Resolving Birth Trauma:
A Discussion



Recently Pat, Peter and Lucas of the Primal Support Group on Yahoo had an interesting e-mail discussion on birth trauma and its resolution. Here are some of the highlights of that discussion.

If you wish to join the group please go to The Primal Support Group.
-- John A. Speyrer - Webmeister, The Primal Psychotherapy Page





THE FIRST LETTER

PETER WROTE:
Dear Pat,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on birth primals. I had some more days of hell, but today I am much better. I hope it stays this way.

PAT HAD SAID:
Hitting first line pain is like starting your whole therapy all over again. I did wonderfully well all the years I was working through childhood pain, but when I hit first line pain, birth trauma, sexual abuse and early surgery, I thought I was going crazy. (That happened more than a decade after starting Primal Therapy).

PETER REPLIED:
You are right this first level stuff is different . I worked through my childhood stuff, but then my usual method of describing what I feel - then seeing in what situations I had the same feeling or pain before and then eventually finding the connection and resolving it, didn't not work anymore. For a long time I was stuck and I didn't know how to carry on.

A year and a half ago I was having convulsions and terrible muscle cramps, I could feel it, but could not find any scenes or situations I could connect it with. Then I realized that this was related to my birth and I still can't describe it with words adequately. Its like I'm trapped, I can't find a way out and I'm stuck.

It went on like that for hours and at some stage I gave up and almost died. Then I pulled myself together and fought and fought and eventually in a fit of rage I managed to get out with the last bit of strength I had left.

The worst experience I had a few days ago. I always feel like I am drugged, paralyzed and almost dead in the morning after I wake up and I need lots of strong coffee to get going. I decided not to have any of that and I felt really bad and on top of that the weather was bad and that makes me depressed as well. Then I tried to get to the feeling and the pain, but nothing worked, I just fell asleep again and again.

Each time I woke up I got a headache, which got worse and worse until it was unbearable. Then at night I tried to sleep but that did not work. So I started banging my head against the wall, which made the headache so bad that I almost went crazy. This went on for quite a while and then I passed out. When I woke up the headache was gone.

A couple of days ago I also had a bad headache and it felt as if some maniac was grabbing me by my feet and shaking me and I tried my best to stop my head from bouncing around to stop the pain. Later I felt as if I was lying somewhere alone, I felt terrible lonely. Anyway that explains a lot of my problems. I could never ask anyone for help, I had big problems letting anyone come close to me (I live alone).

I used to get mad if I was stuck somewhere (queues, traffic jams etc.) or if I got into a situation where I could not find a way out (like driving somewhere and getting lost). I felt like a robot, my muscles were so tense that almost any physical activity was painful. That was my way of dealing with that birth pain and that was all I could handle without getting sick. If I was stressed too much (relationship trouble or problems at work), I got stomach ulcers or colitis. At least my childhood was not bad, seeing what you and many others in the group had to go through. I really must thank my parents for that.

Anyway now I am feeling so calm and relaxed, I don't know how long it will last, but for me that is a totally new experience.


THE SECOND LETTER

PAT WROTE:
I've been wanting to talk more about birth stuff for quite a while now, and this letter from you is the perfect opening. It's quite mind- blowing that you seem to be doing this almost totally on your own, and yet are making such headway (no pun intended!)

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
It was quite hard for me initially to get into these birth feelings, but now if I feel bad I get into them quite easily. It was only since the beginning of the year, when I realized what was going on with me, was actually that I was getting into birth pain, that I could see changes happening to me.

PAT REPLIED:
I have found birth primals to be the most "transforming" primals that I have had - that and pre-birth. (Though I didn't get back there much during the first decade, I did have some early stuff "bleed through" into second-line primals). I have experienced two totally different kinds of birth primals and I just wanted to share them here.

The first kind started early in my therapy, and were purely physical, with no "emotional feeling" attached. I would get splitting headaches, and if I went with it, I would feel my facial muscles start to pull up, as if my face was being "squished" into my mother's contracting uterus. When I arrived at the Primal Institute and asked them what to do with these, they said, "Nothing." They said that because they were purely body symptoms, if I went with them I wouldn't be "connecting" on all three levels. So they suggested I take a painkiller and try to sleep. I dutifully did this for many years.

