The Body's Belts of Tension
“I know that what you call 'God' really exists, but not in the form you think; God is primal cosmic energy, the love in your body, your integrity, and your perception of the nature in you and outside of you.” ― Wilhelm Reich
Wilhelm Reich was a major contributor to the body/mind sciences. He established a theory which shows how the human body maintains a psychic equilibrium developing certain physical holding patterns when faced with overwhelming experiences. These physical tensions can also be called holding patterns or body armor as we are armoring ourselves from overwhelming experiences. These physical holding patterns prevent a healthy flow of life force, or chi through the body. Reich proposed different segments or belts of tension where these physical tensions could be categorized. These segmental contractions are at right angles to this flow of life force or chi in the body. In fact Reich found that there were 7 main segments or belts of tension which are related to the flow of energy in the 7 chakras or energy centers which are discussed in eastern Philosophy.
1) Ocular Segment
All the muscles of the eyes and eyeballs, the forehead, the cheeks, the scalp, temples.
2) Oral Segment
Mouth, chin, nose, jaw, ears.
3) Cervical Segment
Deep neck muscles, the tongue and its operational muscles.
4) Thoracic Segment
Intercostal muscles, the large chest muscles (pectorals), the shoulder muscles (deltoids), the muscles around the shoulders and scapulas, the arms, the heart and the lungs.
5) Diaphragmatic Segment
the diaphragm, the stomach, the solar plexus.
6) Abdominal Segment
The large abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus), the transversus abdominis, which runs from the lower ribs to the upper margins of the pelvis, and in the back, the lower section of the muscles which run along the spine (latissimus dorsi and sacrospinalis).
7) Pelvic Segment
almost all the muscles of the pelvis: the genitals, urinary tract, the buttocks (gluteus maximus), the adductors and abductors (in the thighs), hamstrings, and lower legs.
The 7 Segments as defined by wilhelm Reich
Working with the 7 Segments using BBTRS
In BBTRS we focus on releasing these belts of tension (segments) in a systematic way moving from the top down. This creates a pathway for the repressed and bound sexual energy to rise up the body as it is released. The nature of energy is to keep moving. It finds the path of least resistance. Just like a water stream flowing where there’s space for it available. Therefore it is important to clear the pathway for the movement of this energy. When we unblock this pathway of movement we free up the muscular constriction and in the process release emotional blockages associated with this muscular tension. This in essence is trauma release.
The armour segments have different degrees of relationship to each other. In each session we focus mainly on one segment, but include the adjoining segments as well. This approach supports the energy opening throughout the whole body. Sometimes when energy is charged and emotion starts being released in one segment, the body has the tendency to contract in another segment. Usually higher in the body, this hinders a spontaneous release. This kind of defence has functioned throughout childhood as an intelligent protection, as in hindering the expression of anger, sadness, or even sometimes joy, if circumstances would have been threatening for the child to open up these emotions.
We use bioenergetic practices which aim to release holding patterns in certain areas of the body. The client can be given certain exercises to practice daily which can help for a particular characteristic of the client. The client learns to understand the process in his or her own body and begins to trust that the unconscious, instinctive protection is not needed anymore. Whatever has been repressed can be exposed and expressed. Through this process the breather can become ready to finally deal with deep loss, grief, and trauma that was inaccessible up until now, through not having a safe container for its release. Through expression the bound up energy can be released, undirected and an incomplete ‘Fight or Flight’ response can be completed. One may come out of immobility or a ‘freezing’ response that is stuck in the body. With completing these incomplete responses body movement integration can take place.