October 30, 2009

Swine Flu: A Pandemic Scare

A few days ago, President Barak Obama declared swine flu to be a national emergency in the United States and medical authorities are recommending vaccination to a large segment of the population. As soon as it becomes widely available, there will be mass inoculations.

While the authorities are urging people to get the vaccine, stating it is safe and effective for nearly everyone over six months of age, people are nevertheless confused—and rightly so. They are afraid to get the shot, and not to get it. Many know (or should) that a myriad of factors drive political action, government decision-making, the drug industry and even medical practice. It isn’t just about YOUR health.

Here’s some of what we know about the swine flu: It is a relatively mild form of flu, as of now. The vast majority of people who contract it will be just fine in a few days, but some will get very sick or even die. It will probably be peaking in November, and those who contract the illness will typically have symptoms that include a fever of 100 degrees or more, a runny nose and general malaise. Unlike the seasonal flu, the swine flu tends to attack the respiratory system in a more vigorous way and it is impacting those under age 24 to a greater extent. If you do have flu-like symptoms, see a doctor. He or she may prescribe antibiotics to ward off a secondary infection. The medication Tamiflu may also be helpful if given early.

I can’t tell you whether to get the vaccine for yourselves or your families. That is a personal decision everyone should make for themselves after diligent research and in light of their own specific health situation, views and goals. What I would like to address here is a different sort of “pandemic” we are falling victim to with some regularity—that of the national or even world-wide scare, coupled with widespread confusion.

Not very long ago, everyone was up in arms about the Y2K computer glitch that supposedly was going to wreck havoc on the entire world at the precise moment of January 1, 2000. Looking back it all seems silly, but at the time people everywhere were taking the “threat” very seriously. Many got rich from the notion that every old computer had to converted to make it Y2K compliant. Often there is a strong money-line at work in a phenomenon that I am calling “the pandemic scare.” Certainly, the drug industry benefits financially from promoting what seems to be a never ending stream of vaccines that are encouraged and sometimes even mandated for all. I often wonder how much they are advocated for their stated health benefits and how much for corporate profit.

There have been many pandemic scares in the U.S. of late, including: anthrax as a biological weapon; melamine-laced food, contaminated toys and other products from China; killer “Africanized” honey bees; bird flu; mad cow disease—and more. What is going on?

Mass psychology is a fascinating area of study, although almost no one studies it. It is one that Wilhelm Reich pioneered, and we can look to his ideas to bring some understanding to the present-day pandemic scares. Reich discovered that people, because of their armoring, have tremendous anxiety and feelings of terror trapped within them. The fear goes back to their earliest of childhood experiences. These pandemic scares, all with at least some aspect of truth, tap into that fear. Some individuals experience outright panic as a result.

Unfortunately, the media with its exaggeration and sensationalistic reporting contributes greatly to the problem. It is the fear in us that drives us to look to “authorities” and not our own resources and good judgment when determining how to proceed in any given situation. What is remarkable is that with orgone therapy, people become less fearful, more self-reliant and more self-sufficient. This happens as locked in emotions comes up and are expressed and released on the couch.

There is another important point. Charles Konia, M.D., of the American College of Orgonomy, points out in his book The Emotional Plague that significant dangers are often minimized or completely ignored on the mass scale, giving rise to pandemic tragedies, such as the Holocaust. More recently, before the Septemeber 11 attacks in the United States, most ignored the impending terrorism with an ostrich-like mentality. A cataclysmic event is taking place in the United States now, right under our noses and with surprisingly little notice or protest: the apparent shift toward a Marxist government. The general ignorance of this real and present danger serves as a contrast to the pandemic scare of the swine flu which has garnered tremendous awareness and attention.

Here is some advice I would offer those who are particularly fearful in the face of pandemic scares, no matter what kind: Don’t passively accept what you are hearing from the media. Do your research and decide what, if anything, you are going to do. Then do it. Turn off the T.V. and radio, shut down the Internet, and close the newspapers when they are not providing real, new and useful information. If you have children or loved ones who depend on you and are frightened, express confidence that everything is going to be alright, even if you are afraid. Let them know you will take care of everything and protect them.

The question is not whether there will be another pandemic scare to sweep this nation or world, or even what the next issue will be to tap into people’s inner terror. The question is whether we, for ourselves and our children, will stand up to our anxiety and fears, live our lives, and make the best decisions we can given the information we have at the time.

