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 can only be commensurate to discharge. While it is possible in some ways to be stuck in the 'charged' position, in general difficulty discharging results in an undercharged condition. Charging is generally upward in the body or in the upper body. Discharge is downward through the body, or in the lower body. As suggested above, discharge is usually more blocked than charging.


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 not the same. If properly understood in emotional terms, a release can lessen blocks to discharge and can harmonize the body. A clear example is a couple having an honest fight, and then having passionate 'make-up' sex. The fight is the release that 'clears' the situation but the sex is the discharge that resolves the tension between them.


A release that does not lead to a discharge, however, is just a catharsis. A hazard of emphasizing expressive work too early is setting a pattern of brief charging followed by emotional release which only provides a brief mental comforting without change in the body. This type of release work may be an advance where feeling and energy has been quite low, but it can become a 'racket.' that actually side-steps deeper feeling. 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.


Both release and discharge involve emotion since emotion is both a biological and psychological phenomenon. Durable healing can rarely happen on a psychological level only, and so discharge is needed for emotional healing, 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. Discharge is very hard to force through willed action, rather it is a matter of choosing to develop the conditions of discharge, including a loose flexible body, visceral awareness, a ventral shift, and sound opportunities for pleasure in one's life.