Saturday, 13 March 2010


Wilhelm Reich & Sigmund Freud

To sum up the lecture: it's all about the orgasm!

Freud said we are governed by primitive sexual and aggressive forces and they need to be controlled. Chaos would ensue if they were not.

The Austrian philosopher believed that, under the outer surface, we are always driven by these animal instincts. However, these urges are not always on show as our 'conscious mind' serves to surpress them.

Freud claimed the key to our true desires lies in our dreams: "Dreams are the royal road to the subconscious", he said.

He separated our mind into three parts:

1. Id - our instinctive drives. Leads to chaos if not controlled, according to Freud.
2. Ego - conscious mind.
3. Super Ego - works against Id to keep it in check, thus keeping our conscious mind more prominent.

Wilhelm Reich was a close follower of Freud's work, but then he came up with his own contrasting theory.

He said the repression of the Id caused bad thoughts, rather than the existence of the Id itself. Reich believed we actually had good urges.

Reich developed his own version of the three layers of the human mind:

1. Surface - polite, compasssionate
2. Cruel, selfish
3. Deepest layer - loving, pure

Unlike Freud, Reich said we should always bring out No. 3, instead of repressing it...but we had to get past No. 2 (the worst layer) before we got to the best side of human nature (No. 3).

In 'The Mass Psychology of Fascism', Reich - from a Jewish background - said the Nazis embodied the second layer.

He also claimed the Nazis focused most on the vote of the lower-middle class as they were most suseptible to Hitler's rhetoric.

According to Reich (pictured, right), they were most vulnerable for two reasons:

1. Most likely to have strong father figure - Particularly used to authority, as in a totalitarian regime.

2. Most likely to be sexually repressed - Mainly because of the father figure. This would cause a need for rebellion, an opposite but equally important attraction of the Nazis.

As a result of the failure/fear of other parties, the Nazis encouraged voters to 'rebel' against them. Therefore, many Germans voted for them out of disillusion with the opposition, without necessarily agreeing with Nazi policy. This is known as 'negative cohesion'.


Remember, Reich said repression was bad. Repression would mean you could not have a proper orgasm. This was really bad in the eyes of Mr. Reich!

Reich believed one's happiness could be measured by their Orgiastic Potency - their ability to surrender to the orgasm.

Later, when he was going a bit crazy, Reich took his focus from the orgasm and found a new obsession - orgone energy. The more orgone energy we gained, the freer we would become.

Reich suggested orgone energy could be collected in 'orgone accumulators' or 'cloudbusters'. These cloudbusters could supposedly alter the atmosphere so much that they could create rain. Kate Bush tells us more!

Freud and Reich in Advertising

In 1950s America, Freud's idea of the 'unconscious mind' was used in advertising. Figures like Edward Bernays would constantly play to our unconscious desires, almost always involving sex, in adverts.

In the 1960s, Reich became more prominent and advertising started to surround the individual, and their need to express themselves in a way that separates them from the crowd. Modern adverts from Apple are a classic example.


Essentially, followers of Wilhelm Reich would want to express their feelings as openly as possible and Sigmund Freud's followers would feel they should be kept under the surface at all costs.

The most interesting debate is whether society has the right balance between Freudian and Reichian ideas...

Should we be more open? Should we be more reserved? Or is it up to each individual?


  1. I think that the idea that there is a link between sexual repression and authoritarian behaviour is a very well founded idea and this is argued very well in The Mass Psychology of Fascism. But the idea that sexual repression can produce cancer is not proven of course and has no empirical or scientific basis. The biggest impact of Reich's ideas have been in modern dance, hence the connection with Freud, Reich and Kate Bush who came out of the of dance I think more than pop music. I don't know a lot about Kate Bush and think she is a bit naff, though she is a blatant example of Freudian ideas being used to make pop culture.