In my heart, without any substantiating proof, I hold certain key beliefs
about primal work (deep feeling-oriented regressive psychotherapy). I
hold these beliefs to be true.
I do not have the time nor the statistical skill to conduct research in
these areas. I will leave that to those who come later; those who come to
love this wonderful and effective approach to healing human pain, those
who wish to put this type of therapy on a secure experimental footing.
Science often spends decades proving what the human heart already knows.
This triggering, nurturing, supporting function is given over to the
therapist during the period when the regressed patient's central nervous
system is wide open as it was in childhood. The openness is the same, and
has the same requirements. Many patients, therapists and writers would
like to slide on by this powerful and risk-making truth.
- The first great truth of regressive therapy is that re-experiencing buried
pain and the events surrounding it heals. It brings insight, and physical
and emotional relief of a most profound kind.
- The second great truth of regressive therapy, is that children do not
raise themselves and end up healthy. There must be a trellis for them to
grow on. There must be a therapeutic presence, a therapist-parent, to
both anchor and stimulate the child-patient's growth. This presence literally
triggers (Catalyses) the unfolding of mind body structures which form the ground of the
healthy personality. (Sometimes doing therapy alone may yield insight without
these inner structures.) This could conceivably lead to pain that won't end. The
therapist presence must be both loving and knowledgeable to the client
and the task at hand. Loving ignorance does not suffice.
The paradigm of the client therapist relationship is found in the mother-child relationship.
The patient however must do the real work and not have it taken away
with premature explanations and "well meaning" help.
- The Parent-Therapist must be "Eternally Present".
- The Parent-Therapist must be "loving" within appropriate bounds.
- The Parent-Therapist must be accurately empathic. Reflecting and
clarifying the corridors and connections of the client's pain and the
- The Parent-Therapist must touch and hold the child-client where
necessary and asked for.
On the other hand, defensive neutrality which leaves the Child-Patient
starving for the essentials of presence and touch is absolutely
indefensible. If you wouldn't withhold a process from your child, don't
withhold it from your patient.
All this requires an amazing sense of the appropriate and the balanced
in therapeutic response. With training and appropriate love in our hearts, we
can be "good enough."
One more crucial thing however is required. I did not mention it in the
book directly and I now take this opportunity to correct that oversight.
I have come to believe that all regressive therapy patients and their
therapists should be in therapeutic groups together. All patients and
therapists regardless of their goodwill, hide their pain and their
manipulation, of themselves, and others. We are all, in short, flawed.
For this reason and others, a good therapy group is a safety net for all
concerned, if it embraces however, the principles that will make it so.
The first principle is that everyone must speak their truth in a
microscopic way within a caring framework. In non-psychotic illness, truth is the opposite of the process that underlies and creates mental pain. The continuous truthful feedback which occurs in a good group keeps both clients, and perhaps more importantly, therapists, on track.
Small therapy groups run with feeling oriented principles and devoted to
microscopic truth, trigger everyone's hidden agendas. It becomes
impossible to hide, even the things we didn't know we had within us.
Small therapy groups render consensus validation. (We find that we are
not alone in our thinking and feeling no matter how strange we feel ourselves
Small therapy groups must be oriented toward sharing what each person
feels and not toward pointing the finger at others. It is however crucial
to honor what people may sense is going on in someone else. Human
intuition should never be suppressed and simply called "projection." This sensitive
part of our function can become one of our greatest assets, as long as it
is checked out with the person toward whom it is aimed and with the rest
of the group.
When someone is in a feeling they should be encouraged, then and there, to
lie down and explore it. This makes for much uproar sometimes but is
infinitely better than suppressing the feeling. Sharing what we find after this kind
of work on ourselves leads to very deep learning for everyone in a group.
Therapists must also do their own work from time to time among
their clients to ensure real honesty and to let clients see how this is
Any therapist who never works openly is highly suspect to me. I don't
trust this type of hidden person at all. These are the defensive
practitioners of our world. They have a stake in practicing therapy where they can
hide. This absolutely triggers my deepest suspicion.
