Characteristic Attitudes of the Consolidator (Masochist)
To others, Consolidators tend to be kind, pleasant, pleasing, servile, initially self-sacrificing and ingratiating. They often volunteer to help and rarely assert their desires directly. Consolidators have a very difficult time saying no, and may well end up doing thankless tasks or things they don't want to do. This is called social masochism (or formerly 'moral masochism'). It is, however, important to distinguish the energetic masochism of this character from mere social masochism (being a 'doormat'). The latter is a common strategy also of the creator and communicator characters also due to weak aggression.
The consolidator has, subjectively, a chronic sensation of suffering, and to others who get to know them better, a tendency to complain. However, in this complaining, unlike that of the communicator, both direct blaming and a broad swath is avoided. Consolidators tend to accept the way the world is in general, and so their complaints tend to be along the lines of how they have been misfortunate in their particular circumstances and situations. There is tendency to call attention to their burdened or misused state but usually indirectly and not in a way that can be followed through by change either by themselves or others. Rather there is just the underlying implication that others should fix the situation and they will not or cannot. It seems consolidators take pride in their ability 'to take it' and desire credit, not relief. In fact if straightforward effort is made to help a consolidator change his or her circumstances, frustration often ensues and it has been often felt that the consolidator is 'addicted' to humiliation, degradation, defeat and pain.
Despite the usual calm or cheerful outside presentation, negative feelings are felt intensely. However the direct or open expression of negative feelings is severely ego-dystonic. Any self-assertion produces powerful feelings of guilt, shame and humiliation. There can be a fear of exploding violently. Negative feelings are expressed mainly through passive-aggressive behavior or indirect provocations, although sometimes a strong 'victim-role' is taken on, which is sometimes described as 'whining.'
For consolidators, anxiety is present most of the time. Anxiety is already present before something is undertaken, or in anticipation of an undertaking. This often leads to rumination and anxiety about events that probably will not happen. The anticipatory anxiety often leads the consolidator to avoid things, but the avoidance does not dispense with the anxiety. This produces for the consolidator the experience of constantly being under great pressure.
There is a constant search and preoccupation with approval. While with the communicator character approval is sought for esteem, with the consolidator approval is an act of submission--an attempt to format an interpersonal relationship. This of course brings a submerged element of resentment or resistance to approval which complicates encouragement and support from others.
There is a tendency toward periods of inaction, brooding, and self-incriminating rumination. This has been described as the 'masochistic bog or morass.' It may appear to others as a depression. However it differs from depression in that it is possible to fairly easily elicit emotion. Also, unlike depression it is not lack of energy but rather a high energy system getting stuck between two conflicting impulses, however, it should not be minimized because the stuckness is very real and very difficult to change.
In whatever they do, consolidators give the impression of squeezing or forcing something out with great effort. The tendency to procrastinate is strong; Consolidators often cannot either do something or decide not to do it. They often look to others for direction in what to do, but just as often find fault with this direction. Moreover, they also quite commonly undermine others' plans with slowness, stubbornness, perfectionism, or passive aggressive behavior.
There is a reliance on others to provide a means of release of pent-up feeling--hence the tendency to provoke. Indecisiveness also contributes to tension and provocation can be used 'to make something happen.' The anger and punishing attitudes that are provoked in others seems to justify internal feelings of spite. Placing others in the wrong allows an expression of feeling that is not possible otherwise.
There is a common misconception that masochism means that pain is pleasureable, Actually however it means that moderately painful sensations enable a release of feeling including pleasurable and sexual feelings.
The mind can be very orderly, but usually obsessively so, with much ruminating on details, serving as a distraction from feelings. Consolidators may have valuable knowledge but they hesitate to take leadership, sometimes being a loyal 'second-in-command' but often continuing to work below their abilities.
Childhood and adult history may include: clumsiness and many minor accidents., overeating (to stuff down feelings), chronic sore throats, acne, digestive problems, a sensitive gag reflex and anxiety about vomiting, constipation, and excessive neatness or sloppiness.
