The Trauma Recovery Institute

Character Defenses & Relational Responses

One of the useful things about being human is that we can learn things, then repeat the learned process with almost no effort. We learn to stand, walk, run, drive a car, write, type, check emails and do other useful things. We also learn some habits that are not so useful, like chewing our fingernails when nervous, grinding our teeth when angry, and eating chocolate or drinking alcohol when we don’t feel so good. These sorts of habits can turn into so‐called bad habits or even addictions.
Habitual Emotional Reactions
We can also develop habitual emotional reactions to certain situations. These can be hidden from our own awareness, but they can be very clear to others. They usually cut in when we feel under stress or pressure. Consider a situation where you are suddenly under threat. Some people would experience the impulse to flee, where others may turn and fight. A person not under stress would be able to face the situation with more presence, and evaluate options rather than impulsively react using a learned reaction.
Being in the Present
It is not easy to be fully present in every situation. Life is complex, and it is not always possible to respond to each moment with all your attention, experience and maturity. By the time we reach adulthood we each carry a huge range of learned reactions, and are usually unaware of when we play them. They just feel like ‘normal’ (or even ‘good’) behaviour. A classic example is transference ‐ a person might in some way remind me of my mother, and in subtle ways I find myself reacting to her as though she was my mother.
Character Defences
In psychological literature these subtle habitual responses are called character defenses. Most of us know and use all the common ones, and many others besides, but we tend to develop favourites, and become very good at a few of them. Knowing our personal favourites helps us to see them when they sneak up on us, and with awareness we can slowly start to reduce their impact in our lives.
The five common character defences are (Wilhelm Reich):
Schizoid – Running away as much as possible, leaving the scene, not staying present, denying ( The Unwanted Child )
Oral – Extreme neediness, clinginess, acting as though there isn’t enough, stuffing ( The Needy Child )
Masochistic – Feels guilty for everything, even if it’s not your fault, sulking, imposed upon ( The Endurer )
Psychopathic – Reacts with anger, aggression, insistence, needs to be the dominant figure, star ( The Controller / Leader )
Rigid – The impulse to make everything nice and perfect, maintain appearances ( The Perfectionist / Obsessional )

