Home Concepts Managing Stress & Challenges The Shattered Tin Man Midst the Shock and Awe in Mid-21st Century Societies I: Shattering and Shock

The Shattered Tin Man Midst the Shock and Awe in Mid-21st Century Societies I: Shattering and Shock

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Wilhelm Reich was to embrace and extend the integration of therapy, politics and sex throughout his remaining life. Along with his wife, Reich spent time in the Soviet Union. Beginning with this trip in 1929, Reich was to write extensively from a communist perspective during the 1930s. Soviet leaders were not particularly enamored with Reich and were relieved when he left their country. They were particularly relieved when Reich began to blend his critique of modern society with a strong statement about the need to liberate sexual practices. He emphasized “orgastic potency,” wrote about “The Function of the Orgasm,” and acted upon his proclivities by having affairs with his female patients and moving through several marriages.

With all of this came controversy from many quarters – psychological, biological and political. As Russell Jacoby (1983, p. 83) has noted: “Reich was the Job of the psychoanalytic movement, assaulted from every direction.” While Albert Einstein was to meet with Reich and show interest in orgone energy, the rest of the professional school was to scoff at Reich’s perspectives and practices. Midst this controversy, Reich was to move many times (often against his will) and eventually ended up (briefly) on the New School faculty in New York City.

Reich’s life began to shatter at this point. Some of those who were close to his, suggested that he was losing his cognitive capacity by the early 1930s. Other said he was beginning to go mad. If nothing else, Wilhelm Reich was becoming isolated.  “Almost simultaneously,” notes Jacoby (1983, pp. 83-84), “he was expelled from both the Communist party and – an especially grievous blow—form the International Psychoanalytic Association. . . . If Reich lost his mental equilibrium, he had sufficient cause.”

Yet another shattering was attributable to law enforcement. Reich was arrested by the FBI soon after the start of World War II for his political views and the potential “subversive” influence of his orgone project.  Though his seminal work on character armor (Reich, 1980) was published for the first time in English during the late 1940s—and brought him critical support—the focus of his own life was far away from the character armor studies of the 1920s in Vienna.  Reich not only began to build “orgone accumulators” at his new home in Maine, but also was to invent the cloudbuster (to deal with another source of energy along with the orgone). He complimented these cutting-edge technologies with belief that our planet was under attack (via “energy alphas”) from UFOs.  He was a long way away from Kansas (for him Vienna) and there was certainly not the fantasy world of Oz to protect Wilhelm Reich.

The FBI continued to investigate his practices. He called out the HIGS” (hoodlums in government). His orgone accumulators were destroyed and banned. Six tons of his books were burned in New York City and he was eventually arrested and sent to prison on March 12, 1957. Deeply depressed and perhaps psychotic,

Wilhelm Reich died in prison on November 3, 1957. Many books, films and even songs have been written about Reich’s life and work. Yet, one can’t help but conclude that he was a shattered man by the end of his life. The world in which he lived and worked after World War II was never aligned with his own head and heart. He never could have been successful in treating the Tin Man or even himself during the second half of the 20th Century – even with the help of an orgone accumulator. He failed in both the world of liberal warrior and Musk-eteer huckster.

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