September 30, 2010

A Complaint Free World

I came across an interesting book, “A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted” (Doubleday 2007). It’s written by a fellow named Will Bowen and his idea of living complaint free has become an international challenge to “leave the toxic communication of complaining behind.” According to Bowen’s web site, he’s distributed over six million purple “Complaint Free World” bracelets ($10 for a pack of 10) to people across the globe who want to stop complaining. The method he’s come up with is simple. Just move the bracelet from one wrist to the other every time you catch yourself complaining. When you have gone 21 days in a row without complaining, you’ve completed the program. Bowen’s message, that the world would be a better place without complaining, and his technique to achieve this goal, clearly resonates with people. He’s appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, ABC Evening News, and in hundreds of TV and radio interviews. 

I’m not much taken with self-help gurus, being committed as I am to the practical application of Wilhelm Reich’s discoveries for the betterment of individuals and humankind. However, I agree fully with Bowen’s premise that chronic complaining isn’t helpful and is often destructive. It doesn’t solve problems or alleviate one’s unhappiness. Complainers annoy and frustrate those around them with their self-involved griping and are bound to lose friends, or to end up with ones who are complainers like themselves.

I support Bowen’s crusade and his method to control complaining. To the extent this works, great. However, even if one is able to entirely extinguish a particular undesirable behavior, in this case complaining, it doesn't resolve the underlying emotional problem giving rise to it. This is the principle shortcoming of behavioral modification approaches. 

Complaining: Cause and Function 

Much can be said about why we complain. Well-known reasons include to gain sympathy, reassurance and understanding from others; to get others to agree with us; and to voice how we've been mistreated. Complaining also serves to place the blame for our unhappiness on external factors, including other people. Complaining eliminates of the need for self-examination to identify our own role in the cause of our problems.

To understand the nature of complaining, we can look to Wilhelm Reich’s discoveries related to masochism, a specific aspect of human behavior. The first trait Reich cites in his description of the masochistic character type is “a chronic sense of suffering, which appears objectively as a tendency to complain.” (Italics in original. See Chapter XI, The Masochistic Character, “Character Analysis,” 3rd ed. New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1949.) Today’s prevailing definition of masochism tells us only that it is the tendency to derive pleasure from one’s own pain, or the enjoyment of that which appears to be painful. It tells us nothing about how the disorder presents in those so afflicted or how such a bizarre condition occurs. Why would anyone derive pleasure from pain? It makes no sense. When Reich discovered the mechanism underlying masochism, these mysteries were solved. 

Reich observed that individuals who suffered from masochism in its most severe form--those with the perversion to actually be beaten--had a particular kind of extreme biophysical tension. This was the cause of their distress and their endless complaining. He also noticed such individuals would put others in a bad light. They did this without conscious awareness, to annoy with the hope they would so infuriate their target that they would be hit, or at least be given a “tongue-lashing” by them. Reich determined that masochistic characters complain, annoy and make others angry with them because want to be relieved them of their distress. They want to be hit, not to feel pain, but rather to gain relief from the enormous tension inside them. They are like taught, over-inflated balloons that seek to be burst open.

From an energetic perspective, the driving force behind most complaining is inner tension. People whine, grumble and complain as a way to express their distress in a relatively socially acceptable way. Doing so provides a small measure of relief, a weak and temporary discharge, akin to a pressure cooker or steam engine that periodically releases its built-up internal pressure. 

It is important to note that complaining is expressed in many non verbal ways, such as attitude, tone of voice, sighs, rolling of the eyes, and silences. The question this raises is, what’s beneath the suffering that causes complaining? The answer is plain and simple: repressed anger. Frustration and outright anger, almost entirely from infancy and early childhood, has to go underground when it cannot not be expressed. Such angry feelings don’t disappear, although they are no longer remembered. They remain alive, stored away in the armor out of conscious awareness.*

Treating Complaining With Psychiatric Orgone Therapy

Complaining is so common and widespread because armoring is universal. Psychiatric orgone therapy removes armor and in so doing strikes at the cause of the suffering that leads to complaining. During therapy, patients who are chronic complainers are made aware of their behavior, how much they engage in it, and they are encouraged to stop voicing their unhappiness. Stopping this neurotic behavior forces them in the direction of taking more responsibility for, and resolving, their dissatisfaction, wherever it may present itself in their lives. As complaining is controlled, the “leak” of anger is reduced. This increases inner tension. At this point, the therapy is able to move away from a strictly verbal character-analytic approach to one that allows emotional release. Patients, who are now in better contact with their underlying feelings, especially anger, can express the rage they are feeling that has long been kept inside. When patients are comfortable enough to rage with full expression, they reduce their inner tension, and the need to complain, with every session.

