Letters To The Primal Page
02 September 1997
I have read the first twelve chapters of Janov's Why You Get Sick and How You Get Well. All that Janov writes makes perfect sense to me. The more I read from him, the less I am able to understand Alice Miller's point of view.
I hope to get to know more about the controls he uses in therapy (page 181 f.), controls that are necessary in order to ensure a proper integration of the feelings experienced in the therapy process.
One of the things Janov mentions I find most remarkable is the fact that primal therapy seems to happen all alone if only you stop (parts of) your defenses. That corresponds with what I experienced myself. Trying a specific approach to access my feelings in order to try to process them does not work with me - I have never found out why. Nevertheless I sense that my defenses are lowered and that something is on its way to emerge from the unconscious. If I knew what to do in order to express the upcoming feelings right I would be able to let them out and healing to begin. Is it sufficient to just lay down and to concentrate on the feeling, that means trying to feel it for what it is, like Janov says, (that's what I think I ought to do) or do you need to take additional precautions?
This is why I would like to know more about the controls Janov mentions. Perhaps you have got some experience? Maybe it would be a good idea to ask Dr. Janov himself via his homepage?
P.S.: I have joined the "Odyssey" mailing list. I read the postings, but I have not yet discovered a suitable place to join the discussion. I will work out an introduction of myself and will also let you know when it is done. (Of course I will continue working out a summary of Jean Jenson's approach)
Thanks for your note, Ruediger. I am totally in agreement with everything you wrote. For me, primal therapy, has been exactly the way Janov has described it in his articles and books.
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30 September 1997
Thank you for your interest about my Primal history. To answer your questions fully might require the space of a small book! However, I will tell you what I can in the time I have at the moment.
I began my Primal work with a 3-week intensive in January 1975. This was followed by weekly group therapy until the Fall, when our group wound down and I had to find another. This I did, and the new group met every 3 or 4 weeks in a farmhouse setting for weekend group intensives. It was in this setting that I did my birth work, among other things, and learned many valuable lessons.
By the Fall of '76, I seemed to be running out of issues to primal about, and seemed to have touched bases on every aspect of my life. I was still processing and integrating the insights revealed in therapy, however, and felt that whatever things were left to be discovered, they were probably just "loose ends" that would eventually get tied together. So I didn't worry about unfinished business from that point on. Besides, I had a new career to think about--Funeral Service.
Around the same time that I received my Funeral Director's license, I became interested in the works of Jane Roberts, who, until her death in the mid-eighties, channelled what has become known as the Seth material. This is very high-level stuff, delivered with a sense of humour. Contained within this vast amount of information was confirmation, in a manner of speaking, of the validity of emotional release work as a tool for personal growth. One of the central points of this body of knowledge was that we create our own reality, literally as well as figuratively. This concept was to be key for me in letting go of anger and blame re parents, bosses, governments, luck, etcetera. (Please understand that that I am radically condensing my learning experiences over the ensuing 15 years)
All along, I was still releasing deep feelings and integrating insights as the would arise, but I was quite comfortable working on my own at this point. As time went on, the need to release feelings seemed to become less and less.
In 1986, I left the funeral business as a full-time employee and bought a book store, which I operate to this day. After having read "tons" of material on psychology, philosophy and spirituality, I decided that it was time to learn how to meditate. It was after some months of weekly meditation that I began to spontaneously recover some "past-life" memories, which, as it turned out, had a lot of trauma associated with them. One particular past life was accessed in stages, as I was willing to let myself see what was going on.
This involved a lifetime in which I was arrested by the (religious) government authorities of the day, and tortured for several days in order to reveal the names of others who were involved with me. I gave up the names but was tortured to death anyway. I had seen only a little of the torture business in my meditations, and no emotion had been involved in my "memories", when one afternoon I was out on my front lawn getting ready to cut the grass, when I had one of those blinding flash insights that was bringing up with it a whole load of emotional content. I ran inside, and just let the feelings roll.
