From the book Character Analysis, Part III, by Wilhelm Reich, M.D., Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York 1972.
The Segmental Arrangement of the Armor
It has been known to psychiatry for decades that the physical disturbances of hysteria are not governed by the anatomical and physiological processes of the muscles, nerves, and tissues as a whole; rather, they are determined by definite, emotionally important organs. For example, pathological blushing is usually confined to the face and neck, despite the fact that the blood vessels run essentially along the length of the organism. Likewise, sensory disturbances in hysteria are not spread along the nerve tract but are confined to emotionally significant regions of the body.
We run into the same situation in our work of breaking down the muscular armor. The individual muscular blocks do not follow the course of a muscle or a nerve; they are altogether independent of anatomical processes. In carefully examining typical cases of various illnesses in the search for a law that governs these blocks, I discovered that the muscular armor is arranged in segments.
Biologically, this segmental arrangement is a much more primitive form of living functioning than is found in the highly developed animals. A conspicuous example of segmental functioning is that of ringed worms and the biological systems related to them. In the higher vertebrates, only the segmental structure of the spine, the nerve endings corresponding to the segments of the spinal cord, and the segmental arrangement of the ganglia of the autonomic nervous system are indicative of the vertebrates’ descent from segmentally structured organisms.
I shall attempt in the following exposition to give only a rough sketch of the segmental arrangement of the muscular armor. These representations are based on the observation of armor reactions over a period of many years.
Since the patient’s body is held back and since the goal of orgone therapy is to restore the plasmatic currents in the pelvis, it is logically necessary to begin the work of breaking down the armor at the parts of the body farthest away from the pelvis. Thus, the work begins on the expression of the facial musculature. There are at least two clearly distinguishable, segmentally arranged armorings in the head: one segment comprises the forehead, eyes, and the region of the cheekbone; the other comprises the lips, chin, and jaws. When I say that the armor is segmentally arranged, I mean that it functions circularly, in front, on both sides, and in back, i.e., like a ring.
Let us refer to the first armor ring as the ocular and the second as the oral armor ring. In the sphere of the ocular armor segment, we find a contraction and immobilization of all or almost all the muscles of the eyeballs, the eyelids, the forehead, the lachrymal gland, etc. Rigid forehead and eyelids, expressionless eyes or bulging eyeballs, mask-like expression, and immobility on both sides of the nose are the essential characteristics of this armor ring. The eyes peep out as from a rigid mask. The patient is not capable of opening his eyes wide as if to imitate fear. In schizophrenics, the expression of the eyes is blank, as if staring into space. This is caused by the contraction of the eyeball muscles. Many patients have lost the ability to shed tears. In others, the opening of the eyelids has been reduced to a narrow, rigid slit. The forehead is without expression, as if it had been “flattened out.” Near-sightedness, astigmatism, etc., very often exist.
The loosening of the ocular armor segment is brought about by opening the eyes wide as in fright; this causes the eyelids and forehead to move and to express emotions. Usually, this also effects a loosening of the upper cheek muscles, especially when the patient is told to make grimaces. When the cheeks are pulled up, the result is that peculiar grin expressive of defiant, malicious provocation.
The segmental character of this muscle group is revealed by the fact that every emotional action in this area affects horizontally adjacent areas but does not carry over into the oral segment. While it is true that the opening wide of the eyelids, as in fright, is capable of mobilizing the forehead or of producing a grin in the upper part of the cheeks, it is not capable of provoking the biting impulses which are cemented in the clamped chin.
Hence, an armor segment comprises those organs and muscle groups which have a functional contact with one another and which are capable of accompanying each other in the emotional expressive movement. In terms of biophysics, one segment ends and a different segment begins when the one ceases to affect the other in its emotional actions.
The armor segments always have a horizontal structure— never a vertical one, with the two notable exceptions of the arms and legs. Their armor functions in conjunction with the adjacent armor segments of the trunk, i.e., the arms with the segment which comprises the shoulders, and the legs with the segment which comprises the pelvis. We want to take special note of this peculiarity. It will become intelligible in a definite biophysical context.
The second, i.e., the oral, armor segment comprises the entire musculature of the chin, pharynx, and the occipital musculature, including the muscles around the mouth. They are functionally related to one another; e.g., the loosening of the chin armor is capable of producing spasms in the musculature of the lips and the related emotion of crying or desire to suck. Likewise, the freeing of the gag reflex is capable of mobilizing the oral segment.
The emotional modes of expression of crying, furious biting, yelling, sucking, grimacings of all kinds in this segment are dependent upon the free motility of the ocular segment. Liberating the gag reflex, for example, will not necessarily release a suppressed impulse to cry if the armor of the ocular ring has not already been dissolved. And even after the two uppermost armor segments have been dissolved, it may still be difficult to release the impulse to cry as long as the third and fourth segments further down, at the thorax, are in the condition of spastic contraction. This difficulty in liberating the emotions gives us an insight into an extremely important fact of biophysics:
- The armorings have a segmental, circular structure, arranged at right angles to the spine.
