A Personal Letter from Frederic Lowen to his father
Dear Mom and Dad,
How are you? I hope and trust all is well. It's been a long while, so I wanted to write you on the occasion of your 109th year Dad, on December 23. There is so much to share with you.
What comes to mind is a conversation we had many decades ago, when I was in my teens or twenties. After telling me some of your experiences in the 1940s and 1950s with Wilhelm Reich and founding the Institute, I remarked feeling I had missed out on the excitement. I remember you replied there would be plenty of excitement in my lifetime. Well, 50 years later, I would say "yes, and no."
Yes, it is exciting to see the psychotherapy work continue to evolve, and grow. Your books have truly become classic, and readers find them as relevant today as they were in the last century. The broader field of Psychology enjoyed phenomenal advancement with in vivo radiological imaging 20-30 years ago. It has clearly confirmed many of the basic tenets of Bioenergetic Therapy from the beginning, in contrast to the conventional wisdom of the day.
First, the ability to grow and change oneself therapeutically has been scientifically validated by the discovery of the plasticity of the brain and central nervous system, along with abilities to grow new neurons. Secondly, the rigidity of thinking that the genetic code determines everything from body form to function has been completely smashed with the recognition of the overwhelming role environmental factors play in genotype and phenotype expression. Environmental influence affects everything about us, from how we think to how we look to how we behave.
Further, the recognition that body and physiology is intimately affected by mind and psychic/cognitive processes is now widely accepted. It is another phenomenon confirmed by relatively recent in vivo neurophysiological imaging, enabling real-time physiological monitoring correlated with cognitive and emotional activity. This too was always elemental to Bioenergetics, and is the fundamental basis of Reich's work 75 years ago!
Similarly, the recent fascination with the power of relationship and the relational aspects of psychotherapy was stimulated and recognised by the confirmation of imaging in neuroscience. The quality of relationship, whether in attachment, in therapy, or in general, is the single largest determinant of health and well-being. While rarely stated, it is a truth integral to the competent use of Bioenergetic therapy: relationship is fundamental to childhood health or developmental trauma, and it is fundamental to therapeutic outcome: the most important parameter governing therapeutic outcome is the quality of the therapist-client relationship. No doubt that!
So yes, it is exciting and gratifying to see mainstream science quantitatively affirm the validity of Bioenergetic Analysis and Wilhelm Reich's earlier work, even if it is 75 years later. You and Reich were certainly the pioneers.
And yes, it is exciting to enhance awareness of the Mind-Body Split. As a construct it is similar to, and as useful as the ego, the self, resistance, transference, and the unconscious itself. It is certainly timely and needed. It is clearly an energetic affliction that is fundamental to psychological disorder, and societal dysfunction. Yet, it is virtually unknown, widely un-recognized and not understood.
Generally, only those who work closely with feelings and emotions as subjective experiences of the body, not of the mind, such as competent body-psychotherapists and Bioenergetic therapists have an understanding of the Mind-Body Split, objectively and subjectively. As you often say, talking about the body is not working with the body.
For me, even more exciting, is the development of Reich's 'energy model' as a new paradigm in Psychology, and in Science. For Psychology, the different approaches: psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, biological, and spiritual are like the proverbial blind men trying to describe an elephant; it seems like a wall, a tree, a snake.....it seems like learned behavior, childhood emotional dynamics, genetics, physiological pre-disposition, or relationship with God.
Well yes, it is all those things, but it is the energy and the energetic processes that is a common denominator for all those aspects. I believe wider recognition of this fact is building, and I hope to play a role to make it happen.
Even more broadly in Science, the recognition of the role of Life energy (bio-energy) in the reality of our world, best assessed subjectively, will enable Science to investigate much more of our world. A science that restricts itself to only those phenomena that can be quantified, measured and objectively described, leaves out the majority of reality! So much of our human experience cannot be quantified. Does that make it unimportant? Hardly!
Science is severely restricted and limited if it cannot evaluate non-material aspects of our existence. Science can do miracles with matter, which can be quantified more ways than can be imagined, but not so much with non-material subjective experience. I believe it is because subjective experience is within the realm of energy and bioenergetics, which cannot be quantified. If energy can be evaluated and assessed within mainstream Science, I believe it will produce a new paradigm, bigger than that represented by quantum mechanics over Newtonian physics. What do you think? Does it make sense to you? Maybe you can let me know.
I often feel that my words are not entirely my own when I speak to people about Bioenergetics and psychotherapy. I recognize them as your words. It's quite cool.
Of course I am nowhere as good as Mom in talking bioenergetics. I remember one day she went to the bank, and came home to meet the bank teller for therapy and exercise work! Wow! Also, I meant to tell you, last week I had a video chat (video chats may be new to you, it is one of the good things of this century) with a gentleman who had one session with you in 1980; it inspired him to become a psychotherapist! He related to me that you told him he hadn't been breast-fed long enough. Well, he went to ask his mother about that and she exclaimed, "well yes I shut you down, you were biting me!" Wow again! It is another of many such stories I have heard. I only hope I can eventually be half as good as you as a therapist!
And finally the "no" part of "is it exciting?" While yes, things are exciting; it is not in a positive way. The socioeconomic environment in the US, increasingly globally, is hyperactive; exciting not so much. People are mostly apprehensive more than excited. As you predicted, insanity is increasingly normalized.
Here in Trumpland, the former USA, still the wealthiest and most powerful nation, stress, anxiety, health, conflict, inequality and cost of living, environmental and climatic degradation, economic and social injustice is worsening. And most of these parameters are already unprecedented. Yet, over 100 million Americans believe the country has never been better! The degree of delusion, and the number of illusions most Americans exhibit, all products of the mind-body split, is matched only by the magnitude of Fake News and confusion that exists. The 'election' of a bankruptcy-loving reality TV star as President of the US is testament to the insanity. As star of The Apprentice I watched him once for 10-15 seconds before I shut him off; now, I can't shut him off! It's a living nightmare!
To think the problems listed above can be mitigated without an understanding of the underlying psychology is itself delusional. Reich at least has given us some tools and insights to begin to understand the dynamics of repeating societal dysfunction. I guess what is exciting about the situation is that it is becoming so un-sustainable, something has to change sooner than later. We can only hope it is more peaceful than violent. Perhaps what follows will be a more healthy and sustainable social structure.
Closer to home, you will be interested to know your granddaughter Sonia has begun her studies in Psychology. She and I enjoy many hours in discussion, just as you and I did. Aside from any faults and struggles she has had, she is amazingly strong-minded and purposeful. Perhaps because she is a Scorpio, ;-). Maybe that explains why she changed her name to Lowenstein, your original family name.
As for me, I expect to finally earn my MA Psychology by early 2021, 10 years or so younger than your sister Sylvia who graduated at age 80! Better late than never, it will give me greater capacity to train people in Bioenergetics. Even though full-time school cuts into my skiing and sailing time today, I would rather have the education tomorrow. I expect to be the oldest psychotherapist with the newest education. An interesting combination!
By the way, I want to thank you especially for instilling skiing and sailing as life-long activities for me. They are my second and third most favorite and pleasurable activities!
That's enough for now. I want Mom to know how much I enjoy her support as I aspire to your ideals.
Bless you both,
Your loving son.