Mental Health and the Free Child

Talk at Summerhill-conference Juli 1999 by Dorothea Fuckert, M.D.


Hello everybody. I am a bit nervous about speaking in English. What I want to say is all in my head, but in German. A friend suggested that I put a funny accent on. So here is my accent.

My name is Dorothea Fuckert (spoken: Fouckert!), and as you may know I am the mother of two kids Alex (16 yrs. old, at Summerhill since 1991) and Julio (12 yrs. old, at Summerhill since 1995).

At first let me say you how much I appreciate this friendly and well organized conference. The style and the atmosphere are much nicer and more creative than in most conferences I have been at. Thank you and congratulations to the staff, and also to the kids and to everybody who is helping with this conference. An incredible amount of preparation is already done and goes on here.
I will cite at length from articles written originally in English by capacities in this field, such as Herskowitz and Reich, because they express very profoundly and brilliantly, what I will say in more simple words. I don't cite from Neill's books, because I assume people know them well already.

Since 22 yrs., I am working as a medical doctor. During the first years I worked in hospitals, including internal medicine, obstretrics and psychiatry. Since 1983 I have got my own practice, together with my husband near the city of Heidelberg in Southwest Germany. My special qualification and daily work is in mental health. I am trained in a number of psychotherapeutic schools, such as Freudian depth psychology, Gestalt, classical hypnosis and modern Hypnotherapy, Short term psychotherapy, Psychotraumatology and relaxation techniques. My most important longtime-qualification is in Reichian Character-Analysis and Orgone Therapy (the original body-psychotherapy) by two students of Reich, Walter Hoppe (Munic) and Morton Herskowitz (Philadelphia. In Germany everybody has the legal right to get Psychotherapy, and it is paid for by the public health system. I am treating people from all ages and classes, suffering from all kinds of symptoms, problems and diseases. I am saying all this to make clear that I work in midth of society with a variety of conventional methods. But my deepest convictions and approach come from outside of mainstream, as I already mentioned, namely from W. Reich, A.S. Neill, and also from Milton H. Erickson.

Nowadays many children and parents come into our practice, suffering tremendously from the state school system. This has to do mainly with the increasing compulsion, academic pressure and ignorance towards the emotional and social wellbeing and development of kids (and teachers). They also suffer from the sickness of our society with all its perversions. And people suffer from themselves: from symptoms which restrict their emotional and physical health, from bad self-esteem, disfunctioning relationships and unfullfilling work. They complain about a lack of sense in life.

The title of my talk is 'Mental Health and the Free Child'. Of course, there is no free child, because this is an ideal. But there are children who are more or less free and more or less healthy. What is a free child? "Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. How did this change come about? I do not know". These are the opening lines of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 'social contract'.

And William Steig asked in the preface to Children of the Future (Reich, 1983): self-involved people, incapable of living together in harmony, with ambitions to become unusually wealthy, or terribly clever, or enviably beautiful, or worldfamous for some reason or other, eventually wanting to find God (who is presumably in hiding somewhere) and hoping our children will not turn out like us?"

I will try to answer this question from my viewpoint. I share my convictions with A.S.Neill and his mentor and friend Wilhelm Reich, the two exponents of selfregulation in children. According to them, a free child is a lively and self-regulated child. Therefore the title of my talk should rather be called 'Mental Health and the Selfregulated Child'

Freudian analysis and depth psychology see the child as a wild savage who has to be tamed. The instincts and inner impulses have to become made conscious but then be controlled. I don't believe this at all. By instinctive knowledge and by my own experience I know that a newborn is good, with strong capacities to reach out to the world, to love, to enjoy, to relate to others and make peaceful contact and to create positive things. Again the question, what is a lively child, what is a living (human) being at all?

Of course it consists of a body, of organs, of a brain, of a psychic and emotional level. But these different levels are united in one functional principle - pulsation - which is best observed and described by Reich. According to him a living organism is an energetic unity, a system with a certain amount of life-energy, with a core or center, and a membrane which functions as separation from the surrounding. The living system charges and discharges energy by breathing in and out, by the in and out of food and water, by moving and resting, thinking, creating, playing, learning, by social interaction and by physical and sexual activity. The organism moves, senses, feels, thinks (mainly in humans), interacts, expands in activity towards the world, and it contracts with anxiety, passivity and also for rest. You can imagine the lively function of pulsation well in the jelly-fish, it expands and contracts, expands and contracts. It is basically the same in the human organismus, as in all living systems.

