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Sex economy

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Sex economy (from Latin "sexualis" and Greek "οικονομία" meaning household or house management ("οίκος", house and "νόμος", law)) is a theory about the human biophysical field relating to sexual and psychological health and a therapeutic approach applying this theory to resolving neuroses. In correspondence with its name it could be defined as "the doctrine and study of management and use of the sexual energy". It was developed by the Austrian physician, physicist and psychologist Wilhelm Reich between 1925 and 1938. The sex economic theory is the fundament of subsequently developed therapeutic techniques such as character analysis, vegetotherapy, orgone therapy as well as neo-Reichian therapies such as bioenergetic analysis, core energetics, biosynthesis and biodynamic psychotherapy, all variations within the field of body psychotherapy.

This article is based on an essay written by Norwegian psychoanalyst Ola Raknes and published in the journal International journal of Sex Economy and Orgone Research, volume 3, Number 1, 1944 under the pseudonym Carl Arnold[1], and later in two books in Norwegian[2][3].


[edit] Freud's sexual theory in brief

Wilhelm Reich was a student of Sigmund Freud and Freud's theory of sexuality was seminal in the development of Reich's work with human sexuality. It was Freud's work on hysteria that awoke his interest in sexual theory. His work with so-called psychoneuroses (neuroses that were psychically oriented either in cause or symptoms, or both) led him to conclude that their main etiology was repressed sexual impulses or memories.

Originally Freud used the term sexual in the same way as everyone else in his time: that which deals with sexual behavior, the sexual organs or reproduction. At that time he believed that the cause of psychoneuroses were sexual experiences, mostly during childhood, which the patient later had been able to repress from memory. Freud had experienced how these memories could surface with the use of hypnosis (a technique which he later abandoned), and later with a technique which he called the psychoanalytic method. It was during work with the latter method that Freud discovered child sexuality and the pivotal part it plays in life, both to neurotics and to healthy individuals. The realm of the unconscious mind as Freud discovered it was inundated with sexuality and aggression. Every step of the way sexual impulses, desires and fantasies emerged with obvious childhood references. Freud's initial assertion was that these desires and fantasies stemmed from sexual incidents during childhood, but later, more in-depth examinations of many of the cases showed that such incidents had in fact never occurred – other than imagined, in the patients' desires. These findings led Freud to broaden his definition of the term sexuality to encompass not only sexual activity, but also all forms of impulses, desires and fantasies. And the cause of neuroses then became repression of all manner of sexuality in this extended meaning of the term.

[edit] The polymorphously perverse child sexuality

At this time it appeared obvious to Freud that a second expansion of the term sexual was indeed called for. During the clinical psychoanalytical work a great volume of the surfaced childhood memories would seem to be what adults would classify as perverted or sexually deviant. It appeared that the sexual emotions and impulses and so forth did not only pertain to the sexual organs, but to many other areas of the body as well, notably the mouth, the buttocks including the anal orifice, the urinary system, and the chest, and in particular cases, to any other area of the body such as the bowels, the neck, nose, a foot or a toe. Even activities that from an onlooker's perspective would seem to have nothing to do with sexuality, e.g. fighting, displaying of the buttocks or other body parts, peeping at others when they believe they are unobserved, lighting or watching fires[4]. These things take on a sexual significance for the patient, or feel obscene or indecent – feelings that most people identify as sexual. Additionally these phenomena have in common the fact that they can, in some adults, cause a sexual release, in the male ejaculation, in the female a more or less obvious orgasm. To Freud it became apparent that all of this also should go into the term sexuality.

Further studies by Freud led him to the discovery that the above mentioned deviations or perversions, or some of them, occur in all children, and that they can be traced back to certain developmental stages. Freud argued that the child was polymorphously perverse, that is, from an adult perspective. It was based on these findings that Freud formulated his seminal sexual theory in 1905. In it he demonstrates how the child's sexual drive develops from infancy through to adulthood. This had never been done before. The three most prominent of these stages were the oral, the anal-sadistic and the genital or phallic stages. After the latter, which in most children lasts until between 5 and 6 years of age, a period sets in where sexuality seems to play a lesser role – the so-called latency period. Then in prepuberty sexuality again awakens.

The mentioned deviations, along with wrongful upbringing, form the basis for the neuroses which are generated in the conflict arena between biological drives and the social environment. In simple terms it could be said that the neuroses stem from sexual inhibitions.

[edit] The sexual energy – libido

All these different manifestations of impulse drives were seen by Freud as particulars, however all sharing the same energy source, the libido. This meant that when one of the drives became stronger, the others would become correspondingly weaker.

It was also possible, Freud found out, to divert part of this energy away from sexual objects onto other, non-sexual ones. When these other objects were seen to be benign or at least acceptable from a social perspective, Freud would term this process sublimation, and by naming it thus, Freud took the moral stand that these other objects were of higher value than the original sexual objects. On this issue is were the theory of sex economy diverges from Freud's theories.

Freud's sexual theory also showed a sexual binding between parents and the child, what he called the Oedipus complex, which became enormously contentious. Here it will suffice to point out that Freud argued that this bond was of a unifying nature, integrating sensuous and affectionate components. However, due to sexual prohibitions, intimidations and cries of shame, this binding, or attraction becomes severed in two – one loving stream, and one sensual. The latter soon is (thoroughly) repressed, while the former, at least for a time, is retained in consciousness. However, because of the repression of the sensuous side of sexuality, anger and bitterness causes also these warm feelings to subside so that the only conscious feelings between child and parent that remain are indifference, discontent, even hatred and animosity. Sex economy posits that the ordinary sex-antagonistic upbringing causes a cleaving of the emotional life with, on the one side, love, and on the other, sensual desire – between Eros and Sexus. In its extreme variant this splitting leads many people to become sexually impotent together with the person whom they love, and to be unable to love a partner whom they are sexually attracted to ("I love this girl so much that I won't hurt her by sleeping with her"). This splitting is also the foundation for much theoretical speculation about eroticism and sexuality.

[edit] Reich becomes the driving force

[edit] Biographical overview

After Reich began practicing as a psychoanalyst in Vienna in 1922 (when he obtained his doctor's licence), he soon gathered both popularity and a sound reputation. He soon became head of the training seminary at the psychoanalytic institute there, as well as a leading psychoanalyst with regards to clinical therapy, technique, theory and ability as a teacher. He was at this time also involved in the socialist youth movement in his home town as well as doing counselling work with people who were experiencing sexual problems.

In 1930 he moved to Berlin where he continued his full range of activities. Politically he had a large following of youths within the communist party, although many of the elders feared that with his influence he could sway the youth away from the purely economical class struggle. This led to his expulsion from the party.

Following the national socialist takeover Reich fled north to Scandinavia. After being denied a residence permit both in Denmark and Sweden, he arrived in Oslo, Norway in the fall of 1934 where he entered into collaborations with, among others, professor Harald Schjelderup of the psychology department of the university of Oslo. Then, in 1936 he founded, together with students from Denmark, Norway and Germany, an International Institute for Sex Economy which would later be located in New York.

