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Letters To The Primal Page

- Janneke - 03/10/97
- Peter - 03/11/97
- Anthony - 03/13/97
- Rudiger - 03/13/97
- Janneke - 03/25/97
- Janneke - 03/30/97

March 10, 1997

Dear John,

I want to react to the current letters above from Bonnie Dodson, Bonnie and Rebecca, Joseph, and Sam.

First, I want to say that the summation of the four steps that Bonnie Dodson credits me for (perceive, feel, think, articulate needs) are not from me but from Alice Miller. She writes it in her Foreword of Jenson's book (the edition in which she mentions Stettbacher). I also find this summation very useful.

Then I want to say that I agree with the criticism of mantras. I don't understand what Bonnie means with them making you discharge,since that is not my experience with them. Maybe she uses them in another way than I did? I didn't try very often, since it clearly felt wrong, but the period that I did it I experienced them as telling myself lies over and over and trying to believe them in the end. They caused confusion, not knowing about the difference between past and present anymore. They had a hypnotizing, deafening effect and repressed my memories. Bonnie is right that one can not always feel fear and that one needs some rest now and then. But my experience is that when I do the therapy and discharge, always a period of peace and rest follows. I think this is a more healing way to get rest from fear.

This makes me feel that I no longer wish for escape from "this mess down here," because I feel that a lot of really nice and beautiful things are already here in this world. I don't need another reality to get that. Yes, lots of horrible things happen in this world, but also very beautiful things that I can really enjoy. I want to get more of that and make my contribution to a better world.

About thirteen years ago I had a strange experience in a "therapy" session. I was with two psychotherapists who tried to "help" me with methods that were a disaster, I was very scared. I could not make myself clear and I felt a lot of pressure from them. Suddenly I wasn't in this room with these two women anymore but in a white light, in a big white light where all the colours were. It was perfectly peaceful and joyful and there was no longer time and no limits to the space. It was calm, light and perfect. I heard one of the women call my name and ask me to come back, but the words didn't have a meaning for me. It was so nice. Then I decided to come back and to try again with her. I was immediately again very scared and very soon I felt I had been wrong with giving it another chance with her. I did regret very very much that I had come back, and I did regret this many years. I longed back to this white light (but never went there anymore).

Now I do no longer long for this white light. It was beautiful, but it was not really being alive. Maybe it was Heaven, but then I prefer Earth. Really being alive on earth is, in spite of all horrible things that are overwhelming me most of the time, beautiful and a challenge. I like it much more than the white light. Some people told me that this white light is God or a spiritual experience, but I don't see it this way. I think it is dissociation, an ability of the human body to escape from a life threatening reality. It is not being alive anymore, it is like being dead. I want to live, and I fight for that in the therapy.

On the other hand, I didn't stop immediately with all my methods of escaping from fear when I started doing self-help therapy. When I started the therapy I used sleeping-pills every night. I had been doing that already for several years, because I didn't sleep at all anymore and was so scared during the night that I couldn't endure it.

Stettbacher writes that one should stop with sleeping-pills before one starts with the therapy, but I decided that this wasn't a good idea for me. I thought that maybe that is a good way to do it when one starts the therapy with a therapist in a good hospital, but doing it alone at home is a different situation. I needed to be somewhat experienced with the therapy and to have some positive results before I would be able to handle the fear of the nights without pills. This worked out well, the benefit that I had from the therapy indeed enabled me to start using them less and less and stop taking them in the end.

A method that worked well with me was to postpone taking a pill every time that I wanted one, and to use this time for therapy. So on the moment when I felt I desperately needed a pill to get some sleep, I told myself: I can take one, but not now. I am going to do therapy for the next two hours to find out what is going on and to deal with that. After that I will be free to choose again if I want to take a pill. Sometimes I didn't need or want one after a few hours therapy, sometimes I did take one in the end. This way I didn't push myself too hard (totally forbidding myself to take a pill the whole night would have been too much to handle then), but I did use the feelings of the moment for the therapy, and I did stop my addiction. So, I think one should indeed not expose oneself to all fear at once, it is something to handle carefully, bit by bit.

