Please find here a reference to the major terms and theories created by Dr. Wilhelm Reich which are used extensively in the fields of psychiatric orgone therapy and orgonomy today. Dr. Stephan Simonian had, for educational purposes, given a lecture at UCLA in the Spring of 2009 on Reich’s points of Departure from Freud. We have taken excerpts from his speech and used them to create an explanation and brief summary of each. Our intention is that this guide will serve as a map to students of orgone therapy shedding some light on the various terminology which is unique to orgonomy and often used in articles on the Journal of Psychiatric Orgone Therapy.
Reich realized that patients who were able to achieve sexual satisfaction visibly improved, and as long as this sexual potency and satisfaction persisted, the symptoms did not come back. He presented his findings of the patients he was treating, but he was rebuffed by psychoanalysts. Many psychoanalyst said that they have patients who are sexually very potent, but have neurotic symptoms. Reich says that until 1923, only erective potency and ejaculation were known without the inclusion of other aspect of sex economy.
In other words anyone who was able to have sex was considered to be sexually potent. He says that at that time he started to analyze this matter in detail and realized that there was a difference in what he was describing as orgastic and sexual potency and what the prevailing concept of sexual potency was.
In the book, Function of Orgasm, in explaining his orgasm theory, Reich says, “Until 1923 only ejaculation and erective potency were known without the inclusion of other aspects of sex economy and experiential components” Unfortunately the situation is not changed even today in contemporary medicine and psychiatry
Very little importance has been given to the matter of sexuality and orgastic potency in medicine. You can not find one medical book that deals with it, but it is well dealt with in the Reichian theories and Reich’s writings.
Erective and ejaculative potency are merely indispensable conditions for orgastic potency. But that alone is not enough.
What is Orgastic Potency?
The orgastic potency is the capacity to surrender to the flow of biological energy free of any inhibition and fantasies
It is the capacity to discharge completely the dammed up sexual excitation and energy through involuntary pleasurable convulsions.
I’ll give you an example. Once I was treating a patient who was very promiscuous, she was having a lot of sexual relations, she was also using substances and drugs, she had a very unhealthy and disturbed life. One day I asked her that when she has relations with men, does she have sexual satisfaction? She said no, I said how do you get sexual satisfaction. She said that “I get sexual satisfaction when I masturbate”. I said “then what is the fantasy of your masturbation”. She said “doctor, I don’t know why this is, I have to fantasize that a small child’s throat is slashed and blood is coming out to be able to have an orgasm”. So there are lots of strange fantasies which go with orgasm, but this is not a healthy sexual orgasm, this is not what Reich was talking about when speaking of orgasm. So these matters are not dealt in medicine, there are no books about it, they never talk about it, and they never analyze it. The reason is that I think even today, these matters are still taboo, and even in medicine people don’t want to deal with it. But people’s health is at stake here in these matters. That is why I think Reich is very important and should be studied much more deeply and thoroughly.
Orgasm theory encompasses concepts of:
- Expansion and contraction of living protoplasm and its psychological expression as pleasure and displeasure and its relation to autonomic nervous system.
- Sex economy, the metabolism of biological energy (orgone energy) in the organism.
- Pulsetory nature of living organism.
- Capacity of self regulation of living organism by regulating the energy metabolism.
- Formula of mechanical tension, charge, discharge and relaxation.
If you go to a doctor and ask what the difference is between someone who is capable of having an orgasm and someone who is not capable of having an orgasm, they don’t know. But there must be a difference, there must be some reason, it’s a physiological reaction, but they don’t give any significance to it.
Theory of Armoring
Armor is defined as total defensive apparatus of the organism consisting of the rigidities of the character and the chronic spasms of the musculature, which functions essentially as a defense against the break through of the emotions – primarily anxiety, rage and sexual excitation, sadness and fear.
Armoring happens in the process of the interaction of the child with environmental prohibitions in the process of the struggle of primary motives with outside inhibitions.
There is drive, and an inhibition that opposes that. A child pushes, asks for something, or wants something, and when comes to the inhibition, initially puts up a fight and protests, but then gradually submits to it.
A part of the drive disassociates, then it turns against itself, then that part itself acts as the inhibition force. This is the mechanism of why children become like their parents. I have many patients that ask me, “doctor, I hated what my father and my mother did, but I catch myself doing the same thing.” Why? Because of this mechanism. The person becomes armored and part of the outer qualities becomes ingrained in it and acts against itself and assumes the inhibition that the world was dictating.