[edit] Taking the initiative after Freud

Around 1925 Reich's orgasm teaching surfaced. Its origin was certain clinical experiences which at that time gathered general attention in the world of psychoanalysis. These experiences were related to unsuccessful cases. These could be divided into two categories: first the ones where the therapy didn't seem to get anywhere, and secondly, those who appeared to become healthy from the treatment, but who, for no apparent reason, lapsed back to their neuroses or obtained a new one instead. Freud came to the conclusion that what had been released in these patients was a drive that he until then had overlooked, a destructive force or, as it would be called, the death drive, and he posited that this drive was innately part of the drive apparatus of all people, however, it was usually so intricately interwoven with various manifestations of the sexual drive that it would easily go unnoticed, it only contributed in giving the other drives a markedly aggressive tone. However, in certain cases, which Freud attempted to clarify, this admixture dissolved, in some cases leaving the death drive dominating the other drives. This addition to Freud's original sexual theory was to be considere an adjunct and was never to obtain general acceptance, not even among the true believers, for both theoretical and technical reasons [5]

This led Reich to build a new framework based on Freud's original theory and reworking the theory to make it more consistent, more logical. Analyzing all clinical material he could get his hands on, both unsuccessful cases and successful cases, with or without a relapse, he came to a seminal conclusion. He found that those patients who had become healthy shared in having achieved and kept up a satisfactory genital sex life which the unsuccessful and relapsing patients had not. Reich then moved on to establish what were the criteria for a satisfactory sex life and what role it plays overall. Resulting from this research was his orgasm teaching which was first formulated in his 1927 book Die Funktion des Orgasmus (the introduction was dated October 1926). The orgasm teaching is the cornerstone in all of sex economy.

[edit] Establishing the role of genitality

The genital sex life had up until then been the stepchild of psychoanalytical research, at least among adults – the situtation was a little better with regards to the children. The genital stage of child sexual development was a period of sexual development together with other individuals, being different from the other sexual stages in that it usually was the final step and could lead to pregnancy, something sexuality on the other levels and in other shapes cannot. How it otherwise differed from other manifestations of sexuality, apart from its focus on the sexual organs, how it manifested in healthy and sick people, not counting such grave disorders as impotence and frigidity, and what role it played in its own right and compared with other results of the sex drive, had all been investigated to little or no extent at all.

[edit] Orgastic potency

The first issue Reich had to establish was the criteria for an intercourse for it to be labelled satisfactory. He questioned a number of people who appeared to have a satisfactory sex life, and a comparison of their responses showed that a sexual act isn't optimally satisfactory unless it follows a certain living pattern: the act begins with a sexual spurring, which increases, at first slowly, then somewhat faster, during the opening embraces and the first part of coitus; in this stage movements are arbitrary, and one can to some degree, through these movements, control the rise in arousal. When the excitation has reached a certain height, the movements become automatic, excitation increases rapidly, consciousness forgets all else and is subsumed in the blissful surrender, until reaching the climax, at which point a momentary lapse of consciousness occurs. Then the arousal quickly subsides, consciousness returns, one is overtaken by a calm state of joy, a feeling of peace and security which becomes sleep or an impulse to do work or to play. The ability to have this type of sexual experience was found by Reich only among people without neurotic symptoms or inhibitions and he labeled it orgastic potency. He could not find any occurrences of people without neuroses who did not have this ability. In this way orgastic potency became the hallmark indicator of the lack of neurosis and the goal of all of neurosis therapy.

It must be emphasized that it is the above clinical experiences which is the reason why Reich and sex economy puts so much emphasize on orgastic potency. It can be summarized as follows:

  1. All people who themselves have experienced this type of sexual experience agree that it is more fulfilling than all other types
  2. The ability to have this type of sexual experience, called orgastic potency, is limited to people that are free from neuroses
  3. So far, no people are known to be free from neuroses without also having orgastic potency[6]

[edit] The neurotic character

Having established what an adequate, completely satisfying, sexual experience is, Reich went on to survey the various forms of psychic disturbances of the orgastic ability and demonstrated how each type of neurosis has its own type of disturbance or decrease of the orgastic potency. These disturbances were catalogued and elaborated upon in his book "Character Analysis". [7] [8]

[edit] The connection between neuroses and disturbances in genital functioning, decrease of orgastic potency and the question of the source of power for the neuroses

[edit] Actual neuroses

Freud had posited two basic types of neuroses: the actual neurosis and the psychoneurosis. He labeled as actual neuroses those neuroses that seemed to be caused by unsatisfactory sexual life, particularly coitus interruptus, conflicts related to masturbation or sexual abstinence, i.e. involved sexual excitation without adequate release. They passed once the sexual abusus – the causal element – had been removed. Freud's reasoning was here that the sexual maladaption in these cases led to a damming up of "sexual stuff" as he described the bodily cause. Reich would call this a damming up of the sexual energy. When the patient could resume a normal sexual life, this "damming up" ended, and so did the neurosis. Since these neuroses had an actual cause, he labeled them actual neuroses.

[edit] Psychoneuroses

The cause of a psychoneurosis was to be found in the unconscious, repressed impulses, desires and memories, things dating back to the patient's childhood, conflicts that weren't resolved at the time but pushed aside, repressed. With the years Freud came to understand that the difference between the actual neurosis and the psychoneurosis was in no way an absolute one: a more in-depth examination would show that behind every actual neurosis a psychoneurosis was hidden, and on the far side of each psychoneurosis there was a core being an actual neurosis.

[edit] Neurosis and sexuality as opposite phenomena

Reich's departure point was, as mentioned above, the distinction between the two forms of neurosis. He pointed out that the symptoms of an actual neurosis mainly were angst plus several vasomotor symptoms: palpitations or other disturbances of heart functioning, sweating, hot or cold fits, shivering, dizziness, diarrhea, occasionally dry palate or strong salivation. These were in his opinion symptoms caused by a lack of adequate release of the built-up sexual energy, an analogy would be a pressure cooker where the physiology is the pot having to contain a surplus pressure, only in our case this pressure stems from accumulated sexual energy, not evaporated water vapor. This contrast between anxiety on one side and sexual functioning on the other also demonstrated the clear relation between the two poles.

This established contrast and relation also showed itself in the other neuroses in that however they were treated, if one neurotic symptom was given up, angst would initially be present. What this shows is that all the various symptoms work to lessen or bind the anxiety; if the symptom is relinquished, the angst becomes unbound, i.e. it becomes felt. Raknes mentions that, when it became possible to establish how a neurosis started, it was demonstrated that angst was present at the original moment of onset. [9] This connection is what is meant when psychoanalysts posit that behind every psychoneurosis lies an actual neurosis (or as this would also be called, an anxiety neurosis (Norwegian "angstnevrose")) or, in other words, every psychoneurosis has at its core an actual neurosis. And this actual neurosis which comes to the fore when a psychoneurosis is treated comes loose when the patient establishes a satisfactory genital sexual life with orgastic release in the manner which has been described in this article.

