From the book Character Analysis, by Wilhelm Reich, M.D., FS&G, New York, 1972.

The Genital Character and the Neurotic Character
(The sex-economic function of the character armor)

1. Character and Sexual Stasis

We now turn our attention to the reasons why a character is formed and to the economic function of the character.

The study of the dynamic function of the character reactions and of their purposeful mode of operation paves the way to the answer to the first question: in the main, the character proves to be a narcissistic defense mechanism.[1] Thus, it would seem correct to assume that if the character serves essentially as a protec­tion of the ego, e.g., in the analytic situation, it must have origi­nated as an apparatus intended to ward off danger. And the character analysis of each individual case shows, when the ana­lyst succeeds in penetrating to the character’s final stage of devel­opment, i.e., the Oedipus stage, that the character was molded under the influence of the dangers threatening from the outside world on the one hand and the pressing demands of the id on the other.

Building upon Lamarck’s theory, Freud and particularly Fer- enczi differentiated an autoplastic and an alloplastic adaptation in psychic life. Alloplastically, the organism changes the envi­ronment (technology and civilization); auto plastically, the organ­ism changes itself—in both instances in order to survive. In biological terms, character formation is an autoplastic function ini­tiated by the disturbing and unpleasurable stimuli from the outer world (structure of the family) . Because of the clash between the id and the outer world (which limits or wholly frustrates li­bido gratification), and prompted by the real anxiety generated by this conflict, the psychic apparatus erects a protective barrier between itself and the outer world. To comprehend this process, which has been but crudely sketched here, we have to turn our attention momentarily from the dynamic and economic points of view to the topographical.

Freud taught us to conceive of the ego, i.e., that part of the psychic mechanism directed toward the outer world and there­fore exposed, as an apparatus intended to ward off stimuli. Here the formation of the character takes place. Freud, in a very clear and illuminating way, described the struggle which the ego, as a buffer between id and outer world (or id and superego), has to engage in. What is most important about this struggle is that the ego, in its efforts to mediate between the inimical parties for the purpose of survival, introjects the suppressive objects of the outer world, as a matter of fact precisely those objects which frustrate the id’s pleasure principle, and retains them as moral arbiters, as the superego. Hence, the morality of the ego is a component which does not originate in the id, i.e., does not de­velop in the narcissistic-libidinal organism; rather, it is an alien component borrowed from the intruding and menacing outer world.

The psychoanalytic theory of instincts views the inchoate psychic organism as a hodgepodge of primitive needs which orig­inate in somatic conditions of excitation. As the psychic organ­ism develops, the ego emerges as a special part of it and inter­venes between these primitive needs on the one hand and the outer world on the other hand. To illustrate this, let us consider the protozoa. Among these we have, for example, the rhizopods, which protect themselves from the raw outer world with an armor of inorganic material held together by chemical elimina­tions of the protoplasm. Some of these protozoa produce a shell coiled like that of a snail; others, a circular shell equipped with prickles. As compared with the amoeba, the motility of these ar­mored protozoa is considerably limited; contact with the outer world is confined to the pseudopodia, which, for the purpose of locomotion and nourishment, can be stretched out and pulled in again through tiny holes in the armor. We shall often have occa­sion to make use of this comparison.

We can conceive of the character of the ego—perhaps the Freud­ian ego in general—as an armor protecting the id against the stimuli of the outer world. In the Freudian sense, the ego is a struc­tural agent. By character, we mean here not only the outward form of this agent but also the sum total of all that the ego shapes in the way of typical modes of reaction, i.e., modes of reaction characteris­tic of one specific personality. By character, in short, we mean an es­sentially dynamically determined factor manifest in a person’s char­acteristic demeanor: walk, facial expression, stance, manner of speech, and other modes of behavior. This character of the ego is molded from elements of the outer world, from prohibitions, in­stinctual inhibitions, and the most varied forms of identifications. Thus, the material elements of the character armor have their or­igin in the outer world, in society. Before we enter into the ques­tion of what constitutes the mortar of these elements, i.e., what dynamic process welds this armor together, we have to point out that protection against the outer world, the central motive behind the formation of the character, definitely does not constitute the chief function of the character later. Civilized man has abundant means of protecting himself against the real dangers of the outer world, namely social institutions in all their forms. Moreover, being a highly developed organism, he has a muscular apparatus which enables him to take flight or to fight and an intellect which enables him to foresee and avoid dangers. The protective mecha­nisms of the character begin to function in a particular way when anxiety makes itself felt within, whether because of an inner con­dition of irritation or because of an external stimulus relating to the instinctual apparatus. When this happens, character has to master the actual (stasis) anxiety which results from the energy of the thwarted drive.