Then, gradually I started having another kind of birth primal. In those, I would start off in the here-and-now, go down into childhood, and then get into baby pain, with body symptoms and pain, but with baby crying at the same time. As this kind was encouraged at the Primal Institute, I always went with them - and found them incredibly resolving.

Then, the splitting headaches started to come up premenstrually every month. On impulse, I started to go with them. There were no emotional feelings involved at all. I would simply lie on the bed, feeling my head being crushed, hearing the bones click as my head molded in the birth canal, and have my facial muscles contort. These sequences could go on for hours and there were no emotional feelings. I didn't feel the massive release that three-line primals bring, but my headaches went away. My present therapist suggested that it was good to go with this, as I was having a "body memory."

At the same time, my "three-line connected primals" increased. A typical one would be a feeling that I am doing something very hard in the present and can't do it on my own - I need someone to help me. Then I might get back to a childhood scene, where I needed help from my parents but they wouldn't give it to me. Suddenly I would be in the birth canal, with deep baby crying and in between those long bursts I would come up and talk about having to "get born all on my own," "mommy won't help me" and "if nobody helps me, I shall die."

Those primals are enormously releasing and integrating. They are the ones that I prefer to have, as I can feel that I have moved major stuff when they happen. However, the "body memory" kind (without feelings) does at least take the headaches away, and I actually do feel I am resolving something when I go with them, though not on the scale of resolution that I experience when I have a three-level primal. Interestingly, the "body memory" ones are becoming fewer and the full birth primals more frequent.

I also have a clue when there is birth stuff pushing to be relieved, while I am still primalling second line. The "clue" is that my head blocks solid and I can't breath. My sinuses seem to close up and I often start choking. I ignore that, and stay on the second line, till the primal takes me properly down into the first line birth stuff, which it invariably does if I stay with it.

Meanwhile, thank you for sharing Peter, and it's good to know that your therapy is moving again all power to you!


THE THIRD LETTER

PETER WROTE:
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on birth primals.

PAT HAD WRITTEN:
I have experienced two kinds of birth primals and I just wanted to share them here.

PETER REPLIED:
Yes, I agree there are two types of birth primals. You can start with something that is happening to you right now. A good example would by my rage at getting stuck in a traffic jam. I was sometimes so angry that I screamed and hit the steering wheel with my fists. I could have used that to see what physical feelings are behind this and then try to find other situations or scenes related to this and then eventually have a primal and make the connections to the source. This is how I worked through my childhood stuff.

But I never did anything about that rage about being stuck. Then when I got into my birth pain I experienced the feeling of being stuck quite a number of times and at some stage that rage at being stuck just disappeared. Then I noticed that if I am stuck in a traffic jam, I can't say I like it but I don't get angry anymore. I did not make a connection to that in a primal. I think this rage of being stuck in present situations was a neurotic symptom of being stuck in the birth canal which I would see as the source of the problem, something Janov calls a prototypic reaction, which gets burned into the system, and which gets triggered whenever one faces a similar situation.

The way I got out the first time by being aggressive and angry is what the system uses again and again even so it is most inappropriate (neurotic) in present situations. The important point is that once the source of the problem is resolved the symptom will disappear simply because there is nothing left to drive it any more. It is like having a pot of water on the stove and the water is boiling. If you turn off the energy source (flame) the boiling will stop. This is what I like about this therapy. You apply a method and get certain results. To me that is science or logic - pure and simple. Any progress or results are not dependant on the opinion of a therapist, unlike just about all of the other methods.

PAT HAD SAID:
Then, gradually I started having another kind of birth primal. In those, I would start off in the here-and-now, go down into childhood, and then get into baby pain, with body symptoms and pain, but with baby crying at the same time.

PETER REPLIED:
Are there right feelings ("body symptoms and pain, but with baby crying at the same time") and wrong feelings (just "body symptoms")? How can you cry when your head is being crushed while you are stuck in the birth canal?

I must say what these guys told you at the Primal Institute I find a bit strange. Janov mentioned in some of his books that they give patients tranquilizers when they are overwhelmed by first line pain and not ready to handle it yet. Maybe that is what they meant? For me that would be counterproductive. My defences are too strong, I rather need something to weaken them.

