The 8-day seminar took place in Glencree, Ireland, in April, 2005. I knew Paul and his work from from his website www.paulvereshack.com. There he has a freely downloadable internet-book “Help Me, I’m Tired Of Feeling Bad”. When I was invited to attend his seminar, I had hopeful expectations but could not envision that my attendance would have such powerfully impacting personal results.
Before I came to read Paul’s book, I had worked with two other primal therapists in my own primal process, but unfortunately, the primal feelings had come to a halt. With the earlier feelings, I was able to work through much of my father-related material. But regarding my mother-related pain and earlier repressed trauma, I was just about ready to give up hope in myself, and had expected to keep stuck in my old uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness for the indefinite future. But by reading Paul's excellent book, my weakening trust in the primal process was restored to life and I felt somewhat optimistic and ready to give it another try.
The seminar was entitled “Creating The Wide Open Field Of Permission In Depth Psychotherapy” and teaching by example was the emphasized rule and theme of the seminar week. It might seem easy, as you may believe that you can do what you need to do with all the help being supplied, but that is not what creates safety for the attendees. It is not easy when your basic problem is not feeling safe to begin with - that is what made up my own reality. For the therapist to create a wide open field of permission is a social skill which combines empathy with every person and trust in every process without knowing at all times what exactly is going on in a person on the mat. This requires a facilitator who is in control, for safety purposes and not in control for the purpose of permission - what could be more contradictious!
Needless to say, at the beginning of the seminar I was scared to work in front of so many unknown people. But since it was a primal workshop, such feelings can be helpful since I was triggered to work in front of the strangers. I wondered if I was capable enough to do primal work? Would I be able to do it correctly? Was I welcome among the participants? Would they make enough time and space for just – me? You can be sure that if I could stay with the feeling any one of these shark tails would suffice to ride downwards with!
But experiencing Paul’s uncompromising acceptance and art-like ability to support every person exactly in the way he or she needed it was all that I required. Sometimes by asking questions, sometimes mirroring our words and suggesting small phrases or just a word and in a few times taking a risk and saying something seemingly provocative and quite often saying nothing at all - miraculously brought everyone out of his shell and into his pain. There was no way to understand the magic we experienced, but surely two aspects present were Dr. Vereshack's inimitable ability to focus on the mat and at the group process at the same time and thereby validate seemingly minimal achievements of the inexperienced on the one hand and to let the experience speak for itself in those who had more primal experience.
I met two people, with whom I had already become acquainted through emails and telephone calls. I had had quarrels with them before and now I was meeting them personally in Ireland. I must admit that I had previously projected my feelings on them and acted out with them. Perhaps, that was one of the reasons I felt anxious about attending the intensive.
With Paul’s assistance, I worked through the feelings I had projected on them and thereby discovered my most personal and very painful connections to my early traumas. After that reliving I was able to look at them with new eyes and realized that they were two very nice people. We became good friends after that primal reliving. It was a relief for me to have turned “enemies” into friends by making my primal connections, evaporating the projection and maybe most important, by showing them my pain behind my dumping.
Soon we all had warmed up so much that everyone felt safe enough to feel his/her feelings in front of the group. There is nothing so powerful as taking a risk and exposing yourself with your very personal feelings of fear, fright, terror, helplessness, shame, rage and tears in front of others. Hopefully, they will be real, compassionate and accepting, but it is always a scary thing to do. In the end we had opened up which allowed us to ask and give each other support and help in accessing and showing our deepest wounds. At times, four and five clients were primaling at the same time while "buddies" were assisting the others. So there it was - the wide open field of permission and, with all of us being part of it, we had learned how to create it.
One of the conclusions that remains with me is that I am a equal among others, and am not marginalized although I am hampered by my wounded self. My process was validated exactly as much as every one else’s – by someone with a wide open heart for all in the group as individuals. This is something else quite apart from being treated and cheated by a one-serves-all method that would leave many in the lurch. This required a distinct heartfelt commitment by the professional beyond his methodology, beyond his therapist role and also beyond his narcissistic agenda. No therapist can do this without the feedback of others, so housekeeping, yet without dropping into endless ranting, was part of the daily agenda.
Being with other participants as they primalled made me realize that there are as many different ways to primal as there are different people. I consider permission as having the right of producing or of not producing regressions. There was no pressure to produce the "correct" type of primal. I felt the permission to stay with what and where I was. Only then, after having successfully tested the grounds for that, did I feel safe enough to go deeper and to dig out the source of power behind my rage. That is the picture of the seminar which still remains with me.
Paul has the ability to notice small things and to discover the energy in a particular part of a sequence of phrases which someone might use to talk himself into his feelings. But help to get to the feeling, to connect to my deepest rage was seeing the work of others and being triggered by them. On one occasion a woman made sounds in her primals which seemed like someone suffocating; these sounds matched exactly the shock freezing sounds of my mother’s neurotic "heart attacks" when I was “too much” for her. So, immediately I was able to drop into the terror I had felt as a child and which I had not been able to connect to before. I could make a difference now. What a relief I had felt after that primal feeling!
I made the unforgettable experience, that in fact I’m in feelings all the time, that feelings shape my view on the world, even when I am completely unaware of them. While observing one woman's primal it seemed to me that she was only play acting. I was not able to really see the real pain and hurt behind her dramatically expressed feelings. Everyone else in the group understood what was happening except me. However, when I primalled how I felt when my unsympathetic father ridiculed my mother when she had one of her frequent "heart attacks" I became insightfully aware of how I had felt during his belittling of my mother and understood the woman's primal.
I have always tended to avoid people. I was touched and in fact still am heartened by the process of soul-mating to the whole group at a level which is difficult to express. This "connection" experience I consider to be quite a healing experience in itself.
To experience the attendees encouraging testimony and feedback regarding where I was in my own personal growth process takes me to this so much sought for place of inner confirmation. Yes, I am good enough - yes, I am doing the therapy correctly and that I was indeed welcomed to the group!
I wholeheartedly encourage everyone on their quest for healing to give themselves a gift by attending such a seminar.
Reinhold W. Rausch