Here's the first in the series of my takes on Character Structures.

As a reminder of how a character structure is formed - When the child’s basic needs are not met, rage, terror, and grief are the ultimate affective responses to that reality. Because the child cannot live in such a state of chronic negative emotion, a defensive structure will be created to ward off these incapacitating feelings. The particular defenses used will be a function of the severity of the trauma, the developmental level of the child, and its genetic strength or weakness. That difference will largely determine the defenses chosen to avoid the affect and cope with the environment. Similarly, the development of the ego, of the self, and of the living sense will be stuck at the point at which these defenses are chosen and cemented into the character structure.

This particular character structure, the Schizoid CS, is the formed in the very first months of life.


TYPICAL PRESENTING PROBLEMS (when first arriving to therapy

- Lack of feelings, numbness, little or no joy or pleasure in life;
- Inability to engage in intimate relationships;
- Intense fears, paranoia, phobias, panic attacks, dissociative episodes, chronic anxiety, intense perfectionism, procrastination;
- Physical problems that could not be diagnosed medically; hypochondriasis;
- “Existential angst”, questioning one’s right to exist; feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness;
- Suicidal/homicidal ideations, impulses or actions; excessive concerns about death;
- Episodes of explosiveness, which may include physical violence;
- Self-mutilating behavior (biting, burning or cutting of the skin);
- Primary “falling” fear: falling apart;
- Primary holding pattern: holding together
- Primary longing: to feel whole;
- Primary survival struggle: the right to exist.

(Developmental Period – Prenatal to First Four Months of Life)

- Mother (or primary caretaker) was chronically any or all of the following very early in the child’s life, including during pregnancy: cold, hostile, rageful, abusive, erratic, unreliable, removed, distant, disconnected emotionally, fearful and/or anxious;
- Eye contact and physical contact between mother and child was avoided by mother, due to mother’s schizoid elements, or interfered with due to physical illness of mother or child, or due to traumatic birth circumstances (Caesarian, premature or breech delivery, incubator, etc.);
- Home environment was chaotic or threatening due to alcohol/drug abuse, violence, poverty, or external traumatic environmental circumstances (i.e. - natural disasters, political oppression, war);
- One or both parents were resentful of child’s presence (exacerbated by being unprepared for child-rearing due to an unwanted pregnancy, youth or other social conditions);
- Child did not meet parents’ idealized expectations of a “perfect baby”, and was greeted with disappointment or avoidance.


- Body is often narrow and contracted in an effort to hold together against the fear of falling apart (body may be fuller and more athletic if there are paranoid elements present due to sexualizing by parents); pervasive tension and stiffness throughout the body, with a frozen or wooden quality;
- Head, often large or with a large forehead, is pushed forward, drooping down or off to the side (due to tension created at base of skull to sever the head from the body and feelings);
- Shoulders up (in fear), and arms hang like appendages (to prevent contact with others or violent acting out);
- Feet are often cold and contracted; person is frequently “on their toes”, ungrounded, in the “fight or flight” position (curled, flexed and/or tight in the Achilles tendon);
- Splits in the body are quite marked, most often between the upper and lower halves, but also between front and back and left and right sides, including the eyes, and between the head and the body (correlates to use of splitting defense);
- Twisted spine (trying to get away from the threatening environment or parent that it also needs); person has particular difficulty with the “bow” position;
- Ocular blocks are very common, causing vision problems (doesn’t want to see the coldness or hostility), and the expression in the eyes is often either frozen terror or disconnectedness, with flashes of murderous fury; expression in the eyes is split from the expression of the rest of the face;
- Lack of color to the body and coldness in the extremities; also cold to the touch in the areas of chronic constriction;
- Skin is hypersensitive due to the withdrawal of energy from the exterior surface; touch is experienced as uncomfortable or painful;
- Shallow, constricted breathing (cannot embrace life), and high-pitched or constricted voice; choke response is easily elicited if the person is asked to breathe deeply (or on roller);
- Psychosomatic illnesses (headaches, eczema, digestive and respiratory problems common) due to chronic contractions and de-energized condition which tend to be worse in persons who are more strongly defended;
- Chronic areas of severe tension: base of the skull, joints of the shoulders, legs and hips, the diaphragm, and the ocular segment of the face;
- Dominant spasticities are in the small muscles around joints (fear of moving), so there is either inflexibility or hyperflexibility (more severe because muscles have given out).


