Question: I am in deep-feeling-oriented therapy and I am experiencing more and more disabling fear. Should I continue with the therapy?
know about this kind of fear; I had it very deeply myself when I started this work in 1976 and I did back away from the most important and deep primal of my life.|
I think there are issues of serious concern here and for this reason I am very careful to neither push anyone toward, not pull anyone back from a deep experience.
Fear, in general, when there is no "real" threat from the outside, often occurs when deep material is thrusting up toward conscious awareness. It is the brain's way of maintaining its defenses and firmly saying, "keep out."
Most people have experienced this kind of fear during their lifetime often during a nightmare when they become more and more afraid and finally awaken in terror before the dream completes itself.
This happens often in regression work and in every almost every case, for those who have moved forward into the fear, something important gets experienced, and the fear immediately dissipates. Readiness, however, is very important in primal work and should never be overridden.
The price of endlessly pulling back is that we can create deeper and deeper defenses until the mind finally shuts us out in a way that is extremely difficult to reverse. This is called creating "primal" defenses.
As if all this weren't enough, the fact is that very occasionally someone who is on the edge of a psychosis can precipitate within themselves an actual psychotic breakdown by overriding this fear and moving forward. The fear, in such cases, is a very real warning that overwhelming mental disintegration is about to occur.
This last event is extremely rare in depth therapy but anyone who does not take it into account is being negligent.
I have spoken of these dangers in several places in my online book. There is another problem that I have only seen once in thirty-five years of practice. A friend of mine was in primal therapy with a social worker, that is to say, a therapist with no medical training. Already primalling deeply, and yet unable to move through the final and most profound levels of his pain, he was hard up against extreme terror and still pushing and being pushed by his therapist. His therapist actually suggested that my friend move into the therapist's home to have twenty-four hour therapy and support.
I had not seen my friend for many months, and when he asked me for a consultation it was obvious to me as a doctor that he was actually dying from exhaustion. He looked the way people look on their death bed. His eyes were sunken, his cheeks hollow, and he was in an acute medical emergency.
I insisted that he stop the therapy immediately and referred him on the same day to a professor of psychiatry here in Toronto. The psychiatrist promptly put him on medication and saw him daily until his extreme exhaustion reversed.
The price that my friend paid to save his life, was that he never returned to deep-feeling work. To this day, many years later, he must continue to take medication or be overcome by depression.
This is a unfortunate story and one of the reasons why I am so careful, in my book, to recommend appropriate supervision during very deep therapy when the going gets rough.
To close, let me say I deeply believe that our kind of therapy (very deep-feeling-oriented process) is the finest therapy that is available. Catastrophes are rare and the benefits are so great that after all these years I wouldn't dream of withholding this work from anybody, who after an informed amount of reading, and providing they have a reasonable level of ego strength, wanted very sincerely to try it.
(Please note that by "ego strength," I mean that they have demonstrated an essential integration of mental function over many years. That is to say, they are able to remain mentally intact (not psychotic), through the difficulties of life.)
I also believe that deep-feeling-oriented therapy can and should be modified when necessary. Please see my article in section three of the book.
The therapist must always be empathetic and adequately trained. And in some cases medical supervision is also a must.