You see, all my life (this one) I have been socially handicapped because very often I would have incredible difficulty remembering people's names. Bad enough that I sometimes would have to resort to sneaking off after an introduction to write down the person's name, so that I would have something to refer to. Now, the insight was a double whammy. I had learned when being tortured that IT IS NOT SAFE TO REMEMBER NAMES and TO REMEMBER NAMES IS BETRAYAL! I spent five or ten minutes feeling the unsafe feelings; the betrayal stuff wasn't dealt with until much later.
What really struck me about all this was that the emotional content of the regressed state had exactly the same parameters as a regression to an earlier time in this life. The experience of primalling was exactly the same, with the same unburdening effect and the same integrative results as well. You see, now I am pretty good at remembering names, John.
There are lots of other, more involved examples from my personal experience that I could relate, but this one was the first that clinched the idea of past-life primal therapy.
Since that time, several years ago, I have gotten beyond the level of the pain and suffering experienced by me and resolved much if not most of the "shadow" stuff that lay behind it. Needless to say, I'm feeling pretty good these days!
P.S. I believe that my work became transpersonal at the point at which I was ready to accept that my life was nested in a larger frame of "reality" than I had previously believed.
As long as one insists that physical reality is the only reality, that mind and emotion arise from the brain and body, that all of your unresolved problems arise from one single lifetime, then one's progress will be couched in and limited by that belief system. I believe it was Richard Bach who said, "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours!" There was no particular upset which triggered my transpersonal experiences. It was rather a long process of learning, growth and widening of my belief systems which allowed for me to experience and grow through "past life" work. By the way, to me, the term 'past life' is a handy term to use, even if it may not actually describe the true nature of its reality.
Much in the same way we think of objects as being solid, when in fact physics tells us they are mostly empty space -- the idea of mass and solidity still has enormous practical applications in our world. Thus in the same way, past lives may not be "past" at all, yet using the concept with an open mind can lead us to further healing.
P.P.S. Regression Therapy -- A Handbook for Professionals is absolutely the best, all-round book on regression therapy that I have seen to date. A must-have.
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30 September 1997
I came across the "Primal Psychotherapy Page" recently and thought it was excellent! I was particularly pleased to find the Self-Primaler's Cafe. Like so many others, it made me feel less isolated!! Your article, Panic Attacks, Phobias and Feelings was also very good.
I'm a pro-Janov, anti-mystical type of self-primaler. I've been studying the Primal process since 1974. I don't have internet access at home, so I have to use the local library (which hasn't got e-mail access yet).
A few brief comments and requests:
Thanks for writing Ron. I'm always on the lookout for good articles on self-primaling and hope to add some in the near future.
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October 8, 1997
There have been a lot of interesting letters following Dr. Miller's "Communication to my readers." All those readers now face the following situtation: Dr. Miller recommended J. Konrad Stettbacher's self-therapy method for several years. In late 1994 she suddenly changed her mind without giving any convincing reasons, and in interviews in Germany and Switzerland amongst other things said she thinks "primal therapy is obsolete." Since then she has been endorsing Jean Jenson's self-regression concept (now also in Germany).
I invite all of Dr. Miller's readers to very carefully read J. Konrad Stettbacher's Making sense of suffering. The healing confrontation with your own past. and Jean Jenson's Reclaiming your life. A step-by-step guide to using regression therapy to overcome the effects of childhood abuse Compare the two books and after this scrutiny to give their thoughts here on the "Primal Psychotherapy Page."
My impression is, to put it briefly here, that while Jenson's book is quite primitive, in a subtle way pedagogical and lacking the essential, Stettbacher's book gives a comprehensive and clear orientation on the causes and the origin of psychological illness and its' consequences and a transparent method to overcome suffering. I, personally, have never read a book on psychotherapy or psychology, in general, that expresses such a positive attitude towards life.
