NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE SCENARIOS
Janov, among others, has pointed out that a distinguishing characteristic
of neurosis is the tendency to get involved in, or to create, situations
that are a re-creation of the original trauma. The neurotic tries,
unconsciously and unsuccessfully, to resolve past traumas in the present.
Thus, for example, a woman with an abusive father marries an abusive
man with the unreal hope of making him kind.
In Primal we find how important it is to relive and resolve the original
trauma in order to break the negative pattern persisting in the present.
However, merely reliving the trauma and being able to discontinue
recreating the resulting negative scenario in the present is only
half the cure. The really healthy person is able to actively create
positive scenarios for her- or himself.
I would not deny that we all to some extent create (or at least try
to create), situations for ourselves that give us positive reward.
We all realize, consciously anyway, that certain life situations give
us more pleasure/satisfaction than others; and we try to have for
ourselves the kinds of jobs, friends, spouses, living situations,
physical environments, and so on that will be most rewarding. To some
extent we are successful. Most of us are able to create life situations
that have at least some ability to make us feel satisfied at times.
But very few of us are free from continually repeating certain negative
patterns. People in primal therapy also find certain negative patterns
hard to avoid creating in the present, even when they have taken them
back to birth, and beyond, and seem to have released and integrated
their primal issues thoroughly.
The other half of the cure -- where we are able to truly free ourselves
from the negative patterns -- involves having access to experiences
on a more fundamental level than that of traumatic experiences.
The neurotic, after having relived the roots of neurosis, is left
with a knowledge of the way she or he acts to limit and undermine
her or his life and pleasure. This does not necessarily mean that
she or he knows how to act in order to expand her or his life and
enjoyment of it. Thus, we observe a passive, do-nothing period among
many primal people -- no longer in the throes of the negative energy,
which has been and continues to be dissipated, yet without, then,
any basis for action. This do-nothing tendency has often been noted
in regards to ``post-primal'' persons both by Janov in his writings
and is also a frequent comment made about them by themselves and is
a recurrent criticism made of them by others.
In response to this gloomy tendency amongst some primalers, I would
like to point out that the experiences of some primal people, as well
as Stanislav Grof's findings, show that there are positive experiences
to be had on our feeling journey. These experiences are as fundamental,
and ultimately more fundamental, than the negative experiences. The
second half of the ``cure'' occurs when one is able to tap in to these
positive experiences and to create, in the present, the scenarios
that would trigger these positive feelings.
At this stage of the cure, one actively manipulates one's environment
to create the life situation producing the most in the way of positive
reward. Yet the pattern seems often to be that for a long time in
therapy the client will understand the roots of her or his act-outs
. . . but that she or he will nevertheless continue to recreate the
same negative scenarios; or their exact opposite will be created.
An example might be a woman who was made to feel that she always had
to be the ``good little girl'' or else suffer loss of parental love
and approval. Feeling this personal truth in therapy, this woman may
feel liberated knowing that she can never get her parent's love and
that therefore she can be any way she pleases now. If she then goes
about being a ``bad girl,'' she invariably finds herself triggered
back into her own old feelings because she begins feeling that in
fact her parents were right about her and that she is basically a
``bad girl.'' She thus has to continue entering the feeling and discharging
it (now from the other end) in order to restore her sense of self-esteem
and feeling of liberation. What is missing for her is a model of a
way of being or acting which is outside of and separate from the
whole negative scenario of ``good/bad girl.''
We can quit triggering those old painful feelings when we can begin
to create scenarios that are outside of the light and shadow, outside
of the do's and don'ts, that are not tied into the old complexes,
and which therefore, can trigger positive feelings. The important
part, however, is that in order to be able to create positive scenarios,
one must feel through enough of the Pain to have access to what Grof
has called the ``positive COEX systems,'' i.e., the positively charged
``primal scenes.'' When one re-experiences these pleasant memories
and integrates them, one can begin to understand the source of joy
in one's life and can act to shape one's life and one's environment
in a way that will be conducive to eliciting that joy. These positive
feelings and memories embody a pattern that is totally unlike and
totally unrelated to our overlying negative patterns. Hence these
patterns can be the model for a truly effective restructuring of one's
PAIN AS PATTERN NOT POOL
The crucial idea is that, once one has unblocked certain pathways,
one need not keep oneself in situations that keep directing energy
through them (for though the ``charge'' may be released, the ``pattern''
of that pain remains). This entails more in the way of acting upon
one's life situation to change aspects of it that are pain-provoking.
This also means that certain aspects of one's life situation, which
are not changed, can continually provoke the same sequence of neurological
firing and the person can be ``stuck'' feeling the same feelings again
and again without any gains being made. This can happen when, for
example, a person who has had a delayed birth and constantly carries
with him or her the pattern of being trapped can continually have
that feeling coming up when the situation in the present is that he
or she is trapped (in an unfulfilling job, for example) and that
what he or she needs to do to change those feelings is to get untrapped
in the present. Merely feeling that trapped feeling over and over
can be just a tension release and not lead to any permanent gains.
Yet we cannot quit our old patterns unless we become aware of alternatives.
And that can't be done unless we have felt back and through to the
time before the first ``shutdown'' and felt the positive experiences
that have set the patterns through which it is possible for us to
feel joy and happiness. Without knowing our ``joy grids,'' we have
little guidance in attempting to change our life situation so that
it stops feeding our ``pain grids.''
Pain is, therefore, ultimately pattern not pool. It is not simply
a matter of running off a finite amount of neurological sequences
or emptying any primal pool that causes real change in our negative
pulls. Rather, cure occurs when the individual has felt and received
insight into a particular pain enough to be able to change the situation
in the present which keeps triggering that pain.
It is not that some pains do not go away completely through simple
primaling. We've all experienced that some do. Yet they go away mainly
through one's tracing the roots of that later pain to deeper and even
earlier experiences. The pain emanating from one's earliest experiences,
however, especially womb and birth experiences, are quite tenacious
and seem incurable. It is possible that these deep imprints may never
lose their capacity for being triggered -- if the present situation
However, being aware of the possibility of going beyond them into
the even deeper joy grids can open one to discovering one's positive
early scenes and patterns. Accessing them, one might then use them
as a guide for restructuring one's life positively rather than simply
acting out of, or in opposition to, the negative patterns.
SPIRITUAL GRIDS, ONE'S ``ORIGINAL FACE''
Finally, it is important to point out that interwoven with the joy
grids, and yet extending beyond them, are what we might call the ``spiritual
grids.'' It appears that the ultimate resolution of our negativity
and the most workable patterns for living our lives occurs when we
feel back to and access these earliest and most subtle of patternings.
At this level one can be said to be working to manifest one's ``original
face.'' Yet we find that this most unique and personal self is the
one most intimate and interrelated with the real selves of others,
the world, and the Universe at large. It is in the attempt to bring
such heaven onto earth that one can truly affirm what Janov optimistically
and boldly, though prematurely, proclaimed: "the cure for neurosis.''