You mentioned helplessness. That must be a tough one to resolve. I know that helplessness and fear of dying. Somehow I managed to get out (more dead than alive). I acted out that experience in the opposite way, more like saying to others: I have to do everything myself - nobody can help me.


THE FOURTH LETTER

PAT WROTE:
Thank you for all your input on birth primals. It's nice for me to know that there is someone in the group who is having birth primals more or less like I have.

I've also butted my head against a wall, now I rather try to go into the primal box and butt against the foam in there. The problem I had it hasn't happened for some years now, was that I actually wanted it to hurt; because that was the only way I could remember how it was. I think the proverb about "banging your head against a brick wall" has come out of the collective unconscious, as so many of us have been through that in the birth canal.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
Yes, I agree there are two types of birth primals. You can start with something that is happening to you right now. A good example would by my rage at getting stuck in a traffic jam. I was sometimes so angry that I screamed and hit the steering wheel with my fists. But I never did anything about that rage about being stuck. Then when I got into my birth pain I experienced the feeling of being stuck quite a number of times and at some stage that rage at being stuck just disappeared.

The way I got out the first time by being aggressive and angry is what the system uses again and again even so it is most inappropriate (neurotic) in present situations.

PAT REPLIED:
Does this mean you used to get angry under pressure? A friend of mine had a dreadful birth (4 hours of second stage labour, when more than an hour is not optimal). She decided, "If one of us is going to die, it's not going to be me. Sod you ma, I'm angry now and I'm going to fight my way out" (and like you, she did!). She uses this prototypic energy pattern to keep going in the present.

On the other hand, I was in a position where any movement or action on my part would mean death for me (I was finally pulled out by a high forceps delivery, dead on arrival and had to have CPR to get me going). So under pressure, I become helpless, and wait for someone to come and save me. (I'm a classic, "struggle and fail" parasympath).

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
Are there right feelings ("body symptoms and pain, but with baby crying at the same time") and wrong feelings (just "body symptoms")?

PAT REPLIED:
No, I don't think there are right feelings and wrong feeling, just different types of feelings, and my body seems to want to do different things at different times. So following one's body is always right. That is if you are self-regulating when you primal - I have seen people being pushed in too deep too soon by an aggressive therapist and it traumatized the person badly. This is especially true of trying to push people into birth if they are not ready to go there yet.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
How can you cry when your head is being crushed while you are stuck in the birth canal?

PAT REPLIED:
Good question. My understanding is that what we do in primal, is what we couldn't do back then. For example, if as children we weren't allowed to cry, or couldn't cry, then we do it now.

The foetus is able to cry from seven months into the pregnancy, and babies have been monitored crying inside their mothers, although of course it was silent crying, as they weren't yet able to breathe. But they were going through all the motions - in one case known to me personally, the baby was crying so violently, that the mother's whole abdomen was vibrating.

So in birth primals, yes, one can cry like a baby, even though you couldn't do it out loud in the birth canal. The physical movements of crying could have been happening in the birth canal, with no sound coming out. I screamed blue murder in there - or at least I needed to, as it comes out in my primals. (If you go to the PSG files section, there is the soundtrack of a session there of a woman crying in the birth canal, because the doctor was late, and she was held back from being born till the doctor arrived.)

So my experience is that in some of my birth primals, there is a lot of straining, choking, grunting, coughing up stuff, etc.. at times. At those times I am reliving what I was doing in the birth canal, as I was just working hard, and didn't need to cry. But when I got stuck and was in desperate pain, I needed to cry, so that's what I do in the primals about that part of my birth.

Janov says that there are no tears in these early primals, but I'm so deep into them when I am crying in the birth canal, that I have never noticed if there were or not. (I must ask my therapist to look out for it and tell me). Because of fluids coming out of my nose at that time, I do need to use tissues, but I am not sure if it is for tears or mucus probably the latter.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
Janov mentioned in some of his books that they give patients tranquilizers when they are overwhelmed by first line pain and not ready to handle it yet. For me that would be counterproductive. My defence is too strong, I rather need something to weaken it.

PAT REPLIED:
Yes, everyone is different. That is why it is so important that the therapist follow the patient's cues (good therapy), rather than the therapist trying to push the patient where they think they should go (bad therapy). It's usually an "act out" on the therapist's part, of their own, as yet, unresolved feelings.