[edit] Psychological rooting of sexual functioning

Based on this result and on discussions of his and other people's clinical experiences, a number of new problems surfaced for Reich, which he was the first ever to address systematically. The first was the question of what is the psychological significance of the genital sexual life, and the genital orgasm in particular? Up to that time psychologists, physicians and biologists, not to mention moralists and philosophers, had written and spoken about the sexual life as if its singular function was to sustain and propagate life. The element of arousal and sexual desire wasn't deemed very important, it was mainly a reward, or bait, put up by "nature" to lure people and animals into taking the trouble of having and raising offspring. It was thought that humans who wanted to take life seriously and be something more, something higher and better, than the animals, shouldn't put their luck in satisfying their lower animal urges, but instead in fulfilling their duty, which to some would include bearing and raising children. The facts related to illness and unhappiness following an unfulfilled sexual life were known to exist, to some extent, however these were not matters for earnest scientific study. This arena was left for poets, moralists and theologians to fight over the best they could. It had been a great uproar, equally among physicians and psychologists as among priests and other moralists, when Freud had come out and asserted that it was repressed or mismanaged sexuality that was the cause of neuroses. Freud had indeed stated that not only should the sexual desires be brought into conscious awareness, they should also be satisfied if this could be done harmlessly and without deflecting energy from social and cultural work. If there was something the matter with giving in to the sexual desires, one would either have to condemn these desires or resist them without repression, or one could "sublimate" them, give them a purpose of a non-sexual nature of value to, or at least tolerable to, society. Freud's teachings prescribing condemnation and sublimation alleviated some of the opposition against him and psychoanalysis. This caused moralists and priests, as well as non-psychoanalyst psychologists, to find some value in what Freud was arguing. But then came Reich and upset this idyll with his orgasm teaching. Its basic principle was that if people wanted to stay healthy, that is free from neurotic symptoms and inhibitions, then they would need to have a satisfying sexual life with adequate release of the sexual tensions, and this, to an adult individual, would entail intercourse with complete orgasm; children appeared to obtain adequate discharge by sucking, suckling and free motor functioning, cuddling and caressing, and finally through masturbation which they can be totally absorbed in and which grants them complete discharge. This shows that in addition to providing a means for reproduction, sexuality also provides a mechanism for regulating tensions in the psycho-physical organism, and this in turn means controlling the energy housekeeping. From this follows that neuroses, and this includes inhibitions as well as neurotic symptoms, are effects of disturbances in the organism's energy housekeeping. This is the same energy that psychoanalysts had called libido, which means desire, lust or Joie de vivre (joy of living). From a psychological viewpoint this was a well chosen name since it corresponds with the age-old experience that it is "the desire (or urge) which drives the labor".

[edit] Biological rooting of sexual functioning

Sexual excitability can be references to any sensitive part of our body. This feeling is neurologically associated with the vegetative nervous system (autonomic nervous system). This again divides functionally, and at least partially anatomically, into the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. All functioning that relates to libido is biologically vegetative (autonomic). It has been explained above how desire when it is hampered and doesn't achieve its aim, causes anxiety which in turn can be bound up with or replaced by the various neurotic symptoms. The physiological expression of sexual desire is a strong innervation of vagus (or vagotonia, the vagus nerve is the backbone of the parasympathetic nervous system) and shows as healthy reddening of the skin of the face and the body ("glowing"), smooth skin and warmth without sweating, shiny eyes, increased salivation, heart and pulse calm, relaxing of the sphincter muscles of the bladder and bowel, increased secretion from all sexual glands (gonads), sexual organs become engorged with blood and warm, with erection of erectile tissues. Contrary to this the physiological expression of anxiety is strong innervation of the sympathetic nervous system (sympaticotonia) and this shows as pale, cold or cold sweaty complexion, goosebumps, dry mouth, eyes wide open, dilated pupils, rapid pulse, heart palpitations, tight sphincters of bladder and bowel, sexual organs shrunken and dry, no sexual urge. Feelings of excitement of which the individual isn't consciously aware of containing any sexual character, still have the same physiological expressions and effects, albeit in a less recognizable, less general fashion. This would imply a fundamental identity between sexuality and excitement (joy, delight). This observation is corroborated by a great deal of psychological experiences, particularly apparent in children, but also in many adults being treated psychoanalytically: Children who early on or in a severe manner were blocked from seeking pleasure, also in non-sexual areas, without being given the opportunity for adequate release of their pleasure-seeking urges, feel this as a prohibition against all sorts of pleasure, and if this inner prohibition isn't removed, they will as adults have a reduced capability for seeking pleasures, both sexual and other types, for instance related to work. From clinical psychoanalytic practice it is often noted that adults who learn to know this natural pleasure, e.g. through "free breathing", initially are embarrassed by their feelings, finding them indecent, even sexual, despite the fact that logically there is nothing that can be labeled as indecent in the situation. For all these reasons Reich concluded that sexuality and the pleasure function are fundamentally identical, and that their opposite phenomenon, both physiologically and psychologically, is anxiety (angst). Reich termed this the base difference in vegetative life.

[edit] Interplay of tension and release

Vagotonia, which is the autonomic response of the organism when sexual arousal occurs, is characterized by blood and other bodily fluids flowing towards the body's outer surface. Psychologically this is experienced as awareness which turns its focus outwards, i.e. one gets an urge to do something or to get in contact with other people. When this urge meets resistance, and it almost always does, be it only from gravity or sluggishness, then this stream is dammed up against the surface in several or a few places, a local sympathicotonia increases the inner tension and overcomes the resistance, or, the dammed up energy stream gets an outlet via "purposeless" movements (fidgeting). The heat production from metabolism (including breathing) creates vagotonia anew, and the same process repeats itself. It can from this be said that the normal, freely vegetative business of living consists of a rhythmical alternation and interaction between parasympathetic (vagus) and sympathetic nervous system functioning. However, the even, day-to-day shift between vagus and sympathetic functioning does not expend or give discharge to the entire vegetative energy. With longer or shorter intervals, energy seems to aggregate, which exerts a pressure which in turn demands a release through additional tension discharges both of the vagotonic and sympathicotonic kinds, releases in which the entire psychophysical organism can parttake and focus on. These discharges can on one side be obtained through orgastic sexual acts, and on the other side through work or exertions of force in which one can involve one's entire organism. In the first case vagotonia, pleasure sensation, is dominant; however, also sympathicotonia makes itself felt in the strong feeling of tension and desire for discharge. In the other case the feeling of hard work, of expending one's strength, of tension, i.e. sympathicotonia, are dominant while the vagotonia makes itself felt in the accompanying pleasurable feeling, in the satisfying feeling of collected and well applied force and ability. In both types of experience there is, when they're at their peaks, an element of daring, of taking a risk, of danger, of anxiety, in the midst of the pleasurable sensation. When isolated, this element can become elation mixed with dread, intrepidity, adventurousness, or when the negative feeling dominates, dread of pleasure.

Both these two types of experience always accompany one another, so that to the very extent a person has the ability to exert work or force it also has a corresponding capacity for orgastic sexual experience. This follows logically from the above exposition; the close relationship and intimate interaction between the two sides of the autonomic nervous system dictates that when the parasympathetic functions are free, so must the sympathetic functions also be. This realization has shown to be extremely valuable to clinical therapeutic work. Many patients will contact a therapist complaining of diminished workload capacity or problems related to other activities while maintaining that nothing is wrong with their sexual functioning. On the other hand, others will seek counseling for diminished sexual potency while in their perception nothing is the matter with their work ability. Knowing about the close interconnectedness of these diametrical areas of vegetative functioning greatly assists the therapist in finding where to probe to find aspects of the presented disturbance in areas where the patient wasn't himself or herself aware that there was a problem. This also becomes a litmus test for when therapy can be successfully concluded, establishing full orgastic potency along with full ability to concentrate in work, and perhaps even, to a certain degree, a measure of bravery and daring as indicators. None of the first two will be found consistently to accompany individuals without orgastic potency, and regarding the third, bravery and daring, people without orgastic potency will either be predominantly reckless or inclined towards risky undertakings or on the other side inclined to passivity and being overly cautious. The conclusion then becomes that the function of the genital sexual life is to be the only fully capable, satisfactory regulator of the vegetative, and thus of the psychological energetic tensions. The ability to have full genital sexual experiences, or orgastic potency, is identical with the ability to have maximal and collected work effort, and with the spunk and desire that is required to take on the venture which life's tasks bring on.

