Motivated by Will or Pleasure

Book recommendation by Vincentia Schroeter, Phd, CBT

In preparation for teaching I recently reread Al Lowen’s 1967 book, Betrayal of the Body.

Although one of the students found the material “dense” there are many basic Bioenergetic concepts that are well articulated in this classic text. The overall personality type being explored is the schizoid character, who operates with a core fear of annihilation, which must be defended against, on the psychic as well as body level.

The etiology psychologically is a newborn to 6 month old coming into the world and meeting a hostile caretaker. Developmentally, the newborn has most control over their eyes and neck, and can thus turn away, or withdraw most strongly with those parts of the body. In a grown person whose major issues are schizoid, there is chronic tension in those fearful, vigilant, or spacey eyes.

The rejection is intolerable, so the infant must find a way to “please” or be pleasing to the parent in order to get some needs for attention met. Since the injury is so young, it threatens the person’s sense of their right to exist. One needs to be welcomed onto this earth in order to feel a solid sense of belonging. So the person represses their fear which feels life threatening, and compensates by getting attention for being smart, or playing a successful role, or becoming very spiritual, at the expense of feeling pleasure in their body.

In therapy, it is the task of the patient to utilize the relationship with the therapist, by making tentative contact through this chronic fear, in order to find the safety to reach toward a more trusting way of relating. The patient slowly thaws from the frozen rigidity of a seemingly permanent state of shock, and reenters the world, melting into the thaw of warmth held by the promise of safer others. Allowing that warmth brings pleasure to the body which slowly overtakes the reliance on living mostly from the will.

To the degree that we operate more from a role than from our core self, we have schizoid issues. To the degree that we are motivated more by will or ego rather than pleasure or body, we are schizoid. Although the continuum goes from mild schizoid traits to the full blown psychosis of schizophrenia, if our issues cluster around a core of terror, we are schizoid.

Whether you find yourself, someone you know, or a client with these issues, I recommend reading Betrayal of the Body, as a valuable resource in understanding the psychological, physical and treatment dynamics in schizoid persons.

Vincentia Schroeter is in Private Practice in Solana Beach, CA. She can be reached at (858) 259-248.