I was doing it at the beginning. Some of my buddies asked why I was "pushing" them. I then realized that if they weren't primalling easily, I experienced them as stuck (my own birth pain) and it triggered me and made me anxious, and I would start trying to get them moving to quell my own anxiety. It still triggers me some, but I am aware of it and trying to feel it rather than act it out.

That is why every therapist who is giving therapy, should be in therapy at the same time. My therapist has a large patient load, so he has therapy himself, twice a week, for his own pain (he's working on lying alone in the crib right now) and for "supervision" of how he is handling his patients, or clearing any stuff that his patients have triggered in him.

This is turning into a long email! Peter, thank you again for your sharing. It feels good to be able to do this.

Warm wishes,
Pat


THE FIFTH LETTER

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
It was quite hard for me initially to get into these birth feelings but now if I feel bad I get into them quite easy. I don't need anything to trigger it. I just "switch off my mind" and let my body do what it wants and feel the pain.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Could you tell more of the "story" of how it shifted and got easy to get into birth feelings. I am beginning to feel some childhood feelings (really experiencing them), but it is slight and I'm afraid I'll never get to birth ones!!

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
This was impossible for me before, my mind was always racing, I always had to think about something but could hardly concentrate on anything.

LUCAS REPLIED:
This is often what happens to me. It can take a lot to just come into feeling anything. I want to stay OUT of my body when it buzzes like that, not IN !

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
I had another good one a couple of days ago. My back was always as rigid as a plank of wood and while I was having this primal I felt something like a crack and it just came loose and it stayed that way ever since. What a pleasure, its like being taken out of a straitjacket. There was nothing that ever helped before, no orthopedists, exercises or massage. I was a hopeless case, it would probably have required someone using a hammer to loosen that terrible tension.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Wow that is amazing. I am happy for you AND envious!

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
This is powerful stuff. I hear what some people are saying about the problems with this therapy. I was a sceptic myself, being a scientist, I would not accept anything easily. But what I have experienced in the last 6 weeks is just mindblowing in terms of the physical changes I have experienced as well as insights into my neurotic behaviour.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Thank you for sharing this as I really need to hear it. I somatize so many things and I just need to hear that people have had body changes because of Primal. Could you share some more of these changes with us? Thanks, Lucas


THE SIXTH LETTER

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
Could you tell more of the "story" of how it shifted and got easy to get into birth feelings. I am beginning to feel some childhood feelings (really experiencing them), but it is slight and I'm afraid I'll never get to birth ones!!

PETER REPLIED:

That happened only after I went through some painful birth primals where I had terrible muscle cramps and contortions as well as a headache that felt as if my skull is going to split. The whole thing started about a year and a half ago when I was having some mild contortions and spasms. I had no idea what was happening to me and this went on and on and I felt quite bad. I only went on a course to learn how to do self-primalling quite a number of years ago and then I worked through my childhood stuff and had quite a number of primals. But they did not really change all that much. I did not have many traumatic childhood experiences. I was quite a energetic child, very rebellious and full of mischief. I got a whipping with a cane a number of times and that really hurt.

I went through that but then at some stage I could not get anywhere with the therapy and I ended up doing nothing for many years. It was only since the beginning of the year, when I realized what was going on with me, was actually that I was getting into birth pain, that I could see changes happening to me.

The problem is that this birth stuff is different from later childhood pain. There are no words, no crying, very little anger and no scenes or situations you can associate with what you feel - just pain. It also appears to me that I acted out my lifelong struggle. Fighting - not getting anywhere - giving up (being "stuck") - then with my last bit of strength getting aggressive and succeeding eventually. Just like my birth.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN (IN AN E-MAIL TO LOUIS):
... my body is just a integrated part of whatever I am feeling and it is very obvious, just from looking at my curled up hands or my contorted face or my rapid breathing or my head-banging. Does that make it clearer. Do you feel this seamlessness when you primal--like your body IS the feeling! There's no separation.

PETER REPLIED: From that it appears to me that you are pretty close to your birth pain. Just keep going and let your body do these things: bang your head, let your face contort, hands curl and whatever else it wants to do. These are all things I am experiencing in my birth primals as well, including the rapid breathing because I was drugged.

