Segmental Body De-Armoring | Wilhelm Reich

Published: Mar 21, 2024
Edited by: Team TB

Seven body segments - Chakras

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In relation to the Body Armor, the psychotherapist Wilhelm Reich postulated the theory of Segmental Armouring.

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In this theory, there are seven segments of the body where Armoring (muscular tensions, contractions, and/or numbness) and subsequent Vital Life Energy obstructions — which Reich named Orgone — can develop or take place.

As a general rule, it’s thought that the location of each Armor segment usually corresponds with certain types of repressed or suppressed emotions or trauma.

Reich’s concept of the seven Body Armoring segments has a clear resemblance with the seven main Chakras system of Tantric Yoga, and the segments and Chakras can be found at more or less the same locations.

According to Reich, the seven segments (or Armors) manifest in the body at the

  1. Ocular level;
    Relates to the scalp, forehead, face, eyes, nose, cheeks, ears, brain, and the base of the skull (occiput).
  2. Oral level;
    Relates to the jaws, chin, throat, mouth, lips, tongue, and base of the skull (occiput).
  3. Cervical level;
    Relates to the neck, platysma, sternocleidomastoids, and tongue.
  4. Thoracic level;
    Relates to the chest muscles, heart, lungs, shoulders, deltoids, trapezius, arms and hands, and the upper back (including scapula).
  5. Diaphragmatic level;
    Relates to the lower sternum, solar plexus, lower ribs, and organs underneath the diaphragm, such as stomach, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, duodenum (first part small intestine), and kidneys.
  6. Abdominal level;
    Relates to the large abdominal muscles, the rectus, transversus abdominis, and muscles of the back.
  7. Pelvic level;
    Relates to muscles of the pelvis, gluteal muscles, legs and feet, including the genitals, and urinary tract system.

In view of the above, Reich also posited that Body Armoring takes place in a transverse fashion, that is, horizontal in relation to the long axis of the body. One could visualize this as rings of tension at right angles to the spine (the body’s axis).

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Another characteristic of armoring is that one will usually notice that one side of the body, either the left or right side, is more armored than the other, where one side would be excessive (overcharged, tensed, muscle contraction, too much energy) and the other side depleted (undercharged, weak, muscle atrophy, a lack of energy). In this regard, Reich thought that the left side of the body revealed feminine self-identity issues, and the right side masculine self-identity issues.

In addition, one would also see that neighboring segments would show the same characteristics as just mentioned, that is, a segment that is overcharged (armored) will have a segment below which is undercharged (not-armored or less armored), and the segment below that one will again be overcharged.

Reich proposed that De-Armoring should take place from the Ocular to the Pelvic level (top-down). However, many contemporary Reichian therapists would not necessarily follow this rather rigid De-Armoring sequence. For instance, the chest would often be mobilized and unblocked first in order to enable free and full breathing ability to build up the necessary inner energy to remove the other armored areas in the body.

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An interesting thing to note here is that in Yogic practices the Chakras are typically “opened” in a reverse order, that is, in a down-to-top fashion starting with the Root Chakra (Muladhara Chakra) going up to the Crown Chakra (Sahasrara Chakra), which is accompanied by “awakened and rising Kundalini Energy.”

Reich also observed that freeing one of the armored rings will often increase Armoring in another ring because the person is not used to the feeling of an unobstructed flow of energy and more motion in the body (or body part), and will (subconsciously) try to keep their defenses intact.

At any rate, the final aim of De-Armoring according to Reich is to remove or dissolve the chronic contractions and tensions of all segments (typically with hand-palm, finger, thumb or elbow pressure, acupressure, and breathwork), as such enabling the free flow of energy throughout the body and thus restoring natural functioning. Mind that effective and lasting De-Armoring of a segment will/should be accompanied with emotional or trauma release and possibly with intense Catharsis.

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