When a muscle is stressed or hurt in some way, it spasms and contracts. The reason it spasms is because it feels fragile and vulnerable, so it closes down and becomes hard to protect itself from further damage. Often it stays in a spasm loop and when that occurs it becomes harder and harder. Over time, this pattern begins to detrimentally affect other parts of your body. While its initial reaction is helpful – protecting the tender muscle – ultimately this defensive mechanism ends up hurting you because it prevents the blood flow from getting into the muscle to actually heal. Eventually it winds up restricting your freedom of movement. In order to heal it, someone has to get in there and massage the area — literally push and break through the spasm to allow the blood to flow again. This can be a painful process, but is necessary so that the area can be revitalized. That is why you feel heat gushing into the muscle after a massage; it opens up the blocked area and now the muscle can heal.
The same thing happens with our egos. When young children experience some kind of fear or threat from their parents or other authority figures, their fragile egos contract and develop defense mechanisms to help them deal with their anxiety. Unable to stand up to adults and feeling vulnerable, their systems create behavioral patterns to help them function. These defense mechanisms include passive, passive-aggressive or aggressive behaviors; they could be denial, distortions or projections. Just like the muscle spasm, the ego defense mechanisms that initially developed to protect from a threatening environment become a hindrance later in adulthood. The defensive pattern is still operating even though the adult is no longer fragile or vulnerable. And just like when a contracted muscle in one part of the body affects other parts, the ego’s defense mechanisms in one area of your life affect other parts of your life. Also just like with a spastic muscle, a psychotherapist needs to get into the contracted part of the ego, probe it and literally break it forcibly, in order to facilitate emotional healing. It is not an easy or painless process to break down defense mechanisms because there’s an emotional spasm in there; an old pain. That’s the whole point of psychotherapy. It is very much like massage therapy, except it breaks defense mechanisms down and allows love, in this case, to come in and heal and nourish the human being.