Re-reading the Psychology of Wilhelm Reich

Christian Smith introduces one of the most controversial psychoanalysts of all time.

On top of the world
Looking over the edge
You could see them coming
You looked too small
In their big, black car
To be a threat to the men in power

It’s been 32 years ago that Kate Bush released her single “Cloudbusting”, telling the moving story of controversial psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich and his son Peter, with whom he had build the “Cloudbuster” (an experimental machine to produce rain), shortly before his abrupt arrest in 1957. Yet it remains a timeless chapter of Reich’s manifold narrative that reaches into every corner of curiosity. Fittingly, Christian Smith, facilitator of tonight’s lecture, preludes the evening with Kate Bush’s tribute before he takes the audience through the various works of Reich on psychoanalysis, body work and critical theory – works that have determined his life-long path before he painfully died in prison shortly after his arrest.

Wilhelm Reich was born 1897 in the Ukraine and home-schooled by German tutors. He served the war in the Austrian military and later on moved to Vienna to study medicine, until his fellow student, Otto Fenichel, introduced him to psychoanalysis. Picking up Freud’s notion of the libido, Reich entered the stage of psychoanalytic theory by not only differentiating himself from Freud, but also by extending libido theory into the social scope. “He reads Freud’s psychoanalysis in a revolutionary manner, something that Freud never dared to do”, Christian notes before introducing the various directions Reich’s theory developed into after his studies: sexual liberation, body and energy theory, astrophysics, communism and, very dominantly, Marxism–something Reich understood as an essential partner of psychoanalysis.

Christian’s presentation not only offers a first encounter with the massive works of Wilhelm Reich, he also campaigns for a re-consideration and implementation of Reich’s approach when observing current movements. The critical theorists of today should take up Reich’s radically political work, because “the world capitalist system has created armies of the death-drive; necrophilic characters fighting not only in regular armies, but also in the armies of terror”, as Christian puts it. “The world faces a serious problem – how to face the other without feeling the need to annihilate him and her?” Reich offers highly socio-political and often radically uniting answers, which, for instance, surface in his body theory, too: “While body mind work has been around since the 80’s at least, it is sometimes haphazard and not as well-unified as Reichian therapy is. Less obviously, but very important, we need to radicalize – and by this I mean to work at the root of the problem – our holistic healing methods. Healing must be guided by solid theory and practice”, Christian concludes.

To re-visit the evening and receive the full introduction, watch Christian’s lecture below. Christian is facilitating the Berlin Psychoanalytic Reading Group that will kick-off 4th April 2017 at Stillpoints Laboratory.



Find all of our educational videos on our Youtube channel, for the upcoming program visit our event page.

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