank: we sense no heart, no warmth, no energy within them. Even worse, a very small number of people, thank goodness, make us want to leave the room. We feel really disturbed by something about them, often something that we cannot pin down, but which we, nevertheless, sense and react to. Again, the less verbal and thinking people are, the more they trust these feelings. Therefore babies, very young children who can’t even talk yet, and cats and dogs react all the time in this way. This orgonotic sense is a vital sense for them, and for infant animals almost the only sense they have to go by.
So, as a way of becoming aware of yourself feeling the orgone in this way, remember to focus on your own body sensations the next time you are listening to your favourite music or when you are having a particularly enjoyable, relaxing experience. You may also notice this tingling movement within yourself when you meet someone you love after a long separation. However, there are some more focussed ways of sensing the orgone within your body.
To try out these ways of feeling your own orgone energy, you need a warm quiet room and the help of a really close friend, someone with whom you feel completely at ease and with whom you feel free to share your innermost feelings and thoughts. You will find you get the strongest sensations doing these exercises if you both undress down to your underwaear. Obviously you can only do this with someone you feel really comfortable with and you will, I daresay, only want to do this in a really safe environment, in a room where you are sure you will not be disturbed by anyone. You will also need a firm mattress or something fairly comfortable to lie on, such as a camping mat or yoga mat. If you have none of these, you can improvise perfectly well with a blanket folded up into two or three layers. It is vital that you feel you can compleely trust the partner you have chosen to work with. If you can’t find a suitable friend, please don’t try to persuade someone to work with you against their will. Just wait a while until you can find a suitable partner for these exercises.
Let us assume you have found a partner and have all the necessary conditions in which to try these exercises out. Decide beween you who is going to be the subject first. It is important that as well as safe physical space for this work you have plenty of time, so that you can rest afterwards. Any benefits will quickly disappear if you have to rush off to work or to keep an appointment afterwards. If you are going to start, lie down on your mattress or substitute and relax into your breathing without trying too hard. ‘Listen in’ to your breathing. Now your partner, (I will call him or her the therapist to distinguish between the two of you), should kneel down by your side and focus carefully on your breathing. She should notice how you breathe, any jerky stages, in particular a noticeable pause between breathing in and breathing out and any holding of your breath at any point at all. I shall now change points of view and talk to the therapist while you, the subject, are relaxing into your breathing.
Observe your partner’s breathing pattern. Before you do anything ask him or her where, if anywhere, in their body they can feel their energy moving at all. They will most probably answer no to that question. If they do, a second question is helpful: where are they most aware of themselves at the moment? Where do they feel most alive? Remember the answer. Their awareness of themsleves changes as their breathing deepens and their energy level rises. After a few cycles, very gently place your hand on their upper ribcage, listening in passively and receptively to her breathing with your hand. If she holds her breath at any point during the cycle, you may notice a slight jerk, especially a slight bump as the diaphragm stops moving. The most likely place for such a stop is at the end of the inbreath. Most people hold their breath briefly at this point. You can point this out. If she holds at this point, ask her to make no pause between the inbreath and the outbreath. Most people are are able to breathe like that for a while without too much difficulty. Even this small movement of the breathing towards a more natural pattern can have quite a marked aeffect on your energy. Ask your partner if she can sense any change in how she is aware of herself and her energy. If clients in orgone therapy can continue to breathe like this for a few minutes, they often report feeling energy moving in parts of their body that they have not been aware of at all until now. Often awareness moves down into the pelvis and legs. Some people even report feeling their breathing in their feet.[xxiii]
If she is comfortable this far, try to help her maintain this fuller breathing for a few minutes to see if she reports any changes that she becomes aware of. Ask her the same question that you asked her at the beginning and see if the answers are any different. It is surprising how differently we perceive ourselves and our energy once its level has been raised for a short period.
You could try a similar exercise by, for example, listening to your favourite music, something that you know gives you a tingle.. You could try hearing it while you are still breathing deeply and fully after a breathing session and see if your ‘body’ hears it and reacts differently to the music. You yourself may have noticed that on some days something you normally enjoy a lot gives you little or no pleasure. This is probably because your energy is contracted that day. Maybe you can feel what has made it contract. Once you are aware of your own energy and its levels and movement or lack of it, you can use this awareness to help yourself manage your life more protectively towards your orgone energy.
A good example of this awareness speaking is the sensation we often recognise when we meet someone new or when we go into a gathering or a new building. Sometimes we ‘feel right’ in such a situation, even though in theory and on a conscious level we do not have enough information to decide how we feel. At other times we may feel quite the opposite, that things are just not right in there and we do not want to spend any more time there than we really have to. Much of the time, of course, we get no strong reaction either way and are quite happy to feel our way into a group or social situation and decide how we feel about it after some time there. It is probably only an extreme situation that gives us that very strong positive or negative feeling. I think that we get such a powerful intuitive reaction when our own orgone energy system is either contracting or expanding so strongly that we are aware of it.