- The plasmatic currents and emotional excitations which we resuscitate flow parallel to the body axis.
Thus, the inhibition of the emotional language of expression operates at right angles to the direction of the orgonotic current.
Two things are important in this connection: (1) the orgonotic currents merge in the orgasm reflex only when their passage along the entire organism is unobstructed; and (2) the armorings are arranged in segments crosswise to the flow of the currents. It is clear, therefore, that the orgastic pulsation can function only after all the segmental armor rings have been loosened. It is also clear that the sensations of each body organ can merge into a sensation of totality only when the first orgastic convulsions have begun. They preface the breakdown of the muscular armor. The orgonotic currents which break through in the loosening of every additional armor ring prove to be a tremendous help in the dissolution work as a whole. What happens is this: the liberated body energy spontaneously attempts to flow lengthwise. It runs into the still unresolved crosswise contractions and gives the patient the unmistakable sensation of a “block,” a sensation which was only very weak or altogether absent as long as there were no free plasmatic currents whatever.
The reader is surely aware of the fact that these processes represent primary functions of the plasma system. They are not only deeper than all human language but also central to the functioning of the life apparatus. They are primordial phylogenetic functions. In the segmental arrangement of the muscular armoring, we meet the worm in man.
The movements of the ringed worm are governed by excitation waves which run from the end of the tail along the axis of the body forward to the “head.” The excitation waves are transmitted continuously from segment to segment until they have reached the forward end. At the hind end, one wave movement follows another in the process of locomotion. In the worm, the segments alternate rhythmically and regularly between contraction and expansion. In the worm and the caterpillar, the function of locomotion is inseparably linked with this plasmatic wave movement. The logical conclusion is that biological energy is being transmitted in these wave movements, for it could be nothing else. This assertion is supported by observations of the inner movements of bions. The wave-like movement of the body or- gone is slow and, in tempo and expression, wholly corresponds to the emotional excitations which, in the pleasure function, we experience subjectively in an unequivocal wave-like manner.
In armored human organisms, the orgone energy is bound in the chronic contraction of the muscles. The body orgone does not begin to flow freely as soon as the armor ring has been loosened. The first reaction is clonic shivering, along with the sensation of prickling, or “pins and needles.” Clinically, this reaction tells us that the armor is giving way and body orgone is being liberated. Genuine sensations of plasmatic excitation waves are experienced only when a whole series of armor segments, e.g., muscular blocks in the region of the eyes, mouth, throat, breast, and diaphragm, have been dissolved. When this has been accomplished, marked wave-like pulsations are experienced in liberated parts of the body which move up toward the head and down toward the genitalia. Very often the organism reacts to these initial currents and pulsations with fresh armorings. Spasms in the deep musculature of the throat, reverse peristalsis of the esophagus, diaphragmatic tics, etc., testify to the struggle taking place between the impulse of the current and the armor block. Since more orgone energy has become free than the patient is capable of discharging; since, moreover, spasms block the plasmatic current at numerous points in the body, the patient develops acute anxiety.
These phenomena, which can be easily brought about by an orgone therapist having some experience and technical skill, confirm orgone-biophysics’s concept of the antithesis between the emotion of pleasure and the emotion of anxiety. At this juncture, however, I have to single out a new phenomenon which, until now, has not been described clearly enough.
As soon as the first armor blocks have been dissolved, the movement expressive of “surrender” appears more and more, along with the orgonotic currents and sensations. However, its full unfolding is hindered by those armor blocks that have not yet been dissolved. Usually, it appears as if the organism wanted to overcome these undissolved armor blocks by force. The expression of incipient surrender is transformed into hate. This process is typical and deserves special attention.
When, for example, the armoring of the oral zone has been sufficiently loosened to release a suppressed impulse to cry, while the neck and chest armorings are still untouched, we observe how the lower musculature of the face takes on the expression of wanting to cry but not being able to. The expression of being on the verge of tears is transformed into a hateful grin of the mouth-chin zone. It is an expression of desperation, of extreme frustration. All this can be summarized in the following formula:
AS SOON AS THE MOVEMENT EXPRESSING SURRENDER IS OBSTRUCTED BY AN ARMOR BLOCK, THE IMPULSE TO SURRENDER IS TRANSFORMED into destructive rage. I shall have to come back to this transformation of an impulse after I have described the manifestations of the other armor segments.
The armor of the third segment comprises essentially the deep musculature of the neck, the platysma, and the sternocleidomastoid muscles. Let one but imitate the movement expressive of the attitude of anger or crying and one will have no difficulty in comprehending the emotional function of the neck armor. The spastic contraction of the neck segment also includes the tongue. In terms of anatomy, this is easily understood. Essentially, the musculature of the tongue is joined to the cervical bone system and not to the lower facial bones. This explains why spasms in the musculature of the tongue are functionally connected with the pressing down of the Adam’s apple and the contraction of the deep and surface musculature of the throat. From the movements of the Adam’s apple, it is possible to tell when a patient’s anger affect or impulse to cry is unconsciously and literally “swallowed.” It is extremely difficult to eliminate this method of suppressing emotions. While the hands can be used to get at the surface muscles of the neck, this is not possible in dealing with the larynx musculature. The best way to eliminate the “swallowing” of emotions is to liberate the gag reflex. In the gag reflex, the excitation wave in the esophagus is the reverse of the excitation wave which occurs in the “swallowing” of tears or anger. If the gag reflex begins to function or even goes so far as to cause the patient to vomit, then the emotions are set free which were being held back by the neck armor.
