Laurence Heller’s survival styles

The body psychotherapist Laurence Heller has reframed Lowen’s ‘s five character types as survival styles, based on the unmet need:

unmet need Lowen type time
contact schizoid pre/pero/post natal
attunement oral bonding – 18 months
trust psychopath used child
autonomy masochist 2.5 years +
love/sexuality rigid/oedipal older child

The great power of Heller’s model is that it orients to needs, whereas Lowen’s orients to pathology

Here is a little more detail about the survival styles.

The Contact survival style

Core fear: If I feel, I will fall apart or die
Reality: I survived
Copes by dissociating, splitting, isolating, intellectualizing, projecting.
Thinking sub-type lives in their head
Spiritualizing sub-type lives in their energetic field.
Because of the failure to embody they often have access to esoteric spiritual states and are drawn to therapies and spiritual movements which reinforce dissociation

The Attunement survival style

Core fear: If I express my needs, I will be rejected
Adaptive statement: When I get… then I will be happy
Reality: the abandonment they fear has already happened
Copes through depression, projecting, co-dependency, caretaking, addiction, longing
Unsatisfied sub-type eats or uses substances when stressed, tends towards weight gain, bulimia
Blocked sub-type stops eating when stressed, tends towards anorexia

The Trust survival style

Core fear: If I am not in control, I will be destroyed
Adaptive statements: Never again; I’m in control now; I’ve lived in fear, now I’m going to scare you
Reality: neither as helpless as they believe nor as powerful as they try to appear
Copes through projection, identification, denial, anger, blame and disappointment
Overpowering sub-type is competitive and power-hungry, attempts to evoke fear in others
Seductive sub-type is charismatic, graceful as a cat and changeable as a chameleon
They are narcissistic and inflated, controlling and paranoid, good at reading others, especially their weaknesses. When their strategies fail they are prone to self-destructive behaviour.

The Autonomy survival style

Core fear: If people know me they won’t like me
Adaptive statement: Never show people what you really feel
Copes through exerting the will, passive aggression, guilt, rumination and procrastination, strategizing#

The love/sexuality survival style

Core fear: Something is fundamentally flawed in me
Adaptive statement: I will be so perfect, so attractive that everyone will be drawn to me and I will never have to experience rejection again
Reality: love that is conditional on looks and performance is not love at all.
Copes through splitting the unitary function of love and sexuality
Romantic sub-type is open-hearted but sexually muted – Cyrano De Bergerac
Sexual sub-type has a closed heart but sexually acts out, sexualizing intimacy
I’ll love you if you love me

Update: Dr Heller’s book Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship was published on 25th Sep 2012.


~ by scalambra on May 22, 2012.

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