Needy, Dependent? Healing the Oral Character Structure
A very useful tool in understanding our early conditioning, our core wound and how to heal it is Characterology. A system elucidated by Wilhelm Reich, a psychiatrist who was Freud’s student. His system of character analysis describes how we create defenses in response to parental wounding. The five primary wounds being humiliation, terror, deprivation, betrayal and rejection. Today we are going to explore the wound of deprivation which corresponds to the Oral Characterology.
While the child is breastfeeding, he does not only receive milk; he receives contact, warmth, and touch. The mother’s presence gives him the experience of being loved, protected and cared for. This welcoming love received from the mother establishes foundations for the mind and body of the adult to be. Qualities such as self esteem and confidence come from the motherly love one received as a baby.
The baby’s soul lands from the higher worlds in the mother’s womb and requires a lot of effort to adapt. The baby experiences the first contact with the Earth through the mother and from the time the baby is in the womb to two years after birth there is no clear difference between the mother’s emotional environment and the Earth. He also can’t differentiate his own emotions from his mother’s. The baby doesn’t have any protection against the mother’s emotions; he can receive love more fully than adults but at the same time can be hit very hard by his mother’s negative emotions. His brain is very plastic and impressionable; therefore it is more open to learn and more vulnerable to problems during development. The way parents nurture the child programs his primal brain with a pattern of responses that will determine his future behavior.
The planetary archetype related with the mother is the Moon; it is open, receptive, and creative, often associated with water. The Moon has a great capacity for reproduction and it is cuddly, good at cooking, loves animals, it can be messy, sweet toothed, self indulgent and loves to talk. It is related with body fluids, soft tissues, breasts, brain, uterus and reproductive function. A person with strong moon knows how to make others feel taken care of, acknowledged and psychologically and physically nurtured. When babies have this kind of space in their life, it creates a feeling of safety inside of them.
The child that develops the Oral Characterology had an initial wounding created by lack of nurturing. His mother may have rushed him while breastfeeding or he was abandoned due to mom’s death, sickness, depression, addictions, or busyness. The child may have been left alone crying for long periods of time with no one responding.
The child explains to himself that the reason why he wasn’t nurtured was because he was not enough. He gives up the dependent position before being satisfied, remaining chronically dependent and needy. He pulls off before being filled up when breast feeding and denies and disapproves of his dependency. These patients feel that releasing the block and experiencing their own need will lead to a repetition of the painful disappointment and deprivation they experienced when they were little and that failing to meet the needs of others will lead to disappointment.
As an adult it’s hard to get his needs met. He is not able to fully take in what he receives from others. Self nurturing and self soothing are difficult and he tends to get sick frequently or collapse with depression which justifies self indulgence as a way of support.
“I often hurried up when someone gave me attention. When I spoke, I tried to be quick and not take too much time. I was never satisfied when receiving. One time my therapist asked me to let her hold me like a baby and to take in her care and her touch. “Just let me know when you are satisfied,” she said. I felt like I had to hurry up to take in and I was afraid that she would leave. I couldn’t fully relax. She said: “So it’s never enough?” and I said, “NO” and clung to her more tightly. “What if you actually take in what I am giving you?” When she said that something opened in me and it took me three seconds to feel satisfied. I was shining and felt so happy and open.”
The oral stage is the time when the baby receives pleasure through sucking. When there is not enough of that, the child may have oral cravings and want oral stimulation as an adult. In theory, oral fixations manifest as smoking, alcoholism, nail biting, sexual practices (fellatio, cunnilingus, analingus and irrumation), chewing and eating disorders.
The oral character structure often uses sex as a way to gain love and have closeness. They want to feel secure and use sex to avoid loneliness. They have the need to feed from the partner. Men with this characterology may not have full erections or may ejaculate prematurely. Women might have orgasms frequently and easily, but not strong ones. Surrendering to feeling love for another brings intense fears of being left alone or losing oneself. The person may want to be cuddled more than to have sex and in relationships the person might go back and forth between being in love and ending the relationship suddenly. This is the child’s struggle of wanting to merge versus wanting to separate from the parent and individuate. The child had the experience of being abandoned so he will have the tendency to do to others what was done to him.
“I needed to internalize the experience of someone leaving and coming back. When my partner used to leave to go to work, I felt a very strong fear of abandonment. This feeling started to heal when I consciously remembered that he will be back and had the experience of him coming back each day. When I do therapy, this feeling often comes back at the end of our session; I don’t want the session to end and I feel clingy. My therapist reminds me that he will not leave and that he understands that while I was growing up I didn’t have the steady presence of my father and that I need to continuously take in the experience of a steady presence, in this case my therapist’s presence so that I can build inner safety and strength.”
The primal brain is responsible for survival and it is activated by fear. It has helped humans survive through evolution. Most humans don’t experience threats of survival regularly so this part is overactive and often limits human beings. The threat of uncomfortable feelings triggers a fearful reaction, closing the human off emotionally from others. Such triggering feelings may include unworthy-ness, abandonment, shame, powerlessness or rejection. It is important to reach out when challenging feelings arise, specially for this character structure. This can initiate the most dramatic change.