October 21, 2009

Marijuana: Why It's Craved

Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. relaxed the guidelines for federal prosecution of medical marijuana sales and use in the 14 states where it is already legal. Although federal laws against marijuana remain, Holder says it will not be a priority to use resources to prosecute patients and their caregivers who are complying with state law. Like all matters that involve social policy, the question of whether and to what degree marijuana should be legal is multifaceted and there is always some truth on each side of every issue. It is this “partly right” that so often causes confusion.

Rather than addressing any of the usual topics of debate, I prefer to focus on one particular question, one that is so often left out the discussion: WHY do people crave the use of such a potent drug? The answer is that people are extremely anxious.

What we know from Wilhelm Reich is that a major cause of this anxiety is lack of a fulfilling sexual life. Reich was not referring here to the opportunity to have intercourse or to its frequency, but rather whether there is periodic discharge of excess biologic energy through full and complete orgasm. Reich maintained this is impossible given the presence of “armor”—chronic muscular contractions in the body that deaden feelings and emotions. Only when armor is removed through therapy can the free flow of energy be restored and with it the potential for a truly satisfying sexual life.

Anxiety is especially high in adolescents and young adults who are at the peak of their sexual drive. With this understanding, it is no surprise that marijuana use is so high among this group. Apart from the sexual aspect, life is difficult, as it has always been, and the pressures of daily life in themselves produce anxiety.

However, anxiety and fearfulness are best reduced by head-on confrontation and by marshaling one’s drive and determination. Life’s problems are gotten the better of through action, not by deadening the anxious feelings through passively retreating into a fog of smoke. This point is crucial: marijuana causes decreased motivation in the face of anxiety when precisely the opposite is required to overcome anxiety and to function in a healthy manner.

From an energetic perspective, marijuana produces an initial energetic excitation, largely confined to the ocular segment which encompasses the brain. The drug brings about an energetic expansion, and with it a feeling of well-being. Brain armor is temporarily loosened and sensation is increased. Perceptions are altered and distorted.

However, expansions are always followed by contractions, and dullness and lethargy follow the high. Marijuana decreases one’s contact with emotions and, at the same time, the ability to connect with the feelings of others also decreases. The individual goes internal. Drive and perseverance–the will to make one’s life better–declines. With the loss of will, necessity loses its imperative force. Those who use marijuana on a regular basis become passive and lose their sense of responsibility for themselves and for society. Reich said that the well-springs of our life are love, work and knowledge, and all are severely compromised with marijuana use.

Apart from this energetic and orgonomic understanding, the dangers of marijuana are many and well-documented in the medical literature, but are often completely denied by those in favor of legalization. To name a few, it lowers testosterone and sperm counts in men and raises testosterone levels in women. It affects the developing fetus and causes developmental problems in children. It has an effect on normal maturation in preadolescent and adolescent users. In those who are vulnerable, hallucinations, delusional thought and full-blown paranoia are not uncommon. It also causes lung damage.

Easing restrictions on marijuana will likely result in more availability and usage generally (not just for “medical” reasons) and my concern is that this powerful and damaging drug will surely find its way more readily to adolescents and young children.

Marijuana, like alcohol and anti-anxiety medications, does relieve inner tension. In this age where these interventions have become accepted ways to deal with the stress of life, anxiety is not withstood. Anxiety should be viewed as something to be conquered, not quelled with drugs.

During the process of orgone therapy, as armor is broken down, anxiety most usually surfaces. What I tell my patients is to withstand what they are feeling and continue to function without resorting to illegal drugs and to avoid prescription anti-anxiety agents, unless absolutely needed. There are orgonomic “first aid” means of handling anxiety. These include exercise (which burns up energy), building muscle mass (which binds energy) and showers turned slowly to all cold. This latter intervention produces a rapid and strong biophysical contraction that reduces anxiety, often dramatically, for hours or even a few days.

October 15, 2009

Circumcision Debate

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics are now considering whether to recommend routine circumcision for all U.S. born male babies to help reduce the spread of HIV. This represents a major blow, and call to action, for all those who have been fighting on behalf of children everywhere to end this damaging practice.

