Tag Archive | "sublimation"

Sublimation According to Anna Freud

One part of Reich Speaks of Freud is a transcript of an interview between Dr. Wilhelm Reich and Dr. Kurt Robert Eissler. Dr Reich says:

Will our children, in a hundred years, when they are five or six years old, be able to live their natural lives as nature or God ordains it? Or will they sublimate according to Anna Freud?

In psychology, sublimation is defined as the process of modifying an instinctual impulse in such a way as to conform to the demand of society. Sublimation is a substitute activity which gives some measure of gratification to the impulse; the impulse has been repudiated in its original form.  In other words, sublimation is a form of desexualization  in which the instinctive impulse is in some way deflected into socially acceptable channels, instead of requiring control by constant counterforce. The aim or object of the underlying drive is changed without blocking an adequate discharge.
With sublimation, contrary to the mechanism of repression, it is assumed that the impulse or the wish is modified in such a way that gratification can be achieved without disapproval or disapprobation. In sublimation, the ego is not acting in opposition of the instinctual force or Id; on the contrary, it helps the Id gain external expression by modifying and changing its form to conform the social structure.
Since its inception psychoanalytic psychology in praxis has advocated sublimation as the answer to the sexual demands nascent to childhood and adolescence.  The majority of child psychiatry and child psychology, along with most psychoanalytic books and literature, typically all respond to  children and adolescent sexual demand in the same way: Most all texts refer to the process of sublimation, and in turn advocate for adolescents and children to desexualize their impulses and express this demand in a socially acceptable manner.
In her well-received book Normality and Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Development Anna Freud writes about a child’s developmental capacity for sublimation as the initial process for developing the capacity to do the actual work later on.
Sigmund Freud with his daughter Anna Freud.
In contrast to psychoanalytic psychology, a field that claims sublimation of the sexual drive is effective in an adequate discharge of libido energy in desexualized and socially acceptable channels, those of us who work in the field of orgonomy (but also those who keep in contact with his or her inner feelings) recognize that sublimation is only rarely capable of providing adequate discharge for sexual energy. This energy is incessantly produced from the core of the organism; if mishandled either by repression or another kind of deflection, a child will end up simply feeling like he or she will explode.
The child or adolescent has to find a way to conform his biological needs to cultural and social demands. Orgonomy, in contrast to psychoanalytic psychology that accepted the social and cultural norms and demands, suggests that the social and cultural institutions should adjust themselves and conform to the needs of children and adolescents. Not the other way around. Orgonomy posits that people who are sexually content and happy are most productive and behave and act in accordance to  natural moral codes that are self regulated. In general, the process of productive work is far higher among people who are sexually happy and satisfied in contrast to those who have to struggle to repress their sexual demands.
Work and Sexuality: The following is a diagram of reactive and sex-economic way of working from The Function of the Orgasm by Wilhelm Reich.
Dr. Reich had discovered the process of psychological and physical armoring. This develops as a natural consequence of a young person’s struggle with repressing their natural and instinctual primary drives. This has a devastating effect on their structure. Once the process of armoring begins, all types of psychological and physical illness ensues.
Recognizing the general misery of youth, Dr. Reich published a booklet for this audience called The Sexual Struggle of Youth, in 1932. The booklet’s introduction states:
The following pages were written for young people without any upper or lower age limit. My purpose in setting down these remarks is not to provide the usual kind of ‘sex education’ which avoids the question of adolescent sexual intercourse; instead it is my intention, based on well founded scientific conviction, to give young people a definite answer to the serious question that they have about their maturing sexuality.
He goes on to write:
Many a young person approaching puberty must develop a moralistic, defensive attitude against the unconscious urges of his sexuality, as well as against any knowledge from outside, simply in order to give himself an artificial prop to cling to. He is unaware of the relationship between his sexuality and the daydreams that torture him, his moodiness, his states of excitation, and other plights; he acts and thinks under the compulsive authority of a foreign will that forbids him to obtain sexual knowledge. This foreign will stems from education and has become a part of his own character, which now acts contrary to his natural bodily needs.
“Young people are contaminated on the one hand by moralizers and advocates of abstinence and, on the other hand by pornographic literature,” Dr. Reich continues. “Both influences are extremely dangerous, the former no less than the latter.” In recognizing this, he writes, “The sexual misery of modern youth is immeasurable, but most of it is out of sight, beneath the surface.”
In his book The Function of the Orgasm, Reich writes the following:
Viewed socially, Freud’s discovery of child sexuality and sexual repression was the first dim awareness of the sexual renunciation which had been going on for thousands of years. This awakening consciousness still appeared in a highly academic garb and had little faith in its own movements. The question of human sexuality had to be shifted from the dark corners of the social framework, where for thousands of years it had been leading a filthy, distorted and festering life, to the very front of the shiny edifice grandiosely called “culture” and “civilization.” Sexual murder, criminal abortions, the sexual agony of adolescents, the killing of all vital impulses in children, perversions en masse, pornography and the vice squad that goes with it, exploitation of the human longing for love by a cheap and prurient consumer industry and commercial advertising, millions of illnesses of a psychic and somatic nature, loneliness and psychic deformity everywhere, and—on top of this—the neurotic politicizing of the would-be saviors of mankind could hardly be looked upon as showpieces of civilization.
In the same book, Dr. Reich sites the work of anthropologist Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski. In his 1929 book The Sexual Life of Savage, Malinowski described his observation in the primitive tribes. For example, in the Trobriander primitive tribe who live in an archipelago of coral-based atolls off Eastern New Guinea, the sexual life of the children developed naturally, free and without interference throughout all stages of life, with full sexual gratification,  Malinowski found them to be ignorant of sexual perversions, functional mental illnesses, psychoneurosis or sexual murders. They had no word for theft; the strict, compulsory neurotic toilet training was unknown to the Trobriander child, hence the Trobriander is spontaneously clean, orderly, naturally social, intelligent and industrious. Another observation was that the Trobrainder people took part in non-compulsive, voluntary monogamous marriage that could be dissolved at any time without difficulties. This kind of marriage was the observed, prevalent social form of sexual life; there was no observed promiscuity.
1918 Bronislaw Malinowski with Trobriand Islanders
A few miles from the Trobriand Islands, on the Amphlett Islands, there lived a tribe having a patriarchal, authoritarian family arrangement. All the characteristics of the European neurotics (distrust, anxiety, neuroses, suicides, perversion, etc.) were already evident in the natives of this island.
Upon noting this, Dr. Reich asks “To what extent does a population enjoy natural sexuality? It is the pivotal question of mental hygiene.”
The sexual life of a European or American in his or her early twenties, for example, is currently far advanced than in the early 1900’s or even prior to WWII, when Dr. Reich was struggling to establish his theories. At that time sexual relations outside of marriage were expressly and implicitly prohibited for young men and women, regardless of the notion of “legal age.” Virginity was strictly imposed as a standard for women, which now seems foolish and disgustingly inhuman in western societies. The changes that have occurred in relation to sexuality reflect the gradual progression of social trends. Dr. Reich predicted and advocated for these same ideas since the 1920s:
The question is: Will our children in a hundred years, when they are five or six years old, be able to live their natural lives as nature or God ordains it? Or will they sublimate according to Anna Freud? […] If I can help it, the first will be the case […] Sublimated work or good cultural achivement is possible only after the basic needs are satisfied.
Nevertheless, and despite advances, sexual needs of adolescents and children remain repressed to the widest degrees, though there have been some timid movements to establish their rights in western societies.
We in orgonomy believe that the prediction of Dr. Reich will come true. It is something which is reflected by historical changes that we see now, and in fact, it must come true if there is any hope for a world free of human psychopathology, and all other ills that stem from it.

