When John was 11 years of age, a sexual experience with a girl cousin caused him to fear being punished by his father. Because he excelled in school, he was placed in a French Lycee, an equivalent of an American high school and although the courses were difficult, he felt proud of his achievements. He enjoyed competing with other students and getting good grades. His father traveled for work, and when he would return to be with the family, John felt distant from him. Still afraid of him, John expected to be punished for his sexual escapades. On the other hand, these were active, enjoyable years and Jonn played volleyball and soccer daily, taking pleasure in the role of team leader.
At the age of 15, things changed for John because his father died in an accident and he was left to take care of the family and manage the family property. His father had purchased property in Athens and this property provided the family with a comfortable income. Following his father,’s death, John felt frozen; he wasn’t able to access his feelings or cry. However the guilt from his early sexual explorations diminished, and John felt liberated from his fear after his father passed away.
At the age of 18 When he finished high school, John’s sister Catina invited him to come to the United States to study. At that time the Germans had already taken France. John left Greece on the last steamboat from the port of Pireaus. His dream to come to the United States was now coming true. He arrived in 1940 entering Columbia College where he studied for 4 years. For the first 3 years after his arrival in the states, he felt lost, because he did not know the language, and he had to struggle with his studies at Columbia College. He said that “In the 1st year I almost flunked out, but by the 3rd year I was on the Dean’s List and I was amazed to find out how capable I was in my studies when I wanted to apply myself.” Soon he met a female student who was very sweet and accepting. This relationship gave him a lot of confidence and feelings of self worth.
After Columbia, John was accepted to study medicine at the Downstate Medical Center in New York. In medical school he was able to concentrate and focus, and his good marks allowed him to finish in 3 years. Because It was wartime, 1943-44, studies were abbreviated so that students could be of service to the nation. John graduated from medical school in 1947. By now he was in another relationship with a woman of Greek origin, named Ragone. After 3 years, they married and John continued his post-graduate studies in psychiatry. He also met Reich in 1947 and began therapy with him. John was deeply impressed by this man and the intense way Reich worked with him, breaking down his defenses. However, John believed that he never completely resolved his transference toward Reich during the year he worked with him. Then he began Orgone therapy with Dr. Elsworth Baker and that continued for approximately 3 years. During the same time he worked as a psychiatric resident, continued his studies with Reich, and also participated in a classical psychiatric training.
John took a position as a staff member at Kings County hospital. There he felt very alone, since he was the only staff member who was a follower and student of Reich and Orgone therapy. It was very dangerous to be Reichan in those days, since Reich was ostracized and maligned by the psychiatric profession. John left his position at the hospital following an argument with the director about Reich and he established his own office for the practice of psychiatry in 1950. After he opened the office, Alexander Lowen asked to share the office. Lowen had just come from Europe having completed his medical studies there. During that time, Ragone and John celebrated the birth of Eva, their first daughter. And at the same time he started developing the Bioenergetic field with Alexander Lowen; this occurred because they were practicing together and having many discussions. John described this stage of his life as very significant, because it helped him focus on independence and creativity, two concepts central to the later development of Core Energetics.