[edit] Developing a therapeutic method

Having developed a coherent theory to explain the dynamics of the patients' conditions, uniting the psychological and physiological symptoms and processes, Reich now began to investigate a methodology for therapeutic intervention. The goal of the treatment was understood to be the removal of the inner difficulties that prevented a satisfactory sexual life, that destroy the patients' natural orgastic potency. Having established that a disturbance in the sexual functioning was identical to an upset of the vegetative life functions, the task became to figure out how these functions got upset and became unbalanced. As Reich's starting position was psychotherapy, it was natural for him to begin with the psychological causes. The only thing that had been established by psychotherapy was that the nervous symptoms themselves were not the problem, on the contrary. They were attempts to solve or to get away from the difficulties, usually in the way that gave some satisfaction to certain repressed wishes while at the same time masking these desires beyond recognition. This would usually constitute only a minor relief and much discomfort. The principal gain from this arrangement was that the individual was spared having to experience or acknowledge that which would be deemed sinful or shameful desires. And this is basically the function of all neurotic symptoms and inhibitions.

Freud had asserted that when this conflict within the patient was brought to the surface, to conscious attention, then the symptom would pass. In reality this happened only in a limited share of cases. In most cases a strong resistance showed itself against allowing the unconscious desires to appear and even stronger resistance against acknowledging and experiencing them even if the therapist was able to point them out and explain what they were about. Consequently, the initial effort would have to be to analyze the resistance. Freud had set some guiding principles for how this resistance analysis was to be conducted. The only problem was that hardly any of the therapists were capable of adhering to them, not until Wilhelm Reich entered the field. However, not even the resistance analysis would succeed with anywhere near all the neuroses. The reason was shown to be that the source of the resistance wasn't just conscious and subconscious wishes and affects; a major, and often insurmountable obstacle seemed to be the character of the patient.

Wilhelm Reich was the first person in psychoanalytic circles to bring the problem of the character to public discussion. Much valuable work had already been done, in particular seminal work by Freud, Abraham and Jones, to ascertain the basis of the drives of many of the individual character traits. However, none had collated this information to give a comprehensive presentation of the character as a whole, which character traits are connected, what it is that connects them, what does the full character structure look like, and most importantly, no one had asked the pivotal question of what was the function of the character. Despite having observed that certain character traits appear out of particular drive conditions and in given circumstances, it was as if the psychoanalysts figured that now that a character trait was established, the only thing that could be done was to acknowledge its presence and make the best of the situation. When sometimes a character trait, or sometimes even several, underwent changes during therapy, this was considered chance occurrences. The usual attitude when a property or partial drive was identified, "charakterlich verarbeitet" as it was called, was that nothing more could be done except adjusting to the character trait in question and compensate for it in daily life as best one could.

[edit] Breakthrough in understanding the character

Reich, having established the central role which sexuality, and the orgasm in particular, plays to the economy of living, now set out to chart what roles did the particular characters play to this function. One common property of all characters is to enable the self to protect itself somewhat from embarrassing impressions, keeping them sufficiently at bay to allow time and occasion to react in a purposeful way, not blindly. One property of most beneficial (and even some that aren't so beneficial) reaction sequences is that they tend to form rigid habits that easily become subconscious and thereby prevents the individual from acting in the way which is the optimal in that particular circumstance. When Reich began to compare the different characters based on how they affected the orgasm function, it became apparent that they fell into two large groups: those which allow for orgastic potency and those which do not. He labeled the first group genital characters and the second neurotic characters.

[edit] The genital character

The genital character has a sex life which has attained full bloom in a fashion where all sexual wishes are subordinated the heterosexual wish for intercourse with full surrender, without wanting to torment or be tormented, and without seeing in its partner, consciously or subconsciously, that parent to whom it was bound during childhood. Without very strongly convincing reasons this character will not accept living in celibacy – when it has found a partner to whom it can surrender safely and completely, and receive in the same fashion, it will out of affection remain with this partner for as long as this affection is reciprocated.

[edit] The neurotic character

The neurotic character will receive disturbing impulses from pregenital wishes which are so strong that they get in the way of the full genital orgasm, or, its genital wishes will be so hampered by prohibitions and guilty conscience that either an adult sex life doesn't get established or they have so many inhibitions that a full release in orgasm is precluded. This lack of a complete orgastic release yields a sensation of emptiness and (hugløyse), or what is otherwise called a feeling of inferiority. Raknes comments that this last phenomenon has become so widespread that it used to be generally believed, and to some degree still is, that an unhappy or discontent sensation after intercourse is something that is a natural part of the experience ("post coitum omne animal triste"). When this feeling of inferiority sporadically spurs one to social work, then this work will either be duty-directed or it will strive for power and honor rather than happiness and joy.

Social work will, to the genital character, be a natural result of its yearning for ever continued human contact, and for its healthy sympathy with its fellow human beings in happiness and sorrow. As orgastic potency coincides with or is a part of the ability to fully focus on an object or a task, and every neurosis is accompanied by a disturbance of this ability, it follows that to the genital character life and work is an unfolding and fulfillment of its natural tendencies or its struggle for these objectives. To the neurotic character, on the other hand, work and life will be permeated by struggle to suppress both original and even more subsidiary urges or tendencies. The various forms of neurotic character are equally many ways of suppressing such urges or tendencies that the human being in question is ashamed of or considers to be dangerous.

[edit] Characteranalytic technique

Based on this insight into the role played by the character, Reich began looking around for a method to work on and remodel the character. A technique which eventually was developed was the characteranalytic technique. It builds on two perspectives that are closely related with the psychoanalytic techniques but goes another important step further. While psychoanalysis attempts to make the subconscious conscious by method of free association and by interpreting subconscious wishes and the resistance against those, character analysis on one side engages the character to manifest itself while simultaneously making the analysand (the patient) acknowledge the way he or she acts or speaks, and on the other side the character analyst encourages him or her to not only say whatever comes to mind, but also to do it as long as there is no unreasonable disadvantage in doing so. The subconscious material which is brought to conscious attention in this manner is experienced differently and with a stronger sense of reality than most of what is surfaced though association and interpretation. Applying the technique that had been developed by Reich demonstrated that many characters, in fact most, were made up of several layers, which came to expression and to conscious attention one after the other until the analysand himself or herself felt that he/she had arrived at the behavior, the manner of being, which to him or her was the natural state. Whenever an analysand had come as far as observing that this natural behavior had stabilized, then he or she had in fact also become orgastically potent. This change had of course not come about in a stroke, but little by little, as the sexual aspect of his or her behavior was subjected to the same attention as the person's other sides.