In sessions such strong feelings are released in the controlled setting of a specially designed treatment room. Patients can shout out, hit the couch or a pad on the wall, kick, bite (or choke) a towel, stamp on a rubber mat, and in other ways release their intense, sometimes violent, feelings in a safe environment. What might surprise many is that the emotions arise spontaneously in each session, usually without any special actions on my part. 

Those unfamiliar with this therapy might expect patients to leave my office angrier than when they walked in. However, just the opposite is true. After the release of any emotion, but especially rage, the experience is one of well-being and relief. Most people usually leave the office smiling. It’s very important in this form of treatment that patients exert strict control outside of therapy sessions. Anger must not be discharged inappropriately and destructively in social situations. Out in the world, patients must restrain themselves; in therapy sessions they have free rein to express all they feel.

Unfortunately, there are a great number of emotional release therapists, some of whom call themselves "Reichians." I have learned largely from some of my own patients, who have come to me for treatment after having had therapy with such individuals, that their primary modality is getting people to rage. Evoking rage is bound to make something happen. However, without considering all aspects important in treating patients, the results are ineffective at best and can even be disastrous. Anybody can take apart a broken bicycle, but it is something quite different to fix the bike and put the pieces back where they belong. 

Will Bowen’s dream of a complaint-free world is admirable. However, human suffering cannot be eliminated just by stamping out its symptoms. It is necessary to resolve the underlying cause. For those new to Wilhelm Reich’s method of therapy, and the science of orgonomy, I encourage you to explore with an open mind.


*For a definition of armoring, see the note at the end of my post “Exerting Parental Authority.”

Those wishing to learn more about psychiatric orgone therapy may wish to read “Man in the Trap” by Elsworth F. Baker, M.D. and “Emotional Armoring: An Introduction to Psychiatric Orgone Therapy” by Morton Herskowitz, D.O.

August 22, 2010

Corporal Punishment in Schools

I received a note from a blog follower who read my recent post on exerting parental authority. She asked my views on the matter of corporal punishment in schools. This issue gained national attention this summer when congressional representative Carolyn McCarthy introduced in Congress the “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act.” It seeks to ban corporal punishment in public and private schools that receive federal funding or services. 
My view is that corporal punishment in all schools should be banned. The role of schools is to educate children and to reinforce the good social behavior that children should be learning at home. Students unacceptable behavior in school, verbal or physical, should first, of course, be dealt with by counseling and other measures. All such actions should involve the parents. If this fails to bring about the necessary changes in behavior, schools should exert their authority with steps that escalate, including suspension and finally expulsion. 
It is the duty and responsibility of parents to control their children’s egregious behavior, not an organization acting in their stead. As I noted in my previous blog, Reich tells us that neurotic behavior forces authoritarian measures. When parents fail to exert such control, the burden shifts to school personnel putting them in the role of disciplinarian.  
If a minor has committed a criminal act, it should be addressed through the juvenile justice system. Terroristic threats, just as assaults, whether they are made by children or adults, in or out of school, are crimes and should be dealt with as such. 
Children in school who conduct themselves appropriately, as well their teachers, have the right to live without fear and be protected from verbal or physical assault. For this reason, educators should have recourse to send children to special schools if they will not, or cannot, control their behavior. 
As for the parents of a child who refuses all efforts at control, they must look to themselves to see what they did or did not do that has brought the situation to such a sorry state. Unfortunately, many children in the school system do not have parents who are capable of such insight. Children are not born a “bad seed.” They become disobedient because their upbringing was not what it should have been.  
Reich states in Children of the Future that “all disciplinary measures are due to helplessness and ignorance of how to proceed rationally.” (Emphasis in original.) Corporal punishment in schools, as well as at home, is yet another example of the consequences of armoring, which affects the individual, the family, and all institutions of society. So long as the focus remains on what to do as a result of improper parenting, we will forever be hacking at the branches rather than going to the root of the problem--man’s armored state.

