Wilhelm Reich and Psychoanalysis

Article by Stephan Simonian M.D.

Wilhelm Reich and Psychoanalysis




Psychiatric orgone therapy is a type of psychiatric treatment pioneered by Dr. Wilhelm Reich.





Dr. Wilhelm Reich

The basic principle of this treatment is the establishment of the orderly flow and metabolism of energy in the body. In this type of treatment, the clinician tries to establish the flow of energy in a way that is natural and physiologically ordained from the ocular segment toward the pelvis. Any hinders in the flow of this energetic stream, based on the orgonomic theories,causes psychiatric and physical illnesses. The hinders in the flow of this energy are a consequence of armoring in different segments of the body. The elimination of armoring in the body becomes the main task of the psychiatry orgone therapy. The technique of dissolving the armor is based on character analysis and vegetotherapy. The character analysis functions in the realm of psychology and vegetotherapy functions in the realm of the body. Combination of character analytic technique and vegetotherapy is called psychiatric orgone therapy.

(1)

The physiological process and function of the flow of this energy in the body is not understood in conventional medicine, psychiatry, or psychology. Clinicians who understand orgonomic theories and techniques, and understand the physiological function of the energy flow and its significance are also able to discover in their patients, the symptoms and revelations that surfaces in the process of treatment. One of my patients who had episodes of brief psychotic state, once told me the following; “Doctor, sometimes I start to feel as if waves originating from my pelvis are coming up towards my head, at that time I know that if the wave reaches to my head I will fall apart and become psychotic and end up in the hospital. As if my pelvis is my base and sometimes I feel disconnected from my base and I start to flow in space and I feel lost. When the waves start to come up from my pelvis toward my head, I try to make movements of my eyes in some strange ways so I can block it and avoid falling apart”.

From the point of view of conventional psychiatry, psychology or medicine, this statement does not make sense. A clinician unfamiliar with Reich’s theories and Orgonomy will dismiss these statements as “crazy” or “nonsense”. A physician familiar with psychiatric orgone therapy and the theories behind it easily understands this process and is fascinated with the patient’s ability to describe it. Sometimes patients with episodes of psychosis or borderline psychotic state are more in touch with the feelings and sensations in their body than a heavily armored neurotic person who cannot relate with those sensations or physical feelings in their body. Understanding the patient by the principles of the energetic flow and explaining it to her was comforting and reassuring for her. This patient was quite relieved when I explained that her sensations are real and true and I described the theory behind it. She realized that she’s not “crazy” or losing touch with reality. On the contrary, this was validating her sense of reality. I described to her that this wave of energy that she was experiencing in a natural state is supposed to travel in the opposite direction of what she was sensing, from head to pelvis but because of the blocking that she has in her structure, the flow of the waves of energy are blocked and are re-rerouted toward the opposite direction of its natural flow- from pelvis towards the head, consequently causing problems. She felt strengthened and her fear of disintegration diminished. This woman was molested as a child, and when she tried telling her mother about the molestation, she remembered that she was confronted with a harsh and punitive attitude and she was frightened. From there on she was confused sexually, she developed shame and anger but was antagonizing her own mother by acting out sexually. She was promiscuous and was having affairs with different people but never fully enjoyed it, partly because she was using sexual act as contempt toward her mother rather than a loving act with mutual pleasure. Although she was promiscuous however, she was never able to fully discharge her sexual pent-up energy and never had full satisfaction. The armoring in the pelvis was expected in this particular patient and could have been traced back to the traumatic events in her childhood.

Wilhelm Reich was a student of Freud and in the book of “Function of Orgasm” he states:

I had been apprehensive in going to him—I went away cheerful and happy. From that day on, I spent fourteen years of intensive work in and for psychoanalysis. In the end, I was severely disappointed in Freud. Fortunately, this disappointment did not lead to hatred and rejection. Quite contrary; today I can appreciate Freud’s achievement in a far better and deeper way than I could in those days of youthful enthusiasm. I am happy to have been his student for such a long time, without having criticized him prematurely, and with complete devotion to his cause. (2)

The development of psychiatric orgone therapy was based on Freud’s Libido Theory. A theory which was soon abandoned by Freud’s students.

Freud, Sigmund: with Hall, Jung, Brill, Jones, and Ferenczi

Reich, however, considered the libido, the theory of Energy, as the most important theory of psychoanalysis which is the basis of other theories. In the book “Reich Speaks of Freud”, Reich says:

Basically, Freud discovered the principle of energy functioning of psychic apparatus. The energy–functioning principle. This was what distinguished him from all other psychologists. Not so much the discovery of unconscious. The unconscious, the theory of unconscious, was, to my mind, a consequence of a principle he introduced into psychology. That was the principle, the natural scientific principle, of energy—the “libido theory.” You know today very little is left of it. I consider my bio-energetic work with the emotions to be a direct continuation of that energy principle in psychology. (3)

The social and political consequences of the libido theory are in contradiction with the bases of social and political institutions in our society, therefore scientific circles have ignored and suppressed the consideration of this theory and unfortunately deprived medicine, psychology and sociology from the rich results which can be attained from the elaboration of orgonomic science.

Reich, in the book of “Function of Orgasm”, says:

One after the other, they discarded or watered down the libido theory. Freud was well aware of the difficulties involved in championing the libido theory. But, in the interest of self-preservation and the consolidation of the movement, he could not permit himself to say what, in a more honest world, he would certainly have stood up for all alone. (4)

However, the psychological, medical and social consequences of these theories are undeniable.

References:

  1. Reich W.: Function of Orgasm, translated by Vincent R. Carfango (page 266).
  2. Ibid: (page 35).
  3. Reich W.: Reich Speaks of Freud, 1954 (page 15).
  4. Reich W.: Function of Orgasm, translated by Vincent R. Carfango (page 215).

This post was written by:

- who has written 62 posts on The Journal of Psychiatric Orgone Therapy.

Dr. Simonian is a general and child and adolescent psychiatrist. He completed medical school in Shiraz University, Shiraz Iran. He completed his general psychiatric residency training and fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at New York Medical College, Metropolitan Hospital Center. Concomitant with his psychiatry and child psychiatry training, Dr. Simonian completed the New York Medical College Psychoanalytic School Didactic Courses, including his own required personal psychoanalysis. In 1990, Dr. Simonian started his personal psychiatric orgone therapy, Reichian therapy, with Dr. Morton Herskowitz and in 1991 became a member of the Institute of Orgonomic Sciences (IOS), an Institute which is dedicated to promote and preserve Dr. Wilhelm Reich's work. Dr. Simonian started his private psychiatric practice in Milford, Massachusetts in 1984 and he was a chief of psychiatry department of Milford Regional Hospital for several years. He started his practice in Glendale, California since 2003. Dr. Simonian is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

2 Responses to “Wilhelm Reich and Psychoanalysis”

  1. I read with pleasure. The past theories of Freud and Reich was well described, but nothing was added based on your own long experience in this field. I will be happy to hear/read about your own experience, similar cases as Reich has described in his books.
    With Warm Regards,
    Hrand

  2. Editor says:

    Thank you for reading and thank you for the feedback . There is a case vignette in this article, but perhaps more detailed elaboration and discussion of the cases will be necessary to further clarify Reich’s approach.

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