February 26, 2010

Anti-Circumcision Group Needs Help

Georganne Chapin, Executive Director of Intact America, has just put out a message about an urgent and time-sensitive opportunity in the war against circumcision. The Massachusetts State Senate will consider the Male Genital Mutilation Bill on March 2nd, this coming Tuesday. If enacted, it would outlaw the genital mutilation of both young girls AND boys in that state.
The deadline is rapidly approaching and Intact America needs your help right now.  They are asking those who oppose circumcision to share their stories, and will make sure these personal testimonials are heard by the Joint Committee on Tuesday. This as a unique opportunity for those who feel strongly about this issue to have their voices heard and influence decision-making.  Whether you or a loved one has been harmed by circumcision, now is the time to give your statement. In fact, Ms. Chapin says anyone who opposes the practice can and should speak up now. 
Intact America has made submitting your testimony for Tuesday’s meeting really easy. Just click the link at the end of this post and you can share your story or opinion via the Intact America site. I will be submitting my testimony in this way and encourage those reading this post who oppose circumcision to do the same. It will only take a few minutes. Submissions must be in before Tuesday. 
As a psychiatrist, I am in the unique position of seeing the emotional devastation that circumcision can cause for those who have undergone this horrific experience. Many still think that if we don’t consciously remember traumatic events from infancy and early childhood, they don’t effect us. I know otherwise. In the course of the unique form of therapy that I practice, long repressed feelings and emotions that result from early painful, traumatic experiences are often relived. I know this is difficult to believe, especially for those who are unfamiliar with this method of treatment, but I have watched men in therapy re-experience their circumcisions, wide-eyed with terror and writhing in pain. There is no mistake about this. The circumcision experience has been locked within them throughout their lives and has adversely effected many aspects of their functioning. Thankfully, with therapy, they are often able to overcome this trauma and lead happier lives.

To submit your testimony click here
In appreciation of blog followers who make their statement to the Massachusetts State Senate, I will send them the first-of-its-kind official “Wilhelm Reich Today” coffee travel mug! The mug says: 
If Not Now--When? 
“Wilhelm Reich Today” 
Just email a note to info@thewilhelmreichcenter.com saying you have submitted your testimony, along with your name and shipping address, and your mug will be sent to you. Unfortunately, due to the cost of shipping, this offer has to be limited to those who live within the contiguous United States. 

February 22, 2010

Government vs. Raw Milk

An Associated Press report issued this morning calls attention to an important battle taking place here in the United States between dairy farmers that produce and sell unpasteurized milk, claiming it is safe, and government authorities who maintain pasteurization is the only way to assure destruction of pathogenic microorganisms that might be present. 

According to the report, which bears a Des Moines, Iowa tagline, debate about the health advantages and risks of raw milk is spilling into statehouses and courtrooms countrywide as raw milk advocates push to make unpasteurized dairy products easier for consumers to purchase.

I am glad to see this relatively little-known debate receiving the national attention it

deserves. We can expect that in the hours and days to follow a number of news venues will be picking up the AP report and writing on this matter, which makes this the perfect time for me to share my thoughts on the subject.

