I know about this kind of fear; I had it very deeply myself when I started
this work in 1976 and I did back away from the most important and deep primal of
my life. The article about this is in Part Three my online book,
Help Me - I'm Tired of Feeling Bad, and the name of the chapter suggests
the topic. If you haven't read it then please do.
I think there are issues of serious concern here and for this reason I am
very careful to neither push anyone toward, not pull anyone back from a deep
Fear, in general, when there is no "real" threat from the outside, often
occurs when deep material is thrusting up toward conscious awareness. It is
the brain's way of maintaining its defenses and firmly saying, "keep out."
Most people have experienced this kind of fear during their lifetime often during a nightmare when they become more and more afraid and finally awaken in terror before the dream completes itself.
This happens often in regression work and in every almost every case, for those who
have moved forward into the fear, something important gets experienced, and
the fear immediately dissipates. Readiness, however, is very important in
primal work and should never be overridden.
The price of endlessly pulling back is that we can create deeper and deeper
defenses until the mind finally shuts us out in a way that is extremely
difficult to reverse. This is called creating "primal" defenses.
As if all this weren't enough, the fact is that very occasionally someone
who is on the edge of a psychosis can precipitate within themselves an
actual psychotic breakdown by overriding this fear and moving forward. The
fear, in such cases, is a very real warning that overwhelming mental
disintegration is about to occur.
This last event is extremely rare in depth therapy but anyone who does not
take it into account is being negligent.
I have spoken of these dangers in several places in my online book.
There is another problem that I have only seen once in thirty-five
years of practice. A friend of mine was in primal therapy with a social
worker, that is to say, a therapist with no medical training. Already
primalling deeply, and yet unable to move through the final and most
profound levels of his pain, he was hard up against extreme terror and still
pushing and being pushed by his therapist. His therapist actually suggested
that my friend move into the therapist's home to have twenty-four hour therapy
I had not seen my friend for many
months, and when he asked me for a consultation it was obvious to me
as a doctor that he was actually dying from exhaustion. He looked the way
people look on their death bed. His eyes were sunken, his cheeks hollow, and
he was in an acute medical emergency.
I insisted that he stop the therapy immediately and referred him on the same
day to a professor of psychiatry here in Toronto. The psychiatrist promptly
put him on medication and saw him daily until his extreme exhaustion
The price that my friend paid to save his life, was that he never returned
to deep-feeling work. To this day, many years later, he must continue to take
medication or be overcome by depression.
This is a unfortunate story and one of the reasons why I am so careful, in my
book, to recommend appropriate supervision during very deep therapy when
the going gets rough.
To close, let me say I deeply believe that our kind of therapy (very deep-feeling-oriented process) is the finest therapy that is available. Catastrophes are rare and the benefits are so great that
after all these years I wouldn't dream of withholding this work from anybody,
who after an informed amount of reading, and providing they have a reasonable
level of ego strength, wanted very sincerely to try it.
(Please note that by "ego strength," I mean that they have demonstrated an
essential integration of mental function over many years. That is to say,
they are able to remain mentally intact (not psychotic), through the
difficulties of life.)
I also believe that deep-feeling-oriented therapy can and should be modified
when necessary. Please see my article in section three of the book.
The therapist must always be empathetic and adequately trained. And in some cases medical supervision is also a must.