Creating Positive Scenarios: The Other Half of the Cure

by Mickel Z. Adzema


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 life.


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 warrants it.

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.


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.''