Answers To Feeling Therapy Oriented Questions (Dec, 1997 - Improving One's Primal Sessions) by Paul Vereshack M.D.

Question:-- How can one have improved primal sessions?

What are some of the pitfalls to be avoided in primal or other types of deep regressive feeling therapy? -- J.S.

Increasing the Growth Ingredients In Primal Therapy

(Notwithstanding his M.D. Dr. Vereshack is not a licensed physician)

by Paul Vereshack, M.D.

In my heart, without any substantiating proof, I hold certain key beliefs about primal work (deep feeling-oriented regressive psychotherapy). I hold these beliefs to be true.

I do not have the time nor the statistical skill to conduct research in these areas. I will leave that to those who come later; those who come to love this wonderful and effective approach to healing human pain, those who wish to put this type of therapy on a secure experimental footing.

Science often spends decades proving what the human heart already knows.

  • The first great truth of regressive therapy is that re-experiencing buried pain and the events surrounding it heals. It brings insight, and physical and emotional relief of a most profound kind.

  • The second great truth of regressive therapy, is that children do not raise themselves and end up healthy. There must be a trellis for them to grow on. There must be a therapeutic presence, a therapist-parent, to both anchor and stimulate the child-patient's growth. This presence literally triggers (Catalyses) the unfolding of mind body structures which form the ground of the healthy personality. (Sometimes doing therapy alone may yield insight without these inner structures.) This could conceivably lead to pain that won't end. The therapist presence must be both loving and knowledgeable to the client and the task at hand. Loving ignorance does not suffice.

This triggering, nurturing, supporting function is given over to the therapist during the period when the regressed patient's central nervous system is wide open as it was in childhood. The openness is the same, and has the same requirements. Many patients, therapists and writers would like to slide on by this powerful and risk-making truth.

The paradigm of the client therapist relationship is found in the mother-child relationship.

  • The Parent-Therapist must be "Eternally Present".

  • The Parent-Therapist must be "loving" within appropriate bounds.

  • The Parent-Therapist must be accurately empathic. Reflecting and clarifying the corridors and connections of the client's pain and the client's health.

  • The Parent-Therapist must touch and hold the child-client where necessary and asked for.

The patient however must do the real work and not have it taken away with premature explanations and "well meaning" help.

On the other hand, defensive neutrality which leaves the Child-Patient starving for the essentials of presence and touch is absolutely indefensible. If you wouldn't withhold a process from your child, don't withhold it from your patient.

All this requires an amazing sense of the appropriate and the balanced in therapeutic response. With training and appropriate love in our hearts, we can be "good enough."

One more crucial thing however is required. I did not mention it in the book directly and I now take this opportunity to correct that oversight.

I have come to believe that all regressive therapy patients and their therapists should be in therapeutic groups together. All patients and therapists regardless of their goodwill, hide their pain and their manipulation, of themselves, and others. We are all, in short, flawed.

For this reason and others, a good therapy group is a safety net for all concerned, if it embraces however, the principles that will make it so.

The first principle is that everyone must speak their truth in a microscopic way within a caring framework. In non-psychotic illness, truth is the opposite of the process that underlies and creates mental pain. The continuous truthful feedback which occurs in a good group keeps both clients, and perhaps more importantly, therapists, on track.

Small therapy groups run with feeling oriented principles and devoted to microscopic truth, trigger everyone's hidden agendas. It becomes impossible to hide, even the things we didn't know we had within us.

Small therapy groups render consensus validation. (We find that we are not alone in our thinking and feeling no matter how strange we feel ourselves to be).

Small therapy groups must be oriented toward sharing what each person feels and not toward pointing the finger at others. It is however crucial to honor what people may sense is going on in someone else. Human intuition should never be suppressed and simply called "projection." This sensitive part of our function can become one of our greatest assets, as long as it is checked out with the person toward whom it is aimed and with the rest of the group.

When someone is in a feeling they should be encouraged, then and there, to lie down and explore it. This makes for much uproar sometimes but is infinitely better than suppressing the feeling. Sharing what we find after this kind of work on ourselves leads to very deep learning for everyone in a group.

Therapists must also do their own work from time to time among their clients to ensure real honesty and to let clients see how this is done.

Any therapist who never works openly is highly suspect to me. I don't trust this type of hidden person at all. These are the defensive practitioners of our world. They have a stake in practicing therapy where they can hide. This absolutely triggers my deepest suspicion.

