- Paperback: 258 pages
- Publisher: Bioenergetics Press (January 1, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0974373729
- ISBN-13: 978-0974373720
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,090,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pleasure Paperback – January 1, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Like almost all of Lowen's books, this one is so full of understanding that it is worth reading over and over. However, it is also so well written that it does not require the rereading to be comprehended. This is also Lowen's first book that didn't include a lot Freudian psychology. Instead it relies on common sense everyday observation that the reader can verify for her or himself.
Pleasure is simply the human experience when the living process is supported and not repressed. It used to be common knowledge but now is largely forgotten. Our culture implies that great pleasure comes after great effort and attainment. Lowen points out that pleasure comes more naturally, and that the consequence of the long delay of gratification is often the inability to experience gratification
We are living in another era than Dr. Lowen did. The control of the state has risen about everywhere in the world, the principles of pleasure and self-regulation have largely been abandoned and replaced with a sort of compulsive morality or moralism that interpenetrates today all of life, and of political life. Hence, the books of the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich and Dr. Alexander Lowen are the reminders today for us that the social policies in place, with their negativistic view of the human being, their tendency to declare more and more of natural behavior ‘a crime’ and to sharply control human behavior, together with the prohibition of psychedelic substances mark a turn in the wrong direction, away from nature and toward more and more structural violence and state control.
The media do a large part of the social brainwashing of the consumer into believing governments and corporations were more important than the human body; they make believe the citizen that total consumption without reflection is the ‘ideal way of life’—while about everywhere in the world there is conflict, poverty and misery, virtually around the globe.
Wilhelm Reich’s social predictions were harmless against what is really going on today, as the rise of fascism is clearly to be noted everywhere. At the same time, the denial of the body, the body’s needs, the denial of pleasure, the denial of intergenerational love, the denial of border-expanding psychic experiences and a growing general fear-complex that Lowen called ‘fear of life’ make that people, especially in the modern world, have become rudely judgmental overall when only certain forms of love are concerned or mind opening and deconditioning drugs, and the like. The truth is that paranoid leaders can only see a paranoid world, for they are wearing paranoid glasses!
Lowen shows in the present book and actually in all his books that the pleasure principle really is fundamental for human sanity and at the same time, for world peace. In all our modern policymaking, there is a strong turndown of pleasure to be seen and felt throughout and all about. Pleasure is condemned when it is not linked to consuming products; this is of course much more an impact of the corporate world than it is the will or policy of any of our political leaders.
The corporate world has obviously little interest in consumers being self-contained and having their natural pleasures. People, adults or children, who are content and satisfied with their sensual and sexual lives are bad consumers! This is the reason why multinational corporations always agree when governments apply ‘get tough’ policies, raise state control over the citizen, raise punishments and criminal fines and instill in the consumer populace still more fear of life, so that people stop thinking because of the fear barrier—which is, while it is mass hysteria, the ideal soil for implementing total consumption without reflection!
When you read this book, you really feel it is written in another epoch, a time when there was relatively more freedom for the individual for experimenting with the limits and the borderlines, to look over the fence using psychedelics, to think about parallel institutions to the traditional family and to care for the body and its beauty and health. All this is today relegated to a few ‘naturalist’ fanatics who hold tight against the monition that we are sooner or later going to end up with total and global fascism. It is for that reason a very important book, a must-read for an intellectual today, and for anybody who wants to have a real look at our social problems and who asks, what’s going wrong and why is it going wrong? It is an important book for any citizen who dares to ask the question:
—Why, tell me, do our governments seem to suspect us being criminal virtually from birth? Why do they criminalize more and more behaviors that over the whole course of human evolution were considered as social and natural? Why are they building every year larger prisons and even prison camps that can hold millions of people?
The etiology of fascism was well analyzed by Wilhelm Reich. The present book is more positive in nature. It is well-known that Lowen, when he was asked why he thought Wilhelm Reich had such a bad fate, used to reply:
—Wilhelm Reich had many personal problems …
Hence, he was critical as to Reich’s assumption that only because he had been a maverick researcher, he was persecuted, slandered and finally ended up in jail and died there.
Indeed, Lowen continued Reich’s research very diligently and never faced any problems of the kind Reich was facing. Lowen was a different character, he was a really positive person and the present book is written in this positive and happy tone, and for that reason, if it was only for that reason, it is easy to read. It is also well structured and reasoned through. Lowen and Reich have that in common that both were not only great scientists and doctors but also good writers. Lowen’s diction is easy to read; he doesn’t bombard the reader with medical vocabulary of any kind, but writes in a tone that every intelligent reader can understand, and even for those who may never have heard of bioenergetics.
