Questions On Aging by Graham Farrant, M.D.

Answers to Questions on Aging

by Graham Farrant M.D.

Graham passed away on 28 December 1993 leaving a gaping hole in the affections of the primal community and a challenge to the rest of us to expand and validate his pioneering work in the primal movement. We picture him in the arms of the Avatar he so loved and as living on in the heartfelt feelings of all those he touched. His responses in this article bring him back to us for a moment in his engaging self-honesty and his excitement about new areas of learning. They reveal his ever-new capacity to change and grow and his zest for being -- qualities which, as several contributors to this issue point out, can be - as they were for Graham - the fruits of Primal in our later years.
-- Mickel Adzema and Mary Lynn Radford

Question 1: What are the interactive, social, and community needs of a person over fifty? Are these needs any different for a primal person over fifty? How does the cultural emphasis on youth, including the health craze, affect your attitudes on aging?

GF: Most of my staff are in their thirties and my children range from sixteen to twenty-five and are all "health crazy." The positive aspect of their emphasis on health is that it's a constant reminder to me to watch my diet, to exercise, and to balance work with play. But the negative consequence is that the recurring comparison of my physique, vitality, endurance capacity, energy level, skin tone, color, and so on, always leaves me the loser. Constantly I need to be reminded (usually by my best friend and secretary, June, who is 51) that compared to other men, better still, to other male psychiatrists of 54, I'm doing just fine!

Question 2: Is there an age group that you feel is particularly challenging/ rewarding or difficult to work with? Has this changed for you over the years that you've been a therapist? Is there an age group you feel most/least effective working with?

GF: After twenty years as a therapist (fifteen as a primal therapist), I'm still magnetized to people in their late twenties, particularly twenty-seven. Early in my career my unresolved personal dynamics led me to sexualize responses to this age group. Later when I connected this age group to own at the time of my marriage (and also my father's) the sexual response gave way to empathy.

Question 3: What factors contribute to a positive attitude in one's later years?

Question 20: Please comment on the observation that as a result of the primal process people seem to expand into spiritual and past-life work/awareness. How does the aging process affect spirituality?

GF: Questions 3 and 20 are connected for me. Maybe under the subtle influence of my own interest in spiritual issues and indeed those of most of my staff, almost two-thirds of our clients become interested in spiritual matters, interestingly after, on average, nine months of therapy. My own belief in God as unconditional love focuses therapy on the significance of forgiveness as the cornerstone of wholeness-forgiveness of oneself! This results in a strong positive attitude in later life. Seeing so many people achieve health through self-love makes me positive at the beginning of a new client's therapy. . . no matter how ill they may present.

Question 4: Are you still in therapy? If not, when and why did you stop? If you decided to go back into therapy, would you be able to find someone competent and trustworthy to work with?

GF: Oh yes. Primal therapy is me having my feelings and in that sense I'll always be in therapy. During recent turbulent times of my divorce, my eldest son's separation, and June's lover dying of cancer (quickly), I needed sessions. As my staff and I have worked together for ten years, I have no trouble asking any one of them for help.

Question 5: How would you describe your personal growth since you've been in practice? Do you feel you have enough stimulating new learning experiences? Do you still feel you need supervision? Are you aware of areas where you still have "blind spots"?

GF: My personal growth is best described as learning to admit my own truth; learning to accept my limitations, needs, and fears; learning humility; and practicing unconditional love. Admitting I need help and asking for it was always difficult; but it regularly led to new insights, more freedom from old pain patterns, and subsequently new choices of life styles. I'm still excited about new areas of learning - especially cellular consciousness. Only this year - my 30th as a doctor and my 20th as a psychiatrist - have I become aware of being bored. At first I tried to rationalize it as tiredness, but it's boredom.

I've pioneered enough. We've had two mass murders in our city in four months. The first was committed by a man who, at 26, was told the previous day that he was adopted. The second was a university law student who deferred - took a leave of absence from school-and who become paranoid and depressed. I'll warrant in both cases their respective conceptions were pathological, but I've run out of the energy needed to challenge the establishment to get the facts. (A mass rapist murderer in Australia twelve years ago turned out to be a rape conception - admitted by his mother in court!) Ten years ago I tried to introduce Primal into prisons and was laughed at. Fifteen years ago I predicted a rise in violent crime effected by twenty year-olds bom in the Sixties through "interfering obstetrics". (This was recently referred to in the Fourth International Pre- and Perinatal Congress in Amherst, Massachusetts, in August, 1989.)

My blind spot has always been young men with (very) similar pain to my own, especially failed attempted abortions. First I become the good father they (1) would like to have had, and second I mother them (fulfill oral needs--compliments, attention, affection, and so on) the way their (my) mother didn't.

Question 6: When you look at the way you did therapy ten years ago, have there been significant changes in your approach? Do you feel more confident in yourself as a therapist? Are you more/less hopeful about the results you see from your work?

GF: Having primaled my envy of new clients' easier access to cellular pain, I'm now able to let them get to these early levels much quicker than I was obliged to laboriously plod. In these last three years since lecturing at international conferences and doing workshops overseas, I'm much more self-confident and much more hopeful of good results quicker.

Question 7: How did your parents age, and what is your perception of their aging in relationship to yours? Has the primal process had an effect on this perception?