Did you read Janov's book Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience ? It deals exclusively with birth traumas and primals - I found it very helpful. There was also an e-mail John Speyrer sent to the Primal Support Group where he described what happened to him during birth primals (see below). One should, however, not try to explain on an intellectual level what is hastening when one experiences this birth related pain, convulsions etc..

Any connections or what Janov calls prototypic reactions and the resultant neurotic behaviour will become clear by itself during some primals (not always, sometimes its just pain). If you are working with a therapist then he/she should hopefully be able to help you to get to that birth pain. I have always done this therapy on my own without even a buddy and for me its just fine that way. The only time I would have liked some help was when I could not get further with my childhood stuff and then when these convulsions started and I did not know what that was about.

I may have wasted some time but what matters is that I got there in the end. I could hardly afford to go to Janov's institute and have therapy for a couple of months. That's one of the problems of living in a third world country whose currency is worth nothing. But that is not to say that this would work for everyone.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
Thank you for sharing this as I really need to hear it. I somatize so many things and I just need to hear that people have had body changes because of Primal. Could you share some more of these changes with us?

PETER REPLIED:

Well, my muscles were always very tense and I was walking around like that robocop in the movie. I did not really know that because for me it was always like that as far as I can remember. My spine was bent forward like a bow and my shoulder hanging down and also my neck was very tense. This caused me a lot of back and neck pain. Also my chest was very rigid so that I could hardly lift one shoulder and keep the other down. Also my breathing was very shallow and my stomach muscles tight and I often felt this lump in my throat and my voice was quite strained and high. All that has either gotten much better or entirely disappeared after I had these birth primals.

I was on the verge of getting glasses but now my eyesight has improved so that I no longer feel the need for that. In general I was a typical intellectual who only "lived" in his head - my body was a troublesome appendix that I just dragged along. I could hardly feel anything, except pain of course. To do any physical exercise was like torture to me, that was to be avoided at all costs. These tense muscles and my intellect were very strong defences and I had to use some un-orthodox methods to break them down enough to do therapy.

Of all the things that have changed, the ability to feel is by far the greatest gift to me. You can't really relate and communicate with others if you can't feel and everything just goes through your head. It caused me a lifetime of fear, loneliness and pain and it makes me cry just writing this. It's like being released from jail and experiencing freedom for the first time. Now I have to learn to live with that. I feel like a child trying to learn to walk. But there are many others who are much worse off than me, you said in an earlier e-mail to Deborah:

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
It would be interesting if someone did research on suicide and meditation.
(See Harmful Effects of TM Meditation . However, Vipassana meditation can aid the primalling process. John A. Speyrer, Editor)

PETER REPLIED:
That brought up some terrible memories. A long time ago I had a friend who got into this Ananda Maga, which involved meditation and probably also some religious beliefs. He was quite dogmatic about that and I found it quite difficult to talk to him about it.

Anyway, one day he went to town to the market square poured petrol over himself and set himself alight. That was so horrible and nobody could quite understand why he killed himself. I did not think it had anything to do with this meditation, but maybe it was not an isolated case? I have never done any meditation myself and I am an atheist, so I really don't know anything about these things.


THE SEVENTH LETTER:

LUCAS REPLIED:
Dear Peter, your post was such a gift; it felt so caring that you gave me so much of your energy and many helpful answers to my question. I am in your debt. I'll respond below. With appreciation for you work and your being, Lucas

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
It became easier for me to get into birth feelings only after I went through some painful birth primals where I had terrible muscle cramps and contortions as well as a headache that felt as if my skull is going to split.

LUCAS REPLIED:
I have had some of that but don't know if they were birth primals for me. It helps to hear your description !

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
The primals related to my childhood did not really change all that much. I did not have many traumatic childhood experiences.

LUCAS REPLIED:
This is a question that seems important to me. Sometimes my childhood doesn't seem that traumatic, but couldn't even a technological birth be enough to start us into defended primal pain in such a way that it just gets built upon. Did your mother tell you about your birth; was it good?

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
I went through my childhood experiences but then at some stage I could not get anywhere with the therapy and I ended up doing nothing for many years.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Yes, I left talk therapy after 5 years and my therapist was moving. I had so much more work to do; didn't realize how much at the time of course.

