December 11, 2009

Attacking a Tiger: Emotional Plague Roars in Woods Scandal

I have been waiting for a particularly good, widely publicized, example of the emotional plague to begin writing in earnest on the subject. The ongoing events involving professional golfer and fallen media darling Tiger Woods furnishes many components of the plague, making it ideal for introducing this important topic.

The emotional plague may be Wilhelm Reich’s least emphasized and most misunderstood discovery. However, I hold it ranks (next to the discovery of orgone energy itself) as his most important. I say this because the plague permeates every aspect of armored human society and seeks out and destroys healthy ways of living. However, although the plague is ubiquitous, not every aspect of armored man’s conduct is driven by it. The plague is a very specific kind of damaged human functioning that, like the energy itself, can be identified and understood in a scientific way.

The complexity of the emotional plague cannot be overemphasized. No other subject in all of orgonomy can compare. The question I have been wrestling with is how to address the plague both fully and in a way that will be readily grasped by those with differing levels of experience with Reich’s ideas. The blog format isn’t really appropriate to address such an involved topic, and I am developing a complete course on the emotional plague that will eventually be offered on The Wilhelm Reich Center site, located at

Rather than approaching the plague in a textbook-like fashion, using a formal tone and presenting a plethora of orgonomic terms, definitions, and political analyses, the course will illustrate the plague largely through a series of vignettes. These will be relatively brief, graphic descriptions of accounts and episodes that will reveal the plague’s many faces. My goal is to help people of all backgrounds to recognize, understand, and most importantly, deal with the plague, especially when it effects their own lives. Nevertheless, I won’t ever entirely avoid the subject of the emotional plague on my blog, and today examine the Tiger Woods scandal.

Those watching the news over the past weeks could not have missed reports on Mr. Woods. Here are the facts briefly: In the early morning hours of November 27, Mr. Woods drove out of his Florida home, plowed into the hedges, jumped a curb, and smashed into a fire hydrant and then a neighbor’s tree. When police arrived, Mr. Woods was on the ground outside of his SUV. He was rushed to the hospital where he was treated and released. His wife told authorities she had used a golf club to break windows to free him. Highway patrol investigators attempted to interview him but he refused and was ultimately cited with careless driving and paid a small fine.

Instantly, the media was all over the story. There was much speculation as to what had really happened. The tabloid papers said the crash was the result of a quarrel between Mr. Woods and his beautiful young wife because of his extramarital affairs. Indeed, in days that followed the media began reporting on a number of alleged mistresses now coming forward, claiming they’ve had sexual relations with Mr. Woods. The gossip continues and the reports seem to worsen every day.

The emotional plague manifests in countless ways and under the most varied circumstances. The Tiger Woods incident is just one example of an emotional plague attack. My analysis of the assault on Mr. Woods follows, using a method I have devised for dissecting the plague.

In an emotional plague attack there are three key players. These are what I call (1) the target, (2) the direct attacker and (3) the self-righteous followers. The target is typically a single individual, well-defined group, institution, or idea that is the subject or focus of the attack. The direct attacker is the instigator of the attack. The self-righteous followers are two people, or two million, who get caught up in the excitement of the attack and join with the direct attacker, and each other, against the target.

Every emotional plague attack is unique. For this reason the target, direct attacker and self-righteous followers, while present without fail, will always be different. In a plague attack, there may be more than one way to accurately identify the players. For the purpose of analyzing the Tiger Woods incident in this blog, I have chosen to identify the players as follows:

Target:                             Tiger Woods
Direct attacker:                 The Media
Self-righteous followers:     The Public 

Here I have chosen to assign the role of direct attacker to the media as a whole. In other emotional plague attacks, the role of direct attacker can often be assigned to a specific individual. The self-righteous followers in this case are members of the general public who follow the lead of the media, and join in with the media and each other against the Mr. Woods. Included in this group is anyone who is listening with excitement and “genuine concern” to the gossip the media reports. They have become excited by the attacker and feel closely allied with others who have an interest in the scandal.

The direct attacker and followers always believe their opinions and actions are justified. A self-righteous, holier-than-thou feeling is always present in them when they join to tear down and attempt to destroy the target. They feel themselves to be morally superior, and from this elevated position they delight in watching the downfall of one who has been been held in such high esteem. (Note that the self-righteous followers have become infected by the attacker, and each other, hence Reich’s choice of the term “plague.”) The relationship between the direct attacker and the self-righteous followers (and among them) gives the emotional plague its conspiratorial aspect.