The will is weakened by the constant holding pattern, but it is strong enough to express its resistance (to the parents’ crushing will) through stubbornness, defiance and passive refusal (to move, to be successful or happy, etc.); the will is also often directed to make the individual appear stupid or eccentric, or to dissimulate, so there is much inner doubting about one’s own intelligence or wisdom.
Predominant negative core beliefs: “I will be loved as long as I submit to the will of others.” “If I assert my independence, I will be crushed.” - “To get love, I must please others.” “I can never say no.” - “I must never express my negativity.” “I will hurt myself to prevent others from hurting me.” - “If I feel too much, I will explode.” - “I am inferior and disgusting because of my negative feelings.” - “Life is hard and suffering unavoidable.”
Characteristic Illusion: "I'll get love if I submit myself to your wishes."
Primary “falling” fear: of the bottom falling out
Primary holding pattern: holding in
Primary longing: to be free/spontaneous
Primary Struggle: the right to be assertive.
Illusion of Contraction I'll be loved as long as I'm good
Illusion of Release I will be crushed and humiliated
Assets: Great capacities for pleasure, humor, optimism, playfulness and joy. Genuine supportiveness, strength and desire to be of service to others. An expansive, open heart with deep compassion, true kindness and understanding. When released by a strong enough stimulus, there is positive assertiveness and healthy aggression with substantial amounts of energy; - Ability to be spontaneously creative in the moment, surrender ego control and trust the natural order in all things.
Relationship and Interpersonal Functioning
In relationships, consolidators are able to feel close and give and receive some warmth, but the relationships still contains a feeling of tension and pressure. Consciously or unconsciously trying to get appreciation and approval, permission to feel, and relief from guilt are predominant motivations in relationships. This is attempted either through exaggerated pleasing, servile and submissive behavior (that may be experienced by the recipient as hostile, controlling and contemptuous), through self-deprecating attitudes and self-damaging behavior, constant whining and complaining, or through directly provocative behavior. Alternately a consolidator may couple with a more verbally critical character structure (for instance a communicator), so that the complaining can be "contracted out" to the partner. If this is the case, the consolidator often can 'go along' with most things and deny distress, even when it is obvious that they are being treated quite disrespectfully or controllingly by his or her partner.
The Consolidator has a strong sexual drive. Intense preoccupation with sex and frequent masturbation are common as this person continually seeks pleasure and release, both of which are intensely desired and also inhibited. Commonly there is a fascination with pornography. Sadomasochistic fantasy is common (seeking to turn pain, submission and humiliation into a release or way to earn “pleasure”). Orgasms are controlled by pushing and squeezing actions (of the buttocks, thighs and pelvis). Surrendering to love is related to as both potentially liberating and potentially crushing, with pain as a necessary ingredient and good feelings in love and sex as “too much.”
Sexual Masochism and Consensual Power Exchange
Social masochism as expressed in this character has much less of an overlap with traditionally defined sexual masochism than is commonly supposed. However, this is the likeliest spot to address how the topic fits into the Reich and Lowen view of sexual functioning. As pointed out elsewhere, pain, humiliation, and submission is not pleasureable to anyone, but rather in certain settings, modest pain, dominance, or humiliation can allow a release that is otherwise impeded. The intentional seeking and employment of practices that provide this type of release has become known as Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism, Masochism, telescoped into the acronym BDSM.
Consensual power exchange, ironically, is a paradox usually quickly understood by women, gay men, and minorities. It is less quickly understood by traditionally privileged groups. Power exchange done consciously is an exercise in strong boundaries rather than weak boundaries because both typical avoidant strategies and symbiotic illusions are unavailable.
Like the Reich and Lowen tradition, BDSM consists of 1) experiential activities, 2) organized around increasing pleasure, 3) deliberately employing sensation and autonomic stimuli, 4) sex-positive, and at times, 5) meant to be healing.