Beware of any leader who is over-idealized or who is constantly
deferred to with regard to advice giving. Check out advice within your own heart.
If it feels bad, be careful. If your own intuition is constantly being
sidelined something may be wrong. It may be with your leader or it may be
with you. Keep lying down with it. If you do, truth always wins out in the end.
The main thing is that deep primal work makes for deep vulnerability and
in this space, the many minds and hearts, in a group, both support us and
maintain truth in the midst of "Chaos."
A leader must earn trust at every turn with balanced, loving and
accurate interventions as well as a willingness to be transparent in an appropriate
Any leader who steers us away from a feeling and moves us toward the
intellectual, puts me on guard instantly. Constant explanations are a
defense. They hide deep unworked-through terror. (All Knowledge Above the
Abyss is the Knowledge of Avoidance).
Doing primal work alone, can lead to everlasting pain in some people. In
others, it is a miracle of healing. This probably depends, like everything
else does, on a combination of genetic endowment and how much warmth and
support we received during our childhood alongside our hurts.
Give yourself the comfort and safeguard of companionship on your
journey, as long as it is truly feeling oriented as outlined in my book Help Me --
I'm Tired of Feeling Bad.
Before I close this article about adding techniques to primal therapy, I want to requote a portion of my reply to an earlier writer about the use of exercises and tasks in this kind of work. It was as follows:
"Nowhere in the therapists's set of skills is there a greater potential for derailing a client's
The doors of the mind require a profoundly subtle environment, in order to swing open. This is
carefully discussed in Chapter 22, section two, where I contrast two different approaches. Chapter 23 and Chapter 24 deal with the subtle necessities of courting insight.
When we use exercises in therapy we run the risk of straight-jacketing the necessary opening to seemingly
random associative connections which are the doors to the deepest self. These unexpected,
unpredictable associative processes can only be gathered toward awareness in an undisturbed way
by staying inside the seemingly random emergence of feelings. This demands zero structure in the search.
In this place only reflective statements can be relied upon not to jar the flow of associations. The only
exception here is the intuitive leap of the highly congruent and resonant therapist. Even this risks
a derailment and must be offered in a loving and tentative way. It is after all, not the therapist's
journey, and a path which seems right may only be the therapist's path leading to a dead-end thirty
minutes or ten years later.
Anything which varies from simply staying with the feeling can create shallow primals and false
premature closures. This in turn creates primal defenses which lock us out of our minds above
the level of completion. There are times when this may be necessary, but that is another
discussion. Please see Chapter 22, section two. Please also notice in the second
example, I do use the technique of speaking to early significant figures, but only, and I stress the
word only, when clients are rapidly falling toward that resolution.
These connections must be permitted to arrange themselves. See Chapter 20 , section 10 the
first example -- keeping the patient inside the pain allows the sequence to fully complete without
orchestration by the therapist.
Exercises can teach people false depth therapy. One common example of this is so called "anger
work." Aiming patients toward anger or toward anything else, for that matter, can cause pseudo
compliance, shut down random associations and create false paths which in turn raise up deeper
The underlying grief slips away and the patient remains stranded in the false belief that he is now
Nothing could be further from the truth."
The human mind constantly tries to re-assemble its personality structures as we in depth therapy try to undo them. Not everyone wants the full and final journey which may go back to prebirth, and may take decades to complete or even become a way of life until we die.
As Ernst and Agnes Oslender of the British Columbia Primal Center said to me, "We as therapists must consecrate ourselves to a loving orientation before we sit down with our patients." I would add, and they agree, that we must also have great humility. This means we must honour where they want to be, and need to be, without pushing for either deep or shallow therapy.
If someone needs closure at any given time then let them have a closure
exercise. If someone needs to be open ended then let them be so. Just be
sure to point out the issues connected to either choice, and then honour
For those who want to learn more about the use of things like fantasy
dialogue techniques in therapy, please consult the book, Gestalt Therapy
Verbatim, by Dr Fritz Perls, listed in the bibliography at the end of my
book, Help Me-I'm Tired of Feeling Bad.