Discharge versus Release

In the Reich and Lowen tradition, the basic guiding format for a 'session' is charge then discharge. This is simply a straightforward way to re-establish the pleasure cycle. Charging is generally upward in the body or in the upper body. Discharge is downward through the body, or in the lower body. Discharge is usually more blocked than charge. That is why hang-ups are so common. If discharging has been blocked for a long time, charging may be low, this is an advanced difficulty.

Screaming, hitting, biting, reaching are all actually charging activities, as is hyperventilation. Kicking, crying, belly laughing, and grounding measures are discharging activities

Because of Lowen's emphasis on expression and undoing emotional suppression, another element got added in the tradition that is confusing, and that is release. Unlike discharge, which is a biological and energetic concept, release is an emotional or psychological concept. It is possible to experience an emotional release without an energetic discharge, they are the same. This is particularly the case in a group format where emotional expression is so prominently a demand characteristic. If properly understood in emotional terms, a release can lessen blocks to discharge and can harmonize the body, and ultimately considerable emotional release will be required in the work. A release without discharge, and without change, however, is just a catharsis. A hazard of emphasizing expressive work too early is setting a pattern of charging through emotional release which only provides a brief mental comforting without change in the body.

If grounding and neuro-muscular development is properly attended to (in therapy or in one's own self-designed program,) discharge becomes possible and usually spontaneous. While many people start Reich and Lowen work with both inadequate release and inadequate discharge, the benefit of release only (which is available also through conversational traditions) is limited.