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 fear of Feelings. A person’s truth of themselves, who they are, is much more their feelings. It is not their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. It is the lack of access to one’s own truth (and grounding) that makes people particularly susceptible to fake news and delusions. A condition which is incredibly widespread.
One of the Foundation’s recent initiatives is the Lowen Book Club, featuring your books. The current book is Pleasure, and I look forward to exploring the feeling and experience of pleasure. We will examine such aspects as the difference between fun and pleasure, ego pleasure versus embodied pleasure, the biology of pleasure, the too common conflict between pleasure and fear, and how pleasure is the antidote to fear, and the need for power and control.
The books by the way, are selling better now than any time in the last 20 years. All 14 titles are available (or soon will be) in Italy, Brazil, Russia, Poland, and Spain, as well as in English. Too, we still add new translations in another dozen languages. It is amazing, but your books are as relevant, important, and meaningful now as ever! I think they are so timeless because scientific exploration of subjective experience is quite rare and meaningful, in contrast to the comparatively dry objective externalized investigations of nature and reality of modern science. Overly limited by its dependence on measurement and quantification, contemporary science is not yet well equipped to investigate and evaluate subjective experience. While I acknowledge my bias, I feel and believe you have done that investigation as well as any, and better than most. Your own body was a laboratory and tool for your scientific reporting of your internal journeys and explorations, and for your psychotherapy work. As it should be of course for any effective psychotherapist.
I like to think that our efforts in the Foundation have contributed to the rising interest. It is our mission to enhance the visibility of your work and Bioenergetics, and body-psychotherapy and somatic psychology generally. In my experience, it is only body-focused psychotherapists and some health practitioners that understand the nature of the Mind-Body Split. Generally, since the culture over-values thoughts, ideas and cognitive processes, most people and professionals see and experience the world only through the lens of the mind. It is insufficient to grasp the validity and importance of the Mind-Body Split….the condition of being out-of-touch with one’s body, where thinking is untethered, ungrounded, disconnected, and unreal.
No matter where you look, disconnectedness and nonsense abound. The forces that affect life negatively eclipse the beneficial positive forces. The fear and insecurity amongst the American population has never been greater in my lifetime. It is a condition that exists around the world no doubt. However the United States continues to be the wealthiest nation by far, and unfortunately, still one of the most influential countries in the world. Unfortunate because we Americans lead, or incentivize, the world in the destruction of nature and nature’s ways. Just like many of my clients who know better, they cannot consciously or intentionally change their counter-productive, harmful, or self-destructive behavior, thinking, attitudes, or illusory beliefs.
As I have said many times before (because I like to say it): if the American population was a single individual, they would need to emergency psychotherapy. Self-destructive activity driven by irrational fears, insecurities, and suppressed/repressed anger create self-fulfilling delusions of threat and danger. We Americans are beset with conflict, fears, scapegoating, gas-lighting, and psychosis. The powers-that-be (the status-quo) have exactly what they want: a paralysis in which the only change permitted is much more of the same.
The dysfunctional symbiotic relationship between governmental leaders and the giant socially-subsidized industrial complexes of well-known corporations conspire to exploit and damage the environment and the population willfully and intentionally. Too many in government hide their insecurities behind their government authority, or are criminals and power-seekers who self-style as politicians, law-makers, judges and regulators. It is like a reverse imposter syndrome: often they psychopathically delude themselves thinking they do ‘God’s work’ as they enrich themselves and their supporters and friends. The reality is that they exacerbating climate chaos, toxicity, and socio-economic inequality for the sole purpose of enhancing minority power and wealth, elected American politicians are the most dangerous people on the planet. Certainly, the American Republican party is the most dangerous organization in the world, but in fact, the Democratic political party is no better! It amazes and outrages me that we pay and coddle these people as they lie to us while they steal and diminish or destroy our good feelings and quality of life.
As bad as the environmental degradation and social inequality is, worse yet is the loss of democracy, with minority rule quickly becoming autocracy. This reality seems to have been a Republican agenda since at least 1980. It is little known to most Americans, but it is already a reality set into judicial ‘concrete’ over 10 years ago by the Citizens’ United ruling of 2010. Americans are typically clueless of the social engineering imposed upon them. I doubt 1 in 20 Americans even know of the existence or function of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Countless wealthy and powerful individuals and entities operate in the dark slime. They work psychop
athically expanding their self-interest and influence at the expense of the public interest, with complete anonymity. A result of Citizens United.