I also want to react on this "self-absorbed" matter. I think Bonnie and Rebecca see an opposition between helping yourself and helping children that, as I see it, doesn't exist. These things belong together. I work with children, and I experienced that Jean Jenson is right when she writes:

"When adults, especially mothers, start realizing that certain traditional ways of handling children are actually abusive, they begin to worry about the harm they may have inadvertently done to their own children. This is natural, and it is important to begin to make changes based on this new understanding - but their first priority must be to become aware of whatever it was they experienced as abusive in their own families. As they recover from unresolved pain and loss, they will automatically become more nurturing toward their own children, since then their hearts will naturally tell them what is right. The less repression protects them from the pain of their own childhoods, the less possible it is for them to behave in ways that will hurt their children. It is being disconnected from their own pain that allows parents to be abusive without knowing it. Once this connection is restored, they can feel the pain of their children and know what hurts them." (page 26 - Reclaiming Your Life)

Ten years ago, when I read Alice Miller's books, I became aware of a part of my history and saw that childhood abuse still happens. I became a fanatic on this subject (in fact, I overreacted), especially in writing and talking about it. But all my strong feelings and good intentions did not lead to me being of much help to children. I even repeated part of my history in my behavior towards them. I couldn't give them adequate help, because I had not really grieved my history.

Besides from that, for a long time I was so severely ill that I couldn't even take care of myself, much less being of any help to other people. I had huge physical problems, often having fever and all sorts of inflamations that caused me being ill up to five months a year. The seven months a year that I did not lie in bed, I was totally exhausted, very scared, depressed, continually dissociating and obsessed with killing and hurting myself. I had to help myself in the first place. I was and am responsible for my own health in the first place. I find my own health and well-being important, since without myself I don't have a life. I am a human being with needs and rights. And I think that feeling this and standing up for it in the therapy is necessary to be able to be really sensitive to the needs of others, especially children, and to feel compassion for them and help them.

I think, this is also what Alice Miller writes. When someone does not face his own history and does not process it, he is doomed to repeat his history, in spite of whatever good intentions to avoid this.

And I read in her books also a lot of compassion for suffering adults. I think helping them is really an important aim of hers. She does not only concentrate on the children of today. Maybe she is even trying too much to help suffering adults. I often get the feeling when I read her books that helping people is her personal need, and that doesn't feel good. It seems to me that she overreacts on the subject of helping people, like I did, too, for a long time, and that caused a lot of trouble.

Having this overreaction problem when I was in psychiatric hospitals and saw all these suffering people around me, was hard and caused a lot of problems, both to me and for the people that I was trying to help. Because of my overreacting behavior I didn't give adequate help at all, and when it didn't work I felt desperate and did panic. Now I experience that when I do not overreact, I still want to help people, but it feels different because I do not need if for myself anymore. And I think I can give more effective help now.

It seems to me that overreacting on the subject of helping people could be one of the reasons why Alice Miller presented Stettbacher's therapy so very enthusiastically and with such tremendous power - the power of her own need. It could also explain why she reacted inadequately when she got letters from people who wrote her that their symptoms came back and who asked for a therapist. Maybe she did panic, like I did, and because of that draw the (wrong) conclusion that the four steps don't work, like she writes in the new edition of The Drama of the Gifted Child. She then started concentrating on advocating Jenson's therapy more than Stettbacher's, even before she knew about the sexual abuse.

About Joseph's letter - I was surprised that he didn't read in my letters that I share his opinion that Alice Miller seems to act out of her own problems at the moment. And about his remark, "And what about Mariella Mehr?" - I wrote how I struggle with that in my reaction on the Appendix to Alice Miller's Communication. But I do not agree with his suggestion that the abuse by Stettbacher that U. Sch. tells about didn't happen. I admit that I have been thinking about the possibility that U. did mix up past and present when I read Alice Miller's Communication. But when I read the Appendix, I was convinced that it happened. Stettbacher was not found guilty in court, but for me that does not mean that he did not do it. The court needs witnesses and evidence, and that is a good thing, but that has led to a long history of raped women who did not find justice in court. Rape happens behind closed doors, without witnesses. For me, U.'s story is convincing, and Stettbacher even admits that he had sexual contact with her.