In Relationships

Here’s where it gets interesting. If one person reacts to a situation by dropping into a defence, the other person is likely to drop into a counter‐defence. Neither person is really acting from their core authentic adult self, but neither can get out of the situation either, because each person feels that he or she is doing the best they can under the circumstances.
The Healing Response
Just as it is possible to become aware of when we are in defence (reverting to an old habitual response), it is also possible to learn how to act when someone else is in a defensive state, and so neutralise the defence. These responses are called healing responses, and can be learned and used consciously to neutralise most defences.
Masochist Character Structure – The Endurer
A person caught in the masochist character structure feels powerless and despondent. Life is a bitch! There is a deep, ingrained fear of being stifled, manipulated and exploited. Such a person has been humiliated, and not allowed to express or assert themselves the way they want. So they retreat deep inside themselves, and can’t express any more ‐ they may even be unable to finish their sentences . . .
The masochist always feels like a victim, and is unhappy and frustrated. There is always plenty to complain and whinge about, which can lead to bitterness and occasional violent outbursts. When subjected to the authority of others, the masochist is very sensitive indeed. He or she constantly projects anger against anyone who represents authority in any way, or tries to exert influence over them. As an authority (such as an employer or parent), the masochist is tough, sets high standards, and is critical when these are not achieved. Such a person will make use of restrictions, taboos and rules to curb the natural vitality and enjoyment of life that others show ‐ especially children. Masochists are miserable.
The active masochist structure brings out anger and aggressiveness towards others ‐ because the other person is always to blame! Also permanent discontent and openly‐expressed moodiness, based on anger. Manipulates through blame, criticism and complaints, generally openly. The anger comes to the surface, and the underlying fear is repressed. The passive masochist structure evokes submission, out of fear of being stifled and further humiliated. Also obedience, niceness and passivity. Manipulates through meekness and niceness. This aspect is more often found in women. The anger is still present, but deeply repressed, and fear dominates.
Being sick is of real interest to the masochist, because one suffers ‐ and so has grounds for complaining and looking pathetic. The masochist tries to force others to take care of them, and then complains if they don’t. The digestive system is prone to all manner of illnesses and malfunctions. Stress due to suppression of anger appears in the back and shoulders. And the deep sense of powerlessness generates an unconscious hopelessness that readily manifests as anxiety or depression.
Healing Response
A person displaying the masochist structure has a major issue with invasion and being controlled. They expect you to invade them with your energy. Don’t oblige ‐ it will not be an effective way to communicate! Avoid sending bioplasmic streamers or using your third‐chakra cords, and don’t let them invade your solar plexus chakra either. Imagine a cap over your third chakra, or place your hand over it. If you feel bioplasmic cords coming from them, imagine yourself wearing a teflon overcoat, and just let the cords slide off without sticking, and fall into the earth. Give the other person plenty of space ‐ stand far enough away that you do not come into their personal field ‐ stay about a metre apart. Once you have the streamers and cords under control, pay attention to the frequency or quality of energy within your own field. Bring your field frequency to match theirs ‐ you can do this by imagining yourself becoming like them. Then lightly expand your field until it just touches the edge of theirs. They will feel this, but it will feel comfortable because it feels just like their field ‐ and your energy is not invasive. Just stay present with your fields synchronised. Feel your essence and let it fill your own field. You will both feel the connection without controlling or being controlled.
Oral Character Structure – The Needy Child
A person caught in the oral character structure experiences powerful feelings of deprivation, loss or abandonment. This gives rise to a fear that there is “not enough” of something, now or in the future. If the emptiness is felt physically in the body, there may be attempts to bring comfort by stuffing the body with food, drink, drugs, alcohol or tobacco, all taken in through the mouth (hence the term ‘oral’). If the deprivation is more emotional, soothing might be sought through shopping, watching television, travel, study, work, playing sport, exercising. Not that these are inherently bad activities ‐ rather, they are being used to try to soothe an inner sense of deprivation (which cannot be soothed in this way).
Another approach is to seek solace directly from other people through relationships. The oral person feels dependent, clingy or needy in such relationships, which quickly evokes a reaction of disgust and revulsion. There will also be a permanent worry about the future, leading to a tendency to accumulate, hoard and possess for the sake of self‐preservation against some imagined future scarcity.
The oral character can have a thin, scrawny body type, portraying a picture of deprivation. Or the opposite can occur, and the body can be overweight because of the stuffing behaviour. A cluttered home or lifestyle (after all that shopping) can be evident, but there will still be a sense of deprivation rather than abundance. The pattern of unattainable satisfaction can be seen in excesses of all kinds: sex, work, food, activity, talking. In relationships there is an unconscious demand that the other person steps up to meet all kinds of needs, leading to behaviour that can be demanding, manipulative or (when direct methods don’t work any more) seductive and then blaming of others.
Healing Response
Being in relationship with a person displaying the oral structure is always a serious challenge, even for short periods. This is because so much is demanded, directly or through subtle persuasion ‐ but regardless of how much you give it is never going to be “enough”. The oral person feels that he or she “is not enough”. The healing response is based on helping the other person to have an experience of being filled ‐ without having them suck energy from you in the crazy, desperate way they want to.
First step is to prevent them sucking form you. This can be done by protecting your chakra that is being attacked (usually third = solar plexus). Place your hand over it. Do not stand directly in front of the other person, nor face them directly. Minimise eye contact, because the oral also sucks through the eyes. The second step is to energetically support them to stand on their own two feet, and nurture themselves. You can tell them that they have strong legs, and a strong inner source of life. Imagine them being able to draw life‐energy from the earth up through their legs and first chakra, and fill their energy field themselves.
You can also help to fill their aura with the use of bioplasmic streamers. This is different from letting them suck from you, because you are directing how your energy flows out. Calmly imagine beautiful, coloured, nourishing streams of energy flowing out from your hands and into their third chakra, nourishing them. Don’t expect quick results. The oral person has very little ability to receive energy apart from controlled sucking. It will be slow. They will feel there isn’t enough time. It’s very subtle work.
Psychopath Character Structure – The Controller
A person caught in the psychopath character structure demands to be seen as special and unique ‐ and insists on receiving lots of recognition and approval. This in turn generates a need to exert power and influence over as many people as possible in order to maintain this recognition. The person needs to be seen as a “star” ‐ loving, adorable, talented, capable. The underlying fear is of losing power or influence, of losing the approval of others, of losing face, and of being betrayed. They can only love those who love them back, and only for as long as they do.
In its extroverted form the psychopath structure appears as pride, arrogance and self‐centredness, with an emphasis on having the right image, being seen and admired, performing at every occasion, and having lots of influence over others. All this is done in order to boost an underlying lack of self‐esteem. The introverted or passive expression is seen in seductiveness, subtle manipulation of people and events, and doing almost anything (even prostituting oneself) in order to gain a bit of love and attention.
The physical body carries a lot of energy in the head and upper body, positively radiating confidence. There can be a puffed‐up or outwardly projecting chest (with a big star on it). There is usually very little energy in the lower body and legs, because psychopaths are highly emotionally‐charged and not well grounded. This character is always smiling, because he knows this is an effective way of gaining acceptance and manipulating the emotions of others. He (or she) talks about himself constantly, letting everyone who will listen know how great they are. The performance can be quite theatrical at times. The underlying belief is that one must be special in order to be loved. The psychopath character is quite unable to admit mistakes, because this would mean that they were not completely perfect in every way.
Healing Response
A person displaying the psychopath structure always needs an adversary. Winning requires someone to pick a fight with, and then to defeat, or to be better than in some significant way. The healing response is to refuse to engage as an adversary. This means not accepting their distorted view of life, but not arguing with it either (which is another kind of acceptance, and triggers the fight reaction).
First step is to take a deep breath and bend your knees. Sink your energy down, and pull back any bioplasmic streamers you may have sent out. Break eye contact if it helps, and centre in yourself. Make the lower half of your field strong with a wide base, and the upper part small. Do not engage in a contest. Imagine your body and your energy field is made of teflon, and let the negative energy simply slide off. Use the mantra, “no contest, no contest”. Do not argue any points. Just be there and listen to the arguments, continuing to let their negative energy slide down into the earth. Next, decrease the frequency of your field, because in arguments they will get high, harsh and jagged. Bring to mind things that make you feel calm, soft and secure. Keep slowing and smoothing your energy frequency until you come into resonance with the earth’s energy field, and hold yourself there. Hopefully the other person will find that the contest or argument is not as important as your acceptance of them for who they are. As they calm down and you feel safer, allow more heart energy to come in.