The oral character has an intense need to be taken care of. He can be clingy and needy in relationships, see others with more resources than his own and think that others may give what he needs. He is dependent on others because there is an unconscious belief that being independent means being alone. He needs to learn that he can be independent and have needs at the same time.
The adjustment process often involves a great deal of caretaking others to attempt to fix others so that they may at last gratify the self. This is often observed in children of alcoholics. The child care-takes the parent until it becomes too much and then collapses. Only then does he feel like he is allowed to have needs. He allows himself to take in and meet his needs to some degree, sometimes guiltily, and very soon returns to the pattern of helping others and denying his own needs.
Self soothing is an important skill to develop. Children develop self soothing when their parents leave by hugging a stuffed animal or a soft blanket, they learn to comfort themselves in a loving way. When the child doesn’t learn this skill, he can suffer as an adult. Self soothing can turn into addictions or neediness in relationships. This can push their partner away because they are not taking care of themselves and it can be a burden. Self soothing means holding ourselves with compassion and nurturing ourselves emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally. Giving to ourselves what we crave from others. Coming back home to ourselves and most of all: not abandoning ourselves. We must hold on to ourselves as if our life depended on it, because it does. Know that you are never alone, the angels and the love of God are living in the reflection of eyes, so look at yourself with the eyes of love.
And here is the life task or lesson of this characterology: Standing on one’s own ground, in one’s own two feet. This means that you can do anything you put your mind into, this means that you are capable, even when you feel weak.
Here is a simple grounding exercise to support you:
- Stand up with your feet wide apart and bend your knees as much as it’s comfortable. Now feel your feet on the ground and imagine a golden ball of light melting inside you starting with the head, the shoulders, the arms, belly, hips and legs until you reach your feet.
- When you reach your feet, imagine roots growing down and reaching the center of the Earth; feel the safety of this connection. You can envision yourself as a strong tree with big long roots or as anything that makes you feel strong.
- Now, bring the energy from the Earth up to your feet and legs with your intention. At this point you may feel more relaxed and supported, letting the Earth hold you, feeling your strength.
“When I need to feel supported, I just lay down on the grass or the sand and rest there, letting the Earth hold me.”
Getting grounded helps relieve stress, fear and anxiety. From the energetic perspective, every disease is caused by closing the first chakra (which is the energy center that connects us to the Earth.) When we close it, the life force and the energy from the earth have difficulty reaching us and we can get tired or sick.
The Earth contains healing energy. Science has discovered this energy as free-flowing electrons which are constantly replenished by lightning strikes and solar radiation. These electrons can be transferred up throughout the body when we have direct contact with the ground, discharging electrical stress from the body and restoring our natural rhythms.
Raw living foods have the power to heal our relationship with Mother Earth since there is no processing between the earth and the food we eat. They can naturally increase our intuition and help us reconnect with our natural instincts which can assist with our ability to heal ourselves. Healers from the Amazon are very in touch with this instinct; they know if a plant is poisonous or not by becoming very quiet and listening to the plant.
When I started adding nutrient rich raw foods like salads, sprouts, smoothies and green juices to my diet I naturally started craving healthier foods. My sense of taste was enhanced and I had more energy. I felt a sense of belonging and support around me and I felt very held by the Earth’s consciousness. I felt light, at home and it was easy to love myself. I felt clear and positive. It felt easier to be happier. I just felt so good!
A way of balancing our diet is by understanding which foods are masculine/yang or feminine/yin. That way we don’t go from one extreme to the other to alleviate the opposite food’s effects. Yang/Contracting (represents the masculine energy, strong, tight, hard and contractive) foods include salty foods, animal protein, grains and cooked food. If we eat too much contracting foods, our bodies will start getting tight and we will start craving expanding foods to balance ourselves.
Yin/Expanding (represents the feminine energy, soft, yielding, passive, receptive, and expansive) foods include sugar, alcohol, coffee, refined flour (such as breads, cookies, pasta), dairy, oil, fruits, nuts, seeds, tofu, leafy green vegetables, root vegetables, beans, and sea vegetables. Yin foods give a quick feeling of elevated mood and in the long run can produce feelings of depression, anxiety and loss of concentration.
Eating mostly one type of food pushes the body to the extreme, causing imbalance. The key is to balance them both. For people with oral fixations such as smoking or alcohol it is important to increase the yin foods in the diet such as raw foods, water and salads.
Just as we were once in our mothers’ bellies, we are now being fed and nurtured in Mother Earth’s belly. Reconnecting with the Earth deeply healed my relationship with nourishment.
“There were many days that I didn’t want to live. I finally felt alive. The trees were smiling at me, hugging my lungs with their branches; the birds were singing sweet songs. The little one in me was saying I never had enough, I am scared to grow. The day that I decided to take her hand and not leave her alone anymore, was the happiest day, she had been waiting for so long.”