PETER HAD WRITTEN
It was only since the beginning of the year (about 2 month ago), when I realized what was going on with me, was actually that I was getting into birth pain, that I could see changes happening to me.

LUCAS REPLIED:
So it is quite recent--sounds like things are really happening fast!

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
It also appears to me that I acted out my lifelong struggle. Fighting - not getting anywhere- giving up (being "stuck") - then with my last bit of strength getting aggressive and succeeding eventually. Just like my birth.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Sounds like a pattern that I sometimes do. Could you tell me more about it?

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
Just keep going and let your body do these things : bang your head, let your face contort, hands curl and whatever else it wants to do.

LUCAS REPLIED:
I'm trying to, but the head banging hurts and it scares me a bit; what if I really start to get out of control and hurt myself even worse than the one day I did it? That is what I have had going through my mind. Sometimes the reactions and anger and intensity are so strong that I feel like I don't know what I am going to do.

I keep having images of actually exploding or bouncing off all the walls like when one lets a full balloon go and it scampers all over the room. The images don't scare me too much--it helps to have some kind of expression of it on a limbic level, but the possibility of what it would look like translated into some kind of action does scare me.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
One should, however, not try to explain on an intellectual level what is happening when one experiences this birth related pain, convulsions etc..

LUCAS REPLIED:
Yes, I have heard that in Janov's books--I guess I'll hope that knowing some of this stuff won't change things too much. Right now, I am having a bit of a hard time accessing deep pain because many things in my current life are going much better, in fact, very well. So I don't feel the terror so much, but of course it is still there in the brainstem!

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
Any connections or what Janov calls prototypic reactions and the resultant neurotic behaviour will become clear by itself during some primals.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Yes, I'm sure. Could you comment a little more on this Peter? I'd like to understand it better, if you have the time.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
If you are working with a therapist then he/she should hopefully be able to help you to get to that birth pain.

LUCAS REPLIED:
I trust that he will, but lately, I've had a bit of a challenge getting there even with his expert help.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
I have always done this therapy on my own without even a buddy and for me it's just fine that way.

LUCAS REPLIED:
I am amazed. Isn't it lonely? To me some of the most special times are when the person I am primalling with holds me (metaphorically or actually) or I do the same for them--it is such a feeling of mutuality.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
The only time I would have liked some help was when I could not get further with my childhood stuff and then when these convulsions started and I did not know what that was about. I may have wasted some time but what matters is that I got there in the end. I could hardly afford to go to Janov's institute and have therapy for a couple of months.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Yes I hear that--economics is such a difficult challenge!

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
That's one of the problems of living in a third world country whose currency is worth nothing. But that is not to say that this would work for everyone.

LUCAS REPLIED:
It just doesn't seem fair at all. I really admire you for doing the work on your own. You are an example to emulate!

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
Well, my muscles were always very tense and I was walking around like that robocop in the movie. I did not really know that because for me it was always like that as far as I can remember. My spine was bent forward like a bow and my shoulder hanging down and also my neck was very tense.

This caused me a lot of back and neck pain. Also my chest was very rigid so that I could hardly lift one shoulder and keep the other down. Also my breathing was very shallow and my stomach muscles tight and I often felt this lump in my throat and my voice was quite strained and high.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Wow ! Sounds painful and frustrating ! I have some of this too and really want to have things change.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
All that has either gotten much better or entirely disappeared after I had these birth primals.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Thank you for telling us about this !

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
I was on the verge of getting glasses but now my eyesight has improved so that I no longer feel the need for that.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Wow, my eyes are pretty bad--can't do anything without glasses--well almost anything.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
In general I was a typical intellectual who only "lived" in his head - my body was a troublesome appendix that I just dragged along.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Yes I have felt this a lot lately ! My body is my adversary and a real bother !

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
I could hardly feel anything, except pain of course. To do any physical exercise was like torture to me, that was to be avoided at all costs. These tense muscles and my intellect were very strong defences and I had to use some un-orthodox methods to break them down enough to do therapy.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Could you go into more detail here?; sounds fascinating!

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
Of all the things that have changed, the ability to feel is by far the greatest gift to me.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Yes, this is the cornerstone !