Now that the players have been identified, let’s move on to some of the more typical characteristics of an emotional plague attack, and how the Tiger Woods situation illustrates them. One hallmark of a plague attack is that the target, in some way or ways, represents natural, healthy functioning. Here, the target is a handsome and sexually attractive, hardworking, extremely wealthy and enormously successful individual with a beautiful wife. Mr. Woods can be said to be close to representing the American dream, as he embodies a great deal of what is esteemed and valued. However, the target of an emotional plague attack need not have so many admired qualities. Indeed, individuals who become the target of a plague attack will have flaws. It is these flaws that are seized upon to justify and legitimize the attack. That is, the direct attacker and self-righteous followers are correct that there is an imperfection or fault in the target, and it is this "partly right" element that legitimizes the assault.  Mr. Woods’ many outstanding, esteemed qualities have now been overshadowed by his “bad character.” The superior, morally righteous followers can now, with “good” reason, minimize or turn a blind eye to the whole of his tremendous achievements that should continue to be a cause for holding him in high regard.

What’s behind this radical shift in perception and the turning against Mr. Woods? The answer lies in two elements of the emotional plague that are always present: intense longing and hatred. Natural functioning (especially sexual functioning) arouses longing in armored man. The perpetrators of a plague attack immediately and unconsciously feel envy and then hatred. The feeling of enmity, fueled as it is by intense longing and jealousy, can be tremendous, driving the self-righteous relentlessly forward to destroy their victim.

To summarize, further elements in this emotional plague attack are as follows:

Healthy functions being targeted: Sexuality, professional accomplishment, and success.
Stated (legitimizing) reason for the attack: Public deserves the right to know. It's wrong to have affairs.      
Real reason for attack: Jealous hatred for what Woods is, a superstar and pubic darling.      
Partly right element: He has had affairs, behavior that can be destructive in a marriage.  

Most of the essential elements are in place for a full scale emotional plague attack against Tiger Woods and they are being played out before us. Whether Mr. Woods will be destroyed or merely very damaged as a result remains to be seen.


dunlapsr said...

Dr. Schwartzman,

When I first read about this Tiger Woods episode in the news, I thought this was more irrelevant information the mainstream news media is famous for reporting. However, I believe I was simply placing this in the emotional plaque category without realizing it intellectually. I believe this emotional plaque is a common occurrance in our culture and is to be expected.

I recently responded in protest to a news article denigrating Suzanne Sommers ("Dr. Hollywood")for coming out with her research findings on alternative cancer treatments that work. She is being attacked for her noble efforts. This is yet another classic example of the emotional plaque.

Steve Dunlap

Rachel said...

What has struck me in the Tiger Woods story is that no one seems to care to write or discuss what seemed to me to be an unhappy marriage--maybe married too young or to the wrong woman or maybe married to support his idealized image as the perfect man. It's just my feeling, but Tiger strikes me as a guy with a lot of feelings, even some of the stories reveal how connected he felt with some of these mistresses. Who knows what was going on in his personal life, but having been made privy to some of the details, my gut said he was trapped in his marriage. No one seems to sensationalize or sympathize with this epidemic. Reich called it 'marriage misery'.

Dr. Schwartzman said...

Steve, you have pointed out another technique of the emotional plague--ridicule. In maligning Ms. Sommers, the media discredits her and influences the public to call into question whatever she does. Character assassination is a very effective tool of the emotional plague. It looks for and finds, or will fabricate, a shortcoming or personal flaw. This allows for rejection of all the individual does or has done that is worthwhile. Reich was attacked in many ways. It was said he was in a mental hospital and this false accusation plagued him during his life and it lives on now. What difference would it make if he had been in such an institution? None at all. Some of the greatest minds have had severe emotional problems. This does not detract from their genius.

Dr. Schwartzman said...

Rachel, you have picked up on an often overlooked facet of the emotional plague: an absence of sympathy for the victim, whether the victim is a single person or twenty million people. The direct attacker and self-righteous followers unconsciously desire to inflict pain on others (sadism). They act this out directly or vicariously. Kindness and understanding for the victim is nowhere to be found when the plague attacks.

George Hughes said...