At this point the lengthwise course of the emotional excitation again becomes significant. The gag reflex is accompanied by an expansion of the diaphragm, i.e., by the lifting of the diaphragm and expiration. Work on the neck armor by means of the gag reflex brings about a loosening of the fourth and fifth armor segments. In other words, we do not eliminate one armor ring after the other in a mechanical and rigid manner. We work on an integrated life system, whose total plasma function is hindered by transverse armor rings. But the loosening of an armor segment liberates energy which, in turn, helps to mobilize armor rings at higher and lower levels. It is therefore not possible to give a clear description of each process involved in the dissolution of the muscular armor.
Now I want to turn to the fourth, the chest segment. While it is true that the armor functions of this segment can be subdivided, it is more advantageous to treat the chest as a whole.
The armoring of the chest is manifested in the elevation of the bony structure, a chronic attitude of inhalation, shallow breathing, and the immobility of the thorax. We already know that the attitude of inhalation is the most important instrument in the suppression of any kind of emotion. The armoring of the chest is particularly crucial not only because it represents a major part of the armoring of the organism in general but also because the biopathic symptoms have an especially dangerous character in this region.
All the intercostal muscles, the large chest muscles (pectoral), the shoulder muscles (deltoid), and the muscle group on and between the shoulder blades are involved in the armoring of the chest. The attitude of being “self-contained” or “self-controlled,” of “sticking to oneself,” “being reserved,” are the major manifestations of the chest armor. Shoulders which are pulled back express precisely what they mean—“holding back.” Together with the neck armor, the chest armor conveys the expression of suppressed “stubbornness” and “stiff-neckedness.” When it is not chronically armored, the expression conveyed by the movement of the fourth segment is that of “free-flowing feelings.” When it is armored, the expression is that of “immobility” or “indifference.”
The chronic expansion of the thorax goes together with the tendency to high blood pressure, palpitations, and anxiety; in severe, long-standing cases, there is also the tendency to cardiac enlargement. Various cardiac defects result directly from this expansion or indirectly from the anxiety syndrome. Pulmonary emphysema is a direct result of the chronic expansion of the chest cavity. I am inclined to believe that the disposition to pneumonia and tuberculosis is to be sought here also.
“Raging anger,” “heartfelt crying,” “sobbing,” and “unbearable longing” are essentially emotions which originate in the chest segment. These natural emotions are alien to the armored organism. An armored person’s anger is “cold”; he looks upon crying as “childish,” “unmanly,” and “characterless”; he regards longing as “effeminate,” the sign of a “weak character.”
Most of the emotional expressive movements of the arms and hands also stem from the plasmatic emotions of the organs of the chest. In terms of biophysics, these limbs are extensions of the chest segment. In the artist, who is capable of freely unfolding his yearnings, the emotion of the chest extends directly into the wholly synchronized emotions and expressive movements of the arms and hands. This is equally true of the violin virtuoso and piano virtuoso, as it is of the painter. In the dance, the essential expressive movements derive from the organism as a whole.
The “awkwardness” of the arms and probably a part of a person’s lack of musicality also derive from the chest armor. It is largely responsible for the expression of “hardness” and “inaccessibility.” In European cultural circles and in an especially pronounced way among the “higher circles” of Asia, total armoring of the head, neck, and chest segments invests the organism with the mark of “nobility.” The ideals of “character firmness,” “hauteur,” “detachment,” “grandeur,” and “control” correspond to this. Militarism the world over makes use of the expression embodied in the armoring of the chest, neck, and head as an emphasis of “unapproachable dignity.” It is clear that these attitudes are based on the armor and not vice versa.
In some patients we find a whole series of interrelated life problems which derive from the armoring of the chest. Typically, these patients complain about a “knot” in the chest. This organ sensation leads us to believe that the esophagus (similar to the globus hystericus in the pharynx) is spastic. It is difficult to say whether the trachea is involved in this, but very likely it is. In the process of loosening this inner “knot,” we learn that rage and anxiety are bound in it. To release this “knot” in the chest, it is often necessary to press down the chest cavity and at the same time have the patient scream. The inhibition of the inner chest organs usually entails an inhibition of those arm movements which express “desire,” “embracing,” or “reaching for something.” It is not that these patients are handicapped in any mechanical way. They can move their arms quite well. However, as soon as the movement of the arms becomes associated with the expressive movement of yearning or desiring, the inhibition sets in. Sometimes, this inhibition is so strong that the hands and especially the finger tips lose their orgonotic charge, become cold and clammy, and, on occasion, acutely painful. It is very likely that Raynaud’s gangrene of the finger tips is based on this specific anorgonia. In many cases it is simply an impulse to choke which is armored in the shoulder blades and in the hands and is responsible for vasomotor constriction in the finger tips.
