March 18, 2013

Adding My Voice to the Circumcision Debate

In 1952 Wilhelm Reich said, “Take that poor penis. Take a knife--right? And start cutting. And everybody says, “It doesn't hurt.” Everybody says, “No, it doesn't hurt.” Get it? Thatʼs an excuse, of course, a subterfuge. They say that the sheaths of the nerve are not yet developed. Therefore, the sensation in the nerves is not yet developed. Therefore, the child doesn't feel a thing. Now, thatʼs murder! Circumcision is one of the worst treatments of children. And what happens to them? You just look at them. They canʼt talk to you. They just cry. What they do is shrink. They contract, get away into the inside, away from that ugly world.” This quote appeared in the book “Reich Speaks of Freud” (1967).

Now, more than sixty years later, there are organizations in countries around the world that educate people about circumcision. Their message is that the procedure is cruel, medically unnecessary, and has lifelong consequences.

There are hundreds of websites speaking out against circumcision. Beyond the Bris: Questioning Jewish Circumcision is an intactivist site with Jewish contributors:

An article I wrote for Beyond the Bris in February led Intact America, in March, to ask me to be their intactivist of the month:

I am honored to now be a member of their Board of Health Professionals.

1 comment:

Georganne Chapin said...

And Intact America is honored to have you among our supporters, Richard. The argument that babies do not feel pain is patently absurd, and utterly contrary to what every parent has witnessed. In the "olden days," when we used cloth diapers, every parent's nightmare was accidentally sticking his or her baby with a diaper pin. The PKU heel prick is obviously distressing to babies. Yet, into the 1970s, doctors actually operated on babies without anesthesia; instead, they used paralytics such as curare, which immobilized the baby, but did nothing to blunt the pain. Vivisection, essentially. Thank you for speaking out about the most systematic violation of children's rights practiced in the United States - more than one million times each year.

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.