- Energy is withheld from the peripheral structures of the body, those that make contact with the world: the face, hands, genitals and feet (correlates to poor reality testing);
- Organs are not fully connected energetically to the core, but are blocked by chronic tensions at the base of the skull, shoulders, pelvis and hip joints;
- The inner charge tends to be frozen in the core, making the will weak, but also precipitating explosive eruptions because of the compression;
- Energy flow is severely diminished at the waist due to severe contraction in the diaphragm and the separation from sexual feelings, and at the base of the head due to separation of thoughts from feelings;
- Chakras (energy centers): Crown - (spiritual connection) open but asymmetrical; Third Eye - (intuitive abilities) open, but asymmetrical; Throat - (self-expression) contracted and inverted; Heart - (love feelings) contracted and inverted; Solar Plexus - (universal wisdom) partially opened; Sexual - (pleasure and creativity) contracted and inverted; Base – (grounding and connection to physical life) contracted and inverted.


- Tremendous efforts are made internally to avoid and control any feelings due to the presence of deep-seated terror and murderous rage, which leads to intense fears of annihilation if feelings are expressed (this later becomes attached to any experiences of perceived rejection or failure); crippling anxiety, panic attacks and phobias often arise when feelings threaten to emerge;
- “As if” feelings are expressed according to what one “should feel” in a given situation, but there is no real spontaneity; self-expression is mechanical and controlled; aggression is expressed through passive withdrawal, though explosions are a potential;
- Feelings are talked about, or thought about, but not really felt or acknowledged as being in the body;
- Will is used predominantly to withdraw from external reality and to freeze feelings internally, so outward, assertive expressions have no energy and are weak and scattered;
- Mental faculties are usually highly developed, frequently with a brilliant intellect; the mind is valued above all else, and deduction, reasoning, calculating, and “figuring things out” logically are the only modes of operating that are trusted; gut feelings and intuition are denigrated and feared; this person is always “in their mind.”


- An inadequate sense of self because of a lack of identification with the body;
- Hypersensitivity and hyperawareness because of weak ego boundaries (correlates to the lack of peripheral charge in the body);
- Poor reality testing;
- Paranoia, from projected rage, which is exacerbated if either parent invested sexual energy in the child;
- Psyche is experienced as a “house of many rooms” without access between them;
- Person feels possessed by a demonic, alien presence or voice at times (introjected hostile parental image);
- Subject to dissociation, depersonalization and fugue states;
- Main defenses: denial, projection, introjection, splitting, disintegration, withdrawal, fragmentation, compartmentalization and intellectualization;
- Typical masks: spiritual or mental arrogance or aloofness (“I am special, I am superior because I am above physical existence.”), exaggerated appearance of serenity or peacefulness (“I am never angry or afraid.”), “Don Quixote”- like Idealized Self Image (“I dream the ‘Impossible Dream”; “I am an unrecognized genius”; “legends in their own mind.”)
- Childhood history may include: frequent nightmares or sleep disturbances, withdrawn behavior with occasional outbursts of rage, autism, pervasive fears, preference for fantasy over reality, psychosomatic illnesses, head-banging or self-mutilation, school phobia.


- Reaching out or self-assertion in connecting to others is avoided (very little eye contact or physical closeness can be tolerated);
- Intimacy and emotional and physical letting go are intensely feared, so relating is mental and abstract; others will often experience this person as “spacey” or “not really there”;
- Sexual interaction is mechanical, with fear of losing control; sex is desired mainly to subscribe to a romantic or erotic idea, rather than for actual feeling; some warmth and closeness physically is desired, but in limited quantities; orgasm is not an important objective;
- Others, including love objects, are idealized (positively or negatively) as are relationships, which are seen in a lofty spiritual light with little real human contact.


- “I should not exist.” “There is something essentially wrong with me.”
- “I am my mind.” “I think therefore I am.”
- “Life is threatening to my life.” “I will survive by deadening myself.”
- “I must control my feelings and others with my mind.” “If I feel, I will disintegrate.”
- “My rage will annihilate others and me.” “The world is a dangerous place.”


- Strong connection to and awareness of the profoundly spiritual nature of life;
- Access to vast universal wisdom and the capacity to teach others how to make the connection to that wisdom;
- Great courage and fearlessness to connect with feelings;
- Great capacity to create and appreciate beauty, including through artistic abilities.


