January 23, 2012

Reich's Great Gift: Health in 2012

Those of us involved in carrying on the work of Wilhelm Reich often discuss the significance of his contributions and question which of them will resonate most with those new to his work. Is it his discovery of the life energy and his attempt to place it on scientific footing? Is it his insight into the workings of humankind on the grand scale with his discovery and exposition of mass psychology? Or is it the unique therapy he developed with its ability to enable those who undertake it to lead more all-embracing and joyful lives, to have better relationships, to be better parents, and to take pleasure in their work?
Solid arguments can be made for any one of these three major contributions as being the most significant. The energy provides the basis for understanding life’s processes; mass psychology provides a means for understanding everything from the politics of the playground to the politics of nations; and orgone therapy is able to provide immeasurable benefit to individuals. 
Except for the interest of a handful of investigators across the globe, the scientific community remains either unaware of, or unconcerned with, Wilhelm Reich’s discovery of a universal energy, one which he explained flows through all living things and drives the cosmos. At least for now, Reich’s orgone energy remains a virtually unknown and yet untapped scientific resource, one that awaits recognition and acknowledgement so that it can be built upon for the betterment of humankind. 
I think it probable that Reich will never be credited with his discovery of the energy he called “orgone,” as this energy has already begun to be recognized by one branch of today’s scientific establishment--with never a mention of Reich. Just last year three astronomers were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for invalidating decades of accepted knowledge in the field of cosmology. They demonstrated that so called “dark energy” is causing our universe to expand at an ever-accelerating speed. Just as the connection between Reich’s work and current astrophysics waits to be made, so does the connection between the dark energy in the universe and the life energy that flows and pulsates within us.     
Reich’s understanding of mass psychology is of great import, and it has the potential to one day reform the structure of political and social institutions. Here too, as in the case of orgone energy, his sociopolitical work stands for future generations to “rediscover” and explore. 
It is not possible to predict which aspect of Reich’s vast body of work will eventually be rediscovered to open doors for tomorrow’s research. However, the reality is there is only one contribution he’s made that can improve YOUR life, right now, in a very real way--and that is therapy. 

To Our Health in 2012
Across the globe we rang in the new year with toasts to health. “Salud!” “L’chaim!” “Prost!” Many of us resolved to eat healthier, exercise, or take vitamins and other supplements. All of these resolutions, if put into action, are wonderful things to do. However, I’m always surprised by how few of the people I know--who are very knowledgable and enthusiastic about Reich’s discoveries--are actively engaged in orgone therapy. There are many “armchair” advocates of Reich, individuals who have “had some therapy” and declare they benefited greatly, but who stopped treatment somewhere along the way.
I hope to write more extensively about stopping therapy as there is much to say on the subject. Some people report having stopped because they felt “good enough.” They used therapy to get themselves through difficult times, and when they could again walk--or limp along--continuing treatment became no longer a priority. There are also often largely unrecognized factors responsible for the decision to dropout. Sometimes the relationship with the therapist grows stale, or therapy ceases to progress and prove beneficial, or resistances develop which are not properly overcome. (“Resistance” is the term for the forces within the patient, conscious and unconscious, that oppose the purpose of the therapy. It is something that almost always occurs to some degree in the course of treatment.) 
If you are reading this and are someone who has had some therapy in the past, or if you have never tried orgone therapy, consider giving yourself the gift of therapy, a unique treatment that doesn’t rely on medications. Reich’s mind-body method of treatment is not just for those who are experiencing significant emotional problems. It’s for anyone who wants to feel increasingly better, with more energy to do what they love--with greater clarity of mind and an increased feeling of inner calm. 
Barriers to Therapy
Of course there are real barriers to undertaking treatment, as well as “good,” well-rationalized excuses to put it off, or abandon the idea entirely. One real barrier is the difficulty in finding a traditional orgonomist, someone who was trained to practice the therapy as it was conceived by Reich. For this reason travel, sometimes long distances, may be required. Embarking on a course of this treatment requires a commitment of time and financial resources. It requires an emotional commitment as well, but it’s one that has a tremendous payoff. Barriers to therapy have always existed and therefore only those with a strong desire to feel better and lead a happier, healthier life get into therapy and stick with it. Individuals with this kind of motivation are my patients and I admire their courage and tenacity--and love them for it! It is enormously gratifying to see virtually every aspect of their lives improving. It is why I do the work that I do. I am honored to have second and now third generation patients, the children and grandchildren of individuals who embarked on a course of therapy with me more than 35 years ago.  
Short-Burst Therapy
I have long been an advocate of what I call “intermittent intensive orgone therapy,” a cumbersome sounding designation which is better termed “short-burst therapy.” With this approach the patient does not come for treatment on a weekly or every-other-week basis (the traditional model) but rather has a number of consecutive sessions with long intervals in between. Years ago, in the 1980s, I was asked to treat patients in Italy and then Germany, and would travel there regularly to Europe for that purpose, as well as to train orgone therapists. At first I was unsure about the effectiveness of seeing patients for a series of sessions only four or five times a year. However, what I discovered was that my short-burst therapy patients in Europe did as well, if not better, than the patients I saw back home on a very regular basis. 
On my long list of things to do is to update my article “Intermittent Intensive Orgone Therapy,” which was based on a lecture I presented in New York in 1986. In the years that have followed since the publication of that article, I have become even more convinced of the benefits of a spaced, intensive treatment approach, and today I have more evidence that confirms its effectiveness. 
Short-burst therapy has proven to work well for almost all patients, but it particularly fits the needs for those who wish to embark on a treatment program with an orgonomist not in their area. I have a number of such patients who see me for fifteen or twenty sessions over the course of a year. They combine a week of therapy with a vacation away from home and their daily routine. In the interim, between visits, we can address any important issues that might arise by telephone. Recently, thanks to the wonder of technology, I have also been using Skype’s video-calling service to hold sessions with some of my long-distance patients.
It is always distressing when I hear from people that they have stopped seeing their therapist before reaching their full potential for feeling well and leading a satisfying life. I don’t in any way find fault with these individuals. While some cannot tolerate the new feelings and emotions that come up during the process, I believe the vast majority of those who enter this therapy can be helped and would stick with it, if treated appropriately. I have often wondered how many individuals who have had some therapy could have not only led fuller lives for themselves, but also could have gone on to make a real contribution to the future of orgonomy, had treatment not disappointed them. If you are among those who made it a resolution in 2012 to live healthier, and if you are not currently in orgone therapy, consider jumping back in or trying it out. While legitimate barriers exist to embarking on a journey of therapy, they all can be overcome with a willing spirit. 
To your health in 2012! 
There are very few orgonomists worldwide, although there are hundreds, if not thousands, who call themselves “Reichians” or who practice some offshoot of the mind-body treatment Reich originated. If you are interested in traditional orgone therapy, you can contact me directly at (215) 862-9939 and I will try to recommend a therapist in your general area. 