Rigid Character Structure – The Perfectionist / Obsessional
A person caught in the rigid character structure has a total focus on keeping the appearance of the outer world perfect. Even though the rigid person knows that everything is not perfect, a huge amount of effort goes into maintaining the appearance that it is, with no faults, weaknesses or negativity ever allowed. The illusion of perfection is achieved by continual attention to personal appearance and grooming, the house, the car, the family, the career, the holidays, the social events ‐ nothing escapes scrutiny. Everything in life is under very tight control.
Underneath, the inner world of the soul is denied, and core essence is not given any room to exist. This repression of all emotional energy often leads to over‐use of intellect. Life is managed according to logic and analysis, with no room for intuition, creativity or originality. The rigid character is disciplined, systematic, predictable and organised ‐ and loves it this way! There is also a strong focus on the material world, and everything is taken seriously. The rigid personality hates and avoids emotional display, hugs, people, being touched (physically or emotionally), dancing (especially where a flexible body is needed) and exuberance or any kind. The energy of the heart is blocked, and the energy of the head dominates. Rigid people (men and women alike) tend to prefer the company of men.
Unfortunately the illusion is unsustainable. The rigid character will eventually succumb to illnesses stemming from this inner “rigidity” or stiffness: arthritis, stomach ulcers, heart attacks to name a few. And it is painful for the rigid ‐ whose life has been perfect up until now ‐ to ask for help and to be vulnerable.
Healing Response
Being in relationship with a person displaying the rigid structure means working with someone who lacks emotional mastery. There is a split between the outer world ‐ which always looks pretty good ‐ and the core essence ‐ the existence of which is denied completely.
The big challenge for rigids is to stop controlling themselves and forcing themselves to be perfect, and to let down into their underlying inner fear ‐ which they keep avoiding. A rigid character has a balanced field and strong boundaries, so there need be no worry about invading with bioplasmic streamers or the wrong frequency in your energy field. Approach close. Stand in a state of loving kindness and unconditional acceptance. Feel your own core essence within, and allow it to upwell. The only way you can feel the essence of another is though your own expanded state of core essence. The work of the rigid is to stop taking him or herself so seriously, become more open‐minded to new ways of seeing things, open up the heart, welcome the unexpected surprises, laugh more, be flexible and generally “lighten up”. When this structure has been transformed the quality of emotional mastery emerges. Instead of repressing emotions they are welcomed, resulting in genuine sensitivity without sentimentality or mushiness. The person is capable of being calm and centred, flexible yet solid, and fully present in the moment.


