De-armouring is a term that has evolved following the work of the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who brought the body into psychology. His approach to therapy included the interpretation of resistance, as in the form of inability or unwillingness to let go. In his approach, armouring, defence mechanisms, and resistances served as the start of observations before going inward.
Reich was much more interested in patients’ resistances than in the information they offered (in contrast to the mainstream approach at his time, the 1930s). He focused on breaking inhibitions and declared: “The resistance itself becomes the centre of the work”. When people discover how they resist awareness, then they can choose to keep doing so or to go deeper into themselves, at their own pace.
He didn’t work with the deeper layers of the unconscious until the defence mechanisms were identified because the resistance, he explained, holds the neurotic behaviour in place. So, until the resistances had been laid bare first, he wouldn’t interpret behaviour.
In character analysis – Reich’s therapy approach, resistances could be observed through the individual’s behavior (talking, walking, and moving). He noticed that his patients’ character traits, taken together, form the defense (or character armor) against those emotions caused by different life experiences, which were felt by them to be dangerous in some way. These defenses could be created from experiencing the stresses of everyday life, shock traumas, or even repeated negative thought patterns. This can imprison people in rigid and stereotyped reactions as this is a compromise between impulses and social obligations (between what is wanted and what is thought should be done).
Reich also noticed a somatic muscular armor that corresponded to the character armor, which is made up of physical tensions, cramps and spasms, and is the expression of emotions or ideas that had been repressed. Furthermore, these chronic tensions served to block the life energy flow underlying strong emotion, and so to “protect” the individual from their own strong feelings; thus, limiting and distorting their experience and expression of feeling. As a result of this armor, the physical body can become desensitised and numb to both pleasure and pain. Additionally, due to the locked up emotions, the armor also clouds the mind and makes it difficult to navigate life. Simply put, de-armoring is a way to open up and release this armor and to reunite the mind and body. Through breathing and other techniques, de-armoring aims to mobilise body energies.
Benefits of full body de-armoring:
Modern de-armoring (or Tantric de-armoring) is a holistic bodywork practice in which deep pressure is applied to different points in the body, combined with breathwork and a focused awareness of the felt sense in the body. The process can bring up various memories and feelings. In some cases, these memories and feelings may not have been felt or remembered for a long time (even decades) as these have often been stored in the body, in the nervous system and on a cellular level. Through deep tissue massage and pressing on certain points in the body, which is similar to a trigger point massage, numb and painful areas can be transformed back into pleasure areas. Doing so releases the physical tension and underlying trapped emotions. Tantric de-armoring can help with getting rid of tension, toxins, and blocks, and release negative memories, beliefs and emotions. It includes the whole body and helps open up the body’s natural energy pathways so that the healing life force, or sexual energy, can flow unobstructedly through the whole body.
It is important to note that the practice of removing so-called armor is not new and has been practiced for centuries by different cultures around the world under different names and variations. For instance, traditional Chinese medicine reflects some of the concepts of de-armoring through the practice of acupressure, which involves certain points of the body being pressed to release pain and emotion and allow the free flow of Chi in the body. What these practices is based on is that when we are imprisoned in unconscious ways of being, we lose the flexibility necessary for healthy adaptation. So, by interrupting and dissolving our character/body armor, we reinstate our natural energy flow and favour embracing life.
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What is de-armouring? Tantric Bodywork. (n.d.). https://tantricbodywork.co.uk/what-is-de-armouring/.
Wilhelm Reich Lecture. (n.d.). http://web.sonoma.edu/users/d/daniels/reichlecture.html.