The relation between character and repression can be ob­served in the following process: the necessity of repressing in­stinctual demands initiates the formation of the character. Once the character has been molded, however, it economizes upon re­pression by absorbing instinctual energies—which are free-float­ing in the case of ordinary repressions—into the character formation itself. The formation of a character trait, therefore, indi­cates that a conflict involving repression has been resolved: ei­ther the repressive process itself is rendered unnecessary or an inchoate repression is transformed into a relatively rigid, ego-jus­tified formation. Hence, the processes of the character formation are wholly in keeping with the tendency of the ego to unify the strivings of the psychic organism. These facts explain why re­pressions that have led to rigid character traits are so much more difficult to eliminate than those, for example, which produce a symptom.

There is a definite connection between the initial impetus to the formation of the character, i.e., protection against concrete dangers, and its final function, i.e., protection against instinctual dangers, stasis anxiety, and the absorption of instinctual energies. Social arrangements, especially the development from primitive social organizations to civilization, have entailed many restric­tions upon libidinal and other gratifications. The development of mankind thus far has been characterized by increasing sexual restrictions. In particular, the development of patriarchal civiliza­tion and present-day society has gone hand in hand with increasing fragmentation and suppression of genitality. The longer this proc­ess continues, the more remote the causes of real anxiety become. On a social level, however, the real dangers to the life of the indi­vidual have increased. Imperialistic wars and the class struggle outweigh the dangers of primitive times. It cannot be denied that civilization has brought about the advantage of security in individ­ual situations. But this benefit is not without its drawbacks. To avoid real anxiety, man had to restrict his instincts. One must not give vent to one’s aggression even if one is starving as a result of economic crisis and the sexual drive is fettered by social norms and prejudices. A transgression of the norms would immediately entail a real danger, e.g., punishment for “larceny” and for childhood masturbation, and imprisonment for incest and homosexuality. To the extent that real anxiety is avoided, the stasis of libido is increased and, with it, stasis anxiety. Thus, actual anxiety and real anxiety have a complementary relation to one another: the more real anxiety is avoided, the stronger stasis anxiety becomes, and vice versa. The man who is without fear gratifies his strong libidinal needs even at the risk of social ostracism. Animals are more exposed to the conditions of real anxiety because of their deficient social organization. However, unless they fall under the pressures of domestication—and even then only under special circumstances—animals rarely suffer from instinctual stasis.

We have stressed here the avoidance of (real) anxiety and the binding of (stasis) anxiety as two economic principles of charac­ter formation; we must not neglect a third principle, which is also instrumental in shaping the character, i.e., the pleasure principle. True, the formation of the character originates in and is caused by the need to ward off the dangers entailed by the gratification of instincts. Once the armor has been formed, however, the plea­sure principle continues to operate inasmuch as the character, just as the symptom, serves not only to ward off drives and to bind anxiety but also to gratify distorted instincts. For example, the genital-narcissistic character has protected himself against ex­ternal influences; he also gratifies a good portion of libido in the narcissistic relationship of his ego to his ego-ideal. There are two kinds of instinctual gratification. On the one hand, the energy of the warded-off instinctual impulses themselves, particularly the pregenital and sadistic impulses, is largely consumed in the es­tablishment and perpetuation of the defense mechanism. While this, to be sure, does not constitute the gratification of an instinct in the sense of a direct, undisguised attainment of pleasure, it does constitute a reduction of the instinctual tension comparable to that derived from the disguised “gratification” in a symptom. Although this reduction is phenomenologically different from di­rect gratification, it is nonetheless almost on a par with it eco­nomically: both diminish the pressure exerted by the instinctual stimulus. The instinct’s energy is expended in the binding and so­lidifying of the character’s contents (identifications, reaction for­mations, etc.). In the affect-block of some compulsive charac­ters, for example, sadism mainly is consumed in the formation and perpetuation of the wall between id and outer world, whereas anal homosexuality is consumed in the exaggerated po­liteness and passivity of some passive-feminine characters.