Patients were armored against therapeutic suggestions and treatment in general. The character armor was the mechanism which was blocking the affect
However this character that the person shows has a somatic and psychical component, a muscular and physical component.
Theory of Armoring: Physical and Muscular Armoring
Somatic counterpart of the armor: Functionally identical with character armor but rooted in the physical realm. They cannot be separated.
Character armor functions in the realm of psychology, but it has physical and somatic components that acts in the realm of the body.
In 1933 Reich was treating a man who offered considerable resistance to uncovering his passive homosexual fantasies. This resistance was overtly expressed in an extremely stern and stiff attitude of his neck and throat. Reich says that constant attack on his defensive attitude and the stiffness of neck and throat caused him finally to yield. Although in an alarming way. For three days he became shaken by manifestations of vegetative autonomic shock. His skin was spotted and mottled. The pallor of his face changed from white to yellow and blue. He experienced violent pains in his neck and back of the head. His heartbeat was rapid and pounding, and he had diarrhea and felt tired, and seemed to have lost control. the musculature, the muscles that were stiff and contracted had the function of inhibiting. When the neck muscles relaxed, powerful impulses as if unleashed from a taut coil broke through. Biological sexual energy can be bound by chronic muscular tensions. Anger and anxiety can also be blocked by muscular tensions. So from here on, Reich realized that there was a physical component on the persons character attitude that was manifesting. These two armorings, one in the psychological realm and one in the physical realm, are functionally identical, they can not be separated from each other, they have identical function and they are interrelated with each other.
Muscular Armor is Defined As:
Total muscular and physical attitudes and chronic muscular spasms. Develops as a defense against breakthrough of organ sensations and emotions. In particular rage, sexual excitation, etc.
The inhibition of the primary impulses produces secondary impulses and anxiety.
This is a schematic manifestation of the human organism. Here is the center of the organism, this is the primary impulse, and when it hits the armor, it changes and changes it’s quality. It develops secondary impulses or neurotic symptoms and from here on it can change to anything, it can become a sadistic impulse, it can turn into unhealthy impulses. So from here on, this armor becomes the base of the pathology in the person and causes all sorts of sicknesses and behaviors such as passive-aggressive behavior.
Pathogenesis of Armoring
Armoring disturbs and distorts the orderly flow of bio-sexual energy in the body. This becomes the pathogenic base for many emotional and physical illnesses. It also causes emotional plague
Integration of Orgasm Theory & Theory of Armoring
Disturbance of flow of bio-psycho-sexual energy (orgone energy) which causes disturbance in orgasm and happens mostly by the process of armoring.
The libido energy, that Reich later on called orgone energy, the disturbance of its flow, which also causes disturbance of orgasm, happens by the process of armoring. Armoring is one of the major reasons that the flow of energy becomes disturbed. So you see how these theories are getting integrated and fitting into each other, the theory of armoring and theory of orgasm.
In psychoanalysis, the model for the treatment of the patient is conscious and unconscious, and also id, ego, and super ego, which we talked about earlier. While in orgonomy, our model is core, middle layer, and outer layer. Outer layer is the way that the person presents. Middle layer is the different impulses that are conflicting with each other and then there is the core.
Armoring causes secondary drives that may present itself as sadistic and destructive impulses that harms society in general
From here on Reich’s theories gain significance in sociology
Reich called emotional plague the impulses that get distorted by armoring. Secondary motives that get distorted and become sadistic and destructive to society. From here on Reich’s theories transcend psychology, psychiatry and medicine, and it enter into social work and sociology.
In the pursuit of identifying and quantifying this energy, Reich discovered its existence in all living organisms as well as in the atmosphere. He called it orgone energy. Why orgone energy? Because of its relationship to body organs and its relationship to the orgasm theory and organism.
The body of knowledge that was set forth by Dr. Wilhelm Reich is collectively called orgonomy. This is an extension of Freud’s libido theory
Psychiatric Orgone Therapy
Based on resolution of armor, re-establishment of orderly flow of energy and orgastic reflex. Its technique is different from psychoanalytic technique.
The treatment that is offered by Dr. Reich’s techniques are called psychiatric orgone therapy. This is based on the resolution of the armor, if the armor is the main pathologic entity that disturbs the flow of the energy , then our work in treating the patient should be in removing the armor. Resolution of armor is done in two ways. One is by character analysis, which is in the realm of psychology, and the other is by the resolution of muscular and physical armoring, analysis of the physical armoring and resolution of this armoring, which is in the realm of the body. This technique is different from psychoanalysis.