We find the life of such patients ruled by a general inhibition of initiative and by disturbances in their work caused by their inability to use the hands freely. Sometimes the armoring of the chest cavity in women goes hand in hand with a lack of sensitivity of the nipples. Disturbances of sexual gratification and aversion to nursing a baby are the direct results of this armoring.
Between the shoulder blades, there are two painful muscle bundles in the region of the trapezius muscles. Their armoring creates the impression of suppressed defiance which, together with pulled-back shoulders, can be best described by the words, “I won’t.”
When the chest is armored, the intercostal muscles demonstrate an acute sensitivity to tickling. That this sensitivity is not “simply not wanting to be tickled” but a biopathic increase of excitability is evidenced by the fact that it disappears when the chest armor has been dissolved. In one particular case, the character attitude of inaccessibility had essentially one function, namely “Don’t touch me! I’m ticklish.”
It should be clear that it is not my intent to ridicule these character attitudes. It is merely that we see them for what they are, i.e., not as the embodiment of “higher” and “nobler” character traits but as the expression of biophysical conditions. A general may or may not be a person of “high esteem.” We want neither to glorify nor to deprecate him. Yet we will not have ourselves deprived of the right to look upon him as an animal having a special kind of armor. It would not bother me if another scientist wanted to reduce my thirst for knowledge to the biological function of a puppy who goes around sniffing at everything. Indeed, it would make me happy to be biologically compared to a lively and lovable puppy. I have no desire to distinguish myself from the animal.
This much must be clear: there can be no thought of establishing orgastic potency until the chest armor has been dissolved and the emotions of rage, yearning, and genuine sorrow have been liberated. Essentially, the function of surrender is linked to the plasmatic movement of the chest and neck segments. Even if it were possible to mobilize the pelvic segment independently, the head would automatically move forward in stubborn defense instead of moving backward, as soon as the slightest sensation of pleasure was experienced in the pelvis.
I have already pointed out that the armoring of the chest constitutes a central part of the muscular armoring in general. Historically, it can be traced back to the most crucial and most conflict-ridden turning points in the life of the child, most likely to a point considerably before the development of the pelvic armor. Hence, it is not surprising to find that, in the course of dissolving the chest armor, we get the remembrances of traumatic mistreatments of all kinds, frustrations of love, and disappointments in the person responsible for the child’s upbringing. I have also explained why remembering traumatic experiences is not essential for orgone therapy. It serves little purpose unless accompanied by the corresponding emotion. The emotion expressed in the movement is more than sufficient to make the patient’s misfortunes comprehensible, quite apart from the fact that the remembrances emerge of themselves when the therapist works correctly. What remains puzzling is how unconscious memory functions can be dependent upon the conditions of plasmatic excitation, how memories can be preserved, so to speak, in plasmatic awareness.
Now let us turn to the fifth, the diaphragm segment. The segment which comprises the diaphragm and the organs which lie below it is, in terms of its function, independent of the chest segment. This is borne out by the fact that, even after the chest armor has been dissolved and rage and tears have broken forth, the diaphragmatic block remains unaffected. It is easy to observe the immobility of the diaphragm through a fluoroscope. While it is true that, through forced breathing, the diaphragm is capable of moving better than before the dissolving of the chest armor, it is also true that, until the diaphragmatic block has been eliminated, there is no spontaneous diaphragmatic pulsation. Thus, there are two stages in the dissolution of the diaphragmatic block.
In the process of loosening the chest armor, we make the patient breathe consciously and deeply. This causes the diaphragm to move more expansively but not spontaneously. As soon as this forced respiration is stopped, the movement of the diaphragm and, with it, the respirators’ movement of the chest cavity also cease. We have to extract the expressive movement from the diaphragm armor to be able to accomplish the second step of spontaneous diaphragm pulsation. This is a fresh confirmation of the fact that mechanical means are of no use in reactivating biological emotional functions. Solely through the biological expressive movement can we loosen the armor ring.
The fifth armor segment forms a contraction ring which extends forward over the epigastrium, the lower part of the sternum, back along the lowermost ribs toward the posterior insertions of the diaphragm, i.e., to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth thoracic vertebrae. Essentially, it comprises the diaphragm, the stomach, the solar plexus, including the pancreas, which lies in front of it, the liver, and two bulging muscle bundles extending alongside the lowermost thoracic vertebrae.
The overt manifestation of this armor ring is lordosis of the spine. Usually, the therapist can push his hand between the patient’s back and the couch. The lower front rib margin is thrust forward and protruding. It is difficult or altogether impossible to bend the spine forward. On the fluoroscope, we can see that the diaphragm is immobile under usual conditions and that it moves but little under forced breathing. If we tell the patient to breathe consciously, he will always inhale. Exhalation as a spontaneous action is alien to him. If he is told to exhale, he has to make a considerable effort. If he succeeds in exhaling a bit, his body automatically assumes an attitude which works counter to exhalation. The head moves forward or the musculature of the oral armor ring becomes more acutely contracted. The shoulder blades are pulled back and the arms are pressed tightly against the upper part of the body. The pelvic musculature is tensed and the back is more rigidly arched.