The instinctual impulses which are not absorbed into the char­acter strive to achieve direct gratification unless they are re­pressed. The nature of this gratification depends upon the struc­ture of the character. And which instinctual forces are employed to establish the character and which are allowed direct gratifica­tion decides the difference not only between health and sickness but among the individual character types.

Great importance also devolves on the quantity of the character armor as well as on its quality. When the armoring of the char­acter against the outer world and against the biological part of the personality has reached a degree commensurate with the libido development, there are still “breaches” in it which provide the con­tact with the outer world. Through these breaches, the unbound libido and the other instinctual impulses are turned toward or with­drawn from the outer world. But the armoring of the ego can be so complete that the breaches become “too narrow,” i.e., the com­munication lines with the outer world are no longer adequate to guarantee a regulated libido economy and social adaptation. Catatonic stupor is an example of a total insulation, while the impulsive character is a prime example of a wholly inadequate armoring of the character structure. It is likely that every perma­nent conversion of object libido into narcissistic libido goes hand in hand with a strengthening and hardening of the ego armor. The affect-blocked compulsive character has a rigid armor and but meager possibilities of establishing affective relationships with the outer world. Everything recoils from his smooth, hard surface. The garrulous aggressive character, on the other hand, has, it is true, a flexible armor, but it is always “bristling.” His relationships to the outer world are limited to paranoic-aggressive reactions. The passive-feminine character is an example of a third type of ar­moring. On the surface, he appears to have an acquiescent and mild disposition, but in analysis we get to know it as an armoring that is difficult to dissolve.

It is indicative of every character formation not only what it wards off but what instinctual forces it uses to accomplish this. In general, the ego molds its character by taking possession of a certain instinctual impulse, itself subject to repression at one time, in order to ward off, with its help, another instinctual im­pulse. Thus, for example, the phallic-sadistic character’s ego will use exaggerated masculine aggression to ward off feminine, pas­sive, and anal strivings. By resorting to such measures, however, it changes itself, i.e., assumes chronically aggressive modes of re­action. Others frequently ward off their repressed aggression by “insinuating”—as one such patient once put it—themselves into the favor of any person capable of rousing their aggression. They become as “slippery” as eels, evade every straightforward reac­tion, can never be held fast. Usually, this “slipperiness” is also expressed in the intonation of their voice; they speak in a soft, modulated, cautious, and flattering way. In taking over anal in­terests for the purpose of warding off the aggressive impulses, the ego itself becomes “greasy” and “slimy,” and conceives of it­self in this way. This causes the loss of self-confidence (one such patient felt himself to be “stinky”). Such people are driven to make renewed efforts to adapt themselves to the world, to gain possession of objects in any way possible. However, since they do not possess any genuine ability to adapt themselves and usually experience one frustration and rejection after the other, their aggression builds up and this, in turn, necessitates intensi­fied anal-passive defense. In such cases, character-analytic work not only attacks the function of the defense but also exposes the means employed to accomplish this defense, i.e., anality in this case.

The final quality of the character—true of the typical as well as the particular—is determined by two factors: first, qualita­tively, by those stages of libido development in which the process of character formation was most permanently influenced by inner conflicts, i.e., by the specific position of the libido fixation.