August 5, 2010

Exercising Parental Authority

Raising children so they become healthy and well-adjusted adults should be as instinctive, and as uncomplicated and natural, as it is for any other creature in the animal world. However, we humans we have largely lost our inborn, intuitive faculties in almost all areas, the result of armoring* and the influences of society. Childrearing is a case in point. What we can learn from Wilhelm Reich regarding how to best raise children is enormous, as he has told us how we can prevent the formation of armor in infants and children. Equipped with this knowledge we can make our way out of the trap that has caused humankind so much unhappiness.
Every decent parent wants their child to grow up to lead a satisfying life, to be self-sufficient, and able to deal with the inevitable hardships they will encounter. When I was a member of the American College of Orgonomy, I addressed the question of when to exert parental authority with a short response to a Q&A that appeared in the Journal of Orgonomy. I am going to expand upon my thinking on the subject here, as all parents face this difficult question. 
Healthy childrearing requires that parents exercise their natural authority appropriately. For this to occur, they must be able to accurately gauge and appropriately respond to their child’s needs. In principle this is simple, but it can be most difficult to carry out. Children need the freedom to make their own choices, or they will not be able to function as self-sufficient, independent adults. However, children often behave neurotically and, when they do, control by the parent is warranted. Reich tells us, in “Children of the Future” that: “Neurotic behavior cannot be dealt with by means of self-regulation. It forces authoritarian measures.” (Italics in the original.)
There are many situations in which authoritarian action requiring strict obedience is necessary. Children raised without externally imposed limits suffer intense anxiety and will often act out in an attempt to bring about the control they unconsciously crave and require. Children raised by parents who take an overly authoritarian approach also suffer. They are apt to grow up with a variety of inhibitions and a great deal of pent up rage.
There is no end to the reasons why parents fail to appropriately exercise their authority. This is because parents, like everyone, behave largely based on their particular character structure and how they were raised. Parents may be full of repressed anger, and telling their children how they must conduct themselves and what to do serves to make them feel better. Parents may be too concerned with what others--neighbors, friends, their parents--think is appropriate conduct, and may control natural, high-spirited behavior they would otherwise rightly accept. The emotional plague may also be at work. It is always suspect when anyone in a position of authority tells someone what they should do. The important point here is that parents too often exert their authority inappropriately in the service of their neurosis. They are unaware their imposed control--or lack thereof--is unjustified and driven by unconscious factors.

Determining the best way to parent in any given situation is not only confounded by one’s own neurosis, and everyone is more or less neurotic, but also by the sickness and complexity of society. The well-intentioned ideas of “freedom” and “growing up naturally” must be tempered with the realities of functioning in the real world. For example, if we were living in a “state of nature,” it might be perfectly all right for children, as they grow up, to continue to eat with their hands. However, given the culture we live in, such behavior would be inappropriate. Children who are not required to observe accepted social conventions will have a difficult time in life. Navigating properly in society does not come naturally and children require direction from parents.
When exerting authority, consistency is important. Unpredictable behavior by parents makes for children who are always unsure of how to act. Such children never know what is expected or what will be the consequence of their actions. This sort of upbringing is an important factor that lays the foundation for children to grow up constantly worrying and unsure how to act.
It is not possible, and thankfully not necessary, for a parent to always behave perfectly toward their child. More important than perfect parenting is their overall relationship. If there is mutual love and respect, a parent’s inappropriate exertion of authority in any given instance may be inconsequential. It is also quite OK, and even very valuable, for parents to admit their mistakes to their children. For example, a parent might say, “I was wrong not to let you play on your friend’s jungle gym. The idea that you might fall made me nervous, so I stopped you.” Such honesty helps children realize they are not at fault and nobody, not even their parents, is perfect.
Clearly, psychiatric orgone therapy enables one to be a better parent. All of my patients with children have reported to me that their children are far happier, and better adjusted emotionally, than they were as kids, and they attribute this generational improvement to therapy. As armor is dissolved parents naturally, and without any effort on their part, come into better contact with their children. This helps them to instinctively “know” what to do in any given situation. Treatment decreases one’s anger and the need to control, as well as other emotions that drive neurotic behavior. Also, during therapy, discussing childrearing issues as they arise helps parents gain clarity and act more appropriately.
Raising children is one of life’s most important and difficult challenges. Bringing up children who are relatively untroubled and have the capacity to be independent and self-sufficient is not only important for their wellbeing, it also ensures the continuance of a free society, which depends upon adults being able to take care of themselves.
* Armor (or armoring): The chronic muscular spasms (muscular armor) and character attitudes (character armor) which an individual develops that act as a defense against the breakthrough of feelings and emotions. Muscular armor serves, principally, as a defense against anxiety, rage, and sexual excitation. Character armor is the sum total of all the character attitudes which an individual develops in an attempt to defend against anxiety. Character armor causes emotional rigidity, impaired contact with others, and a feeling of “deadness.” Muscular armor and character armor are functionally identical. They are two sides of the same coin.