Avid raw milk drinkers swear by its taste and health benefits. Some believe consuming it cures asthma, prevents ear infections in children, strengthens bones and the immune system, and improves the functioning of those with autism. Indeed, a study published in the June 2006 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that 4,767 children in rural England who lived on farms and drank unpasteurized milk had significantly fewer symptoms of asthma, hay fever and eczema than their pasteurized milk drinking peers. A follow-up European study of nearly 15,000 children published in the May 2007 issue of Clinical and Experimental Allergy found children who drank unpasteurized milk were less likely to have asthma and hay fever.
However, the FDA claims health risks associated with drinking raw milk far outweigh any benefits. It strongly advises against consuming it and, under its commerce clause powers, has banned its interstate transport and sale. Laws among states differ greatly. Some have banned its sale, other states allow it but strictly for non-human (animal) consumption, while others allow its sale to the public at large. But even where legal, raw milk dairy farmers are harassed by the FDA and local authorities, who are increasingly committed to overseeing and regulating production. 
I recently attended a lecture and book signing by journalist David Gumpert, who writes on matters of health. His most recent book The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights provides an engaging and informative account of the ongoing clash between the government and dairy farmers. Blog follower Joseph Heckman, Ph.D., a professor of soil science at Rutgers University, hosted the lecture and alerted me to it. I am glad he did! Mr. Gumpert spoke about many aspects of this debate, including the overall safety of unpasteurized milk, presenting a wealth of statistics to prove his point. He has become an important spokesperson for the raw milk movement, asserting that people be allowed to return to enjoying this natural drink. 
Pasteurization was introduced by French chemist Louis Pasteur in the mid-19th century and thereafter became the norm for milk. Prior to this, drinking milk posed serious health hazards and many became ill. Conditions on dairy farms were often atrocious. Cows were kept under filthy conditions, water was contaminated and there was no refrigeration. It’s no wonder milk-borne illnesses were common. With widespread implementation of pasteurization, milk and its various products were made quite safe. Pasteurization largely, but not always, prevents food-borne sickness, ranging from mild food poisoning to serious illnesses caused by contaminants such as listeria, salmonella and E. coli. 
No one argues the assertion that pasteurization was an enormous advance for public health, or that it remains valuable. However, healthy cows raised in a clean environment don’t produce contaminated milk, and refrigeration keeps it fresh. Today’s dairy farmers who produce unpasteurized milk take pride in their clean facilities and in their first-rate healthy cows, certified free of disease.
Following Mr. Gumpert’s lecture, I had the opportunity to speak from the audience about the similarity between the current situation facing these milk producers and Wilhelm Reich’s ordeal. I spoke about Reich’s fate at the hands of the FDA. Here was a brilliant scientist who died in prison because his natural health products and information were transported across state lines. I also said that what happened to Reich and what these dairy farmers are now up against can be understood in the context of what Reich discovered and termed the “emotional plague,” a force that drives authorities to exert control over the lives of others for their own good.
One might expect that honorable people with good intentions, on both sides of the table, could somehow resolve the raw milk issue without battling in court. After all, people consume raw or undercooked products all the time, as with sushi, clams and oysters on the half shell, beef carpaccio, or simply a rare burger. None of these are banned. But common sense won’t prevail. Nor is it a question of needing more information, more facts pro or con, to settle the matter. 
I contend no matter how much proof of safety is presented or what additional information is provided, the government authorities will never relent in their efforts to end sales of unpasteurized milk. If farmers, brave or foolish enough, elect to violate the inevitable court decisions in favor of the FDA, I fear they will be imprisoned as Reich was. Here’s why. The safety of unpasteurized milk and the best interest of the public are not the sole or even primary reason for the government’s attack. It is its stated reason, and because the safety issue does have validity and is partly right, the more insidious underlying aspect of the emotional plague remains hidden. 
What we know from Reich is that the emotional plague has infiltrated society’s institutions. Many who have gotten themselves into positions of authority over others are afflicted with this illness. The emotional plague was so named by Reich to indicate the condition’s psychological roots and contagious nature. The principal element of the plague is a compulsion to control the natural behavior of others. Those suffering with the plague cannot tolerate actions that don’t conform to their rigid ways of thinking. When people choose to live as they see fit, especially when it is in accord with healthy, natural functioning, those afflicted with the plague experience intense anxiety. They cannot tolerate the feelings that rise up in them when people are happy and enjoying life naturally. Their thinking and actions are always extremely well-rationalized as being for the common good. Remarkably, they are entirely unaware that their true motive is not the best interest of others. They do not see their irrationality or their inability to act fairly on matters that effect them emotionally.
