|INTRODUCTORYFOUNDER OF SOMATIC PSYCHOLOGY.Wrote over 20 books and 450 articles. Brought the body into psychology.
“Body Language” — the term is now commonplace. It wasn’t always that way. With Freud and psychoanalysis everything was the mind. Reich was the first to bring the body into psychoanalysis, and to physically touch the client.
|BIOGRAPHICAL: EARLY LIFE.Born in 1897 in the eastern Austro-Hungarian empire. From a landowning Jewish family in Romania, but assimilated into German culture and forbidden to play with Jewish children. Stressed German culture. Family was welthy, stuck up, with a feudal attitude. His father was very abusive –struck him for minor infractions and gave him harsh beatings. A brutal man with an intensely jealous streak.
His mother, by contrast, was soft, nurturing, beautiful. Loved to stroke his hair and hold him. Not an intellectual. Shortly after Wilhelm’s brother Robert was born, due to trauma associated with his childbirth, she had to go away to spas for a health cure and Wilhelm took this as abandonment. Reich rarely mentioned his brother, but theyr were very competitive — competed constantly for mother’s love.
Reich never in his life was able to complete psychoanalysis himself. He started several times and always stopped. There were traumas in his early life that he was simply unable to come to groups with. He always found excuses to break off analysis. 4. EARLY SEXUAL EXPERIENCES.
|LATER EVENTS — RELATIONSHIP WITH FREUD
After father died, Reich took over the business and continud his studies. At age 18 he left to join the army and never returned to the family farm. After the Army he went to Vienna to medical school. For a time he shared an apartment with his brother in Vienna and was extremely poor. His professor kept inviting thm to dinner so they could eat.Reich was impatient and brilliant. He studied with Freud and was fascinated with the concept of libido, but thought of it not just as psychic but as real energy. In 1919 was allowed to join the Vienna psychoanalytic society as an undergraduate. Very unusual. Was considered Freud’ds “favorite son.” Became vice-director of Freud’s polyclinic in Vienna, became director of training at the psychoanalytic institute, in charge of supervising the training program for other analysts, and had an open invitation to visit Freud any time. Also very involved in music.
Married Annie Pink, a psychoanalyst and socialist. At medical school she was considered very desirable, likely to succeed, etc.
In 1927, severe conflict with Freud. Reich had asked Freud to be his personal therapist. Frued refused– had a policy against being analyst for anyone in his society. According to his wife, Reich saw Freud as a father figure.
Reich basically agreed with Freud up until the 30s. But thought Frued stayed too much in the mind, didn’t go into body. Psychoanalytic theory was well developed but therapeutic techniques lagged behind. It could go on for years with no cures, and when cures occurred, people sometimes didn’t know why. In regard to his ideas, R. thought Freud just didn’t get it.
In 1933, tried to integrate the idea of Marx with psychoanalysis. At ages 2 and 4 sent his 2 girls away to a communist school, much to the chagrin of their mother. Once they were singing “O tannenbaum,” and he got angry because he wanted them to sing communist songs.
BERLIN, DENMARK, SWEDEN.
|CHARACTER ANALYSIS: The name of Reich’s approach.CENTER OF REICH’S WORK: REUNITING THE MIND AND BODY.
This split between mind and body causes us to destroy each other and our planet, Reich believed, and allows us to go to war. So in therapy we pay attention to the body and work on it. He developed a variety of innovative ways of working with held-in somatic energy, such as having people lie on mattresses and kick and pound them to release energy, , in combination with psychotherapy.
THE BODY’S OUTWARD APPEARANCE IS AN ACCURATE REFLECTION OF WHAT’S HAPPENING INSIDE, said Reich. There is a basic mistake in idea, “I think,…I am.” You can’t change your thoughts at a basic level without change in your body, in what you do.
FUNCTIONS OF MUSCULAR ARMOR:
CHARACTER ARMOR CAN BE REFLECTED IN LIFE-PATTERNS. Karen Horney, reflecting on Reich’s work, noted that people may arrange their lives to fit their character armor. Thus a severely introverted person may find an apartment in a building that is so configured that he or she need not meet or interact with neighbors, and shop at impersonal stores where minimal contact with others is necessary.
|RINGSBlocks are the contractions in the organsism which prevent the free flow of energy. It appeared to Reich that these appear as rings at a number of points in the body.
1. OCULAR. Forehead, eyes, cheekbones, tear duct glands. Inability to open eyes wide. Treatment: Get people to open their eyes “really wide like they’re scared.”
