Peeling Away

It’s hard work, peeling away the layers of blockages and armourings. Yet, to avoid doing this work is to live a tiny life.

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layers
knotsI don’t know…
I kinda like it in here…

Last week, I talked a bit about finding your Original Face. Getting to this place means cutting through the ties that bind us, and part of that involves taking responsibility for the ropes, the knots, and the pride we have in being so tied-up.

Have a look at last week’s article—and the drawing. Notice the bottom third.

We’ll return to the “Sea of Chi” in a future article, but for now, here are some things to be found in there:


  • symbolic imaginings and stories
  • skill set passions
  • repressed desires
  • out of control” emotions
  • cues for balancing meridians, energy, chi, yin/yang

All of this, and more, has been locked away.

This material has been called Shadow Material (by Jung, among others) for its ethereal-ness. It’s in there, but not in an obvious way. It materializes in repeated patterns of “failure,” aches and pains in the body, in dreams, in “coincidences.” It’s hard to see, until we choose to look.

The Cultural /Societal Lens, imposed upon us for the “good of the tribe,” is not to blame for this sea of repressed material. No, the process of learning the rules is essential for our socialization. What is missing from our upbringing is a systematic “way in”—a way to explore this almost invisible material.

This is what we’ll be considering

Exploring our blocked material is not supposed to be a battle. Here’s what “fixing it” might look like:

For the first 16 years, and especially in childhood, we socialize our children, help them to understand how to be members of society. Then we help them to re-explore the shadow material as adults. I see this happening at around age 16 or so.

Needless to say, this happens almost never.

Not to say this is a one shot deal

I was working with a new client today, who did a quite elegant bit of bodywork. At the door, we were unpacking a bit, and she said, “I’ve been peeling away layers of this for decades—now I’m ready to deal with the core issues.”

It’s like what happens as we cut into an onion. Our work is a peeling away. We simply find more of ourselves, the same thing, but deeper. It’s us, all the way down.

lookingI’m not stuck, I just don’t want to look

Wilhelm Reich was the father of bodywork. He came up with the idea of “character armour” (frozen thoughts and behaviour) — he saw this as the logical result of the “Cultural Lens” process. In other words, as we are moved through the Lens, we create armouring at multiple levels, to “put down”, repress. what our tribes tell us is “bad / wrong.”

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Physical character armour actually refers to the realm of action—body armour refers to the physical realm. In short, we learn to tighten muscles in order to “hold in” emotions and expressions of self that “made mommy and daddy uneasy.” The “feeling” of a physical blockage is anywhere from tightness to rigidity to inflexibility.

Mentalmental armouring is the result of the Lens. We are told what to believe, and how to judge duality — right / wrong, good / bad, etc. We buy into this stuff because everyone around us is buying into something similar. And, we’re manipulated into this system by the reactions of our parents. Our belief system seems to be flexible, until someone either asks us to shift, or we form a relationship.

Spiritual — I’m not expressing a belief in external deities, but rather am pointing to the core Self that resonates to the free flow of chi. Mostly, this visceral experience has been watered down to empty ritual and formula. The armouring is a refocussing of attention away from the energetic feel of ecstasy, to the process of repeating words and actions.

sexualityNo way I’m going there–I might actually enjoy it…

Sexual character armour plays a big role here. The armour can be felt during bodywork, as rigidity and inflexibility in the lower belly, butt, and root chakra. Body parts are stuck—frozen in place. There is also a judgement—sexual feeling is declared to be “special,” private, inappropriate. In bodywork, I often see this shutting down, as energy starts to move.

Reich was the first to notice that putting pressure on blocked parts of the body helped people to release, or let go of, the body armour, and what resulted was the release of the character armour and the full expression of the underlying, blocked “whatever.” Might be an emotion, might be stuck thinking, might be freedom to be whole, might be the free flow of energy, charge, passion and sexuality.

In fact, Reich named this energy Orgone energy, and declared that having full-body orgasms would mean you’d never need therapy!

Peeling away starts with acknowledgment

Funny how powerful the conditioning is. Most people come to therapy unaware of its depth or breadth. In general, the chief Lens rule is, “Look Outside.” This plays out in 2 ways:

1) others are to blame for our experience, and

2) I should look to others to determine what to do.

If you think about kids, this is precisely how they learn. Their little heads are constantly swinging about, monitoring the reactions of “parents” to their behaviour. If the “parent” reacts “negatively,” you see muscles tighten, and jaws clamp shut. Or you see an explosion of emotion, followed by a larger, more repressive adult reaction. One way or another, the child’s “negative” behaviour is extinguished.

Of course, the energy went internal. It got stuffed down, under the tightness of the child’s developing body and character armour.

Our work with clients, and on this blog, is all about helping clients (and readers) to begin to peel away the layers of armouring. Down to the growing edge. And then to dig deeper, and deeper, to unearth more and more of the blocked and suppressed material, to explore the energy of the blocked material, to dig and dig, and to find the centre, where all the drama and bullshit simply disappears. Like peeling an onion.

