Dear Dr. Vereshack,
My Dear Anonymous,
I am extremely touched by your letter.
It is 6:00 A.M. in the morning, here in Toronto, and I am having coffee at my desk, and filled with thoughts about the issue that you have raised.
First, let me say that opening the primal box of feelings, in a way that can not be shut off, is the nightmare of all primal therapists and their clients, if they are at all humane and thoughtful. I have worried about this both in myself, and in every client I have ever had.
In my on-line book, Help Me- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad, I have said that as much attention must be paid to pain's container (our personal strength), as to the pain itself. No therapist can really know what effect a weekend encounter will have on an unknown client. Hence my concern about "quickie" primalling.
In my interview with John Speyrer, I have said that I deeply disagree with primal trying to be done on a weekend, because I believe that it should be a slow ripening into depth, not a sudden plunge over a huge water-fall of deep feelings in an insufficiently strong barrel.
I believe that time must be taken, to establish with a client, an emotional, intellectual bonding, which is strong enough and deep enough to anchor the mind firmly on the "trellis" of the therapist's presence and on his/her's inner strength and wisdom.
This bonding, which anchors the client in safety, must also sometimes be cemented with touch and holding. Not everyone who does deep work, needs to be held by the therapist, but for some it is very helpful, if and when they ask for it. This is what I call the "trellis effect", and I talk about it in my book several times.
Failure to adequately create this "container", which may take months, or even a year or two, to come into being, can sometimes lead to the horror that you have experienced.
Now, what to do about it.
I sit here, and one level I am not really sure. And yet on another I have a lot of beliefs about what might be helpful.
I believe that the "trellis" bond must be established.
I believe that you must obtain nurture, adequate enough to feed the part of your mind and body which hungers for the infant's primary bonding necessities.
First, therefore, I believe that you must have someone who will touch and hold you in the very careful therapeutic way which creates the essential biological and psychological growth nutrients of the early mother/child relationship.
In addition, and at the same time, on the adult level, you will require, the most profound and complete, empathic, reflective, supportive, loving listening that humans can provide. Thus, you will develop a complete sense of being connected to through being heard.
These two things, ( holding if requested and deep truly empathic listening ), are the necessities external to the client which provide deep inner support.
In my opinion these therapeutic activities in turn promote the formation of the neurochemicals which support mood, thereby reversing depession.
In short, without empathy, and occasionally touch, we can not develop the inner brain connections and mood related hormone levels which will support our whole being in the traumas of life, and allow us to primal our way back to health.
I suspect that you may have suffered a lack of early nurture to a degree which left you lacking the deep inner strength needed to do rapid primal work.
We cannot rule out, however, a genetic lack of this core strength.
However, even if you had an inherited a lack of strength in your central nervous system to develop your maximum potential, the prescription given above would still hold.
The difficult thing, in all this, is that the formation of deep strength is designed to occur for the most part in infancy and childhood when the central nervous system is wide open to receive it. How much of this we can accomplish in adult therapy remains to be seen.
You may have to develop a loving and tolerant attitude toward your final shortcomings as the rest of us have had to do.
Participation in a good therapy group, such as I have described in some of my earlier articles on John Speyrer's Primal Psychotherapy Page. would also be validating and supporting.
Be careful, however, that you do not attach yourself to a "guru" type of therapist. When we have pain and emptiness, we will often allow an external agency ( therapist or other leader ) to replace it for us.
I don't have to tell you that this is the end of all growth, and the beginning of profound rationalizations which are not acceptable to the truly thoughtful human being.
So you see, there is no "off" switch, just ongoing work as described above.
Of course, before leaving this discussion, I should say that medication could, in fact, be an off switch. An antidepressant, such as (dare I say it?) prozac, might bring all this pain and depression to an end for you in a few weeks. As a physician, I must point this out.
Oh yes, please read my article on the Primal Psychotherapy Page about modifying primal therapy. As you strengthen, you may wish to apply it, so that your wisdom about yourself may increase without your having to rip open this wound.
Please feel free to write to me again if you wish.
Paul Vereshack M.D.
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