Freud set out to accommodate his theory of neuroses within the wider context of a scientific inquiry. This led him to profound discoveries concerning unconscious processes occurring within the sufferer. However, the theory did not provide a ready means to put the cure into practice, and it was discovered (surprise, surprise!) that patients didn't seem either to want or be able to open up completely to the analyst. Freud put his "star" pupil, Wilhelm Reich, in charge of the Technical Seminar to resolve this issue. The challenge was to devise a consistent method whereby the correct technique could be deduced from the clinical material in each individual case. It was the practice then, and to some degree to this day, to offer an interpretation, whenever interpretable material arose. I, at times, still have to deliberately avoid linking surface behavior or dream material with deeper conflicts, even if such linkages seem very apparent.
To return to the obvious difficulty patients have of being completely open and vulnerable to the one who's trying to help them (the therapist), it became clear in the Technical Seminar that patients' resistances to their vulnerability needed to be dealt with. But out of a myriad of such resistances (eyes averted all the time, eyes constantly looking at you, insults, placating behavior, hostility, showing up late, not leaving at end of session), which ones should be picked out for dissolving? It was out of this conundrum concerning resistances that the technique of Character Analysis arose, since it was toward the character itself that most energies were diverted and subsequently trapped, thereby thwarting the patient's life processes. If one could just see the patient's unique character clearly (aided by a typology of characters), then this would be a guide to which resistances to focus on.
Over years, and sometimes decades, patients build up stereotyped ways of thinking, feeling, relating, and behaving. Therefore, ascertaining the correct character diagnosis became the royal road to unwinding the blocks and hindrances to the patient's life flow.
As each successive layer was transformed, it became obvious to Reich that it was better to stick to the original character resistance than start on a new one. This methodical approach ensured that the therapy proceeded in an orderly fashion, and, in fact, gained momentum. It also meant that the hardest part of the psychotherapy was always in the initial stages. But, because of this, the therapeutic alliance was assured of having the necessary strength to hold up as deeper and stronger genetic material surfaced.
It was during this process that Reich observed the spontaneous release of emotion, insight, and/or motoric events. Perhaps through the influence of women, such as Elsa Gendler, working at the time in the field of what later became known as Sensory Awareness, Reich was encouraged to work more closely with the body. Since he was keenly aware of the profound impact of the mother's health during pregnancy and the crucial influence of the relationship between mother and infant on the developing person, it was an obvious, though unusual leap, to work directly with the somatic aspect of the psychosomatic unity, the pre-verbal realm. In utero and early attachment phases are clearly pre-verbal; nonverbal approaches are best suited ultimately to resolving these early developmental issues.
In learning this approach it is important to have a thorough grasp of Character Analytic diagnosis and interventions before attempting somatic work. Somatic interventions are, or can be, extremely powerful, and it cannot be over-emphasized that a cautious approach is better than a potentially bold but damaging one. I have, on occasion, had to do some considerable non-somatic repair work in cases where the patient was opened up in a chaotic manner by some forms of bodywork. It is all too easy to create a dramatic bodywork session in an individual or teaching situation. If the patient's main block is in the brain, the body can be quite soft and open, and so can readily yield to dramatic emotional outbursts.
If the brain armoring is not tended to adequately, some forms of cathartic release will cause further contraction in this segment and a worsening of the clinical picture.
As Reich devoted himself more to this somatic extension of Character Analysis, he formed the view that the motility of the body can be divided into seven sections: ocular, oral, cervical, thoracic, diaphragmatic, abdominal, and pelvic segments. In an ideal healing sequence, the segments would be freed up from the head down. Of course, in actual practice, the situation is much more complicated than this, and the method must be derived from the basic and unique understanding (diagnosis) of the patient. But as a general rule, working from the ocular/brain segment down is a good sequence to bear in mind.
Two other useful understandings or guidances emerge from receiving training in the somatic component of Reich's work. First, we have an objective way of assessing if someone is healthy (not in need of treatment!), just by observing how the body expresses itself in respiration. Secondly, remember I mentioned above about the rule to avoid making interpretations? Now, if the energy in the patient is freed up in the upper segments, and the diaphragmatic segment has largely been freed, then the therapist is also freed to interpret genetic material. By this time, as Elsworth Baker says in Man in the Trap, the patient can now be very helpful in their own therapy!