Qualitatively, therefore, we can differentiate between depressive (oral), masochistic, genital-narcissistic (phallic), hysterical (genital-incestuous) characters and compulsive (anal-sadistic fix­ation) characters; second, quantitatively, by the libido economy which is dependent upon the qualitative factor. The former could also be called the historical, the latter the contemporary motive of the character form.

  1. The Libido-economic Difference Between the Genital Character and the Neurotic Character

If the armoring of the character exceeds a certain degree; if it has utilized chiefly those instinctual impulses that under normal circumstances serve to establish contact with reality; if the ca­pacity for sexual gratification has thereby been too severely re­stricted, then all the conditions exist for the formation of the neurotic character. If, now, the character formation and charac­ter structure of neurotic men and women are compared with those of individuals capable of work and love, we arrive at a qualitative difference between the ways the character binds the dammed-up libido. It is found that there are adequate and inade­quate means of binding anxiety. Genital orgastic gratification of the libido and sublimation prove to be prototypes of adequate means; all kinds of pregenital gratification and reaction forma­tions prove to be inadequate. This qualitative difference is also expressed quantitatively: the neurotic character suffers a contin­uously increasing stasis of the libido precisely because his means of gratification are not adequate to the needs of the in­stinctual apparatus; whereas the genital character is governed by a steady alternation between libido tension and adequate libido gratification. In short, the genital character is in possession of a regulated libido economy. The term “genital character” is justi­fied by the fact that, with the possible exception of highly un­usual cases, only genital primacy and orgastic potency (itself de­termined by a special character structure), as opposed to all other libido structures, guarantee a regulated libido economy.

The historically determined quality of the character-forming forces and contents determines the contemporary quantitative regulation of the libido economy and therefore, at a certain point, the difference between “health” and “sickness.” In terms of their qualitative differences, the genital and neurotic characters are to be understood as principal types. The actual characters rep­resent a mixture, and whether or not the libido economy is vouchsafed depends solely upon how far the actual character ap­proximates the one or the other principal type. In terms of the quantity of the possible direct libido gratification, the genital and neurotic characters are to be understood as average types: either the libido gratification is such that it is capable of disposing of the stasis of the unused libido or it is not. In the latter case, symptoms or neurotic character traits develop which impair social and sexual capacity.

We shall attempt now to represent the qualitative differences between the two ideal types. To this end, we shall contrast the structure of the id, the superego, and finally the characteristics of the ego which are dependent upon the id and superego.

  1. a) Structure of the id

The genital character has fully attained the post-ambivalent genital stage;[2] the incest desire and the desire to get rid of the father (the mother) have been abandoned and genital strivings have been projected upon a heterosexual object which does not, as in the case of the neurotic character, actually represent the incest object. The heterosexual object has completely taken over the role—more specifically, the place—of the incest object. The Oedipus complex is no longer a contemporary factor; it has been resolved. It is not repressed; rather, it is free of cathexis. The pre­genital tendencies (analitv, oral eroticism, and voyeurism) are not repressed. In part, they are anchored in the character as cultural sublimations; in part, they have a share in the pleasures preceding direct gratification. They are, in any case, subordinated to the genital strivings. The sexual act remains the highest and most pleasurable sexual goal. Aggression has also to a large extent been sublimated in social achievements; to a lesser extent, it contributes directly to genital sexuality, without, however, demanding exclu­sive gratification. This distribution of the instinctual drives assures the capacity for corresponding orgastic gratification, which can be achieved only by way of the genital system, although it is not con­fined to it since it also provides gratification to the pregenital and aggressive tendencies. The less pregenital demands are repressed, i.e., the better the systems of pregenitality and gentility communi­cate, the more complete is the gratification and the fewer possibili­ties there are for pathogenic stasis of the libido.

