The 2004 Australian Teaching Group

The Leader's Perspective

by Paul Vereshack, M.D.

Dr. Paul Vereshack, of Toronto, has been both a depth therapist as well as a teacher of his clients of how to do the therapy sans therapist. Indeed, his book, The Psychotherapy of the Deepest Self, while not specifically written for that purpose, has been used by many as a self-instruction primalling manual. Paul has made the online edition available online at no cost. (See, Help Me, I'm Tired of Feeling Bad ). In an interview I made with him a number of years ago, he mentioned that one of his ultimate goals in therapy was to make the client independent of him.

After many thousands of primal hours as a therapist and witness to other's feeling process, Paul began conducting workshops both at home and abroad.

Dr. Vereshack believes that when a client feels that a therapist needs a tune up it takes a lot of courage to hang in with that conviction whether it be projection or truth or some of each. Paul feels that in the end, it is the leader's responsibility to steer the feeling process until it ends up clean, regardless of the route it takes to arrive there. This article is about some scary days and nights which he encountered during a workshop in Australia in the Fall of 2004.

In 2005, he will be leading his second workshop in Ireland. Obviously, his reputation as a skilled workshop leader and teacher has reached many. The workshop is presently full and a waiting list for participants has been started.

-- John A. Speyrer, Webmeister, The Primal Psychotherapy Page

When I went to teach "Feeling and Body Oriented Depth Psychotherapy" in Australia this past fall, I had a definite teaching plan in mind. It was my idea, to work with individual participants on the mat in front of the group, then call for comments from us all, including the person acting as subject, so that we might discuss what went well and what could have been done in a more helpful manner. It was also my plan to allow anyone who wished to act as therapist and receive the same feed back.

It was never possible to run the course this way, and the first eight days of the group became one of the most stressful times in my life. The significant events that occurred from my perspective were as follows:

On the first evening, while discussing my orientation to primal therapy, I shared the fact that after eight years of doing primal work between 1976 and 1984, during many birth sequences I began bursting blood vessels in my face. I became afraid that I might burst one in my brain and backed away from the very intensive work I was doing. Instead, since that time, I have modified my deep work and have written about that modification on my website, under the "Internet Questions" button on the front page. The article is titled, "Is There a Possibility of Modifying The Depth, Intensity and Length of Primal Therapy?" I said to the Australian group that over the last several years, I have only had to lie down once or twice a month and I have done it that less intense way.

It was at this point that the group I had planned to run became impossible.

A senior primal participant moved quickly into extreme rage toward me and the essence of what he/she began to scream, was that I was a liar, a hypocrite, a false advertiser, and that I had absolutely no right to expect anyone to do primal work in front of me if I wasn't regularly doing deep work on myself. The criticisms continued that I was a fake and a phony who essentially defended himself from his deeper stuff and that no words I could speak would make up for that essential and ground level dishonesty.

This rage continued all through the day, pushing aside any hope of organizing the teaching I had planned.

The following day, on day two, I told the group they had every right to know that I could do primal work, and I lay down and did a primal sequence on myself in front of them.

It didn't make any difference. The raging toward me continued. It must be said that the one who was raging did also take the feelings about my seeming dishonesty deeply down into his/her own primal places and did begin to have seriously important insights about his/her own past that were unrelated to what or who I am in the present.

However, on day three, the raging at me continued, and it was continued at me as though it was the actual truth in the present.

The force of this experience was so powerful that it triggered in me my deepest sense of myself as being nothing. My father had sent me away when I was three, and my mother sent me off to boarding school at age seven. Raised then without loving parents, I reached the only emotional conclusion available to me, the conclusion that I was in fact worthless. Why else would they have thrown me away.

In response to that parental rejection, by age eight my nickname was "Professor," as I began to speak with "authority." Unknown to me at that time, in my desperation, I was developing a "teaching" persona that reassured me -- reassured me that I was not in fact, the nothing that I knew I was.

Thus, under this unceasing attack in the Australian group I was having to work on myself in the night, going down and down and down into the "Zero" at the centre of my selfhood, the zero that underlies so much of my push to be a teacher. My days became a nightmare of confrontation and my nights a sleepless journey into the nothingness at my core. The pain and the fear, that I had finally been discovered, were truly immense.

Of course each morning I appeared before the group and held to my calm professional persona as the group slipped for me into a chaos of rage and hurt.

So day after day I decided that I would have to do my own primal work in front of the group if anything was to be saved, and day after day it didn't make any difference; the raging at me continued. Mostly it was coming from one person with others both doing their own work on themselves, both related and unrelated to all this.

From time to time, some of the others would take a moment or two off from there own journey to chime in with criticisms of my selfhood ranging from mild to devastating. I was amazed that the rest of the group for the most part kept working on their own stuff.

On day five, day six, day seven and day eight again and again, I did my own primal work in front of the group. Each time I did this my chief critic acted as my therapist. The raging one, when I lay down to search inside myself, became my facilitator, and a very very good one indeed. This person was in absolute alignment with me no matter where I went and absolutely caring and compassionate. On two occasions I knelt in front of my nemesis and thanked him/her for the excellent therapeutic presence that he/she was giving to me.

In my work in the group, facilitated so well by the "raging one," I went back to the first few weeks of my life. I had been fed by my mother and the nurse she hired while they were wearing surgical masks (because of my mother's terror driven cleanliness), and I saw that because I was staring up into masks instead of a loving maternal face, I saw that the result of looking into that "no face" left me with no face. So of course I had had to manufacture a face as I grew up. A false face was better than no face at all. And what could be more powerful than the false face of a doctor.

Finally, on day eight I sat crying in front of the group as the "no face," "no self," little boy and saw so clearly how all my professional achievements were designed simply to overlay that hurt child. It is not the first time I had had that insight, but it was again powerfully with me.

At that point, finally, after eight solid days of raging at me, my chief critic and the group as a whole relented, and real calm settled over us all.

Day nine and day ten were companionable, with each person working on themselves and the group as whole sharing stories about their growth journeys.

We all went out to share a last night's dinner..... and it was good.

*    *    * 

Conclusions: What stands out for me one month later is this:

  1. I have the strangest and deepest feeling that I had to go through this test exactly as I allowed myself to go through it. I have been greatly helped in both my personal journey and my teaching journey.
  2. I am prepared to lie down and work on myself in any group I lead, if it becomes obvious that I am out of balance in my teaching or in the healing that I offer.
  3. During one small lull in the group process I did have the space to work in depth with someone. Another senior group member who was observing this, said to me afterwards, "Paul, no matter what my disagreements with you might be, I feel I must say that you have raised the practice of Depth Therapy to the level of art."
Not everything I do is by any means at the level of art. There is something however after this experience that I do know.

What I know is that although there will be a safe place in any group I run for any level or any kind of feeling intensity, I can never again allow myself to be pulled so far away from demonstrating the basics of the Art of Depth Psychotherapy. And I must do so in the way that I feel is best. This is my promise to any group of 12 people around the world who call me to teach them.

Paul Vereshack

(I would like to offer my appreciation to the client, talked about above, who insisted upon my being authentic.)

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