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Elsworth F. Baker- Wilhelm Reich

Elsworth F. Baker- Wilhelm Reich

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Wilhelm Reich
Elsworth F. Baker.
 Reprinted from the Journal of Orgonomy Volume 1, 1968The American College of OrgonomyFull scale biographies and critiques will someday be written about Wilhelm Reich.He led a full life and one whose importance will only gradually dawn on people ofthe world. He had three marriages and three children, lived in six countries, andaccumulated an unequalled knowledge and understanding of living and naturalfunctions. He became proficient in, and increased the knowledge of, importantfields of human endeavor, including psychology, sociology, religion, chemistry,agriculture, meteorology, astronomy, engineering, painting, sculpture, and music,and was a noted author. In his last years, he studied law. Besides this, heoriginated and developed a new science, orgonomy, the science of the functionallaws of cosmic energy, and a new way of thinking which he called"functionalism." The guiding principle of functionalism is the identity of variationsin their common functioning principle. He left over one hundred thousand pagesof manuscript, most of which has not yet been published, although about twentybooks and over one hundred articles have been. Here I wish to give only athumbnail sketch of his life and work, with but a few excerpts from each.Wilhelm Reich was born in the easternmost part of the Austro-Hungarian Empirein the German Ukraine on March 24, 1897. His parents were well-to-do farmerswho had about one thousand acres of land. His early years were spent on thefarm with a private tutor, and very early he became interested in, and familiarwith, the life process of both plants and animals and especially the reproductionof life. He had many collections of insects which he studied under the direction ofhis tutor. His mother died when he was eleven, and there seems little doubt thather death to a great extent influenced his future thinking. His father died when hewas seventeen, and he ran the farm for a year, until it was destroyed by theRussians in 1915. This without interrupting his school work. He then joined theAustrian Army and served as a lieutenant at the Italian front until the end of thewar. He had a brother two years younger who died of tuberculosis at the age oftwenty-two following World War I.Returning from the war in 1918, he began to study medicine at the University ofVienna and supported himself by tutoring other students. During this time, heorganized a seminar on sexology. He soon became interested in Freud andpsychoanalysis, and, after a short training analysis by Paul Ferdern, he becamea practicing analyst and a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, twoyears before his graduation in medicine in 1922.
 
 Reich's brilliance as an analyst and author of numerous important articles onpsychoanalysis caused Freud to select him as a first assistant physician whenFreud organized the Psychoanalytic-Polyclinic in Vienna in 1922. During theseyears, Reich married and subsequently had two daughters.In 1924, he was appointed to the teaching staff of the Psychoanalytic Instituteand conducted seminars both there and at the clinic. He set about particularly tostudy the cause of psychoanalytic failures. He moved down from behind thecouch to sit beside the patient and look at him and allow the patient to see him.He thus made contact with the individual behind the neurosis he was treating. Herepeatedly came up against resistances of the patient. Resistance was not new,but handling it was not well understood; especially latent resistance, which wasfrequently not even recognized. Previously, the transference had been used toovercome resistance and was thus all-important. Reich attacked the resistancedirectly by pointing out that the patient was resistant and how he was showing it.That is, he described the attitudes of the patient, and he handled each newresistance as it appeared. Co-workers argued against such tactics, but Reichkept on and found that, as resistances were dissolved, painful material at the rootof the neurosis spontaneously began to appear in logical order until basicconflicts were met. When these resistances were overcome, the patient showeda great change both in his attitudes and his functioning, and eventually wascapable of true positive transference. He thus demonstrated that the formerpositive transference, was actually a latent resistance designed to avoid painfulmaterial. Reich finally concluded that there was no such thing as real positivetransference early in therapy. When resistances were analyzed, the characterbegan to change, showing that not only were symptoms evidence of neurosis butthat the character itself was neurotic. This was a new concept of characterneurosis, and Reich called this method character analysis. By this means, hesolved the problems of masochism and proved that the idea of the death instinctwas a fallacy. It was not that the masochist did not want to get well because of abiological death instinct, but, rather, that his tolerance of expansion andmovement interfered.A study of patients cured and not cured, regardless of the extent of the analysis,revealed consistently that the former had developed a satisfactory sexual life,while the later had not. This brought into focus the need for regulating theorganism's energy. In order to cure the patient, libido stasis had to be overcome.Sexual activity in itself did not guarantee this, but, rather, gratification in thesexual act. Reich called this capacity for gratification "orgastic potency."Previously, sexual problems were considered only symptoms and not the core ofthe neurosis, and erective potency was believed to be evidence of adequatesexual functioning. Some psychiatrists still insist there are neurotics with normalsexual lives. Establishment of orgastic potency, however, brought about very
 
definite changes in the individual which are not properly recognized orunderstood by most psychiatrists, even today. The recognition of orgasticpotency was a crucial finding. Such potency signifies ability to discharge all theexcess energy and thus maintain a stabilized energy level in the organism. Thisprocess of energy metabolism takes place in a four-beat rhythm of tension,charge, discharge, and relaxation, which Reich called "the orgasm formula." Thisconfronts one immediately with another major factor: the libido must be morethan a psychic concept. It must be a real energy. Since neuroses exist only onrepressed excess energy or stasis, a person who develops truly adequate sexualrelease cannot maintain a neurosis. Moreover, he presents certain basicfeatures. His attitudes toward society change. Many social mores becomeincomprehensible. For example, living with a mate one does not love, merelybecause the law says you are married; the insistence on faithfulness out of duty.He has morals, true, but they are concerned with different values: he desires sexonly with one whom he loves; promiscuity is uninteresting; pornography isdistasteful; tolerance is felt toward perversion and intolerance toward theunbending attitude of society. He becomes self-regulating.Furthermore, certain other changes occur. His face becomes relaxed andexpressive. His body loses its stiffness and appears more alive. He becomesable to give freely and react spontaneously to situations. What has made thischange? His body becomes relaxed where, formerly, it remained rigid throughmuscular contraction as a defense against feeling and giving. The neurosis hadbeen anchored in this rigidity, this armor which produced and maintained thecharacter, whose dissolution produces the orgasm reflex, the ability of theorganism to yield to its functioning. With this finding came the understanding ofcharacter.Thus Reich made three major discoveries which opened a vast opportunity forunderstanding human functioning and whose value cannot be overestimated: thereality of the libido (it is a flow of energy), the function of the orgasm (it regulatesthe flow of energy), and the muscular armor (it prevents regulation of energy).The distinction between a satisfactory sexual life and an unsatisfactory sexual lifeand their separate effects on the organism required serious study. What was thedifference between satisfaction and mere sexual expression, that the organismcould remain healthy even though analytically a patient's therapy had not beencompleted, while those with thorough analysis remained untouched where theyhad not accomplished satisfaction in sex? Somehow, this satisfaction drained offthe neurosis, so ideas or complexes could no longer be considered the importantfactor. One was dealing with physiology, not just concepts; nor was it just amatter of expression of the sexual substance, since ejaculation occurred inunsatisfactory experiences. The determining factor in satisfaction was theexperiencing of pleasure in the act.

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