The neurotic character, on the other hand, even if it does not have a feeble potency from the outset or does not live abstinently (which is true of the overwhelming majority of cases), is not capable of discharging his free, unsublimated libido in a satisfactory orgasm.[3] Orgastically, he is always relatively impotent. The follow­ing configuration is responsible for this: the incest objects have a contemporary cathexis, or the libido cathexis pertaining to these objects is put forth in reaction formations. If there is any sexuality at all, its infantile nature is readily discernible. The woman who is loved merely represents the mother (sister, etc.) and the love relationship is burdened with all the anxieties, inhi­bitions, and neurotic whims of the infantile incest relationship (spurious transference). Genital primacy either is not present at all or has no cathexis or, as in the case of the hysterical charac­ter, the genital function is disturbed because of the incest fixation. Sexuality—this is especially true of the transference neuroses— moves along the paths of forepleasure, if the patient is not abstinent or inhibited. Thus, we have a kind of chain reac­tion: the infantile sexual fixation disturbs the orgastic function: this disturbance, in turn, creates a stasis of libido; the dammed-up libido intensifies the pregenital fixations, and so on and so forth. Because of this over-cathexis of the pregenital system, libidinal impulses creep into every cultural and social activity. This, of course, can only result in a disturbance because the action becomes associated with repressed and forbidden material. Occasionally, indeed, the activity becomes undisguised sexual activity in a distorted form, e.g., the cramp of a violinist. The libidinal surplus is not always available for social action; it is intertwined in the re­pression of infantile instinctual goals.

  1. Structure of the superego

The superego of the genital character is chiefly distinguished by its important sexually affirmative elements. A high degree of harmony therefore exists between id and superego. Since the Oedipus complex has lost its cathexis, the counter-cathexis in the basic element of the superego has also become superfluous. Thus, to all intents and purposes, there are no superego prohibitions of a sexual nature. The superego is not sadistically laden not only for the above reasons but also because there is no stasis of the libido which could stir up sadism and make the superego vicious.[4] The genital libido, since it is gratified directly, is not concealed in the strivings of the ego-ideal. Hence, social accom­plishments are not, as in the case of the neurotic character, proofs of potency; rather they provide a natural, noncompensa­tory narcissistic gratification. Since there are no potency disturb­ances, an inferiority complex does not exist. There is a close cor­relation between ego-ideal and real ego, and no insurmountable tension exists between the two.

In the neurotic character, on the other hand, the superego is essentially characterized by sexual negation. This automatically sets up the familiar conflict and antipathy between id and super­ego. Since the Oedipus complex has not been mastered, the cen­tral element of the superego, the incest prohibition, is still wholly operative and interferes with every form of sexual relationship. The powerful sexual repression of the ego and the attendant li­bido stasis intensify the sadistic impulses which are expressed, among other ways, in a brutal code of morality. We would do well to remember in this connection that, as Freud pointed out, repression creates morality and not vice versa. Since a more or less conscious feeling of impotence is always present, many social accomplishments are primarily compensatory proofs of po­tency. These accomplishments, however, do not diminish the feelings of inferiority. On the contrary: since social accomplish­ments are often attestations of potency which cannot in any way replace the feeling of genital potency, the neurotic character never rids himself of the feeling of inner emptiness and incapac­ity, no matter how arduously he tries to compensate for it. Thus, the positive demands of the ego-ideal are raised higher and higher, while the ego, powerless and doubly paralyzed by feel­ings of inferiority (impotence and high ego-ideal), becomes less and less efficient.

  1. Structure of the ego

Now let us consider the influences on the ego of the genital char­acter. The periodic orgastic discharges of the id’s libidinal ten­sion considerably reduces the pressure of the id’s instinctual claims on the ego. Because the id is basically satisfied, the super­ego has no cause to be sadistic and therefore does not exert any particular pressure on the ego. Free of guilt feelings, the ego takes possession of and gratifies the genital libido and certain pregenital strivings of the id and sublimates the natural aggression as well as parts of the pregenital libido in social accomplishments. As far as genital strivings are concerned, the ego is not opposed to the id and can impose certain inhibitions upon it much more easily since the id gives into the ego in the main, i.e., the gratifi­cation of the libido. This appears to be the only condition under which the id allows itself to be held in check by the ego without the use of repression. A strong homosexual striving will express itself in one way when the ego fails to gratify the heterosexual striving and in an entirely different way when no libido stasis ex­ists. Economically, this is easy to understand, for in heterosexual gratification—provided the homosexuality is not repressed, i.e., is not shut out of the communication system of the libido—en­ergy is taken away from the homosexual strivings.

