Home Concepts Managing Stress & Challenges Oiling the Tin Man’s Armor and Healing His Heart II: Reich’s and Feldenkrais’s Preparation for Treatment

Oiling the Tin Man’s Armor and Healing His Heart II: Reich’s and Feldenkrais’s Preparation for Treatment

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Two Primary Members of the Treatment Team

Enter our treatment team. It is headed by Wilhelm Reich and Moise Feldenkrais, the two men we recruited for our diagnostic team. They are fully qualified to help oil the armor of mid-21st Century tin men and women–and they can help to heal the hearts of these troubled men and women. I provide a more complete introduction of these two men in this second essay.

Wilhelm Reich

Wilhelm Reich was born to Jewish parents in Austria on March 24,1897. He received his medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1922 and became deputy director of Sigmund Freud’s outpatient clinic. Reich soon became one of Freud’s favorites and at one point was considered to be the successor to Freud in the burgeoning psychoanalytic field.

However, he eventually fell out of favor with Freud (as did Jung, Adler and many other aspirants), in large part because he was moving beyond the prescribed boundaries of traditional Freudian practice. While Reich aligned with Freud regarding the importance of sexuality, he was developing his own unorthodox theories and practices regarding the nature of sexual energy. This departure from the “normal” views regarding sex would later lead to major controversy and even legal problems for Reich.

Perhaps of equal importance was Reich’s shift to a radical political posture. Along with many other young analysts, Reich sought to blend the psychological theories of Freud with the social/political theories of Karl Marx (this effort centered on what became known as the Frankfort School). He even spent time in Russia with his wife in 1929, during the time when the Soviet Revolution had successfully deposed the Czar and Joseph Stalin was in full control of the country.

As a young clinician in the 1920s, Wilhelm Reich expanded psychoanalytic resistance into an inclusive technique called character analysis. According to Reich, character attitudes were developed by an individual to block against emotional excitations. These attitudes (and their physical manifestation) became the object of treatment. These encrusted attitudes functioned as an “armor,” which Reich later found to exist simultaneously in chronic muscular spasms. Reich published a highly influential book in 1933 regarding the development and treatment of human character disorders.

This classic work was titled Character Analysis (Reich, 1972). This book and subsequent publications by Reich became highly influential in the psychoanalytic community – even though he personally remained an outcast in the formal psychoanalytic community.  Through his presentation on character armor, Reich was able to bring mind and body together. Character analysis opened the way to a biophysical approach to physical and mental disease and the treatment of these ailments.

With a life that was often in turmoil (multiple marriages, affairs with patients, and failed clinical and teaching appointments), Reich eventually migrated to the United States in 1939. He established an institute focusing on sexual energy (based on his theory of “orgone energy”).  As in the case of character armor, this theory regarding biological energy (with a sexual focus) was never given much formal support. However, it strongly influenced the work of other members of the medical and mental health profession—especially Alexander Lowen (1994) (the architect of “bioenergetics”). Reich’s theory even received the attention of Albert Einstein!

Wilhelm Reich’s life ended tragically. He was hounded legally for his political views and for marketing strange (unproven) electrical gadgets (including orgone accumulators). He ended up in a Federal Penitentiary. Reich was also considered to be mentally ill by many people (including those in the press) given his “bizarre” interest in UFOs and various psychic thought processes. Wilhelm Reich died in prison on November 3, 1957.

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