Beyond Reich

Marnia's picture
Submitted by Marnia on
Printer-friendly version

A German reader recently shared some material from an article by Loil Neidhöfer. He roughly translated and summarized some of it as follows:

Psyche and ErosWhat Reichians can learn from the Taoists (and other higher sexual cultures of mankind) is the following: the genital orgasm is not the optimal sexual reaction of the organism; it is a conditioned, learned reaction. It is one way of handling sexual energy, a short-term one that serves reduction of stress and devitalizes the orgasm in the mid- or long-term. It speaks to the insufficient wisdom of our Western cultures regarding sexual things that such a degenerating and uninspired sexual practice could become the unquestioned norm for sexual behavior.

The institutionalized religious traditions suppressed and distorted the human sex instinct. That creates much personal and social pathology. The end result of this procedure is a complete separation of sexuality from its spiritual foundations. Tao symbol

Yet Wilhelm Reich’s approach of body-oriented [pro-orgasm] psychotherapy is incomplete. While he is right that suppressing sexual energy injures, he did not grasp how to use sexual energy without orgasm and without suppressing it. However, Reich’s work still has merit because one cannot take full advantage of the Taoist exercises and the higher spiritual dimension of sex, as long as one still suppresses the flow of energy.

See also another comparison of Reich's work with Taoist thought by Douglas Wile. In short, Neidhöfer suggests that learning to make love without orgasm is a two-step process: first one releases all blockages of the sexual energy, and then one taps into the spiritual dimension. The work of Houzan Suzuki (Mumyouan) parallels Neidhöfer’s conclusions. Suzuki says that anyone who goes directly into spiritual union and bypasses the physical gratification, orgasm-driven stage of a relationship is avoiding sexual maturity, and this approach will lead to frustration, not spiritual union.

Is it necessary to unblock sexual energy with orgasm before raising sexual energy?

Certainly energy blocks must dissolve, but trying to release sexual blocks by having orgasms is like bailing a boat with a hole in it. Dopamine rushes of orgasm trigger hangovers of uneasiness. Generally, the lovers’ perceptions of each other (and often their behavior) deteriorate. As intimacy becomes emotionally painful, existing defenses (blockages) seem more justified than ever. From that point, it is harder, not easier, to move toward genuine merging. Perhaps a better first step, before reaching upward, is to create a safe, loving relationship. Intimacy without the neurochemical highs and lows, which make us feel like we are fall in and out of love without cause, creates just such a space of safety for lovers.

Many assume that sexual blocks are at the genital level, and must be fixed at that level by forcing genital release. In fact, sexual blocks heal through forgiveness, releasing resentments, finding compassion for misdeeds, and integrating an understanding of what was really driving us so we can easily forgive past errors - our own and others'. Blocks don't heal through orgasm, although orgasmic ease may be a function of freely flowing energy. Because of the hangover from orgasm, orgasms create uneasiness over the weeks following. So, although they feel like unblocked energy when they occur, they actually cause contraction afterward. Fear closes the heart. healing hearts

It may be more useful to think of sexual blocks as residing at the heart level. I learned this when I did some deep work on forgiving men. As I released my resentments and fears, my heart opened. In my next relationship, I found that orgasm was as effortless as breathing. (Mind you, I didn’t escape the hangovers, but in those days I still believed that hangovers were a function of semen loss, so I rationalized them away as best I could.) The more loving I became - because my world was now a safer place emotionally than I had previously believed - the more my life reflected that belief back to me. I also grew more generous toward others.

If solo forgiveness is powerful, imagine the benefits when lovers demonstrate their forgiveness of the opposite sex by using their sexual energy strictly for each other’s wellbeing. A healing synergy arises from such generous affection, which is why Cupids Poisoned Arrow advises a nightly exchange of affection. Placing another’s welfare before your own desire to unblock your sexual energy regardless of its effect on your lover, you produce consistently higher levels oxytocin. Oxytocin counters fear, depression, stress and addiction. In other words, you both speed your own healing on every level by nurturing each other. As your state of mind improves, you tend to release blocks more easily, including sexual blocks. Your scars from past hurts just don’t appear to be as permanent or painful as they did when neurochemical fluctuations made everything seem overwhelming. loving couple

Not only that, but you also build a relationship. Close trusted companionship is one of the most powerful determinants of health for humans. As the I Ching says, "Working toward common goals builds inner strength." Working with a vibrator or pornography doesn’t offer that benefit. Even if you somehow "unblock" your sexual energy, you can acquire an unwelcome addiction. Sadly, addiction encourages isolation, which is associated with shorter lives and higher rates of illness.

But what about sexual suppression?