July 5, 2010

“Reich” a Comic Book Series

Blog follower Stephen Wahrhaftig is a comic book enthusiast. He recently contacted me about a current series he discovered entitled “Reich.” It is being created by Elijah J. Brubaker, a cartoonist living in Portland, Oregon. In the first volume of the series, Mr. Brubaker says he is attempting a long-form comic book biography of Reich, one he will tell from his own point of view. I have read the first six issues and find them to be fascinating. His “Notes on the Text,” in the back of each issue, are informative and these appear to me to be quite accurate. 
I tend to be quite skeptical of secondary source materials relating to Reich which purport to describe the details of his life and work. Although these may be well-intentioned and even well researched, they are all too often rife with inaccuracies. The problem is that so much has been written about Reich that’s just plain wrong! Once published in any form, these writings gain the stamp of legitimacy. When others use these materials for their own research and writing, they unwittingly pass along incorrect information, never realizing the published works they have drawn upon contain errors, often egregious.
Then of course there are the downright smears, full of distortions designed only to mock Reich and sensationalize his work. Reich’s scientific work concerning human sexual function is frequently portrayed in a lurid manner that does not reflect his actual approach. This is especially so regarding Reich’s discovery of the biologic function of the orgasm as a method to regulate the body’s energy.
Because of the problematic nature of secondary source materials, I encourage those first discovering Reich to put aside the many interpretations put forth as fact by others. Instead, they should just read his books. For those who do not speak German (many blog followers do), before Reich wrote in English, the original Theodore P. Wolfe translations of the German are the most accurate, as Reich worked with Wolfe to create them. Reich is a marvelous writer. He’s exceptionally clear, easy and enjoyable to read. While there are several biographies of Reich, the two I can recommend without reservation are "Wilhelm Reich and Orgononmy" by Ola Raknes and "Wilhelm Reich: Life Force Discoverer" by James Wyckoff. 
Despite my serious concerns about how Reich is and will be portrayed both in the comic series “Reich,” and by others who choose write about him, I am glad to know there continue to be individuals, such as Mr. Brubaker, who are introducing the science of orgonomy to a segment of the population that otherwise might never have been exposed to it. I realize comic books and graphic novels are no longer just for kids, and have the capacity to be taken seriously in the literary and artistic world, as evidenced by the comic book series "Maus," which won a Pulitzer Prize. Nevertheless, the comic book format lends itself to a younger and very different audience than is typically exposed to and aware of Wilhelm Reich. It is to be hoped that “Reich” the series, as well as Reich, the man, will capture the hearts and minds of this group.   
What follows is a short interview that Mr. Wahrhaftig conducted with Mr. Brubaker especially for this blog. 
Wahrhaftig: How did you become interested in using Reich as a subject for your series?
Brubaker: I first read about Reich when I was a teenager and always considered him an interesting person. The more one reads of Reich the more one realizes he was a deeply complex and conflicted individual and those are the descriptors I would use for most of my favorite literary characters. This means he's a joy to write and the literary voice I have for Reich is easy for me to access. Other reasons I chose Reich, apart from being a character, was the accessibility of his work. There are many documents available to me by and about Reich, making research relatively easy. Even though this research material exists, he remains pretty obscure historically. I can do the research and present Reich to a world that may not know who he is. 
Wahrhaftig: What kind of reactions (good and bad) have you gotten to the series?
Brubaker: Most of the reactions to Reich have been positive. Many comics fans have complimented me for putting out a small affordable comic on a semi-regular basis (something that is almost unheard outside of superhero/action/adventure comics) and many people that know of Reich have been thankful that I'm telling Reich in a pretty straightforward, mostly even-handed manner. I received one email from a gentleman warning me that I might be doing harm to Reich's legacy should I venture too far into the more controversial aspects of Reich's theories. It seemed like he was afraid that I might imply that Reich was a crackpot and begin dismissing him in a similar way that Reich's worst critics did. I have no urge to calm people's fears about how I'm treating the subject manner. I freely admit that the Reich comic is subject to my own interpretation of events and I have no doubt that my interpretation is going to conflict with how others see the man. I have no intention of labeling Reich or trying to explain him or the tragic events of his life. My only intent is to tell as compelling a story as possible.
Wahrhaftig: How many volumes do you predict the series to be?
Brubaker: I'm hoping “Reich” will go to 12 issues. I keep finding great anecdotes and stories about Reich that I want to put into the book while simultaneously wishing to cut out everything nonessential and finish this beast project as soon as possible. Issue 7 was just released at Mocca [the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art] and I'm optimistic issue 8 will be out by Comic-Con [a comic book convention]. 
Many thanks to Stephen Wahrhaftig for his contribution to this post. He writes about design and marketing at Those who wish to learn more about the comic book series “Reich” can visit Elijah J. Brubaker’s web site at