2. ORAL. Lips, chin, throat. Person may find it hard to cry, grin, grimace at all.
3. NECK: When armoned, holding back crying, anger.
4. CHEST: Major function–self-control, restraint. Ex: suppressed spite. Holding back anger. Tight muscles holding back raving rage, heartbreaking solbbing, intolerable longing. The armored peerson is unable to express thos things.
With someone armored in chest areas — hands and arms may move very awkwardly.Example of being free of this armor: musician or dancer who moves in very fluid way. Armor in head and chest– often found in militarism. Militarism based on armoring and vice-versa. In women, armoring can result in insensitivity in nipples, disgust at nursing.
6. ABDOMINAL CONTRACTIONS
7. PELVIC REGION. When excitement reaches a place that is blocked, the pleasure that comes from the flowing of the energy turns into rage. Might have muscular spasms. Emphasis on vigorous expression of anger, rage, crying, other emotions. We can function as a whole unit when the armor is removed. Focus on breaking up the inhibitions.
Reich would work with the seven regions of the body to dissolve resistance. The resistance is what we build up throughout our life to block affect. In Reich’s day, the newborn infant was immediately bundled up very tightly to restrict movement. Reich takes each developmental stage and shows how society forbids certain kinds of expression of energy. \Example: in early toilet training, people are taught to tighten up, restrict.
In masturbation, “Don’t touch that dirty little finger or it will fall off.” All along, parental teaching is stopping the natural flow of energy. Inside excitement is building up like a pressure cooker. I’m angry but not allowed to be angry. Can’t express things like we want. “I”m mad as hell. I want to touch my little thing and it’s not going to fall off.” We develop armoring to stop this flow of energy.
|SEXUALITY AND ARMORING. As a result of armoring, the sexual impulse is changed from something soft and gentle to something harsh and brutal. Inability to express sexuality causes rage, which must also be repressed, and then sex becomes mechanical and brutal.
ORGIASTIC POTENCY: Ability to surrender to the flow without any inhibition. Complete surrender to the sexual act. “This is always lacking in neurotic individuals.” Few people mature with complete orgiastic potency. Full orgasm can only happen in 4 ways, held Reich:
Reich saw ability to lose ourselves in sexual ecstasy as the ultimate measure of well being.
|REICH’S APPROACH TO THERAPYINTERPRETATION OF RESISTANCE. Psychoanalysts were not doing this. They were very involved with subsconscious–dreams, etc., paying no attention to behavior. Reich noticed resistance right from the start. Wondered why people never fully let go. Why inhibitions not relaxed?? In Reich’s approach, we should start with the armoring and defense mechanisms and THEN go inward. So he would start with the resistances the people were putting up.
Freud had known that resistance was a sign of repression, but no effective technique was ever found to move through them, except free association.
Reich was much more interested in patients’ resistances than in the information they offered (in contrast to Freud.) In psychoanalysis, clients would offere the same information over and over, going around in circles. Reich focused on breaking up inhibitions. He declared, “the resistance itself becomes the center of the work.” When people discover how they resist awareness, then they can choose to keep doing so, or to go deeper into themselves, at their own pace.
He said, don’t work with the deeper layers of the unconscious until the defense mechanisms are identified, because the resistance will hold the neurotic behavior in place even if the meanings are understood. He worked first with resistances and would not interpret behavior until the resistances had been laid bare.
In CHARACTER ANALYSIS, resistances could be observed in the patient’s behavior –ways of talking, walking, moving. Reich couldn’t understand why psychoanalysts refused to pay attention to observable behavior.
We have primarily one character structure. Our character can imprison us in rigid and stereotyped reactions at the same time that we build our character as a defense against our environment. Characterological armoring. The armoring is a compromise between our impulses and our social obligations–between what we want and what we think we should do.
In therapy, instead of digging into the deep meaning of the information people present, he would notice how they breathed, held their shoulders, etc. and work with that.
In the 1930s, took idea of armoring one step farther, to muscular armor. Assumes that we are the sum total of our entire lives. How we breathe, laugh, hold ourselves.
He focused on breaking down the muscular armor. Through breathing and other techniques that mobilized body energies. Lookef for “the orgasm reflex” in breathing. Start breathing way up high and way down into the belly. Then become aware of your head –what does your head do as you inhale and exhale, which way does the pelvis go?