Unlike the neurotic who suffers inwardly without troubling others, “plaguey” people deal with their emotional upset by attempting to control its source, the behavior of others, which stirs up in them an intense longing for living the natural life that they themselves cannot live. But they just don’t see it. In their minds they must stop “dangerous” activities and behaviors, never realizing their prohibitive actions are not really for the good of others but rather to make themselves feel better by putting an end to the behavior that makes them intensely anxious. Controlling others makes plague-ridden individuals feel better, at least temporarily.
The emotional plague is often found in individuals who are bright and endowed with a high level of energy. This combination enables them to rise through the ranks into positions of authority. As officials with power, they are now really in a position to exert control over others. It is no mistake they have gotten themselves into these positions. Their livelihoods serve as a defensive mechanism to ward off their intense anxiety. It cannot be over-emphasized that plague-ridden individuals and the institutions they control have no insight into their destructive behavior. They believe, in their heart of hearts, what they are doing is right and necessary. There is always an element of truth that justifies their control over others. It is this truth--the partly right--that creates much confusion and allows others, on the sidelines, to so easily get caught up in the plague’s activity. In the case of unpasteurized milk, the assertion of a health hazard causes many decent and openminded people to side with the FDA. Notwithstanding, there may often be a sense something is not right in what the government is doing, but good people can’t place a finger on it. Try as they might, they won’t find what that “something” is because the driving force behind the FDA’s attack is the unseen hand of the emotional plague. 
Reich wrote in Character Analysis (1933) that the plague “has to give way when confronted, clearly and uncompromisingly, with rational thinking and the natural feeling for life.” Was he naive or did he think this way because he had not yet, himself, experienced its full power? Whatever led him to believe as he did in those early days, I am certain that he did not hold the same opinion in 1957, when confined to his prison cell. Reich was not only imprisoned, but on orders of the FDA, his books were burned. When the “little guy” comes up against “big brother” plague wielding its enormous power, the odds of succeeding in a battle are slim at best. 
Nevertheless the emotional plague can and must be fought. The battle over raw milk is an important one. If it isn’t won, we will all be on the slippery slope, raw milk drinkers or not. Increasing controls on the foods we eat and the health measures we choose are limitless. Next could be mandated irradiation of food, as Mr. Gumpert points out. 
Raw milk advocates have their work cut out for them. I believe they are doing the right thing by organizing demonstrations to gain media attention, especially outside of the courtrooms where dairy farmers are being prosecuted. I also think it important to continue to get the message out to consumers about the relative safety of unpasteurized milk in whatever ways possible. Given the expensive nature of court battles, funding for the legal defense of targeted farmers will have to come from individuals and organizations that support natural health and wellness, free from government control. Finally, I offer that raw milk advocates consider using the adjective “unpasteurized” as opposed to “raw,” which seems to me could conjure up the unpleasant image of bloody meat. Referring to the milk as “organic, unpasteurized, certified safe” or something along these lines may improve its overall image. 
I encourage my readers visit David Gumpert’s blog, The Complete Patient, and to read his book The Raw Milk Revolution. It might appear worlds apart from Wilhelm Reich’s The Sexual Revolution, but the overall conclusion is the same, which is that people should be free to live their own lives, naturally, as they choose. Reich wrote about sexual repression as it existed then in the late 1920s. He was on the side on the unthinkable, defending natural functioning and healthy sexuality. Both Reich and Mr. Gumpert assert people have the right to live as they wish and both, in their own way, support a return to nature, or more natural functioning. For Reich it was the enjoyment and health benefits of sex, free of moralism and societal restraint. For Mr. Gumpert it is for the enjoyment and health benefits of natural foods, free of government control. Both declare it a right and duty to resist the enforcement of unreasonable, unjustifiable laws.
For further exposition of the emotional plague as conceived by Reich, I recommend reading Chapter 12 of Wilhelm Reich’s Character Analysis and Chapter 13 of Elsworth F. Baker’s Man in the Trap.  The Complete Patient is located at www.thecompletepatient.com. Also, The Weston A. Price Foundation at www.westonaprice.org is an excellent source for information on nutrient-dense foods. One of their specific goals is the establishment of universal access to clean, certified and unpasteurized milk.