We can even have such a reaction when no-one else is present. Buildings or even just single rooms appear to be able to help us to expand or contract just by the way they are designed or laid out. A whole school of architecture and design has been developed based on this realisation by Christopher Alexander. He decribes it and explains it in his books, The Nature of Order.[xxiv] He claims that there are certain architectural patterns that simply have a directly positive, biological effect on people and that they know this, if only intuitively. He states that the features that attract people and make us feel at ease are the same in all cultures and that people spontaneously gravitate to such buildings or places. As far as I know, no orgonomists are active in this field. It is an important field of study that would benefit greatly from an orgonomic approach. If you are artistically or architecturally inclined, you might find an opening for yourself in this area.
Awareness of Armouring in Other People
As we have already seen, an awareness of armoured behavior in other people is a principle tool in orgone therapy. You do not have to be an orgone therapist to have some awareness of armouring in others, even though your feeling for it may as yet be quite simple and unrefined. Once you focus on this awareness, it will of course develop and become more sensitive.
You will remember above (pages 9-13) my explanation of the movement and binding of energy in people, as they let their energy move or prevent its movement. There I was talking about the situation when an individual is opening or closing as we relate to them. If you are trying to get a feeling for armouring, imagine someone where a particular movement of energy or emotion or sensation has never been there at all, particularly when you would expect it be there, for example, our imaginary man who cannot cry. When you are trying to learn to discriminate between very subtly different emotional states in people it is always easiest to focus on extreme examples. It is always easier to distinguish between black and white than it is subtle shades of grey in a new field.
A horrifying example of armouring was shown some years ago in a Channel 4 TV programme about ‘honour killings’ in Pakistan. An example cited was that of an older teenager who had murdered his own mother, a widow, because she had had social contact with a man, a salesman offering goods that she needed to establish a business to support her several children. According to the mores of the local culture, this was a shameful act that brought dishonour to her family. Her various male relatives decided to murder her. Her son was chosen for the job and carried it out. He shot her in cold blood. The programme showed him talking to camera with no regret, no conflict, no sadness about his act. The deadness of his eyes and cheeks was horrifying. He was truly a zombie, alive, but dead inside, absolutely ghastly. I wish I had a clip of this interview to demonstrate armouring in the human face. It was a terrifying and graphic example of what human beings do to each other. Tragically the mother herself will doubtless have contributed to the armouring which allowed him to murder her.
Other examples of obvious armouring are the old-style Soviet apparatchiks seen in large public events in the Soviet Union. You may have experienced this bureaucratic armouring in your own life, when you try and negotiate with an offical for help or information. There is even an idiom in UK English for this sort of person, a jobsworth. (This comes from the phrase that such people use when asked to do something humane and outside the rules – it’s more than my job’s worth. In other words, I would lose my job if I did that for you.) You will almost certainly be aware of a sensation within having come up against such an individual. That is your moving energy bumping into their armouring. Horrible, isn’t it?
Another way of sensing armouring in people and yourself is to think of the huge difference in people’s ability to allow themselves to do things, to feel things, or to tolerate certain encounters. You may know someone who cannot let themselves vomit. Most people can vomit without too much distress, but there are adults to whom vomiting is a traumatic ordeal that they avoid at any cost. The only reason for this that I can imagine is that they are scared of the involuntary movement of energy that must accompany this reflex movement of the diaphragm. It is an involuntary movement and armouring always makes us afraid of involuntary movement. Unarmoured babies vomit without any distress at all.
You may have noticed that some people avoid all actions or encounters when they run any risk, even quite small risks. You may be such a person yourself, though I hope not, for your sake, as this is a crippling disability. Imagine you have such a person as a friend and you suggest doing something new and exciting together. You can only imagine this as exciting and enjoyable. Your friend is terrified and refuses to even think about it. What if so and so happened? What if we got our feet wet? What if we didn’t get back in time. What if we ran out of food? What if we were late for school? And so on, on and on. The rational answers to these questions are all trivial. We would get our feet wet, we would miss our tea. We would have to do a detention after school for being late. None of these eventualities are the end of the world and, of course, if your adventure succeeded, you would have some enormously enjoyable, perhaps life-making experience. But your friend resolutely refuses and you have to go alone or find someone else who feels like you do about it. The orgone-therapeutic question to ask here is - what would be wrong if you did so and so? And the real answer is that I would be afraid of the movement of energy. It would threaten my armouring.
