Andy Bernay-Roman practices his version of primal therapy in Jupiter, Florida.
PRIMAL PSYCHOTHERAPY PAGE: How does stored pain (trauma) relate to disease?
ANDY BERNAY-ROMAN: At the Hippocrates Health Institute, I often work with people who have been given difficult medical diagnoses. I inevitably find some correlation with their disease process and the process of repressed feeling. Even to the point where the disease seems like the bodyís pantomime of the inner repressed turmoil. I wonít go so far as to say this disease means this, or that condition means that, but I will say Iíve seen patterns of repression that seem to go along with certain body systems and certain ailments.
The science of it is just being discovered, but it basically has to do with the inner stress induced by repression of feelings contributing to an unhealthy flooding of the system with emergency hormones and the fight-or-flight response of the nervous system without letting up. Over time this unnatural flow inhibits oxygen delivery to certain parts of the body, increases muscular tension, and creates chemical havoc. It makes sense that that state would drive cells nuts, or seriously hamper healthy functioning.
If that werenít bad enough, the body-response to trauma when it is repressed gets shunted upwards to the cognitive brain and influences our thoughts, beliefs, and sense of self, filling it with neurosis, phobias, dysfunctional patterns of relating, and all sorts of mental disorders. These things normalize when a person taps into and drains the pool of pain. It might be a bold thing to say that connecting with and feeling repressed pain sets the stage for physical healing, but I see it over and over again.
ANDY: The understanding that some illnesses are psychosomatic has been around since the Ď40ís. The Psychosomatic Seven include asthma, migraines, allergies, and some others. It was revolutionary to think that back then. Now I believe the same psychosomatic influence plays into all physical ailments. Iím not saying that repressed feelings always are causative of illness, but I am saying repressed feelings inevitably help set the stage for illness, and always influence the course of an illness. I remember one woman in particular right now: she had severe liver cancer and was in marked pain in our sessions together. One time when she went especially deep into her anger and hurt, she emerged, to her surprise, physically pain-free. She got a first-hand experience of the mind/body connection.
ANDY: I think itís almost inevitable that some part of the psyche gets repressed just because we grow up in family and social systems comprised of people who arenít fully feeling, or who filter their own experiences through their particular beliefs and values that may or may not fit with those of the kid they are raising. Repression is a great survival tool. It helps us keep going in the face of pain. Anything with such strong survival value is going to show up a lot in the species. So my answer is: Pretty much, but not always. And we donít always deal with repressed pain in therapy either. Thatís only for the people
The science of this has to do, I believe, with the common connection the endocrine system and the feeling/memory parts of the limbic system have with the hypothalamus. Thatís why one stimulates the other: they share common circuitry. Very cool!
ANDY: It may not have been a matter of feeling safe enough to do it, but rather they were, like it or not, flooded by it. I saw these regressive incidents happen spontaneously, and took note of them because they seemed to influence the course of the ailment or healing.
Lucky me to have been in the right place at the right time, seeing as how I was in the belly of the medical beast -- the model that says how you feel has nothing to do with your physical condition. After a while I made my own attempts to help facilitate such experiences for people in the hospital, and they responded. This worked especially well in the Intensive Care Unit and in Hospice, where there is enough privacy to get to stuff uninterrupted.
ANDY: I react with fascination. And I donít care if itís real or symbolic as long as the outcome is real. Iím inclined to stay skeptical, but I facilitate as best I can anyway. One incident where a client regressed to a past life and relived a drowning, and then emerged free from asthma symptoms, was very compelling.
ANDY: "I use hypnotherapy as the opposite of the overload experience that often comes with primaling -- to reach the same place, or at least to help the person understand that going into primal territory can be a safe experience. Hypnotherapy eases a person into a pure parasympathetic relaxation response. Thatís when Iíll remind them to visit something not so safe in their memory that might elicit an emergency body response. I use it as a way to reassure people who might otherwise freak-out at their own primal deep feeling response, that itís OK to go there. It leads to a place of learning that ďOK, this is just a memory. This is just a body responseĒ, and teaches the fundamental healthy tenant of feeling therapy: ďThis is me having my feelings, not them having me.Ē
ANDY: When I do point-holding, yes. Based on a simple principle: people who hold their feelings, hold their breath. Sometimes outside the point holding arena, I remind people to breathe, or become aware of how they are holding their breath. The breath is central to feeling, and so is awareness of it.
ANDY: If by spirituality you mean the awareness of the Self that was there before anything was programmed or introduced into experience from the outside, I say Centropic Integration definitely increases it. And because that self is so original and real, touching into it in therapy does spill over into the personís everyday life. They become sensitized people, more aware of the frailty of others, and more in touch with the suffering that comes from not feeling. People free from their own painful memories, who have taken the path of integrating their stored hurts into consciousness, inevitably find an abiding sense of depth in their lives.
ANDY: Yes. I use evocative music as a background sometimes, and that seems to stimulate the archetypal levels of awareness. Also a prayerful attitude. When I, as the therapist, approach the session large, it has more probability of going large, even when the client goes into smallness. I hope you get what I mean by that.
ANDY: The entire perinatal time is fair game for early imprinting. Iíve seen clientís lips turn blue, and forceps marks appear on their forehead in an emergence of a birth experience. Iíve seen clients flop around like fish, in what they later reported was a fetal memory. Iíve even had some report painful memories with a return to the spark of conception. Scientists used to believe that babies not only didnít feel things, but that they wouldnít remember or be influenced by painful experiences, but the research now definitively shows that that is not true. I believe people can remember imprints from embryonic, fetal, and newborn times, and thereby undo the unconscious, damaging effects of repressing them.
ANDY: Repressed trauma is not the only source of deep feelings. We have the capacity to feel deeply because we are human beings, and thatís not just when we are kids.
I believe depression is actually disconnected grieving, a way not to feel. Depression is flat-lining of feeling which doesnít necessarily connect to events from the distant past. Depression is a symptom of dealing with overwhelming grief. Some people get on with feeling, and thereby get through the depression, and others fight it, and thereby get stuck in it.
Itís certainly possible to be faced with a current trauma or shock, and become so overwhelmed by the grief response, and thereby slip into depression even as an adult with no prior childhood trauma, repressed or otherwise. Even as adults we retain the built-in capacity to get through difficult events by splitting, or fragmenting our own experience, and then integrating things bit by bit. Yes, adults without any traumatic history can still get depressed.
To be the victim of senseless violence, or to experience great loss, or both, can set anyone into a deep feeling response. The events of 9/11 are a testimony to that. A person would naturally struggle to find meaning in all that suffering, and ďgetting right with lifeĒ again might not happen all at once. That would make a certain period of the grieving response, even in a feeling person, seem depressive.
ANDY: I believe Iíve achieved critical mass. I still regress sometimes, and sometimes to places deeper than Iíve been before. I especially like a deep hot bath for those times. Am I over all infantile behavior? Ask my wife.
ANDY: Writing my book helped me get all my insights and experiences with therapy out there, and I felt compelled to do that. Iím pleased that I did, and that Iíve gotten a great response from readers. People have asked me to write a follow-up to Deep Feeling . . ., and include many more tales of therapy, so Iím thinking about it. But frankly, I donít feel so compelled to do so. I think my next book would focus on living in relationship from a deep feeling perspective. I think itís the best arena for personal development because itís so intimate and itís harder to hide out. That would be a book Iíd buy!