Therapists Should Continue
Their Own

by Chris Wright

I believe there is something important that seems to be missing among us collectively, yet it is something that we have and offer that is actually unique to our primal community. And that is a strongly-held, shared understanding among ourselves of the value of emotional processing as the key dynamic for restoring our inner center.

Everyday I am thankful for knowing about emotional processing in my life. For me it is such a precious knowledge. It is something that is so natural and effective, that I can do anytime I am getting depressed, sad, upset, afraid, in a bad mood or even falling apart.

The experience is like night and day for me. I can get triggered or be completely at the affect of my stuff, and then after 30 minutes or so of emotional processing feel connected to my natural Self again. Cleansed. Silent. Open. Alive. The problems and challenges in the world certainly remain, but I got my Self back now to face them. This makes all the difference, even apart from making me a more effective therapist.

So when I'm in the face of darkness or upset the most important support you can give me is to be sure to caringly guide me to a safe place where I can open up and experience the inner churning to its resolution. This is appreciated whether the care is from a friend or in our discussion group in e-mails.

The empathetic feelings of support and inspiration are important also. Even suggestions concerning the problem that triggered it are helpful. But solace alone, however well-meaning, has the effect of simply pumping me up so that I disconnect from the churning inside. It may sometimes make me feel better, but, like Novocaine, I think it inadvertently anesthetizes me from what is stirring deep within which is calling for conscious and biologic resolution and release.

This knowledge of safe emotional processing of inner stress to resolution and the value system of processing whenever you are off your center is missing in the world. By and large, even self-improvement groups and the therapeutic community lack this insight or the tools to facilitate the process. From being on the International Primal Association board and in the community, I believe that at times we also miss it in the IPA.

In thinking about it, I wonder if it is because we have compartmentalized this innate process as some form of "therapy," something that you wait to do only with a therapist?

We even call it "primal therapy," which is really a misnomer. Something so natural to being human, that babies do it innocently in the face of distress to restore equilibrium. When does it become "therapy?

Also, calling it "Primal" tends to frame emotional processing as a tool that is designed for regressing. When I cry from loneliness, or angrily storm at my current frustrations and fears in a structured process, alone at home, am I necessarily "primalling?" Do we say the infant is "primalling" when he or she cries out? And does it have to be a "primal" to be healing or healthy? Isn't crying a natural biologic resolution of internal stress?

Certainly we all believe that regularly regressing back and re-living early, repressed emotions is healing and important for each of us to do. But is this shared understanding our basis for coming together in community? What about valuing the process of experiencing to resolution the build-up of current inner tensions?

Of course, Janov never formulated or taught this (but then he never used emotional processing in his own life anyway). I actually believe that it is more important to harness processing of current stress in our day-to-day lives. That's where the rubber meets the road -- that's where the most action is.

We all know that healing deeply repressed imprints is a life-long process, that there is no quick fix for getting healed. But we can do something to purify the tension and restore our Self each time those wounds get triggered or when we build up too much internal pressure in our lives. And that is the most powerful and healthy use of this technology -- for yourself and for everyone around you.

Knowing this makes our community unique in the world. It is quite a gift. Yet, I wonder if we are aligned in our appreciation or understanding of this process, and if we live it in our lives and guide others in it. I say this because It doesn't show up in our e-mails although all sorts of other advice does. Nor is it a basis of how we live our lives evidenced in the IPA board meetings.

To offer this guidance to someone in an e-mail, I suspect might even sound offensive, like a subtle put-down. Yet, I would hope that we all would welcome such input whenever we get triggered -- that we want to be reminded to be sure to go hit the mats and process it completely through. And, if the person is unable to, the most helpful support you can provide someone is to call to emotionally process over the phone. To do that, I believe, is to really care.

You would think in such a community there would be no shame in being reminded. For when we are thrown into these deep wounds the darkness skews our reality. It is not always so easy. Awash in feelings, the negative appraisal all seems so real. Surely, we need to be understood and validated when we are upset, but shouldn't we want to be lovingly guided where we need to go?

I will always appreciate a psychologist friend for her integrity in this. When she would get overwhelmed she would sometimes call some of us to process over the phone. It was an honor to share in her process. And I felt such respect for her ability to reach out and be so healthy in the face of her pain. It was wonderful modelling for us all.

So my question to our primal community and leaders is, how often do you process? I know we all give lip-service to emotional processing. But do you set up a safe structured process whenever you are triggered and off your center, instead sitting on it or acting it out?

How often do you really do it? My experience when teaching this around the country was that most people needed to cleanse the build-up of tension about once a week. It is something like taking a shower to remove toxins. Certainly we need to primal in a safe structure when toxic stuff gets triggered and comes up.

Now also, ask yourself, do you have a formal support system for structured emotional processing? If not, why not? Clearly, it is useful to be efficient in processing alone as well as with someone facilitating. Are you able to process alone and get a release effectively? Do you know how to facilitate someone in their process?

I believe that systematizing this knowledge and these tools, and promoting it among ourselves and in the world would be a worthy function of the International Primal Association. And gaining such knowledge provides a healthy basis for then being a responsible part of our community.

Also, though rarely talked about in the IPA, and maybe even more important is to share a systematic framework of tools for safely processing upset feelings when we trigger and upset each other. I strongly suggest that we lack these tools in this community and organization. When we trigger each other, we act out hurt and angry feelings offensively or we shut down and withdraw.

Amazingly, what I have witnessed is that we tend to act just as dysfunctionally as everyone else in the world when upset at each other. The tools for emotionally processing charged conflicts to resolution safely together exist, and I believe such tools should be part of what we stand for in joining together in this community and organization.

I would like to envision the International Primal Association as such an organization -- to be a place in the world where safe emotional processing is modeled and promoted. By being a part of the organization we strengthen our resolve in practicing peer processing. The organization could even offer workshops around the country teaching systematic peer processing tools, such as, how to process alone effectively, how to facilitate a partner, and how to process charged conflicts safely.

Members could sponsor a workshop in their town and thereby develop a support network using these tools. Setting up local peer process groups not only fulfills a natural human need that is not being met in our culture, but it also strengthens the fabric (and sustainability) of our unique primal community.

I believe this type of thinking necessarily involves a fundamental shift in how we see Primal within the IPA community. Whether we view it as a narrow, potent therapeutic tool (the old school) or whether we experience it and live it a useful day-to-day peer process, we can share and support each other in what is vital to our health and well-being -- individually, socially, and spiritually (a new orientation).


Chris Wright

Chris Wright is a licensed therapist and Director of Programs at The Center For Holistic Therapy in Alexandria, Virginia. He has been teaching primal for over 15 years around the country. He offers workshops and individual sessions on how to safely process emotions.

For information, call (703) 370-1049.

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