Unlike the Reich and Lowen tradition, however, 1) the emphasis is on the erotic and not the satisfying, 2) emphasis is on performance, 3) natural attraction is neglected, 4) fantasy is encouraged, and 5) 'servicing' is considered a sound interpersonal stance.
Physical Aspects and Structure
The body is typically thick and muscular and gives an impression of chronic tension in the body. Height is average to somewhat shortened. Expression in the eyes is one of suffering. The face often has an invariable smiling. Hair tends to be coarse and thick. There is usually a great deal of body hair. Women tend to wear hair about shoulder length, or if kept longer, tie it back. The neck is short and thick (from pulling in of the head). Shoulder muscles are bulky. Buttocks are pulled in and squeezed together (to control the impulse to mess up and let out), which pushes the pelvis forward; creating a "flat back" or 'tail tucked in' posture. Waist is short and thick, encased, compressed and collapsed (from pulling in and down from the top and up and in from the bottom to control impulses to let out); in women, hips and thighs are often thick and heavy. In men, the abdomen often balloons. The abdominal compression affects the whole diaphragmatic segment, making exhalation difficult and hindering all of the organs in the area.
There is often an awkwardness or clumsiness in the person’s gait and movements, with frequent minor accidents along with a general uncomfortability in the body. There is anal and genital tension and spasticity (causing acute suffering and inability to freely experience pleasure) as the whole pelvic floor is contracted. The skin tends to have a brownish hue due to held energy charge; there may be severe problems with acne. Chronic areas of tension are the neck, shoulder girdle, pelvis and buttocks, and most of the large ('extrinsic') muscles Chronic physical ailments of the throat and colon/anal region, such as sore throats, colitis, constipation and hemorrhoids, and digestive problems
The consolidator character is fully charged energetically, but energy is tightly held in check (though not frozen), so this person is “boiling” inside. Energy moving upward and downward is choked off at the neck and waist (causing compression) and outlets for energy discharge are blocked (throat, anus, genitals) The highly charged energy is stagnant in the skin
The Origins of the Masochistic Character
Developmental Period - 19th to 30th Months
Parents offered conditional love to the child based on compliance with their will (that the child “be a good boy or girl” and control impulses). Attempts by child to assert its own will or say “No” were overpowered by parents and greeted with threats of abandonment or withdrawal of love. The child's strong pleasure and excitement may have caused anxiety in the parents. Possibly parents were excessively involved in child’s eating and excretory functions (child may have been pushed to eat more than it wanted, toilet training may have been severe, enemas given, etc.), and in general, there was a strong focus on eating and defecating in the family.
Father may have been passive, submissive or absent while mother was dominating, smothering, or harsh (often with a self-sacrificing, martyr-type mask), or father may have been harsh, controlling or sadistic while mother was permissive and indulgent; - Parents may have been excessively concerned about “messing up” (around personal hygiene, household cleanliness, finances, order in general, etc.); - A sudden interruption in the parent-child relationships may have occurred in the child’s second year of life (birth of a sibling, divorce, absent parent due to work, illness, death, etc., or a physical illness of child).
Possible Difficulties for the Consolidator Character
- Chronic feelings of suffering and chronic low-level anxiety, both emotionally and physically
- Submissive behavior, and lack of self-assertion (inability to say, “No”);
- Intense feelings of shame and humiliation
- Feeling trapped
- Self-destructive behavior patterns (sabotaging success in jobs and relationships, accidents, sexual acting out, etc.)
- Obsessive/compulsive problems, particularly around sex, cleanliness and orderliness
- Preoccupations with sex, masturbation, pornography and/or excretory functions, accompanied by intense guilt, shame and self-punishment
- An inability to let go of or change repetitive patterns in abusive or ungratifying relationships.
- Inability to tolerate pleasure or success without guilt or anxiety.