GF: My parents aged better than I am. They played sports actively into their sixties, spending practically no time with their (two) children. Primal released me to give more of my time to my (four) children, but I've erred to the opposite extreme of my self-centered parents.

Question 8: What perspectives and/or dimensions are added/subtracted from your work as a therapist as you enter different life stages? Are you getting more/less satisfaction from your work?

GF: Teaching and writing up my work of many years has added a challenging new and meaningful dimension to my work. Few become gurus before they're fifty. Sai Baba, of course, is the current living exception having been born a full Avatar.

Question 9: Was there a particular time in your life when deep-feeling work was most imperative? Does this relate to any observation about timing in clients?

GF: After five years of classical Freudian psychoanalysis from trained analysts, I was turning forty years of age, slightly depressed at leaving my thirties, and was beginning to develop essential hypertension. Our third son and fourth (and only) daughter had been born in quick succession, and financial demands were increasing. My mother had recently died, as had her sister my - favorite aunt, the last family member of their generation. Escalating marital problems were the final trigger for the need for a different therapy, and I journeyed to America to Janov's clinic for help.

The particular timing of my issues hasn't really set a pattem with my clients. The average age of my clients of the last seventeen years has been thirty-one, and there have been understandable clusters: around midtwenties - regarding marriage (intimacy and commitment); around early thirties - second or more children, financial worries; early forties - separation and divorce; early fifties - loss of spouse, children leaving home; early sixties - physical ill-health.

Question 11: What do you feel is the deepest truth you have had to face in, your own personal maturation process? How has feeling that through facilitated your growth? Do you also see clients involved in the same issues? Does your process help or do they work through them differently?

GF: Up until now, the deepest truth I've primaled has been the complex duality of my mother (and therefore in me as egg) at the moment of my creation. She hated sex, was narcissistic, was indifferent to my father (sperm); and she denied being angry, worked to be a male herself. Recognizing some of these characteristics in myself wasn't easy, but it's helped me deal with people who have various aspects of these dynamics.

Question 12: What is the relevance of Primal to someone as they grow older? Would you encourage deep-feeling abreactive therapy for a person over fifty if they are just beginning therapy? Do you think that there is an age beyond which people don't benefit from therapy? Is there an optimal age for people to undergo therapy?

GF: I started primal at forty. My oldest patient began at seventy-two. Many in their sixties, however, haven't gotten as much out of therapy as people in their twenties and thirties with similar problems.

Question 16: Do you find yourself looking more or less deeply into the future as you get older?

GF: No. One paramount and significant advantage I've had from primaling, especially back to cellular consciousness, has been the ability to "live in the moment." Having felt my past, I'm continuously able to let it go. Having felt a series of ego deaths and been in touch with my Essence - my Atma - my Spirit, I don't have a need to dwell on the future (especially worrying about my physical death). So, I'm free to fully enjoy every moment-then and now.

Question 17: How long do you plan to continue working as a therapist? When and how does a therapist retire?

GF: On the 30th of June, 1989, I left my clinical practice and the Primal Center I had created in 1975. This means I will no longer be continuously involved in one-, two-, or three-week intensives. More and more I will be lecturing and teaching, training younger therapists, and finishing my book, From Soul to Cell. I am fortunate that I have always loved my work. My children, now all adults themselves, said it clearly at the farewell: "You won't ever retire, Dad. Some client one day will come out of a primal and find you dead."

Question 18: What special needs do older people have that you were previously unaware of? What perspective would you like to give younger people to help us as a community understand and integrate people of all ages?

GF: Like my mother, I use denial to deal with the reality that I'm 56. Like Paul Newman, I don't look 56 and I'm only just beginning to feel tired at the end of two-day workshops of 35 people! I'm not yet aware of any personal special needs from being older (than I was). The one commodity I have to share and to offer younger people is WISDOM - it's something older people accrue - just from living longer!

[Question 20. See Question 3.]

[Editor's Note: Although Graham Farrant did not attend the conference, he sent answers to Questions 1 to 8, 11, 12, and 20--which he had written in an airplane on one of his many "primal missions." When I contacted him later about revisions, he replied with answers to Questions 9 and 16 to 18. Why did he stop there? He was writing in flight again, and he had once more reached the airport! Here I present all the answered questions in numerical order. -K.B.]
Biographical Note

GRAHAM FARRANT received his medical degree from Melbourne University in Australia, then went on to obtain advanced certifications in psychiatric specialties at Harvard and McGill Universities. He was the first Australian psychiatrist to receive dual certifications in adult and child psychiatry in North America. He worked in the Australian Veterans Hospital system and also had a regular hospital appointment. He resigned from all that to practice primal therapy after having come to America to have primal therapy with Arthur Janov and Jules and Helen Roth.

At the time of writing, he was dividing his time between home in Melbourne, workshops and friends in North America and Europe, and Satya Sai Baba's ashram in India. He has pioneered cellular consciousness - the primal reexperiencing of the events surrounding our conception in the union of sperm and egg. In 1976 he had some personal experiences in therapy concerning this that he discounted, until he was vindicated a few years later when scientific discovery caught up with his inner experience. Since then he had dedicated himself to teaching others how to access this deep level of their being.

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