June 25, 2010

Announcing Guest Posting

This September will mark the one year anniversary of this blog, Wilhelm Reich Today. It has been more successful than I could have imagined and continues to build a worldwide following. It has also been a gratifying experience for me, and the feedback I’ve gotten from my readers demonstrates the positive feelings go both ways. 
As a consequence of this blog, many who knew little or nothing about Wilhelm Reich have visited and learned about the practical application of his work in the present day. Others who have been involved in orgonomy for many years are enjoying the blog. Friends, old and new, have contacted me to say hello and to tell me what they are doing in their lives as well as in the field of orgonomy. 
As Wilhelm Reich Today gears up for it’s second year, I’ve been considering ways to develop and enhance the blog. One big change that I’m making is the introduction of guest posting. This is a common feature of many blogs. The regular host (in this case, me) gets to take a step back and wear the hat of blog follower every so often, as others write the featured post.    
Opening the blog to other contributors, who will bring to it their own voices, perspectives, and areas of interest and expertise, will add a new dimension to Wilhelm Reich Today. Just as my posts are wide-ranging, guest writers will also present their thoughts on diverse subjects related to orgonomy. There is hardly any topic that can’t be brought into clearer focus by drawing on what Reich has given us. I will also be guest posting on other’s blogs from time to time. When I do, I’ll be sure to let you know when and where, so you can follow me there.
Stay tuned as Wilhelm Reich Today continues to grow and develop! 

