The Freakiest Psychologist You’ve Never Heard Of (It’s Not Freud!)

Ben Thomas
9 min readJan 15, 2022
Reich was the father of the sexual revolution

The early days of psychoanalysis are often imagined as a deeply sexual, dark and taboo period in the study of psychology. Many may look at Freud’s obsession with mother loving for example. However, one character remains fairly unknown despite the fact that he is likely the freakiest psychoanalyst in the history of the field: Wilhelm Reich.


Born on a cattle farm in Austria-Hungary in 1897, Reich’s father was a strict man who prohibited his kids from learning Yiddish or speaking anything other than German. Perhaps due to child abuse, Reich would begin to write extensively about his sexual experiences. He would recount in detail the time he attempted to sleep with the family maid at the age of 4, how he would watch the animals in moments of pleasure, how he would pleasure himself while whipping the horses, how he would sleep with one of the servants almost daily and from the age of 11 and that he would frequently visit brothels starting at the age of 15. He also described the deep erotic fantasies he developed for his mother.

His mother would play a crucial role in Reich’s life. He became increasingly aware of his mother’s affair with the tutor and would stay outside of her bedroom every night they were together. One day he decided to tell his father of his mother’s betrayal, leading to his mother taking her own life. He would blame himself for this. Soon afterwards, he was sent to an all male-gymnasium where his brothel visitations became even more frequent. He would also develop an unfortunate skin condition that gave him a ruddy complexion.

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

Due to his fathers death from tuberculosis, Reich returned home to manage the farm. Shortly thereafter WWI broke out and he would enrol. Then he studied medicine at the University of Vienna, living off of oats and dried fruit and developing an unrequited crush on the woman who was helping him dissect cadavers.

In 1919, Reich’s life would change when he met with and greatly impressed Sigmund Freud, to the point in which he was accepted as a guest member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association. He…