Pulsation is the Essence of Live

If this pulsation is disturbed or hindered or blocked repeatedly, in major aspects and over a longer time, chronical disfunction follows. I want to emphasize that lively pulsation doesn't start with birth, but with conception. The embryo already has sensations, perceptions and feelings. Whereas in former times people didn't believe that babies can feel, and even doctors did surgery without anesthesia, there is a lot of prenatal and perinatal research going on with fascinating results. (Chamberlain, 1998)

For better understanding the function of pulsation let's use a simplified analogy: when an earthworm is hindered in its movement by holding it with a stick in the middle of its body, it will move sideways. Imagine the child with its core or center, from which impulses develop straight and directly towards the world, to other people. If this impulse or need is met, the system can continue to pulsate, to move, to develop and to grow. If this need is frustrated, if this pleasurable impulse blocked, the impulse will turn to the side, will be felt as unpleasurable, and will gain more or less perverted and destructive quality. Also, part of it goes back to the center and is felt as anxiety. I give you a few examples: if the need for loving eye contact is frustrated constantly, this may lead to dull eyes, myopia, restriction of the lids and a dead expression in later life. If the need for pleasurable and satisfying breastfeeding is frustrated, the muscles of the mouth and throat may contract, the lips may develop a thin expression, drug or alcohol abuse may result later on. Parents who cannot tolerate their children's pleasurable, uninhibited shouting are responsible for later diminished functioning of the glottis and deep throat musculature. Too early toilet training will cause rigidity of the buttocks and bowls, because the sphincter muscles were not ripe yet to function naturally, and this may lead to a compulsive, rigid character structure. If natural curious activity is blocked, dullness and hampered creativity will result. Repressed natural, adequate aggression turns into meanness, hate and destructive behaviour. If natural sexual impulses are forbidden, all kinds of sexual inhibitions and perversions may arise in later live, etc. We call the impulses and needs from the core also primary impulses. They turn into secondary impulses if they are repressed. Often the secondary impulses are repressed again by parents because they are unpleasurable and untolerable. Then a third layer develops, the social mask or facade, with false good behavior, artificial friendliness, submissiveness, coolness, smoothness, etc.

"In newborn children of all races and classes we have found the specific qualities of life from which we judge our existence. We know that one of the essential characteristics of this critical standoint is movement or constant change. I am talking about something more than just physical growth and the stages of emotional development of the child. What I mean is movement in the literal sense, the alternating of emotions, the rapid transitions from love to anger and vice versa, the lively, always vibrant interest of the healthy child. Its life functions never stand still, but are always in flux and undergoing change. Nevertheless they are sustained by a uniform basic principle with its individual variations in each child. In our civilization this natural principle is counteracted by a force of inertia, inaction, and rigidity. Sooner or later, depending on the character of the environment, a state of quiet and immobility sets in which, in the growing child, is still eclipsed by the original biological activity, but, with age, becomes more apparent." (Reich, 1990)

To repeat: blocking or hindrance of the core impulses produce intense pain, anxiety, fear, anger, rage, shame, etc. If these natural reactions are repressed again, blocking or as we say 'armoring' will set in as the first and only way of self-protection against the untolerable emotions. This again may lead to a more serious disturbance of health in the end. A small child cannot defend himself in any other way. Armoring is revealed in stiffness, rigidity, aggressiveness, or immobility, apathy, dullness, quietness and chronic anxiety. There is always blocked organ sensation. It effects the mind, the character and the body simultaneously. "The term 'armoring' followed Reichs emphasis on character analysis, when he came to recognize that character is represented in the body as well as in behaviour, that emotional repression is simultaneously a somatic as well as a psychological event. Great novelists have recognized this and have generally characterized character in the form of bodily terms. The individual who draws in his breath when the events are overwhelming, the angry man who walks around with a tight jaw, the stubborn person who has a stiff neck, these are all recognized by all of us. And all of us respond to this in our reactions to other individuals.

