Illness and the Square Box


One of the best quotes I ever got from my trainings at The Haven was from Ben Wong: “All illness is the result of the tightness of the square box.” I’ve mentioned the quote before. The quote popped into my head as I thought about today’s article.

What’s interesting about the quote is it’s relevance to pretty much everything. I want to unpack it in terms of what Ben was talking about, but also want to take it in another direction.

According to Bodywork theory, physical illness comes from blocked-ness and rigidity. The holding patterns we have established – where we tighten our bodies – is something Wilhelm Reich called “character armor.” The idea is that rigidity keeps in “inexpressible emotions”:




· Reich noticed men have trouble taking away armor because they are so accustomed to suppressing feelings and emotions.

· An armored person does not feel their armor as such. Reich believed that mind-body work is necessary for people to rid themselves of this armor.

· BODY ARMOR AND CHARACTER ARMOR are essentially the same. Their function is trying to protect yourself against the pain of not expressing things that society says you may not express. Muscular armor is character armor expressed in body, muscular rigidity.

· Armoring is the sum total of the muscular attitudes which a person develops as a defence against the breakthrough of emotions, especially anxiety, rage, sexual excitation. Character armor is the sum total of all the years of the muscular attitude that have also been incorporated in the person’s character.


From a careful reading of the cribbed text, you’ll get the flavour of the thing. That which is not expressed and let go of gets suppressed, and that which is suppressed is suppressed by actual, physical tightness.

Here’s the important part: this process is a feedback loop.

What this means is that there is no progression through (a→b→c) Instead, the tightness “informs” one’s life, and then one sets up one’s life to inform one’s tightness. Thus, as time goes by, the illnesses that plague us, are directly correlated to both the tightness and to what emotion is repressed.

In other words, blocked emotions, blocked, tight bodies, and blocked, rigid thinking go hand in hand. There is no way to speculate on “which came first.”

Why is all of this important? Well, the older we get, the more we see the rigidity as “normal.” We pattern ourselves in a certain way, and then enact the pattern when threatened.

I’ve been writing e-mails, a lot, in the past few months, to friends and clients who are experiencing what I call “patterning distress.” This is where the old pattern repeats, but with more dramatic “symptoms.” Here are a few comments I’ve made recently, along with some unpacking, contained in [ ]:

1. At our core, there is the angst of our own mortality, and just above this, a layer Perls called the “impasse” – the bundled defenses to accepting the totality of ourselves. [This is the character armour.] The superficial layers above this is where people “play” – [the socially acceptable dramas we create to avoid dealing with the buried material] – how I look, who likes me, roles [which we support through the creation of the] character armour. Social convention is on top and is the most superficial of all – the “I could never do that, what would people think” layer. [It’s superficial because the “stuckness” is never dealt with – it’s just thought about.]

Wholeness comes as we (again and again) confront meaningless and death and all the agony that is attached to it, and choose full and vibrant life in the here and now, moment by moment. It’s not denial or repression – its full acceptance of the (as Tillich put it) The Courage to Be – in the face of non-being.

2. We were talking with a friend the other day, who has “changed her name” from Kathy to Kathryn. Some people are giving her grief. I suggested to her that there are personalities connected to each name, [Kathy is a “blonde air-head and the new version, Kathryn, is responsible, mature, grown up (and letting her hair colour return to brunette)] and some people don’t want to have to deal with her as “grown up.” They want her to stay “stuck” in her inoffensive, child-like persona so they don’t have to deal with either change or an adult. So, changing her name and her business is scary for them, and they’re trying to get her to stop.

Over the next few issues, I’ll deal with different aspects of blockages, and what one might profitably do to let them go. Essentially, what is required is a willingness to:

  • 1. shift thinking

  • 2. express blocked material

  • 3. explore and experiment with those things you scare yourself about

  • 4. release blocks in the body

  • 5. catch yourself, again and again, as you are drawn to repeat what doesn’t work.

In the mean time, if you have comments or questions, drop me a line!

 Life’s Little Oddities

A while back I downloaded a plugin that allows me to check details (ownership, links, usage, etc.) on any website. Needless to say, I checked out The Phoenix Centre Site.

I was checking links and “cribbed (‘borrowed’ without permission) text,” and saw a lot of sites who have asked permission to use my stuff, as well as lots of links to the site itself.

THEN, I saw a link from a site called Islamica – a site I’d never heard of. So, I clicked on the link.

What I found was pretty amusing. Nisa, a reader of ITC for some time now, was posting my stuff, as well as calling me old… It was funny to read, as she mocks me and seems to love me at the same time. (Sorta like everyone I know…)

I grabbed one thing she wrote. Here it is: (my comments are in [ ])

“Like i said not many like this person [Ah, but to know me IS to love me…] but i feel despite his imprudent [Who, me??? Lacking self restraint???] facade he has a good hold on how to go about building a healthy character and we can learn from that.

I dont know i seem to enjoy reading uncensored, real, non-pretentious thoughts of people of all ages. Muslim or not, kid or adult, male or female, I’ve learned a lot about myself from conversing with strangers and you lot (yeah yeah) on this board among other experiences. Each person with his or her distinct qualities has taught me a thing or two about myself and helped me to change or at the least question my views. I’m not the same nisa from a year ago and a year from now i probably would have changed for the better (inshallah) or worse (astegfirullah).

Incidentally, no one person is perfect. We might learn compassion from a Muslim kid and intelligence from a non Muslim adult. [this would be me, wink, wink.]

Reading theories and abstract scenarios do so much, but finding meaning in the most mundane of our actions does help us question our own motives. That’s why I like this guy; he talks about his daily life and relates it with concepts which help me to make connections with my own experiences with his mumbo jumbo. [Yikes! MUMBO JUMBO???? I guess I need a writing course…]

There is a lesson in each thing that we do, if we only choose to screen it. Often times we’re so shackled with the societies interpretation [what I’m writing about, above, in this weeks’ article – it must be a sign!] of what’s intelligent that we miss out on appreciating precious things that Allah sends our ways, as signs, to appreciate. Yes, linking a sign to an email is crap [Oops! I guess finding Nisa’s polemics wasn’t a sign… another great theory down the drain…] blah blah and sounds superstitious. [Don’t get me started on organized religion and superstition…]

well the heck with you people. … Lastly, i also like the fact that in his old age [This is where I started laughing… Amazing. The arrogance of youth, eh?] this person still seems to be growing and discovering. [Yes, Nisa, in between changing my ‘Depends’ and gumming my food, I actually manage to squeeze in some “real work…”]

A sign he might convert some day. [Into the Centre is all about escaping boxes, so the odds I’ll leap into an Islamic shaped one is, well, nanoscopic.]


The Phoenix Centre for Creative Living - © 2019-2020