Most people resist going that far

I see a lot of people, and most want to maintain their belief system, keep up their walls, and magically be free of their pains and blockages. Examples abound. It goes like this:

  • People are critical of me, and hold me back. Others try to make me do things their way. I have no freedom of action, and besides, if I take a risk, I may fail, and then they’d be proven right.”
  • Bad things happened to me when I was growing up, and they will define me until I die. it’s all their fault that I am stuck!”
  • I know there is a princess out there, waiting for me. I keep finding her, and then, after 6 months, there are problems. I wonder why I can’t find my princess.”
  • I want to communicate and have a great relationship, but my partner won’t go along, and besides, I have to protect the children from seeing what’s happening.”
  • My partner should do all of the stuff I don’t want to do, for me. It’s “his” job to make me happy and to keep the boogeyman away.”
  • My body is tight because I can’t let down my guard. I want to be flexible and passionate and sensual, but only if I can do it slowly and without anyone seeing me. And I don’t want to enjoy myself too much, because, what will people think?”

And on… and on…

A therapist friend of mine is off doing a 3 month bodywork training. Here’s quote from her blog:

The psychotherapist in me sees that the ways I move in the world were adaptive somewhere along the line.

Locking my pelvis and freezing my hips have served to protect me from connecting to my sexuality (a potentially dangerous place to hang out). Tensing my shoulders and rolling them forward around my heart has shielded me from pain and hurt. Clamping together my teeth and tightening my jaw has stopped me from saying something that might offend someone I care about and cause them to move away, might prevent another’s anger and violence. Limiting my breath has allowed me to avoid feeling and expressing emotions that might otherwise upset my homeostasis. Maintaining a low-grade armouring has ensured that the animal of my body would not spontaneously do something that would make me strange, a target for another’s ridicule. Using my shoulders, arms, and hands to move through the world has cultivated a false sense of being in control.

I see now that to maintain these once-adaptive body dynamics requires an inordinate amount of energy; energy is coming up so that I can run a hill or feel into someone’s quadriceps and energy is simultaneously holding down and restricting any impulses and movements that threaten to ambush the status quo of my body’s safety, security, and stability in the world. The result is efforting, enduring, and eventual exhaustion. Eventually, the consequence is also a tweak in my lower back or a locked jaw, aching in my hands and fingers; muscles which might be supple and flexible are instead hard and unreceptive. More disconnection from my animal body is needed to manage the discomfort. Numbing takes over.

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Over the next while, I’ll write about letting go, peeling down, and why it’s the work of a lifetime.


QiGong Secrets — Week 2

qi gong

I am continuing to enjoy the QiGong Home Secrets course that I described in last week’s blog. This online, twenty-two week course is a simple introduction to QiGong. The simple QiGong movement, Butterfly Dancing in Front of Flowers, demonstrated in week one, and taught in more detail in week two, is alone worth the cost of the $5 two-week trial.

Butterfly Dancing in Front of Flowers is a very simple movement that opens the heart meridian. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart meridian is called the Emperor. When it is open, it benefits all the emotions. Benefits for this movement include overcoming depression and sadness, and deepening creativity, joy, and clarity. 

I have been practising twice a day for about 10 minutes each time. I practise in the morning and when I get home from school. One day I came home from school with a pile of marking, wondering how I would have the energy even to accomplish a fraction of what I wanted to get done. After 10 minutes of Butterfly Dancing in Front of Flowers, I felt refreshed and actually accomplished some marking rather than my usual pattern of carrying home bags of marking and carrying them back the next day untouched.

It is my hope, in retirement, to spend some time teaching QiGong.  Butterfly Dancing in Front of Flowers will be the first movement I teach. It is so simple to learn, can be done by anyone regardless of co-ordination or athletic ability, is easy to remember, and demonstrates quickly the positive effects of QiGong.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, our body has 12 primary and 8 secondary meridians, or energy pathways. When “chi,” or energy, flows harmoniously through the meridians, we experience good health. When we experience lack of energy or illness, it is the result of blockages in the energy flow in our meridians. These blockages can be from a physical cause due to an injury, an emotional cause due to the stresses in our life, a mental cause due to thinking too much, or a spiritual cause due to depression. The simple movements of QiGong remove blockages and increase the flow of energy. With a smooth energy flow, we can experience good health. With a vigorous energy flow, we experience vitality, and with an abundant energy flow, we experience longevity. Health, vitality and longevity are three of the aims of QiGong.

Qigong Secrets Home Study Course

I truly believe that QiGong is simple to learn but that does not mean it is easy. It is not a miracle cure. It takes a lot of work. Blockages that have occurred after years of bad habits will not be cured after a few simple moves. QiGong requires 15 to 20 minutes a day of practice. That means every day. QiGong is simple repetitive movements completed in a meditative state. You can’t be planning out your day or preparing the supper menu while practising QiGong. 

If you have not already taken a look at this course, I encourage you to do so. You will get value for the cost of the two-week trial, learning the first movement and the cost can be fully refunded if you decide not to continue with the course. 

I’d love to hear about your experiences. Drop me a line in the comments section of the blog!


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So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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