"Acquiring spirituality has also taught me that if your lot in life, like mine, was
initially cast and subsequently set for decades in a sea of agonizing anxiety
and in hurt feelings of rejection, helplessness, and being unwanted,
then the odds of coping with these emotions are better
if you walk the spiritual path."
-- from the Prologue to Dr. Pollock's Divinely Inspired
Divinely Inspired is a look at the author's spiritually charged primal therapy. It is also a confessional autobiography. In his book Dr. Pollock recounts his ". . . personal story of spiritual awakening arising out of a traumatic childhood." The author is essentially a self-primaler, but recommends that others not follow his trail. Rightfully, he believes that one should not do the therapy alone. The author has his doctorate in Biophysics and is currently on the faculty of the Oral Biology and Pathology Department at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York.
Suffering from excruciating headaches from age four, Pollock describes the parental abuse he suffered as a child. In Chapter 3, Mostly Bad Memories, he tells readers about the many put downs, humiliations, and rejections he experienced from both his mother and father. Here is a particularly poignant primal scene:
At age forty Pollock met Lucille, who amazed him because she was able to tell him what he was feeling. He felt that it was uncanny the way she was able to read his mind. Lucille explained that her insights were the result of primal therapy and gave him a copy of Arthur Janov's The Primal Scream. He read the book and one day while resting on a mattress in his loft besides her, he described his first primal of "My mother doesn't love me." He became frightened since he did not believe it was possible that he was an unloved child. The first primal feeling seemingly had arisen spontaneously with no effort on his part.
Later he went into primal therapy with Tracy Sheppard, [ Facing the Wolf: Inside the Process of Deep Feeling Therapy see book review: ] In therapy, the happy childhood that he had unintentionally made up began melting away and was replaced by the truth of what had really happened during his infancy and childhood. In the darkness of the therapy room he once again became the child of his past, and even spoke with the voice of a child during the primal regressions.
Dr. Pollock believes that he could only have begun to do very deep primal therapy after he became "spiritual." The spiritual feelings themselves, were not deep, but they changed his life. He had written five primal journals detailing his therapy experiences. One day in a pique of frustration he threw the journals from his loft to the floor below.
The sounds of the journals falling below were accompanied by a loud, strong voice, proclaiming "And you shall be mine." He immediately changed his mind about disposing his primal journals, although later, the journals and the primal therapy books were to be discarded. Twenty years later, when he returned to primal therapy, he would wish that he had kept them. The mystical experience happened before he had had a psychotic episode of manic depression.
Two weeks later he heard a voice saying, "And you shall have." His spiritual experiences were not of earth-shaking proportions. They consisted of the hearing of an enigmatic voice repeating statements as above and visions of the sky in various colors. The sky visions, incredibly, were concurrently seen by the author's daughter.
Pollock began having manic episodes as well as paranoid psychotic ideations accompanied with occasional hallucinations. As the mania diminished it was replaced by depression and he was eventually given electro-convulsive therapy.
The research grants for which he was applying were not approved as his world began falling apart. He then began descending into his second major depression. After a psychiatric hospital stay, he requested discharge and received it for legal reasons; not because of an improvement in his condition. Subsequently, he had one suicide attempt at home.
The third time Pollock heard the voices they were saying, "This is not of me." In Florida both he and his daughter, viewed names of family members being written in the sky. Some of his jewelry, as well as his clothing, began turning different colors. He searched for meanings in these cryptic events which were becoming more and more a part of his life. He felt as though God was giving him symbolic messages but always in a way which were not easy to decipher.
The author writes that as a result of these spiritual experiences his anxiety level dropped to a degree that eventually allowed him to feel preverbal, birth and intrauterine material in primal therapy. Thus, spirituality had become a way for him to have a successful primal therapy. He believes that through spirituality God has reduced his storehouse of primal pain.
Dr. Pollock surmises that if fetuses could speak, they would say things such as,
Here I was, a little boy at my first wedding. I was watching the other kids dance with their parents, so I bravely went over to my mother, who was laughing and already dancing. I nudged her leg and pointed to the other kids on the floor. Momentarily, she stopped dancing with her partner. With one quick spin, my mother abruptly let me go, grabbed her partner, and then spent the rest of the evening dancing with him. That feeling of everyone looking at me and feeling unwanted came again as I stood at the center of the dance floor all alone, feeling very alone. I hadn't expected this outcome after it had taken all my courage to approach her. I needed my mother to love me while I stood there hurting. pp. 47-48
The author believes that love and caring kindness immediately after birth can help to compensate for womb traumas. He sees the therapy as a means of regressing onesself back in time as well as regressing to earlier repressed feelings. Pollock believes that there is no logic to the types and sequences of material which comes up for resolution during primal therapy. The content of an upcoming primal, he writes, is completely unknown to the experiencer and usually is out of conscious control. Indeed, the person primaling is often as surprised as the therapist when the material from the primaler's now un-blocked consciousness reveals itself, often accompanied with many anguished feelings and tears. The normal day-to-day living of one's life, with its minor and sometimes major emotional upsets, can trigger feelings out of biographical sequence.