Wilhelm Reich was among the first to speak against the cruelty of circumcision and we can rightly consider him the father of the anti-circumcision movement. In Children of the Future, a collection of his writings published together in 1983, Reich addresses the brutality, rationalization and consequences of the practice. "Take that poor penis. Take a knife--right? And start cutting. And everybody says, 'It doesn't hurt.' Everybody says, 'No, it doesn't hurt.' Get it? That's an excuse, of course, a subterfuge. They say the sheaths of the nerve are not yet developed. Therefore, the sensation in the nerves is not yet developed. Therefore the child doesn't feel a thing. Now, that's murder! Circumcision is one of the worst treatments of children. And what happens to them? You just look at them. They can't talk to you. They just cry. What they do is shrink. They contract, get away into the inside, away from that ugly world."

Today's debate over circumcision touches on so many issues--medical, legal, ethical, moral, social, religious, cultural and sexual. But awareness of the most important factor has been almost lost. This is what Reich understood: the lasting psychological and emotional consequences of circumcision. What should be THE primary consideration in deciding whether to circumcise is all but ignored.

Those of us who have patients in orgone therapy and have watched them relive their circumcisions, wide-eyed with terror and shrieking pitifully as they attempt to break loose from the straps holding their limbs down, have no doubt this earliest ordeal has remained alive, locked within them. We, and our patients, also know that their circumcision has had lasting effects because after it has been re-experienced there comes about a definite and lasting sense of relief and well-being.

We are indebted to Wilhelm Reich for his discovery of the armor that binds repressed feelings and emotions. We would not know the importance of the earliest days of life if he had not discovered the existence and function of armor. Unfortunately, making this truth known seems, at times, impossible. Only we therapists, and the patients who have relived their earliest suffering, know that infant misery remains locked within us and has lasting effects. Finally, what is most important, and considered preposterous, is that the earliest traumas cause the most damage. The most critical time in one's life are the first hours, days and weeks. This is the strongest reason not to circumcise. Of course, there are other important reasons for parents to forego the practice, such as the life-long reduction in sexual pleasure that is always a consequence.

One need only look at the tortured newborn's face to know circumcision is wrong and harmful. But why isn't this readily apparent to all? The reason is that most people are so cut off from their own feelings and deepest emotions that they have lost the ability to fully connect, empathetically, with children. It is this loss of contact with self and others that allows parents to so readily accept the recommendations of "authorities," be they medical, religious or social, who tell them circumcision is a good thing. The reasons and rationales for the practice are manifold and ever-changing. Yesterday, it was to prevent masturbation, today to prevent HIV, and tomorrow there will be some other "good reason."

The pain the newborn suffers when his sensitive foreskin is cut off and when the anesthesia (which may or may not be sufficient) wears off hardly enters into anyone's thinking. In the current debate about whether to recommend circumcision, how much thought is given to the suffering from pain and irritation that follows for days?

When an adult experiences pain, such as with an injury or surgical procedure, he has a fully developed ego and comprehends the circumstances. He knows the reason for his pain, understands that it is temporary and can speak about it. Because he can talk about his pain, and because physicians understand well how to manage pain in adults, they are able to provide adequate pain relief. The infant who experiences pain does not know its source, purpose or that it will end. He has no intellectual or ego defenses to help him cope with his pain. All he feels is terror and misery. Doctors know far less about treating pain in neonates and are afraid to do so because of greater risks and complications. So pain management for newborns is minimal, if provided at all. Of course, the newborn cannot help the doctor assess his pain with a verbal description. He cannot complain to those around him, as adults so often do, and feel better knowing his pain is being acknowledged and understood. All he can do is cry and then contract away.

Pain and suffering in the newborn isn't considered important because of the false belief that since physical and emotional traumas in infancy and early childhood are not "remembered," they do not have any lasting effects. This absurd idea has persisted through the ages, despite thousands of scientific studies showing that infant and childhood trauma do cause lifelong emotional and psychological damage.

I encourage those who are reading this and opposed to circumcision to stand up for newborn babies and sign Intact America's petition to stop the CDC from recommending the procedure as a routine health measure. It's easy to do at http://www.intactamerica.org/. Then return to this blog, acknowledge that you voted, and comment if you wish.

October 9, 2009

Will Orgonomy Survive?

Many people in the United States were discovering Wilhelm Reich in the 1960s. His work was at the forefront of sweeping changes that seemed to mark the beginning of a new era. His books, especially The Sexual Revolution (published for the first time in English translation in 1963) were being widely read. It seemed people everywhere were onto Reich’s work and it was going to be revolutionary. Those who were part of the early days of the Wilhelm Reich movement can recall lectures at New York University. The conference hall was full and, on occasion, communist protesters tried to shout down the speakers. It was an exciting time. But the reality is that more than 50 years after Reich’s death, the truth about who he was as a man and what he discovered is known to very few. The initial enthusiasm about Reich has faded.

