I first met Tom Diferdinando 12 years ago when we were working behind the scenes at the Woodstock '98 concert. It was, hands-down, one of the highlights of my life as a bodyworker. One of the reasons for this was witnessing Tom's work.
While most of us were pleasantly distracted by the huge party, Tom remained entirely present in his work. His utter steadiness and concentration on the people he touched was extraordinary. Everyone who has experienced this Reich-influenced bodywork with Tom has encountered a life-altering path that leaves you feeling completely supported in every possible way. Thank you Tom for your continual evolution and attention to the world and our bodies. For more information, or to contact Tom Diferdinando directly at:
JW: Tell us about yourself, your background and how you got involved with healing arts?
TD: I'm a pain, injury, stress and trauma therapist and use a hands-on technique I developed based upon the scientific, life-energetic discoveries of the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich. The technique is both psychotherapeutic and physiotherapeutic; there is corrective, hands-on repair of closed-body, soft tissue lesions as well as counseling, grief-recovery and work with acute and long-term emotional trauma. I also work with the entire range of problems where "something just doesn't feel right." I have been in professional practice for nearly 25 years. My involvement in health and healing was more a confluence of circumstances than a mindful decision. Fortunately, I was introduced early on to the fact that there was no such thing as an incurable disease, which was developed and profoundly deepened when, at age 22, I came to the even broader philosophical realization that there is a true answer to every question, because the answer precedes the question. I was born with a strong sense of structure and motion, a feel for health and healing and the gift of manual dexterity.
JW: What is the most important thing you look for when working with a person?
TD: When Reich discovered the Orgone energy, he provided "health" with a natural scientific foundation. Among other things, he discovered it had two kinetic expressions in the organism: plasmatic pulsation and the spinning wave. These two spontaneous, cyclic, energetic oscillations, one radial and the other longitudinal, are essential to all biology. For example, the most obvious expression of oscillation in the organism is our breathing. As such, it becomes a natural reference point for bodyworkers. Everyone knows that the chest expands when we inhale and contracts when we exhale. But few realize that while the chest is expanding on inhalation, the total body is contracting; and that while the chest is contracting on exhalation, the total body is expanding and lengthening. In other words, as we breathe, the total body oscillates like a single, pulsating cell. Because everything inside and outside the body impacts the quality and integrity of this wavy, longitudinal oscillation, the quality and integrity of the oscillation itself becomes a natural yardstick for the efficacy of one's interventions. It is a profoundly reliable way to monitor autonomic expressions of relief, informing you moment to moment whether or not you are on the right track.
JW: How does your work relate to Chinese medicine, if it does?
TD: Among the theoretical similarities between Chinese Medicine and my own work is the obvious similarity between qi and Orgone. Both refer to a universal, cosmic energy whose flow in the body, or compromise in flow, is the basis for health and illness. The main difference however is that Reich sought to scientifically objectify and quantify the Orgone, showing it to be a physically distinct, albeit non-mechanical prime mover that governs biology, meteorology and cosmology.
The most obvious practical similarity between my work and Chinese medicine is that both methods engage the organism's longitudinal energy flow. Both pulsation and the spinning wave find structural, functional and kinetic expression in the body; the former in the core-periphery arrangement and radial action of the autonomic nervous system, the latter in the head-to-tail arrangement and longitudinal action of not only the central nervous system, but of embryological development, the cardiovascular function, locomotion, sensation, respiration and, one could argue, the arrangement and organization of acupuncture meridians.
Acupuncture needles engage the longitudinal qi flow with reference to the meridians. In my own work, hands-on maneuvers are employed to charge and discharge the longitudinal Orgone flow, with cross-reference to embryology and what Reich called the orgonome.
JW: How does a person come to fully heal themselves, if that is possible?
TD: The final goal of any therapy is to recover the capacity for self-regulation. By this, I'm referring not only to homeostasis, but to the active fulfillment of one's basic human needs. So how does one fully recover the capacity for self-regulation? To answer this question, one must firstly recognize that there is a self-corrective function in nature. In the body, we call this function healing. In the mind, it manifests as simply wanting to feel better. More broadly, it refers to the spontaneous capacity to recognize that something calls attention to itself. This intuitive sense is lawful and applies to everything. If an action feels right but is actually wrong, the consequences won't feel right. You then simply factor those negative consequences into your next step, and so on, until you finally know what you are dealing with.
Beyond that, physical health and illness essentially reduce to five factors: dehydration, suffocation, starvation, fatigue and shock. Emotional and psychological health and illness essentially reduce to how satisfactorily one regulates one's love and work tensions; the romantic and erotic sides in the former and the mental and physical sides in the latter.
Regarding the question of spirituality: If by spirituality, one means one's relationship to the wider universe, then the more intact our nutritional, emotional, social, sexual, economic, political and physiological relationships are, the more intact our spirituality will be. On the other hand, the more these relationships are compromised or unsatisfying, the more isolated you will feel and the more compromise you will suffer in your spiritual health.
JW: What should be required of every health care practitioner?
TD: Maybe the most important thing a health care practitioner needs is to take responsibility for their own emotional health. The key to becoming an effective practitioner is maintaining what, in a word, Reich called contact. This is the fusion of perception and energetic excitation. If your capacity for emotional contact is contaminated with your own unresolved emotional conflicts, i.e., with what Reich called chronic armoring, you'll be fine helping your patients as long as they don't touch your own anxieties. But the minute they do trigger you, your own defenses will unconsciously and involuntarily kick in and you will either panic, change the direction of the session to your own benefit, or otherwise confuse or interfere with the therapeutic process. In other words, you will have made the session all about you. You will immediately start rationalizing the ensuing chaos, at which point your suggestions, actions and interventions will appear hokey and unconvincing because you will no longer be in contact.
JW: What are some of the most important issues facing our health care system today?
TD: Our health care system, like any other social institution, reflects and conforms to the broader problem of institutionalized armoring. So the question of health care cannot really be evaluated independent of the question of armoring. With that in mind, I'll just mention what for me is the most disturbing and consistently under-appreciated health care problem today, which is that modern medicine is arguably the number one killer in America. I say that based on the numbers of iatrogenic death, euphemistically called "serious adverse events," published by JAMA itself (more than 100,000 people killed a year by medicine, and this when everything goes "right"). My impression is that medical science has a social function: to make sure that no one ever talks about health. Medical interventions seem designed not so much to help you recover your health as to grant you time and permission to return to the same self-destructive lifestyle that put you in the hospital in the first place. We're talking about a co-dependent system here; one where doctors, when they are not killing their patients, are giving their patients permission to go kill themselves. Without a definition of health,medical science will never be scientific.
JW: What do you think are some of the positive trends in the world of healing?
TD: The most obvious positive trend is the ever-growing appreciation that everything you ingest or don't ingest, over time, enhances or detracts from your overall health. Still, one must keep in mind the old, "two steps forward, one step back" philosophy. For example, researchers finally acknowledged that emotion can directly impact physical health. But then it was reduced to "biochemical reactions in the brain" and we're right back to where we started. But not quite.
A less well-known positive trend I see is an increasing appreciation among bodyworkers for the role of deep fascia in pain and injury. Then there is the growing appreciation among practitioners for the life energy itself. We're not there yet, but at least it has found codification, for better or worse, in the concept of energy medicine. Reich's discovery of the Orgone took us many steps forward, but many are still pushing it back, either by turning it into something mystical where its invoked but not understood; or something mechanical where it is seen as nothing more than electromagnetism. Few still appreciate that the Orgone is tangible, albeit mass-free, stuff.
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