This being said, I would like to first just list the titles of the 11 chapters of the book for this gives already an excellent insight into what can be expected from this masterpiece written by a bioenergetic healer and also a great master of his personal life, that was, as he said shortly before he died a centenary, a happy life throughout.
Chapter 1: The Psychology of Pleasure
Chapter 2: The Pleasure of Being Fully Alive
Chapter 3: The Biology of Pleasure
Chapter 4: Power Versus Pleasure
Chapter 5: The Ego: Self-Expression Versus Egotism
Chapter 6: Truth, Beauty and Grace
Chapter 7: Self-Awareness and Self-Assertion
Chapter 8: The Emotional Responses
Chapter 9: Guilt, Shame and Depression
Chapter 10: The Roots of Pleasure
Chapter 11: A Creative Approach to Life
The notion of power is flawed in our society, and for the dead simple reason that power is so much abused. Every sexual abuse is a form of power abuse; all abuse is but power abuse, but who are those big ‘perpetrators’ who most abuse of their powers? We all know the answer.
In truth, what has been called ‘worldly power’ is indeed often abusive, but the truly moral person knows that it is but decadence and corruption, the betrayal of the citizen that brings about such power. Genuine morality is linked to pleasure, not to the prohibitions of pleasure; it is a morality that is non-compulsive and natural. This morality is not rooted in the personal ego, but in a space beyond the ego.
In other words, the real power is the life force that streams through our bodies and minds, and it is foremost in pleasure. Indeed, this abusive power mechanism is defeated through pleasure and shared pleasure. As long as pleasure is really shared, there cannot be a power problem, it’s as simple as that.
The truth is that our leaders consciously lead us astray so as to easily control us. Body-conscious people are no good followers, they are not blindly obedient, they do not believe in conspiracies, and they are not filling the cash registers of gadget stores because they have their satisfaction from body pleasure, not ersatz pleasure. Hence Lowen’s idea that honoring the body is the beginning of real wisdom is true, for it is shielding us from the corruption and betrayal we are facing daily in our neofascist world of global consumerism that feeds at maximum one billion of the seven billion people now on the globe, letting the others starve in misery and die in poverty.
The patriarchal worldview with its credo to ‘control life’, ‘control relationships’, ‘control human behavior’ fails at all ends. This is why we are worldwide in this mess today because controlling life doesn’t bring about peaceful togetherness nor is it in any way intelligent behavior. Nature has instituted self-regulation if only humans were ready to follow nature, that is, to follow the intelligence of their bodies and their emotions. If we did this, collectively, the world would quickly become a better place. But for this to happen, we need to rebuild the lost trust with nature, as we, as a civilization, have lost that continuum, that basic trust in nature.
Lowen refers to children and their play as a striking example how the creative impulse works in the human being. I had to think of Pablo Picasso when reading this as he was certainly one of the most creative persons who ever lived, but also a peaceful man, a lover.
Indeed, most children’s inner reality is intact, their fantasy is unbroken and it is from this inner life that true happiness results.
However, our culture has by and large replaced inner life with outer consumption; it starves us through all the millions of images it projects in our media, as when one’s mind is full of images that are not coming from one’s inner reality, one has lost that inner life. Lowen states:
—The denial of inner reality is a form of mental illness./7
When we understand that, we see that we are collectively mad in a consumer society; this may bring us back to focus inside again and on our own body and its needs, as the point of departure for developing our intrinsic creativeness. Lowen writes:
—Pleasure and creativity are dialectically related. Without pleasure, there can be no creativity. Without a creative attitude to life, there will be no pleasure. This dialectic stems from the fact that both are positive aspects of life. An alive person is sensitive and creative. /19
When I talk about the ‘schizoid split’, I mean the split between the mind and the body, or the left and right brain hemispheres, or in other words, the splitting off of deductive and inductive logic. While most adults think deductively, that is, from the mind toward the body, the child thinks inductively, from the body toward the mind.
And here is the problem. As long as humans are split apart in ‘minds’ and ‘bodies’ and have lost their wholeness, their feeling level doesn’t work, they are then living with a starved body and starved emotions, and their emotional balance is out of order. This is why then, these people become more and more violent.
Hence, when the emotional flow is disturbed because the body is armored and stiff, unable to fully breathe, both psychosomatic disease and psychopathological behavior will set in.