June 14, 2010

Nurture Sidelined in Pursuit of Genetic Answers

Research any major health issue in some depth and you will likely find yourself immersed in the world of genetics. From diagnostic evaluation to the treatment of disease and development of therapies, genetics has permeated medical science. More than just health questions are being resolved with genetic investigation. For example, two new genome studies have demonstrated that Jewish people across the globe do belong to a distinct ethnicity with shared ancestry, putting to rest the assertion that Jews are a group of unrelated persons with the same religious beliefs. 
The value and potential of genetics should not be underestimated. Genetic engineering, which alters the structure and characteristics of genes directly in a laboratory, has been responsible for many important medical advances, including the creation of synthetic insulin and human growth hormone. Gene therapy, whereby genes are inserted into a person’s cells and tissues to treat disease, is in its infancy but is being used with some success. And DNA sequencing has allowed researchers to study the molecular structures associated with many human diseases. Notwithstanding, the pursuit of genetic solutions--especially in medicine--is not without cost. There are many moral, ethical, legal and privacy issues in play. Here I will discuss some social implications of genetic medicine from my approach as a psychiatric orgone therapist.  
We know from Wilhelm Reich that very much of who we become as adults, in terms of our physical health and overall sense of well-being, is a consequence of how we were raised as children. Reich understood that experiences, what can be referred to as “nurture” or “environment,” beginning as early as the prenatal period and extending into childhood, are of extreme importance. It is what happens to us that determines the location and extent of what Reich termed “armoring,” the chronic contractions in the body that block the free flow of our biologic energy. 
Reading Reich and understanding his theoretical framework is one thing, but when one treats patients using the therapy he developed, there can be no doubt that traumatic events occurring during the newborn period, infancy and childhood exert a profound, lifelong influence. Reich understood that even the prenatal period was influential, stating in Children of the Future that pelvic armoring in the mother impedes the full bioenergetic functioning of the fetus. 
With emphasis the world over now focused on gene research, my concern is that people are becoming increasingly less inclined to pay attention to and investigate “nurture,” the experiences of early life and their consequences. For example, a recent Stanford University study found some women are “genetically programmed” to have more success losing weight with certain diets. Whether diets can now be effectively tailored to one’s genetic make-up may or may not prove true. What I don’t see is any attention given to a main cause of obesity: the chronic anxiety that comes about as a result of stressful childhood experiences. 
Many overeat to feel less anxious. Those with this problem know just what I’m talking about! But why does eating relieve anxiety? What we know as orgone therapists is that excess fat accumulation in many ways serves the same function as muscular armor. Fat binds energy, and in so doing reduces anxiety. 
One way to reduce obesity in individuals who eat when anxious is with therapy. However, therapy is aways an after-the-fact solution. The problem of obesity could be addressed in large part by preventing anxiety through better childrearing practices. This is but one of countless examples of how “nurture” has been sidelined in favor of genetic explanations.
Then there is the almost daily procession of physical and emotional conditions that are being linked to genetic make-up. Brain aneurysms, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, anger, criminal behavior, shyness and even gambling, along with a multitude of other conditions have all been claimed by researchers to be associated with specific genes. But how far will these cause and effect associations get us? After all, scientists know well that genes do not execute rigid, predetermined programs of development and that they are very responsive to the environment. So, as I see it, even if we completely understood the mechanisms of heredity, it would give us only half of the picture. 
I don’t believe the nature versus nurture question will be solved by gene research, nor do I see a future where our understanding of genetics will prevent and cure virtually all of human illnesses. Yet, with an unceasing focus on the discovery of the next “genetic breakthrough,” the public (influenced of course by the media) is adopting an ever-more rigid and mechanical mindset about human functioning.
The media often overstates the potential of reported research.The Social Issues Research Centre in Great Britain states the “media is often the primary source of science information and, as such, can have a profound impact on how the public views the risks and benefits of scientific advances.” Further it reports that “...because of this influential role, many commentators have been highly critical of the quality of media reporting, suggesting that reporting is ‘hyped,’ irresponsible, and hurtful to the public's understanding of important scientific issues.”
Distorted reporting is more than hurtful to understanding. It raises, unjustifiably, hope in those suffering with disease by implying that treatment of their condition will become available or, worse yet, is even just around the corner. The problem is not just with the media. There are even some in scientific circles who are saying that only funding and time stand in the way of unraveling the mystery of how to correct, and even prevent each and every physical and emotional problem. This overly optimistic attitude has become widespread and there is a growing, and incorrect, belief that genetic solutions will provide the magic cure-all. 
Tremendous improvement in emotional and even physical health is possible with properly conducted psychiatric orgone therapy. These improvements don’t come about with medications, and certainly not with gene therapy. Rather, it is the ability to empathically connect with patients and to slowly and systematically remove armor and allow the expression of emotions buried since childhood. That this is so speaks against the idea that genetics is the dominant factor determining one’s ability to function and lead a happy, healthy life.

I also want to talk about what I call “mechanical mysticism,” the distorted perception that results in a mistaken belief that absolute salvation is possible through science. People routinely associate mysticism with religion, spirituality or the occult, and view science as antithetical to such thinking. We know from Reich that mysticism is much broader. He tells us, in Ether, God and Devil that, “...mysticism comes about when real processes are distorted...and are not in harmony with what is objectively so.” He goes on to say, “...the mystic becomes stuck in the absolute.” 