Some people, as inhale, head forward, pelvis back. As exhale, head back, pelvis forward. An important goal of therapy –just to have people breathe in this manner.
Examples: If someone with chin held high, he would interpret this as a resistance. Try and feel sad with your chin up. He might ask them to bring the chin down, and then see how easy it is to feel sad.
If people had a scream to let out, put their head back, then drop the jaw. His first step in therapy –to get patient to breathe easily and deeply.
Second step –mobilize whatever is seen in the patient’s behavior. Touched and moved his patients, another break from psychoanalysis.
CHILDREN: He wrote a lot about the self-regulating child. Letting the child determine when it’s ready for toilet-training, etc. PREVENTION OF NEUROSIS: The social culture of people would have to be altered.
|NEO-REICHIANSALEXANDER LOWEN (“Bioenergetics”) FROM 1942-54 Reich was treating and teaching Lowen, the founder of bioenergetics, who said that he learned everything that’s important to him from Reich.Reich said, Got to get energy down into the pelvis. Lowen: Get it radiating into our extremities, out into hands and feet. Achiever energy –always outward, forward. Trainer had a woman walk backward in a circle to get into her energy.STANLEY KELEMAN: Maintained a body-oriented psychotherapy practice in San Francisco Wrote the most readable neo-Reichian body oriented psychology books I’ve seen. Best known is Sexuality, Self, and Survival. Also various others. I highly recommend his writing.
MOSHE FELDENKREIS; THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE. Other neo-Reichian approaches that use gentle movements and manipulations. Eleanor Criswell uses a similar approach.
IDA ROLF: Developed a method of deep tissue massage that can be seen as an even deeper cousin of shiatsu in which she actually went in with her thumb and fingertips and physically separated stuck-together muscles and tendons and ligaments that were held in certain positions as a result of personality and character variables, thus literally freeing up the body to move in ways that it had been unable to before. Not infrequently during Rolfing, deep emotions and images from the past often come flooding out as the tension and held-togetherness of particular areas of the body are released.
ROBERT K. HALL, originally trained as a psychoanalyst, then as a Gestalt therapist with Fritz Perls, combined Rolfing with the knowledge he gained from the bodywork system developed by Dr. Randolph Stone of India, which added work at particular acupressure points, as well as other interventions, to Rolfing per se. Hall called this LOMI BODY WORK. The Lomi School he founded, which is in Santa Rosa, grants Master’s degrees.
|WILHELM REICH’S SOCIOPOLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY
(Notes from a guest lecture by Mary Gomes).THE “FREUDIAN LEFT” Reich was part of the “Freudian left” which included himself, Marcuse, Fromm, Adorno, Horkeimer, and the various other figures of “critical theory.” He was one of the first political psychologists. Undertook a creative synthesis of psychoanalysis and Marxist socialism. . Was kicked of both the psychoanalytic association and the Communist Party as a consequence of publishing The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933). (Mary’s comment: He must gotten done something right!)”
WHAT IS OUR BASIC NATURE? Reich asked, can our basic nature be trusted, can we trust people’s natural unfolding? Or if we think the child is inherently bad, we will probably insist on strong external controls. Because if you don’t trust people, you will look for some way to control them.
REICH’S MODEL: :
REVOLUTIONARY OR REACTIONARY ATTITUDE Reich asked, Does psychoanalysis have a “revolutionary” or a “reactionary” attitude toward our situation? Does it endeavor to help people
REICH’S REFLECTIONS ON FREUD:
In Reich’s view, Freud sort of peeked underneath the little mask of character and saw perversions. Freud’s mistakes:
NAZI GERMANY, FASCISM, AND THE COMMUNISTS. Reich’s case study of fascism was largely responsible for his expulsion from both the psychoanalytic institute and the Communist party. The Communists said, “You’re not supposed to be asking about psychology. Psychological effects are supposed to be determined by the economic situation, not vice-versa.
For Reich, a key question was: Why did people support the Nazis? Reich stated that he found that several things went together in Nazi Germany:
Economically the Nazi program was not in the interest of lower middle class people of Germany, but they gave their support to it. Reich asked, What psychological reason could be found that would make the fascist ideology compelling to this group of people?
His answer was: The combination of authority and rebellion. Reich said the sons would especially admire an authoritarian person above them who was also rebellious. (Like Hitler and Stalin) That way they could fulfill the desire to rebel but with subservience. This was a submission that came with some real resentment.