Since the ego is under only a small amount of pressure from both the id and the superego—largely because of sexual gratifi­cation—it does not have to defend itself against the id as does the ego of the neurotic character. It requires only small amounts of countcr-cathcxis and has, consequently, ample energy free for experiencing and acting in the outside world; acting and experi­encing are intense and free-flowing. Thus the ego is highly acces­sible to pleasure (Lust) as well as unpleasure (Unlust). The genital character’s ego also has an armor, but it is in control of the armor, not at its mercy. The armor is flexible enough to adapt itself to the most diverse experiences. The genital charac­ter can be joyous, but angry when necessary. He reacts to an object-loss with a commensurable degree of sadness; he is not sub­dued by his loss. He is capable of loving intensely and enthusias­tically and of hating passionately. In a particular situation, he can behave in a childlike way, but he will never appear infantile. His seriousness is natural, not stiff in a compensatory way, for he does not have to appear grownup at all costs. His courage is not proof of potency, it is objectively motivated. So under certain conditions, e.g., a war he believes unjust, he will not be afraid to have himself labeled a coward but will stand up for his convic­tion. Since the infantile wishes have lost their cathexis, his hate as well as his love are rationally motivated. The flexibility and strength of his armor are shown by the fact that, in one case, he can open himself to the world just as intensely as, in another case, he can close himself to it. His ability to give himself is mainly demonstrated in his sexual experience: in the sexual act with the loved object, the ego almost ceases to exist, with the ex­ception of its function of perception. For the moment, the armor has been almost entirely dissolved. The entire personality is im­mersed in the experience of pleasure, without fear of getting lost in it, for the ego has a solid narcissistic foundation, which does not compensate but sublimates. His self-esteem draws its best energies from the sexual experience. The very way he solves his contemporary conflicts shows that they are of a rational nature; they are not clogged with infantile and irrational elements. Once again, the reason for this is a rational libido economy that pre­cludes the possibility of an over-cathexis of infantile experiences and desires.

In the forms of his sexuality, as in all other respects, the geni­tal character is flexible and unconstrained. Since he is capable of gratification, he is also capable of monogamy without compul­sion or repression; when rationally motivated, however, he is fully capable of changing the object of his love or of polygamy.

He does not cling to his sexual object because of feelings of guilt or moralistic considerations. Rather, he maintains the relation­ship on the basis of his healthy demand for pleasure, because it gratifies him. He can conquer polygamous desires without re­pression when they are incompatible with his relationship to the beloved object, but he can indeed give in to them if they become too urgent. He solves the actual conflicts arising from this in a realistic way.

Neurotic feelings of guilt are practically nonexistent. His so­ciality is based not on repressed but on sublimated aggression and on his orientation in reality. This does not mean, however, that he always submits to social reality. On the contrary, the gen­ital character, whose structure is wholly at odds with our con­temporary moralistically anti-sexual culture, is capable of criti­cizing and changing the social situation. His almost complete absence of fear enables him to take an uncompromising stand to­ward an environment that runs counter to his convictions.

If the primacy of the intellect is the goal of social develop­ment, it is inconceivable without genital primacy. The hegemony of the intellect not only puts an end to irrational sexuality but has as its precondition a regulated libido economy. Genital and intel­lectual primacy belong together, i.e., interdetermine one another, as do libido stasis and neurosis, superego (guilt feeling) and religion, hysteria and superstition, pregenital libido gratification and the contemporary sexual morality, sadism and ethics, sexual repression and committees for the rehabilitation of fallen women.

In the genital character, the regulated libido economy and the capacity for full sexual gratification are the foundation of the above character traits. In the same way, everything the neurotic character is and does is determined, in the final analysis, by his inadequate libido economy.

