Reflections on the Here and Now…. A Time For Change!
Last month in Toronto, Canada, the 24th Conference of the International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis marked 60 years since Alexander Lowen, M.D. founded the Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis. His son, Frederic Lowen addressed the conference and spoke of the the importance and relevance Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen's ideas and books have today and for future generations. Read Fred's full address "Reflecting back, Looking forward">>
In a post-conference essay, “Reflections on the Here and Now… A Time for Change”, Fred recounts some of the situations he experienced at the Conference that he believes are unhealthy, even dysfunctional, for the Bioenergetic community. Read the essay >>
Frederic Lowen's address to the 24th Conference of the IIBA in Toronto, Canada, May 2017
Reflecting 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.
Reflections on the Here and Now….A Time For Change!
An Essay by Frederic Lowen, CBT
The 24th Conference of the IIBA held in Toronto in May was a great time to meet old and new colleagues and friends, and to see the contributions of individual practitioners. As the son of Alexander Lowen, it is so gratifying to see my old friends retain their interest and commitment to the work of my father so many years later. Even more so, the interest showed by younger colleagues, many in Bioenergetic Training programs, is exciting and inspirational.
Unfortunately, the organization of the conference, and the vision and direction for the future as provided by the IIBA leadership was much less inspirational. Perhaps the most important statement in the final panel discussing the future of Bioenergetics was “We are not anti-Lowen,” as stated by the panel moderator.
I was glad to hear that, because the behavior of the IIBA has been distinctly anti-Lowen. As psychotherapists know, when words and behavior are not in alignment, conflict and/or neurosis is present and operating.
In the spirit and guise of “Reflecting back….,” Thursday and Friday evenings featured interviews with Vivian Guze, Scott Baum, and Bob Hilton. Although it has become normalized for so long now, making it less obvious, the hostility and contempt expressed for my father and his work, far out-weighed any expressed respect. I presume the organizers intended it to be “educational,” but to me it came across as entertainment; entertainment designed to put down my father as only a spokesman, who had not evolved as a “whole person,” and thereby could not provide the kind of therapy or techniques that “modern bioenergetics” now embodies. The techniques of the 1970s were described and characterized as primitive and a little ridiculous; although Bob could not contain his tears and affect those experiences produced.
Why is it presented this way? Ostensibly in the spirit of standing on Dad’s shoulders, as it should be; but they were not even just standing on his toes: they danced on his grave. For what purpose?.....in my admittedly biased view, it was intended to diminish the value and importance of the innovative work of my father, and to glorify themselves as having modified and corrected the many flaws in my father’s work, in effect saving Bioenergetics from Lowen.
For the health of the Bioenergetic community, it would be more appropriate to celebrate and further the indisputable value of the Lowen work.
After all, what has been accomplished in the past 20 years of “modern bioenergetics” in comparison to the prior 40 years under my father’s leadership? The vitality of the IIBA has been materially diminished intellectually and physically: in an effort to make Bioenergetics more palatable to status quo academia, any vestige of the strong bioenergetics work is gone, replaced by an intellectuality that makes it indistinguishable from any other psychotherapeutic group, and recognized by no one.
The lack of vitality is evidenced by substantial loss of IIBA membership over the past 20 years, especially in North America; the lack of published work; the continuing reduction of societies and students throughout North America; and the historically low attendance at this 24th IIBA Conference.
I invite the IIBA to post the original un-edited audio or transcripts of these interviews on their website or Facebook page, where anyone can see for themselves.
Aside from being deeply offensive to me personally, it is plainly damaging to Alexander Lowen’s professional reputation, and it is destructive for the health of the bioenergetics community.
In addition to this painful display of hostility towards their own thought leader and founder, the IIBA arranged to have thousands of books and hundreds of titles available to be sold at the conference. If you attended the conference, did you notice how many Lowen books were available?.....ZERO! While there were many copies of “Waking the Tiger” by Peter Levine, 90+% of which is a repeat of Bioenergetic concepts from decades earlier (Levine himself discounts and mis-characterizes Bioenergetics as merely “cathartic release”), there was not a single copy of any Lowen book available!
