October 9, 2011

Lecture on Reich's Influence on Marcuse

David Brahinsky, Ph.D. will be presenting his paper The Relevance of Wilhelm Reich's ‘The Mass Psychology of Fascism’ to the Struggle Against Fascism, a Project Shared by Herbert Marcuse at the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday, October 29th. His lecture is part of the 2011 conference of The International Herbert Marcuse Society. 
David Brahinsky, Ph.D.
Dr. Brahinsky is a professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religion at Bucks County Community College and has had an interest in Reich’s work since the 1960’s. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from S.U.N.Y. Binghamton. 
Dr. Brahinsky told me the focus of his lecture will be twofold. “First to express the fact that Reich's later work (the discovery of orgone energy and all that this entails) has been casually dismissed and ignored by Marcuse and Marcuse students and followers; the second that this later work is central to understanding the significance of Reich's contribution to our understanding of Fascism and so how to overcome it. I do this by tracing the evolution of Reich's understanding from his early days with Freud and onwards,” he said.

Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) was a German Jewish philosopher, sociologist and political theorist associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. His best known works are Eros and Civilization, One-Dimensional Man and The Aesthetic Dimension. 

Dr. Brahinsky’s lecture will be held at University of Pennsylvania’s Houston Hall, located at 3417 Spruce Street. The conference is open to all however advance reservations are required. The link to the conference is www.MarcuseSociety.org.

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Psychiatric Orgone Therapy

One of Wilhelm Reich’s most important and lasting contributions is a unique treatment for emotional disorders called psychiatric orgone therapy. Reich began as a psychoanalyst and was a member of Freud’s inner circle, but moved away from Freud’s method of free association when he developed a more effective verbal approach he called character analysis. Later he came to recognize the existence of a specific biologic energy in living organisms that he called “orgone,” which was coined from the word “organism.” With this discovery Reich was able to combine his verbal method with a technique that could normalize a person’s energy. The result was an entirely new approach to treating emotional disorders that he named orgone therapy.

Reich’s work with patients convinced him the disturbance in an individual’s energy state is caused by contractions in the body, especially in the musculature. He called these contractions “armor,” and established that they begin to develop in infancy as a way to block out emotionally painful events.

Past traumatic experiences are locked in the body--and they remain throughout life. How this happens is not fully understood, but there is no question that anxiety, anger and sadness, as well as the other upsetting feelings and emotions from childhood are not forgotten. Armor not only holds the disturbing past, causing it to remain alive but out of consciousness awareness, but it also affects how one feels and functions. Because living a natural healthy life depends upon whether a person’s energy flows freely or is blocked, the aim of psychiatric orgone therapy is to free up energy by breaking down armor. As these areas of holding dissolve, patients release their long buried feelings and emotions in the safety of the therapist’s office. They most usually surface spontaneously with the specific method Reich innovated, without the need of urging or any intervention on the part of the treating psychiatrist. However, occasionally, pressure needs to be applied to spastic muscles, or other techniques used to normalize the body. Because this treatment combines a verbal approach with a physical technique, it addresses both the mind and the body to bring about profound changes in how one thinks, feels and functions.

Today almost all people seeking treatment from a psychiatrist are given medications to reduce their symptoms. However, with psychiatric orgone therapy it is usual that patients, over time, find themselves able to wean themselves off medication and function without pharmacologic treatment. Reich’s therapy is unique in that it not only relieves distressing symptoms, but also does much more. It enables individuals to expand and feel pleasure, and better enjoy the many satisfactions life has to offer.

There are people who claim to practice some form of “Reichian” or “orgone” therapy, even though they have had no formal training in medicine or psychology. Often the techniques used by these self-proclaimed therapists have little or nothing to do with the very specific methods Reich developed and taught. The value of such therapies is questionable and may even harm those who get involved in them.

Qualified psychiatric orgone therapists have extensive training. They are physicians who have gone on to specialize in psychiatry and then in the very unique subspecialty of orgone therapy. They practice in much the same way as Reich did more than a half century ago. Ph.D. Psychologists who have had proper training can practice a form of orgone therapy safely and effectively. However, it is crucial they have supervision by a qualified psychiatric orgone therapist.