This Independence Day comes at a time of unprecedented events both domestically in the United States and globally. Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism foretold the prevalent behavior that stems from the mind-body split and the"emotional plague." In these uncertain times, we encourage you to read Reich's book and bring you
a short excerpt from Alexander Lowen, M.D.'s book The Betrayal of the Body, about freedom and love as it relates to present day affairs.
We also invite you to read "Independence Day?" - a special essay by Frederic Lowen who challenges the status quo and asserts that "it is both an opportunity and a responsibility to speak up, in private and in public. To explain that it is each and every one of us that carries fears, insecurities, rage, hurt and sadness that perpetuates the mind-body split in society, through how we treat our children, family, and others."
"Behind every illusion is the desire for freedom and for love. The desperate individual strives for freedom and love through the illusion of power. In his mind, power is the key to freedom and love. Although this illusion serves to sustain his spirit in its despair and helplessness, we have seen that it also maintains the despair and helplessness when the critical period of childhood has passed.
To overcome the illusion of power, the reality of freedom and love must be experienced as bodily feelings. This is accomplished by concentrating upon the physical tensions of the body. When a person feels the rigidity of his body, he will know that he is not frozen, he will know that he is shackled, whatever his external situation may be. If he becomes aware that his respiration is inhibited and his motility reduced, he will realize that he is not able to love."
- from The Betrayal of the Body, 1967
by Alexander Lowen, M.D.
by Frederic Lowen
Vermont, USA 2017
Is it a day for joyous celebration for the birthday of the United States of America? I think not so much in 2017! We Americans have less freedom and independence than any time in my lifetime! And it promises only to get worse.
The politico-economic environment has favored large corporations, über-wealthy individuals, and their captured ideologically rigid politicians for a long time in the US.
However, the last 6 months have brought un-precedented ugly, un-sustainable, and destructive politics and economic policy. Policy that eviscerates any fairness or economic protection for the common man, while providing keys to the national treasure for those who aspire to wealth and power at the expense and peril of the great majority of American and global citizens.
How? How could such a situation arise from the wealthiest nation on Earth, founded on the principles of freedom and independence? How do so many Americans support policies and behaviors that are so obviously irrational and destructive to their self-interests?....that are only more mis-guided than the very same policies that have failed so dramatically in the past?....behaviors that promote division, conflict, deception and meanness?
Do not expect answers or understandings from the media or academia. They attempt to explain in terms of rational, abstract mental concepts that fail to capture the depth of emotional and energetic response to a culture that is increasingly un-sustainable, un-grounded, and dis-connected from reality…..in a word, “neurotic,” if not “insane.”
Too, the “mainstream” media and academia are the voice of the culture. As such, they propagate cultural illusions and confusion to enhance mindless adherence to cultural values, ideological division, and political inaction. They promote only the initiatives that benefit the very few over the interests of the great many, hiding the true agenda of gaining evermore power and wealth.
In this era of fake news, exacerbated by technology and the information age, confusion, lies and deception are favored over truth, clear-mindedness, and critical thinking. Hypocrisy used to be hidden, now it is flagrantly exhibited…..a product of deception becoming normalized. Fake news is both a tool and a symptom of the fundamental and widespread affliction of the “mind-body split.”
While virtually un-recognized outside the community of body-psychotherapists, the mind-body split is clearly the missing key to un-lock the mystery of self-destructive human behavior, down through the ages.
Far from freedom and independence, humankind exists in a trap, as described by Wilhelm Reich in The Murder of Christ. The trap may be mean and bare, or it may be a golden cage with material comforts. Either way, we are trapped in our own distorted emotions and perceptions, creating illusions and irrational behaviors.
My father, Alexander Lowen, M.D. recognizes a fundamental illusion simply: “You do not have a body, you are your body.” People do not have a body like they have cars or houses…..it is a narcissistic illusion to believe we can consciously and mindfully control our bodies by cosmetics, fitness, and pharmaceuticals to enhance our well-being beyond empty narcissistic ego gratification.
This belief that we can sculpt and modify our bodies' functioning with pharmaceuticals and mechanical
medical interventions demonstrates the effect of the mind-body split: Just as we believe we control our bodies with our conscious mind to gain well-being, growth, and more wholeness of ourselves, we somehow believe we can control nature. Collectively, too many believe economic growth is more important than respect for nature and the environment in which we live…..that we can exploit the Earth and populations of people, while denying the damage that some/much economic activity creates. As my father states: “We have treated the Earth as we have treated our bodies,” in a word, poorly.
It is this uniquely human characteristic to believe that we consciously control our lives, and the lives of others, that dampens the spontaneous expression of our life’s energy. When the mind and body are split, the over-charged mind (energetically) subjugates the body to the mind’s illusions and ideologies as to how life SHOULD be. This leads to a deadening and distortions of the body’s ability and energy to perceive and respond appropriately to others, and to our changing environment; too often with patterned behavior that is not in our true self-interest, ie. destructively.
I agree with Eve Ensler: we exist in a “rape culture.” Others characterize it as a “predatory” culture. In economic terms, we privatize profits (for those who can afford to buy politicians and legislation), and socialize the expenses and risks, such that tax-payers pay the subsidies to the wealthy, and to clean up the economic, environmental, and social messes the wealthy create. Whether rapist or victim, predator or prey, all engage in activities and behaviors that are contrary to their self-interests and well-being. All betray emotional distortions derived from un-resolved personal trauma originating in the family, and exacerbated by culture.
