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  • Frederic Lowen

The Meaning of Work: Thriving or Surviving?

Labor Day is the United States September holiday honoring and commemorating workers achievements and contributions. It is comparable to, and derived from the May 1 May Day holiday in many countries. It is a good time to reflect on what we do for work and money, and whether it is for fulfillment or survival. Wilhelm Reich states “Work, love, and knowledge are the wellsprings of our life. They should also govern it.” To me, this implies that one’s work could be as fulfilling as one’s most intimate relationships. Unfortunately, as a clinical psychotherapist I see fulfillment in work, or in love and relationship, is rare indeed for many people. As a Bioenergetics psychotherapist, I see increasingly clearly how fear is the obstacle to fulfillment in work, love, and life.

In last year’s Labor Day essay we explored how government and corporate symbiosis establishes the socio-economic structure we refer to as the ‘status quo.’ Increasingly unsustainable, the status quo is socially engineered by political and government leaders, to enrich and enhance the wealth, influence, and power of their corporate patrons and constituents. While many people accept this condition as fact in the US and across the globe, there is less awareness of the psychological and energetic factors that drive such self-destructive behavior.


Little recognized, least so in science and academic psychology, the Mind-Body Split (MBS) is a widespread condition and affliction which is fundamental to individual and social dysfunction, disorder, and insanity, in my opinion. As detailed last year, the MBS obscures one’s truth from oneself when feeling and thinking are not connected. Feelings do not accurately inform thinking, and thinking does not inform feeling. Clearly, a person’s truth of who they are, the self, is much more reflected by their feelings than the thoughts and ideas they have. When feelings and thinking are disconnected, truth is obscured, uncertainties grow, and fears and insecurities within the unconscious landscape determine behavior and thinking, mostly outside conscious awareness.


Such people are highly susceptible to the kind of manipulative mind-bending deception represented by fake news, ‘dis-information,’ and conspiracy theories contributing to and resulting in mass delusion and self-destructive behavior. The fact that so many people in the US and around the world are afflicted with delusion, confusion, and distrust is evidence of the widespread effects of the MBS.


The leaders’ purpose for creating mass delusion is to get the social masses to engage in behavior that is not in their best interest, and is usually self-harming. In the socioeconomic structure in the USA, it has been to gain acquiescence from the masses, and out-sized support from wealthy donors to enrich themselves through the exploitation of the population and the environment. Convincing voters that they represent a free-market capitalist system based on meritocracy, in reality political leaders preside over a system in which profits are privatized, while costs, risks and expenses are socialized, that is, charged to the taxpayer. Interestingly, they practice a system of socialism they themselves condemn, in which government picks favorite winners with subsidy and favorable regulations, and losers with obstacles to profit. True socialism, contrary to popular conception and dis-information, is a socioeconomic system in which workers share the profits and benefits of production with the providers of capital. It is precisely what capitalists are most afraid of, and thereby most viciously demonize.


It is no coincidence that we in the US, the wealthiest country in history, have the greatest inequity, disproportional opportunity, environmental degradation and health problems, despite the most advanced technological prowess ever. The severity of most social problems such as substance abuse, incarceration, teen pregnancy, obesity, violence, distrust, to name only a few, can be shown to correlate most closely to the degree of inequality. It may also be shown the United States has the greatest inequality of any ‘developed’ country.


These intractable problems of injustice and inequality, environmental destruction, and sustainability cannot be solved technologically, politically, or educationally without addressing the psychological factors. Most fundamentally, the Mind-Body Split.

The Mind-Body Split (MBS) is created by emotional disturbance, most often in childhood, and is perpetuated by the lack of resolution of that disturbance. It is always a product of fear, just as chronic muscular tension is a result of fear. It is handed down from parent to child, generation after generation. Only by gaining intimate familiarization with the fears embedded in childhood history and experience can those fears be mitigated and dissolved. Cognitive understanding coupled with feeling the fears and underlying emotions reduces and heals the disconnect between feelings and thinking, the MBS.


The fears are multi-layered and take many forms. Sometimes, even superficial fears may not emerge into consciousness. Other times, for some people, irrational fears and terror may be the subject of conscious obsession. Always, unconscious components of fears of abandonment, rejection, humiliation, guilt, shame, and myriad others are constantly conditioning and restricting behavior, good feelings, and aliveness. Deeper in the mix are fears of sexuality, death, insanity, and of pleasure. Specifically, the aggressive pursuit of pleasure, and happiness, is in conflict with fear. Life becomes stuck, with desire to move forward, but fear of doing so. It is like trying to drive a car with the brake on. It is paralyzing and confusing for many people.


As a psychotherapist I see much behavior and thinking determined by fear. In effect, we are bullied by our fears, and are often unaware of the fear or its effects. While a person may be quite emotional, angering or crying easily and/or a lot, they are not connected to or aware of the causes or targets their anger or sadness is actually about. They are afraid to face those feelings. It is safer to yell at spouses, children, or the television; and safer to cry at the movies, or for a pet. Such ‘acting-out’ may relieve the energy of anger and sadness, but it does nothing to resolve it, the MBS.


The effect of these unconscious