Styles of Breathing in Reichian Therapy
The Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich was a colleague of Freud’s in the 1920s. Whereas his fellow psychoanalysts worked with patients essentially by the analysis of the contents of their communications, Reich analyzed in addition the form of the communication. This led him to a detailed study of muscle tone, posture, and patterns of breathing. He found chronic patterns of muscle tension (which he called armoring), consistently associated with breathing disturbances, in all the patients he treated. He came to the conclusion that deficient expansion on inspiration or deficient relaxation on expiration, or both, was a central mechanism of neurotic repression. By 1934, he had begun to counteract the dysfunctional breathing with a special style of massage and manipulation. Typically, his clients released a range of repressed emotions. Emotional release was followed by more rhythmic breathing. From 1933 onwards, Reich developed character (ego structure) analysis as a way of focusing on the “gestalt” of a person’s neurotic defence patterns, and interpreting these in the same way that Freud had interpreted the neurotic symptoms.
KeywordsBreathing Pattern Pulmonary Emphysema Expressive Movement Neurotic Symptom Emotional Release
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