Armoring converts free laughter into a cackle or a titter. It may cause a woman to speak in a little girls voice. It does not merely change a function by degree, but by kind. It renders behaviour more predictable, more stereotyped. Armoring puts life in constraint. Armoring is most often revealed in muscular tension, but it is also revealed in glazed eyes, in excessive body fat and so forth. It is a dynamic event, and it entails consumption of energy. It constrains us physically, emotionally and ideationally. It is a coccoon to which we gradually accustom ourselves." (Herskowitz, 1997)

The living organism, and especially the human child has inborn needs which have to be fullfilled as requirement for healthy development and wellbeing. Because human's birth is evolutionary premature - and often life-threatening! - due to our big brains, the human offspring is much more vulnerable and dependent for a much longer time than any other species. There is the need for protection and freedom, love, warmth, body and eye contact, adequate movement and stimulation, beeing hold and carried, self-regulated nourishment, pleasurable play (including sexual play with oneself and later with others) and self-regulated learning. All these basic need are active during our whole live, changing in relation to different phases of age and other conditions. If they are not fullfilled over a longer time, dysfunction in pulsation by the armoring process will follow. The ways of armoring in childhood are according to Herskowitz: 1. By the press to conformity by armored parents, educators and social institutions; 2. by the pervading attitude that there is a wild savage in the child who must be tamed; and 3. By the fact that armored life is made anxious and uncomfortable (and on another level, envied) by free-flowing life, and it seeks to quiet the un-ease. (This applies especially to school inspectors and education departments).

"The newborn child comes from nine months of 'orgonotic body energy contact' between mother and child, a warm, moist, mutually charging energy system, into a dry, relatively cold, energy contractive world was viewed by Reich as a largely medically-induced 'original sin.' Not the original sin, the stamp of being human of the religionists, but a sin of commission which causes the child to shrink and induces an attitude of "no"...Parents are products of their culture. Consequently, to each parent the ideal of the healthy child reflects the values of his/her particular culture... Whatever cultural bias is employed to direct the infant's and child's development it is in a direction away from permitting the child to grow up according to the dictates of her/his own nature. Of course in the earliest years parental direction is necessary to keep the child from causing injury to itself or others, to instruct in the use of tools for living, etc. But the main parental and societal goal should be the prevention of rigid armoring." (Herskowitz, 1996)

Which practical consequences are necessary? There is the therapeutic realm. In my work with patients, especially when I used the Reichian approach, I could often remove the armor step by step till the biological 'good' core was relatively free. But there are many restrictions to this process. It means hard work for several years, which is very time consuming, expensive and painfol to me and to the patient, although very satisfying in the end. But the prevention of armoring, of mental and physical symptoms and diseases from birth on is much better, much easier and more economical. To keep a child healthy, we have to meet the inborn basic needs to a large degree. We have to remove the obstacles in the way, to protect the core, to keep the pulsation as wide and as free and the energy level as high as possible. We don't have to form or model the character, but to let live pulsate and grow and develop. This is also well in accordance with Taoistic thinking: "You don't know how a baby will develop, what an adult it will be. So you are waiting, caring well until the baby will be, what it wants to be." (Scholz, 1986)

The impulses for the child's growth and development come from the core. They interact with stimulation, direction and limitation from outside. The child needs much nourishing, gratification and freedom, but because there is also the need for orientation and hold, for contact with other people, it needs also guidance, direction and correction. This is logic, because we are social beeings: because there is the inborn need to relate to others, to build loving, protecting and supporting bonds, the child needs to feel boundaries as well. He/she needs the experience of "How far can I go, where is my limitation, do I feel the other person? How does he/she feels and which are his/her needs and rights?" This developmental learning is a dynamic and dialectic process which takes place over years and decades. If the inborn needs are fullfilled essentially, the child can stay relatively healthy and free, with a basic feeling of beeing alright and all of a piece. This means for the child to develop good self-esteem, self-approval, integrity, identity, and the growing capacity of being strong, of express and unfold himself/herself, to be meaningful and to find a sense in live. But there cannot be an absolute freedom, which would mean licence, because the child relates to others. A certain adaption is necessary, and this will be no problem for health, as long as the core stays intact, as long as pulsation can happen and integrity is uphold. There are many variations of relatively healthy, individual personalities, of good ways to live, to grow and to learn, like the endless varieties of nature, the form of the leaves of a tree, etc.