The diaphragmatic block is the central mechanism of this region. Hence, the destruction of this block is one of the central tasks of the therapy.
The dissolution of the armor in the diaphragmatic segment entails the overcoming of many difficulties. Why is this so? The message of the body expression which is opposed to this work is quite clear, though the patient has no awareness of it: the organism refuses to allow the diaphragm to expand and contract freely. However, if the upper segments have been properly loosened, it can only be a matter of time until the diaphragm armor is also dissolved. For example, forced respiration in the chest segment or repeated freeing of the gag reflex can urge the organism toward orgastic pulsation. Irritation of the shoulder muscles by means of pinching can have the same effect.
Theoretically, we understand why the resistance to the full pulsation of the diaphragm is so strong: the organism defends itself against the sensations of pleasure or anxiety which the diaphragmatic movement inevitably entails. However, we cannot pretend that this statement offers anything more than a rationalistic and psychologistic explanation. Such an explanation presupposes that the organism “thinks” and “deliberates” rationally, somewhat as follows: “This meticulous physician demands that I let my diaphragm expand and contract freely. If I comply, I shall experience the sensations of anxiety and pleasure which I experienced when my parents punished me for enjoying myself. I have reconciled myself to the situation as it is. Hence, I shall not comply.”
The living organism neither thinks nor deliberates in a rational manner. It does not do or fail to do things “in order to…” The living organism functions in harmony with the primary plasmatic emotions, which have the function of gratifying biological tension and needs. It is simply impossible to translate the language of the living organism directly into the word language of consciousness. It is extremely important to realize this, for the rationalistic thinking which has shaped man’s mechanistic civilization is capable of smothering and extinguishing our insight into the fundamentally different language of the living organism.
I should like to cite an especially clear clinical case to illustrate the novelty of the phenomena involved here:
A patient who had considerable intellectual insight into or- gone therapy and had already succeeded in dissolving a substantial part of the armor of the upper body was asked to make an effort to break through the diaphragmatic armor. We were in complete agreement about the situation. Both in talking about and in applying himself to this task, the patient showed an affirmative attitude. Yet, as soon as a small breach had been made in the wall of the diaphragmatic armor, the patient’s trunk, from the diaphragm downwards to the pelvis, began to jerk sideways. This was very puzzling, to say the least. And it took considerable effort to understand what this movement was trying to express.
In its sideward movement, the lower part of the trunk expressed a resolute no. It is merely necessary to move one’s right hand from side to side, in such a way as to say “no-no,” to understand the expressive movement we are dealing with here.
Psychologistically or, better yet, mystically, it might be assumed that the plasma system, beyond word language, expressed a vehement no to an undertaking which “the cortex” and word language affirmed. Such an interpretation of the process would be false, and it would not lead a step closer to an understanding of the living organism and its expressive language. This patient’s abdomen and pelvis did not “deliberate” upon the demand which was made upon the organism. They did not “decide” to refuse to comply. There was a different process involved here, one more in keeping with the expressive language of the living.
As we pointed out, the plasmatic movements of a worm are directed lengthwise along the body axis. When the orgonotic excitation waves move the body of the worm forward, we gain the “impression” that the worm is acting purposefully, i.e., “volitionally.” The expressive movement of the worm’s living organism can be translated into the words of our language which mean “wanting to,” “saying yes to,” etc. If, now, we take a pair of pincers and squeeze the worm somewhere around the middle of its body so that the orgonotic excitation is interrupted as by an armor block, the unified purposeful forward movement and, with it, the expressive movement of “wanting to” and “saying yes to” momentarily cease to function. These are replaced by another movement, namely a sideways twisting back and forth of the lower or hind part of the body, while the front part is drawn in. The immediate impression conveyed by this seesawing side-to- side movement of the body is one expressive of pain or a vehement “No, don’t do that, I can’t stand it.” We are not forgetting that we are speaking of our impression here, i.e., an interpretation which we experience immediately while observing the worm. But we would act exactly like the worm if someone fastened a large clamp around our trunk. We would automatically draw in our head and shoulders and struggle sideways with our pelvis and legs.
This comprehension of the process does not mean that we have taken up with the subjectivists who contend that we perceive “nothing but our own sensations” and that these sensations do not correspond to any reality. Basically, everything that lives is functionally identical. It follows, therefore, that the reactions of the worm to the pincers are identical to what ours would be in a similar situation. The reactions of pain and the effort to ward off the pain are the same. This functional identity between man and worm enables us to be “impressed” in the correct, objectively true sense of the word by the expressive movement of the wriggling worm. In fact, the worm’s overt expression conveys what we sense through identification. But we do not directly sense the worm’s pain and its crying of “no”; we merely perceive an expressive movement which, under any circumstances, would be identical with the expressive movement of our plasma system in the same painful situation.