Being a Lowen, I am obviously more sensitive to these affronts, or oversights (to be more kindly), but it is difficult to characterize this behavior as anything other than anti-Lowen.
If it were only my own sensibility involved, or if this was only a one-time occurrence, I would not make these statements; it would simply be easier to not be involved. But my father’s work, as described in detail in his classic books, is too important, relevant and valuable to be overlooked.
In truth, this anti-Lowen behavior and rhetoric has been going on for so long, many in the IIBA consider it “normal.”
One glaring example (of many) I will cite, was the statement by the then future President of the IIBA, in the 2007 IIBA Conference in Sevilla, Spain. Garry Cockburn made the inexplicable statement “We must kill off Alexander Lowen.” Well Dad died in 2008, isn’t it time to get over the personal trauma at the root of irrational hostitlity? How can we encourage the use of Bioenergetics if the IIBA cannot stop denigrating, disparaging, and ignoring their Founder, despite the continuing relevance and value of his work? There is little that has been refuted, and there is still much fresh wisdom for today.
It seems the dis-respectful behavior functions to substitute and compensate for a lack of vision, direction, or meaningful development; while ensuring the dominance of the current leadership within the Bioenergetic community.
Dad has stood on the shoulders of Wilhelm Reich, who was motivated and excited by the work of Sigmund Freud. I believe that Bioenergetic therapists are the true heirs practicing the most effective form of Freud’s psychoanalysis that exists today. By focusing on the energetic processes of a person, and by utilizing the body directly to understand and resolve the unconscious conflicts and fears we all struggle with, Bioenergetic Analysis has always been and continues to be the most powerful form of psychotherapy available, period. As Dad had always done, we should be able to demonstrate it, not just talk about it.
One of Dad’s greatest fears was that “work with the body” would devolve into “talk about the body.” In this culture where mental activities, abstract thought, and the illusion of control dominate the life of the body and it’s fears, it is too easy to just talk about.
I believe that if public workshops were modeled on some of Dad’s books, like Narcissism, or Depression, or Joy, or Love and Orgasm (although we might want to title the workshop “The Energy of Love, the Energetics of Sex” for this more fearful 21st Century), there would be a highly positive response that would grow interest again. As much as things have changed, energetically they are much the same and worse. The need for this wisdom has never been greater.
Bioenergetic Analysis is not just another modality in the field of psychotherapy. Based on the giant work of Wilhelm Reich, it has great importance for how we live as individuals, societies, and as a part of this life-filled natural world; a world we humans have always un-sustainably exploited, damaged, and ignored, entirely for the illusory purpose of gratifying and fulfilling our damaged egos and characters. Understanding the nature of the mind-body split is the most important knowledge the Bioenergetic community has to offer the world. Outside of my Welcoming remarks, and Bob Lewis’ work with Cephalic Shock, the concept of the Mind-Body split was neither mentioned nor alluded to throughout the entire conference, to my knowledge.
Of course it is not only the understanding of the mind-body split we offer: highly effective therapy; characterology; energy and the energetic processes; diagnostic body reading; body techniques for accessing the unconscious; exploring trauma and integration; grounding (as more than just an intellectual concept) are just some of the unique and original methods that have yet to be integrated into our modern world, despite being developed 50 years ago. Just like the work of Wilhelm Reich, it may be old, but it is still new!
My intent here is not to fuel the existing fractures and conflicts within the Bioenergetic community, just the opposite. I do not wish to alienate anyone, only to point out dysfunctional behavior and attitudes that I believe have seriously retarded the acceptance, use, and growth of Bioenergetic Analysis.
For the health and survival of the Bioenergetic community, it is a time for change.
Bioenergetics & Ecology
Alexander Lowen, M.D. explains how the way we treat our body is similar to the way we treat our environment! This clip is from a training workshop Lowen held at Satori, CA in 1971.
Closed Captions Available in English & Russian
The Insanity of our Culture
Alexander Lowen, M.D. speaks about our head-oriented culture and the way losing contact with the body leads to insanity. This clip is from The Energetics of Bioenergetics DVD, which is available for purchase at our Foundation's store.
Closed Captions Available in English & Russian