Preliminary Results with Self-regulated Education

As I mentioned, the most helpful practical model is laid down in the principle of self-regulation, originated by A.S. Neill and W. Reich. At Summerhill-School, self-regulation and self-government are the most important functioning principles. Although the children's character is mainly formed till age five or six, the Summerhill-experience influences profoundly their further development in every aspect of health: mental, emotional, social, and even physical. Neill gives many descriptions about the self-regulatory process at Summerhill, how the children's artificial social facade with its false friendliness and quietness dissolves, then the secondary impulses break out for a while, because they are allowed to be expressed to a certain degree, without moral judging, but with understanding. This takes place during the first months and years. And finally, if there is enough time for the child to go through this process, the core functions will open up, that means the good sides of the character are unfolding, and the potentials and talents can develop freely.

We imagine very well how children in traditional schools must armor themselves to survive. From reading studies and statistics and from my professional experience with this problem, I estimate that one third of them stay relatively healthy during school time, one third become moderately armored and disturbed in their health, and the last third are destroyed.

For a lengthy description and critical discussion of self-regulation and healthy development, see Appleton (1996), Carleton (1991), Fuckert (1995, 1999) Herskowitz (1996,1997), Lamb (1992), Neill (1926, 1932, 1939, 1953, 1950, 1962, 1982), Reich (1983, 1990) and Ritter/Ritter (1959). The last book is a report on a family's experiment with self-regulation, and most interestingly, the five children of the Ritter's describe their own experience with this kind of family live. See also Zoe Readhead's article "Growing up self-regulated". (Readhead, 1984)

"From several years of observation of children, raised in conditions designed as much as possible to prevent chronic armoring Reich described some preliminary markers of the unarmored infant and child (his observations included children up to age six): Their bodies were soft, yielding easily to passive movement, they were warm, and radiated heat, particularly in the solar plexus region, their movements were coordinated, they caugth their balance easily when off-balance. By age six they shared and socialized easily.They were afraid in circumstances when fear was rational. Eyes were expressive. There was no constipation, no attraction to 'fecal pleasures'. (Reich called this a psychoanalytic myth based on observations on armored children). The children all valued periods of solitude. They were able to express anger, sadness and joy freely. They usually asked questions about birth (and death1) at around age four. The anger was usually expressed when they felt wronged. There was no evidence of sadism. They generally refused to greet or make contact with contactless or phoney people. The contact with people who were liked was warm and immediate. There were no nightmares or anxiety dream. At times anxiety was esperienced in anxious situations, but was dissipated when the situation passed. Reich remarks that the total economy of the bioenergetic system is the important fact, not an isolated symptomatic event. At times the unarmored child enjoys playing with guns, shooting opponents and threatens murder. However, the threats and the pretend homicide are of no consequence. What is significant is the nature of the emotional structure that is uttering the threats". (Herskowitz, 1996)

"It is thus not correct that the healthy child is not afraid or that it has no destructive impulses, or that the healthy child is not afraid or that it has no destructive impulses, or that it never becomes defiant or that it never deliberately annoys adults. Like all other children, it has all the potential for "good" or "bad" attitudes. The difference between it and other children who grow up within these erroneous systems of thought is that it does not remain fixed in these reactions or attitudes. It may happen that a healthy child is afraid of wolves during the night. However, a simple discussion may be enough to eliminate this fear. It does not devlop a phobia lasting all ist life. It sometimes happens that a healthy child accidentally or intentionally breaks a glass, but the destrcution of things does not develop into a chronic character trait. The child's structure does not contain any character-related destructive rage, of which the child cannot rid itself. A healthy child knows fear, cries, hates, is defiant, "misbehaves", but none of thes things are anchored structurally. The child that develops without any biological impediment is characterized by great seriousness, which is clearly distinguishable from melancholia or depression. The seriousness is evident in particular in the eyes. One of my younger students referred to this visual expression very aptly as 'beeing transparent'. The expression of the healthy child is undisguised. There is nothing shy or cunning about it. It simply expresses emotions without masking or defleting them, as we observe in armored children. The healthy child is 'living'; it experiences every mood directly and to the full. If it feels like shouting, it lets ist voice ring out loud. If it wants to play by itself, it becomes quiet and shuns company. Seen from this standpoint, pedagogigcal ideals stemming from 'within' nonbiological views seem absurd, for example, the view that a child should always be 'sociable'. The rigidity and absolute quality of such demands merely reflects the armor of educators who always need pseudo-contact in order to drown out their inner emptiness. A healthy child often wishes to be alone. Healthy children think; they think intensely about many things. They ask questions which makes sens, and this thinking and questioning is fundamentally different from the compulsive brooding and questioning that we encounter in armored, neurotic, 'adapted' children. Healthy children like to give; they share their things with others if they feels so inclined. Sometimes they want to hold on to things so they can play with them themselves. When we say 'living', we mean a way of live which does not conform to any rigid rules or ideals. The healthy child lives functionally and not mechanically; it 'lives' a basic theme of ist existence, but the variation of this theme is never-ending. This is what 'living' is. The healthy chld reacts deeply and fully to everything that it experiences; it has no pseudo-contacts. It rejects armored, stiff people. It immediately perceives the warmth of healthy adults."(Reich, 1990)