February 3, 2010

Thoughts on the Innovative Mind

Why is there is so much resistance to new ideas that challenge old ways of thinking? Why have great innovators met resistance, often fierce? Jonathan Swift said: “When a true genius appears in the world, you can know him by this sign, that the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” Yet there is far more behind resistance to new ideas than lack of intelligence. In fact, even brilliant individuals are often completely closed to innovative ideas that conflict with their established ways of thinking. This fundamental problem has plagued the work of many, including Wilhelm Reich. 

Reich maintained he discovered a real, scientifically measurable force existing in all living things and permeating the cosmos. He performed experiments that confirmed the existence of this energy and many others have replicated his findings.

Yet to the established scientific world, Reich’s contention that there exists a universal energy is nonsense. They would never test his theories with an open mind, if they would test them at all. Why bother? It’s nonsense. As Galileo said: “By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox.”
Certain established organizations in society gain the stamp of authority and thereafter become the definitive voice in a particular field. In Galileo’s time it was the Roman Catholic Church. Today, in the United States, there are many associations, academies, administrations, and institutes that make pronouncements that become the unquestioned, and unquestionable, truth. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are but a few examples in the medical field. These organizations have set themselves up as authorities and have become perceived by the media and public as having an exclusive hold on the truth. Their pronouncements take on a godlike and unquestionable status. So long as those in the community, or practitioners in a particular field, agree with and follow their accepted way of thinking, they are welcomed with open arms. On the other hand, any deviation from the “gospel” is likely to bring ridicule, or worse.
Respected thinker Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) wrote extensively on the history of science and progress of knowledge. His premise was that those within the ruling theory of science don’t change their basic assumptions and don’t challenge or attempt to test their existing theoretical framework. They explain away anomalies outside their paradigm. Kuhn said those within the ruling theory cannot make the shift to see and, in effect, “think outside the box.” But why? Why do people fail to examine new information with genuine objectivity? I have been considering this question for a long time and my thoughts are as follows. 
Most people think “rationally.” By this I mean they think according to a strict system whereby their past experiences and knowledge dictate the answers they arrive at. While “rational thought” appears to be a good thing, it has the function of preventing true and unbiased observation--that is, just looking and seeing what is before one’s eyes. I would argue rational thinking is largely responsible for the mindset that prevents people from even entertaining that thinking different than their own can be valid. Such “rationally afflicted” individuals are entirely unaware of their own blindness. They cannot, even temporarily, abandon their view of the world. This prevents objective evaluation of anomalous phenomena. I do not feel this blocked perceptual function is directly related to emotional plague behavior, or confined to a particular character type or personality. 
However, not all people think this way. There are those who when presented with a new idea can say that it, and the way they have always viewed the subject, are both possible ways of understanding the matter. They are judgment-free. They see competing ideas as standing side by side, and if they present a contradiction, so be it. 
Then there is the rare individual who is able to look with fresh eyes. This person is able to just observe, without comparing or contrasting. Being able to completely step out of rational thought in this way allows them to make great discoveries. This doesn’t mean that at some point they don’t bring in their education and experience--they do--but for the moment of observation they are just looking and seeing and not refuting. 
The ability to not compare, contrast and judge is unfortunately not the way of scientists stuck in their rigid way of thinking. Some who make new findings remain quiet. They, like Copernicus, know and fear the consequences of going public, understanding their colleagues’ and the world’s ability to attack and destroy them. They therefore, some might say quite wisely, keep a low profile. Others have the gift and speak out. They are often naive (sometimes brave) and are always amazed their discoveries are not investigated and validated by the established authorities. They are shocked, then deeply hurt when they are vilified. Men like Wilhelm Reich--as well as Christ, Galileo, Lister, Semmelweis--suffered greatly and often died because of their remarkable way of seeing.
Reich was able to observe the natural world without bias. This ability enabled him to come into exquisite contact with what he observed, whether it was a bion, a patient, man’s irrationality, or the orgone energy in the atmosphere. Reich was quite possibly the most extraordinary individual ever to have the gift of seeing without comparing and I believe this gift is the reason why he was able to make his remarkable discoveries.

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.