"At one time I thought primal therapy would
leave me still me but not hurting so much.
I didn't know primal
would change who I think I am."
-- The Author
I'm especially interested in talking to other primal people
these days because my own primal process has changed so much in the
past year. I'm wondering if there are other primal people who have been
doing primal for a long time who might be experiencing the kinds of
changes I'm having at present.
I started primal therapy in 1978 and have been doing primal (usually 2
sessions a week) for most of those years ever since I began the process. It has been over
twenty years. The pattern has been that I have worked with one therapist
for anywhere from three to seven years before switching to another therapist. I
began working with male therapists but now work with a woman. My therapy
process has always been what I call "client-centered,"
"client-directed" or "natural style" therapy. What that means to me is
that I direct how the sessions go.
The past year has brought about some major changes. I now realize all
those earlier years were just laying the groundwork for the first-line pain (birth material)
that is surfacing now. It's not that first-line pain didn't surface
before, because birth pain began to come up within a few months
of starting primal therapy way back in 1978. Of course, I always have
believed that I had worked through a lot of my first-line pain. That seems so ironical to me now.
I now realize the real work on first-line pain just
hadn't happened during those years. It now seems that I was mostly
processing a huge overload of pain and the basic deep dynamic remained
intact, not untouched by sessions, but just not changed much either.
My birth story is that a nurse tried to prevent my birth with her hand
because the doctor had not yet arrived at the hospital. When I finally was born, I
was taken away by hospital personal. My parents don't know what had
happened. They only knew that I had had a very bad birth and my mother was told to never have a natural delivery again.
It was later discovered that some of my ribs had been dislocated and broken but no one had known this. I will never know if my ribs were broken during the delayed birth or if they were broken while hospital personel did CPR on me.
What is clear is that I was critically injured at
birth and not treated for the injuries. I was handled as a new-born infant
with broken and dislocated rib bones. Two ribs were re-broken
several times by being handled after birth. Only later when I was older
and when deformed ribs become prominent did my parents and I reconstruct the fact
that the damage had been done at birth.
The primal sessions I am having now are both exciting and agonzingly
difficult to do. At one time there was always enough primal pain
pushing up so that the primal pain was easy to access. In fact, it was a source of pride for me that I could do that so easily. I didn't know at that time that being able to
connect to my pain so easily was really in part a function of how much primal pain
I had to process.
Now, there's much less volume in there and it's much harder to
locate the place where there pain is and to get connected to it. There's much
more resistance and I often have to start my sessions by feeling my way
through the feeling of not wanting to do the session at all. But once
the resistance has lessened and I've let go, then the first-line pain
In the old days of primal therapy, the pain seemed to have more
of a story line. I could usually label the pain easily or there were
memories of what had happened.
With this deep first-line pain I'm processing now, the processing is very different.
Sometimes it's not until I quit trying to figure out what I'm feeling
and just let the feeling or pure unpleasantness or pure unhappiness
surface without a storyline or without words that finally the pain comes up and I
can cry or make appropriate noise.
Sometimes, it's just a feeling of horror or of agony and any
attempts to put words or concepts on it makes it disappear again. It is so different
from the earlier days of primal sessions. I feel like I used to know how
to do primal therapy sessions, but now the sessions don't feel so much
like "doing" as just relaxing and letting some pure pain surface that
is very undefined. It's as though the "I" that used to do the sessions is
now often in the way. Does that make sense?
My sessions have become difficult to do and anguish is common. Yet at the same
time, I have never changed so rapidly outside of the sessions. The
changes are happening so fast that sometimes I'm not even sure who I am
Sometimes it feels like the primal pain was a source of
energy and that it was actually fueling my work habits and my way of
relating to other people. I am finding it harder to initiate things but
not in a bad way. Sometimes I feel sort of deflated inside. It is as though
all that pain inside me was a tangible presence in terms of how my
personality felt to me. In the old days my primal pain was sort of a part of my feeling identity. Now, I feel so much softer inside.
So its been an amazing time for me but also a puzzling time as well.
The regressions I am having now do not have the quality of what I had
expected. I didn't know that eventually the therapy would lead me to a
place where it feels like my very personality is actually changing.
At one time I thought primal therapy
would leave me still me but not hurting so much. I didn't know primal
therapy would change who I think I am. It's all very strange
and unknown -- and sometimes very unsettling. I thought I 'knew'
who I was and now -- I don't know what is really basic to my personality
and what turns out to be an enormous dynamic I constructed inside myself to
survive my early trauma -- a dynamic which now seems to have obscured who I was or might have been. So now I really don't know who I am or who I am becoming. In reality I don't really find this very alarming, but it does feel strange to be present at the birth of my "new" personality.
Thank you for your interesting comments. Many years ago, when I began the therapy, I felt I was present during the formation of my neurotic personality. It also was strange and disconcerting but nonetheless interesting to realize and understand how my primal pain was of overwhelming importance in molding me to be the person I am.