Reflections Back, Looking Forward
Thank you for your introduction Jim.
I am pleased to welcome participants to the Conference of Bioenergetic Analysis, the 60th anniversary of the Institute. 60 years is a good time to reflect back, and to look forward.
As many of you know, Dad, Alexander Lowen, did 400 kicks daily in his 80s, and continued with somersaults in his 90s. Just as he lived Bioenergetics, he raised me according to his understanding of Wilhelm Reich when I was born in 1951. I am the first, and oldest child of “Bioenergetic parents.”
Although I was only 6 years old when the IBA was formed, I was there. Perhaps the only other person living who was there in the 1950s was my close friend Alice Ladas. Although she is not here tonight, Jim will convey some words from her shortly.
I have had a long and close association with Alexander Lowen. Some of my fondest early memories were talking with Dad about Wilhelm Reich, psychotherapy, and energy. In fact, my early career was working with renewable energy.
Reflecting further back, speaking of Wilhelm Reich, we here tonight, especially Bioenergetic therapists, all owe Reich a debt for our chosen livelihoods. Reich was not the right man at the right place in the right time….no, he was a force of nature who went where no one else is or was close to going. An amazingly curious, focused, and energetic clinician and scientist, he explored questions of psychological, medical, and societal dysfunction and dis-ease like no one else. Dad, who was no dummy, has often said that Reich was the most brilliant individual he had ever met.
However, while Wilhelm Reich has perhaps been forever branded as a quack by mainstream media and academia, I encourage you to recognize and remember that your effectiveness as a body-psychotherapist, and as a more whole person, is derived from the extraordinary work of Wilhelm Reich. And please, re-read some of the Reich material….it speaks to our situation today with as much relevance as it did 80 years ago.
To focus on only one of Reich’s titles, The Mass Psychology of Fascism speaks to and answers some of the questions that are now being asked and left unanswered: why do groups of people behave in ways that are self-destructive to their own self-interests?.... for example, why did so many white women, or blue collar industrial workers vote for Donald Trump? It seems illogical and irrational, but it is the same phenomena that led to the dominance of Hitler in Germany, and Stalin in Russia.
One of my heroes, a biologist in entymology, Edward O. Wilson states the dilemma really well: “If insects were removed from the Earth, life as we know it would end in a few months; if humans were removed from the planet, the Earth would begin to heal immediately.” Why are humans our own worst enemy? Why do we not recognize our own self-interests? It is our most important question, for individuals and for society.
Reich explores these questions thoroughly, and most fundamentally, why humans have been incapable of real freedom. In a world where rhetoric of freedom creates political polarity, confusion, and rigidity, history shows how humans repeatedly do not take responsibility for their own genuine freedom from authoritarianism, manipulation, and cultural dysfunction.
In this 21st Century, we are re-living a high-technology version of the same old human story: the cycle of empire creation through human misery, and the destruction of un-sustainable empires which are based on the organization of power. Reich understood this better than anyone I know of. I am proud to have Wilhelm Reich as my father’s mentor, and my thought-leader.
My fundamental belief is that our obvious societal dysfunctions will not be solved politically, technologically, or scientifically….they are fundamentally a problem of neurosis, a problem of the split, or dis-connection between mind and body. The societal dysfunction is little more than our collective, cumulative individual dysfunction. As such, we psychotherapists have both an obligation and an opportunity to promote well-being for both individuals and society. Especially we
Bioenergetic therapists who understand, see, and feel how widespread the mind-body split is, can perhaps understand societal dysfunction better than any other professional group.
While traditional academia and health professions do not even recognize the mind-body split, let alone see it as a serious affliction, it is most important that psychotherapists increasingly speak up about the insanity and dysfunction we are immersed in. As I have said, it is an obligation and an opportunity, especially for body-psychotherapists to educate the public to the nature of the body-mind split.
For Bioenergetic therapists, the two means of educating the public to the value of Bioenergetics is the effectiveness of our therapy in sessions and workshops, and Dad’s books. I need not tell you of Dad’s many talents and abilities, as psychotherapist, educator, and author of some of the most unique books of the 20th Century.
The IBA became the IIBA only with the essential support of having the Lowen books for patients and potential practitioners to read after the excitement of positive therapeutic progress or experience in workshops. And, more than a few patients and professionals came to Bioenergetics from the books.
As manager of the Lowen copyrights, I am here to tell you that the Lowen books still serve that function. I think because they touch on essential human truths, the books are truely classic. While we are past the initial growth and excitement, the demand for the books continue in more than 15 languages, and more than 50 years later.
I can also tell you that the US is the most resistant country, despite the origins of Bioenergetics is the US. While the books continue to sell in this large and wealthiest country in the world, as indicated by book sales, interest in Bioenergetics in the US is dwarfed by interest in Italy, Brazil, Spain, Poland, and Russia. And, interest is building anew: previously out-of-print titles are being re-published in France, Germany, and Brazil. In the past 5 years, new translations have been published in Czechoslavakia, Turkey, Croatia, Lithuania, Greece and China, with more coming.
The Lowen books, like Bioenergetics, are perhaps the world’s best kept secret. While the books continue to sell, and Bioenergetics is well-regarded in the body-psychotherapy community, we have barely scratched the collective consciousness. The books play a vital role in this process. I have requested this time to ask for your assistance and collaboration.
If you haven’t done so recently, I want to ask you to re-read your favorite Lowen books, and see if they don’t speak as clearly to you as the first time. We used to say the books were 50 years ahead of their time; now, 50 years later, we should have said they are 100 years ahead of their time. I like a story Frank Hladky would tell: walking through Manhatten on the way to a Tuesday night seminar many years ago, Frank remarked to Dad ‘Al, I have read your books 6 or 7 times, and each time I see something new,’ and Dad says ‘yes, that happens to me too!’
Bioenergetics and the Lowen books both suffer some stigma and mis-conceptions as “that 70s thing.” You know, and I know, Bioenergetics is state-of-the-art psychotherapy, and I am asking you to help feature the Lowen books. We want to provide Lowen Book brochures that will look good in your waiting rooms, and should you feel moved, write a positive review on Amazon, and highlight the books on your society’s web-site. The Alexander Lowen Foundation can help with this….and, for our part, I am excited to announce that the Foundation will shortly offer the books to Bioenergetic students and Society members at a significant discount.
As a disclosure, all revenue from the sales of the books is re-invested in the mission and work of The Alexander Lowen Foundation. I personally receive no salary or income from either the Foundation or the sales of the Lowen books.
So please, highlight the Lowen books, and recommend them to your patients, friends, and family. Aside from doing good therapy, spreading the word about the Lowen books is the most important thing we can do to build the Bioenergetic community.