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
You can't really relate and communicate with others if you can't feel and everything just goes through your head. It caused me a lifetime of fear, loneliness and pain and it makes me cry just writing this.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Thank you for telling me you were crying--makes me feel very close to you. Sometimes I get feelings of immense pain and grief knowing all the things I've lost to not being able to feel. It is such a HUGE waste and I caused so many people so much pain. Ugh. . .

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
It's like being released from jail and experiencing freedom for the first time. Now I have to learn to live with that. I feel like a child trying to learn to walk.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Yes, the sense of freedom is amazing--almost like being reborn and getting another chance at life--this is how it often feels for me coming out of a primal. I am completely new. So at least we are getting the chance to learn to walk the right way while we are still in this life. So many will have to wait for a new body and another life.

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
A long time ago I had a friend who got into this Ananda Maga, which involved meditation and probably also some religious believes. He was quite dogmatic about that and I found it quite difficult to talk to him about it. Anyway, one day he went to town to the market square poured petrol over himself and set himself alight. That was so horrible and nobody could quite understand why he killed himself.

LUCAS REPLIED:
Yes, my main grad school teacher, Aftab Omer (a Pakistani) had a friend that blew out his brains after meditation became a "dead end" for him. Sometimes practices can be such a spiritual bypass--that is why I am very wary of them and like the sense that primalling isn't about deity worship!

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
I did not think it had anything to do with this meditation, but maybe it was not an isolated case?

LUCAS REPLIED:
I would certainly be suspicious from the way you describe it!

PETER HAD WRITTEN:
I have never done any meditation myself and I am an atheist, so I really don't know anything about these things.

LUCAS REPLIED:
I have done VERY little and that is OK with me. I would rather spend my time primalling for now and come into meditation later. Although a close friend of mine who meditates every day told me that "you are always meditating" and I suppose if meditation is mostly "attention" (as Sam spoke last week in a post) perhaps I am because I love looking at what is happening inside--both with myself and others.


THE EIGHTH LETTER

PETER REPLIED:
It was my pleasure to answer your questions and you are most welcome. You are not in any debt. We are here to help each other and for me it is nice to know that if I write of my experiences it encourages others to carry on with their difficult work.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
This is a question that seems important to me. Sometimes my childhood doesn't seem that traumatic, but couldn't even a technological birth be enough to start us into defended primal pain in such a way that it just gets built upon. Did your mother tell you about your birth; was it good?

PETER REPLIED:
Yes, I think that's what happened to me. I had a bad start to live with a difficult birth but it did not stop there. At the moment I am dealing with the aftermath which just builds on the first traumatic experience.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
Acting out your lifelong struggle sounds like a pattern that I sometimes do. Could you tell me more about it?

PETER REPLIED:
The birth trauma gets burned into the system as a prototypic reaction. Any stress later in live triggers that same reaction over and over again. A difficult project at work for example. You do everything you can but you feel it does not produce the results you expect - then panic, desperation, giving up and eventually finishing it but getting totally exhausted. I described another example of a prototypic reaction in the third letter (see above). This is also explained in detail in Janov's book Imprints.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
I'm trying to, but the head banging hurts and it scares me a bit; what if I really start to get out of control and hurt myself even worse than the one day I did it? That is what I have had going through my mind. Sometimes the reactions and anger and intensity are so strong that I feel like I don't know what I am going to do.

PETER REPLIED:
I know this is scary. Get lots of cushions and build a nest around you so that you don't get hurt. The idea is not to make this as painful as possible but to re-live the traumatic experience that was shut off at the time because the system was not able to integrate it when the brain was not developed enough (Babies don't have a sufficiently mylenated neocortex to understand what is happening to them.).

Your body remembers what happened to you in a traumatic situation and in a primal it will re-live it like that. If you survived it then, you will survive it again. You must just not force it with your will and just bang your head or something. This is difficult to explain if you have not experienced it. Let your body do what you think it wants to do but don't force anything and don't stop it if you can. If you are angry it is best to see where it comes from in your body and work with that.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
I keep having images of actually exploding or bouncing off all the walls like when one lets a full balloon go and it scampers all over the room.

PETER REPLIED:
I don't know what could cause something like this. You could not have exploded otherwise you would no longer be with us and that would be a great pity. It sounds like a dream. If you are sleeping your defences are down and if too much pain ascends the brain finds all sorts of weird explanations for it - so that you are kept from the traumatic experience causing the pain. I don't know whether this could happen while you are awake.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
Feel free to suggest any reading--I love reading!