I would like to mention again that Reich judged his observations as preliminary markers, not as only and absolute facts. But the longer I work professionally with children and adults, the longer I see my own kids develop from birth on and through Summerhill, the more deeply I become convinced about self-regulative healthy functions. Nobody is compelled to believe what I say. The meaning of a message is determined always by the addressee.

Freedom versus Licence

"It is obviously very easy to get crossed lines on the matter of freedom and license, particularly if one has nobody around to offer guidance and moral suport. I sometimes think a "phone-in" desk would be a good idea. With a little help, there would be many more really free children...It is easy to get pulled back into the flow of conventional life, when you are alone among other 'ordinary' parents...Obviously, it is really hard for parents to insist on not teaching their children good manners, not to teach them what is right and wrong when they live on a street where everybody will think their kids are uncontrollable heathens if they don't conform to 'normal' standards... A person cajoled and persuaded is no longer a free person.... If you are going to allow your children freedom, you must allow them to be themselves, to be free within the bounds of your lifestyle. Obviously, that doesn't mean that you will give them a license to do exactly what they want to do at the expense of your own freedom....Which brings us to a problem on the other side of the coin, parents who think that a free child should be allowed to do anything and who raise thoroughly spoiled brats. I know several mothers who have children like that, and they proudly say how self-regulated they are." (Readhead, 1984). This is Neill's 'grand piano syndrom'. But free kids are naturally messy, loud and often restless. The boundaries should only be set when the basic rights of others are clearly and continuously intruded with respect of the age of the kids. The younger, the more tolerance they need. We are offering such a phone-desk in our practice in Germany since 12 years, and I hope we could help a number of parents and kids answering their questions and giving advice.

"The concept of self-regulation implies that mothering is the process of being alive to the child's needs of mainatining the integrity of the child's individuality. Self-regulation does not equal laissez faire. Laissez faire is the practice of lazy, uncaring, contactless mothers. Self-regulation is not directly related to attitudes of permissiveness or discipline as these are usually considered. It implies an active and concerned relationship with one's child." (Herskowitz, 1997)

I want to say a few words about our limitations as parents. We have our own history of repression and armoring: guilt-feelings about our mistakes and limitations don't help. We can only do our best, not more. We are influenced considerably by our past, by the outer world, by society at large. Medicine, technology, media, politics and other institutions intrude in many ways into our way of relating to children, and this before they are concieved. Even truthful knowledge can help only to a certain degree, because we humans need to reconnect ourselves with our instinctive feeling, sensing and knowing, what a child needs and how to relate. I also want to emphasize how very important it is to be truthful with children. We should let them know appropriate to their age about our problems, errors and weak points, because they feel them anyway. Therefore our effort towards a self-regulated education is often accompanied with insecurities, difficulties, crisis, conflicts, arguments, discussions and compromises. Nevertheless, we often feel that we handle our children much better than we were handled by our parents. We can give more understanding, love, affection and freedom. Certainly, they will tell us later which other mistakes we made. We are no longer capable to fullfill all their inborn basic needs in this modern world. For example we don't breastfeed them till age three or four like native people do. We don't have the physical strength any longer to carry them allday long. But if we could only let them express their primary emotions, and the secondary ones under certain conditions, we would help them stay relatively healthy and keep their core alive.