While working on the characteranalytic technique Reich noticed that the patients literally experienced a number of body movements with accompanying feelings which they had not previously known, and which medical science hadn't previously paid much attention, despite the fact that some of it had both been seen and experienced before, however quite intermittently and without anyone making any use of it. Those movements which Reich particularly noticed came spontaneously, often without the analysand noticing them at first; they usually started as jerks or twitches, not unlike what one observes in various forms of tics. They often started very locally but then spread out more and more. Once these grew in number two different kinds could be differentiated: the ones that seemed free, organic, and others that were more sudden, convulsive-like, or mechanical. When the soft, organic movements had reach a certain extent before they were interrupted by the other kind or by tightenings, they usually were accompanied by streaming in the organism – most often they began perhaps on the front of the thighs, in the chest and stomach, or in the face. One condition for both the contiguous free movements and the streaming sensations to occur, was a somewhat free and deep breathing. Based on these experiences Reich began studying the connection between the breathing and the spontaneous body movements and at the same time what they expressed, what purpose they served, those muscular attitudes and those mechanical or automatic movements which halted or interrupted the spontaneous movements and the streamings. And it appeared that the more the spontaneous movements and streamings spread, the freer the breath was, and the fewer occurrences there were of rigid tightenings and mechanical, automatic movements, the clearer was the patient able to understand his or her difficulties and the foundation for them, and the more he or she was able to overcome them, both when it came to work and sexuality and life in general. This was the basis for a new step forward in the therapeutic technique, and led to the development of what Reich called characteranalytic vegetotherapy, which in English has come to be known only as vegetotherapy. [10]

The starting point of vegetotherapy as a special technique for healing neuroses and character problems was the discovery of what Reich has called the orgasm reflex[11] In its most clear-cut manifestation the spontaneous movements that has just been described will become more and more contiguous so that finally the entire body is involved in them. They will then make a characteristic wavelike movement progressing through the entire body, increase in tempo, and ultimately turn into clonic jerking movements like in a free orgasm. Having witnessed this reflex in fully developed form, and at the same time considering the development that had led up to it, it dawned on Reich that all those movements that so far here have been described as spontaneous movements are in fact part of the orgasm reflex, and, when they get the chance to develop, they tend to gather or integrate with one another in this reflex. In the clinical treatment this integrating development of the orgasm reflex merges with the conquering of the character resistance against the free impulses and with the resolution of the muscular tensions in the body. Thus, the approach to the full orgasm reflex can be taken as an indicator of the approach to mental health and freedom from neurosis.

The new element in the therapeutic technique which Reich adopted after this discovery was his particular focus on the spontaneous body movements, and on factors which retarded or disrupted or obstructed these movements from developing. Every human being has such movements in connection with respiration and heart beat. With the heart beat it is difficult to affect this directly by other means than medication, however breathing can be affected also randomly. Another significant difference between these two is that the heart beat seems to be more influenced by other vegetative (autonomous) processes than the cause of them whereas breathing of itself sets off, brakes or brings to a halt many vegetative movements and feelings. Observing the spontaneous breathing of a person when it lies down relaxing its body as much as possible, one will, with a little experience, soon notice fewer or more locations where there are tensions, weaker or stronger, either constantly or in twitches that the individual often isn't himself of herself aware of. Also with some experience one can soon observe that at least many of these tautenings are leakages of an attitude, a bodily or facial expression, that in turn attest of a mood, a whim or an expression of the character, any of which may be conscious, subconscious or semi-conscious.

The aim of the vegetotherapeutic treatment technique is to liberate the spontaneous, vegetative movements. In order to achieve this the patient must consciously experience both the constant and the changing tightenings of the body which hampers spontaneous movements, and the spontaneous movements themselves, when these appear. To put this in other words, the aim is for the patient to experience consciously what goes on in the body, both what he does himself (or she does herself) and that which occurs by itself if left unhindered. The therapist's approach to this is partially straightforward and partially indirect. Directly the therapist may make the patient notice what he or she can feel of his/her body, or make the patient aware that he/she is in fact tensing the neck or eyebrows. Indirectly would be if the therapist for instance point out that the patient hasn't even once in a long while agreed with any of what the therapist has said, not even if all that has been said has been clear as noonday, and by this maybe gets the patient to loosen up the tense neck for a while. Combining the direct with an indirect approach is to first make the patient feel a certain posture or constriction and then let the patient alone find out what this expresses. The patient could also consider what impact this has had on recent behavior. When doing this type of work forgotten or half-forgotten memories surface time and time again, quite frequently with a clear connection to the constriction (tautening) or bodily or facial expression that was just identified. Some tautenings, especially in locations that are difficult to see or access from outside, we become aware of through our dreams. The therapist may from the information provided by the dream make the patient sense and work to resolve such tautenings.

[edit] Energy flow connected with feelings of happiness

For every new item which the patient thusly experiences, a new piece of vegetative movements is liberated. It makes no difference if the newly experienced is recent or historic, very often it is both. When the vegetative movements have attained a certain strength or extent, the patient will notice them too, in part together with streamings in the body and in part as such currents. These flows, currents or streamings are often likened with heat waves, with mild electric currents or with a light sinking feeling or attractive pull with clearly pleasurable characteristics. Patients who have previously had some type of religious experience compare it with these currents ("Stream, stream with grace, bliss, happiness and calm"); others who are used to religious language but who haven't themselves had any personal religious experiences, say that they now understand what intense happiness is, or that they have had a taste of it. Experiencing these currents usually contributes to the patient's improved self-confidence and a new hope to regain health.

From that point in the treatment when the patient is able to experience and go along with the vegetative movements, he or she can cooperate in the treatment in a different way than before, as it is now to a greater and greater degree possible to sense both how he or she limits his or her vegetative movements and why, and in this way be more determined in working to overcome the obstacles, both from the bodily perspective and from the perspective of the character. As this work succeeds the patient will become more and more aware of both which external obstacles and conflicts have contributed to create his or her inhibitions and thereby the neurosis, and which inner and outer difficulties that must be combated in order to regain health and freedom. The immediate experience of these difficulties can from time to time make the patient feel so hopeless and depressed that he or she is unable to see any way out. If such depressions are allowed to become too strong before the patient has learned how to express his or her feelings verbally or in his or her behavior, he or she may quit the therapy without noticeable improvement or in desperation commit suicide. It is in this respect important for the patient to become aware of bottled-up aggression and learns to express it; when the patient has learned this the risk of the therapy being broken off by internal or external influences or of suicide little or none at all. Raknes emphasizes in this context that in all severe neuroses these risks, including the risk of suicide, are present whether or not the individual is being treated. The patient becoming more and more aware of the full extent of his or her problems and how deeply lodged they are, leads the last leg of the therapeutic process to also become the toughest and most difficult, both to the patient and the therapist. This dynamic, by the way, also applies to psychoanalysis and character analysis.

