by Reinhold W. Rausch
The 8-day seminar took place in Glencree, Ireland, in April, 2005. I knew Paul and his work from his website http://www.paulvereshack.com/. There he has a freely downloadable internet-book “Help Me, I’m Tired Of Feeling Bad” / “The Psychotherapy of The Deepest Self.” When I was invited to attend his seminar, I had hopeful expectations but could not envision that my attendance would have such powerfully impacting personal results.
Before I came to read Paul’s book, I had worked with two other primal therapists in my own primal process, but unfortunately the primal feelings had come to a halt. With the earlier feelings, I was able to work through much of my father-related material. But regarding my mother-related pain and earlier repressed trauma, I was just about ready to give up hope in myself, and had expected to keep stuck in my old uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness for the indefinite future. But by reading Paul's excellent book, my weakening trust in the primal process was restored to life and I felt somewhat optimistic and ready to give it another try.
The seminar was entitled “Creating The Wide Open Field Of Permission In Depth Psychotherapy,” and teaching by example was the emphasized rule and theme of the seminar week. It might seem easy, as you may believe, that you can feel what you need to feel with a therapist on your side, but that is not what as such, creates safety for the attendee. It is not easy when your basic problem is not feeling safe to begin with - that is what made up my own reality. For the therapist to create a wide open field of permission is a special skill which combines empathy with every person and trust in every process without knowing at all times what exactly is going on in that person on the mat. This requires a facilitator who is in control, for safety purposes and not in control for the purpose of permission. What could seemingly be a greater contradiction!
Needless to say, at the beginning of the seminar I was scared to work in front of so many unknown people. But since it was a primal workshop, such a strong feeling can be helpful to start your mat-work. With shivering, I wondered if I was capable enough to do primal work? Would I be able to do it correctly? Was I welcome among the participants? Would they make enough time and space for just – me? You can be sure that if I could stay with the feeling in spite of all the above, any one of these “shark tails” (as Paul calls these feelings in his book) would suffice to pull me downwards.
But experiencing Paul’s uncompromising acceptance and artistic-like ability to support every person exactly in the way he or she needed it, was what did help me to do the job – to feel my so deeply pushed down feelings.
Sometimes by asking questions, sometimes mirroring our words and suggesting small phrases or just a word to say, occasionally taking a risk and saying something seemingly provocative as well as quite often saying nothing at all - Paul miraculously brought me and others out of our shells and into our own pain.
There was no way to understand the magic of his work as we experienced it, but surely two aspects present were Dr.Vereshack's inimitable ability to focus on the client on the mat and also on the group process at the same time. He comfortably accepted the seemingly minimal achievements of the inexperienced on the one hand and allowed the deeper experiences to speak for themselves in those who had done more primal work.
I met two people, with whom I had already become acquainted through emails and telephone calls. I had had quarrels with them before, and now I was meeting them personally in Ireland. I must admit that I had previously projected my negative feelings on them and acted out with them. Perhaps, that was one of the reasons I felt anxious about attending the intensive.
With Paul’s assistance, I worked through exactly these feelings, which I had projected onto them and thereby I discovered the most personal and very painful connections to my own early traumas. After that reliving I was able to look at those I had projected onto, with new eyes and realized that they were actually two very nice people. In fact we became good friends after that. It was a relief for me to have turned “enemies” into friends by making my primal connections, evaporating the projections and maybe most importantly, by showing them the pain behind what I had dumped on them.
Soon we all had warmed up so much that everyone felt safe enough to feel his/her feelings in front of the group. There is nothing as powerful as taking a risk and exposing yourself with your very personal feelings of fear, fright, terror, helplessness, shame, rage and tears in front of others, hoping that these others will be compassionate and accepting. This is always a scary thing to do. In the end, we all had to a great extent opened up emotionally, which allowed us to ask and give each other support and help in accessing and showing our deepest wounds. At times, four and five clients were primaling at the same time while "buddies" were assisting each other. So there it was – “the wide open field of permission,” and with Paul’s help and all of us being part of it, we had learned how to create this open field.
One of the conclusions that remains with me is that I am an equal among others, and not to be marginalized although hampered by my wounded self. My process was validated exactly as much as every one else’s – by someone with a wide open heart for all in the group as individuals. This is quite different from being treated, and “cheated” by a one-serves-all method, that would leave many in the lurch. This requires a distinct and direct heartfelt commitment by the professional, beyond any textbook methodology, beyond his therapist role and also beyond any personal agenda. No therapist can do this without the feedback of others if he strays from clarity, so this “housekeeping function” of inviting group responses, about therapist and group function was part of the daily agenda without allowing it to take over the group.
Being with other participants as they primaled, made me realize that there are as many different ways to do this work as there are different people. I consider a “therapeutic permission” as giving the right to produce or not produce any specific kind of regressions. There was no pressure to produce the "correct" type of primal. I felt the permission to stay with what and where I was. Only then, after having successfully tested the ground for that did I feel safe enough to go deeper and to dig out the source of the power behind my rage. This is the picture of the “permission” in the seminar which still remains with me.
Paul has the ability to notice small things and to discover the energy in a particular part of a sequence of phrases which someone can use to talk themselves into their feelings.
Seeing the work of others and being triggered by them was of great help in getting to the feeling of my deepest rage.
For instance, on one occasion a woman made sounds in her primals which seemed like someone suffocating. These sounds matched exactly the shocking sounds of my mother’s neurotic "heart attacks" when I was a toddler, the “heart attacks” that brought me to feel I was “too much” for her. So, immediately upon hearing this woman, I was able to drop into the terror I had felt as a child which I had not been able to connect to before. Thus I could do work on myself in the group that now made a difference . What a relief I felt after that primal feeling!
I came to the unforgettable experience, that in fact I am in feelings all the time in my life and that feelings shape my view of my the world, even when I am completely unaware of them.
While observing another woman's primal, it seemed to me that she was only play acting. I was not able to see the real pain and hurt behind her dramatically expressed feelings. Everyone else in the group understood the realness and depth of what was happening - except me. However, as I then primaled what I was feeling at that moment, I remembered how my unsympathetic father had ridiculed my mother when she had one of her frequent "heart attacks." Instantly I became aware of how I had felt during this belittling of my mother, and then I understood the real feeling in this woman's primal.
I have always tended to avoid people. I was touched and in fact still am heartened by the process of soul-mating with the whole group at a level which is difficult to express. This "connection" experience I consider to be quite a healing in itself.
To experience the attendees encouraging testimony and feedback toward me regarding where I was in my own personal growth process, took me to my much previously sought after and never found place of inner confirmation. Yes, I am good enough. Yes, I am doing the process correctly and yes, I was indeed welcome in the group!
I wholeheartedly encourage everyone on their quest for healing to give themselves the gift of attending this workshop.