In the first part of the 20th century, Austrian Psychoanalist Wilhelm Reich developed a theory explaining how we respond both physically and emotionally to the challenges we meet in life, especially in early life. For the past few weeks, I’ve introduced you, in broad terms, to Character Structures in general, and to the Masochist, or Endurer, the Oral, and the Schizoid. This week I’ll introduce you to the Rigid body and character type.
The Rigid structure is sometimes depicted as square, or rectangular: squared shoulders, straight back. Somewhat military. When I try to imagine a rigid stance, I imagine someone like General Montromery, or Spock.
The main issue with the Rigid is early control: of being exploited by (usually) one parent – often unawares – to fulfill that parent’s own needs. The father, for instance, who insists his son follow in his footsteps, or become a doctor, or go to a particular school – regardless of the child’s wishes and needs. The child finds that they must swallow this parent’s beliefs, whether he believes them himself. To do so, he learns to separate his own feelings from his thoughts, developing a “stiff upper lip”, calmy and effectively doing what’s needed, regardless of what he may be feeling.
The Rigid, in separating feelings from beliefs, may find himself in dry long-term relationships and passionnate short-term ones, never reconciling his emotional needs with his life goals. He’s the person who needs different partners for sex and for love.
At their best, the Rigid person is the righteous, clear-headed thinker. Reliable. Organized. Thorough. (And the best of all character types, according to my Rigid friend.)
The primary challenge for the Rigid is to learn to recognize, and then trust, his own beliefs and feelings.
Next week, I’ll introduce the Psychopath, or Challenger character Type. If you find this series interesting, and want to know more, I along with my friend and colleague Jane Mactinger will be holding a workshop on Character Structures in the near future. Stay tuned for a date and time.
Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .