Finding Primal Therapy

A Conversation from the Primal-Page Message Board

by Laurie, Supsy, Smudger, Linda, Ian, Caroline and Michael

Laurie: Yes, Smudger, Primal Therapy has produced at least one authentic wandering Buddha. In my case he was an authentic wandering eccentric Australian. I happened across him thirteen years ago. Of course, I wasn't looking for therapy. However, I recognized that he was an extraordinary person and that he had something to teach me. In retrospect, I would say that he was the most emotionally healthy person I had ever met ... it was stunning to meet someone who actually said what he meant while he was saying it. Long story short, I followed him up a trackless mountain in the wilds of Oregon. He promised that I would get my feelings back, and I was not disappointed. On the contrary, I was amazed. The man was a brave soul -- he honored and embraced whatever came up -- and he had cast-iron boundaries. After the intensive, he pushed me gently but firmly out of the nest. And I have ventured forth to have a happy life, one that is rich with feeling.

Sometimes things go right.

Ian: Thanks Laurie! That's a very encouraging story. Can you tell us a bit more about the ways in which your life improved?

Laurie: You're welcome. Thanks for asking. I wasn't always so encouraging, believe me. I was exceedingly well defended with words; I had a smart answer for everything.

Improved ... so many ways ... every way. I fell in love with myself up on the mountain. Deeply. Everything that I do follows from that love.

I didn't speak to my father for over twenty years. After coming down from the mountain, I drove back to California, walked into the house and phoned him -- it was easy. As real as can be, I said, "This is Laurie. I would have written, but I didn't want to wait that long. You are my only dad, and all I ever wanted to do was love you." He turned out to be a magnificent father.

Next phone call was to friends in Seattle, "I'm ready -- come and fetch me," I said. Once I started feeling everything, I knew straightaway that California was not my place.

For twenty years, I had not been able to figure out what to do for a career, despite having several college degrees. Within three months of arriving in Seattle, my true calling found me ... it was easy.

I weep for joy at concerts of J. S. Bach. When a friend tells me something sad, I cry. I live surrounded by pine trees and mountains and ocean ... it's a must. I was transformed into myself.

Perhaps one of the reasons why people haven't flocked to primal therapy is that they aren't quite ready to change so radically.

Supsy: Could your wandering Buddha have been Graham Farrant by any chance? What do you mean "big deal primal guy"? Was he famous, or a guru, or have a big centre?

Laurie: Dr. John English ... medical doctor, osteopath, big deal primal guy in Sydney back in the 1970's. I happened across him in the Napa Valley in California.

I'm inferring from what John told me, and he was very modest. Apparently he established a city centre and a place in the country where people could go to do intensives. He said -- I'm sure in response to my million questions -- that he had put many people through the therapy back then, trained therapists, etc. He also told an amusing story about being on television with a panel of men -- an obstetrician, a psychiatrist, the primal guy. They were about to hold forth on the topic to an audience of women. John jumped out of his chair, "What do a bunch of men know about giving birth! Let's get some women up here!"

I really have no idea what his level of fame or success was in Australia. I wasn't interested in credentials. Suffice it to say that I met the right teacher, I followed him up the right mountain and it worked.

Smudger: himalaya hallelluya

Laurie: My sentiments exactly!

Smudger, at writing you're the champ.

Best to you ...

Supsy: So John changed your life from that one meeting on the mountain? Did you end up having primal therapy?

Michael: Wow! Quite a story!

Laurie: John English didn't change my life. He was the catalyst.

I jumped into the conversation to let Smudger know that, yes, there is an independent thinker somewhere who did some good with primal therapy. However, I can't resist the temptation to distill the story into a paragraph.

I met John English because my sister was coming to San Francisco on holiday, and she insisted on a mud bath. Is truth not stranger than fiction? I made appointments at the Golden Haven Spa in Calistoga for mud baths and a massage for me. John English was doing body treatments -- remember, he was an osteopath -- and I wound up with him. Returned to see him in Napa over several months' time for treatment of a dodgy knee ... all the while asking questions. Finally, the knee was fixed and I went to say good-bye.

John took one look at me and said, "Aren't you getting a little tired of holding yourself together?" Apparently I was, because I came completely unglued and cried all over his doctor coat. Mind you, I'm a polite lady; I had never done such a thing before. He seemed really comfortable with my appalling behavior. He said, "This is all primal stuff; however, I don't do that type of work anymore." This was the first I had heard of him and primal therapy. I dried my tears, asked more questions, said good-bye and went home to read the Janov book.

