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.

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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.