"What often keeps a person "intimacy-impaired" as
an adult are the hurts and conclusions of childhood.
True updating, beyond mere behavioral changes, requires regressing to the original feeling state."
-- Andy Bernay-Roman
Andy Bernay-Roman is a registered nurse, massage therapist and psychologist. He practices his brand of regression therapy in South Florida and describes his Centropic Integration, as a "natural movement towards the center." It is a way, he writes, to become well and to stay well by integrating your early traumas into your even earlier "self." What I particularly like about Deep Feeling, Deep Healing, is that the author describes his own regressive search for personal truths.
That early quest for deep feeling as a way to his truths, began when the author was eighteen and was completely unintentional. He was talked into attending a weekend T-Group by some friends. Not knowing that the "T" stood for therapy rather than tea, he attended the marathon encounter. After a surprising introduction to his feelings he came away ". . . .with a new, giddy sense of myself, and a discovered raw desire for being intimate with others. My heart awoke from a deep sleep. I got hooked on feeling in a way that has stuck."
Some of the most satisfying parts of his book are when he relates three therapy experiences of his daughter, Kaia, who began regressing at the young age of eleven. It was through her that he began to realize that memory storage of early traumas was something very real. He writes that this was because he had been an actor in the cast of characters in his daughter's retrieved memories. He had been there when some specific traumas were originally laid down.
Like so many of us in a regressive type therapy, the author explains how being rejected by his love object caused psychosomatic symptoms. At that time he was working in a hospital as a registered nurse. He includes interesting case histories of some of his hospitalized patients, although due to lack of privacy, it is difficult to understand how such an environment could be conducive to deep feeling. But he definitely is not positing positive thinking as an antidote to mind/body ailments, but rather the use of deep regressive feelings.
Bernay-Roman writes that the origin of our personality is the natural result of repressing of early hurts. We self-molded ourselves because of our repressed feelings.
Witnessing others experiencing their early traumas is Andy's work and joy. The author feels that people who can envelope themselves in a place that's safe, and with a listener who is attentive, will automatically go into their past.
The author says that some of his intensive-care patients were profoundly shocked by their illnesses into a natural regression. It was their regression which led them to be healed. The therapy is not fun and games. The author writes that, "The central approach in therapy . . . must be to take pain out of storage, even if it hurts."
He feels that it is unfortunate that touching in therapy is discouraged, because "direct hands-on contact or body-awareness techniques often further psychological progress." He believes that talk therapy alone must include the physiological response of the body since the body was involved when the early hurt was laid down. This theory began with Wilheim Reich, who used deep breathing and deep body massage to elicit expression of early traumas. Many forms of body psychotherapy are extant today, including Radix, Systemic Integration, Hakomi, Pesso Psychomotor, Hellerwork, Rolfing, and many others.
One characteristic of our brains is that it is lazy. When one is being presented with a new situation the brain's "hard drive" makes a fast sweep to see if what is being processed is familiar. If it is, it retrieves information unconsciously which tells us how to act. The feelings attached to the situation are also retrieved. If it was a very disturbing event the original feeling was originally repressed and is not known. But the brain still accesses the feelings which accompanied the earlier event although we will not know the source of the feelings since they are connected to repressed material.
All kinds of uncomfortable feelings become felt -- unjustified anger, inadequacy, jealousy, fears, -- almost a limitless list, and all are attached to much earlier unconscious material -- not to the event or feeling which we truly believe is the source of the triggered "problem" feeling in the present. For example, "I asked her for a date. When I was turned down, I felt so humiliated", or "I was so angry when that guy cut me off on the interstate," or "Whenever I see my ex on a date with someone else, I get so jealous that I could hurt her."
Such feelings are real. The problem is that we are reacting to something that happened many years ago when we were a bundle of unmet needs. These old experiences, which are the source of much of our present unhappiness, is precisely the earlier material to which Andy wants to introduce us.
* * *
He writes that the extreme transition of the fetus from an environment of water to one of air does not make any sense to the fetus. For most of us the transition from happily floating in the amniotic universe to another environment is traumatic. Gravity becomes a new experience to get used to. Feeling hunger is also a new sensation as there is no longer an umbilical cord to automatically supply nourishment. Waiting for one's needs to be met is a new feeling and is felt as distressful. Another new sensation is too much stimulation. Everything is too much and too fast and it takes some time to adjust to the new life as a new air breathing social being. Few successfully meet the challenge of the traumas surrounding birth. From a physical aspect alone, being a baby can have hellish aspects.