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Be part of the progress. Help to preserve and promote Wilhelm Reich’s legacy and his infant trust fund, the best and only hope for peace, health and prosperity of human race. Make financial contributions to promote orgonomy and its institutions. All contributions are tax deductible.

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The Living Body: Wilhelm Reich’s Influence on Contemporary Psychotherapies


In pursuing the development of psychosomatic medicine and an energetic model of health which respected the importance of psyche and soma equally, Wilhelm Reich created the foundation for what ultimately came to be known as the fields of Body Psychotherapy, Somatic Psychology and others.

Building upon the conference we presented in the summer of 2021, Wilhelm Reich and Psychoanalysis, the goal of this conference is to map the field of body-centered therapy today. Speakers from the Americas, Europe and Australia, representing Reich’s Orgone Therapy as well as a variety of schools which are heirs to Reich such as Radix, Bioenergetics, Biodynamic Therapy, Biosynthesis, Gestalt, Navarro, Core Energetics and other modalities based in important ways on his approach, will present and describe their respective theories, training processes and therapeutic methods.

Historians will present an overview of Reich’s evolution from psychoanalysis to character analysis, to the more body-centered character analytic vegetotherapy, and beyond.

By exploring this field through the common denominator, the theories and techniques developed by Wilhelm Reich, we hope to generate interaction and exchanges and highlight the similarities, differences and relationships between traditions.

With so many schools of therapy represented, there are bound to be some differences of opinion about theory and practice. By bringing them together, we hope to give participants a comprehensive overview of the field and build bridges between individuals and groups who have much in common and might benefit from direct, respectful interaction with one another.

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Wilhelm Reich – Founder of Orgone Therapy

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