The Body Shell Syndrome

By John Diamond, M.D.

Megan was a very quiet, retiring woman. When she walked into the room you would hardly notice her. She could be quite a presence when she wanted to, but generally she chose to sit quietly on the side and keep her distance from people. It was as if there were, as she wistfully admitted, a shell around her.

She had had little sexual experience in her life, and those experiences Megan had had were fairly traumatic. It had been very difficult for her to summon up the courage to make love in the first place, and after she had been hurt by that relationship, it became even more difficult for her to try to get close to a man, let alone make love. When I looked at her, I could almost visualize her protected from the world in her shell, which I suppose corresponds with what Wilhelm Reich called body armor.

Megan was not at all stressed when she said, “I wish there were a shell around me,” as if she felt safe and protected and enclosed within its walls. But shells can be broken, and that was what happened to Megan with her unhappy love experience. Afterward this she was too frightened to try again. Her shell might get broken again, her barriers removed and her vulnerability exposed—she might have been invaded to her core. Her armor might have been cracked. It would have been a breach of her psychological defenses. And it was this that so threatened her. It was from this that she felt that she must withdraw at all costs.

My research showed that Megan could not tolerate the thought of anything penetrating any of her orifices. For example, when I asked her to open her mouth there was no difficulty. I asked her to put her finger (or it could be someone else’s finger) just outside her open mouth and there was still no problem. But if the finger was then placed inside her open mouth, even though it was touching nothing, she became greatly stressed. It had broken her shell of defense.

Similarly, if a piece of food to which she was not allergic was placed on a spoon and put inside her mouth while she kept her mouth open, she would become stressed. If the food were then tipped from the spoon onto her tongue and the spoon withdrawn, she would also be stressed. But if she were to close her mouth over the food, so that the shell was re formed, as it were, she would be fine.

Further, if I had her hold a small, thin object immediately outside her ear, her energy remained undepleted. But as soon as she placed it just inside the ear, not touching any part of her skin (yet she was aware that it was inside her and that it had broken her shell) she became greatly stressed. If we were to place it up either nostril, she would also be stressed. So, whenever she was reminded of anything entering her orifices – her mouth, her nose or her ears, she became stressed. She somehow felt that she had been invaded.

Of course, it was the same when she had sex, and when she had given herself therapeutic enemas. So the problem, although it is a circulation sex meridian problem, is more than just a sex problem. It involved anything entering into her, even food and air. Thus was the depth of the problem.

I have found this syndrome in some five to ten percent of the people with whom I have worked. Not all of them were apparently introverted types as was Megan. Some of them were very bright and cheerful in a group, but I always had the impression with them that it was an act, that they were basically as introverted as Megan.

Roland also had a body shell problem, as was demonstrated by the usual criteria; for example, he would be stressed by putting his finger inside his open mouth. But it was also apparent after he kissed his wife, whom he deeply loved. He was stressed because he was conscious of something from her coming into him. He also became stressed when he thought of making love with her. It seems more apparent that her shell would be broken when he introduced his penis – but so was his. He felt that his body shell was broken with this intimate sexual contact. Roland’s example demonstrates that the male who has a body shell problem is just as stressed during sexual relations as the female.

A specific herb has been found to be helpful with these body shell problems. Although it did not make Megan, nor any of the others into sexual nymphs or satyrs nor turn them into florid extroverts, it helped to reduce their fear and made them feel less threatened and vulnerable. As with all use of the tinctures, this is an adjunct to the basic therapy with the individual, serving to remind and reinforce the positive changes taking place.

I would recommend this syndrome being born in mind by every dental patient, because ten percent of them are going to be highly stressed when the dentist introduces anything into the mouth. (The problem of personal territory also comes into play here.)

This finding also raises numerous other issues about these people’s attitudes to food, and even to the air they breathe – which has some quite alarming implications. Hence the importance of recognizing this problem and bringing it to the student’s attention and having him recognize the shell he has constructed. Properly guided, he will hopefully regain the courage to break out of the shell and come forward into the world.