A Personal Letter from Frederic Lowen to his Father
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas and
Happy New Year Dad!
I hope and trust all is well with you and Mom, wherever you may be. I’ve been well. In many ways, better than ever! The pandemic has given me an opportunity to stay home for the past year and a half, without the distraction of trips and travel. I am grateful that I have been resilient and have flourished throughout the on-going epidemic.
In addition to getting my ‘house in better order,’ and progressing on my years-long process of simplifying my life, I have come to better terms with my fear of abandonment and early experiences of aloneness. I have become much more attuned to my desires, distinguishing them from my fear-based needs. It has led to a contentment, and an experience of pleasure even in the mundane, that I have not enjoyed so fully before. It has refined, perhaps re-defined, my understanding and capacity to be present.
Contributing to my well-being is the satisfaction that comes with helping others. I have usually felt good about the work I have done during my life. As a solar/energy designer/builder I found great meaning and reward in the socially/environmentally beneficial work of solar and renewable energy use. However, helping struggling people directly with their pain, dysfunction, and despair is fulfilling and gratifying beyond words. In part because I was born into it, even feeling I was born to be a psychotherapist. Mostly though, it is as you said in the twilight of your life: “there is nothing better than having your health, and helping people re-gain their health, as you get older.”
Despite my years pursuing the Masters in Psychology and Clinical Mental Health degree, virtually everything I know and utilize in my therapy work comes from you. The academic studies have certainly enriched my understanding, and given me greater confidence in clinical work. It has contributed little though to my ability to work directly with a person’s feelings and energy. It is necessary to heal the disconnect between thinking and emotional feelings, the Mind-Body Split (MBS)….the unrecognized fundamental affliction of the age. That understanding comes entirely from the Bioenergetics I have learned from you. It is such a great honor and privilege to be your son, and to have the unique opportunity to try to convey and relate the wisdom more widely, and most importantly, to the younger generations. They face even larger problems and existential crises than any of us who have come before…..problems that are most fundamentally a result of emotional disturbance within people, the MBS. It is safe to say, to greater/lesser degree, it afflicts each and every one of all of us.
I hope you favor our efforts in The Alexander Lowen Foundation to enhance the visibility of Bioenergetics. It seems necessary and crucially important because the International Institute of Bioenergetic Analysis (IIBA) you founded 65 years ago no longer practices Bioenergetics as you developed it. The Modern Bioenergetics they teach as Bioenergetics is, by their own description, more accurately ‘relational somatic psychotherapy.’ Because Modern Bioenergetics utilizes some of the somatic techniques you have developed, it is much more effective psychotherapy than talk therapy. However, its focus on energy and the energetic processes have been de-emphasized, despite being central to the Reich work, and even incorporated into the name Bioenergetic Analysis. The power of Bioenergetics is derived from your first-hand work with Wilhelm Reich for 7 years in the 1940s, and the incorporation of energy as central in your 50 years of clinical Bioenergetic psychotherapy practice. The proof that your approach to Bioenergetics is the more innovative and useful is the fact that IIBA membership has fallen 75% since you resigned in 1996.
I have spoken with Bioenergetic trainees and CBTs, and some have not read any of your books beyond excerpts and specific chapters, and they know very little about Wilhelm Reich! It is appalling to me! Similarly, I attended a clinical seminar presenting the case of a client/patient undergoing Bioenergetic therapy, and the practitioner uses a definition of narcissism that is completely different from what you teach and describe in your book Narcissism: the Denial of the True Self. Your definition makes perfect sense. At the seminar, the stated definition of a narcissist as a person who is ‘overly self-absorbed” is nonsense. When I discuss topics like narcissism, depression, or pleasure, I get a kick out of saying “my Dad wrote the book!’ It adds a little credibility, and it is a fun fact.
Luckily, it is mostly the English-speaking IIBA federation and members of NANZIBA that have been affected by concepts of Modern Bioenergetics. As I understand Bioenergetics, modern bioenergetics is not even bioenergetics. It is relational somatic psychotherapy, just as they describe it when they choose to be authentic. I suspect they are unwilling to change the name of their practice because many many people seek out Bioenergetics; likely more than would seek out relational somatic therapy. Non-English-speaking members of the European and South American IIBA federations are comparatively true to Bioenergetics as you have developed it. Probably because they do not rely on English speaking International Trainers as they did in earlier times when you were director of the IIBA.
It is yet another facet of modern life. In the last century we characterized much of life and work as a ‘rat-race.’ Now, the rat-race has become ‘rats eating each other in the cage.’ You may already know, but what passes for normal here in 2021 has reached new heights of insanity, set to get worse yet in 2022! The problem of course, is the fixation on the need and drive for power and control, which is evidence of great fear, distorted feelings, and a near total absence of the feeling of pleasure. We value wealth, status, power, control, and information (fake or true doesn’t matter). Feelings are the last thing the culture values. Most people are afraid of feelings, the feelings of others, but of their own feelings even more. Notably anger: people are so afraid of anger, the only anger most people see is explosive anger. Without a healthy outlet and acceptance of anger in the culture, the powder keg of explosive and passive-aggressive anger only grows. Your book Fear of Life could be titled A fea