Wilhelm Reich is known as the grandfather of somatic (body mind spirit) psychoanalysis, was an Austrian psychiatrist trained by Sigmund Freud in Vienna. In 1922, Reich established a private practice in psychoanalysis as part of Freud’s Polyanalytic Clinic, where he researched the social causes of neuroses. Individual neurotic symptoms comprised the focus of early psychoanalysis.
Reich came to believe, however, that a person’s entire character or personality (body mind spirit in unity) could be examined and treated. Reich’s first book, Character Analysis, outlined his theory, called “ego psychology,” and started a small revolution in psychoanalysis. Reich also discussed what he called “body armoring”: the theory that unreleased emotions, especially those related to sexual energy, actually produced “armor,” or blocks in the muscles and organs, and became stored in seven parts of the body—eyes, jaws, neck, chest, diaphragm, belly and pelvis—preventing the release of energy.
Reich believed that orgasm as part of a healthy, mutually satisfying sex life was one way to break through the body armor—a seemingly simple solution that initiated a great deal of controversy among his peers. During the 1930s Reich also claimed to have found the physical energy orgone (actually spiritual energy), which he said was contained in the atmosphere and in all living matter.
The Nazis banned Reich’s second book, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, in 1933. German newspapers branded him a Communist Jew who advocated the dangerous idea of “free love;” fearful for his life, Reich emigrated to the United States to continue his orgone research.
Unfortunately, Reich did not escape harassment in America. In 1947, following a series of articles about orgone in The New Republic and Harper’s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation into Reich's claims about orgone therapy, and won an injunction against its promotion as a medical treatment.
Charged with contempt of court for violating the injunction, Reich conducted his own defense, which involved sending the judge all his books to read. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. In August 1956, several tons of his publications were burned by the FDA. He died of heart failure in jail just over a year later, one day before his parole hearing.
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