Like Sam wrote, too, it is a mystery to me how he could do this and at the same time find such a good therapy like the four steps. And I think he also knows about having to stop one's abnormal behavior. He doesn't write clearly about that in his book, but when I read the extra information that he sent me, I understood from that that I always had to do the opposite of what I normally did at moments that old pain comes up. Before I read Jenson's book, I had already started doing that, and it worked out well. So, why did he not stop his own behavior?

At the end of my letter a line for Bonnie: Thank you for your message, I felt the same as you.

Kind regards,


P.S. John, is there a difference in English between "foreword" and "preface"? I did not read my "Reaction etc." carefully before, but when I saw it printed out last week I saw that the word "preface" had lead to a misunderstanding when I tried to write that it looks like there are already signs of Alice Miller overreacting to Stettbacher in her book Abandoned Knowledge and in her foreword of Stettbacher's book. I send Alice Miller my three letters from your Primal Page, together with a letter in which I tell more about myself and my history to her.

Janneke: About sleeping pills: Last month Dr. Janov and his wife France appeared on a radio talk show in California and had a few words to say about insomnia. He believes that 70% of insomnia cases can be traced back to a traumatic birth. Unlike you, I have never been able to discontinue taking sleeping pills. I've reduced the amount I take to a great extent, but I find that without that small amount oftentimes I am unable to sleep.

The recounting of your encounter with the "white light" during therapy was interesting. It almost sounds like a near death experience which sometimes happens during a close encounter with death such as during serious accidents or life threatening surgeries. In those cases, we also have a reluctance to return back to this life and away from the peaceful "white light." Jenneke, As far as I know there is no difference between a Foreword and a Preface. -John-

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March 11, 1997

Dear John:

In September, 1996, I had planned on joining a primal therapy program to be conducted by a German man in Spain. It was supposed to be held in Lliber, which is located in the province of Alicante. It turned out that the guy did not conduct any primal therapy and exploited the people who had placed their trust in him.

After some days he convinced us, that we were not ready for the therapy, and used the time remaining for getting to the airport to convince them, that it all was their mistake and that they should return. However, he did not return any of the money that was paid to him. So those who had placed their trust in him and were completly dependent not only because of their vulnerable condition at that time but also, because the airport is 60 km away and they have to be without car (this was supposedly one of the rules of the therapy) and tried to convince us in the remaining one or two days to come back again to have a similar experience!

When I protested this terrible situation only slightly, I was treated sadistically and terrorized by him. I then called in the police and it turned out that the German and his people were completely illegal and had no credentials or licenses to practice therapy in Spain. Both the German and his female assistant, who did some type of massage, have since been taken to court.

I am writing to you in order to warn other potential victims.

Before deciding for any therapy always obtain references. My email address is

I would also like to say that books on primal therapy are presently in the process of being translated and printed in Portugeuse and also in the language variation used in Brazil. The books will probably not be published until next Summer. At that time I will write again to give the details.

Peter C. Wiesenthal
LISBON, Portugal


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March 13, 1997


Your primal page is very interesting. I would like to comment on a couple of issues and perhaps you could respond if you'd like.

First, the false-memory syndrome. I would like to offer one theory that has occurred to me about this. An interesting explanation for this syndrome can be derived from a case example given by Stanislav Grof in the book Realms of the Human Unconscious;Observations from LSD Therapy.

During a particular case, (p. 68), a man called George had memories of his father raping and then murdering young girls. He also experienced being molested by his father, as well as memories of incest among his entire family. Eventually, as the subject confronted areas of his psyche that Grof calls the perinatal realms, he realized that this was a fantasy he created as a defense against the birth trauma. According to Grof, and I'll agree, the birth trauma is the most painful, horrific event that we will ever go through in our lives, including sexual abuse.

Given this, it is quite plausible that false memories are created as a defense against more painful, realistic memories, particularly the birth trauma. It also seems that George was in fact experiencing very real pain and horror from the birth trauma, but it was put into a symbolic form into a biographical event.

