Chapter Nine - "Help Me --- I'm Tired Of Feeling Bad"
Risks, Cautions, and Indications for Therapy
Risks for Therapists and Patients
The road to the organic self, utilizing Level Four depth psychotherapy, is fraught with risks.
When impulses overwhelm the ego container, they often flow toward the therapist. It is easier to murder symbolically, or actually, than it is to feel the overwhelming sadness and rage of early parental betrayal.
This is the risk that all depth therapists run. One of my deepest-working patients told me, `There have been times in my therapy when I wished to destroy you because I could not stand to face what my father had done to me.' * * *
A regressive therapist is a person who is driven to know. Our search must be vertical (downward and inward) rather than lateral with its endless seduction into worldly knowledge. There is no end to worldly knowledge. It pierces nothing.
The regressive therapist comes to see that each thing he finds is a mask overlaying a mask. Each layer is protected and lies underneath a region of terror which must be pierced in order to get at the underlying truth. Each layer displaces the truth of the layer underneath it, so that the deepest human truths lie far away from what would seem to be on the surface.
In our civilization, we are cultured and raised among disguises until we are completely and utterly lost. We pursue chimera and shadow and our song becomes `I just can't get no satisfaction.'
A man who is himself a therapist lies in my primal room on the shores of his terror. He has been inordinately afraid that one of his own male patients is going to murder him. He can't get rid of the vision of himself being stabbed to death. The scene endlessly recurs, coming unbidden to his mind. Under the terror, he learns to his dismay that in fact he actually does hope that his patient will stab him to death. He experiences a period of relief and then the terror begins again. Staying in it, he sees that what he really wants is not to be stabbed but to be raped by his patient. He wishes to have this man's penis plunged into his rectum. He experiences a brief relief with this insight, wondering if he is homosexual and then the terror begins again. Remaining within the layer, he realizes that now what he really wants is not the insertion of a penis but rather the close physical embrace of a father a father he never had. Freed of his fear at last, he lies sobbing in the soundproof semi-darkness. And now he knows that all he has ever wanted was to have had a daddy. The terror is gone, the fear of being murdered by his patient is gone, the fear of his homosexuality is gone and in the place of all these things is the real sadness he has suppressed for a lifetime.
When I meet this man in the street or any man or any woman, the things they say and do have no discernible relationship to their truth. I have floundered in a parenting and I have floundered in a civilization that has no discernible relationship to its truth. In my pain, I have been impassioned to find civilization's truths. The deeper I have gone, the more alone I have been and the sounds of my fellow human beings in their intellectual journeys have been like rain falling on a distant roof. I have learned that nothing is what it seems to be and any patient who comes to me learns the same awesome lesson. I have learned to move into the unknown and empty my mind of all learning so that it might be filled with my patients' ghosts. I have learned that the ultimate compass is what we feel and what we sense in our bodies. It is these two processes (feelings and body sensations) that our minds in desperation, have made the repository of the experiences we cannot bear to face and have layered over with fear and intellectual knowing. It is here under the terror and under the knowing that the locked boxes sit `row on row'. It is here that the key becomes the words `please stay with that feeling.' When these words are spoken quietly in a place where the response will be honoured by a therapist waiting in silence and ignorant of what will come, the truth will finally be known. Only then can we stop being symbolic human beings and return to the organic selves which have eluded us for untold tens of thousands of years.
Cautions About half of my patients can learn to focus deeply within their feelings. About one person in eight does continuous Level Four therapy. Wanting to do deep work is a crucially important factor in doing it. Wanting, however, does not mean that a person can or should work in this way. Many people who want to do regressive therapy find that their defences simply will not allow it. They just cannot get down there.
Others who can reach these levels should not attempt to do so. Their pain may be too great, their ego structures too weakened by childhood experiences. This dangerous combination can give rise to severe acting-out or other kinds of breakdown. An experienced depth therapist can help with these decisions and can often modify the techniques to suit individual needs. Usually, however, it requires working with someone for several months to know what is and is not right for them. Others, however, will only acquire the skills and the confidence after a year or more of less intense work.
Although I personally feel that everyone who wants to, should be given a chance to try depth psychotherapy, it must be stated that for a certain percentage of people, Level Four regressive psychotherapy is not a safe option.
Indicators of Readiness for Depth Therapy 1- Once having had the techniques explained, the client shows an ongoing preference for lying down in the therapy room and centering him or herself within their feelings and inner body state. 2- The client demonstrates an ability to remain inside the feeling and to verbalize the non-logical material which the feeling brings forward. 3- The client allows feelings to intensify and continues to externalize them with words and sounds. Externalization is central to this therapy. 4- The client realizes that these feelings are to be experienced, learned from, and not to be acted upon. 5- The client does not simply `forget' about the therapy work between sessions, but rather continues to ponder on and process the material in a non-compulsive way between visits. It will usually be some time, weeks or months, before the confidence to actually lie down alone and do therapy work emerges. 6- The client is not surprised to have periods of feeling truly awful as therapy deepens. There is, however, an inner sense that these truly awful feelings are just exactly that. They are feelings and as such, can, and will, be processed on the mat using the techniques we have already outlined.
Indicators of Readiness for Touch and Holding
By the time all six of the above criteria have been met, we are dealing with a client who has a broad gut-level awareness about regressive psychotherapy. This brings with it a deepening body sense that there may be times when the triggering, anchoring and nurturing effects of physical contact are necessary. Trust and goodwill by this time have been deeply established. In addition, the client is usually willing to experiment, knowing that when the therapist makes a mistake, this too can be processed and the work will move forward.
* * *
Humankind has remained hidden from itself from the dawn of time.
This hiding rests on one simple brain mechanism.
When we feel, we act.
This outwardness displaces us away from ourselves. It is the easiest way to reduce tension.
If we reverse this mechanism, if we lie down and continue to feel the feeling instead of acting on it, and if we externalize this feeling with sounds and words, we are drawn downward into our own depths.
At this point, the dishonesty, which is intrinsic to our species, ends.
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