Date: July 11, 2019
“Within the work of the Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957), orgastic potency is the ability to experience an orgasm with specific psychosomatic characteristics and, among others, requiring the ability to love.
For Reich, “orgastic impotence”, or failure to attain orgastic potency (not to be confused with anorgasmia, the inability to reach orgasm) always resulted in neurosis, because during orgasm that person could not discharge all libido (which Reich regarded as a biological energy). According to Reich, “not a single neurotic individual possesses orgastic potency.”
Reich coined the term orgastic impotence in 1924 and described the concept in his 1927 book Die Funktion des Orgasmus, the manuscript of which he presented to Sigmund Freud on the latter’s 70th birthday. Though Reich regarded his work as complementing Freud’s original theory of anxiety neurosis, Freud was ambivalent in his reception. Freud’s view was that there was no single cause of neurosis.
Reich continued to use the concept as an indicator of a person’s health in his later therapeutic methods, such as vegetotherapy. During the period 1933–1937, he attempted to ground his orgasm theory in physiology, both theoretically and experimentally.
Reich developed his orgasm theory between 1921 and 1924 and it formed the basis for all his later contributions, including the theory of character analysis. The starting point of Reich’s orgasm theory was his clinical observation of genital disturbance in all neurotics, which he presented in November 1923, in the paper “Über Genitalität vom Standpunkt der psychoanalytischen Prognose und Therapie” (“Genitality from the viewpoint of psycho-analytic prognosis and therapy”). That presentation was met with a chilling silence, much hostility, and was partially discredited because Reich could not adequately define normal sexual health. In response, and after a further year of research, Reich introduced the concept “orgastic potency” at the 1924 Psycho-analytic Congress, Salzburg in the paper “Die therapeutische Bedeutung des Genitallibidos” (“Further Remarks on the Therapeutic Significance of Genital Libido”).
In addition to his own patients’ love lives, Reich examined through interviews and case records those of 200 patients seen at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Polyclinic. Reich was impressed by the depth and frequency of genital disturbances he observed. One example was a patient who had reported having a normal sex life, but on closer interviewing by Reich revealed not experiencing orgasm during intercourse and having thoughts of murdering her partner following the act. Such observations made Reich very suspicious of superficial reports about sexual experience. His analysis of these cases led Reich to conclude that genital disturbance was present in all neuroses and correlated in severity to the severity of the neurosis, and that all patients who improved in therapy and remained symptom-free achieved a gratifying genital sex life. This led Reich to establish criteria for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Based on interviews with people who appeared to have satisfactory sex lives, he described the sex act as being optimally satisfactory only if it follows a specific pattern. Orgastic potency is Reich’s term for the ability to have this maximally fulfilling type of sexual experience, which in the Reichian view is limited to those who are free from neuroses and appears to be shared by all people free of neuroses.
Reich’s precise definition for the phrase “orgastic potency” changed over time as he changed his understanding of the phenomenon. He first described it in detail in his 1927 book Die Funktion Des Orgasmus. In the 1980 English translation of the book, Genitality in the Theory and Therapy of Neuroses, he defined orgastic potency as “the ability to achieve full resolution of existing sexual need-tension”.
In his 1940 book Die Entdeckung des Orgons Erster Teil: Die Function des Orgasmus, published in English in 1942 as The Discovery of the Orgone, Volume 1: The Function of the Orgasm, he defined it as “the capacity to surrender to the flow of biological energy, free of any inhibitions; the capacity to discharge completely the dammed-up sexual excitation through involuntary, pleasurable convulsions of the body.”
His last published definition of orgastic potency, which is part of his 1960 published Selected Writings, is “the capacity for complete surrender to the involuntary convulsion of the organism and complete discharge of the excitation at the acme of the genital embrace.”
Reich related orgastic potency and orgastic impotence to a, respectively, healthy and unhealthy sexual experience for the adult. He described that the healthy experience has specific biological and psychological characteristics; is identical for men and women; is characterised by love and the ability to express it; full, deep, pleasurable breathing is present; deep, delicious current-like sensations run up and down the body shortly before orgasm; and involuntary muscular movements are present before climax. Moreover, Reich defined the healthy sexual experience exclusively in terms of the sexual union between male and female. The difference between the presence and absence of orgastic potency in the sexual encounter, as described by Reich, is summarised by Boadella as follows:”
There is plenty more to read…and I’ll leave that to you…just follow the link, if this interest you.
I’m posting this more just to share it, and get it out of my massive backlog of stuff…[chip…chip…chip away!]…
I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.
Sometimes you look at people, and their work…and you cannot help but think…
…”Man…you over analyze things way to much!”…
I suppose there is probably something interesting hidden in their, if you can figure out what the guy is trying to say.
Seems like a bunch of gobbledygook to me.