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Defense 101

A quick reference guide to identifying and mediating the energetic effects of defense



We all have them - ways of shifting and patterning our energy as a result of woundings from childhood that cause an inability to tolerate a full flow of energy in our bodies. The Defense Systems were first coined by William Reich (a student of Sigmund Freud) in the 1930s. His work is one of the foundations of Body Mind Psychotherapy, along with a core content of study in Energy Medicine, and Joseph Campbell’s connection between myth and archetypes. Utilizing an understanding of the defenses, you can understand your inner working more and ultimately provide a shift in energetic flow and healing. Reich sought and discovered patterns in how people avoid connection as a result of what they experience as deficiencies in life from birth to puberty. From these patterns, we form the foundation for how we act and react to relationships, desires, and responsibilities in life.


In your own life, learning about the defense systems can help yourself identify how you habitually run your energy to avoid facing your past. The first step is to learn your most habitual defense pattern and how to work with it. But we all have layers of each defense system overall and within the patterned ways we defend. Try not to stop at just one. Feel into each of the defense patterns and how you relate to them. By understanding and shifting your defense patterns, you can start to bring flow into new areas of your body and psyche - increasing health, happiness, and embodiment.

In relationship, knowledge of how other people are defending can help you create a healing response to their defenses. This will shift patterns in the relationship as well as enabling potential for an opening into something new. By creating new patterns in relationship, we find newness and open the door to intimacy, curiosity, and regenerating interest. The person we are speaking to can go from known to unknown - the key to creating new aliveness in the midst of longer or stale relationships.


Schizoid Defense

  • Origin: Fear of coming into the body as a result of birth trauma, intense emotions from the newborn’ environment, a feeling of fear, instability, being unwanted, or aggression in the womb and/or the newborn environment.

  • Body Type: Tall and skinny. Can be seen physically as a left/right imbalance in face or body and/or in a person’s curvature along the upper body.

  • Energy Pattern: Leaves the body to avoid harshness of the world. Lack of safety and flow in the upper body.

  • Gift: Tendency to be deeply and personally connected to Spirit. Visionaries. Creators.

  • Healing Response: Safe-ing! Note that this is different from grounding. The Schizoid individual needs to create a safe flow of energy between body, other, and earth. This is done through creating flow down into the body in small stages. You can see this as riding an elevator down from head to toes into self, then earth, then outward into relationship. Important to create a safe and gentle space for yourself and others to come into. Demanding safe-ing and flow doesn’t work. Only a safe container will make the schizoid defense want to come in, with choice and the ability to escape as needed. Intense grounding is as unsafe as intense emotions. Have to be willing to detach and the move into the body, to cut off flow and go into flow, not breathe and deepen breath. Remember to be gentle with self, gentle with others. Red is the color that heals this defense.

  • Personal Cultivation: Can you feel your feet? Are you thinking too much or completely spaced out? Does your energy flow only go a little bit into your body or are you numb? Are you projecting unsafe situations that are not real on your environment? When you feel unsafe or confused do you go into your brain and use it to feel safe?

  • Modern Twist: Thoughts are more important than feelings, overuse or addiction to technology & devices, the talking head without a body, need to know or think more than feel or act.

Oral Defense

  • Origin: Lack of actual or sensed nourishment and love during early development - especially during breast or bottle feeding - leading to feeling rejected and abandoned.

  • Body/Type: Underdeveloped or overdeveloped. Lower body small or weak. Often collapsed in the chest.

  • Energy Pattern: Tendency to try to connect using abdomen/solar plexus instead of heart and self value. Lack of energy flow and grounding in lower body. Often willing to take whatever is offered, not what is needed.

  • Gift: Great at making others feel loved and cared for. Teachers. Care Givers.

  • Healing Response: Trusting the earth and using that to relax abdomen. Filling lower body with a sense of energetic flow, love, and acceptance. In relationship, this is a hard to trust feeling but is deeply sought after. Fill abdomen with earth energy, feel into self worth, connect with others from there. Need to acknowledge the imperfectly perfect relationships of real live people right in front of you that struggle similarly with connection and trust.

  • Personal Cultivation: Are you stuck in an unsolvable problem? Are you going around fixing other people rather than looking at your self? Are you more interested in care taking than care giving? Are you fighting deeper connections with others even while longing for it? When people get close do you push them away because you don’t trust they will be there? Do you do every thing yourself? Do you do nothing your self?

