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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As Jews and as advocates of cutting-edge perspectives and practices, Reich and Feldenkrais were often outsiders in their chosen profession and outliers regarding the treatment procedures they were advocating and teaching. Deeply embedded in their innovative work was a shared interest in many different fields of inquiry. They were both Interdisciplinarians and brought ideas from other cultures and many different sciences to bear on their own treatment methods.

Along with their more cerebral interests, it should also be noted that both Reich and Feldenkrais loved machinery. For Reich, this love ended up in his construction of various contraptions that accumulated psychic energy. Feldenkrais’s love was somewhat more mundane and grounded in his engineering background. He was interested in the machinery of the human body (as well as machinery that contributed to the defense of countries where he resided).

Finally, there were important similarities that resided in the social/political environment in which both Reich and Feldenkrais operated. They were both mixed up in political and warfare matters. Reich spent time in Russia during the 1930s and was strongly influenced by the words offered by the Communist leaders and by the “good” things he witnessed in this communist (and authoritarian) society. Conversely, Feldenkrais seems to have been operating more as an engineer and patriot than as someone who was exploring revolutionary ideas about the way in which a country should be governed. He was contributing to the war effort in Britain and to the defense of Israel.

Reich’s beliefs regarding Communism got him in trouble when he migrated to the United States. His attention to the verbiage of Communist leaders (such as Stalin) also seems to have been misaligned with his disdain for words (in psychotherapy). When working with patients Reich was more likely to focus on what the patient’s body was telling him than what was coming out of our mouth—yet he listened to the word of Stalin rather than to the message being sent from Stalin’s arrogant physical stance or his actions. We will see that this misalignment regarding words and body also seems to be showing up in Reich’s actual therapy sessions.

Feldenkrais found a much less rocky road on which to travel while living in Europe and Palestine/Israel. This did not mean that Feldenkrais was immune to utopian thought or experiences. Before Reich was spending time in Russia, witnessing the outcomes of the 1918 revolution, Feldenkrais was in Palestine during the actual time of this revolution (1918). He witnessed (and may have participated in) the remarkable societal invention known as the kibbutz. This collaborative farming enterprise had been initiated in Palestine only a few years earlier.

For Feldenkrais, cooperation and shared governance was being engaged in a rural setting where people worked together on the land. Feldenkrais was himself not afraid to get his hands dirty and his body moving as a laborer In Palestine. The utopian vision of cooperative labor to be realized in the kibbutz was quite different from the utopian vision of collectivity that was promulgated (and distorted) by Joseph Stalin. While Stalin was declaring his utopian vision from a balcony in Moscow, the kibbutznik were enacting their utopia in the earth of Palestine.

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