Lightly Annotated Bibliography
Bercelli, David The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process (2008) Written for a broad audience, this book consists of two parts: a description of the trauma response in humans, and a sequence of seven exercises that target the psoas ('the trauma or fear muscle') One of the best aspects of this book is that, unlike a great deal of the psychodynamic therapy tradition, it gives explicit permission to repeat daily an easily learnable task.
Lowen, Alexander Betrayal of the Body (1967) This is Lowen's third and 'break out' book, and it is unlike any other book that exists. It goes right to the core of our suffering as individuals and as a society. It takes courage to read this book. For those that struggle with creator (schizoid issues (many more of us than is realized)), this is Lowen's most important book.
Lowen, Alexander Pleasure (1970) This book is organized around common sense, everyday concepts of how one lives a satisfying life. In this book Lowen is less interested in reconciling classic psycho-analytic concepts with his understanding of joyful living than in earlier works. This make this book quite a pleasant read and perhaps one of Lowen's most valuable.
Lowen, Alexander Bioenergetics (1976) This book was an effort to manualize and define his style of therapy --bioenergetics --at a time when it had become very popular. The straight-forward presentation of key concepts is useful. There is perhaps some over-simplification involved, and compared to other works, less explanation of where these ideas come from.
Lowen, Alexander The Way to Vibrant Health (1977) This book of exercises is often under-appreciated. The whole of the Lowenian approach is at least touched on in this book, if one actually does the exercises. The value of 'bioenergetic analysis' as psychotherapy is premised on the bodywork 'basics' of what is shown here.
Lowen, Alexander Narcissism (1984) The most 'sociological' of Lowen's books. Lowen uses a different definition of narcissism than the psycho-analysts use, but it is a definition closer to the 'lay' definition of narcissism anyway. There is less 'bioenergetics' in this book than the others and so it became somewhat of a 'cross-over' hit.
Lowen, Alexander Joy (1995) The sum total of Lowen's point of view, written for a general audience but not watered down. If one were to read just one book of Lowen's, this should be it.
Pierrakos, John Core Energetics (1986). John Pierrakos worked with Alexander Lowen for many years developing bioenergetics.For the most part, everything Pierrakos presents in this book is consistent with the Reich and Lowen tradition. Pierrakos emphasizes real-time energy concepts more than historical psychodynamic forces. There is a slight flavor of mysticism in this work, (some would say spirituality), but it seems to be in the service of encouraging release of feeling.
Same Principles, Other Traditions and Sources
Hanaford, Carla Smart Moves (1995) This book approaches the subject of body alienation through its limitations on learning. It seems that in special education 'unorthodox' methods are allowed either because the kids are written off already, or because the need is so great. The fact is however, that most people today suffer from lack of movement, lack of balance, and lack of mind-body integration. The author provides not just a description of the problem, but many helpful practices to change the body. Specifically, she describes how the problem of dis-coordination of body and mind is not just isolated bad luck, but a result in part of a stressed inhuman lifestyle.
Koch, Liz The Psoas Book (1997) This is an excellent primary on the role of the psoas muscle in physical and emotional functioning. It includes easy exercises to wake the psoas back up and restore functioning, which in our culture is almost universally needed.
Maté, Gabor When the Body Says No (2003) The elephant in the room of mainstream healthcare is the obvious connection of fear, niceness as a reaction formation to protesting instinct, and a sense of helplessness, to the state of the body. Perhaps this is because most healthcare providers themselves are motivated by fear and a deep sense of helplessness, which is covered up by a strong reaction formation to help others. This subject of this book has been called psychosomatic medicine for decades, but it has not progressed in the last 50 years, in fact it seems to have regressed.
Ott, John Health and Light (1973) In learning by trial and error to light plants for a camera, Ott came to the conclusion that the electromagnetic spectrum of the sun that reaches the earth's surface is best for plants and animals. This would have been common sense in an earlier time, but in mid twentieth century America, this was a revelation. The idea that the full visible spectrum of light is salutary has grudging acceptance now. However, the idea that modest amounts of UV are salutary has been vilified but not disproven. Why such resistence? The effects of light happen to a person irrespective of the will. One does not have to earn, and cannot earn the beneficial effects of the sun. It is not necessary to perform in the society or the economy in a specific way, in order to earn the beneficial effects of the sun. It is the quintessential way to cut out the middle man.