This discomfort, the author believes, is the origin of our fear of death and dying. The overload of pain becomes construed as dying. He writes, "Birth dramatically terminates an essentially tranquil world, and its accompanying body and emotional response of terror becomes imprinted and generalized to include any sense of impending change as a threat." [For other viewpoints, see my article, The Origins of the Fear of Death and Dying in the Writings of Michael A. Persinger and Others ]
Andy believes that the origins of our personality or identity can actually go back to the time we were a single cell. In our embryonic development we recapitulate the lives of all of our human and animal ancestors. We seemingly are able to recapture the memories of each stage of our evolution. We not only relive the evolution of our animal forebears but our present brain structure is actually built on the architecture present in the lower rungs of our evolutionary ladder. Deep Feeling, Deep Healing, contains illustrations of the fetal development of lizards, earlier mammals and humans as well as our evolved tri-partite brain.
* * *
In an interesting section on Lust, Evolution and Individuation the author explains that sex is often used as a way to mask our pain. This is because orgasm is like a drug to the body. Orgasm is self-medication which releases endorphins and tension release and subsequent sleep to help us bury our pain. Andy believes that sex serves not only as a procreation tool but also shunts us away from pain overload. While serving as a pain antidote it also keeps us unconscious. Neurotics use sex for dealing with daily stresses, anxiety, loneliness and depression. Pornography serves the same purpose -- as a release from "bad" feelings. He believes that most of the sexual urges of mankind are driven by the tension of our unconscious traumas.
"Using sexual anesthesia as a way to buffer the inevitable discomforts and confrontations of relationships keeps a person immature and intimacy-impaired." Sexual problems are usually feeling problems. Often, when the repressed feelings are made conscious the overall sexual problem disappears. Andy refers to Arthur Janov's findings: ". . . (A) significant number of his patients reported the erasure of premature ejaculation, frigidity, adhedonia (non-enjoyment of sex), and some even reported a reversal of homosexuality. That's how intimately deep feelings and sexuality get interwoven."
The author cites the example of
"Brian, an athletic 34-year-old with years of history as a sex-aholic, frequent visits to adult book stores, masturbating, and one-night- stands, sat in my office after months of therapy, and a hard-fought week of the sexual abstinence I had recommended.
'I am so jittery, and uncomfortable! I did what you asked -- no sex for a whole week, and I can't stand it any more! I've got to get some release!'
He lies down on the sofa in my office, as he's gotten accustomed to doing in the course of getting in touch with feelings and body sensations in therapy.
''I've got to have an orgasm! I really want to cum!' he shouted, writhing and squirming. ''I can't stand feeling this way any more!'
''Say that again!' I urged.
'I can't stand feeling this way any more! I want this feeling out of me!
'What feeling, Brian?"
"I feel so . . . bad.'
'Feel it. Sink into the feeling. Let it happen this time. You've whacked this one off enough! Let it happen! Who's the boss here? You or the feeling?'
And he writhed and screamed, even as he experienced an erection and a strong desire to discharge. He wiggled, contorted, whimpered, whined, and groaned for a solid two hours, sometimes looking and sounding like an adult, sometimes like a baby. He revisited this particular deep agony many times in the office, bit by bit allowing it to be there without running from it, letting the full impact of his own experience finally catch up with him.
At a group feedback session, he shared this insight: "This is what made me sexually addicted, I know it. I've hated this awful feeling." -- p. 141-2
He concludes this section by asserting that every deep feeling therapist is, at the same time, a sex therapist.
* * *
Bernay-Roman believes that the archetypes, which Carl Jung postulated, exist in our preconscious as realities. He believes that this is so because no matter what culture or upbringing we received, such typical images are present in us. Archetypes are the stuff of myths and Jung believed there were many story variations. They are also commonly understood to be a part of mankind's universal consciousness.
During transpersonal regressions (those beyond our life history), the archetypical themes and stories may be perceived as in a play, as the drama unfolds with predictable themes. For example, mother earth, the goddess Gaia, may become seen and understood as a "real" living female entity. Other typical archetypes include Tyrant, Martyr, Fugitive, etc.
Many of his patients are not ready to feel very deep feelings. Some just want to feel better but don't have an idea that it's not just their body which is giving them pain. But no matter how the problem is expressed, he believes that the common theme in all his clients is repression of feelings which invariably began early in life. Unconscious or blocked traumas were involved in creating our personality, behaviors and philosophy of life. He describes the result of having early unmet needs as having a "disconnected heart."
The author believes that if you have symptoms of body or mind you must find the answers in your unconscious mind. Ignoring your repressed memories is like mowing a lawn to get rid of its weeds. You must dig down to uproot the weeds of repression. (Andy uses many well chosen metaphors!). The therapy can get messy and uncomfortable, but deep digging has to be done.