This is why the contact with the body and natural pleasure is so important, for it literally prevents violence as a ‘negative pleasure function.’ Now, let me continue my reasoning on the patriarchal quest of ‘controlling life.’ Control brings about fear, and fear restricts all bodily movements, it restricts freedom, free thinking, and emotional vibrancy.
Hence, inherent in nature is self-control; when we follow nature, we do not need outside control, we do not need compulsive morality and endless ‘sex laws’ to behave socially, without harming others. This is how building trust in life enhances this natural self-control and restores pleasure and happiness.
Furthermore, Lowen explains that there is also a relationship between pleasure and growth, which explains why youth is closer to pleasure than old age; it’s because young people have a greater capacity of excitement.
Hence, the freedom of emotional flow is a bioenergetic fact as it can be explained by a greater motility and vibrancy of the luminous energy field. Hence, when we follow nature and honor our body and our desires, our luminous energy field will be strong and vibrant, which means we are in a state of good health and our body provides excellent immunitary response. But as our society tries to direct us away from our bodies, we live in our egos and are focused upon satisfying the needs of those blown-up egos, through domestication and acquisitiveness, through ‘settling down’ in and switching, as it were, from dialogue to monologue—with the result that our vibrancy declines.
I haven’t discussed the whole of the book here as that would go beyond the limits of a review. One thing is certain, without the bioenergetic way of thinking, which is the way nature itself ‘thinks’, we wouldn’t be able to look behind the veil of our cultural distortions and we wouldn’t understand why we as a society are hyper-violent and become more violent with each and every year. It is that we turn down pleasure that we bring about violence, and for no other reason.
So, to the rudiments, we should know that the release of energy or current flow culminates in satisfaction from physiological tension, sending one into the subjective state of pleasure which is a polarity of feeling. This energy charge is always equivalent to the tension in any pleasurable experience. The authenticity of pleasure sustains a person in a self-possessed state without disquietude but may nevertheless create its own "cul de sac" if its means are subdued. It may, in such cases, deny immediate satisfaction, thus providing a more everlasting gratification. Pleasure must be understood not as the aim of life but as that which is concordant with any of man's virtuous activities. The pursuit of sexual pleasure is not merely something that is sought after by animals, but something all humans should crave for, being rooted in abundance and freedom of the sex act. It should never be confounded with joy or happiness, however, for the fruit of pleasure does not always bring joy, for example when this pleasure is irrational. Joy is that which accompanies any pleasurable act that is productive and free; it is, indeed, a union of many joys which combine with power to generate happiness, to create the harmonious espousing of one's inner self with the world and way of life he lives. Sexual pleasure is a good in itself in that it is usually conducive to the general health and wellbeing of an individual. Therefore pure licentious activity and not just Eros can result in sexual joy.
A proper flow of energy is required for any pleasurable sexual experience. Energy, being the power to do work that causes motion, remains constant, conserved in that it can never be explained in a mechanistic manner, but rather as an occurrence and how it is related to its motility. Because of the unification of body and mind this energy must be of a biopsychic nature due to the psychic and biological identities that are retained. But sexual excitement entails more than the engorgement of blood vessels. Thus this vegetative current is also bioelectric in that it is found in charges of positive anions and negative kations that carry the potential to different areas of higher and lower potential in the body. This process arises from the functional antithesis of the parasympathetic nervous system which is passive and the sympathetic nervous system which is active. All human behaviour is propagated by emotion, that is the tendency to feel, usually expressed in bodily innervations at the moment the organism is stimulated. This occurs after the object has been perceived, estimated, and then the emotion is evinced and acted upon. The most pleasurable of all human emotions are the sexual, whose closest neurophysiological parallel is anger. The sexual emotions never spring from any one series of operations, and therefore we feel only part of this effect. All sexual, defensive, and hunger emotions are controlled under the sovereignty of the hypothalamus; and sexual emotions originate in a parasympathetic reaction when expansion of vegetative current from the centre of the organism to the periphery takes place. Anxiety is incident if this process is reversed, as when the body fluids are retarded and the energy moves from periphery to centre and an unpleasurable sympathetic contraction occurs. Here the heart has to overcome peripheral constriction of the blood vessels which are always inhibited. Here also the bioelectric current evolves, that is the centre, the heart and abdomen, but chiefly the solar, pelvic and hypogastric plexus. This energy becomes sexual when the appropriate reaction occurs between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, where all life processes oscillate.
Peruse "Pleasure" by Alexander Lowen to ascertain the poetic psychology of pleasure, where rainbows tinkle in fields of azure warmth.