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Atwood, G.E. Stolorow, R.D. (1977). The Life and Work of Wilhelm Reich: A Case Study of the Subjectivity of Personality Theory. Psychoanal. Rev., 64(1):5-20.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Review, 64(1):5-20

The Life and Work of Wilhelm Reich: A Case Study of the Subjectivity of Personality Theory

George E. Atwood, Ph.D. and Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D.

This paper is a psychobiographical analysis of the writings of Wilhelm Reich and is offered as one of a series of studies devoted to exploring the ways in which personality theories express the subjective and personal concerns of their creators.1, 16 A number of studies of Reich have been published in recent years,2, 4, 14, 17 and while some of them contain suggestions as to the role of certain personal experiences in his thought, none attempt to thoroughly investigate the relationship between the evolution of his theories and the structure of his personality. Our thesis is that Reich's theoretical system reflects and symbolizes a profound personal struggle which is traceable to his childhood experience of his mother's suicide. The impact of this primal tragedy will be seen in the structure of his ideas on an extraordinary number of subjects, ranging from the causes and treatment of psychological disturbances to the phenomenon of unidentified flying objects.

There are three interdependent thematic elements which run through all of Reich's work: (1) the notion that the expression of sexuality coincides with the expression and functioning of life in general; (2) the notion that the life-sexual functions are being perpetually suppressed and distorted by anti-sexual death forces in the world; and (3) an inner messianic imperative that he be the champion of life and sexuality in their struggle against the death forces. Part I of this paper documents the reality of this thematic structure by briefly reviewing those aspects of his work in which it is most clearly manifest.

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