Supporting the Life Process

One approach to treating suffering is to try to block the mechanism of pain or of the symptom. Mainstream medicine for the most part uses either surgery to remove or block a process, or medication to block a process. Blocking or removing can be life saving on occasion, but because it is crude relative to the complexity of human functioning, in the long-run it leads to greater dysregulation. Over time, more and more treatment is added to combat the increasing dysregulation. Lesser-skilled psychotherapy often follows similar lines, using reassurance to block anxiety, or friendliness to block loneliness. Interpersonal dysregulation may increase.


The Reich and Lowen tradition posits that most suffering (and the psychology that explains it) is a phenomenon of "frozen and terrorized protoplasm*". Reich and Lowen therapy seeks to enliven the person. Work is not necessarily targeted at specific problems in a cause and effect way.


This may seem out of place in our goal-directed society. Often clients may ask, how a action like the expression of anger toward a very powerful person will help their 'symptom', and often the answer is that it supports the living process. The belief is, that once a good level of vibrancy is reached, most symptoms either will have disappeared, become manageable, or become unimportant. Work in the Reich and Lowen tradition is not so much an attempted cure of specific suffering as it is an initiation into a new way of life.


*This phrase is adapted from Robert Hilton. I do not know if Reich or Lowen ever said it quite this way


One Health for All vs Unique Individual Paths

Claiming to increase vitality suggests the concept of 'health.' Without actually defining health here (the 'Goals' section attempts to do that), it is possible to state that in the Reich and Lowen tradition, there is clearly the premise that 'health' is 1) pleasureable, 2) recognizable in all healthy people by common features, 3) is responsible for attractiveness, and 4) a common similar goal for all clients. A therapist or participant then, can have in mind a general healthy state independent of any individual.


The implication of this is that therapy in this tradition is 'corrective' more than exploratory. Unlike the humanistic tradition in psychology, the premise is that exploring meaning without confronting character leads to little change. This is very controversial. It opens the door to a therapist suggesting to a client participant that he or she is wrong or unaware about something. This has to be handled in a non-dominating, non-dogmatic way that admits fallibility.