One could conclude, then, that nearly all memories are subject to distortion until "the birth trauma" and what Grof calls "ego-death" is resolved. This is a precise example why LSD should be done with an experienced person who is familiar with all the phenomenon that can arise. I have seen people in primal therapy try to use Grof's literature regarding LSD and apply it to their practice of primal therapy. Despite what I have been told by a therapist, Stan Grof was NOT doing primal therapy with LSD. Nor does primal therapy do "the same thing as LSD". They are two different animals that belong to the same family.

This brings me to the next issue. Only recently have I become more familiar with Arthur Janov's stance against transpersonal experiences. I have also read some of your writng on the issue. Arthur Janov seems to be a true professional, as well as a caring man with an understanding of what it takes to work through pain. I have been particularly moved by his taking responsibility as a therapist for the safety of his patients and follow up. There is something to be said for his "non-shattering" approach to therapy. My experience has been that shattering experiences as Grof describes can be traumatic but the healing effects cannot be denied.

Anyway, I find Dr. Janov's theory regarding transpersonal phenomenon to be interesting. I can even agree with him in certain cases that the mind takes flight through mystical experiences .

However, in the mind's delusional flight from pain, I find this theory hard to explain away how and why the mind could and would conjure up facts. For example, as Grof describes, people have spiritual experiences that contain elements from religions that people have never before been exposed to. Or people discover within themselves facts about people from other times and places that they could not have previously known. Or more striking, it has been reported that people have spoken foreign languages that they had no previous exposure to. And finally, out of body experiences have taken place in which the subjects have been able to report on events that have taken place in far away places. The information has sometimes been verified.

So herein lies the difference between the Grofian and Janovian models of the psyche. Janov seems to believe everything can be explained in terms of the central nervous system and the physical body, whereas Grof believes that much of our pathology can lie "Beyond the Brain", as one of his books is titled.

I would like to validate a little bit from each theory. Personally, I find some of my own experiences too difficult to explain away with Janov's view. I tend to agree with Grof in that to think our consciousness is limited to our physical bodies and that we just came into existence during this lifetime seems to me a bit far-fetched. I can see that our egos have just come into being in this lifetime, and herein lies another critical difference between primal therapy and LSD therapy as practiced by Grof and others. Never have I heard the term "ego-death" used in primal therapy, which is the critical point or points in healing according to Stanislav.

However, Ken Wilber has an interesting critique of Grof's model in his book Eye of the Spirit. He points out that rarely in the spiritual literature is identification with a fetus a prerequisite for death-rebirth experiences. Grof's model portrays the reliving of the birth as being synonymous with spiritual death and rebirth and the gateway into the transpersonal realms.

Another point in Grof's favor of the validity of transpersonal experiences; notes that many psychosomatic symptoms disappear after transpersonal experiences that persisted even after working through of childhood traumas and the birth trauma. Janov may point out that they have a new psychosomatic symptom; the belief in the mystical.

Janov maintains that never has he seen these elements of birth that Grof describes. Grof describes "projectile vomiting" among his patients reliving the birth. Though I am not an obstetrician, never have I heard of babies vomiting coming out of the birth canal or while they are in it. A primal would be a xerox of the original trauma.

Then again, Grof never claimed to do primal therapy. And mixing the two models may not be wise. It is clear in Grof's sessions that the reliving of clinical delivery is happening simultaneously with transpersonal experiences and other events with one's life. LSD has the power to bring on this flood of stimuli. Vomiting is also a discharge of pain in the present rather than something that the body necessarily experienced during that trauma.

Janov says that he has never seen the sexual descriptions of sadomasochism, etc. that Stan associates with the birth. Then again, I have heard, and I say only heard, that Janov has not worked through much of his own birth. Grof says that people's tendencies toward these things disappear after confronting various perinatal elements.

Another interesting note, Janov claims that not all birth is traumatic, saying that "Birth is a natural process, and I do not believe that anything natural can be traumatic."(P. 88 Primal Scream) It seems that one would have to assume pain is not a natural part of life. And that deaths that happen during birth are not natural. I will even stretch this into death not being natural then, because even non-violent deaths involve the death of our egos, which can be traumatic. Of course this has been my experience.

In conclusion, I only recently read an article from a past issue of The Journal of Primal Therapy in which Janov described some of his opinions toward the Grofian model. I was a bit surprised to see that, according to this article, it seems that Stan Grof was portrayed as a very delusional man by Dr. Janov.

