The subtle art of dearmouring

Dearmouring - a careful, thoughful unwinding, a letting go...

Date published 11/10/2019 |

‘You may be able to fight and win battles in a suit of armor, but when you're wearing one all of the time without knowing it, it becomes impossible to dance.’
William Reich

Dearmouring is one of those unfamiliar words sometimes spoken about in relation to various esoteric disciplines. It can seem a bit ferocious and full-on, if you google and watch the slightly scary films on Youtube, especially at massage techniques that look hugely impactful, intrusive even, without explanation or context. So many different interpretations, so many possibilities. Actually, if the intention is to offer the body a different way of being, it can be an incredibly subtle process, a slow, gentle unwinding over time, a letting go of tightness, tension and holding. That’s certainly what anyone practicing from a place of integrity would advocate. My personal perspective connects with tantra. That's how I have learned, that doesn't mean it's the only way to go. Here's a broad perspective....

To give some background, there’s a recognised body of knowledge and theory on the subject of armouring going back to the teachings of Sigmund Freud, William Reich, Alexander Lowen and Gerda Boyesen. The understanding is that in it’s natural state, without the inevitable disruptions of life, the body has a flexibility and fluidity - an energetic flow. But physical and emotional tension and rigidity inevitably creeps in, as a way of creating a protective barrier against the world.
From the time we are born (sometimes when we are still in the womb) we experience stressful events that we subsequently hold in our bodies. And let’s be real about this, we all experience stressful and traumatic events, it’s part of being alive. What’s important is how we are supported after such events, what opportunities we are given to process and release. So sometimes we can move on, without much of an impact, and sometimes we get a bit stuck, self-preservation makes us retreat and build barriers against a world that doesn’t feel safe to be in. That’s the armouring.
The earlier these stressful or traumatic events occur, the greater the impact they have. Likewise, trauma or stress that is repeatedly experienced also has greater impact. Trauma doesn’t have to be significant, events that seem relatively unchallenging to an adult can seem catastrophic to the young psyche and body. And as we grow, the trials and tribulations of life, like being touched when we haven’t given consent, being smacked, being shamed or bullied, all cause stress to be held in the body. And so on into adulthood.
But it’s possible to dissolve the impact of stress and trauma, to offer the body a different way of being, to dearmour and support the natural flow and ease to re-establish itself.
There are many disciplines that recognise this, the potential resolution isn’t exclusive to an one method or approach. Google ‘somatics’ and you’ll find lots of options. What’s specific to the way I've been taught is the inclusion and integration of our sexual selves as part of the process of liberation.
My take is that dearmouring isn’t about bashing the body into being something different, it's a reconnecting with our inherent body wisdom, a profound letting go that can feel like big heavy chunks of rock that you were carrying around always, masking your true self, just falling off. So you stand taller, feel more sure, have a different view of the world, from a lighter, softer place.
It takes time, for most of us. To carefully, mindfully, untangle and shift the patterns and
habits of a lifetime, that have held us tight. And there are many ways we can move towards this ease in our bodies, in our very selves. We all find our individual ways to assist this move towards freedom. Movement, in dance, in mediation. Exercise - not the pounding the pavement approach, more the type of exercise that connects us in a conscious way with our breath, with being fully in our bodies, actually inhabiting our bodies. Using our voices, connected to our core, our place of empowerment, speaking our truth.
And when we are ready, when we come to a place of understanding that something needs to shift, will shift, that we somehow just know we want to be different, meaningful bodywork brings us to that place of embodiment, of congruence, the outside matching the inside.
Patterns and behaviours that have served our younger, tender selves, that armour us for our self-preservation and protection genuinely seem to keep us alive and safe, at some point cease to offer us anything other than restriction and constraint.
We can’t move, we can’t breathe, we are suffocating. Metaphorically, and sometimes literally. We can’t do what we’ve always done anymore, it’s getting us nowhere, so we step towards change. Scary, powerful, and oddly inevitable.
It’s interesting to observe that the dearmouring process is rarely the reason anyone begins such a change process, and yet it’s almost always a significant element. The possibilities creep up on us inexorably, and we come to know along the way that we are more grounded, we move differently, we have a new skill set with which to move through our lives with confidence and ease.
We come to know that where before we braced ourselves to meet the world, now we may dance through it.