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Emotional Plague

Frightening

Long ago I read Wilhelm Reich's "The Mass Psychology of Fascism" which introduced me to the idea of an emotional plague as an explanation for the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s.
He was a psychiatrist.
He observed that the people of Germany at the time were very conformist and sexually repressed. He thought that sexual repression actually causes mental damage. He observed the behavior of people at Hitler's mass rallies. The people were getting an intense emotional experience together with thousands of others. He likened that experience to sexual orgasm and saw that as the basis for their attraction to Hitler in a sexually repressed society - people grow to love the one who makes them cum.
Makes sense to me.

Reich came to a bad end. He died in prison in America for selling quack medical devices. He worked with the idea that something called "orgone energy" would accumulate in the body over time and that needed to be discharged periodically. That's what happens with an orgasm - that orgone energy would get discharged. That was the function of an orgasm. In fact he explored that idea in another book; The Function of the Orgasm. He built devices that could measure and manipulate orgone energy and was claiming to treat all sorts of conditions.

I was studying physics at the time. I didn't think orgone energy was real so I wasn't surprised at the quackery charge. But I thought that his basic idea about the function of the orgasm was sound. Also I could see the role of mass sexual repression in enabling the rise of fascism in a society.

Recently I was googling the idea of emotional plague and encountered this paper: What is the Emotional Plague? A Brief Introduction Peter A . Crist, M.D. at
https://www.orgonomy.org/articles/Science_Links/TJOG_42_2_extract_crist.pdf
I was interested to find that there is an active group of psychiatrists working with Reich's ideas. From the article it seems that the focus has shifted from just sexuality to satisfaction in general. Healthy people have satisfactory emotional lives. They can enjoy themselves and are happy to let others "do their own thing". Not everyone is so lucky: they are "....driven by an intolerance of spontaneous life, emotions, and pleasure"

Crist is clear what he means by plague. "A plague implies a highly contagious disease that can become epidemic." "We can say that to the degree that an individual tries to tear down other people or control their lives, he is functioning as a plague character". "Someone afflicted with the emotional plague just cannot leave someone else alone" Where does the energy for this reaction come from? This destructive behavior starts with just one person who is a catalyst. That afflicted individual is compelled to stifle or destroy those people or things in the environment that stir up unbearable feelings. These feelings include unfulfilled longings and desires that in turn result in intolerable anxiety, frustration and eventually murderous rage toward those who stir them up. This compulsion to destroy, serving as an emotional defense for that individual, is the essence of the emotional plague. When one person's irrational intolerance and destructiveness incite others to act destructively, we know for certain we are dealing with the emotional plague."

The news is full examples of "plague characters" these days but generally their infection doesn't spread to others. Well - maybe it does. We do see a copy cat thing happening. One elderly Asian person gets knocked over out of the blue and suddenly there are examples all over the country. Or after the first "Karen" was publicized for harassing black people minding their own business suddenly there is a spate of Karens. But the spread of the behaviors is limited by a sort of herd immunity. Most people's minds reject the memes. But when plague characters start to band together in their own information silos then you can get infection centers for the emotional plague. And when plague characters run for public office we are all in danger.

What is to be done? What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.