PETER REPLIED:
Did you read Janov's Primal Man: The New Consciousness? That one is more theoretical - the science behind primal therapy. It explains how the brain works with its different levels, the chemicals involved, how the different parts get affected by trauma and therapy etc.. I found it fascinating.

Another one I liked is Jean Liedloff's The Continuum Concept. It's about a tribe of Indians in the Amazon rainforest who live happy and in harmony. This is a good example of how individuals and society could be if birth would not be a traumatic experience and children would be brought up with the care they need.

Yes, I like reading too. Did you see that research article under "urgent appeal" where someone said "A thinking mind cannot feel." I find that interesting because after having these primals recently I found that I read much less than before. I noticed that when I read or watch TV I feel nothing. It's a defence against the pain we don't want to feel but it is only one among many defences that are used. One day I am going to throw that TV into the trash bin where it belongs.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
Right now, I am having a bit of a hard time accessing deep pain because many things in my current life are going much better, in fact, very well. So I don't feel the terror so much, but of course it is still there in the brainstem.

PETER REPLIED:
That is nice to hear. I don't think you should worry too much. Don't torture yourself with this therapy if you are feeling fine. I see it more as a tool to use when you are feeling not so good. I wish I could just have a break. After a primal I feel very good but unfortunately it does not last very long and more pain comes up and I have to deal with it.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
I am amazed that you are doing this therapy all on your own. Isn't it lonely? To me some of the most special times are when the person I am primalling with holds me (metaphorically or actually) or I do the same for them--it is such a feeling of mutuality.

PETER REPLIED:
Yes, absolutely but for me it's a more general problem. I think we should not live alone. There should be someone you can talk to or hold and hug - for me it is not just a need related to the therapy. I am quite happy to do that on my own. Nobody can feel the pain and make the connections in a primal for you anyway. Sure others can help and encourage and it's really nice to have this group. It's just a pity that we are scattered all over the world and we can't send hugs via e-mail.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
Yes I hear that--economics is such a difficult challenge!

PETER REPLIED:
You can say that. You can do this therapy and get better but we do not exist in a vacuum. We are part of a society which has been perverted to serve the (economic) interests of a few at the expense of the vast majority of the population. To change that is probably the biggest challenge of them all.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
You were saying that your tense muscles and intellect were very strong defences and that you had to use some un-orthodox methods to break them down enough to do therapy. Could you go into more detail here?; sounds fascinating!

PETER REPLIED:
I'd rather not advertise this here. These "un-orthodox method" may help some, but may lead others "off the track" and could even drive some over the edge. Messing with one's defences can be dangerous and I don't want to get anyone into trouble. If you still want to know I sent you an e-mail off the group.

LUCAS HAD WRITTEN:
I would rather spend my time primalling for now and come into meditation later.

PETER REPLIED:
You are right. Maybe if you resolved enough of your pain and you feel calm and relaxed like after a primal there is no longer a need to do meditation. I still hope that one day I get there, that I can just live my live and be happy.
______________________



Peter suggested that I include a listing of the physical aspects of my birth primals in this exchange:

-- John A. Speyrer, Webmeister, Primal Psychotherapy Page

"Consciousness of the beginning of the breathing process involving anoxia, coughing, choking and spitting up large quantities of mucous; guttural throat sounds; neck torsion pressures; facial pressures, including jaw, cheek bones, gums and head pain due to pressure and molding, feelings of being inverted, internal rotation, pressures involving the chest, all of rib cage, hips; pressures to collarbones, both upper back (scapula area) and top of shoulders, lower back; spine; hands turned inward, arms twisting; twisting of legs, pressure on legs; full body spasms, seizures and contractions, twistings, convulsions and vibrations; painful muscular strainings of the chest region, neck region, jaw muscles, facial muscles, stomach and buttock muscles, profuse body perspiration, strainings and pressurings of neck region, jaw muscles, facial muscles, stomach and buttock muscles; droolings; shakings; tremblings; head standings (mimicing pressure against the cervix?); head pushings; asthma; excessively flowing saliva; burning of eyes, wailings, etc.."

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