Do you know what "Body Armor" is?
Body Armour is a term used to explain the physical symptoms of emotional repression, which is a type of physical/muscular rigidity that builds up when we suppress emotion. I'll let the books explain it (or the web I mean)...
"Armoring occurs when an impulse is halted at the muscular level. For example, it is natural for a child to cry when they are sad. However, a child who is punished for crying will find a way to inhibit this behavior. At first, this inhibition is conscious, and may include tensing the muscles of the eyes and face, holding the breath, or whatever else works that the child is capable of doing. Reich said that normally a child will cease the inhibition once the threat passes, but when a child is repeatedly subjected to the same kind of treatment, the inhibiting behavior becomes learned and integrated into the child's way of being, along with the accompanying muscular armoring. It becomes habitual and unconscious, and the person no longer notices they are "doing" anything at all."
It's true, I did not realize this was even happening. It wasn't conscious, but when I ended up crippled by pain, this was the beginning of a long healing journey where I have come to realize all my body did for me. She was holding in so much inner pain from repeated traumas that spanned over my childhood, and doing it so I could cope.
FUNCTIONS OF MUSCULAR ARMOR:
Keeps potentially explosive emotions contained
Acts as a protective coping mechanism resulting from the fight or flight impulse being continually inhibited into a state of freeze often experienced in victims of abuse. See Polyvagal Theory
Wards off the emotions of others and provide a physical barrier to external stress or threat like a protective container.
Creates a sense of physical safety and containment as a coping mechanism to deal with chronic stressful life events
Body Armor © Gem Artemist 2016, is a life size painting (on two panels) that maps out my stress and tension patterns
We all know what it's like to hold something in and not tell anyone about how we feel. If we are holding back a lot, over a long period of time the body responds and actually physically holds itself in a tense contraction and depending upon the situation, it can stay that way. The muscles become rigid and tense, and this is the basis of Chronic Myofascial Pain.
I "learned to live with the pain", as we are all too often told to do in this society, which ultimately just meant that I found dysfunctional ways to cut myself off from my body. The idea of learning to live with the pain and soldier on is big in our culture, but the results of "effacing the cries of the body" can be physically devastating in the end.
"What is body armor made of? Hypertonic fascia. We accumulate denser connective tissue (that is, fascia) when we engage in body armoring.
And without finding a way in to rebalancing the optimal tonicity of the fascia, which is a system running all through our bodies and multiple levels, it is very very very hard to shut down the body armoring response and general way of dealing with life. Given that the fascia and autonomic nervous system are intimately connected, somatic healing and neuroplasticity MUST go hand in hand. Changing the structure of such a complex and integral system of ubiquitous material is essential for healing of trauma, chronic stress and emotional reactivity."
So, what can a person do??? how to undo body armoring? This my goal everyday. I find movement essential. To stay in any position too long is painful, so I try to keep moving, slowly and mindfully, because if I move too quickly I often pull something, then more pain. It's a fine balance. And well, I've never been really great at balance, or being mindful, or patient. I always thought it was just part of my personality to "Go Hard!" until I crashed in exhaustion, but turns out it's a dysfunctional pattern I developed to cope.
I find hope through therapists and doctors who believe in the science of neuroplasticity which tells us that these stress tension patterns can be changed in time by attending regular therapy, somatic bodywork, doing breathwork, meditation, and expressive arts, my favorite of which is Art Therapy!!!
Now you know, what Body Armor is.
♥ Knowledge can be healing