It is quite an interesting topic and I have enjoyed reading your comparisons of the two viewpoints on the webpage. I think it is important to see that the methods being used to develop their theories are quite different. Although he uses holotropic breathwork now, Stanislav's model is primarily derived from years of psychedelic research. And those two methods, despite the claim, are also different animals. Psychedelics are an exremely potent method of opening the mind field and penetrating the unconscious. It is much more difficult for many people to access deep realms of the psyche using primal therapy.

Anthony C. Iacobucci
Michigan, USA

Anthony: Thanks for writing. Your theory to explain the false-memory syndrome is reasonable. Of course, you and I are referring to those cases where the memory is actually false. Arthur Janov has written that the trauma of sexual abuse can equal that of birth. It would probably partially depend on one's age at the time of abuse (the earlier the more traumatic) and whether it is continuous. However, I feel that it is theoretically possible to have an overflow release of material into consciousness even if one's birth trauma has been "resolved."

I agree that using material derived from LSD and breathwork therapy should not be applied to primal work unless it is biographical material (events in the life of the patient) and its use is restricted to such use. I've had both therapies and the major difference was that I never experienced transpersonal material in primal. But then, some patients have! Janov considers this a sign of an incompetent therapist. However, Dr. Grof's holotropic breathwork sessions opened me up to a great extent and I was able to finish resolving the psychological trauma of an early surgery (age 5) in one session. Fear, while self-primaling at home, had kept me from completing the feeling. There was such a surge of material; I was so opened up that I had material to primal with at home for many days to come.

If the examples of transpersonal experiences you cited can stand the test of objective proof then all would agree that its source must somehow lay beyond the brain. The difficulty in explaining transpersonal experiences using Janov's model is that some of the symbolic expressions of pain are not easily understandable and perhaps their source, even if derived from within the brain, cannot be analyzed. If we believe a la Grof that consciousness is not limited by our physical bodies, then we would have to extend this "beyond the brain" theory to other creatures of the animal kingdom. What is the difference between man and advanced beast? Just a bit more cortex.

And yes, all of this makes for interesting discussions. Arthur Janov has written that psychedelics and breathwork are powerful methods of opening up consciousness, too powerful in fact. He believes that accessing one's traumas should be approached with care, no trauma should be felt before its time, and that the shattering approach is of its nature disintegrative. The natural way is the best way. Yet, if the Grof shattering approach works successfully, it would be difficult to find fault with it.

Thanks for your observations and contrasts between Janov's and Grof's psychotherapy approaches. I also want to say that often primal people criticize Grof's approach to psychotherapy without having experienced holotropic breathwork. After they have, their criticisms practically vanish. I asked a primal friend, who has also had extensive holotropic breathwork experience, if he had to choose or recommend a form of psychotherapy, of the two, which would he choose? Unhesitatingly, he answered: holotropic breathwork. When I wrote From Primal to Holotropics I sent copies to both Dr. Grof and Dr. Janov, asking for comments for future publication in the Primal Feelings Newsletter. In the article I had come out favoring primal therapy, yet received no response from Janov. Grof chided me by replying: "I feel that a comparison of primal therapy and holotropic breathwork should be based on more than one week-end experience." He was correct, of course, but my excitement was not to be contained! -John-

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Hi John,

One thing I would like to know: Is it true that it is important for you that Miller does not condemn Stettbacher as much as she did before? The Miller interview gives her reasons for no longer supporting Stettbacher quite detailed, so one should be able to duplicate her decisions. (Editor's note: See my comments below regarding the Interview) I think the Miller "Communication to my readers" is not detailed enough, so the readers were confused to an unnecessarily high degree. Of course, initial confusion is natural and understandable, but one could have been more safety in his own judgement, if the interview had been available. Many letters have been sent to the PPP during the last three weeks, mostly concerning Miller's attitude now or then. So I hope the interview will lead those interested in the topic (Janneke and Bonnie) to new insights. Yes, hypothesizing might be tempting and exciting, but in any case it is better to take those facts available into account before developing one's own ideas that go beyond what is known.