Un-feeling narcissistic and manipulative psychopathic behavior is driven by insecurity, fear, and a longing for love and respect, exactly as the victim’s submissive behavior seeks refuge in patriarchal authoritarianism, driven by insecurity, fear, and a longing for love and respect.
It is this lack of internal freedom and independence from characterological trauma that makes real freedom and independence impossible for we humans. So we settle for, celebrate, and glorify political rhetoric of freedom, which in the 21st Century invariably results in a curtailment of freedom for the many, while providing an unparalleled freedom for the few to take what they wish, by legislation and de-criminalization.
Donald Trump, who I find both smarter and even more insane than I had thought, has the winning formula: state a deep truth, followed by an outrageous lie. “The election is rigged [so true], and Hillary Clinton rigged it.” “I lost the popular vote [so true], because 4 million illegal immigrants voted illegally for Clinton.” These are only 2 of hundreds of examples.
In my estimation, Trump has more “staying power” than is generally assumed by progressives and Democrats. I am afraid this administration will not transition its’ power peacefully, for the first time in US History. That will consummate the renaming of the country “Trumpland,” formerly the United States of America….a reality already, except in name. It is a fearsome thought: the only thing standing in the way of autocratic rule are lawyers! Sadly, despite the massively broken legal system, it is a fact.
It is also a sad fact that our government has partnered with the largest corporations, with interests aligned in lock-step. It can only be called fascist. We have no more of a democracy, than we have a capitalistic free-market. Democracy and a free-market are two of the most powerful cultural illusions fostered over the US population.
However, Donald Trump is neither free nor independent either, despite the projected image. Most Americans have never heard of Robert Mercer, Trump’s sponsor and puppetmaster. Along with the politicians partnered with corporate interests, Robert Mercer and daughter Rebecca effectively control Trump. The lack of awareness of the Mercers and their role is evidence of the media’s interest and ability to manipulate public perception, illusion, and beliefs.
Too, Trump is a prisoner in his own emotional trap, preventing him from being a real person, instead of an un-empathic rich jerk.
However, it is the limitations on our freedoms and independence that I am most concerned with. In the rhetoric of freedom and security, we have already seen great restrictions on freedom and increases of insecurity. While promised the freedom to choose our private healthcare plan, the providers will be free to charge whatever they wish, affordable or not.
The energy and mining companies will be free to exploit our common environment in the pursuit of record-breaking profits. Financial institutions will be free to engage the same risk-free predatory practices that created the Great Recession at the end of the George W. Bush era.
That kind of freedom for the few is paid for by hardship and a decrease of freedom and security for the many.
Finally, with increased incentives and subsidies to defense, enforcement and corrections industries, and to environmentally-damaging industries, in concert with massive projected cuts in social spending, the worst is clearly coming. Increasing the likelihood, any environmental, economic, terrorist, etc disaster will give excuse to massively restrict freedoms further, while granting ever more benefits and power to the über-wealthy and powerful few.
I would prefer to see some real freedoms added to celebrate on July 4, Independence Day 2017.
The election of Trump was surprising because for much of the population, it seems obvious his interest does not include the common man. Yet, nearly half of US voters chose Trump. It was not a rational choice. It was an emotional choice. And for those who did not vote for Trump, his surprise election evoked a highly emotional response to protest.
Although most everyone, on both sides, want the same thing: simply, a reasonable degree of freedom, security, and justice, our emotionally-energized ideological egos have become inflamed such that the US seems headed towards civil conflict, rather than revolution, anarchy, or dictatorship. Note these conflicts derive from abstract ideologies in the minds of populations…..neither ideology much affects conditions for the population….but the conflict provides the perfect rationalization for the powerful few to continue to enrich themselves.
The recent targeted shooting of Republican legislators, the 137 mass shootings year-to-date (most related to issues of sex or work), the political and racial polarities emerging in individuals, and the increasing fragmentation and violence between citizen groups, and by law enforcement is evidence of a clear trend in an ugly direction.
Energetically, and in the language of Wilhelm Reich, the anti-thetical forces in social situations are either revolutionary, forward moving, or reactionary, retreating back. In the US today, the reactionary forces are politically more powerful, but the election of Trump has significantly energized the revolutionary forces, and tension is rising.
Bioenergetic therapists, and other body-oriented psychotherapists, should appreciate that we perhaps, have a clearer understanding of the mind-body split, and it’s origins in developmental characterological trauma, than any other professional or academic group.
Understanding how the mind-body split, the character, expresses itself in the individual, is the more difficult part of understanding how the mind-body split has created the many-faceted social dysfunction, which only becomes more extreme.
With that understanding, it is both an opportunity and a responsibility to speak up, in private and in public. To explain that it is each and every one of us that carries fears, insecurities, rage, hurt and sadness that perpetuates the mind-body split in society, through how we treat our children, family, and others.
To expect politicians, technologists, or scientists to solve the existential problems humankind faces, is to expect a schizophrenic, or a psychopath, for example, to heal themselves. Left to themselves, crisis and breakdown is most likely.
Rather, the only way to break the human cycle of un-sustainable exploitation, the only way to gain true human freedom and independence, is to nurture and educate the population, towards healing the mind-body split one-by-one and group-by-group, so people need not be exploiter or victim.
Have a good holiday!