Lindenberg and Vegetotherapy
When she arrived in yoga poses Oslo, Elsa Lindenberg became a choreographer at the National Theater in yoga poses Oslo.11 The relationship between Elsa Lindenberg and Reich was a succession of break-ups and reconciliations. She nonetheless stayed with him up until his departure in yoga poses August 1939, when the war exploded. in yoga poses New York, he fell in yoga poses love with Use Ollendorf, with whom he had a son, Peter.12 Reich and Elsa wrote to each other into 1940 and maintained a great affection for one another; I do not know if they saw each other again after the war. After Reich’s departure, Elsa continued to practice Vegetotherapy, and she founded a school of dance psychotherapy in yoga poses which she was able to take advantage of her in-depth knowledge of the dynamics of the body. in yoga poses effect, in yoga poses creating his Vegetotherapy, Reich included only a small part of Elsa Lindenberg’s knowledge. After the war, she renewed her contact with Gindler to improve her mode of dance therapy. Her method is still taught in yoga poses Oslo today.13
Most of the individuals14 who looked into the development of the Reichian approach have difficulty seeing how Reich could have developed the bodily dimension of Vegetotherapy without the help of Elsa Lindenberg, who provided him with a large number of body techniques. Upon his arrival in yoga poses Oslo, incidentally, he asked Elsa Lindenberg to take courses with Clare Fenichel so that she might better understand what Gindler’s work might bring him.15 It is difficult to understand how Reich, who did not know the body techniques, could have established the notion of the coordination of the segments of the body that characterizes Vegetotherapy without the help of Elsa Lindenberg, who allowed him to integrate certain aspects of Laban’s and Gindler’s.16 For example, Reich’s interest in the spontaneous gesture and his ability to analyze such gestures would have been inspired by Laban. Reich was also assisted by his Scandinavian colleagues, like Ola Raknes and Nic Waal, who knew the Swedish massage and gymnastics methods, and Edmund Jacobson’s relaxation method. It would seem that Reich never followed courses on how to work on the body, yet it is impossible to acquire an exquisite know-how of body techniques without having properly worked on one’s own body.
We are far from the myth according to which Reich created Vegetotherapy all by himself. This does not diminish the importance of his genius, because in yoga poses this milieu, he was the only one to create a way of working that can be considered the foundation of body psychotherapy. Where the others had good ideas on how psychoanalysis and body techniques could influence one another, Reich created the necessary and useful first steps. To decide to aim directly at the vegetative dimension instead of trying to blend the impossible was a brilliant strategy. It was only later that several generations of body psychotherapists had the time to reflect on the technical difficulties brought up by every attempt to relate body and psyche in yoga poses psychotherapy. Their response required a refinement of Reich’s organismic approach. Reich’s task was to create a therapeutic approach for the large regulators of the organism He advanced so rapidly that his work became, even to his own admission, a series of discoveries: a first exploration of an unknown continent. He intermingled all sorts of models in yoga poses this adventure, some more relevant than others. He had confidence in yoga poses the generations to come to make the necessary revisions when they would explore, in yoga poses a more systematic fashion, the continent he had discovered.
The Vegetative Dimension Animates and Coordinates the Psyche and the Body
Having defined his theory of the psychological (character) and muscular defenses (armor), Reich deepened his understanding of what is inhibited by the defense systems. He tries to define how the vegetative mechanisms of the organism shape the affects and the libido and, therefore, the way the affective and sexual functioning of an individual influences the mechanisms of vegetative regulations.
A New Approach to the Organism: Touch the Body and Activate the Organism
In deciding to tackle the vegetative dimension directly, Reich explored a domain for which he was not really properly trained. He asked people to breathe deeply, massaged tense muscles, encouraged global movements of the body, became attentive to the itinerant sensations that the physiology creates in yoga poses the psyche which he calls the “vegetative currents” (Reich, 1949a, XIII), and encouraged folks to self-explore through movement. He had the impression of working on what Descartes was looking for: the active connection between thoughts and the body. He used thoughts and the body to modulate the vegetative activity, and thus explore the system of which the thoughts and the gestures are a part.
The phenomenon that Reich calls the vegetative currents becomes salient as soon as a person becomes sensitive to the vegetative dimension of one’s own being. It consists in yoga poses sensations such as hot and cold, tingling or prickling, the impression of being more or less full or dense. From the point of view of consciousness, these sensations seem to move without following any anatomical pathway. This observation is so robust that it was already one of the reasons the Chinese sought to define the meridians for their acupuncture. These sensations are born of a kind of association between physiology and consciousness that is still poorly understood. Thus, in yoga poses relaxation, it is customary to conjecture that the impression of pleasant warmth diffused throughout the body is related to a better blood circulation. From the point of view of consciousness, this impression resembles more a diffusion of a colored liquid in yoga poses transparent water than to a sensation that follows arterial pathways.