Also there was criticism concerning the way Janneke and Bonnie are concerned about Miller - and about their own lives as well. Two people said that no discussion comes up that way. The critics are right with that, and, in a way, you are right, too, in stating that you prefer the exchange of experiences in the dialogue and that it is something very important for those taking part in it.

But please remember that discussion and sharing experiences are two different things. Perhaps those writing to you should take more care not to mix them up together or to confuse them. Or you could divide your letter box into one "discussion" section and one department especially designed for exchange of experiences. Probably you would thereby open up opportunities for both those who want to discuss and those who would like to share experiences - all of them doing useful and helpful work - and thus enlarge the effectivity of your PPP - the resource for all interested in help through primal therapy (or related regressive kinds).

Again, to help people understand Miller's decision in regard to Stettbacher's therapy, I will try to outline three of her major reasons:

- It is the so called "Basis" of primal therapy, i.e. the intense phase at the beginning of such a therapy, that Miller thinks of as dangerous and not necessary since there are more gentle ways to get in contact with one's feelings.

- It is Stettbacher's claim of his therapy being the only one that can really help - no matter what the specific case may be - that makes Miller disapprove of him.

- Third, Miller realized that effective help can not be achieved if someone tries all alone to dissolve severe traumatic experiences.

To explain:

Within the "Basis" period of a primal therapy the patient becomes totally dependent upon the therapist because of the tremendous regression he goes through. This circumstance is no good omen and should be avoided as far as possible, even I think so. The patient should always be able to realize what is done to him, so in therapy as well. Isn't just that something Miller has always stressed?

Stettbacher's therapy might be helpful for people, but what's wrong if he claims to be the only real and universal help? Does that not mean that people who put their hopes on him are mislead - even abused additionally in that deceived of help of other kind the time being? Who would consider that not being a reason for turning away from Stettbacher? Real help, that is permanent relief from unfelt childhood pain, can only be obtained within a solid relationship to a therapist who is able to lead the patient on this risky way right through his feelings. All on his own the patient is overstreched, it is too much for him to bear alone. For this reason, promising effective healing in the form of only self help is dubious anyway - think of the pain and confusion coming from very early traumatic situations with their lifelong effects. The fact that there is no one like Stettbacher around must not lead to prompting people to start self help efforts with no real chance of success.

Sure there may be exceptions, and some people may be able to help themselves, but this is no reason for Miller not to stop recommending the Therapy of the Four Steps since there are so many people who are still searching for help and would do everything she suggests them to do.

John, feel free to publish the second (not private) part of this letter in your letter box, since I would appreciate to hear something from Janneke and Bonnie in response to what I have just said.

Unfortunately I have not been able to respond to them directly for it is the length of their letters and the complexity of what they say which makes a reference to their letters difficult.

All the best for now and further on,

Rüdiger Otto

Rudiger: Yes, it is important to me that I understand the source of Miller's condemnation of primal therapy and that perhaps she disapproves of the therapy less than heretofore. Maybe, I have too much of an emotional investment in the success of primal therapy both for myself and for others!

A few weeks ago, Rudiger sent me a copy of an interview of Alice Miller which appeared in the April, 1995 issue of the German magazine, Heute Psychologie. I wrote to its publisher requesting permission to reproduce the article on this website, but unfortunately such publication was disapproved. Upon completion of the translation, I plan to make a review of the Interview for the Primal Page. I feel that, perhaps, answers to many of my and others' incomplete comprehension of Alice Miller's renouncement of Stettbacher and especially of generic primal theapy will be resolved.

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March 25, 1997

Dear John,

About sleeping and pills: I have, like you, still problems with sleeping, although it is much, much better than it was. But aspecially in periods just before new memories are coming up I often do not sleep. These are hard times, but I do not use pills then.

In the first place, even pills cannot make me sleep in these periods; they don't work anymore.
Second, pills make it difficult for the memories that are disturbing me to show up clearly, so I gain more by doing therapy during these nights than by sleeping because I need to know these memories to finally get rid of this problem.
And third, I experienced that doing therapy can partly replace sleeping. Doing therapy, especially when I cry a lot during the "session", seems to have the same effect as sleep.

So I need less sleep because of the therapy, and I found that I feel worse during the day when I slept on pills the night before, than when I didn't sleep at all but cried the whole night. I am not saying that you should stop with medication, but maybe you can have some benefit from my experiences!