I have been a Tieger Woods fan from the the first time he played as a professional. I play golf and I have always considered him an extraordinary player and a man of character.
While I can see some plague elements in how he was portrayed in the media I still hold him responsible for what he did and how he did it.
If a man 'falls in love' with another woman or has a 'moment of weakness' or an affair with someone that's one thing. What Tiger did was to have multiple sexual encounters with other women and when his wife found out about it she went ballistic. Who can fault her? On the other hand he comes careening out of his driveway in the wee hours of the morning and smashes his vehicle, what a headliner.
So, the media has a field day. Anyone surprised?
I see this as Tiger's boondoggle. Now he's all sorry and apologetic for what he did to his family and so he should be. Sex addiction? Those of us who study Reich should have a better unerstanding of what happened here and the EP was only an aftermath.

Ed Malek said...

I'm in agreement with George Hughes in that the Woods story is not as clear-cut Emotional Plague reaction as it was when Dr. Schwartzman first wrote the story. Back then, Woods seemed to have an affair and the media were lavishing their gossiping and character assassination. Putting aside for the moment that the whole area of the media that deals with a person's personal life (gossip) violates their privacy, and is an act of the emotional plague proper, the later evidence of Wood's sexual behavior is also pathological. And in this respect-in a neurotic world- it is "fair game" for the media, which has been tantalizing the masses with sexuality for ages. (Of course, there is a reason for this type of sexual "handout", since it substitutes for the masses' dissatisfied lives).
But getting back to Woods, he is a far cry from the type of EP reaction we shudder from--where the person is innocent and is destroyed due to the fury of jealousy, etc. We all know too well the tragedy of Reich and others who were attacked and killed for the sole reason that they presented natural (functional) thinking. And the plague cannot live side by side with honesty, it drives itself wild into fury to see someone who is healthy and direct.

francesco zito said...

Maybe i need to attend your course on emotional plague, because is not easy to understand well when apply this term, very important in the life of Reich and also in our life. I've followed from Italy this story of Tiger, but i search to see the fact from a different angle, the angle of his wife. Like exist Tiger as target. also his wife was a target, like media was the direct attacker, many medias here don't give so many importance and like exist the self-righteous followers, exist millions of people who observe or listen without put in action sadist tendency to destroy the target. Now i ask...why i've to think that a successfull sporting man...why an example for many possible future young people...has to be considered object of plague? We have a man who has full schedule to meet different women in different places and organize maybe also his tournament and in every place has someone to have affair. Discovered from his in some mode beaten. Now who is plagued?.I believe that who become object of plague is the wife, because like exist a plague in action in the open, exist a plague in action in the silence. The wife is the target, the direct attacker are many, from the many women who have affair with Tiger, togheter all the media gossiping on the poor woman, the silent public who accept masochistically all this. Now is shure that Tiger is a champion in golf, maybe he is a beautiful man with many possibilities to choice beautiful women, but his behaviour was higly neurotic, and like he enjoy the glory from media, he has to accept that media follow his life.I want to tell that in every emotional plague there are different targets who are under sadist and masochistic reaction, the same will be in the direct attacker and in the public. Now in this case the neurotic behaviour was of Tiger and the wife is paying all the after - effects. More if i remember well the story, Tiger is coming back to his tournament also if he had promised to take sometime to recover from his behaviour and he ask to come back with his wife and family, but the notices are that his wife ask divorce. So now where is the plague?Why if a man is successfull in some activities but has neurotic behaviour in his private life has to be excused for his behaviour? I ask...from the point of wiew of Orgonomy was the behaviour of Tiger an healthy behaviour? Is our critic of Tiger an our envie of him? Sorry dott. Schwartzman...maybe my girl is not beautiful like the women of Tiger...maybe i play tennis without public in my local tennis club, maybe I live in a normal house and not in a luxurious one, maybe if i like another woman, i break before my previous relation and i follow the new one...but maybe is for this that i'm not attacked from media plague or public plague. Naturally myself had plague in the past but orgone therapy help me to come out...more i'm always available to attend your course to learn more...but a suggestion...we can write to Tiger and invite him to attend your course?...maybe, also if he is a champion in sport... was not a champion in his private many famous people...or is a pity don't do be famous? Naturally also Tiger has our simpathy, beyond the fact that is a champion. but is human simpaty not cult champion simpathy

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.