How to Be Free
Author: Joe Blow

Chapter 7

So what form does this human neurosis take?

The psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich wrote about a phenomenon he called “armouring”. According to him there are two forms of armouring - body armour and character armour. The purpose of armouring is protection from what is inside and what is outside. 

Body armour involves the storing of repressed emotions in the musculature of the body. A good example is the archetypal stiff upper lip. Reich found that, by observing the body, one could see the undealt with emotions, and massage of certain parts of the body could bring on a cathartic release of anger, tears, feelings of grief, etc. and free the body up to experience more pleasurable experiences such as sexual arousal.

Character armour is a fixed ego structure - an inflexible, defensive way of thinking about ourselves and similarly inflexible, defensive way of behaving. The behaviour of the armoured individual could be described as stereotyped or habit-bound. This is the opposite of the open, spontaneous approach to life which was our original nature.

Reich described this armour as : “a protection of the ego against external and internal dangers. As a protective mechanism which has become chronic it can rightly be called armour... in unpleasurable situations the armouring increases, in pleasurable situations it decreases. The degree of character mobility, the ability to open up to a situation or to close up against it constitutes the difference between the healthy and the neurotic character structure.” The Function of the Orgasm (translated by T.P. Wolfe, Panther, 1968)

On the larger scale it is possible to relate this to forms of thinking exhibited by groups of individuals. In some groups we find the free expression and exchange of ideas, while others are bound up in unquestioned dogma. Such dogma, which we may find in religious groups or political organisations for example, is another form of armouring aimed at protecting the group against criticism from the outside and the insecurity of free thought and doubt within.


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