This article provides and understanding of the Burdened/Enduring Character Strategy of Body-Centered psychotherapy.
Traditional Name: The Masochist
Stage of Development: Anal Stage (18 months to 3 years)
Function Truncated: Responsibility and freedom
- controlling caregiver
- caregiver suppresses child’s natural impulses and independence
- over protective or over-concerned caregiver
- shame and invasion of privacy
Experience: Life is double bind
- inhibits expression of feelings
- endures or waits things out
- is outwardly compliant, while inwardly takes control by subtly resisting
- “I must obey/follow others to be loved.”
- “Receiving love = doing what someone wants.”
- “It’s hopeless.”
- feeling pushed by someone leads to their resistance
- provokes to get a forceful response from other (passive-aggressive)
- submissive on outside but has a hostile and superior attitude on the inside
- sabotages getting nourishment and gets out of situations through automatic negatives
- avoids responsibility
- finds ways to get “dumped on” in order to feel bad
- are usually the submissive one in a relationship
- tries to avoid making mistakes and hurting others
- has a downward movement, as if gravity is dragging them down
- resistant or “hunkered in” – short and thick or heavy and strong musculature
- rounded shoulders (as if there is a weight on their shoulders)
- compressed neck
- moves slowly
- charged but tightly held
- lacks fluidity
- loving and affectionate
- genuinely nice person
- makes a loyal and caring friend
- is a pillar of strength for others
- tremendous endurance
What They Need:
- to be able to go slowly, without being pushed or pressured
- to learn how to be more flexible
- to get in touch with their negative internal voice
- to take responsibility, to see their role in things
- to do for themselves
- to become aware of their attempts to sabotage situations
- to express assertiveness
- joking and play
- to have their anger be accepted
Synthesis of the Burdened/Enduring Character Strategy
The Burdened/Enduring strategy forms during a stage in development when the child is gaining independence. It is a time when a child becomes potty trained, learns how to walk, and starts exploring. If the caregiver does not allow enough freedom for the child to explore, by being overprotective (a “good to a fault” parent) a conflict between responsibility and freedom forms in the child and they lose their ability to respond. This loss of response-ability can also arise when a caregiver cannot tolerate the child’s assertiveness. It is a time when a child begins to say “no” to authority figures; if forced to obey, the child will learn to surpass this need. At first, the child may react with resistance (temper tantrums) but their efforts are crushed, and they get worn down when “no” doesn’t have an effect.
Sometimes this strategy forms because the caregiver uses shame or invades the child’s privacy, leaving the child feeling humiliated or invaded.
The Burdened/Enduring had to learn how to operate in an environment of over protection, over watchfulness, and over concern. Because of this suppression, the child does not become outwardly hostile; they seem polite and compliant, but inside have anger and spite. They subtly resist, delaying action and making people wait. They may adopt an attitude of indifference or unconsciously provoke others. Their passive aggressive behaviour lets them take control and hold their power and dignity. This may display itself as the child saying “no” to everything. These automatic negatives are a way that they get out of situations, but the also sabotage themselves from taking in nourishment; because their early impulses were denied, they find it hard to believe that something may actually work or be effective, so they just say “no”. The tend to have low self-worth and feel stuck or incompetent, but inside have a feeling of superiority.
They believe that love is conditional on obedience because they usually get a lot of praise for doing what the caregiver wants. Life becomes a double bind for the Burdened/Enduring; if they assert themselves, they lose love. If they obey they win love, but lose themselves. They bear up under stress, endure through obligations, and may even become a martyr. Because they feel they cannot win either way, they become hopeless. Burdened/Enduring types often whine or complain, and are the “Debbie Downers” of the world.
Discouragement and hopelessness show up in the Burdened/Enduring’s body and energy; it appears as if they are dragged down by gravity. There may be a shortening of the neck and waist. Their muscles are tight or overdeveloped to hold back their impulses. The Burdened/Enduring may have their energy choked at the neck, causing their head to thrust forward.
Because of being so heavily grounded in hopelessness, the Burdened/Enduring type is usually the hardest type to work with. Trying to make them feel good just gives them an opportunity to say “no” and allow them to stay in a place of inflexibility. They also may start something, but will soon stop it; they have little volition and don’t feel they can complete and action.
What a Burdened/Enduring Needs to Thrive
Taking small steps and moving slowly is important for the Burdened/Enduring to make progress. They do not want to be pushed into doing anything, so simple art modalities that do not require a lot of risks, such as taking silly photographs, may be helpful. Because the arts have the ability to increase flexibility and expand the range of play, they will help take the Burdened/Enduring out of their suffering. The arts also encourage expression which may help the Burdened/Enduring be more assertive in life.
When Burdened/Endurings can overcome negative aspects of their strategy, they do well in caring for others as their heart is big and they are supportive and understanding. The Burdened/Enduring can be playful with a light attitude and has a capacity for fun and joy. They are creative with a distinct taste which can leave others in awe.
To learn more about how we form character strategies and read about other character types please read the article Character Strategies of Body-Centered Psychotherapy.