[edit] Results of vegetotherapy

Along with the freeing of the vegetative movements, the patient feels more and more free as well and will even feel to be more alive. His or her ability to fully participate in, to become consumed in, and to allow oneself to let go into whatever project the person is involved, increases gradually, both in relation to work, to social intercourse in general and particularly sexual relations. Both work, social and sexual relations free themselves of most of their appendage related to duty, compulsion, quest for social status, rivalry and feeling of guilt, and turn into natural functions which can be freely and fully surrendered into, each to one's fashion and time. And opposition ceases to strike one down or discourage but instead spurs to more intense effort, more directed approach, anger when called for, or, when the resistance truly is insurmountable, to looking for new ways or new goals. All in all one feels more alive. This, however, is not synonymous with a higher measure of feeling content or more happy, the contrary could sometimes be said to be the case. If the person lives under such conditions that one is unable to keep up one's new inner life, this will feel all the more upsetting and more painful than before. On the other side it takes a lot more before one gives up the effort to improve the bad living conditions, both on behalf of oneself and of others. A vegetatively healthy individual has a greater capacity for contact with others, for empathy with them, so that he or she also suffers when they suffer, amounting to yet another cause for discontent and unhappiness. Thus it is fair to say that the ability to suffer increases in equal measure with the ability for happiness. In retrospect, this is only reasonable as all inhibitions of vegetative life came about as defense against anxiety and suffering.

[edit] Consequenses for human civilization

The individual who is vegetatively free experiences his or her needs, desires and impulses different from and stronger than a vegetatively inhibited person – not counting those particular instances when the dammed-up impulses of the inhibited person suddenly bursts out, so to speak with an unnatural exaggeration (ofse). But because the vegetatively free person has such a nature, he or she will not tolerate other external fetters and limitations than the ones he or she deem reasonable. Such a person will also long to have other free people around him or her and will feel unhappy among conquerors and underachievers, because these people will be incapable of receiving what he or she has to give, or to give in return that which he or she needs to have. In a society which is based to a large degree on inequality and suppression this person will become a revolutionary. This person will demand a social structure which gives room for free individuals, and he or she will demand an upbringing that allows the children to retain unimpeded the natural vegetative freedom with which they were born. It was based on this that Reich outlined the principles for a sex economical science of education and for sex economical politics. Raknes comments that only an outline for this could be given as it would take the actual implementation of sex economic upbringing to figure out the detailed guidelines.

[edit] Self-regulation fundamental feature

The fundamental characteristic of a sex economic upbringing is self-regulation. This implies that everything that is done to and for the child is directed by the child's needs as it knows these to be and as these are demonstrated, and the child is given opportunity to fulfill its needs, to be able to realize its wishes on its own, as soon as it can and to the extent that it can and shows that it wants to – all while reasonably considering the natural demands from the grown-ups and the external circumstances and living conditions. The basis for the demand for self-regulation is the experience made by therapists more or less in every single treatment that the vegetative, and thereby the neurotic, inhibitions almost without exception stem from grown-ups intervening in the natural development and self-expression of the child. Self-regulation must begin as soon as the child is born, so that it already on its first day will decide for itself when, how much and for how long it wants to eat, when and for how long it wants to sleep, and stay awake, and when it wants to empty its bowels or bladder, and when it wants care. It is always going to take some time and some thoughtful consideration on the part of the adults to learn how the child wants these matters to be done, however, allowing this time and consideration one is soon going to find out what the child's natural rhythms are, and having once established this, this rhythm can be counted on and trusted with a lot more assurance than any habit which the child has been taught from external sources. Furthermore, the child's ability for initiative, its push so to speak, grows together with strength and will make it self-assisted and independent as soon as age and its strengths make it possible. On a third account such questions that particularly in our time[12] are so difficult for many parents will be avoided: How much love should be afforded the child? The answer is simple, Raknes explains: as much as the child itself wants, neither more nor less. If it receives less than it wants, it becomes unhappy and gets to distrust both itself and the adults, it gets th exact feeling of inferiority which so many grown-ups nowadays carry around. And if it gets more than it wants, it will be spoiled, unlearn to do things on its own initiative in order to acquire what it wants, and ends up being dissatisfied with everything it gets, not matter how grand it may be. The same also applies to everything which the child is given before it shows an interest in getting it, and this undermines one of the basic needs in order to obtain a happy and successful life: the need to be self-reliant as far as possible and to fully expend all one's strength. And finally, an upbringing in accordance with the principle of self-regulation will give to the parents and care-givers more happiness from the children than any other form of upbringing, because this upbringing gives opportunity and growing-up conditions that will allow a wider and deeper contact between children and adults than what can be attained by other means.

[edit] Natural children

Raknes remarks that at the time when this essay was written, sex economic upbringing had not in reality existed for very long, but he points out that there did in fact exist a few children who had for the most part been brought up among adults who subscribe to the view on child rearing that has been outlined here. Raknes cautions that he cannot in the essay elaborate on how the principle of self-regulation works under the various living areas such as cleanliness and order, play and other social activities with other children and with grown-ups, learning and studies, work and life expression on the whole, nor on the role sexuality plays in the life of children that are allowed an adolescence under these conditions. He does however state that the ones that he is acquainted with among these children are the healthiest, most natural, brightest and most captivating he has known.

[edit] Connecting vegetative sensations and religion

Having above remarked the observation that many people who have had religious experiences or that are used to expressing themselves in religious terminology regularly compare their vegetative sensations with their religious ones, or describe their vegetative sensations using words from their religious vocabulary, the question arises of what role do these sensations have in religious life and in religion on the whole. As the premise for this question Raknes asserts the general consensus among scientists of his day of assuming that these religious experiences form the foundation of all religions. He then comments that this question has only so far been subjected to limited discussion in minor works by Reich, Karl Teschitz and himself, however he will attempt to deliver a tentative exposition, hopefully to be elaborated upon on another occasion.

The religious experience has always been the focal point of the psychology of religion since the inception of that discipline at the end of the 19th century, and Raknes points to his own doctoral work Møtet med det heilage ("encounter with the holy") from 1927. In this work he referred to it as ecstasy noting that William James previously had labeled it the mystical state of consciousness and also demonstrated under what conditions it can and must have caused the origin of religions. Ecstasy in some form is a regular and central component of religious conversion, the latter being the religious phenomenon which has received the most attention from psychologists, and which in addition is of central interest in a particularly large part of Christian religious communities. Raknes comments that this interest is strongest in the English and American religious communities and that this is also where the best research on conversions comes from.

[edit] Religious conversion

Investigation on religious conversion is based equally on testimony from living people and on literary sources, and it demonstrates that in these societies (English and American) at least religious conversion is a phenomenon connected with puberty. (Puberty here has its socio-psychological meaning as the period from sexual maturity and until an adult sex life is established.) This fact makes it simpler to understand the entire conversion process because it prompts the researcher to ask what it is about pubescence that makes youths particularly prone to have these experiences. The study of children and grown-ups from a sex economic perspective using vegetotherapeutic technique supplies the answer. It demonstrates that the infants, before their natural proclivities have been subdued on a substantial scale, in all their movements display the free, soft and gracefully vegetative way which among adults only is located in exceptional cases or after a long treatment. These studies also demonstrate that this soft and healthy spontaneity diminishes and subsequently mostly disappears as the child is forced to hold back its natural impulses and its natural reactions to encroachments by the grown-ups. This decline in vegetative health is particularly evident in the ages four-five-six years old. From the age of five to six years many children have replaced a major portion of their natural feeling of life and happiness with pride in the fact that the grown-ups are satisfied with them, or that they are able to distinguish themselves among their peers. This order of things then go more or less undisturbed for a few years, usually towards the time of puberty. Then the repressed appetite for life and the child's sexuality in particular receive new energy from the sexual maturation. However, since all outlets are more or less shut off, it gets dammed up. And to do that it takes a lot of energy, binding energy – so the energy at disposal to the conscious self gets manifold reduced, resulting in feelings of impotence, inability, inferiority, emptiness and unhappiness. Many feel that life itself is no good, or that they at least are unable to get what makes life worth living. To a large extent this is what constitutes the tribulations of pubescent living. These difficulties do not always coincide with physical maturation, which is the time when the first sex cells mature and get secreted. If we instead consider the period which lasts from sometime before the physical maturation and until the young woman or man has taken up an adult sex life, then it can be concluded that almost everybody in our cultured society have their pubertal difficulties.