It follows from this that we comprehend the expressive movements and the emotional expression of another living organism on the basis of the identity between our own emotions and those of all living things.
We have a direct comprehension of the language of living organisms based on the functional identity of the biological emotions. After we have grasped it in this biological language of expression, we put it “into words”: we translate it into the word language of consciousness. However, the word “no” has as much, actually as little, to do with the language of expression of the living organism as the word “cat” has to do with the flesh- and-blood cat which crosses the street in front of our eyes. In reality, the word “cat” and the specific orgonotic plasma system which moves there in front of us have nothing to do with one another. As the many various designations for the phenomenon “cat” testify, they are merely loose, randomly interchangeable concepts which are attached to the real phenomena, movements, emotions, etc.
These observations sound like “highbrow” or “lowbrow” natural philosophy. The layman is averse to natural philosophy and will, therefore, put this book aside because it “does not rest upon the solid foundation of reality.” The reader who shares this thought is mistaken. I shall demonstrate in the following pages how important it is to think correctly and to use both concepts and words properly. It will be shown that a whole world of mechanistically oriented biologists, physicists, bacteriologists, etc., really believed, from 1936 to 1945—i.e., in the period during which the functions of the living organism were being discovered —that it was the word “cat” moving on the street and not a complicated living product of nature.
Let us return to the “no-no” movement of our patient. Its meaning is this: when a plasmatic current cannot run along the body in a lengthwise direction because it is obstructed by transverse armor blocks, a sideward movement results which, secondarily, means no in word language.
“No” in word language corresponds to the “no” of the expressive language of the living organism. It cannot be ascribed to mere chance that “no” is expressed by a transverse movement of the head, while “yes” is expressed by a lengthwise movement of the head. The “no-no” which our patient expressed by the sideward seesawing of his pelvis disappeared only after the block of the diaphragm had been dissolved. And it regularly reappeared when this block returned.
These facts are of supreme importance for the understanding of the body language. Our patient’s general attitude toward life was also of a negative nature. “No” was the basic attitude of his character. Though he suffered from and fought against this character attitude, he could not escape it. No matter how much he consciously and intellectually wanted to say yes, to be positive, his character continually expressed no. Both the historical and biophysiological functions of this “no” on the part of his character were easy to understand. As so many small children do, he had constantly had enemas given by his severely compulsive mother. Like other children, he too had submitted to this crime with horror and inner rage. To diminish the fury of his rage, to be able to endure this violation by his mother, “he contained himself,” pulled up on his pelvic floor, severely reduced his breathing, generally developed the body attitude of “no-no.” Everything that was alive in him wanted (but was not allowed) to cry out “no-no” to this violation, the result being that he came away from this experience permanently scarred. From then on, the overt expression of his life system became a fundamental negation toward everything and everybody. And though this negative character attitude represented an acute symptom, it was, at the same time, the expression of a strong self-defense which, originally, had been rational and justified. But this self-defense, rationally motivated in the beginning, had taken on the form of a chronic armor, which was rigidly shut off to everything.
I explained elsewhere that a childhood experience is capable of having an “effect from the past” only insofar as it is anchored in a rigid armor which continues to operate in the present. In our patient, the original, rationally motivated “no-no” had, over the years, been transformed into a neurotic and irrational “no-no”. It had, in other words, become embedded in a chronic character armor which was responsible for sustaining and expressing it. The “no-no” expression disappeared with the dissolution of the armor in the treatment. Thus, too, the historical event, the assault by the mother, lost its pathological meaning.
From the point of view of depth psychology, it is correct to say that, in this patient, the affect of the defense, of the “crying no to,” was “clamped down.” Seen from the perspective of the biological core, on the other hand, it was not a matter of a “clamped-down” “no-no” but of the incapacity on the part of the organism to say yes. A positive, affirmative attitude in life is possible only when the organism functions as a totality, when the plasmatic excitations, together with the emotions pertaining to them, can pass through all the organs and tissues without obstruction, when, in short, the expressive movements of the plasm are capable of flowing freely.
As soon as even one single armor block limits this function, the expressive movement of affirmation is disturbed. Small children then cannot become fully immersed in their games, adolescents fail in their work or in school, adults function like a moving car with the emergency brake on. The onlooker, the teacher, or the technical supervisor gets the “impression” that the person is lazy, recalcitrant, or incapable. The “blocked” person himself feels he is a failure “no matter how hard he tries.” This process can be translated into the language of the living organism: the organism always starts out by functioning in a biologically correct way, by flowing freely and giving. However, in the passage of the orgonotic excitations through the organism, the functioning is slowed down and the expression of “I take pleasure in doing” is translated into an automatic “I won’t” or “I don’t want to.” In short, the organism is not responsible for its own malfunctioning.
This process is of universal importance. I have intentionally selected clinical examples that have general validity. This was absolutely necessary. On the basis of these restrictions in human functioning, we shall arrive at a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of a whole series of unfortunate social phenomena which remain unintelligible without their biophysical background.