In mechanical mysticism, the power and possibility of science (or the mechanical) assumes a godlike role. The belief in ultimate salvation at some future time, whether through the arrival of the messiah, or by genetic engineering, is fundamentally mystical. The mechanical mystic working in the world of genetics views genes in much the same way as the religious person views God. Both are seen as being a root cause of human functioning and in both there is placed all hope for human redemption. Thus the person “of religion” and the person “of science” are not, necessarily, so opposite in their thinking.
The popular attitude toward the power and possibility of genetics serve as an especially good example of mechanical mysticism in action. Given this perspective there is the belief that all illness can be prevented or cured through an understanding of genetics, and that ultimately the human race can be perfected--absolute salvation achieved--in this way. 
Mechanical mysticism has the capacity to lead us to the same dark places as religious mysticism. Hundreds of millions have died because of religious mysticism. The endless procession of holy wars throughout the ages stand as testimony to religious mysticism’s deadly potential. Few appreciate the Holocaust was also mystically rooted. 
Between 11 and 17 million people were murdered by Hitler in the name of improving the human species by eliminating those with undesirable genes. His method was by employing eugenics, the study and practice of selective breeding as applied to humans, with the aim of improving the species. It was widely popular in the early decades of the twentieth century, falling into disfavor only after the collapse of Hitler’s regime. Eugenics is an example of mechanical mysticism and it has, in many ways, the same goal as genetic engineering. 
Please remain calm! I am not comparing Hitler’s plan to create a superior race with the whole of modern-day genetic science. But there is an important parallel between genetic engineering and eugenics. Genetic engineering involves direct manipulation of an individual’s genes through molecular cloning and transformation in a lab. Eugenics employs the much less scientific practice of breeding to modify and “improve” the genes. Either way, eugenics and genetic engineering are the same in so far as both involve manipulating genes with the goal of “improvement.” When the underlying belief system is that, through genetic modification or through eugenics, one is going to ultimately “perfect” the human species you can be sure mechanical mysticism is at work.
Of course, the implication that mankind will perfect the human race through genetic science is unfounded. Heaven on earth won’t come by way of science any more than it will come by way of religion. Only preventing armoring, from conception onward, can slowly, generation by generation, bring about the changes in people that will make them happier and healthier. 
In the U.S. alone billions upon billions of dollars are being spent every year on genetic research, and the expenditures in both the public and private sectors continue to skyrocket. Here are a few recent examples. In March 2010, GenomeWeb News reported that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute plans to spend $76 million over the next five years to study human genomic variation and genetic links to disease. Also in March, Florida lawmakers earmarked $50 million in state funds to entice Maine’s Jackson Laboratory, a genetic research company, to build a $710 million research and medical facility in their state. 
Imagine if even a small fraction of this money was used to research and understand the importance of the prenatal and early childhood period. Imagine what could be done to help parents and other caregivers improve the way children are raised. The benefit to all humanity would be enormous! Only time will tell if we will ever shift away from pure science and back toward simply raising healthy children.

May 7, 2010

Tune In or Turn Off?

