This blog is part of a series; its original title was Heilkunst Basics : University, 3rd Year (From Psychoanalysis to Character Analysis)
Dr. Hahnemann railed against the abstract, speculative, and ultimately dangerous nature with which the doctors of his time attempted to treat disease, and if born in a different era, he probably could have been a good friend of Dr. Reich, who was also an extremely meticulous and careful scientific observer.
This same issue played out between Dr. Reich, and Dr. Freud who was his teacher — although Freud’s initial insights into the human energy system in general, and sexuality in particular were revolutionary, he ended up drifting into the abstract and speculative realm as he further developed his system. Dr. Reich refused to go along with this, and instead dug down deeply into the implications of Freud’s original insights.
Where Freud founded the method of ‘Psychoanalysis’, Reich, instead, took this process in a more grounded and curative direction, into what he called ‘Character Analysis’. The latter proved to have much more depth, and ultimately was able to effect an actual change in the state of health of the patient, whereas the Psychoanalytic approach may have produced superficial gains, at best.
The key insight that began Reich’s investigation for a better method was in realizing that the Psychoanalytic method was doomed to recycle the same inner content of the patient, and stay trapped within the confines of the patient’s deeper and unconscious defense mechanism. Think, for example, of Woody Allen joking about being in Psychoanalysis for 2 or more decades. Rather than focusing on what the patient could recall into their conscious mind, Reich realized that it was the unconscious mind which held the key to maintaining the patient’s illness. The unconscious mind was all too happy to let the contents of the conscious mind take part in a futile cat-and-mouse game with the therapist.
The insight that Reich moved forward on, was that it wasn’t the inner psychological content of the patient that needed to be “analyzed” (ie what is accessible to the conscious mind in “talk therapy”), but rather it was the outer, virtually “invisible” (ie unconscious) defense mechanism which permeated the entire character of the patient. Thus, Reich’s motto at this phase of his life could have been “to follow the path of most resistance” – meaning, that the design and nature of the character structure was to maintain a stasis within the pathology, and do everything within its power to ward off any external attempt to penetrate past it. Every time the therapist comes close to the core defense, the patient “resists” in certain characteristic ways.
Never letting the patient rest for a moment within the complacency of talking about their ‘content’ ad nauseum, Reich kept bringing the patient back, over and over again right into the heart of their resistance. If you thought Olympic wrestling was intense, it’s nothing compared to one of Reich’s sessions spent wrestling with his patient’s character defense! The nature of the character armour is that when attacked, it literally behaves as if it is in life or death battle, and does anything to try to wriggle its way out of the choke hold. I’m sure you’ve experienced this in your own life anytime you accidentally stepped onto someone’s core belief, and witnessed them have a meltdown over it.
In the next part of our 3rd year Heilkunst university curriculum, we’ll trace Reich’s development from chracter analysis into medical orgone therapy.
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