Put the book down and knew that, before I had any more relationships or any more careers, I would do this therapy. Called the Institute listed in the book an found out that the therapy cost a gazillion dollars and that you had to move to L.A. for months. At that time I was out of work, out of ideas, cooking for a wealthy family and living under the stairs. Perfectly ready for a change. So, I thought, if I am going to beg and borrow to do this, I am going to go to John one more time and ask him all of my questions about primal therapy. Besides, I thought, maybe he knows some nut such as himself who is still doing the therapy somewhere.

Back to Napa, onto the treatment table, I said, "John, I'm really here to ask all about primal therapy ... what is it like? What is life like afterwards? Are there any nuts like you anywhere in the world still doing it?" He pulled up a chair and patiently answered my questions. When I ran out of questions, I asked, "May I have my treatment now?" Halfway through the treatment he threw up both hands and said, "Alright ... I'll work with you. You have two choices. Either you can get a group together in San Francisco, build a room and I'll work with you there. Or ... my wife and I are building a cabin in the Klamath mountains in Oregon. If you come, I'll work with you there." "I'll come," I said. "Laurie, it's very primitive. No amenities whatsoever." "If need be, I'll pitch a tent," I said.

There were to be four participants in a three-week intensive. One by one, the other three chickened out. So ... I had the therapist available 24/7 with no work but to get my feelings back. And so began a fortunate life.

You see -- my life did not change in one meeting. Thanks for asking.

Caroline: Laurie, are you in love with this guy John?

Laurie: Of course I am ... a monumental case of transference. I cop to it, definitely. Sometimes even our neurosis works to the good ... I might not have had the chutzpah and perservance to off-road it up a mountain in my Toyota if I hadn't had a colossal crush on him. Small price to pay for the therapy that I went through and the life that I have now.

I live in here, so I can't parse out what part is projection and what part is gratitude.

Smudger: Laurie , have you had to have more 'bodywork' since your mountain magik' ? What sort of life has the knee lived since ?

Laurie: I've been a massage therapist for thirteen years. So ... I've given and received untold amounts of bodywork.

The knee has held up pretty well all these years ... I run two miles a day. But it was never totally fixed until I refined my skills enough to fix it myself. A lesson in there, perhaps?

Linda: Thank you for sharing that wonderful story! I love hearing stories of how the universe opens up to us when we are ready.

Supsy: Nice story. Did John go to a primal centre to learn the therapy, or was he self-taught?

Laurie: Thanks ... he trained at Janov's institute in the 1970's.

Supsy: I wonder, did he have any complaints about Janov or the Institute? Was he certified, or did he walk out like other trainees?

Laurie: I wish that I had something to add to the Janov debate on behalf of John English, but we didn't get around to discussing exactly what he did there or how he felt about it.

You didn't ask for my two cents' worth, I know. However, I'm grateful to Janov. I feel that he happened across a natural process whereby I was able to cough up, walk through, and be done with stuff that otherwise would fester away in the subconscious where I couldn't get at it. I'm grateful to Freud too, and he certainly had his share of Victorian peculiarities.

I am also sad that primal therapy didn't start out in the hands of someone who could bring it to the world in a bigger way. Maybe the world isn't right for it just now.

Dear John,

Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful story.

It's sooo encouraging to know about people who have deeply changed their lives, just by allowing themselves to get into their true feelings, the ones that are beneath the "feelings" that are not true feelings, but acting outs of old pain.

I haven't got that deep yet, I know. But nevertheless my life has changed in amazing ways, just by the way I have allowed myself to feel so many things.

I used to be sooo bitter about life just a few years ago and my life has changed dramatically in that sense. I feel now so much more comfortable being around people. I actually enjoy it immensely and people do notice this and feel comfortable being around me as well, regardless of whether they are very much in touch with their feelings or not and in this sense I can understand very well the dramatic change within this woman, Laurie, regarding her father.

It happened to me with my own father and I helped me tremendously to make peace with him before he died, knowing that he just did the best he could with the awareness he had during his lifetime and all I had left with him was this deep love I had always felt for him, understanding that he could just not help it - behaving the way he did due to the lack of awareness about his inner pain and his huge defenses.

I find myself now being able to see this within people around me. Like being able to see both sides, the acting out of their unresolved inner pain, as well as their authentic selves beneath the pain and acting out. I can even do this with people who hurt me at times, like my ex-husband and I just cannot feel hatred. I do feel anger when I am hurt or misunderstood, but I can see the other side of their pain as well.

I know I still have a long way to go regarding feeling old buried feelings, but it has helped me enough to be able to live my life in a different way - a very different way than how I used to.


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