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Wilhelm Reich

Wilhelm Reich

“The core of life’s happiness is sexual happiness.. Love, work and knowledge are the well-springs of our life. They should also govern it’

The Austrian American Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) was a scientist who disturbed both the left and the right, the religious moral and traditional Freudian psychoanalysis. In Reich’s work Psychology is inevitably political. This view was adopted by Soma in researching Reich, who became the main theoretical reference to our work.

He researched a wide range of fields, including Psychology, Biology and politics. Drawing on Freud’s discovery of the unconscious he built an exceptional body of work, initially following the tenets of Freudian psychoanalysis and later becoming harshly critical of them.

For Reich, neurosis is rooted in the physical, sexual, economic, and social conditions of the patient and through binding the unconscious to the body he pointed to a new approach to clinical psychology – therapy as a pedagogical practice, as a libertarian process of self-awareness mediated by the body and its reactions, movements, postures and behavior.

Roberto Freire found in Wilhelm Reich the missing political and ideological components of traditional psychoanalysis. Reich was one of the first members of the then recently founded Psychoanalytical Society and was also a militant of the Communist Party. He was expelled from the Party because of his revolutionary ideas, but not before creating a pioneering work in sexual education (Sexpol), which aimed at educating the German proletariat through debates and discussions.

Reich diverged from Freud as to the roots of neurosis. He argued that rather than being immanent and anthropological, emotional problems and difficulties stem from sexual repression. The family and religious moral generate a conflict between the biological drive, the desire as guiding compass, and the social milieu, the judgment as a disciplinarian tool. The fear of being condemned and rejected, disguised in the subtleties of the games and affective blackmail of the bourgeois family, leads to the strengthening of a collective unconscious, with its norms, laws and regulations, which in turn exerts control over individuality and behavior.

Another of Reich’s contributions was to emphasize the role of the body/mind indissociable relationship on the unconscious. He demonstrated how repression acts upon body postures and movements, resulting in a ´neuro-muscular character armor’, as he named it. This process affects behavior through neurovegetative dysfunctions, bodily and emotional disturbances which are present whenever a conflict between one’s individuality and the others’ arises in a social situation.

For Reich, once neurosis is acquired it manifests itself in submissive and authoritarian behavior, which reproduces the mechanisms which allow the perpetuation of a power system over individuality. This subtle, pervasive, domineering power system standardizes the mediocrity of human bondage and blocks the rich potential of human diversity

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