Increasingly, patients, family and friends have been expressing their dismay to me over what they are seeing and hearing on the news. It doesn’t matter what TV channel you watch, what Internet news source you scan, or what radio station you listen to. Every day brings more upsetting stories on all fronts--environmental, economic and political. The continuing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is on everyone’s mind and the recent attempted bombing in Times Square reminds us the menace of terrorism remains real. There is no end to bad news. 
It’s safe to say people are exposing themselves to more news than ever. The term “newsie,” once used to describe people working in the news industry, is now applied to constant news watchers, who have become a prime target audience for advertisers. There has been a continuing shift away from reading newspapers and toward viewing Internet news sources, which bring us the insanity of the world moment to moment and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TV watching, with its popular news-only channels, continues to rise. According to the 2010 Media Industry Fact Sheet put out by The Nielsen Company, the average American spends 31.5 hours a week watching TV. 
People say they watch the news to “stay informed.” This pat explanation sounds good-- at first. But it begs the larger question of why many choose to watch so much news and in so doing allow themselves to become, and remain, upset with the insanities and tragedies of the world.  
There is nothing wrong with keeping abreast of current events. As my son-in-law correctly points out, it makes one able to communicate intelligently with one’s peers, it facilitates social interaction, and it makes one knowledgeable enough to vote for those who best represent their beliefs. However, in my view, there is scant journalistic reporting to be found. Much passed off as facts and information is quite biased, and is really “infotainment.” As I see it, unconscious emotional factors are largely responsible for why people elect to keep up with the news. 
News-watching can serve a number of neurotic functions. It can alleviate boredom in those whose love and work lives are unfulfilling, it can serve as a distraction from the pressures and hardships of daily life, and it can bring some measure of excitement into otherwise deadened lives. Some are actually addicted to the emotional rush they get from exposure to the media. 
The daily news will “hit home” for everyone. There are so many emotionally grabbing stories in a given day that individuals can connect with, and get worked up about. One person, because of their particular character or emotional state, may become caught up with politics, another with the environment, and another with efforts to help children following a disaster. Such an extensive range of reporting is done, in no small part, to bring in the largest audience. The larger the audience, the greater the revenue for those who sponsor these “shows.”
The reporting of tragic events has an adverse effect on people who react in accordance with their specific character types. The depressed, who are often self-absorbed and apathetic can use the news to be roused from their low spirits, or it may drive them deeper into despair, giving them seemingly justified reasons for their despondency. The bipolar individual can be moved to act with poor judgement when in a manic state. The distrustful and suspicious, and those with paranoid ideation, have their fearfulness heightened. The news-involved hysteric overreacts with drama and great emotion. Because they are chronically anxious, the death and disaster scenarios they expose themselves to leave them in a state of even greater anxiety. 
From an orgonomic perspective, watching tragedies of all kinds play out in the news is not so different than going to see a movie where upsetting events are portrayed. In both, one becomes excited, the orgone energy in the body starts moving, and one begins to feel. But while a movie can be dismissed as mere entertainment, because the news is real, it upsets us more and has the capacity to evoke strong and deeply held feelings, especially sadness, fear and rage. 
If we tell to others about what we think and feel in response to the news, these emotions are allowed a degree of expression. Talking to those we know, expressing our outrage, writing letters to the editor, firing off angry e-mails to congresspersons, chatting or commenting on the Internet--all serve the function of allowing us to discharge some of the emotions that have been stirred up by current social and political events. These emotions are not necessarily caused by news-watching. They are already within us and become stirred-up. 
Watching the news and venting about it is an often vain attempt for people to make themselves feel better. Of course, to the extent that one becomes active and actually does something, for example engaging in a rescue operation, the degree of discharge and relief can be significant. However, psychiatric orgone therapy is a far better way to express and release deep, negative emotions. I believe it is the only way to forever remove them. It is my experience that with therapy people tend to become less focused on the insanities of the world and more focused on living quiet, family-centered lives. 

There is a dear price to be paid for being “informed.” While we may wish to do something in response to what we see, quite often there is nothing we personally can do. Only you will choose whether to tune in to the news or to tune it out. But, if you are one that regularly tunes in, you might ask yourself why. If the answer comes back “to keep informed” then take it a step further and ask yourself to justify your way of thinking. If watching the news enables you to cast your vote, fine. If it enables you to act in some truly meaningful way, fine. If it enables you to better deal with life situations, for yourself and others, fine. However, if none of the above apply, and if you are routinely upset by what you see, hear and read, then you should consider that there are deeper, concealed motives at work determining why you choose to be made upset. If this is you, consider a two-week experiment. It might not be easy, as detoxing from any addiction is not a simple matter. Expose yourself to no TV, no radio, no newspapers, and no magazines that report on daily current events. Listen to music, go outdoors, read books and spend time with loved ones (but don’t discuss world events). You might feel calmer, less upset and less worried. See how you feel. You can always go back. 
I, for one, don’t make a special effort to follow the news beyond local weather, traffic and airline conditions. As a consequence, those I know are sometimes surprised to find I haven’t learned about this or that BIG story. One might say, “don’t put your head in the sand.” That’s fine for those who want to be constantly upset about things over which the have no control. I don’t. 
Wilhelm Reich lived through incredibly turbulent political and social times and yet, quite remarkably, wrote almost nothing about day-to-day politics or events. With a few exceptions, when one reads Reich, there is no indication of the time period in which he lived and wrote. This makes his writing timeless and shows how much emphasis he placed on the “news” of the day--virtually none!
As a final thought, many bloggers tie their posts to current events and I may do this on occasion. However, just because another major news story is taking place doesn’t mean that I am going to write about it. My failure to comment doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s important. The fact is my interests, and those of my readers, are broader than the news of the hour. Wilhelm Reich’s ideas have relevance beyond what particular world insanity is taking place at the moment. So I say to those beleaguered and upset by the day's news and politics, you need not fear coming here.

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.