The sheep-like demeanor and lack of awareness is a product of political control, deception, design and manipulation. Similarly, the ideological conflict, polarity and delusions fomented by Fake News is intentionally contrived by [criminal] politicians who rely on
deception and fear to gain power and self-enrichment. Yet they are politically popular enjoying the support of the very people they exploit and harm. It may only be described as insane. The United States has effectively been ruled by a minority interest most of the last 20 years, and my prediction is that it will become much worse, potentially approaching true autocracy within the next 10 years. True democracy is already in the rear-view mirror, with much less freedom and much more fear all around and ahead.
Unfortunately it is not only the United State, but it is the same with too many countries around the world. Strangely though, while the US continues to lead in many important ways (because it is the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet), in my opinion, the US is also the most fearful nation in the world. Americans hav
e the most to lose, and we prefer to spend orders of magnitude more resource on armed (to the max) security and control of nature than we do on life, growth, or working with nature. Certainly, the population is afraid of its government. Distrust and anxiety are at record high levels for good reason: the government has overseen commercial and technological development that threatens life, including human life, on our planet. Unfortunately, like a mental patient, governments and corporations are incapable and/or uninterested to do anything different. It is like witnessing a holocaust.
American democracy has been a precious experiment, and a rarity in human history, where autocracy is the usual form of government. I have enjoyed many freedoms unimaginable in most places and times. I have been blessed with c
omforts and opportunities unavailable to most, including a psychological lineage with personal roots that include you, Reich, and Freud. It is from this perspective I discuss my outrage and disappointment with this great American nation. While I am a realist, I do not expect a paradise on Earth, but I and we may expect to live a life that offers reasonable security and pleasure, which is being stolen and denied to most. As in therapy work, healing requires first an awareness of the dysfunction, not a denial. It is by design that Americans are in confusion and denial, and it is only reasonable to identify the causes of dysfunction, and take responsibility to hold the dysfunctional elements accountable. Then to take steps to preclude further damage and destruction. The socially engineered dysfunction needs to be reverse-engineered. In my opinion, only by mobilizing feeling will mis-guided governments respond in a constructive way. Like in therapy, talk, words and ideas on television, in social media, magazines and newspapers, is ineffective. It is access to and expression of one’s true feelings that is healing and effective in achieving tra
nsformational change. We need the government to be afraid of the people, not the other way around.
As a solar and energy businessman in the last century, it felt good and meaningful to replace toxic fossil fuel use with benign renewable and solar energy. Now, in the insanity of the 21st Century, I see so clearly how much more important your work with Bioenergetic psychotherapy is. No matter how many solar panels are installed, peoples’ dysfunctional relationship with reality is much more important and impactful. Of course, the brilliance and simplicity of your wisdom, that we sense and engage reality through our body, not through our mind, will take generations to integrate fully and meaningfully.
Speaking of solar energy, I am pleased to report that I have just installed a solar-electric system that is designed to provide 100% of the electricity for me and Sonia, the Foundation, and for my automobile. You know I enjoy driving, the ability to roll across the surface of the planet so easily is a rare luxury in human history, and driving on solar energy spi
ns my wheels!!
Renewable energy use is the important cousin to Bioenergetic psychotherapy in the work of planetary healing. Both utilize nature’s sustainable energy optimally and without toxicity. Bioenergetics seeks the healthiest use of a person’s energy. Renewable energy promises to be the healthiest use of energy for the culture and population. And, both require a much greater understanding of how to work with nature, than the more profitable and common toxic and exploitive approaches to health and energy that arrogantly seek to control, improve, and dominate nature….an illusory goal. No surprise it’s not working out well.
Sorry for the length of this letter. It is just a glimpse of what I would like to discuss with you. Since I write
you only once a year, there is a lot to say. On the other hand, I hear your voice
and sense your presence most days. It’s just as well. I still have much more to learn from you than the other way around! And I do, every time I re-read on
e of your books I learn more,
I would have preferred to keep this letter lighter and more fun. It is hard though when fear and dysfunction trump (no pun intended. ;-)) good feelings, well-being, and sanity. It affects me especially with this year’s early-season skiing more on ice than snow!! I do not recall a poorer early season than now. ‘Eastern’ skiing in the US has been a casualty of government policy subsidizing and promoting toxic energy use.
Have a happy birthday, a merry Christmas, and a good New Year too Mom and Dad!.....And To All!