November 19, 2009


The holidays are here and the TV and stores are starting to bombard us with images of happy, pajama-clad families, sipping cocoa by crackling fireplaces. While this can be a happy time, many are apprehensive about, or even dread, this season.
Several factors can lead to stress and upset. Too often, what we are really feeling is out of sync with what we think, and are told, we should be feeling. This disconnect can lead to disappointment, sadness or even depression.
One situation I encounter in my practice is adult children who feel less than positive about returning home for obligatory holiday events. Reich coined the term “familitis” to describe destructive behavior within families. This is a good opportunity to look at one aspect of this concept in the context of this all too common situation. 
Young children need structure and direction as they grow and learn to become functional members of society. Parents telling their children how they ought behave necessarily occurs in every family. But also, in virtually every family, there is to varying degrees unnecessary or improper control exerted over children's behavior. This unjustified control is always rationalized by the parent as being for the good of the child. However, unconscious motivations are at work. 
Overly anxious parents, because of their own fearfulness, may attempt to restrain their children's natural behavior. Because they can’t tolerate and manage their anxiety, they stop the behavior that’s making them nervous. Other parents simply cannot stand natural, lively behavior. It stirs up in them their own long-repressed feelings. In an attempt to manage these feelings, they exert control over their children and tell them how they must think and act.
Children, who are powerless because of their age and lack of experience, are at the mercy of parents who tell them how they must be. Children have a keen sense of unfair, irrational control and unjustified punishment. When this occurs, they feel frustrated and then angry. If this is a way of life at home the anger turns to hatred. The child is justifiably afraid to stand up to those who rule over him. Rage sometimes bursts through as tantrums and acting out, but mostly it lies buried and turns to chronic resentment.
Children grow up, move out, and finally break free from a life of fear lived under dictatorship. They and their siblings are often scattered around the globe, each thousands of miles away from their parents and each other. This physical distance is not always an accident! Then come the holidays where children, parents and grandparents are brought together under one roof and the stage is set for re-activation of childhood feelings. The daughter who always felt ignored, or the son who always felt criticized, are apt to feel that way again. Strong and deeply held emotions, much of them out of conscious awareness, become the source of discord, arguments and confusion. How did what was supposed to be a happy holiday visit turn, yet again, into a nightmare?
Familitis (an inflammation or disease of the family) is one form of what Reich called the “emotional plague.” The emotional plague is a complex topic that I look forward to addressing fully in time. The expression has been used too often to describe every kind of neurotic behavior when, in actuality, the term refers to a very specific form of social behavior with specific criteria. For now, I will say that the emotional plague is always suspect when an individual who is in a position of authority is attempting to control the behavior of others. For this reason, the family is one place where the emotional plague often occurs.
For those apprehensive about rejoining their families during the holidays, I have a few thoughts to offer for your consideration. First, consider staying at a local hotel instead of your parents’ home. Time away will give you a breather from them and allow you to maintain the feeling that you are independent. Don’t feel guilty about offending mom and dad, although they may well do their best to make you feel you are inconsiderate, citing that they see you so infrequently, etc. If this happens, don’t let it weaken your resolve. Simply saying something like, “I just feel I need my own space to be comfortable,” might work fine. No matter what, don’t give in. Do what you need to to take care of yourself and refuse to be coerced. Keep visits short and manageable. Build in time to enjoy your vacation by yourself or with your kids, away from the folks —perhaps visit a local area of interest, get a massage or go shopping.
Finally, anticipate before your visit that situations will arise to re-activate old, negative feelings. Plan to use these situations as a time to practice keeping your cool by remaining non-defensive and non-reactive. Decide in advance that when your parents begin telling you what you should do, that you will say, something like, “You may be right” or “You have a point there, I’ll have to think about it.” Do this knowing full well that you will do as you see fit. Remember, you are an adult and there is nothing your parents can do to you!
Those of you who do not have to face these situations are truly fortunate—and far too rare. If you are in this lucky position you have much to be thankful for during this holiday season.


francesco zito said...

