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Honoring the Body: One's Home is One's Body

by The Autobiography of Alexander Lowen MD

listed in mind body

[Image: Honoring the Body: One's Home is One's Body]

I cracked open this book eagerly, since I have long been interested in the mind-body relationship as it plays out in psychotherapy. Having read most of Wilhelm Reich's books and written articles about his contribution to psychology, I was naturally drawn to Lowen's offshoot of Reichian therapy. In Reich's therapy the patients are passive, while the therapist actively jabs away at the patient's body. Lowen enlarged this mind-body paradigm to include exercises that lead to increased body awareness, while instructing the patient to shout out in anger, etc.

Gestalt Therapy is different from both of these approaches in that, while also focusing on breathing, contact with body feelings, etc., Fritz Perls gave the patient free rein to focus on whatever came up, not necessarily anger. For Perls, choice is made by an actively participating patient.

Lowen made some interesting contributions to therapeutic methodology; sitting on my bookshelf today are two of Lowen's books Physical Dynamics of Character Structure, his most technical work, published by Grune & Stratton in 1958; and the more popular read Love and Orgasm, Signet 1965. My old friend and colleague Adam Margoshes reviewed the latter work for The Village Voice; his blurb on the back of the Signet paperback tating "Illuminating...enlightening.. Books such as Lowen's point to the hard but rewarding way to health." Lowen, always eager for praise, refers to this positive review.

However, I found this autobiography disappointing. A good editor could have cut out the many repetitions and digressions and helped with organization. Lowen mentions in an early page that he got a 'D' in English as a young student and it certainly shows here! Lowen runs through his life story, early struggles at finding himself, his career moves – salesman, school teacher, law school; and finally he meets Reich and finds his life goal in solving the mind-body dilemma.

There are some interesting pages when he describes his work with Reich, but the reader would have liked much more of this significant part of his life, and less information on travels – car trips, boat trip, etc. which add nothing to the narrative. (The thought struck me that perhaps he should be writing for National Geographic). Lowen describes the major love affair of his life with the woman who became his wife in a candid manner, but something is missing from his story. He leaves out many potentially rich areas, e.g. what it was like studying medicine in Switzerland compared to USA, and how did that influence his thinking. It would have been useful if he had said more about his development of bioenergetics and its relation to Reichian orgonomy, and also how the Reichians reacted to his innovations. Many fascinating possibilities are skirted over, while he fills pages with details that leave the reader wondering why such inanities are included! Several times he repeats that one of his books changed names: after the first two times, such redundancy becomes annoying.

I was very surprised to see him mis-use the term 'orgiastic' over and over again, when he clearly meant the word 'orgastic' – a common error that was pointed out by Reich as an example of the general sexual misunderstanding in our society. Perhaps Lowen's advanced age – he is 93, is the reason for such gross neglect. Of course, in Reichian terminology 'orgastic' refers to orgastic potency, implying the healthy, contactful free release of blocked-up energy during sexual climax; while the over-used word "orgiastic" is used to describe sexual promiscuity and wild parties – and obviously this is neither Lowen's nor Reich's intention, though many have tried to tar them with this brush. An unfortunate mistake, and one, I could add, that many of my uninformed students have made during my years in the Academic halls.

Lowen seems to have been a quarrelsome fellow, and the book sheds some light on his conflicts with his colleague Dr John Pierrakos, as well as his break with the organization he established to further Bioenergetic Therapy. I closed the book wondering if he had finally reached any insight into the psychological background of these many conflicts.

Further Information

Honoring the Body and other Bioenergetics Press books are available from and from

Sheldon Litt, Ph.D.
Bioenergetics Press Florida

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