It is during this troublesome time, when life feels painful and joyless or empty and desolate, that religion enters with its gospel, its "merry tidings" of another, a new, a better, a richer and happier life for all who will repent (the usual term for spiritual conversion) and start believing. This conversion does lead to, or bring along with it, a new life which is experienced by the converter and the believer as the strongest feeling of reality he or she knows. This experience is by most perceived as something completely new in their lives – only a few are reminded of a time far back in childhood when he or she felt alive in a similar way. Raknes reasons that such reminiscences must have created such Bible verses as "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God belongs to such as these [the little children]". He then asserts that the new life which the religion promises and delivers to its believers is primarily a reawakening, a breakthrough of the spontaneous vegetative life, and the accompanying feeling of being alive which every healthy and uncowed child has, however less aware in the adolescent since the child at first doesn't sense any boundary or contrast. Raknes emphasizes that no scientific proof exists to confirm that this is in fact so, and he is also open to the possibility that what is based on his own experiences and research may appear differently as more experience and research is gathered.

[edit] Implications for politics and social environment

Raknes continues to note that a a psychological theory with perception which has been described of psychological and physical health, of educational theory as well as religion, must also have consequences for the individual's perspective on politics and social conditions. He writes that no defined sex economical politics has been worked out yet, and nor can it be until the conditions in the various cultural nations are such that practical attempts can be made at fulfilling the sex economical principles in any large measure. The sex economic position dictates that the principal objectives for all politics must be to shape society and living conditions such that the freely spontaneous and vegetative life can unfold as freely and as strongly as possible; because this is the best possible housekeeping of the sexual energy (which sex economy identifies as the life energy). In order to achieve this objective every human being must be free to administer its own body and be able to freely follow and fulfill their own wishes, sexual and other, as long as in doing this it doesn't violate corresponding wishes of others. Also, society must deliver the external conditions which allow for this to occur. Furthermore, society must produce a rearing process that respects all the natural desires of the children and give them the opportunity to develop freely the way their internal will wishes, in natural interplay with other equally free children and adults. And finally the working process must be shaped such that each person fully, or at least for the main part, are allowed to do the work they like and in cooperation with the ones they enjoy being with, so that work no longer shuts down or kills the free joy of life, but on the contrary becomes itself an expression of it.

[edit] Social strategy for attaining a free society

Raknes again emphasizes that no one currently can describe what a society must be like in order to fulfill these requirements. Nor can anyone say how we are to reach a society like this. He argues that what must be done today, is that all who can consciously feel the spontaneous life in themselves and who understand the difficult and precarious state in which it currently is enveloped in present-day society, individually and in cooperation with each other obtain knowledge about the organism of society, the way it currently is and the way it operates, and together find out where best to exert their efforts for a new, free and natural organization of society. The only thing that may yet be stated is that work in society must aim at fulfilling the natural needs of people, and that all shaping and remolding of society must start from this position and be constructed and developed by those who are part of it.

[edit] Consequences on biological sciences

The essay then turns to the biological sciences to examine how these will be impacted by a fulfillment of the sex economic agenda. Apart from biology itself Raknes mentions the derived disciplines pathology, physiology and therapy.

Based on his clinical experience on the full orgasm and the part it plays as en equalizer of psychological and vegetative tensions and thus as maintainer of psychophysical health Wilhelm Reich began examining what exactly was the orgasm viewed from a biological and physiological perspective. The thought then occurred to him that the phenomena which in regards to the orgasm are experienced as sexual excitation and tension, and which manifest physiologically as vagotonia with blood and fluids flowing towards the body surface, the sexual organs in particular, these phenomena in physical terms are described by a mechanical tension which leads to an electrical charging, which when it has reached a certain height turns into a discharge and mechanical relaxation. Using an oscillograph he determined that during sexual excitation such an increase takes place in the erogenous locations where he had expected based on the mentioned hypothesis: on the other side he found a decrease in the electrical charge in these locations when the test subject experienced anxiety and displeasure. Raknes then reminds the reader that sexual excitation and desire are connected with prevailing vagotonia (parasympathicotonia) whereas anxiety and displeasure are connected with prevailing sympathicotonia, and furthermore that vagotonia means flow towards the body surface, expansion, surface tension, whereas sympathicotonia means a flow inwards, contraction and decreased surface tension. A rhythmical alternation between flowing outward and flowing inward can be found among all manifest life, from the rarest single-celled being to the highest-standing organism, with the only difference being that whereas this rhythmic pulsation among higher organisms is related to an autonomous nervous system with paired, opposing parasympathetic (vagus) and sympathetic functions, this same rhythm in lowlier organisms is related to the effect of certain chemical substances. These substances fall into two categories, one with parasympathetic effect, the other with sympathetic effect. In the first category belong potassium, choline and lecithin, in the second calcium, adrenalin and cholesterol.

[edit] A formula for life

In view of all this and also a great number of other related pieces of information Reich reached the formula which has been established for the orgasm:

tension — charging — discharging — easing of tension

to take on a new and much more comprehensive meaning. Because the pulse or rhythmical movements which is expressed in this formula, can be found in everyhing living, Reich asked himself if it wasn't actually the formula for the living function itself that he had found. He immediately set out to find experiments which could answer this question. The first ones that were successful, Raknes states, were what he called the bion experiments. The starting point of these experiments is the idea that if the orgasm formula is also the formula for the activity of living, then life must appear in, and spring from, lifeless matter if one mixes materials with the same chemical composition as that of living matter, under such conditions that a rhythmical alternation can occur between mechanical tension — electrical charging — electrical discharging — mechanical relaxation, like the formula requires. For this purpose Reich mixed various sterilized materials, in part organical, under conditions such as have been described. Raknes asserts that what was demonstrated was that in and out of some of these mixtures life appeared. Under the microscope one could see the same types of movements as in single celled organisms and with parts of the mixture organizing into cells with a nucleus and with protoplasm, and when these were transferred onto sterilized nutritional broth of the kind which is commonly used for culture of bacteria, they multiplied and metabolized more and more of the broth into living matter. The French associate professor Roger du Teil had conceived a system of air-tight tubes for performing the sterilizing and mixing safe from contamination from the air or the instruments, making infection an impossibility, however the results remained the same. These bion experiments where subjected to several attacks in the Norwegian printed press, especially in the spring and summer of 1938. Partly these attacks focused on a far too vague language and an insufficiently worked through exposition on Reich's part in his book about the bions, however, for the most part, Raknes attests, they built on a lack of knowledge about the experiments: not one single person among the critics had acquainted himself with Reich's experimental technique or had himself performed a single one of the experiments. One scientist who was asked to acquaint himself sufficiently with Reich's experiments so that he could make up his own opinion about them declined stating, "if I were to become convinced that Reich was right, I would not have the courage to stand by this publicly, seeing the revolution it would cause within science." Raknes then makes the disclaimer himself that his limited knowledge of biological and bacteriological working methods only allows him a lay person's conviction based on his acquaintance with Reich and his writings and on what he has seen of Reich's experiments.