In my personal experience and in the place where i live, familitis is endemic. An example: my daughter, now 9 year, when was 7 invite his best friend, Sofia, to pass the afternoon togheter. They enjoy the time togheter in a private space, and the evening, my daughter tell me that they want sleep togheter. I ask to Sofia if his mother know this, she answer yes, that she has called the mother and was a positive answer. Well, i give one big room of the house and they was joking, smiling. speaking in the big bed. Around 9.30 in the evening, i receive a call of the mother of Sofia, asking with anguish why Sofia don't come back. I explain the situation and invite her to permit to the two girls to remain togheter. The answer was a big no and in small time she was in my house and bring his daughter back, with the two girls crying. More for a week, Sofia was punished to remain in the house without to meet his friends.I want explain some bioenergetic feeling on this fact. I was not responsible to confirm if was true that Sofia was calling his mother?, to advice that she remain with my daughter? My feeling was this... Sofia enjoy to stay with Sheila, my daughter, Sofia has told to me that she has adviced his mother, I trust her and i trust his right to remain with Sheila. In my feeling, the mother of Sofia can be angry, because Sofia never adviced her of this his desire, but this angry, has to be transformed, after, in understanding, and permit to his daughter to enjoy my daughter. I ask to Sofia, after the week of punishment, why she lie to me and why she don't ask his mother the possibility to remain with Sheila. The answer was: "if i ask ,she refuse and, i was feared that if i tell to you the truth, also you was punishing me". Is this familitis? I believe yes and in my feeling depend from two situation: the lost of contact with your child side, and the desire to take revenge against past authoritative figure , punishing children under your authority. One suggestion: who has done orgone therapy and has gained some insight and changement in his emotional feeling, in natural mode observe some time more the behaviour of children, his reaction to the emotional expression of the children is not impulsive. This permit to enjoy the sincere smiling, the sincere need of children to be togheter, In my experience this happen more with two organ: the eyes and the heart. A good ocular contact permit to see the sincerity of your child, and an heart not anguished, permit a gentle mode to trait small lies of your children. If there are these two feeling, one can forgive, not in a religious mode, but in a energetic mode, some fear or some lies. From this point of view the behaviour of Sofia mother was familitis to my eyes. Two things for dott. Schwartzman: thank you to have create this space...and thank you if you can help me to understand more my reaction and feeling.

francesco zito said...

One example of mixed left-right familitis and one tentative of orgonotic observation of my familitis behaviour.... We are on the beach, one my friend with family and children enjoying a sunny day. The father is conservative mind, but maybe in transiton towards liberal mind and, permit to his 3 years daughter to stay naked on the beach. I was there and i enjoy this father because i see him more soft to wards his baby. To some point the baby, forgetting all that was around her and, in innocent mode like only healthy children can do, begin to play with his genitals, like she want explore his body. I cannot forget the scene, the father, whitout thinking a moment on the fact and in impulsive mode put a strong slap in his face. I can see his paralysis. no cry, no scream, like a statue, she remain blocked. We don't need to misure with a Kirlian photo how many was the contraction of orgone in the plasmatic system of the baby, after the punishment for an innocent play. I was angry and myself remain blocked for the father reaction. Now the question is not on the behaviour of the father (emotional plague in familitis form), the question is not on my blocked angry emotion(another form of plague?), but the question is what to do in front of these continuos and daily familitis acts? Now, small and daily changement are useful and necessary, but to exist sociologically, is time that Orgonomy begin to create school and space where children desires, emotion, development towards genitality has to be experienced, also after explaining very well the goal of these centers. I believe many orgonomic patient will be happy to enjoy these places for their children. I remember old debate if orgonomy has to pay more attention to the emotional plague or the reign of the devil, or to pay more attention to the " children of the future", my feeling is that we need to follow all two roads, because the presence of space for children of the future is prevention against the emotional plague. In my dream exist another choice also, if trobianders people was good to create space for children to develop towards genitality.....why we cannot? My actual answer is this....who has done orgone therapy feel like to come out from a sometime feel less armored in some part of the body and not in others...this create some fears in the action. I believe that attentive examination of people who can create these place...can give balanced result, with a difference of the balanced result of left and right education system: the people who has undergone orgone therapy know the plague inside not many but a good beginning. The last choice is one observation that i do within myself.....and if no people disturb me like child?...maybe in this case we need only...."please, don't disturb, we can do by ourself"...

Dr. Schwartzman said...

What you describe in your account of the interaction between you, the mother, and the two children is very common. Reich said everyone is right in some way but the challenge is to determine in what way. All of you are partly right in your thinking and actions, including Sophia’s mother and yet all (except your daughter) are partly wrong. Before decisions are made, it’s very important to make absolutely certain everyone is in agreement in all respects before proceeding. I like to think of it as a “verbal contract” that all parties agree to by saying OK. It’s easy for me to look back and say this, but in the future (particularly with Sophia’s mother) be sure she agrees to the plan--take nothing for granted.

Dr. Schwartzman said...

It is my view that we who are privileged to have learned from Reich can only do, within the sphere of our individual influence, what we can for the children of the future. In my experience, forming and working within organizations is fraught with difficulty and disappointment, as most people are too ill to work together functionally. For myself, I write, treat patients, lecture, teach and train those who want to hear what I say.

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.