Those of us still involved in orgonomy today continue to feel that the understanding of orgone energy has the potential to do immense good. I am encouraged by the power of the Internet and have noticed that even in the past few months there is more accurate information about Reich than ever before. For example, view the Wikipedia entry on him. It's at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich. Throughout the world, there are interested individuals and small groups familiar with, and even applying, some of Reich’s concepts. Since launching my blog and Web site about two weeks ago, I have received hundreds of hits and have been personally contacted by individuals from as far away as Germany and the UK. Despite this, I fear key aspects of Reich’s work may well disappear.

What is in danger of extinction is Reich’s understanding of the prevention of armoring in newborns and children and the practice of orgone therapy as he conceived it. These fundamental aspects of his work have the power to both prevent and treat emotional illness.

With respect to the prevention of early armoring, few know of its importance or how to accomplish it. The vast majority of people interested in Reich have chosen to focus on on other aspects of his work. As to therapy, just myself and a handful of other medical orgone therapists have the knowledge and experience to carry on Reich’s method of treatment in its original form. I was trained by Elsworth F. Baker, M.D., for eleven years and Dr. Baker trained with Reich for that same length of time. Almost no one today is learning to practice the therapy as Reich conceived and pioneered it. This has led me to wonder if orgonomy—that is, the whole of Reich’s legacy—can survive.

I pose the following questions: What do YOU think is the best way to ensure orgonomy’s survival. Should the focus be on training therapists, attracting patients, replicating Reich’s scientific work, or something else? What, if anything, could make people evaluate Reich’s work on its merits and stop dismissing his claim of a universal “orgone” energy as supernatural nonsense? The future of orgonomy depends on concerned individuals coming together and at least trying to answer some of these BIG questions. I look forward to seeing your responses to the new poll and to your comments.

October 4, 2009

Anatomy Knowledge by Orgone Therapists in Perspective

I would like to thank Ed Malek for his recent comment, which I found insightful on many levels. Among other things, he addressed the need for non-physicians who endeavor to work on body armor to have a functional education of anatomy, not merely an academic one. I agree and would even go so far as to say that I do not believe thorough knowledge of anatomy is necessary. In truth, I doubt whether many physician orgone therapists working on areas of armor know the origin and insertion of the muscles they are pressing on, or even their anatomical position relevant to adjacent structures. These are the kind of mechanical facts that are typically memorized for the purpose of test-taking, but soon forgotten.

Anatomical dissection, in the training of physicians, certainly gives one an appreciation of the body’s construction, but there are countless body-workers worldwide who work with precision, bring about positive effects, and do not cause harm. I am sure very few have had the experience of a complete anatomy education or cadaver dissection.

One advantage physicians do have is they are comfortable touching and examining a patient. My training as an osteopathic physician has been a special plus in this regard, as medical physicians have not had the hands-on experience of manipulation that was integrated into my schooling. It is important to note that virtually all biophysical (or bio-psychiatric) work is confined to the head and neck (ocular, oral and cervical segments) and a sufficient knowledge of the structures in these areas (as well as a few other regions) would be adequate anatomy education for non-physicians.

While physical work on armoring requires some knowledge of anatomy, it also requires a therapist’s aptitude for working on the body, and a great deal of experience. I am aware that I may be understating all of what’s needed in this area of training, but I do so in order to de-emphasize this aspect of orgone therapy, one that I believe receives too much emphasis in such discussions.

The issue is not that a comprehensive knowledge of anatomy is needed, but rather when to work biophysically, where to work, and precisely how to work. As we know, no two people are identical, and I am sure I never worked in exactly the very same way, even on the same person. Individuals change week to week and every session brings about some reorganization. As this is so, what is said or done must be tailored to how an individual is at that moment.

What has received far too little attention in the discussion of orgone therapy is the breakdown of armor through character analysis. If I could only work biophysically or with a verbal approach (fortunately, I do not have to make this choice) I would certainly choose the latter. The right words, in the right tone, can produce emotional reactions that no amount of work on the body can—and the release of long buried feelings and emotions, and the relief that comes with their discharge, is frequently greater and longer lasting than can ever occur with just physical force applied armored areas.

A great deal must come together for any therapist to successfully treat patients with this powerful treatment, but I feel qualified students, be they physicians or not, can learn this skill and art. They need to be of good character, to want to be the best they can be, and to remain dedicated to Reich’s principles.