The ego of the neurotic character is either ascetic or achieves sexual gratification accompanied by guilt feelings. It is under pressure from two sides: (1) the constantly ungratified id with its dammed-up libido and (2) the brutal superego. The neurotic character’s ego is inimical toward the id and fawning toward the superego. At the same time, however, it flirts with the id and secretly rebels against the superego. Insofar as its sexuality has not been completely repressed, it is predominantly pregen­ital. Because of the prevailing sexual mores, genitality is tinged with anal and sadistic elements. The sexual act is conceived of as something dirty and beastly. Since aggressiveness is incorporated into or, more specifically, anchored partially in the character armor and partially in the superego, social achievements are im­paired. The ego is either closed to both pleasure and unpleasure (affect-block) or accessible solely to unpleasure; or every plea­sure is quickly transformed into unpleasure. The armor of the ego is rigid; communications with the outer world, constantly under the control of the narcissistic censor, are poor with respect to both object-libido and aggression. The armor functions chiefly as a protection against inner life; the result is a pronounced weakening of the ego’s reality function. The relationships to the outer world are unnatural, myopic, or contradictory; the whole personality cannot become a harmonious and enthusiastic part of things because it lacks the capacity for complete experience. Whereas the genital character can change, strengthen, or weaken his defense mechanisms, the ego of the neurotic character is completely at the mercy of his unconscious repressed mecha­nisms. He cannot behave any differently even if he wants to. He would like to be joyous or angry but is capable of neither. He cannot love intensely because essential elements of his sexuality are repressed. Nor can he hate rationally because his ego does not feel equal to his hatred, which has become inordinate as a re­sult of the libido stasis, and therefore has to repress it. And when he feels love or hate, the reaction is hardly in keeping with the facts. In the unconscious, the infantile experiences come into play and determine the extent and the nature of the reactions. The rigidity of his armor makes him unable either to open himself to some particular experience or to shut himself off com­pletely from other experiences where he would be rationally jus­tified in doing so. Usually, he is sexually inhibited or disturbed in the forepleasures of the sexual act. Even if this is not the case, however, he does not receive any gratification. Or, because of his inability to give himself, he is disturbed to such an extent that the libido economy is not regulated. A thorough analysis of the feelings one has during the sexual act allows the differentiation of various types: the narcissistic person whose attention is con­centrated not on the sensation of pleasure but on the idea of making a very potent impression; the hyperaesthetic person who is very much concerned not to touch any part of the body that might offend his aesthetic feelings; the person with repressed sadism who cannot rid himself of the compulsive thought that he might hurt the woman or is tormented by guilt feelings that he is abusing the woman; the sadistic character for whom the act means the martyring of the object. The list could be extended in­definitely. Where such disturbances are not fully manifested, the inhibitions corresponding to them are found in the total attitude toward sexuality. Since the superego of the neurotic character does not contain any sexually affirmative elements, it shuns sex­ual experience (H. Deutsch mistakenly held this to be true of the healthy character as well). This means, however, that only half of the personality takes part in the experience.

The genital character has a solid narcissistic foundation. In the neurotic character, on the other hand, the feeling of impo­tence forces the ego to make compensations of a narcissistic na­ture. The contemporary conflicts, permeated with irrational mo­tives, make it impossible for the neurotic character to reach rational decisions. The infantile attitude and desires always have a nega­tive effect.

Sexually unsatisfied and incapable of being satisfied, the neu­rotic character is finally forced either into asceticism or into rigid monogamy. The latter he will justify on moral grounds or as def­erence to his sexual partner, but in reality he is afraid of sexual­ity and unable to regulate it. Since sadism is not sublimated, the superego is extremely harsh; the id is relentless in its demands for the gratification of its needs, the ego develops feelings of guilt, which it calls social conscience, and a need for punishment, in which it tends to inflict on itself what it really wishes to do to others.

