An experienced primal-type therapist, with wide interests in both the physical and social sciences, "M.H." is a physician and also a clinical psychologist. He has been a therapist for over two decades. When I asked him about his views on the relationship between primal therapy and spirituality, I had not defined spirituality. Spirituality, like love, can be examined in many ways. Luckily, the lack of precision on my part resulted in his musings covering a wider range of possible relationships.
-- John A. Speyrer, Webmeister, The Primal Psychotherapy Page
Different people mean different things when they use the word, spirituality. Some equate it to religion, others to past lives and still others try to derive daily rules for living from it.
I have found that a deeply emotional re live of a past life is
helpful and also will remove symptoms; also re-experiencing the interlife
state is a very emotionally powerful and frequently nurturing experience. I
cannot prove these things really exist outside a patient's psyche, however
they are a phenomenological and felt reality and as experiences they are
Altered states are also valid for the experiencer as happens in
hypnosis, meditation, etc. It is normal to seek answers at the spiritual
level or somehow feel connected to some God as an area in the brain is
highly calm when one meditates deeply or prays. It is the area of the brain
that normally deals with the boundaries of the person, the distinction between
self and non-self. When this area is very calm the meditator reports deep
Meaningful spiritual experiences are part of our genetic heritage,
however, that came out to be. It may, over the years, have provided a survival
advantage that selected for those who could derive strength from altered
states. When it comes to therapy, the best guide to how therapy or healing
is going is symptom removal.
That does not mean that we suppress spiritual yearnings or seeking, but as long as symptoms remain then the person still carries unfinished business and unresolved hurts that should be dealt with to reach optimal physical and mental states. As far as deriving laws or rules for living based on religion or spiritual writings, I believe that is fraught with uncertainties and idiosyncracies and is neither reliable nor necessarily healthy or useful.
This approach to spirituality is different than someone who gains a personal poignant insight after experiencing a powerful relive of a "past life" for example. Again the guideline for usefulness is an improvement in health and removal of somatic or psychologic suffering and symptomatology. If you are a clinical therapist, then
activities that remove symptoms and restore health including an inquisitive
mind is the yardstick by which the therapy work is measured.
Deep experiencing and spiritual states are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
The feelings are the same whether you re-live age five or birth or a past
life. Some people obsess about spiritual topics and use this mental
obsession, like any other philosophy, to calm their psyche. One can use sex or
booze or impulsive behavior or mental beliefs and ruminations to handle
anxiety, fears etc. In these cases, the belief system is being used as a
soothing tool or tranquilizer.
This does not necessarily invalidate the content of the belief. However, as healing occurs the person may no longer need the ideology to fight his inner demons and as a result we see waning use of beliefs. This will happen if the ideology was used to quell the pain. These people may reach a more balanced spirituality with less dogma and more satisfying practices. They will no longer be fully driven by their
ideational defense. Some will reject the belief system, but others wiil
modify and improve it and use it reasonably rather than obsessively.
It is like over-use of sex as a painkiller and antidepressant. After deep
transformative healing occurs, the person will not discard sexual pleasure.
On the contrary, his sex life will improve and be deeper and more fulfilling.
Same with over-eating as a pain killer. As the person resolves and
integrates hurts, the eating becomes healthier, more balanced and less
driven as the inner demons have diminished. The same is true of spirituality.
The golden rule is symptom removal. That is the golden rule, as it is
measurable, and so is the brainwave pattern. But symptom removal is both goal
and yardstick. This does not mean that you cannot have spiritual beliefs or
practices until you are fully healed. Many people, at different points of the
healing venture, do hold beliefs and have certain spiritual practices. We evaluate
these actions in terms of whether they are health promoting or the opposite.
Are they being used reasonably or mostly defensively? If used defensively,
we do not need to attack them. However, we work with them like an addiction
that will diminish as the person is able to reclaim more and more of the
core-self, the real self. How to work with addictive defenses is a long
story and depends on the patient's makeup and developmental maturity more
than on the addiction itself.
When persons in therapy start healing, their spiritual beliefs may undergo
upheaval or evolution and may evolve slightly or markedly. It is hard to
tell. Some people lose interest in spirituality. Others develop an interest. It is hard to predict. The less burdened your core-self is, the higher the probability
that the spirituality issue will take its proper place in your particular
psyche. Different people differ.