Schizoid Character Structure – The Unwanted Child 
A person caught in the schizoid character structure has a lot of fear around engaging with the physical world. There is a reluctance to get involved in any sort of activity, to take responsibility, to complete tasks or develop relationships. Instead, there is a withdrawl into a fantasy world, or a world of pure intellectual activity. A person caught in this structure is simply “not present” in the physical world. There is usually a lot of fear, anguish and anxiety just below the surface, which can be felt by others. This aversion to being fully present can cause the body to take on a light, lean, elongated and disjointed appearance, where the body parts don’t seem to fit together very well. In the extreme, the schizoid person can be skinny and gangly (like catwalk models), the spine disjointed, many left‐right imbalances, and even high arches on the feet. The eyes may have a vacant “nobody home” appearance.
The life force keeps escaping out through the top of the head, leaving an unenergised body behind. Typical statements of this structure are: “I’m out of here! I don’t want to be here! I am afraid! I hate this world!” The general withdrawl mechanism shows in a reluctance to make commitments: a job or career, an intimate relationship, or any kind of activity ‐ including physical activity. There is a constant need to escape, giving rise to a restless need to travel or move on, and a reluctance to deal with conflict head‐on. There is also a general anger at the world for “not making room for me.”
Health issues centre around an underlying anxiety towards life, often without any proper external reason. Depression, lack of energy and chronic fatigue all make sense because the energy system keeps withdrawing from the physical body. There can also be immune system deficiencies and blood circulation problems (cold hands and feet). The body can be neglected, poorly fed, or carelessly clothed.
Healing Response
A person displaying the schizoid structure will not want to have contact with other human beings, and is basically afraid of them. Hostility is automatically expected and assumed ‐ even when it is not intended. Such a person will have weak boundaries, and be easily penetrated by others. The physical body is often weak and sensitive, ungrounded and vulnerable.
The biggest need of a schizoid person is to feel safe in the physical world, and safe inside his/her own body. But just ignoring them or not paying attention to them (to give them space) won’t do this, because they will feel that you are being angry or hostile, or rejecting them. It’s important not to come on too strong, nor to send out energetic streamers, nor cling to or manipulate them in any way, because they will just vacate their body immediately, as a reflex reaction. They are very sensitive and their boundaries are weak, so the slightest amount of “push” will be felt intensely. The schizoid tends to run his or her energy field mostly with the higher energy frequencies, and the lower, earthy frequencies are weak. To make contact, raise your energy‐consciousness to a high frequency, and make contact very lightly using harmonic induction. You can sometimes do this by bringing awareness to the upper chakras (crown of head, brow, throat) and working from there.
Then gradually and gently decrease the frequency, while staying focused within yourself. It is very easy to project yourself out the front of your body (and send out streamers) so keep your field spherical in shape to prevent this. Do not insist on eye contact, and maybe don’t even face the person directly. As you lower your vibration frequency, stay in a calm state and the other person may be able to follow you to safety.



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