Upon brief reflection, we see that the empirical discovery of the above mechanisms becomes the basis for a revolutionary cri­tique of all theoretically based systems of morals. Without, at this point, going into the details of this question so decisive for the social formation of culture, we can briefly state that to the ex­tent that society makes possible the gratification of needs and the transformation of the corresponding human structures, the moral regulation of social life will fall away. The final decision lies not in the sphere of psychology but in the sphere of the sociological processes. As far as our clinical practice is concerned, there can no longer be any doubt that every successful analytic treatment, i.e., one which succeeds in transforming the neurotic character structure into a genital character structure, demolishes the mor­alistic arbiters and replaces them with the self-regulation of ac­tion based on a sound libido economy. Since some analysts speak of the “demolishing of the superego” by the analytic treatment, we have to point out that this is a matter of withdrawing energy from the system of moral arbitration and replacing it with libi­do-economic regulation. The fact that this process is at variance with the present-day interests of the state, moral philosophy, and religion is of decisive importance in another connection. More simply expressed, what this all means is that the man whose sex­ual as well as primitive biological and cultural needs are satisfied does not require any morality to maintain self-control. But the unsatisfied man, suppressed in all respects, suffers from mount­ing inner excitation that would cause him to tear everything to pieces if his energy were not partially held in check and partially consumed by moralistic inhibitions. The extent and intensity of a society’s ascetic and moralistic ideologies are the best yardstick for the extent and intensity of the unresolved tension, created by un­satisfied needs, in the average individual of that society. Both are determined by the relationship of the productive forces and the mode of production on the one hand and the needs which have to be satisfied on the other.

The discussion of the broader consequences of sex-economy and the analytic theory of character will not be able to evade these questions unless, at the sacrifice of its natural scientific prestige, it prefers to pull in the reins at the artificially erected boundary between what is and what should be.

[1] At this point it is necessary to make a fundamental distinction between our concepts and those of Alfred Adler concerning character and “security.”
a) Adler began to move away from psychoanalysis and the libido theory with the thesis that what is important is not the analysis of the libido but the analysis of the nervous character. His postulating libido and character as opposites and completely excluding the former from consideration are in complete contradiction to the theory of psychoanalysis. While we do take the same problem as our point of departure, namely the purposeful mode of operation of what one calls the “total personality and character,” we none­theless make use of a fundamentally different theory and method. In asking what prompts the psychic organism to form a character, we conceive of the character as a causative entity and arrive only secondarily at a purpose which we deduce from the cause (cause: unpleasure; purpose: defense against unpleasure) . Adler, in dealing with the same problem, uses a finalistic point of view.
b) We endeavor to explain character formation in terms of libido economy and arrive, therefore, at completely different results from Adler, who chooses the principle of the “will to power” as an absolute explanation, thus overlook­ing the dependency of the “will to power,” which is only a partial narcissistic striving, upon the vicissitudes of narcissism as a whole and of the object libido.
Adler’s formulations on the mode of action of the inferiority complex and its compensations are correct. This has never been denied. But here, too, the connection is missing to the libido processes which lie deeper, especially the phallic libido. It is precisely in our libido-theoretical dissolution of the inferiority complex itself and its ramifications in the ego that we part company with Adler. Our problem begins precisely where Adler leaves off.

[2] Cf. Karl Abraham: “Psychoanalytische Studien zur Charakterbildung” (Int. PsA Bibl., No. XXVI, 1925) , especially Chapter III: “Zur Charakterbildung auf der ‘genitalen’ Entwicklungsstufe.”

[3] Footnote, 1945: The regulation of sexual energy is dependent upon orgastic potency, i.e., upon the ability of the organism to allow a free flowing of the clonic convulsions of the orgasm reflex. The armored organism is incapable of orgastic convulsion; the biological excitation is inhibited by spasms in various places of the organism.

[4] For further information on the dependency of sadism on libido stasis, see Chapter VII of my book Die Funktion des Orgasmus, 1927. Cf. also The Function of the Orgasm, 1942, 1948.