After this long but necessary digression, let us return to the fifth armor segment. In the upper segments, once we had succeeded in liberating the expressive movements from the armor ring, the overt expression which ensued could easily be interpreted. The inhibition of the eye muscles expresses “empty” or “sad” eyes. A firmly clenched jaw may be expressive of “suppressed anger.” A crying or roaring breaks loose from the “knot in the chest.”
Body language is easily translated into word language and the expressive movement is immediately intelligible when we are working on the four upper segments. The situation is more complicated when working on the diaphragmatic segment. Once the armor of the diaphragmatic segment has been dissolved, we are no longer in a position to translate the language of movement into word language. This requires a detailed explanation. The overt expression which ensues when we have dissolved the armor of the diaphragmatic segment leads us into the uncomprehended depths of the life function. We meet a new problem here: in what concrete way is the human animal related to the primitive animal world and to the cosmic function of the orgone?
We succeed in liberating the diaphragmatic segment from the armor by having the patient repeatedly release the gag reflex, while strictly enjoining him not to suspend respiration during the gagging but to continue to inhale and exhale forcefully. The repeated releasing of the gag reflex leads inevitably to the dissolution of the diaphragmatic armor. There is only one precondition: the armor of the upper segments must have been dissolved beforehand, i.e., the orgonotic currents in the regions of the head, neck, and chest must function freely.
As soon as the diaphragm expands and contracts freely, i.e., respiration functions fully and spontaneously, the trunk strives, with each exhalation, to fold up in the region of the upper abdomen. In other words: the neck end strives forward toward the pelvic end. The upper middle part of the abdomen is drawn in. This is the picture of the orgasm reflex as it is displayed to us for the first time. (It is still a distorted picture, for the pelvis is still not wholly loosened.) The forward bending of the trunk accompanied by the backward movement of the head expresses “surrender.” It is not difficult to understand this. The difficulties begin where the convulsions start in a forward direction. The emotional expression of the convulsions in the orgasm reflex are not immediately intelligible. The expression of the convulsions IN THE ORGASM REFLEX CANNOT BE TRANSLATED INTO WORD language. There must be a special reason for this difficulty. We have to assume that there is some essential difference between the expressive movements which we have become familiar with thus far and the expressive movement of the whole trunk which becomes manifest when the diaphragm functions freely.
I should like to ask the reader to follow me with the utmost patience from now on and not to withdraw trust prematurely. His patience will be amply rewarded by the results which we shall achieve. I can assure the reader that I myself have had to exercise the greatest patience for more than a decade to arrive at the findings I am about to describe. Again and again during these years I despaired in the attempt to comprehend the orgasm reflex; it seemed absolutely impossible to make this basic biological reflex accessible to human concepts. However, I refused to give up, for 1 neither could nor wanted to admit that the living organism, which has an immediately intelligible language of expression in all other spheres, should, precisely in the central sphere, the orgasm reflex, express nothing. This seemed so contradictory, so completely absurd that I simply could not accept it. Time and again I told myself that I was the one who had said that the living organism simply functions, that it did not have any “meaning.” It seemed correct to suppose that the “inexpressiveness” or “meaninglessness” of the orgastic convulsions indicated precisely this: in its basic function, the living organism does not reveal any meaning. Yet the attitude of surrender which becomes manifest in the orgasm reflex is both expressive and meaningful. Undoubtedly, the orgastic convulsions themselves are full of expression. I had to tell myself, then, that natural science had simply not yet learned to comprehend this widely diffused, indeed universal, emotional expression of the living organism. In short, an inner “expressive movement” without overt “emotional expression” seemed to me to be an absurdity.
Vomiting represents one approach to the problem, for the patient often vomits when the diaphragmatic armor is broken through. Just as there is an inability to cry, there is also an inability to vomit. This inability is easy to understand in terms of orgone biophysics. Together with the armor rings which lie above it, the diaphragmatic block prevents the peristaltic wavelike movement of the body energy upward from the stomach toward the mouth. In the same way, the “knot” in the chest and “swallowing,” together with the contraction of the eye muscles, prevent crying. In other cases of diaphragmatic blocks, there is, in addition to the inability to vomit, constant nausea. There can be no doubt that “nervous stomach” complaints are the direct consequence of the armoring in this area, though we still do not have a thorough understanding of the connection between the two.
Vomiting is a biological expressive movement whose function performs precisely what it “expresses”: convulsive expulsion of body contents. It is based on a peristaltic movement of the stomach and esophagus in a direction contrary to its normal function, namely toward the mouth. The gag reflex loosens the armor of the diaphragmatic segment radically and quickly. Vomiting is accompanied by a convulsion of the trunk, a rapid folding in the pit of the stomach, with the neck and pelvic end jerking forward. In the colic of small children, vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea. In terms of energy, strong excitation waves run from the center of the body upward toward the mouth and downward toward the anus. The emotional expression in this case speaks such an elementary language that there can be no doubt of the deep biological nature of this language. It is merely a question of understanding it.