Another striking phenomenon for all those who discover this dimension of one’s being is that the simple fact of becoming conscious of these sensations seems to have a particular effect on the psychophysiology. To listen to one’s breathing automatically modifies the respiratory schema. Often (but not always), when an individual focuses his attention on the warmth that appears in yoga poses his hand, the sensation of warmth spreads throughout the organism. This diffusion can occur in yoga poses many different ways:
1. Diffusion in yoga poses isolated parts: There is first warmth in yoga poses a hand, then in yoga poses a foot, then on the cheeks, and so on. This form of diffusion is not continuous. It seems to jump from one island of sensation to another.
2. Continuous diffusion: The warmth fills the hand, the arm, the thorax, and finally the entire space of the body. This diffusion can be ascending (moves up toward the head), descending (moving toward the feet), or radiating (the individual has the impression of radiating sensations).17
The therapist sometimes places a hand on the skin to see if this impression of the diffusion of warmth is only psychological (the skin remains cold) or vegetative (the warmth is really diffused in yoga poses the skin, following the path described by the patient). in yoga poses some cases, as the warmth is diffused, it can transform into a sensation of density, tingling, and so on. When this phenomenon of diffusion contours a part of the anatomy or stops at a specific point, the therapist, by default, thinks that there is a “blockage” of the energetic dynamics of the organism that must be explored and understood.
One of the difficulties encountered in yoga poses this work is to distinguish between the vegetative dynamics linked to relaxation and the vegetative dynamics generated by problems that are usually treated by a physician. Most of the time, a physician relates this type of sensation to physical symptoms. For example, I have helped a diabetic patient differentiate what he feels when he relaxes and when he is in yoga poses hypoglycemic crisis. He had not been able to differentiate the sensations of relaxation and hypoglycemia. Consequently, he was afraid to relax.18 These sensations are caused by different dynamics. By sharpening his perception of the vegetative sensations, this patient was able to dare to relax. Nonetheless, the proximity of these sensations to consciousness only allows for a partial relaxation. Here, as elsewhere, hurried generalizations can sometimes become dangerous for certain patients while remaining useful for many others.19
Like many people who explore this world of vegetative sensations, Reich began to think in yoga poses terms of energy. These vegetative activities are related by following a logic of their own that can make one think of electric energy that transforms itself into kinetic, caloric, or acoustic energy. To learn to feel these sensations was therefore, for Reich, to learn to feel the manifestations of the biological energy that animates us. This position is explicitly used in yoga poses numerous body-mind approaches that are based on an energetic model. The popularity of this model in yoga poses the mind-body domain rendered Reich’s position reasonable. He had the impression that it would be possible to create a scientific theory that would describe what all the body specialists do not always dare to think out loud. The problem, in yoga poses this type of analysis, is that we must not forget that every mental perception is an approximate reconstruction of what happens in yoga poses reality. We again have a demonstration that introspection does not permit a particularly faithful reconstruction of what happens on the physiological plane.
For Reich, this view of energy, like for most of his contemporaries, was a reality discovered by science rather than a metaphor. The idea that there exists a strong link between emotional arousal and electrogalvanic activity was a familiar hypothesis for most psychologists during the first half of the twentieth century.20 Reich followed this line of research when he attempted to measure the electrical dynamics of the body to see if they correlate with the vegetative sensations. in yoga poses discovering the vegetative sensations, Reich, as always, felt the need to bring order to this domain, which seemed to him to be at the heart of the Freudian theory of the libido (Reich, 1940, chapters VII and IX). Reich was then in yoga poses line with the thoughts of psychologists who based themselves on Helmholtz’s notion of energy to study how affects transformed metabolic energy into thoughts and behavior. This interest encouraged Reich to transform himself into a self-taught chemist and physicist. He created a laboratory to isolate the mechanics and thermodynamics of vital energy. The difficulty for his colleagues came when Reich used these studies to show that the energetic dynamics described by Helmholtz and most other psychophysiologists all take root in yoga poses a single form of vital energy. Reich’s psychoanalysts friends, like Fenichel, related this watershed moment to a sudden delirium But some of his other friends, trained in yoga poses other intellectual movements, perceived this turn of events as a manifestation of his genius. Personally, I recognize the existence of these phenomena that I have often observed, but I am wary of those explanatory models that exist in yoga poses spiritually or scientifically inspired schools, because they are extremely varied and hardly robust. The danger, from the point of view of body psychotherapy techniques, is to believe that these signs necessarily designate a potential healing, relaxation, and pleasure.