He believes wholeheartedly in intentionally changing one's behavior to trigger primal material. Consciously changing the way one responds in a particular situation can effectively speed-up the resolution of one's neurosis. At the same time it allows the primaler to widen his behavorial options because once those dreaded changes become second-nature, different ways of acting easily become possible. Neurotic stereotyped compulsive behaviors, which are often not in one's best interest, no longer have to be performed as one's choices are less a result of the repressed energy of early childhood, birth and intrauterine trauma.
Dr. Pollock emphasizes that returning to the trauma itself is where resolution of the trauma takes place, but he recognizes that "the whole process of returning to the womb . . . is bloody awful. You have to stay the course to reap the benefits. . . ," he writes. He also believes that when one feels unloved in the present, it allows regression to the past in primals where the original feeling of being unloved had its early beginnings.
"I'm terrified; this is too much for me; it's taking too long; I need to get this over with; I need to do something now; you're hurrying me; hurry up; you startled me; I feel too much pressure; don't leave me alone; I feel helpless; I feel anxious; I'm afraid; I don't know what to do; I don't know where to turn; Everything is going wrong; I need space; I'm stuck; I feel anger because you're holding me back; I have to get out of here; I feel not wanted; I need to be liked; I need to feel a part of this; I feel frustrated; I need you; I hate you; I feel hurt; I feel sad." p. 151.
* * * *
Pollock's spiritual experiences are similar to those of others who have had mystical or God experiences. Often, they comprise these characteristics:
But is the origin of the experience really from some source beyond the brain? Has God truly revealed himself? Some who have studied the phenomena and the neuro-psychology of mysticism believe that the material experienced originates from within one's own brain. They insist that such happenings may even be triggered by electro-magnetic waveforms applied to the temporal lobes of susceptible persons. [ See website: Spirituality and the Brain. ]
Those who have a facility in accessing these experiences include, but are not limited to, temporal lobe epileptics, persons under a lot of stress, those who in the past have ingested psychedelics, such as LSD ( psychedelic drugs can permanently lower one's defenses - See Grof's LSD Psychotherapy ) , undergone sensory deprivation, starvation, head injuries, isolation, the death of a loved one, were abused, neglected and deprived as a child, or had injuries during birth. All those who have had such histories are especially susceptible to having God experiences. Even listening to feelingful or evocative music or rhythmic drumming can aid connection to spiritual feelings.
The set and setting of the spiritual experience are important variables. It is one thing to have a spiritual experience in a clinical setting, e.g., via electro-magnetic waveforms from a helmet whereby the experiences would feel less profound and less convincing, compared to having a spontaneous experience of the same intensity in a synagogue, mosque or church.
In the later case because of the religious setting, it would be expected that the feeling would be more profound and much more convincing. And if the spiritual experience would take place in a group setting, along with other worshipers, it probably would be even more powerful. The architectural splendor of the great European cathedrals of the Middle Ages combined with inspiring choirs and magnificent organ music have undoubtedly worked their magic on scores of worshipers.
But the God Experience does not require a religious setting. The beauty of nature, a sunrise or a sunset, the wonder of a leaf, the symmetry of cascading water in a fountain - all can be sufficient to connect us with deep life-changing spiritual feelings. [ See on this website book review: The Ecstatic Journey: The Transforming Power of Mystical Experience by Sophy Burnham. ]
- The feeling of having been specifically chosen by God for a mission or revelation;
- The covering over of anxiety by the experience of having had a revelation from God;
- Perceiving extraordinary synchronicity or coincidences of events that ordinarily would not seem to be meaningfully related;
- The reduction or elimination of the fear of death and dying.
Canadian neuroscientist, Michael A. Persinger, Ph.D., author of Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs [ See book review ], writes,
"In general, the more severe the disturbance, the more intense the God Experience. . . . The power of the God Experience shames any known therapy. With a single burst in the temporal lobe, people find structure and meaning in seconds. With it comes the personal conviction of truth and the sense of self-selection." -- pps. 33 and 17
Others, however, who have studied spiritual phenomena, believe that
In his most recent book, Psychology of the Future (2002) [Book Review] Grof points out:
"(s)pirituality in its genuine form is a legitimate and important dimension of existence and it is incorrect to discount it as a product of ignorance, superstition, primitive magical thinking, or pathology. Mystical experiences should not be seen as indications of mental disease, but as normal and highly desirable manifestations of the human psyche that have extraordinary healing and transformative potential."
Stanislav Grof, M.D. in The Future of Psychology - Conceptual Challenges to Psychiatry, Psychology, and Psychotherapy
"And if somebody in our culture would have during divine service in the church a spiritual experience of the kind that inspired every major religion of the world, an average minister would very likely send him or her to a psychiatrist. We go to church and listen to stories about mystical experiences had by people two thousand and more years ago. At the same time, similar experiences that occur to contemporary people are seen as signs of mental disease. It has happened on many occasions that people who had been brought to psychiatric facilities as a result of having had intense spirtual experience were hospitalized, subjected to tranquilizing medication or even shock treatments, and receive psychopathological diagnosis labels that stigmatized them for the rest of their lives." p. 216. [ Also see book review, The Stormy Search For the Self
by Christina and Stanislav Grof, M.D. ]
For other articles on this subject, see on this website, The Psychology of Mysticism