Raknes goes on to provide a brief overview of Reich's subsequent ideas and experiments. With regards to the sterilized remnants of lifeless organisms which Reich used for his bion experiments, it was observed that the living organisms which were created during the experiments were of quite different kinds than the ones from whom the sterilized material had been taken. This showed that an organism could die and subsequently provide substance to a new kind of spontaneous life. Reich connected this with a thought loosely put forward by various pathologists in the past: that the living disease stuff in some diseases, like in tuberculosis and cancer, could have come into existence through spontaneous regeneration (generatio spontanea) in dead and decayed organic tissue. Reich felt that if this was the case, then one would find in for instance cancerous tissue, small living organisms of similar size and organizational structure as the bions which he had discovered. He began examining such tissue using the most powerful microscopes he could obtain, and the examination showed him correct: he found small living organisms that had not previously been discovered, and he had them cultivated in the same kinds of cultures as the bions. Furthermore he attempted to mix the newly discovered bacteria with bions, and it was demonstrated that some of the bions were more vigorous than the bacteria which they eventually ate. Raknes writing this around 1944, explains that Reich since the fall of 1939 (when he moved from Norway to the United States) has worked on an extension of these experiments in part cooperating with American cancer researchers, and based on what he has heard Raknes expresses belief that "important results both to cancer research and for cancer therapy" will emerge.

During his bion experiments Reich had happened to notice various phenomena that he could only explain as the results of some unknown radiation from the bions. Using a static electroscope he could demonstrate that some bions acted upon a piece of rubber in approximately the same fashion as frictional electricity: the rubber pieces also yielded the same deflection when placed in the rays of the sun or when placed on the stomach or genitals of individuals with vegetative agility, but they showed little or no deflection when placed on individuals who were vegetatively stiff. Following this it was concluded that people with a free vegetative life radiate more energy, not just figuratively or psychologically – this has long since been established – but literally and physically. Raknes ponders that it would still be too early to express what this could mean for our perspective on and application of the vegetative energy, however, he mentions that further experiments on this energy are being conducted in various countries.

[edit] Epistemological discussion

The essay ends with a discussion of the epistemological background of sex economy noting that all profound or far-reaching psychological or philosophical theories are founded on a certain definite way of perceiving the world. Raknes attempts to formulate the epistemological backdrop of sex economy this way: "a conscious experience of one's own body as a living unity and wholeness, and of the bodily and the psychological as two aspects, or expressions, of the same." Any person who does not himself of herself experience this thusly will find it difficult to understand or hold on to the coherent relationships of the sex economic theories. To children this way of perceiving seems matter of fact and natural, however, before it comes to full conscious attention, it gets repressed in the customary rearing mill. This mill, or "grinding machine", has the precise task, partly intentionally and partly unintentionally, of crushing the "rebellious", the "disobedient", the "insubordinate", the "indecent", the "immoral" child – deliver the will of the child into the pockets of the grown-ups. This is attained by destroying the child's natural sense of bodily and psychological unity and wholeness. The child is threatened, admonished, suggestively manipulated into perceiving some areas of the body and their functions "ugly" and "shameful" and to regard some of its thoughts and desires as "bad" or "evil" as opposed to others that are "nice", "good", "virtuous". If this upbringing is successful, the child loses its sense of inner psychological and physical unity, coherence and strength and becomes instead insecure, (kløyvt), shut off, it gets engrossed with doubt, scruples, (førehandsangest) and regrets, it feels powerless and helpless, and becomes an obedient tool in the hands of anyone who wishes to exploit it, for their objectives.

The primary objective of a sex economic politics is to bring an end to this destruction and create conditions where children and grown-ups can live and experience life in a free, healthy and natural way.

[edit] End notes

  1. Raknes lived at the time of publishing in nazi occupied Norway, and any scientific or political work connected with Wilhelm Reich was anathema to the nazis, hence the need to protect Raknes' identity
  2. Raknes, Ola [1949]. "Seksualøkonomi – ein psykologisk teori om det levande", Fri Vokster (in nynorsk). Oslo: Tanum, pp. 41–70. 
  3. Raknes, Ola [1975]. "Seksualøkonomi – ein psykologisk teori om det levande", in Faleide, Asbjørn; Grønseth, Rolf, and Grønseth, Erik: Det levande i muskelpanseret (in nynorsk). Oslo—Bergen—Tromsø: Universitetsforlaget, pp. 41–70. ISBN 82-00-02347-8. 
  4. Examples taken from the practice of Dr. Ola Raknes, mentioned in his essay "Seksualøkonomi – ein psykologisk teori om det levande", Oslo (1945)
  5. "How this reads currently within the International Psychoanalytic Community, whether there is a majority in favor of or against the death drive theory, I cannot tell." Raknes, 1945
  6. stated in 1945
  7. Reich, Wilhelm [1945] (1976). Character analysis, transl. Theodore P. Wolfe, Third, London: Vision Press Limited. ISBN 0854780548. 
  8. Reich, Wilhelm [1933] (1972). Character analysis, transl. Vincent R. Carfagno, Third enlarged, New York: The Noonday Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0374509808. 
  9. Raknes, Ola (1975). "Seksualøkonomi – ein psykologisk teori om det levande", in Faleide, Asbjørn; Grønseth, Rolf; Urdal, Bjørn: Det levande i muskelpanseret (in Norwegian høgnorsk). Oslo: Scandinavian University Books, 50. ISBN 8200023478. “"Og når vi kan finna ut korleis ein nevrose vart til, så syner det seg støtt at han vart innleidd med angest."” 
  10. Not counting for possible later developments in vegetotherapy it must be understood that it is always underpinned by character analysis.
  11. Reich, Wilhelm [1937]. Orgasmusreflex, Muskelhaltung und Körperausdruck. 
  12. written in 1944

[edit] Further reading

  • Die Funktion des Orgasmus (1927)
  • Der Einbruch der Sexualmoral (1931 and 1935)
  • Der sexuelle Kampf de Jugend (1932)
  • Characteranalyse (1933)
  • De Massenpsychologie des Faschismus (1933)
  • Psychischer Kontakt und vegetative Strömung (1935)
  • Die Sexualität im Kulturkampf (1936)
  • Experimentelle Ergebnisse über die elektrische Funktion von Sexualität und Angst (1937)
  • Orgasmusreflex, Muskelhaltung und Körperausdruck (1937)
  • Die Bione (1938)

Further elaborations on sex economic theory as well as clinical therapy can be found in these journals:

  • Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse up until 1932
  • Zeitschrift für politische Psychologie und Sexualökonomie from 1934 to 1938
  • International journal of Sex Economy and Orgone Research from 1942 to 1945
  • Annals of the Orgone Institute (1947)