Wilhelm Reich

Wilhelm
Reich
1897
1957

Austrian Psychoanalyst and Author

Author Quotes

You don't believe that your friend could ever do anything great. You despise yourself in secret, even – no, especially – when you stand on your dignity; and since you despise yourself, you are unable to respect your friend. You can't bring yourself to believe that anyone you have sat at table with, or shared a house with, is capable of great achievement. That is why all great men have been solitary. It is hard to think in your company, little man. One can only think 'about' you, or 'for your benefit', not 'with' you, for you stifle all big, generous ideas.

You have no sense of your true duty, which is to be a man and preserve humanity. You imitate wise men so badly and bandits so well. Your movies and radio programs are full of murder.

You let men in power assume power "for the Little Man". But you yourself remain silent. You give men in power or impotent people with evil intentions the power to represent you. Only too late do you realize that again and again you are being defrauded.

You think the end justifies the means, however vile. I tell you: the end is the means by which you achieve it. Today's step is tomorrow's life. Great ends cannot be attained by base means. You've proved that in all your social upheavals. The meanness and inhumanity of the means make you mean and inhuman and make the end unattainable.

You will no longer believe that you "don't count." You will know and advocate your knowledge that you are the bearer of human society. Don't run away. Don't be afraid. It is not so terrible to be the responsible bearer of human society. Inflated leaders would have no soldiers and no arms if you clearly knew, and stood up for your knowledge, that a field has to yield wheat and a factory furniture or shoes, and not arms.

You'll have a good, secure life when being alive means more to you than security, love more than money, your freedom more than public or partisan opinion, when the mood of Beethoven's or Bach's music becomes the mood of your whole life … when your thinking is in harmony, and no longer in conflict, with your feelings … when you let yourself be guided by the thoughts of great sages and no longer by the crimes of great warriors … when you pay the men and women who teach your children better than the politicians; when truths inspire you and empty formulas repel you; when you communicate with your fellow workers in foreign countries directly, and no longer through diplomats...

Your liberators tell you that that your suppressors are Wilhelm, Nikolaus, Pope Gregory the Twenty Eighth, Morgan, Krupp or Ford. And your "liberators" are called Mussolini, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. I tell you: "Only you yourself can be your liberator!"

You differ from a great man in only one respect: the great man was once a very little man, but he developed one important quality: he recognized the smallness and narrowness of his thoughts and actions. Under the pressure of some task that meant a great deal to him, he learned to see how his smallness, his pettiness endangered his happiness. In other words, a great man knows when and in what way he is a little man. A little man does not know he is little and is afraid to know. He hides his pettiness and narrowness behind illusions of strength and greatness, someone else's strength and greatness. He's proud of his great generals but not of himself. He admires an idea he has not had, not one he has had. The less he understands something, the more firmly he believes in it. And the better he understands an idea, the less he believes in it.

You beg for happiness in life, but security is more important to you, even if it costs you your spine or your life. Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; love more than money; your freedom more than party line or public opinion; when your thinking will be in harmony with your feelings; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians; when you will have more respect for the love between man and woman than for a marriage license.

You are Great, Little Man, when you are not small and petty. You are great when you carry on your trade lovingly, when you enjoy carving and building and painting and decorating and sowing, when you enjoy the blue sky and the deer and the dew and music and dancing, your growing children and the beautiful body of your woman or your man, when you learn to understand and think about life.

I want you to stop being subhuman and become 'yourself'. 'Yourself,' I say. Not the newspaper you read, not your vicious neighbor's opinion, but 'yourself.' I know, and you don't, what you really are deep down. Deep down, you are what a deer, your God, your poet, or your philosopher is. But you think you're a member of the VFW, your bowling club, or the Ku Klux Klan, and because you think so, you behave as you do. This too was told you long ago, by Heinrich Mann in Germany, by Upton Sinclair and John Dos Passos in the United States. But you recognized neither Mann nor Sinclair. You recognize only the heavyweight champion and Al Capone. If given your choice between a library and a fight, you'll undoubtedly go to the fight.

It is precisely this "simplicity" in human intercourse that is so incomprehensible to the armored organism. Everything natural and profound is simple. The simple, grand lines of emotional expression are known to characterize the great painter, musician, poet, novelist and scientist. But the simple is alien to the armored organism. Its impulses are so complicated in their form of expression, the manner of their utterance is so muddled and contradictory that it has no organ for the simple and unequivocal emotional expression. It even lacks a sense of simplicity. Its love is mixed with hatred and anxiety. The unarmored organism loves unequivocally in love situations, hates unequivocally where hatred is legitimate, and fears unequivocally where fear is rational. The armored organism hates where it should love, loves where it should hate, and is frightened where it should love or hate. Complexity is the specific life expression of the armored person He is trapped, as it were, in the multiple contradictions of his existence. Since he approaches all experiences with his complex character structure, his experiences become equally complicated. He is amazed at the accomplishments in the area of special talent barred to him. "Genius" become a kind of abnormal monster, because he cannot understand the great simplicity in the life expression of "genius." In the consistent stripping away of the layers of character, one discovers that complexity epitomizes the defensive mechanism in its purest form. The armored person is complicated because he has a mortal terror of everything simple, straightforward and direct. I say: mortal terror. This is no literary exaggeration. The word accurately describes the process: the simple, straightforward, direct expression inescapably leads periodically to orgastic plasma convulsions.

