No Nonsense Psychology: Wilhelm Reich – Armoring

Wilhelm Reich was a student of Freud’s who believed that the body plays an important role in an individual’s expression. Crucial to his understanding of psychology is the concept of Armoring which is basically the physical component of repression as understood by Freud.

Armoring occurs when an impulse is halted at the muscular level. For example, it is natural for a child to cry when they are sad. However, a child who is punished for crying will find a way to inhibit this behavior. At first, this inhibition is conscious, and may include tensing the muscles of the eyes and face, holding the breath, or whatever else works that the child is capable of doing. Reich said that normally a child will cease the inhibition once the threat passes, but when a child is repeatedly subjected to the same kind of treatment, the inhibiting behavior becomes learned and integrated into the child’s way of being, along with the accompanying muscular armoring. It becomes habitual and unconscious, and the person no longer notices they are “doing” anything at all.

Reich viewed the purpose of this armoring as protecting the child from perceived threats, but the cost is the diminished freedom that comes fighting against constant muscular contraction as well the energy that is required to maintain this state of contraction.

You may be able to fight and win battles in a suit of armor, but when you’re wearing one all of the time without knowing it, it becomes impossible to dance.

via No Nonsense Psychology: Wilhelm Reich – Armoring.