The Reichian View on Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is a topic that I know many people, myself included, are very interested in. And of course there are heaps of self-help books, videos and courses out there to help you to overcome it. The basic strategy employed is usually to progressively take more risks. It’s like behavioural therapy, from back in the old days of psychology last century.
Scared of speaking up and being seen? Okay, join Toastmasters and confront that fear. Put yourself in a situation where you have to do what you’re afraid of until the fear starts to dissipate and no longer controls you.
Scared of being in a place where people of perceived high-status hang out? Okay, buy some quality clothing, stand up straight and walk in. Act the part. Carry on acting it until the fear diminishes and it feels natural.
Behavioural therapy. It works.
Or seems to. Because there can be an issue.
What happens sometimes is that we learn to cope with low self-esteem by covering it over with a front. We practice adopting a persona, that of being confident and outgoing perhaps, but underneath, all that fear and insecurity still lurks.
By no means is this always the case. Sometimes we do simply overcome our fears and move forwards in life.
But if you suspect that you might just be covering things over, it can be helpful to understand the roots of low self-esteem.
In Reichian Character Structure, low self-esteem relates to the Endurer character. Let’s take a closer look. Because if we can treat our own inner Endurer, we can really start to overcome any low self-esteem we have on a deeper level.
Like all five of the Reichian character types, the Endurer relates to a distinct phase or aspect of our very early childhood. It goes back to when we first start to forge a sense of our own identity, at the age of two.
Two year olds kick off! They can be a nightmare. They scream and rage at the slightest thing. Ask any parent and I feel sure that they will confirm this. And dealing with a two-year old can be challenging. If, as parents, we just give them freedom to behave however they wish, then we will soon have an uncontrollable monster on our hands. We have to provide our child with the right sense of boundaries and this is actually not at all easy.
We have to find the right balance between allowing freedom, giving boundaries and showing love. It’s really not easy to get this right and many parents inevitably overstep the mark to some degree. The amount that this happens dictates our personal level of the Endurer character. Let’s take a look why.
A two-year old might be screaming and shouting and making our life a nightmare. But they are also acutely vulnerable. If a child of this age senses a threat to the ongoing care of the parent, it registers this as a life-threat. Our nervous system knows that if the parents leave we will likely die. That is what happened throughout our evolutionary history. So we are calibrated to respond to a perceived threat of withdrawal of care with very extreme measures. We literally shut down.
We become peaceful, quiet and compliant. We simply obey our parents as best we can. And inside of us, the need to comply is encoded with the desire to survive. Self-expression is associated with life-threat. As we grow older and become adults, this binding remains.
Perhaps you can see why this situation leads to low self-esteem. Having associated self-expression with life-threat, and compliance with survival, is it likely that we will take the social risks necessary to develop fully and have a great life? It is not.
Now, what I’m describing here is someone who is fully in the Endurer character. On my Reichian Character Structure quiz, it would be easily their dominant trait.
But, in reality, any level of this character type in our personality will hold us back in life. Having a nervous system that has been calibrated to not express and to comply is clearly not a useful thing.
So treating the Endurer character type within us also helps us to remove the roots of low self-esteem. I am pasting some videos below, taken from my YouTube channel, where you can learn exercises to help release you from the grip of your own personal Endurer.