For Reich, lovemaking without orgasm would have posed a dangerous risk of sexual suppression. (Suzuki would agree - at least early in a relationship.) A pupil of Freud, Reich believed that sexual repression was the source of mankind’s misery. Recognizing that orgasm released physical tension, he theorized - not unreasonably - that orgasm unblocked just about everything. As a result, he mistakenly equated orgasm (rather than loving union) with happiness and wellbeing - just as the reward circuitry in his brain intended.

Reich performed a useful role in encouraging the West to explore its sexuality more fully, but he never realized that orgasm is only the apex of a cycle. The nadir of that cycle is a hangover, which tends to alienate lovers (Reich married three times). Like all intense reward circuit-driven activities, the orgasm cycle is an addictive cycle. That is, the discomfort of the hangover actually impels the quest for another climax (or dopamine-producing substitute).

The price of addictive "happiness" is restless, often single-minded pursuit of activities or substances that trigger dopamine. This exhausting preoccupation leaves us further than ever from true fulfillment. We acquire a new block, "addict think," which tends to be self-absorbed, selfish and characterized by feelings of victimization. It is a particular unfortunate filter with which to view the world, form relationships, and make choices. In contrast, true happiness arises from balance and wellbeing.

Any recovered alcoholic will tell you that while she was drinking, she believed inebriation was both happiness and reliable mood medicine. Yet sober, she says that sobriety is the sine qua non for genuine happiness and emotional healing. Without equilibrium, she was on a grueling treadmill of highs and hangovers that produced more misery than pleasure. coccoon of safety

Can one reach for the goal of inner balance and still heal sexual repression? Yes. Orgasm is not the only way to release tension. Author of The Karezza Method, J. William Lloyd described it this way:

in successful Karezza the sex-organs become quiet, satisfied, demagnetized, as perfectly as by the orgasm, while the rest of the body of each partner glows with a wonderful vigor and conscious joy…tending to irradiate the whole being with romantic love; and always with an after-feeling of health purity and wellbeing. We are most happy and good-humored as after a full meal.

By engaging in sex as a gentle, mutual healing, lovers can create a cocoon of safety. In such a space, playful relaxation and easy communication naturally follow. Just talking through blocks in a safe space helps dissolve them. Until you try an approach like Karezza, it’s hard to imagine that you can make love a lot without orgasm, and without suppressing anything. It takes a very slow approach. We recommend two weeks of just sleeping together, somewhat clothed, and exchanging loving energy each night to achieve an easy, comfortable balance. During this preliminary process, snuggling becomes so satisfying that you realize that intercourse and orgasm really are not necessary for fulfillment or relaxation.

Given oxytocin's ability to soothe addiction, it seems likely that it is behind this phenomenon and also counters sexual frustration. When you add intercourse back in, it is just the icing on the cake…rather than the whole cake. This shift requires determination to move beyond the addictive cycle of sex, but it does not call for suppression. It calls for moving your sexual energy up through your heart and into another's heart as an energy gift, rather than out through the genitals for your own gratification.

In short, people can benefit from going directly to gentle, mutual nurturing without risking suppression of their sexual energy or first pursuing an "orgasm phase." Feeling safe and loved...and loving...tends to make sex more enlivening. As you actually experience intimacy that is quietly joyful and fun most of the time, your worldview shifts…and tension eases.

Adam and EveSexual suppression generally arises from guilt. Unfortunately guilt makes prohibited activities more risky or "sinful." The upshot is that guilty pleasures are more addictive than sexual activities without guilt because risky behaviors raise dopamine levels. However, orgasms may evaporate guilt less than making love in a way that consistently leads to an experience of innocent playfulness. Without sexually induced neurochemical hangovers, guilt is an empty thought with no emotional charge. It is easy to see it for what it is, a simple error in thought.

Conclusion

Like beers, orgasms don’t solve problems. Women have far more orgasms these days than they have in recorded history. Yet, they are increasingly selfish, needy, and (if recent court cases about women seducing teens are an indication) predatory. Caught up in "addict think," they are forgetting how to nurture others selflessly - making healing relationships less and less likely. Pursuit of orgasm and selfishness are connected. Addictive cycles of high-followed-by-uneasiness do not bring out the best in anyone.

For millennia, women complained about men's selfish sexual behavior. Now, sadly, they imitate it, because they make the same error of overlooking the full orgasm cycle and its effects on perception of the world around us. lovers in lightUnblocking one's sexual energy is part of genuine wellbeing, but it can be done best in a safe space where hearts can open - rather than at the genital level apart from the safe harbor of a relationship. When we put mutual healing before the pursuit of orgasm, we create a relationship flowing with stability and satisfaction. Such a relationship is also an ideal foundation for spiritual progress.

Also see Freud, Fraud and Sexual Health

Tiered browsing: