Question: I often see discussions on the Internet about whether or not Primal Therapy, which you call "Deep Feeling Oriented Therapy", actually works. Would you care to answer this question?
After having been in several other traditional therapies, I entered this particular kind of therapy to work on myself back in 1976. On several occasions, when asked this very question, our therapists smiled enigmatically and then avoided our queries. On one occasion, one of them replied, "It isn't what you think it is."|
Well. I don't believe in mysterious smiles or puzzling replies, and so I will try to answer your reasonable and important question.
Deep feeling oriented therapy is a device, to find, to track, and to externalise pain, tension and bodily symptoms that are a consequence of hurts we have had, and are receiving, in our life; hurts which we have not fully processed.
If we focus and stay focussed on bodily and emotional sensations of distress, the emotions of earlier events, which are driving our current symptoms, will become more and more conscious. They will begin to arise from deeper and deeper places within us. Feelings such as, anger, fear depression, guilt and shame will become clearer as we move more and more deeply into our unconscious mind.
If we then make the sounds and body movements congruent to these distressful sensations, these blocked tensions and pains will flow out of us and we will then experience a decrease in their intensity . We will also notice a decrease in the fear that was overlying them.
It is always a goal of mine in any client's first session, after taking a complete history, to have the client do this focussing and externalizing. They can then experience, usually for the very first time, and even after being in several previous therapies, that these new processes of finding and externalizing pain, actually do work. They realize that they are not powerless in the face of their hurt. They realise that the origins of their pain can be found, focussed upon, connected with, externalized and shifted.
This is for me the first great "miracle"of Deep Feeling Oriented Therapy. It works for most people. This is not an academic theory, it is an experiential fact.
I liken it to watching someone in a diabetic coma suddenly come awake, after receiving intravenous sugar. It is wonderful to behold even though the journey may be long and hard.
When people are introduced to this almost innate skill, and proceed to use it, first during the therapy itself, and then gradually by themselves, in their daily life, a second phenomenon invariably occurs. They gradually over a few months to a year or so, stop being afraid of their feelings.
The terror that clients have lived in all their lives, on the one hand begins to recede, and on the other hand becomes seen by them as their doorway into themselves. As such not only do they lose their fear, but they come to see it for what it is, a doorway into the deepest self.
In other words, clients finally gain relief from the tyranny of their feelings. Feelings become tools to be used, instead of objects of terror. This is not conjecture. It is a fact.
If nothing else ever happened within a feeling oriented depth therapy client, this loss of terror alone would be a substantial improvement. This relief from fear, and the rising self esteem which follows from it, would by itself make our kind of therapy extremely worthwhile.
Another benefit, which usually comes along with this release, is an ever expanding insight into the causes of our pain both in the present and in the past. We become more conscious of everything in and around us. With ever increasing clarity and forcefulness we begin to say "no" to that which harms us. We begin to live in a healthier way and to feel satisfied with who we are.
After having discovered how to handle their pain, to greatly reduce or eliminate it, clients begin to rely on this work. They turn to their therapy-mat more and more often because they will not allow pain and confusion to accumulate. Again, this is not esoteric theory. It actually happens.
Now the question that I have so far avoided, is the huge one which most people want an answer to. As time goes on do we actually get better? Do we lose our pain and gain the function and even the joy in life that we never really had?
Well, with regard to pain, how much we lose is an individual thing. It depends on the degree of infantile and childhood damage and also the degree of damage to the adult, such as war and other huge possible traumas. It also depends on the innate strength of the person involved, even though that usually increases as the therapy proceeds.
I believe that most depth therapy clients can expect a 30 to 70% reduction in their symptoms. I do not believe that the average client will become pain free.
Most primal people that I know, have had to work on the mat (feel deep pain), several times a week over a two to five year period, and then a very important change occurs.
What I have observed in most clients is that over this length of time they lose their fear of their feelings.
I have also observed after six months to a couple of years, that they have fewer symptoms. They find themselves not needing to lie down nearly as often to process their pain. They still turn to these skills occasionally, perhaps once or twice a month or less.
In addition, the mind has a tendency to reassemble its defences in a reasonable way, as it faces less and less pain overload. Personally I have no criticism of this, and am happy for myself and others to find relief in this way, as long as we stay aware of when we are, and when we are not, in over reaction.
We also feel a gradual rising up within us of a capacity for joy. Joy is a byproduct of working through our pain. Joy can never be made a direct goal. It comes automatically as we free ourselves from our unworked through processes.
I believe that the mind freed from pain, is in fact naturally buoyant.
Finally, it must be said that some clients continue to live with deep pain and have to use deep feeling regression work daily for many years. In situations like this it seems that therapy has no end. To keep functioning in their daily life they must keep feeling their pain. I see this as failure of therapy and its causes are too complex to go into here.
I would guess, and it is only a guess, that perhaps one person in a hundred simply can not resolve their pain, and remain caught up in it, having to feel it, over and over again.
In cases like this, returning to a more verbal and integrative kind of therapy, including group work and teaching of life skills, possibly with added medication, can be very helpful.
On the whole, however, I have found the techniques of, "Feeling Oriented Depth Therapy", a miracle of help, both for myself and others who have done this work.
It is exciting to be able to proceed through our lives, knowing that we have mastered a set of skills that will work for us whatever happens in our journey. No matter how, or why we get hurt, or how badly . . . the ability to handle ourselves in a healthy way, is the miraculous change that we can expect.