A couple of weeks ago I read Aletha Solter's book Aware Baby, and to my surprise she describes the same experience I have with babies: when one helps them with crying, they need less sleep. So, it seems this is something that works this way with more people than only with me.

Kind regards,

The Netherlands

Janneke: I sent a copy of your note to Dr. Solter. I'm sure that she would be interested in the confirmation you gave about the relationship between grieving and sleep need. Unfortunately, I can't use "insomnia time" for self therapy since I'm simply too tired at that time. I find that I feel worse if I don't get the sleep that I need. I use micro doses of Halcion. -John-

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March 30, 1997

Dear John,

I read Ruediger Otto's letter and found it interesting to read about Alice Miller's interview in Psychologie Heute and I want to thank Ruediger for his efforts to give us the information of the interview.

However, this interview did not make me change my opinion about Alice Miller. The reasons that she gives in this interview for no longer recommending Stettbacher's four steps did not convince me.

I agree with the criticism of forcing people into too much pain at the beginning of the therapy. But this is not a risk for people who help themselves with the four steps, since they don't have this "Basis" therapy. (Editor's Note: In the Interview, Miller refers to the beginning of therapy -- the "intensive" period -- as the "Basis") When one is doing self-help, one does not become dependent on the therapist and one can easily avoid this "tremendous regression", like I did when I decided not to stop taking sleeping-pills before I started the therapy but to do this step by step, taking into account what I could bear. So I think this is not a good reason not to recommend perceiving, feeling, thinking and articulating needs anymore - most people who read Stettbacher's book will not get this "Basis" therapy since they can't go to Stettbacher.

Another question is if people really are forced into too much pain at once in a "Basis" therapy. Is this really what this "Basis" therapy stands for? It clearly happened with U. Sch., but it seemingly didn't happen with Mariella Mehr. I can't judge how Stettbacher works, as I have not been there, but I think maybe such a first period in the therapy can be just a period in which one learns how to handle feelings and memories in a safe way, maybe it isn't necessarily overwhelming. And if it is really always dangerous, then Alice Miller could just tell people not to go to Stettbacher's or someone else's "Basis" therapy and still recommending the four steps as a good tool to process memories that are disturbing someone. I still experience perceiving, feeling, thinking and articulating needs as a tremendous help in dealing with my memories.

In the second point Alice Miller criticizes Stettbacher for claiming that his therapy is the only one that can really help. I am very surprised to read this. I didn't know Stettbacher claimed this. When and where did he do that? Maybe he said this in papers or magazines that I didn't read? I didn't read this in his book. On the contrary, I found his book written in a very modest way, just describing the therapy, without pretensions nor polemics. As far as I can see, it was not Stettbacher but Alice Miller who wrote about this therapy as "The One And Only Therapy," in Abandoned Knowledge and in her foreword of Stettbacher's book. She recommended it with tremendous power, Stettbacher didn't do that, as far as I know. Maybe I do not have enough information, but at least in his book she is doing this a lot more than he, and if she finds this dangerous, I think it would be better if she started looking at herself first. But I agree that claiming to have "The Only Therapy" isn't good, because it can lead people away from other good help.

But still, this doesn't tell me what could be wrong with the four steps. Or does Alice Miller not find anything wrong with the four steps? Then, why did she write her Communication?

In the last point "Miller realized that effective help can not be achieved if someone tries all alone to dissolve severe traumatic expeiences." This is not true, but she seems to know that, because further on Ruediger quotes (is it a quotation?): "Sure there may be exceptions, and some people may be able to help themselves, but this is no reason for Miller not to stop recommending the Therapy of the Four Steps since there are so many people who are still searching for help and would do everything she suggests them to do." I find this an inadequate reaction. If this is how things are, she could say: "Be careful when you make a decision about doing self-help therapy. Some people do manage to help themselves, but others fail. I did not yet find out why, so take care of yourself. For some people this therapy works, but I cannot guarantee that this will be the case with you and you might end up in great pain and fear." Something like this would be a way to give honest information.

