REICH, WILHELM


REICH, WILHELM (1897–1957), Austrian psychoanalyst. In his earlier years Reich made significant contributions to psychoanalytic theory. He broke away from the orthodox Freudian approach, believing that neurosis is due to undischarged sexual energy and that any blocking of sexual discharge causes actual physiological disturbance of sexuality (Die Funktion des Orgasmus, 1927). According to Reich, mental health is the ability to achieve full orgasm. The sexually satisfied person would have already released his aggressions and thus behave in a socialized manner. He related these ideas to the prognosis of treatment in his paper "Concerning genitality from the standpoint of psychoanalytic prognosis and therapy" (1924, Eng., 1925). Another important contribution was Reich's focus on character and character formation. Previously psychoanalyses dealt mainly with the interpretations of unconscious material. In his study of character resistances he concentrated on the whole person, his habits, tensions, and mannerisms. He went to the U.S. in the 1930s.

He died in prison after he was convicted of fraud. He had sold "orgone boxes" which according to Reich attracted "orgone," a material found in the air that had therapeutic powers. His books which deal with character are Der triebhafte Charakter (1925) and Charakteranalyse (1933, Eng., 19452), his most important work.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Wilhelm Reich Biographical Material (1953); IESS, 13 (1968), 396–8; W. Briehl, in: F. Alexander et al. (eds.), Psychoanalytic Pioneers (1966), 430–8, incl. bibl.; C. Rycroft, Reich (1971).

[Miriam Gay]


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