rich schulman said...

Dr. Schwartzman,

Thank you for your knowledge and your insights. Here is some thoughts I have previously had on being in Orgone Therapy.
As a adult many say what is the good of going back and revisiting the past, just change like knowing the darkness changes to light one can also change, except my character was cemented. Patterns were set that laughed at my wishes. Orgone Therapy is where I learned how to access my past emotions so I wouldn't screw up the present too badly. But first I had to accesses the unconscious make the past remembered. The price was, is not easy. Knowing the difference between being angry with your parents, your culture and not projecting that on your friends and therapist is difficult. Accessing my orgone, energy, my core allows me to understand my character, the ways I hold myself, the way I handle emotion, my tension. I am glad I went back.

lorcan kilroy said...

very nicely said...

Peter of Wilton said...

Your article chimes with me. I have just experienced many months of wonderfully beneficial orgone therapy, but had to discontinue due to being unable to pay for the sessions anymore. The therapist did all she could to help me continue as long as possible by accommodating my reduced circumstances and we both knew that we were only partially along our journey together. However, even beginning to feel the energetic natural pulsation within my organisism stimulated massive life changes that could not be denied, the outcome of which will be a life where I can once again return to orgone therapy and continue this incredible journey within me and outside me. So it will all work out in the end as it should.
Peter Hall

Brian Forrest said...

Reichian Therapy was the best choice I have ever made to help live a fuller life. I stopped my weekly therapy after 3 years; it had been a wondrous, insightful, and physically exhausting process. I knew I was ready to try going on my own without therapy. I had been given Reichian knowledge/tools to use by my therapist and I wanted to try them out and see how it felt to be on my own. It has been 4 years since I was in therapy and though, I am sure I could have gone farther, I am still very grateful for the distance I went and all the wonderful discoveries and changes that came about in me and my life direction. I am still making discoveries and putting my therapy tools: insights and perspectives to work. Perhaps someday I will return for more therapy and take the Reichian football down the field a little farther.

Anonymous said...

I have been in orgone therapy for about 9 months with Dr. Nelson in NYC and have found it extremely beneficial and healing albeit challenging at times. it requires great commitment and perseverance to cope with some of the healing crises that may occur. I have utilized homeopathic medicine, diet, my tai chi practice, Feldenkrais as adjuncts. I am very happy and thankful to have found this therapy.

I have utilized my experiences in therapy in my work as a psychologist/therapist.
I have experienced a "cognitive dissonance, however. I very much have admired Reich's work with life energy, therapy, healthy societal changes, etc. His writings about health and relationships can be very inspiring. At the same time, Sharaf' s biography described him as going through alcohol fueled rages, interrogations and violent physical episodes towards his wife, etc. Reading how much the Emotional Plague affected and destroyed him was poignant and sad, but it was disappointing to read about some of these behaviors from one of my "heroes", assuming they are true as he is not here to defend himself.

This , of course, should not deflect from the value of this therapy and scientific works. It is sad nonetheless that the EP basically so devastated him although he must take responsibility for some indefensible personal shortcomings. Like most pioneers it seemed he was very alone and perhaps had no therapist healer he could turn to.

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.