Confronted with such a refusal, an ability to move, you may feel baffled and helpless in the face of your friend’s apparently irrational behaviour. From the point of view of their armouring their attitude is completely rational and consistent. You may know of a book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. This is about exactly this sort of conflict, the urge to do something new that goes against all your own habits and traditions. Small children who are not yet too armoured are always courageous and willing to try new things. Try not to be too hard on your friend. What feels simple and safe to you may feel like going over the top in a hail of bullets to her. A good therapeutic question to ask which may help your friend is - what would make it bearable for you to do this? The answer may be a way into your friend’s fears and armouring pattern. She may actually be afraid of being laughed at if she fails, rather than afraid of the actual adventure itself. (The late John Holt, the American educationalist, writes beautifully and profoundly about the crippling effects on children at school of the fear of failure and how many refuse to start an activity for fear of failing at it.[xxv] They feel safer not starting than they do having a go and running the risk of failing.)
I once witnessed, within minutes of each other, two different family episodes that show up the difference between armoured and unarmoured behaviour. In the first family, there were two or three adults and a young girl. She was pulling back from the others so that she could run, unseen, smiling and laughing, along the top of the sea-wall. When she realised what she was doing, her mother was furious with her, ordered her down to ground level, and berated her for disobedience and risk-taking. The child immediately became sullen, morose, resentful, and defiant. The family walked on. She hung back and as soon as her mother was lost in conversation again, she jumped up onto the wall and ran on jumping the gaps, revelling in her agility. Before long there was another identical explosion, a horrible stew of raging criticism and morose resistance.
The second family was a couple and three boys ranging at a guess from six to eleven years of age. They had invented this game of running up the sloping inside of the sea-wall as far as they could, their momentum carrying them up almost to the top. As their momentum faded they came down to the pavement level again and then re-started the whole cycle, their pathways up and down the the wall following a graceful wave. The parents walked along, hand in hand, stopping occasionally to exchange a tender kiss. The mother would occasionally glance at the boys, like a mother duck, making sure that they were all still there. They were all happy, all enjoying themselves.
Further Study of Orgone Therapy and Orgonomy
At this point in a booklet I always have to warn possible students how difficult the study of orgonomy is in the UK. C O R E has the expertise and facilities to set up courses, but these can never start for lack of interest. At present the best we can suggest is day or weekend workshops on the basic principles of orgone therapy. We can run one of these for a handful of interested people anywhere in the country. Please contact us for information on facilities and space needed for such an event. We also run workshops on orgone therapy with babies. This is an excellent way of learning about the basics of orgone therapy, even if you do not have a baby yourself. Observers with a serious interest are welcome at these events. In the meantime you can read about orgone therapy in Reich’s major works, The Function of the Orgasm, The Cancer Biopathy, and Character Analysis. All Reich’s major works are available either new or second-hand.
* For all the denials of the existence of a life energy, there are scientifically repeatable demonstrations and experiments that do in fact prove its existence. See C O R E’s booklet, Demonstrations of the Orgone Energy or the web-page of the same name on C O R E’s web-site..
* I wrote this booklet in May, 2010. On June 2nd there was exactly this sort of breakthrough of secondary aggression, when a man in Cumbria ran amok, shooting dead 12 people, before killing himself. Aquaintances used exactly these words about him.
[i] Reich W (1983); The Function of the Orgasm, Souvenir Press, London.
[ii] Reich W (1972); Character Analysis, FS&G.
[iii] Toland J (19976); Adolf Hitler, New York, cited in Miller A (1987); For Your Own Good, page 156, Virago Press, London.
[iv] Hitler A; cited in Meighan R (ed) (1994); The Freethinker’s Guide to the Educational Universe, page 4, Educational Heretics Press, Nottingham.
[v] Reich W (1972); op cit, chapter XV, The Expressive Language of the Living, 3, The Segmental Arrangement of the Armor.
[vi] ibid; page 373.
[vii] Reich W (1983); op cit, chapter VIII, 4, The Establishment of Natural Respiration.
[viii] Reich W (1072); op cit, chapter XV, Psychic Contact and Vegetative Current.
[ix] Reich W (1973); Ether. God and Devil, pages 147 and 223, FS&G.
[x] Reich W (1983); op cit, chapter VIII, 5, The Mobilization of the Dead Pelvis.
[xi] ibid; pages 293-294.
[xiii] DeMeo J (1999); Saharasia, OBRL, Ashlands, Oregon.
[xiv] Reich W (1983); op cit, pages 293-294.
[xvi] Reich W (1982); The The Bioelectrical Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety, FS&G.
[xvii] Reich W (1983); op cit.
[xviii] Fraser D, Cooper M (eds) (2003); Myles Textbook for Midwives, page 458, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh.
[xix] Reich W (1983); op cit, chapter VII, 6.
[xx] ibid; chapter V, The Development of the Character Analytic-Technique.
[xxi] Reich W (1983); op cit, chapter VII, The Breakthrough into the Biological Realm.
[xxii] Reich W (1983); op cit, page 270.
[xxiii] ibid; page 270.
[xxiv] Alexander C (2002-2005); The Nature of Order, 4 volumes, Centre for Environmental Structure, Berkeley, California.
[xxv] Holt J (1985); How Children Fail, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex.
FS&G = Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.
Posted October 31st, 2012, last revised May 15th, 2017.
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