Emotional Flooding, P. T. Olsen, Editor. Human Sciences Press, New York, 1976

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

Emotional Flooding is an anthology written by different practitioners in various fields of the affective psychotherapies.

Chapter Five, which is entitled "Intense Feeling Therapy" and authored by Dr. Sidney Rose, discusses primal therapy. The short chapter is an interesting and original presentation of the primal process. After presenting a short history of feeling in psychotherapy, the author describes the treatment stages which successful primal therapy patients go through:

  • Stage One, The Disarming of Defenses, occurs during the first period of primal therapy, the three-week intensive.

  • Stage Two is called Anger and Sadness by Dr. Rose. Following primals relating to these two feelings the patient begins to experience the three sub-stages of:

    • Euphoria,
    • Gratitude (to the therapist) and has a
    • Desire to Withdraw Socially.

  • Stage Three is characterized by primals of events which were not of primary importance in causing the split into neurosis, but which nonetheless contributed to the patient's symptoms.

  • Stage Four. Primals occur which directly relate to the inception of neurosis. The material is crucial and its successful completion unlocks one's real self. This period is longer than the previous stages, and during this stage the patient often has feelings of dissociation or of unrealness.

  • Stage Five is one of Synthesis and is marked by the patient feeling, in a deeper way than earlier, the entire nature of his struggle for parental love. It is characterized by deeper anger than experienced during the earlier stages and it is during this stage that the patient receives a deeper insightful understanding of his neurosis.

  • Stage Six is the final stage. It is the stage of becoming one's authentic self and is characterized by the patient feeling less disconnected, less self-conscious and less as an observer of himself. He begins to act more and more spontaneous and from his true present-day needs. The contaminated feelings which are from his infancy and childhood are triggered less often. The primalee behaves in ways dictated by his real self and without unconscious fear of losing parental love.

    At times, he may still feel overwhelmed by anxiety in social settings, but during this stage these feelings begin to dissipate. Eventually, the amount of primaling diminishes as the store of repressed trauma is decreased and as one's life is lived more in terms with one's real needs instead of symbolically catering to his parents.

The author characterizes patient types who are more successful in primal therapy:

  • The author believes that they are those who become less dependent on the therapist as therapy proceeds. They do not withdraw from the "unreal'' world and seek primal communities.

  • They are able to resist the temptation to act out or tranquilize away ascending feelings, and bide their time, suffer and wait until there is an opportunity for primal connection and release.

Dr. Rose concludes that the truths learned in the practice of primal therapy have applications by therapists in other areas of psychotherapy.

He suggests that all therapists have unlimited time sessions instead of reconstructing these to the traditional fifty minutes, since arbitrary limits to session time may be insufficient for feelings to arise. He believes that problems of transference are much worse in conventional psychotherapy than in primal therapy and bemoans the fact that in the former, pre-verbal trauma can never be reached, much less resolved.

He criticizes Arthur Janov's vision of the post-primal patient since he is too free of social drives and feelings of responsibility to others. Rose finds some primal people contemptuous of others who have not been through the therapy. Dr. Rose feels that the effectiveness of primal-type therapies will eventually be established.