by Penny Boreham, Intake Manger
In this series of blogs – Inspiration and Reflection, members of staff at Khiron House are choosing and sharing the words of an inspiring thinker/writer/practitioner who has made an impact on them and encouraged them to reflect more deeply on the work they do.
Today our Clinical Director, Dr Charles Hallings-Pott, who is a chartered clinical psychologist and Sensorimotor psychotherapist, chooses an extract from Anodea Judith’s book “Eastern Body Western Mind’.
Extract from Anodea Judith’s book, chosen by Dr Charles Hallings-Pott:-
CHARACTER ARMOUR (page 21 of “Eastern Body Western Mind, Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self“)
As excess [characterised by overcompensation] and deficiency [characterised by avoidance] become part of our chronic holding patterns they can become character armour. This bio-energetic term describes types of coping strategies and their chronic holding patterns locked in the posture and tissues of the body. Character armour typically develops during difficulties developed during developmental stages of life.Our ways of coping become defenses that get “hard wired” into the system as it develops, beyond conscious awareness. They are not what we decide to do, but rather are like default programmes that run automatically. Character structure describes overall patterns of armouring in the body. Alexander Lowen describes six basic character structures, each with distinctive characteristics, based on the pioneering work of William Reich. Most people exhibit at least one of these patterns, with shades and overtones of the other structures. For instance we may work through one layer of a character structure, only to find another one underneath, or sometimes a structure becomes activated by life situations .. Understanding character armour is very useful in working with the interface between body and mind, and correlates directly with the distribution of energy through the chakras.
Dr Charles Hallings-Pott’s reflections:-
I started on my journey towards Sensorimotor Psychotherapy via this wonderful book. Although set in the language of chakras it explores the integration of mind, body and energy in the treatment of developmental trauma. It talks about Character Armour and hardwired, somatic manifestations of trauma which relate very closely to the Character Strategies Pat Ogden developed within Sensorimotor Psychotherapy.
These are the strategies we construct around the childhood wounds we have experienced. Anodea Judith quotes the psychoanalyst John Conger in the book and he puts it beautifully: ‘Character provides the meeting place for psyche and soma…Character represents a practice of self-care, an ongoing hasty, rigid solution imposed over our instability to maintain an intact sense of self’.
Judith’s character armour corresponds to the distribution of energy through the various chakras – and each chakra reflects a basic inalienable right of a child or indeed any human being. These are: the right to be here, the right to feel, the right to act, the right to love, the right to speak, the right to see, and the right to know. Blockages to any of these can correspond to the character armour we build in good faith around us.
From this wonderful book I looked beyond purely cognitive therapies into those incorporating an element of body (the work of Diana Fosha was my first practical step towards this) and at least a nod in the direction of spirit.
The NHS where I worked before was not particularly broad-minded about these more ‘complicated’ concepts and it was with delight that I found Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – an integrated and holistic package of therapy which incorporated character strategy, acknowledged an element of energy flow and blockage, recognised the importance of being mindful of the body but which was also couched in the acceptably scientific language of neurophysiology.
This was the fourth in a series of blogs in which the staff at Khiron House will choose and share the words of an inspiring thinker/writer/practitioner who has made an impact on them and has encouraged them to reflect more deeply on the work they are currently practicing.
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