The total movement which seizes the trunk in vomiting is, purely physiologically (not emotionally), the same as that of the orgasm reflex. This is also confirmed clinically: the dissolution of the diaphragmatic block introduces, with certainty, the first convulsions of the trunk which, subsequently, develop into the total orgasm reflex. These convulsions are accompanied by deep exhalation and an excitation wave which spreads upward from the region of the diaphragm toward the head and downward toward the genitalia. We know that the dissolution of the upper armor segments is an indispensable precondition to the release of the total convulsion of the trunk. In the movement of the excitation wave toward the pelvis, the orgonotic excitation invariably runs into a block in the middle of the abdomen. Either the middle of the abdomen contracts sharply and quickly or the pelvis moves backward and becomes cramped in this position.
This contraction in the middle of the abdomen represents the sixth independently functioning armor ring. The spasm of the large abdominal muscle (Rectus abdominis) is accompanied by a spastic contraction of the two lateral muscles (Transversus abdominis), which run from the lowermost ribs to the upper margin of the pelvis. They can be easily palpated as hard painful muscle cords. In the back, the lower sections of the muscles running along the spine (Latissimus dorsi, sacrospinalis, etc.) correspond to this segment. These muscles also can be clearly felt as hard painful cords.
The loosening of the sixth armor segment is easier than the loosening of all the other segments. After it has been dissolved, it is easy to approach the armor of the seventh and last armor segment, the pelvic armor.
In most cases, the armor of the pelvis comprises almost all the muscles of the pelvis. The whole pelvis is retracted. The abdominal muscle above the symphysis is painful. The same holds true for the adductors of the thigh, those on the surface as well as those which lie deeper. The anal sphincter muscle is contracted, hence the anus is pulled up. Let one contract the gluteal muscles voluntarily and it will be understood why the gluteal muscles are painful. The pelvis is “dead” and expressionless. This “inexpressiveness” is the “expression” of asexuality. Emotionally, no sensations or excitations are felt. On the other hand, the symptoms are legion: constipation, lumbago, growths of all kinds in the rectum, inflammation of the ovaries, polyps of the uterus, benign and malignant tumors. Irritability of the urinary bladder, anesthesia of the vagina and the penis surface, with hypersensitivity of the urethra, are also symptoms of the pelvic armor. Leukorrhea accompanied by development of protozoa from the vaginal epithelium (Trichomonas vaginalis) is frequently found. In the male, as a result of anorgonia of the pelvis, we find either the inability to achieve an erection or apprehensive hyperexcitability resulting in premature ejaculation. In the female, we find complete vaginal anesthesia or spasm of the muscles of the vaginal opening.
There is a specific “pelvic anxiety” and a specific “pelvic rage” The pelvic armor is the same as the shoulder armor, inasmuch as it, too, holds bound in it impulses of rage as well as anxiety. Orgastic impotence produces secondary impulses which achieve sexual gratification by force. No matter how much in keeping with the biological pleasure principle the impulses of the act of love may commence, the result is anything but pleasurable: since the armor does not permit the development of involuntary movements, i.e., does not permit convulsions to pass through this segment, the pleasure sensations are inevitably transformed into impulses of rage. The result is a torturous feeling of “having to get through,” which cannot be called anything but sadistic. In the pelvis, as everywhere else in the province of the living organism, inhibited pleasure is transformed into rage, and inhibited rage is transformed into muscular spasms. This can be easily confirmed clinically. No matter how far the loosening of the pelvic armor has advanced, no matter how mobile the pelvis has become, the fact remains: pleasure sensations in the pelvis cannot appear as long as the rage has not been liberated from the pelvic muscles.
In the pelvis, as in all other armor segments, there is “beating” or “piercing” by means of strong forward-thrusting pelvic movements. The overt expression of this movement is unequivocal and cannot be misunderstood. Besides the expression of rage, the expression of contempt is also clearly evident: contempt for the pelvis and all its organs, contempt for the sexual act and especially contempt for the partner with whom the act is carried out. On the basis of wide clinical experiences, I contend that it is a matter of love in only a few cases when man and woman in our civilization engage in the sexual act. The rage which usurps the initial love impulses, hate, and sadistic emotion are all part and parcel of modern man’s contempt for sex. I am not speaking of the clear cases in which the sexual act is performed for profit or subsistence. I am speaking of the majority of people of all social strata. It is on the basis of these clinical findings that the Latin saying, “Omne animal post coitum triste,” has become a scientific axiom. There is only one error in this statement: man ascribes his own disappointment to the animal. The rage and the contempt which have so distorted the expressive movement of genital love are reflected in the widespread vulgar terms of abuse which are clustered around the word “fuck.” In America, one finds the words “Knock me” written on the sidewalks—their meaning is clear. I gave a thorough description of these findings in Volume I of my book The Discovery of the Orgone. Hence, it is not necessary for me to go into detail here.
 Cf. Reich: The Discovery of the Orgone, Vol. I.