On Buddying

by Réal Beaulieu, MA, MFT, Primal Therapist

["I was trained by Dr. Janov from 1989 to 1995, and worked at his
Primal Training Center with certification as a primal therapist
under supervision from 1993 to 1995."]

". . . I don’t know anybody who is “cured” yet.
I know only people in the process of healing.
It is still true after twenty-five years of knowing them.
Nothing wrong with that, if we consider that, only to remain physically
healthy , . . . it is recommended we exercise three to five times a week."
-- Réal Beaulieu

Primal therapy should be a socialization process. Only in the context of empathic and warm relationships can we heal from the deprivation and isolation that a lot of us endured at the very beginning of our lives. That is why, I think “buddying” or peer co-therapy is preferable to self-primalling.

This is not to say that crying on your own is to be discouraged. Quite the contrary! All children are a testimony to the fact that getting angry or crying spontaneously in response to hurt is natural and healing. This is the whole point of primal therapy. I personally self-primal once to twice a week.

In other words, I let myself cry, when the sadness is there, usually in the morning. When I am in such a mood, my ritual is the following: I make myself a nice cup of coffee, put on some soothing music (I love André Gagnon), make myself comfortable in my easy-chair, read something inspirational, give myself two hours of “no pressure” time, pay attention to the sensations in my body, follow my breathing (whether it is shallow or deep) and I let my thoughts wander.

A thought, an image or a sensation may impose itself and pretty soon, the sadness will metamorphose into tears, while the thoughts, the images or the sensations are getting more defined, more specific. I get the Ahah! experience and then, I feel connected and ready to go about my day. That is the extent of my self-primalling.

What I would like to discourage is trying consistently to get to feelings by yourself in a “primal” box, or elsewhere without occasional contact with a buddy or therapist with the hope that it will "cure" you. This can lead to abreaction (see - footnote below - ) Buddying is theoretically a better option because it goes counter to the process of isolation that got us dysfunctional or neurotic in the first place.

Also, primal therapy can be very expensive considering that it is a lifetime proposition. By the way, I don’t know anybody who is “cured” yet. I know only people in the process of healing. It is still true after twenty-five years of knowing them. Nothing wrong with that, if we consider that, only to remain physically healthly, that is, without being damaged, it is recommended we exercise three to five times a week.

Of course, many things can go wrong in a buddy situation. This will be the subject of another article. For the time being, I would like to encourage a reflection on what can go wrong, even when sharing your feelings with a warm and empathic human being.

For that purpose, here is a simple questionnaire that I developed while in training at Janov’s Primal Center.


    1. Do you feel you could recognize the following in your buddy sessions?

      a. - your buddy feels on the third line of consciousness.
      b. - feels on the second line.
      c. - feels on the first line.
      d. - has good access on all three levels and connected 3-2-1 feelings.
      e. - is stuck in a “melange.”
      f. - is abreacting.
      g. - has first line intrusions on third line…on second line…

    2. Is feeling the pain (let’s say of being left alone as a child) over and over enough to get resolution?

    3. What is the difference between feeling the pain and feeling the need?

    4. Is feeling your feelings (pain and need) enough to change your life?

What would you do in the following instances ?

  1. Your buddy comes into the session and, as a rule, rarely talks about what is going on in her life or what triggers her in the present.

  2. Feelings are usually limited to expressing anger.

  3. Never expresses anger.

  4. During a typical session, he cries a little bit, coughs, chokes, gasps for air, cries a little, stops, yawns, talks a little, etc… Does not feel better after a session.

  5. Has been feeling for months how much his parents hated him. Cries a lot but does not seem to get better. Seems more and more depressed or anxious.

  6. Has been saying: “I am stuck… I’m getting nowhere… Nothing works… What’s the use?” for a month or longer. No coughing or physical manifestations.

  7. His/her crying does not move you. It sounds forced and whiny. You feel bored. You have been aware of that for quite a while.

    Concerning abreaction:
    It can happen when clients are "trying too hard" to feel a feeling. The attempts to feel always sound phony and unnatural. The therapist is not moved or emotionally touched. Rather, the client gets on your nerves as the feeling is essentially forced and one gets the impression of some craziness going on. This is likely to happen when a client feels under pressure to "perform."

    That pressure can be subtle. For example, the implicit expectations of the therapist or buddy, the intensive three-week formula costing thousands of dollars, the excessive disruption of one's normal life combined with the expectation of a fast cure, can all lead to abreaction.

    I should also point out that abreactions occur when clients skip the context of their present reality and try too hard to do primal therapy by going to the past too fast. This happened to me during my first three weeks intensive.

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You may e-mail the author at primal@consultant.com

Réal Beaulieu has also written Primal Theory vs Past Lives Theory
Primal Therapy: What It Is and What It Is Not
On The Origins of Death Anxiety
Before The Plunge: Preparing For Primal Therapy

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