Beware of any leader who is over-idealized or who is constantly deferred to with regard to advice giving. Check out advice within your own heart. If it feels bad, be careful. If your own intuition is constantly being sidelined something may be wrong. It may be with your leader or it may be with you. Keep lying down with it. If you do, truth always wins out in the end.

The main thing is that deep primal work makes for deep vulnerability and in this space, the many minds and hearts, in a group, both support us and maintain truth in the midst of "Chaos."

A leader must earn trust at every turn with balanced, loving and accurate interventions as well as a willingness to be transparent in an appropriate way.

Any leader who steers us away from a feeling and moves us toward the intellectual, puts me on guard instantly. Constant explanations are a defense. They hide deep unworked-through terror. (All Knowledge Above the Abyss is the Knowledge of Avoidance).

Doing primal work alone, can lead to everlasting pain in some people. In others, it is a miracle of healing. This probably depends, like everything else does, on a combination of genetic endowment and how much warmth and support we received during our childhood alongside our hurts.

Give yourself the comfort and safeguard of companionship on your journey, as long as it is truly feeling oriented as outlined in my book Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad.

Before I close this article about adding techniques to primal therapy, I want to requote a portion of my reply to an earlier writer about the use of exercises and tasks in this kind of work. It was as follows:

"Nowhere in the therapists's set of skills is there a greater potential for derailing a client's journey.

The doors of the mind require a profoundly subtle environment, in order to swing open. This is carefully discussed in Chapter 22, section two, where I contrast two different approaches. Chapter Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four deal with the subtle necessities of courting insight.

When we use exercises in therapy we run the risk of straight-jacketing the necessary opening to seemingly random associative connections which are the doors to the deepest self. These unexpected, unpredictable associative processes can only be gathered toward awareness in an undisturbed way by staying inside the seemingly random emergence of feelings. This demands zero structure in the search.

In this place only reflective statements can be relied upon not to jar the flow of associations. The only exception here is the intuitive leap of the highly congruent and resonant therapist. Even this risks a derailment and must be offered in a loving and tentative way. It is after all, not the therapist's journey, and a path which seems right may only be the therapist's path leading to a dead-end thirty minutes or ten years later.

Anything which varies from simply staying with the feeling can create shallow primals and false premature closures. This in turn creates primal defenses which lock us out of our minds above the level of completion. There are times when this may be necessary, but that is another discussion. Please see Chapter Twenty-Two, section two. Please also notice in the second example, I do use the technique of speaking to early significant figures, but only, and I stress the word only, when clients are rapidly falling toward that resolution.

These connections must be permitted to arrange themselves. See Chapter Twenty , section 10 the first example -- keeping the patient inside the pain allows the sequence to fully complete without orchestration by the therapist.

Exercises can teach people false depth therapy. One common example of this is so called "anger work." Aiming patients toward anger or toward anything else, for that matter, can cause pseudo compliance, shut down random associations and create false paths which in turn raise up deeper (primal) defenses.

The underlying grief slips away and the patient remains stranded in the false belief that he is now healthily assertive.

Nothing could be further from the truth."

The human mind constantly tries to re-assemble its personality structures as we in depth therapy try to undo them. Not everyone wants the full and final journey which may go back to prebirth, and may take decades to complete or even become a way of life until we die.

As Ernst and Agnes Oslender of the British Columbia Primal Center said to me, "We as therapists must consecrate ourselves to a loving orientation before we sit down with our patients." I would add, and they agree, that we must also have great humility. This means we must honour where they want to be, and need to be, without pushing for either deep or shallow therapy.

If someone needs closure at any given time then let them have a closure exercise. If someone needs to be open ended then let them be so. Just be sure to point out the issues connected to either choice, and then honour their wishes.

For those who want to learn more about the use of things like fantasy dialogue techniques in therapy, please consult the book, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, by Dr Fritz Perls, listed in the bibliography at the end of my book, Help Me-I'm Tired of Feeling Bad.

Dr Vereshack is the author of an online book entitled Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad

Other pages on this website about Dr. Vereshack's writings include:

Book Review of Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad
The Primal Page's Favorite Quotations from Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad
The Primal Psychotherapy Page Interviews Paul Vereshack, M.D.

Return to Index of Dr. Vereshack's Questions