He equates such deep therapy to surgery. As in surgery a recuperation period is advised. Recovery can be described as the rediscovery of something which has been lost. Since the therapy can be as profound as a "salvage expedition," you will find it advisable to rest for a while upon your return to present day consciousness. Undertaking these journeys and expeditions are the real reason people go into such therapy, even if they don't realize it at the time.
So what really happens if you would go into therapy with Andy? Well, first of all, success is not a question of your intelligence or your level of education. He will first notice your body movements, the quality of your voice and your sighs. "Often, the voice echoes pain from long ago," he writes. If you free the inner child-self, you can free your soul. After your soul is free, your healing can begin.
In therapy, his approach will depend on where you will lead, as there are any number of pathways or techniques that can be used to free one's heart. After a particularly satisfying session, he writes that he might say , "Good job" to you and you might say, "Good job" back to him!
Bernay-Roman says that during therapy he attempts to be fully present and involved with what is being expressed. He also hopes that he will temper his own opinions but that, of necessity, he will view you through his own world-view because a "neutral, impartial point of view" is not a possible approach. The agenda is invariably, but unintentionally, set by the therapist, even though it is not the way to be optimally productive. The beliefs of the therapist will invariably enter into the therapy partnership.
The chances are that the therapist has more confidence in you than you have in yourself. But you will see it and the support will work its magic! Unspoken and unexpressed cues as well as "(i)nconsistencies cry out to be confronted. Yearnings beg to be unleashed, and pain screams out to be released."
How long does therapy last? the author writes that it depends on the age of the person when the trauma occurred. In other words, "the younger the trauma, the longer the therapy." I would add a corollary: The more severe the trauma, the longer the therapy. Most agree that the traumas around birth often take longer to resolve.
The question of touch in therapy is an important one. Some regression therapists, never, but never, touch their clients. Andy, as a massage therapist, knows the importance of well-timed and well-placed touch. He feels that touch adds safety and caring to the process and writes that "touching is good therapy, and good therapy is touching."
He often combines acupuncture point holding with conscious breathing and evocative music. Clients feel a "burning" at such points as they becomes flooded with insights about issues of behavior and/or of trauma. The average session lasts about two hours. He writes that the changes and insights can endure over time and lists thirty-nine "power tools" (techniques to encourage feeling access) for his Centropic Integration processing work.
In the section, What Recovery Looks Like, the author lists seven steps which occur in the course of the therapy from the very beginning with the client's main complaint to the ending phase when neurotic acting out and acting in are less easily triggered. This is because symbolization becomes lessened, e.g., the girlfriend or wife is no longer invariably, Mama. During this final stage, "(r)ejection hurts, but doesn't kill." Life becomes more simple and normal.
Reviewer's comment: I have noticed in myself, that this is true. However, since one usually has more than one trauma, some traumas may not present themselves for resolution even though you may wish they would. A more typical scenario is that some pain may become much less symbolic to you but the traces of other blocked material may not present themselves into our conscious minds because no triggers to the material have as yet occurred. Also, as Andy writes, the very early traumas sometimes take quite a while to be resolved. -- John A. Speyrer, Webmeister
But enough already. I still have one-third of Deep Feeling, Deep Healing left to review, but I believe I'll wrap up the review, as you, by now, should have a good idea what the book is about. Other sections include, Family and Couples Therapy, The Power of Positive Choices, including a goodly number of interesting Case Studies & Stories: Therapy in Action. This section ends with three exquisite deep-feeling therapy session stories with his daughter, Kaia.
When you arrive at Chapter 7 you will realize that you have come a long way, and have learned a lot, as Andy is a good teacher. The final chapter is about Exercises to Help You Lose Your Mind and Come to Your Senses, humorous Nursing Tales from the time the author worked as an RN, as well as Nursery School Notes which are memories from the days the author worked as a daycare teacher. Suggested Readings contain thirty-eight short book reviews. The book ends with a Post Script which contains an interesting and almost confessional-type feeling story. I'll just let you know that her name was Joyce!
In the last page of Deep Feeling, Deep Healing, Andy writes that he does the therapy both to help him stay in touch with feeling people and to bring new feeling people into his world. They are good company, he writes. It's all about heart.
"Body-oriented deep feeling therapy lends a helping hand to set the heart back on the grand track of life. When the veil of pain is lifted, the heart in all its strength and vulnerability, finds its own rhythm, and comes into its own innate power to know and convey light, and to enjoy life. One by one, day by day, we inch closer to the core, touching our realness with a growing depth of feeling and understanding. We need each other to get real and get well. When we touch each other with honest feeling beyond all pain, we make a perfect life even better, and do humanity proud. Let's do humanity proud."