  • Modern Twist: Look at the extremes. Over shopping/No need for anything comforting. Overeating/over-dieting. Exercise vigilant or no desire to move. Depresssion/Trying hard to succeed and be happy.

Masochist Defense

  • Origin: Creative expression, meeting needs, and space for self are met at a young age with suppression and judgement from authorities. Often an overlay of being told who you are, how to be, and what to do. The child self will often decide to suffer and endure rather than show need or pain. Controlled without a place or safe space to express freedom.

  • Body/Type: Square frame. Ankles fallen in. Protective layer around body even if physically fit.

  • Energy Pattern: Strong holding pattern in the body with a bound energy. Spirit is small and hidden deep inside with lots of protective layers to prevent invasion. Feels like potential explosion or detonation possible with the right impulse. Alternatively can feel depressed and beaten down. Either way, often uncomfortable to withstand.

  • Gift: Incredibly brilliant and creative due to the need to find their own way to do anything. Rule enforcers. Creative Geniuses.

  • Healing Response: Need to be able to withstand the bound energy that does not want to trust or relax. Also need to be able to connect to the true inner core of self. Important to develop a clear sense of boundaries without invasion for safety to develop. Can’t squash or question but also need to withstand the negative energy that is emitted as protection.

  • Personal Cultivation: Are you feeling held in and bound? Like you want to explode but can’t? Are you more capable of upholding responsibility than creating time and space for your self?

  • Modern Twist: Safety equals enforcement, and upholding all that society has created without question. Lack of self thought, just duty. Rules keep us safe and therefore are the only answer. Keep your head down and do what you are told. Follow the rules to succeed.

Psychopathic Defense

  • Origin: Feeling attacked and betrayed for what is important to you or what you love.

  • Body/Type: Physical body is often triangle shaped. Lots of energy in the upper shoulders or suppressed energy in the pelvis. Heart and/or sexuality is cut off depending on the shape of the triangle. Person seeks control of others through either putting their own thoughts and beliefs on them or by using sex to make the other feel safe while also getting what they want.

  • Energy Pattern: Closed heart. Energy goes outward from upper body to control others and the world.

  • Gift: Leaders and activists. People who create change in the world. Can garner support to create deep change in society.

  • Healing Response: Need to find a deep ground with no fight - building a mountain from the back of the neck all the way down to the feet. Creating a safe, grounded space of trust with no judgement. Need to look at how you immediately disconnect from situations or relationships by feeling your otherness or lack of belonging. Feel the side of yourself that wants to differentiate before coming together. This is the part of you that feels betrayed and does not want to step into trust.

  • Personal Cultivation: Are you feeling like the world needs to change to be safe for you? Do you consistently seek an us versus them reality? Do you have lots of specific requirements that need to be met in order to engage your heart?

  • Modern Twist: Over activism. Demand that the world changes without looking within. Assuming that other people are wrong and you are right. Military Industrial Complex = If you are not with us, you’re against us.

Rigid Defense

  • Origin: Sexuality is linked to shame. Can be abuse or trauma related when the trauma is experienced close to puberty. Religion, society, and social norms effect the feeling of safety to have both love and sexuality together. Continued desire for perfection decreases ability to feel or be authentic.

  • Body/Type: Super put together. These are the people that we all look at and say, “Wow, they are just perfect.” Often smart, physically fit, grounded. The rigid body actually can change dependent on society’s norms. People whose rigidity is their primary defense will shape shift to become what is expected.

  • Energy Pattern: Very well balanced. Body is organized, life is successful, smart and neat. Underlying stress and tension in the system can be seen or sensed only when looking deeper, which rigid people will try to prevent by becoming more perfect for you.

  • Gift: Organization and Order. Accomplishing goals. Corporate success.

  • Healing Response: Authentic self and challenging intimacy. Try to make a heart connection. Settle into feelings and see what is present. Feel into the needs

  • Personal Cultivation: Do you want to be perfect more than you want to be your authentic self? Do you only feel safe if everything is as you expect it? Do you compulsively work to avoid feelings? Do you struggle with feeling heart centered intimacy in your sexual relationships?

  • Modern Twist: Obsession with physical fitness, dieting, sexual expression or freedom, and corporate success (note the word obsession versus interest or desire). Keeping up with the Joneses.

When we meet, we will explore finding the resonance of each of these defense patterns in us and play with how we can heal the effects in the moment. You will learn which patterns are easy to experience, the layers within the patterns, and how in recognition you can start to form a bridge to heal the way you relate to the world.

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