- Become grounded and energized in physical life and in the body as a whole;
- Develop basic trust in the self, others and life;
- Become aware of, feel consciously, accept and express the deep primal rage and terror in a non-destructive way without retreating to primitive defenses;
- Face original state of helplessness and hurt underlying perfectionistic attitude;
- Reverse the denial of early trauma at the hands of parents and the environment;
- Develop tolerance for ambivalence in oneself and others (correct “good-or-bad”, “right-or-wrong” and other dualistic images); and heal the splits between thoughts and feelings, and between positive and negative feelings;
- Acknowledge and experience the different aspects of the personality (child, adult, higher self), opening the lines of communication between them, while establishing an identification with the adult self;
- Become aware of the erroneous conclusions, images and beliefs of the mask/false self, and the limitations and unreality of the idealized self image;
- Experience pleasure and expansion and recognize and express one’s higher self aspects with less fear of being annihilated;
- Primary negative expression that needs release: “I hate you!” “I kill you!”
- Primary positive self-affirmation that needs assertion: “I have the right to be.”


- Establish an accepting, non-critical, “human” environment, understanding that trusting the therapist and the environment may take a long time; even fairly well into the treatment, this person can become paranoid;
- Engage the formidable intellect in a playful, patient and respectful way to begin the process of exposing the attitudes and beliefs of the mask, and their fallibility, including wrong conclusions made in childhood;
- Address concrete self-care, daily living tasks that may be ineffectively tended to with information, advice, direct teaching and personal anecdotes to relieve the judgmental attitude towards the self as a failure or outcast;
- Gradually guide the person into their body through breathing and grounding exercises initially, then introduce the roller; touching or hands-on work must be very limited at first, nothing too penetrating or soothing; help the person to feel their feet on the ground, to feel energy in their body, to begin noticing the increasing aliveness;
- Remind the person periodically that they survived their childhood, that the real trauma was in the past;
- Move into the expression of rage using the body once some basic trust in the therapeutic relationship has been established and there is some physical groundedness; remind the person that no one gets destroyed by expressing rage this way; have them look in a mirror to see that they haven’t disintegrated after bodywork;
- When the person has become able to tolerate some exposure of the mask and to feel moderate emotions consistently, more penetrating bodywork and group process can be added to the therapy;
- Help the person recognize their Higher Self aspects, especially their wisdom, to see that their gifts are there even when hidden behind the mask, and that although they have a wounded aspect in their personality, they need not identify with that aspect in order for it to get the help it needs;
- In the later stages of therapy, as the person drops the mask and releases the raw negative feelings, fear of pleasure and expansion must be addressed as it comes up with reassurance, based on their own new experiences, that they can tolerate the energy now and that the fear is not a regression or a setback;
- The major vehicle for healing the inner splits of this structure is the relationship itself; the therapist can reveal his own struggles, imperfections and mistakes at carefully chosen moments, in small doses, reminding the person that neither of them is perfect and that even when there is conflict in their relationship, the connection between them is still a viable and caring one. (Aloofness in the therapist cannot aid someone who wears a mask of aloofness!).


Denial: a primitive defense consisting of an attempt to disavow the existence of unpleasant reality or feeling.

Depersonalization: a state in which the person feels as though he has lost his identity, that he is different or strange or unreal, or that the environment is strange or unreal (“derealization”).

Disintegration: collapsing into a state of disorganized mental chaos.

Dissociation: sudden and temporary alteration in the functions of consciousness, the fracturing of the integration of one’s identity, or the splitting off of certain mental process from the main body of consciousness (i.e. – thinking from feeling)

Fragmentation: functioning as though the psyche is broken up into many separate parts. (When fragmented feelings such as rage are projected, one may feel plagued by many apparently external voices or faces.)

Fugue: an episode in which a person suddenly leaves an intolerable situation or activity in a way that appears to have no connection to what the person was just doing and of which he or she has amnesia afterwards.

Intellectualization: an attempt to avoid objectionable impulses or feelings by escaping from the world of emotions into a world of intellectual concepts and words.

Introjection: incorporating into one’s mental structure an image, usually harsh and not necessarily accurate or complete, of another. (This can be experienced as an inner alien or demonic oppressive presence.)

Projection: the process of throwing out upon another the ideas, feelings or impulses that belong to oneself.

Splitting: compartmentalization of opposite and conflicting affect states; a defense mechanism in which a person, when faced with emotional stress or conflict, views himself or others as all good or all bad, or alternates between idealizing and devaluing the self or another; positive and negative qualities in the self or others are unable to be integrated into cohesive images.

Withdrawal: the turning away from reality and shutting off the perceptive system in order to avoid the anxiety aroused by interpersonal relationships or feelings.
Posted by PETER LOFFREDO, LCSW at 9/24/2008 3 comments Links to this post

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