Sollier, Pierre Listening for Wellness (2005) This is a wonderful clear but informative treatment of the ideas of Alfred Tomatis. Attunement and grounding start with the ear. Many of us do not have the hearing we think we do.
van der Kolk, Bessel The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma The basic premises of trauma theory support the Reich and Lowen point of view, but most traumatologists 'depoliticize' the etiological factors, making trauma into a bogeyman that comes out of nowhere. van der Kolk, however, is more willing to connect the dots between our cultures lack of nurturance and emotional suffering. One thing is certain, he knows the difference between a person and a patient.
For a Deeper Understanding
Baker M.D., Ellsworth Man in the Trap (1967) Baker was the man that Wilhelm Reich chose to continue teaching his therapy. This book is intended for the non-professional. It is however, terse, and somewhat dogmatic, but very useful in that it explains straightforwardly many Reichian ideas that are only diffusely and subtly described in Reich's own work. The section on socio-political types, whether one adheres to it or not, is a conspicuously more coherent treatment of the idea than found anywhere else, and great food for thought.
Johnson, Stephen M. Characterological Transformation (1985) Johnson uses his considerable therapeutic experience to validate and explain the power and applicability of the Reich and Lowen tradition in a standard weekly long-term, one-to-one, therapy relationship. He also seeks to combine this tradition with mainstream ego psychology which is partially useful. The book is written in 'scholarly' prose, probably from a well-intentioned (but probably hopeless) attempt to give this tradition credence in academic and mainstream circles.
Keleman, Stanley Emotional Anatomy (1985) This book takes the idea of armor and character well beyond the level of shape and tense muscles. It posits a cellular basis for character. Unlike Lowen, Keleman doesn't seem to explain the everyday observation from which these ideas developed, which makes it difficult to see how they fit into the work of others. The illustrations are very powerful.
Lowen, Alexander The Language of the Body (1958) This is Lowen's first book (albeit a re-worked, re-published and re-titled version of a work The Physical Dynamics of Character Structure). It remains his most extensive work on the idea of character structure per se. While the character descriptions in the second part seems to be the whole point, the first part covers foundation concepts in bioenergetic analysis that are not explained elsewhere in as carefully sequenced and detailed a fashion.
Lowen, Alexander Love and Orgasm (1965) Lowen had a difficult time getting this his second book published, despite the truism that sex sells. Lowen wrote about sexual functioning in all his books but here in the most detail. Like always, Lowen places his everyday observation (how things are) ahead of political correctness about the way things should be, or are believed to be due to illusion.
Lowen, Alexander Depression and the Body (1977) This book is a relief for those who have experience with persisitant depression and have been told it is based on mental mistakes that can be mentally overcome, or based on genetics. Lowen shows depression to be biological but functional and changeable.
Lowen, Alexander Fear of Life (1980) If one is interested in therapy and deep healing, this is Lowen's most important book. There is a lot of psychology in this book and a lot about 'symbolic' concepts. Most importantly, the feel for suffering and the passion to overcome are evident throughout.
Lowen, Alexander Voice of the Body (2005) This book is simply a compilation of previously published but hard to obtain papers of Lowen. However each paper is excellent and not repetitious of other books. Because each section, a previously written 'monograph,' was written for an audience that was apparently sympathetic but not expert in these ideas, the explanation is some of the clearest in Lowen's corpus.
Michel, Elizabeth Bent Out of Shape (1997) This monograph was prepared to assist bio-energetic trainees in understanding the anatomical ideas of Alexander Lowen. What the author adds is much greater precision, and clarification of some few ambiguities in Lowen's text, all of which is important to practically implement these ideas.
Scaer, Robert The Body Bears the Burden (2007) One area where even mainstream psychology cannot deny the role of the body in emotional well-being is trauma. Scaer gives quite a bit of detail and scholarship about the role of vegetative systems in emotional difficulties. This can provide some welcome validation for body-oriented therapies. For all that, Scaer is very oriented 'above the neck', and he seems to view these problems, despite being incredibly widespread, as random or bad luck. That is, he fails to make some obvious connection between patterns of human relationships and suffering.
Reich, Wilhelm Character Analysis (1933) The one thing that all parties seem to agree about Wilhelm Reich, is that he was a superlative clinician. This is his last book really about psychotherapy. He wrote a lot after this but it was mostly polemical, sociological, or about natural sciences. People interested in Reich stratify themselves according to how many of the three sections they find useful.