FAMILY AND WORK. Reich noticed that the family structure and work structure in the German lower middle class overlapped. In their small farms and businesses, both the family authority and the work authority were the same person.In other cases, if you go off to work you’re going to work somewhere else. But if you’re in a situation where you’re working together within the family, the father’s capacity to ensure his authority, to have a kind of totalitarian state within the home, goes way up.
THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX. Reich’s explanation: You also get the Oedipus complex from this kind of situation. Sexual desires naturally urge a person to enter into all kinds of relations with the world, and to enter into close contact with others in a variety of forms. If these urges arep reressed, they can only express themselves in the narrow confines of the family. Karen Horney referred to “the emotional hothouse of the family.”
‘FAMILY VALUES” The “safeguarding of the family,” held Reich, customariily refrers to the male-dominated authoritarian and large family. This, he declared, “is the first cultural precept of every reactionary ideology.”
SOCIAL CONTROL IN PATRIARCHY AND MATRIARCHY
REICH’S SEXUAL EMPHASIS:. Reich’s programs for social change always seemed to start with sex. Sexual hygiene programs for workers, young people having sex when they want to, etc. But such measures didn’t start the revolution he wanted. In our society, we seem to be as likely to get child pornography as true sexual freedom.
Reich would always stop short of being completely systematic with something. Reich did not explain why the patterns he described would result from sexual repression instead of some other kind. The political and sexual arenas were two parallel streams of his thought and he liked to connect them because sexuality was one of his central interests, but actually the political effects could come from any kind of repression
An adaptation of libido theory. Reich argued that libido theory was too narrowly sexual, and coined the term “orgone energy” for a broader view. Ultimately he argued that it is not only in the body but outside as well, defining it as “A subtle biophysical energy which permeates all living things.” It Permeates all space in different concentrations, taken into the body through breathing.He developed an “orgone box” or “orgone accumulator” to capture this vital energy so that people could then absorb it. Because of his orgone box, people thought he was in left field, and had gone mad.
But there are parallels among Hindu prana and the chakras.Fritz Perls, one of Reich’s students and the central figure in founding Gestalt Therapy, avoided all this trouble by speaking simply of “excitement,” noting thatour excitement can flow into emotion, inhibition of emotion, thinking, sensation, or action at any given moment. He paid attention to how excitement is expressed and blocked.
The orgone box was a 5 foot by 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 box made of layers of sheet metal and wood. Got into the weather, pulling energy from the universe, etc. These were purchased by doctors and psychiatrists in both the U.S. and abroad.He and his disciples bought land in Maine and called it Orgonon.
The verdict on orgone energy can be seen most clearly in the fact that all of Reich’s students who carried on his body-oriented therapeutic work dropped the concept of orgone energy and did not make it part of their work.
DEATH IN PRISON He had been an activist in the German Communist party during the 1930s. In 1954, during thered-baiting Joe McCarthy era, when right-wingers found it politically expedient to find a communist under every bed. The feds in the U.S. went after Reich andFDA placed a ban on transporting, etc., the orgone boxe across state lines. In addition, it insisted that all copies of his books be distroyed..A co-worker continued to transport them, Reich was imprisoned. He died of a heart attack in prison at the age of 60 in 1957 after two years in Federal prison, the day before he was to go up for parole. His son, who was 13 when father was imprisoned, said, “Cry,” we can cry together,” when he visited in prison, and they did. After Reich’s death, most students stopped continuing his work, but his daughter Eva carried on, and Ellsworth Baker, and Alexander Lowen.
|PSYCHOLOGY’S STRANGE BLACKOUT OF REICH’S WORK. It is incontestable that Reich is one of the seminal thinkers and practitioners of twentieth century psychology. He singlehandedly brought the body into psychology at a time when others dealt with the mind and emotions but the only reference to the body was physiological and neurophysiological.When I most recently revised this lecture, in 2003, I looked through ten different history of psychology books and found no reference whatever to Reich. I looked through a number of personality theory books and found only one, Personality and Personal Growth, by James Fadiman and Robert Frager, that addressed and presented his work. Yet there are dozens of minor figures who made only small additions to ideas articulated by others who receive considerable mention. I find this utterly bizarre. You are welcome to your own speculations as to why American psychology largely ignores a man who was one of the last century’s greatest contributors to its advancement. (There is an interesting parallel with the longtime ignoring of contributions by women psychologists.) As he was persecuted in life for drawing attention to matters that others wished to look away from, so is he largely ignored in death.|