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The Function of The Orgasm

by Wilhelm Reich

Wilhelm Reich wrote The Function of The Orgasm in 1940. It is one of his most important works. Reich, a student of Freud's who worked and participated in the psychoanalytic movement for many years, insisted that Freud's libido theory is the most essential theory, and that Freud's other theories brought on later on were derived from libido theory. 

In libido theory, Freud postulates that there is an innate psychosexual energy that is born with the child and that it is the main source of instinct which brings gradual development to the child. 

Freud attributed certain characteristics that come with this growth and development. In The Function of the Orgasm, Reich contends that the principle of libido energy and its development from infancy to adulthood and its satisfactory development and adequate satisfaction of libidinal urges constitute the most important factor in human development. Development of other characteristics are secondary to it. 

Reich contends that Freud?s digression from initial libido theory -- the theory of psychosexual energy -- and his preoccupation with other psychoanalytic theories were the consequence of Freud?s resignation to social pressures. In the same book, he states: ?Freud was not a social pragmatist ?only? a strict and honest scientist. The world could no longer gainsay [deny] the fact of unconscious psychic life. Thus, it resorted to its old game of corruption. It sent him many students, who came to a set table and did not have to bother about the cooking. They had but one interest: to popularize psychoanalysis as quickly as possible. They carried their conservative ties to this world into his organization, and Freud?s work could not exist without organization. One after the other, they discarded or watered down the libido theory. Freud was well aware of the difficulties involved in championing libido theory. But, in the interest of self-preservation and the consolidation of the movement he could not permit himself to say what, in a more honest world, he would certainly have stood up for all alone. 

Reich initially talks about the importance of the child?s psychosexual development. He mentions emotional sicknesses that are derived from distortion of psychosexual energy as he goes through developmental stages because of social influences. He gives examples of social ills and fears that are introduced to the child in patriarchal families and their social
consequence. Consequences of such an upbringing of children leads to a society composed of psychologically unhealthy people that creates dictators as their leaders. 

He then talks about the inconsistencies and flaws that existed in contemporary psychology. He describes how normal and abnormal sexuality have both been treated as dirty and undesirable and punishable, and healthy sexuality was not differentiated from unhealthy sexuality. Both were condemned by social institutions. In The Function of the Orgasm he also explains his views on healthy sexuality and the need for its fulfillment -- the destructive effect of its repression and dissatisfaction. 

He explains the sexual illnesses and disabilities which follow because of a lengthy delay in sexual fulfillment and repression of sexual desires, such as premature ejaculation, frigidity, disinterest or sadistic or masochistic tendencies which develop in people because healthy sexuality has not been respected. 

Reich also explains the difficulty in work and the waste of intellectual potential by people who have to spend a major portion of their energy fighting with their sexual desires and how that drains the energy which otherwise could have been available for further growth and work. 

Reich also discusses the relation between psychological health and sexual health and its relation with cultural needs and cultural growth. He believes that sexuality has been seen as a threat to cultural growth -- a false belief -- he contends that many social ills that were present in the 1940s, such as wars, torture, killing, violence, antisocial behavior and many other social ills, are the consequence of the illness in the culture which cannot be denied and man cannot be proud of. He attributes social ills to the wrong upbringing of children which makes them ready for an authoritarian government and leadership, as well as makes them prone to antisocial behavior and deprives them of their potential for work and love. 

Reich states that love, knowledge and work are the wellsprings of life. They should also govern it. Reich brings examples from the second World War, atrocities and savage behavior, killings of people and disrespect for human life, and attributes them to the human sickness that springs from wrong upbringing of children and therefore makes society prone to such atrocities. Since atrocities have not stopped since the 1940s and the World War II, we therefore believe his points are valid for the present. 

He then talks about the biological effects of his understanding of the human organism, the inner psychological and physical effect it leaves on people, the treatment of such cases that he has taken based on his theory and the treatment approach and technique that are designed for it. He brings examples of interesting and helpful results that he obtained in treating his patients which substantiate his theory and understanding of the human psyche. 

The translator believes that this book is valuable and needs to be read and understood by all cultures. He also believes it will help human growth. 

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Wilhelm ReichWilhelm Reich was born in 1897. Austrian psychoanalyst and  biophysicist. Once associated with Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, Reich immigrated to the United States and advocated his theory of an orgone energy. He believed that this energy permeates the universe and that humans must release it through sexual activity to avoid developing neuroses. In 1942 he founded the Orgone Institute. He died in 1957.

 

 

 

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