October 2, 2009

Boston Globe Gets it Right

Major kudos to Jane Roy Brown and The Wilhelm Reich Museum! For those who have not yet read it, on September 6, a beautifully written and—get this—a factually accurate story about the museum and Dr. Reich appeared in the Boston Globe’s travel section. Entitled, “Idyllic Grounds Belie Tussle Over Founder’s Research,” the article goes into significant (albeit brief) detail about Reich’s major discoveries and struggles with the FDA.

The fact that Ms. Brown got it right is short of amazing, considering how often the media has wrongly portrayed Reich’s life and legacy. It was no accident. Apparently, having been burned by the press many times, the Museum now maintains a strict policy for the print media. Among other requirements, writers requesting the museum’s participation must sign an agreement guaranteeing that it be allowed to fact check work before publication, at the same time recognizing that writers and editors always have the right to correct factual errors (or not) prior to publication. What a smart procedure. From a legal standpoint, this sets the museum up to effectively challenge libel. From a practical standpoint, it means writers are much more likely to get the story correct. The obvious benefit is that the public is treated to the truth, something that has, in the past, been exceptionally rare.

I strongly urge that anyone speaking to the press about Reich review the museum’s policy and implement a similar version themselves. Of course, Globe correspondent Brown deserves much praise. She avoided taking even one cheap shot—remarkable! The link to her story is http://www.boston.com/travel/explorene/maine/articles/2009/09/06/idyllic_grounds_belie_tussle_over_founders_research/ and the link to the museum’s policy for print media is http://www.wilhelmreichmuseum.org/07_04_update.html#print.

Psychiatric Orgone Therapy

One of Wilhelm Reich’s most important and lasting contributions is a unique treatment for emotional disorders called psychiatric orgone therapy. Reich began as a psychoanalyst and was a member of Freud’s inner circle, but moved away from Freud’s method of free association when he developed a more effective verbal approach he called character analysis. Later he came to recognize the existence of a specific biologic energy in living organisms that he called “orgone,” which was coined from the word “organism.” With this discovery Reich was able to combine his verbal method with a technique that could normalize a person’s energy. The result was an entirely new approach to treating emotional disorders that he named orgone therapy.

Reich’s work with patients convinced him the disturbance in an individual’s energy state is caused by contractions in the body, especially in the musculature. He called these contractions “armor,” and established that they begin to develop in infancy as a way to block out emotionally painful events.

Past traumatic experiences are locked in the body--and they remain throughout life. How this happens is not fully understood, but there is no question that anxiety, anger and sadness, as well as the other upsetting feelings and emotions from childhood are not forgotten. Armor not only holds the disturbing past, causing it to remain alive but out of consciousness awareness, but it also affects how one feels and functions. Because living a natural healthy life depends upon whether a person’s energy flows freely or is blocked, the aim of psychiatric orgone therapy is to free up energy by breaking down armor. As these areas of holding dissolve, patients release their long buried feelings and emotions in the safety of the therapist’s office. They most usually surface spontaneously with the specific method Reich innovated, without the need of urging or any intervention on the part of the treating psychiatrist. However, occasionally, pressure needs to be applied to spastic muscles, or other techniques used to normalize the body. Because this treatment combines a verbal approach with a physical technique, it addresses both the mind and the body to bring about profound changes in how one thinks, feels and functions.

Today almost all people seeking treatment from a psychiatrist are given medications to reduce their symptoms. However, with psychiatric orgone therapy it is usual that patients, over time, find themselves able to wean themselves off medication and function without pharmacologic treatment. Reich’s therapy is unique in that it not only relieves distressing symptoms, but also does much more. It enables individuals to expand and feel pleasure, and better enjoy the many satisfactions life has to offer.

There are people who claim to practice some form of “Reichian” or “orgone” therapy, even though they have had no formal training in medicine or psychology. Often the techniques used by these self-proclaimed therapists have little or nothing to do with the very specific methods Reich developed and taught. The value of such therapies is questionable and may even harm those who get involved in them.

Qualified psychiatric orgone therapists have extensive training. They are physicians who have gone on to specialize in psychiatry and then in the very unique subspecialty of orgone therapy. They practice in much the same way as Reich did more than a half century ago. Ph.D. Psychologists who have had proper training can practice a form of orgone therapy safely and effectively. However, it is crucial they have supervision by a qualified psychiatric orgone therapist.