"For the proponents of self-regulation, childrearing practices are determined by the needs of the child, not by dogma. An individual child might toilet-train himself around three or so, but it could occur either somewhat earlier or later. When fed on demand and allowed to wean himself, weaning, toilet training, and genital exploration vary with each child. Allowing individual variation is the true meaning of self-regulation."(Carleton, 1991). Neill put it - as always - into very simple, clear and practical words, saying that the most important thing is to stand hundred percent on the side of the child.

"We cannot tell our children what kind of world they will or should build. But we can equip them with the kind of character structure and biological vigor which will enable them to make their own decisions, to find their own ways to build their own future and that of their children, in a rational (this means not rationality in the known sense, but adequate emotionality2) manner." (Reich, 1983)

Ethnological and Historical Findings

A few thousands of years ago, part of the human race splitted away (and still split away) from unity with nature. From history we know that man, at least Western man, has been armored for millenia. There are variations in the intensity of armoring within a culture and between cultures. We know from research in comparising Ethnology (Sociology, Psychology and Medicine) that some primitive peoples, mostly with matrilinear structure, are relatively unarmored in comparison to us, including the Massai in Kenya, the Yequana in South-America, the Mosuos in Southwest China, the Murias in India, the Ashanti in Westafrica, some tribes in Papua New Guinea, in the South See Islands, such as the Trobriands, the Eipos and the Arapesh. (Batschkus/Gottschalk-Batschkus, 1996; DeMeo, 1998; Grossmann/Grossmann, 1996; Herskowitz, 1981; Liedloff, 1977; Schiefenhoevel/Schiefenhoevel, 1996)

The psychobiologist resp. anthropologist/ethnologist couple Grossmann & Grossmann write: "The people of the Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea, have been observed and described ever since the work of the social-anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in the twenties. For the last 15 years, the research team of the Section Human Ethology of Max-Planck-Society has a field station in the village Tauwema on the island Kaileuna. Thus, the people of the village are quite used to being observed and questionned by visitors from Europe. The babies and toddlers of the village experience an environment that is optimal from the viewpoint of the developmentally oriented Attachment Theory (originated by John Bowlby). The attachment needs and behaviors of the children are lovingly and patiently responded to by their large families. They can freely explore their concrete environment because it holds no major dangers for them. The toddlers can exhibit attachment or exploration behavior according to their feelings and are rarely restricted by others. Learning for the older children happens through imitation, praise and ridicule. (Similar to Summerhill!3) Formal schooling proves to be a dilemma for the people. The school teaches topics that are of no use in the village life but are essential for living outside in the cities. The time spent in school is lost to learn the village skills of gardening and fishing. Up to this time most families of the village have opted for their traditional values and skills."

Schiefenhoevel's article about field research studies (1992 - 1995) gives a very short summary of the rapidly changing conditions for early childhood in the western post-industrialized society of Germany. It is shown that technolgy has a very strong and still growing influence even on the conditions of pregnancy, birth and childhood. As contrast the almost unchanged conditions for early childhood in a village society in papua New Guinea is outlined. Basic principles that make the life for parents and children easy and at the same time fullfill the psychophysiologic needs of the babies are explained. The final part intends to demonstrate possible ways of integration of this ancient and needed behaviour and knowledge in the everyday life of young families in western cultures.

"Often one assumes that such knowledge cannot be integrated into western societies, because of the too different conditions. There are two main arguments against this. First, in both cases we have social systems, and the human race didn't change much in regard to the basic needs and reactional patterns, inspite of considerable cultural achievements. The perception of this closeness with our anthropological roots is beginning and spreading only since a few years. Second, there are a few functioning and stable groups who show that there is space for traditionally rooted systems even in midth of western industrial society. They function according to own old rules and they are hardly vulnerable in face of negative developments of the whole society." (Batschkus/Gotthard-Batschkus, 1996)

