The Schizoid Structure
by Prema McKeever & Kat Langer
Ideally as we are developing within our mother’s womb our nervous system and incoming spirit gets a sense of being welcomed and safely held. Hopefully there’s a sense that we are wanted and connected to our mother emotionally and energetically. Babies can get signals of this connection and welcoming, or lack thereof, through the mother’s hormones that pass through the placenta and the presence of tension, shock or extreme stress in the mother’s body.
Unfortunately for many of us our earliest holding environment did not feel like a safe or welcoming home. This could be due to external circumstances, such as being born in a war zone, having a difficult birth or early medical procedures, or may be to do with the mother being overly busy, unavailable or at conflict with herself and the arrival of the child. In response to extreme stresses or trauma in the earliest stages of a child’s development, meaning in utero, during birth or in the first 6 months of life, the child can develop a protective pattern known as the “Schizoid Structure”. This structure is also referred to as the “Unwanted Child”, a person who at the deepest level fears contact with others and feels that they lack a right to exist physically.
Their early experience of fear is either severe or consistent enough so that the child’s nervous system is unable to relax. Fear causes sympathetic nervous system activation, and the infant’s nervous system is not yet able to counter-balance such activation by itself – they rely on the connection and interaction with the caretaker to regulate and return them to a relaxed state. If the connection with the caretaker is insufficient or interrupted this can lead to the baby becoming stuck in a “functional freeze” state, which interferes with bonding and attachment to their caretakers.
Due to their early experiences of fear and lack of safety and connection in this world, these types do not learn to safely attach to and inhabit their physical bodies, making them prone to leaving the physical for the mental and spiritual realms. Energetically this expresses through a shift away from the body and feelings, to living more on the mental or spiritual planes of existence. In more extreme cases the child can grow up in a state of emotional numbness or even dissociation. One result of having their energy be more focused on the mental or spiritual reams rather than their body is that this Character Structure is often extraordinarily psychically gifted, intelligent, creative and imaginative. They will often perceive themselves as “highly sensitive” and are able to tune into their psychic gifts through communicating telepathically and with the plant and animal worlds.
As an adult, this leads to a strong pattern of trying to figure things out logically. This is someone who gets easily locked up in a contracted state and literally does not know how to relax and become embodied, as they lack the experience of their physical body being a safe place to rest in. Their early experience of wanting to reach out to others for comfort and soothing but not having those needs met means they have no model for safe, nourishing connections. Later in life this may express through difficulty in intimate connections with others and often just being on the planet and feeling that they belong.
Because this person is used to shifting their focus away from the physical towards the mental/spiritual planes, their body will appear fragmented, weak and under-energized, with weak energetic boundaries, leaving them prone to energetic interference and overwhelm. This lack of embodiment and the fear of being in the physical body can lead to a tendency to avoid strong feelings; especially those perceived as negative and overwhelming such as anger, rage, sadness and fear. This person usually does not allow themselves to express strong feelings or engage openly in conflict, and instead seeks expression of anger, attack and revenge through the psychic space. This tendency will often also be turned inwards as an experience of intense self-hatred and express as self-harm.
Their experience of lack of connection with their caretaker may leave this person with a vacant stare in their eyes, a remnant of them not being met through soothing eye-to-eye contact. Even though the Schizoid type is afraid of direct eye contact, they long for it and can receive healing through an experience of being met eye-to-eye in a safe and caring way. This can be experienced in a therapeutic context, when working with this person, and helps them relax armoring in the eye segment.
Another therapeutic approach to working with the Schizoid type is through embodiment and grounding practices. This person needs to learn to feel safe in this world and in their body even when strong feelings are present and threatening to overwhelm them. They are very sensitive and fear contact, and therefore will more likely be able to trust and open up to a light, gentle touch, both physically and energetically.
In our upcoming Special Skills workshop ‘Healing Developmental Trauma’ we will explore non-cathartic ways we can support the nervous system of this Structure to come out of the long-held freeze response. There is so much that can be done to support ourselves and our clients to restore a sense of safety, become embodied, and have a greater capacity and enjoyment for being in this world and in heartfelt connection to those around us.