What she does do now is giving false information, misleading and dangerous. She cannot protect people by giving false or partial information. I think she should be open and honest about how things are and give people the chance to take up their own responsibility and to make for themselves the right choice in their personal situation, based on the right information.

And if she finds self-help so dangerous, why does she still support Jean Jenson's book? (Reclaiming Your Life) I understood from other people on this page that she still supports Jenson's therapy and still supports self-help therapy. If Alice Miller is so strongly convinced that self-help is impossible and dangerous, why doesn't she strongly reject Jenson on the Primal Psychotherapy Page, like she does reject Stettbacher in her Communication? Something does not fit in her reasoning.

So, for me the question why Alice Miller behaves the way she does is not answered by what I read of this interview by now. I feel more like being affirmed in my idea that something else could be going on with her than she tells. These three reasons that she gives in this interview seem to me an example of the kind of rational explanations that one finds for one's behavior when one is overreacting or underreacting but tries to convince oneself and others that all this has to do with the present situation, like Jean Jenson tells about on page 16 of her book.

I still think that it is probable that Alice Miller is led by her own (old) pain, fear and confusion. I do not claim to be right on this, but it seems pretty much probable to me and by now I did not find nor read a more convincing explanation.

And even if her reasoning in this interview would be very good, then for me there is still the question why Alice Miller, who is an excellent writer, suddenly was not able to make herself clear when she wrote her Communication. And then there is, also, still the point that she shows clearly overreacting behavior in her books. At least to me it is clearly overreacting behavior. I still think that it is pretty much probable that she has problems that come from her past, and that these interfere with her ability to judge the current situation. I still think that it would be good if she would write about that because she has, as a writer, a responsibility towards her readers.

Something else: I don't think one can split up "sharing experiences" and "discussing experiences" - everyone discusses based on his or her own experiences, it is just that not everyone tells about it. Bonnie and I openly told about ourselves, our history, how we are feeling and how this leads to our opinions. I think this is a sincere way to make one's opinions clear in a discussion, and I appreciate it very much when people do this.

I end with another subject: I am a bit getting sick of all the attention to birth trauma. I feel like I am going to scream the next time that someone on this page writes: "Janov sais that a traumatic birth ..." Or Grof, or whoever. But don't pay attention to it, I am just overreacting. I do think that birth is an important issue, and I agree that it can have a big impact on one's life, and it is really horrible how a lot of people were treated just after being born. But I think maybe for a lot of people it was not the most important trauma. As far as I know, severe problems like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Multiple Personality Disorder and other dissociation problems, most of the time are caused by sexual and physical childhood abuse, and not by birth traumas. Or do I have wrong information? Almost 100% of the people with Multiple Personality Syndrome have been sexually abused as a child. I think this might tell something about the devastating and dominant influence of this abuse.

I did get memories of my birth. However, the feelings that I had with these memories did not belong to my birth but to the later physical and sexual abuse. I think it is pretty much plausible that people can use other (false or not false) memories as a defense against birth trauma, like Anthony wrote, but I did exactly the opposite. I used dealing with my birth memories as a way to escape from facing abuse. This didn't help me, of course, none of my symptoms diminished, and at the end I had to face the reality of what happened to me. Perhaps it is just not a good idea to make a general statement about what is the worst trauma - I think this can be different in each specific history.

Kind regards,

The Netherlands

Janneke: I agree that for many, birth trauma is not the most important pain which they will re-live in therapy, but, for most of us, it is. Birth trauma is more common than incest. Dr Arthur Janov has developed an "index of stress" by correlating the level of stress hormones, brain wave amplitudes and other vital signs. He has found ". . . what kinds of traumas carry the heaviest valence and which make the most difference in contributing to later disease." He writes that ". . .(i)t not whimsy that makes us posit birth trauma or incest as the most serious contributors to repression, but research."(The New Primal Scream, p. 246). And another, ". . .we know that birth trauma is real and that is has a charge value higher than almost any other life event, the only equivalent being incest." (Why You Get Sick, How You Get Well, p. 263). And just one more. "There are some catastrophic events in childhood that can be equal to or greater than the valence of first-line birth trauma in distorting later sexual response. Incest and rape are two examples: loss of a loved one another." (Imprint: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience, p. 106)- John -.

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