DeMeo relates the onset of human armoring to the development of climate changes, such as desert formation. He performed a "geographical cross-cultural anthropological, archaeological and historical survey of human family and social institution. A controversial 'marriage of heresies' over 10 years in the making..... proves the scientific validity of Wilhelm Reich's sex-economic theory of human behavior, through clear and concise cross-cultural testing and verification. The existence of a world-wide period of peaceful human social conditions where archaelogy has no clear evidence for warfare or social violence. A devastating climate change at 4000-3500 BCE converted vast areas of Arabia and Central Asia from lush grassland-forest into dry desert conditions, with a spreading of arid conditions across North Africa to create the vast Sahara Desert, and into the Middle East and Central Asia to create the vast interconnected desert belt: Saharasia. The destruction of numerous peaceful and technologically developed cultural groups and city-states in the Old World by widespread and enduring drought and desert expansion, which left terrible famine, starvation and emotionally traumatic conditions in ist wake. The loss of age-old gentle and loving forms of child-rearing and male-female relations in the remnants of surviving cultures, with subsequent development of patriarchal authoritarian, and violent, warlike conditions." (DeMeo, 1998)

The question for me is, what was first "the hen or the egg?" Wasn't the armoring of some groups of humans before deserts developed? I can imagine that due to the armoring process and the following disconnection from nature, these tribes were responsible for the development of deserts, by unreasonable handling of the environment; they produced it, like Western and African/Asian societies still do today by destructive ways of handling the earth, the flora and fauna, as well as the atmosphere.

Anthropological Considerations - A Perspective of Ongoing "Human" Evolution?

We can only speculate about the reason for this big turning away from our natural roots. Some people assume that it had to do with the development of conscious reasoning and self-conception in the human brain. Does this mean we are true aberrations of nature and there is no hope? Is there a chance that not only the cause but also the solution to the problem could lie in the same thing: namely in the still developing human consciousness? Some of you may have read the book 'History of Childhood' by DeMause (1974). According to him, a researcher in psychohistory, the real interest in the child began only in the middle of this century. The longer ago in Western History, the more brutal was the handling of children on wide scale: they were killed right after birth, exposed, sold as slaves or for prostitution, abused for work, for fulfilling their parent's needs and sexual perversions. Of course there have always been parents who loved their kids truely. Reich was the first who observed a beginning interest in the needs of children on an international ethical and scientific level in the middle of this century. He believed, as I do too, in an ongoing but very slow process of becoming aware of what children need and the necessary consequences. This new research reveals depressing facts to us. We know also that false and destructive relating to children will continue in many ways, for many decades or even centuries. The ongoing process of awareness and improvement will be repressed again and again, but it cannot be stopped any more. Because it is the fight for living as true humans, in accordance with nature. But at first, the idea of self-regulation and emotional health has to be accepted and understood, before it can be applicated to education at large. This is much more difficult. Reich's vision 1950 was:

"Since all social and cultural life has been anchored from time immemorial in children and is perpetuated by the character structure formed in them, it is clear that there is no more imoortant task than that of the educator. The fact that militarists and politicians have the best paid jobs while the educators of children have the worst paid ones shows how far we have come in understanding the upheaval. The revolution in pedagogigcal thought has nevertheless begun. This is a genuine, gigantic hitherto unknown form of revolution, a social revolution operating out in the open, without weapons, police, or informants. It can no longer be stopped and will totally change our society. In contrast, all politically oriented circles have sunk to the level of useless parasites of society. For us, the child - its health, freedom of development, and future - has become the central point of our practical biological position. We measure all social and cultural phenomena by whether they are useful or harmful to the child. We therefore urgently require a law to protect the child and its development. We need laws to protect and advance the existence of teachers and educators. We need such laws urgently and quickly if we are to prevent confused youth from creating a new form of totalitarianism.....

