Characteristic Attitudes of the Rigid Hysterical Female
Because the rigid character achieves genitality, adult sexual feeling and biology comes into play very strongly in character formation, and functioning differs strongly along gender lines. This is consistent with folk wisdom and everyday observation of rigid characters (as opposed to other 'pre-genital' characters). The men appear manly and the women appear feminine. This view, that human sexual dimorphism, where it exists, is natural, good, and a characteristic of maturation, is, of course, inconsistent with the political correctness of the present day. The male achiever or rigid character, is named the 'phallic' character, because he is thought to exhibit 'male' aggression, perhaps a substitute for full sexual release and satisfaction. The female rigid character is known as a 'hysteric', because strong sexual feeling builds but can only find expression in outbursts or conversion symptoms. Below is a description of the female character.
The hysteric character has a very impressionistic cognitive style, in which detail is less important than mood and emotional nuance. There is strong attention to surface and appearance, and clothing and furnishings will tend to be fashionable and well kept. This may be seen by some as superficial, but if as Alexander Lowen posits, pleasure, contact, and consciousness all happen on the surface, then this can be seen as healthy, if limited. There is a mild suggestibility, because there is a tendency to agree with what looks or sounds good. Reality testing is basically good, though, and this character is rarely taken advantage of severely.
PREDOMINANT NEGATIVE CORE BELIEFS “If I love, I will be vulnerable.” “I will get love by appearing invulnerable and attractive.” “If I desire sexually, I will be rejected.” “I will get sexual gratification by controlling my sexual longings.” “If I surrender to the man, I will be abandoned"
Characteristic Illusions: "If I hold back my heart, It will never be broken again" "If I don't give you my heart, I can be sexual."
Primary “falling” fear: Falling forward or on one's face
Primary holding pattern: Holding back
Primary longing: to surrender in love.
Primary Struggle: the right to love sexually
Illusion of Contraction: “I will be loved if I am attractive and desirable.”
Illusion of Release: "I will be rejected if I fully open my heart"
For the hysteric, relationships often exhibit a push-pull quality, especially around sexual contact, with a constant seeking out of sexual situations and simultaneous flight from them Often one person is chosen as a sexual partner, while another is chosen as a love partner. Relationships are often sought out with people who are seen as having status in socially acceptable ways (the "checklist"); others are often related to as either competitors (to be defeated) or suitors (to be seduced). There tends to be a superficial or formal quality to interactions, though often with undertones of intrigue (gossiping or a soap opera kind of drama as the style of communicating), argumentativeness, or there may be an hysterical quality to self-expression. Something is always held back in relationships to maintain interest and mystery and an “edge” Sex is primarily sought after for validation of one’s attractiveness and prowess and secondarily for pleasure. Sexual desires are often experienced as incestuous. Sexual pleasure and full orgasm are possible, but often avoided out of the fear of surrendering and appearing vulnerable. Orgasms, when allowed, may take a long time and a lot of effort.
This character is well-formed and attractive. Overall alignment is straight, with possibly some pulling back in the upper body. Sometimes there is a split with a girlish upper body and a fuller lower body. Movement is graceful. The eyes and the skin tend to 'radiate' Hair tends to be kept longer than the shoulder, and worn down, even in a long term relationship and even into middle age. The lips are full.
The pelvis is the most mobile of all character structures, although Lowen believed that even the hysteric character was beginning to lose mobility of the pelvis in our society. The belly has a gentle pleasing curve from the waist that flows into the hips and the mons. (there is not a tight band of constriction above the iliac crests and pubic bone as there is with most other characters).
Lowen believed that energy flowed well in this character, but not quite making it to the very ends of the 'pendulum'. That is, if development is complete in the adult, energy normally pulsates back and forth between the genitals and the cerebral cortex. Lowen posited that in female achiever, that the energy made it into the pelvis but not the genitals, and into the midbrain or limbic system but not the cerebral cortex. With this energy model, he explained an impressionistic thinking style (not deficient, but not cortically dominated) and orgasm difficulties despite great sexual energy.
Another outlet for sexual feeling is in subtle movements, which in this character often have a definite sexual nuance.
Origins of the Hysteric Character
(Developmental Period – 4-6 Years)
Like the male counterpart, this character is believed to have had 'good enough' nurture up to 4 years of age or the start of the oedipal period. At that point, love feelings for the father were rejected, and or the mother interfered with this relationships. This 'heart-break' resulted in a stiffening against disappointment.
Possible Difficulties for the Hysteric Character
- Difficulties with sexual satisfaction
- Not being taken seriously, despite considerable abilities
- Relationships in which the hysteric invests much more than the partner, being taken for granted.