Not until man is willing to recognize his animal nature - in the good sense of the word - will he create genuine culture.

See yourself as you really are. Listen to what none of your leaders and representatives dares tell you: You are a "little, common man." Understand the double meaning of these words: "little" and "common."

The few bad poems which occasionally are created during abstinence are of no great interest.

Under the influence of politicos, the masses blame the powers that be for wars. In the first world war it was the munition magnates, in the second the Psychopath General. This is shifting the responsibility. The blame for the war belongs only and alone to the same masses of people who have all the means of preventing wars. The same masses of people who — partly through indolent passivity, partly through their active behavior — make possible the catastrophes from which they themselves suffer most horribly. To emphasize this fault of the masses, to give them the full responsibility, means taking them seriously. On the other hand, to pity the masses as a poor victim means treating them like a helpless child. The first is the attitude of the genuine fighter for freedom, the latter is the attitude of the politico.

Full sexual consciousness and a natural regulation of sexual life mean the end of mystical feelings of any kind, that, in other words, natural sexuality is the deadly enemy of mystical religion. The church, by making the fight over sexuality the center of its dogmas and of its influence over the masses, confirms this concept.

I was accused of being a utopian, of wanting to eliminate the displeasure of the world and defend just pleasure. However, I have stated clearly that the traditional education makes people unable to pleasure encouraçando them against unpleasure. Pleasure and joy of living are inconceivable without struggle, painful experiences and unpleasant encounters with himself. The psychic health is not characterized by the theory of nirvana of yogis and Buddhists, nor the hedonism of the Epicureans nor the monastic renunciation; characterized, rather, by alternating between fighting unpleasant and happiness, truth and error, the deviation and correction of the route, anger rational and rational love, in short, to be fully alive in all situations of life. The ability to withstand pain and displeasure without becoming embittered and without escaping the rigidity, goes hand in hand with the ability to accept and give love happiness.

It is said culture requires slaves. I say that no cultured society can be built with slaves. This terrible Twentieth Century has made all cultural theories from Plato down seem ridiculous. Little man, there has never been a human culture.

On all sides, life is surrounded by hostility. This puts us under an obligation.

Sexual anxiety is caused by the external frustration of instinctual gratification and is internally anchored by the fear of the dammed-up sexual excitation. This leads to orgasm anxiety, which is the ego's fear of the over-powering excitation of the genital system due to its estrangement from the experience of pleasure. Orgasm anxiety constitutes the core of the universal, biologically anchored pleasure anxiety. It is usually expressed as a general anxiety about every form of vegetative sensation and excitation, or the perception of such excitation and sensations. The pleasure of living and the pleasure of the orgasm are identical. Extreme orgasm anxiety forms the basis of the general fear of life.

The general psychosomatic disease of civilized humanity is "orgastic impotence" the inability to achieve total orgasm, caused by the anxieties implicit in our antisexual religions and patriarchal institutions.

Unless we proceed cautiously, there might well arise a few generations of mystics who conceive of the orgone metaphysically, divorced from non-living nature and who do not comprehend it from the standpoint of natural science. And it seems to me that we have more than enough mysticism as it is.

Gradually it became clear that it is a fundamental error to try to give the sexual act a psychological interpretation, to attribute to it a psychic meaning as if it were a neurotic symptom. But this is what the psychoanalysts did. On the contrary: any idea occurring in the course of the sexual act only has the effect of hindering one's absorption in the excitation. Furthermore, such psychological interpretations of genitality constitute a denial of genitality as a biological function. By composing it of non-genital excitations, one denies the existence of genitality. The function of the orgasm, however, had revealed the qualitative difference between genitality and pregenitality. Only the genital apparatus can provide orgasm and can discharge sexual energy completely. Pregenitality, on the other hand, can only increase vegetative tensions. One readily sees the deep rift which formed here in psychoanalytic concepts.

If "freedom" means, first of all, the responsibility of every individual for the rational determination of his own personal, professional and social existence, then there is no greater fear than that of the establishment of general freedom. Without a thoroughgoing solution of this problem there never will be a peace lasting longer than one or two generations. To solve this problem on a social scale, it will take more thinking, more honesty and decency, more conscientiousness, more economic, social and educational changes in social mass living than all the efforts made in previous and future wars and post-war reconstruction programs taken together.

Author Picture
First Name
Wilhelm
Last Name
Reich
Birth Date
1897
Death Date
1957
Bio

Austrian Psychoanalyst and Author