This social revolution is a process which will extend over centuries. Its object is not the state, or the nation, or the execution of is: the assessment of all events from the standpoint of the happiness of the human masses; self-regulation and self-administration of all branches of human existence; responsibility of all workers for production and distribution; research into and safeguarding by law of biological self-regulation in each newborn generation; strict protection of life in the child from authoritarian, ascetic, or any other anti-life ideology and practice; opposition to the emotional plague, as it is revealed in politics, espionage, defamation of the living, chauvinism and nationalism, mental illness, usury, and exploitation of work; international links between all working classes and direct representation of all interests relating to work and life; pedagogical and social elimination of all kinds of racial practices; clear dstinction between rational and irrational life interests; of the love life of children and adolescents; ...establishment of world citizenship and elimination of passports in international traffic. If the foregoing remarks are correct, physicians, educators, and social administrators of the future will come from social circles which stood outside the thought world of the twentieth century. In order to function in the world of the future, a hundred, a thousand, or five thousand years hence, these physicians, educators, and social administrators will have to guarantee the self-regulation of the human animal. In fulfilling this task they will compe up against powerful vestiges of twentieth century homo normalis , in the same way that we experienced the 'unevolved' thought world of the Platonic state and of Aristotelian thinking of two thousand years ago as a formidable hindrance when we made our first groping attempts to correct our ways of thinking and existing. Physicians and educators of the future will certainly not be descendants of present-day socialists, communists, liberals,or conservatives." (1990)
"All these wars, all the chaos now do you know what that is to my mind? Humanity is trying to get at its core, at its living, healthy core. But before it can be reached, humanity has to pass through this phase of murder, killing and destruction. What Freud called the destructive instinct is in the middle (the second) layer. A bull is mad and destructive when it is frustrated. Humanity is that way, too. That means that before you can get to the real thing to love, to life, to rationality - you must pass through hell. This has very grave implications for social development".(Reich, 1967)

1952, five years before he died in prison, Reich wrote a text of a proposal made to the Congress of the USA "On Laws needed for the Protection of Life in Newborns and of Truth: A careful study of the realm of social pathology reveals the fact that there exists no law in the USA which would directly protect factual truth against underhanded lie and attack motivated by irrational interests. Truth is at present at the mercy of chance. It depends entirely on whether a law officer is personally honest or dishonest, emotionally rational or irrational, subjetively inclined toward or against factual functions. It is most difficult to operate as a pioneer in new fields of human endeavor,if any emotionally sick individual anywhere on the social scene can - unhampered - destroy work or knowledge he dislikes, and if truth is in no position to defend itself against underhanded attack. It is obious that the future of the USA and the world at large depends on the rational upbringing of the newborns in each generation which will enable them to make rational decisions as grown-ups. (See Wilhelm Reich: Children of the Future, OEB, Oct. 1951). There do not exist any laws as yet to protect newborns against harm inflicted upon them by emotionally sick mothers and other sick individuals. However, there are many old laws rendered obsolete long ago by progress in the understanding of the biology of man, which threaten progressive educators with extinction if they transgress technically these old laws. These facts, together with the operation on the social scene of emotionally sick individuals, block progress and the search for better ways in medicine and education. Although laws which are serving the welfare of people at large can never accomplish factual changes, life affirmative laws can protect those who strive practically for betterment of the fate of humanity. Therefore, two laws, one to protect LIFE IN NEWBORNS, and a second to protect TRUTH against underhanded attacks (beyond the scope of libel laws which are not suited for this purpose), should be studied and formulated by legislatures, institutions of learning and foundations whose work is primarily devoted to securing human welfare and happiness.

To illustrate: Truthful and thorough investigation of natural love life in children and adolescents, one of the most crucial tasks in present day mental hygiene, is held up and rendered helpless by the single fact that any biopathic individual who himself has been emotionally warped in childhood or adolescence through frustration of his needs for love, is in a position to put in a complaint to an Attorney General's Office to the effect that those who investigate the subject of love life in childhood and adolescence, and make certain suggestions as to its solutions, are committing a crime, the crime of 'seduction of minors'. If the attorney happens to agree emotionally with the complainant, the investigation of fact is completely at the mercy of chance. There exists, according to rich experience in actual situations, no provision on the statute books to prosecute the biopathic individual on the basis that his motivation is not truth-seeking, or helping children or adolescents, but only hate of such procedures. The motivation of an accusation should always be taken into consideration, just as the motive for a murder is taken into consideration. This example must suffice to illustrate the situation....(Reich, 1953)

Regarding our struggle for the survival of Summerhill, we should ask what the true motives of the HMI-inspectors and of the DFEE are behind the notice of complaint. They threaten Summerhill's philosphy of self-regulation and self-government, as well as the self-regulated life of its children. At the same time they deny this fact. That means that they lie to the public, and therefore it is very important to reveal this to the public.

Compared to 1950 there may be not many fundamental changes on the national level, but at least there are laws for the protection of the rights of children and parents on an international level. We have got the UN Charta for children's rights regarding education and other important childhood issues. See Gerison Lansdown's (from the children's rights office) talk at the conference. We need to rely now on these rights in struggling for Summerhill.

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