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27 October 1997
Perhaps the website for A. S. Neill's "Summerhill" school in England might be worthwhile adding to your Primal Psychotherapy Page. The URL is: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/summerhill/
I would also like to mention that I quite enjoyed reading your article, "Ibogaine: Does This Psychedelic Drug Portend the End of Primal Therapy?" Even though I don't believe that any drug will ever replace Primal Therapy. I thought that your article was well written and full of interesting information. I hope you will continue to write such interesting articles.
Any advice you could give me after this letter about my e-mail problem would be most appreciated (See my private correspondence to you dated 22 October 1997. Best wishes,
Ron: Thanks for your letter. In regard to your e-mail problem. I have had no problems with receiving e-mail from readers who use links on the PPP. Did you attempt to send an note via the Primal Page Guestbook which is located directly below the "What's New on the Primal Page" section? Click on "Sign the Primal Page Guestbook" link. Hopefully, it will work since it does not require that a return e-mail address be given. Both public and private notes can be sent with the Lpage guestbook facility.
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October 29, 1997
I've been following your website for about a year and a half. It's nice that there is a website that contains so much material about regressive psychotherapies.
However, I've noticed that there are not very many articles on self-primalling, although the subject comes up many times on your website. I would be very interested in the articles about self-primalling that appeared in the Journal of Primal Therapy in the seventies, but I suppose you don't have the permission to put them on the internet.
Nevertheless, I think you could tell what these articles were all about. I am referring to the letter from a self-primaller that was printed in the Journal of Primal Therapy and was intoduced by Arthur Janov himself. And if I don't remember wrong it was followed by a reply by Jules Roth. So, why don't you tell your readers something about it.
I also think you could interview Jean Jenson for your website. There are, of course, no guarantees that she would like to give an interview to you, but why not give her a call and ask her. There should be many questions you could ask her. After all she was first a patient at the Primal Institute, was also there in training and then she is the author of a book on self-primalling.
Hannu, your suggestions are well taken, but such articles are rare indeed. Your assumptions that I tried to get permission for copying articles published in the Journal but my letter to the Primal Institute was not answered. I'll see if I can find that article you referred to and perhaps make a report of the article. And your suggestion to interview Jean Jenson was also a good one. I telephoned her a few minutes ago. She is out of her city at the present time, but I left my name and telephone number and asked if she would be interested in an interview. Thanks for the good ideas. -- John
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November 7, 1997
Thanks for referring the Primal and Born Again Christian Experiences of E. Michael Holden M.D. article to me. I reviewed this article a few months ago on the Primal Psychotherapy Page. Rather than reread it, I wanted to give you the long term impression it left with me.
I don’t claim to have training as a primal therapist. I do have patient experience of approximately two years of depth therapy with Dr. Paul Vereshack. I have also experienced primal regression while I was doing a Forty day silent retreat at Loyola House, an internationally respected Jesuit retreat centre in Guelph Ontario, Canada.
I realized during this later experience that the openness required to fully engage in contemplative prayer can lead to primal experiences. When I was undergoing therapy with Dr. Vereshack, I always had a sense of the presence of God. This presence helped me face those places I feared to go and even thought I could die if I did.
Because of my experiences, I am not surprised that Michael Holden found faith through his primal work. I did, and my contemplative prayer experiences affirmed my primal work just as my primal work affirmed my faith.
I would like to share my gut feeling responses to Michael Holden’s article as a lay person. I am interested in your comments regarding my observations.
I don’t know Michael Holden, but I infer from his qualifications and article that Michael is an intellectual man who works hard, does not give up easily and works himself and life to its limits. It seems clear that he has worked his psychological journey hard, maybe too hard.
I suspect his pushing himself through his primal work may have caused a backlash from within him that, in the end, may have kept him from being fully integrated with the primal and spiritual occurrence within him.
I don’t doubt that he experienced a Spiritual rebirth. I know from my own journey that the experience of a dynamic spiritual presence during my deepest therapy sessions has been both felt and real for me. I feel comfortable saying, “God played an important part in my healing and still does.“
I suspect that something more happened with Michael, however. It is very likely that he became overwhelmed by the spiritual presence and his healing experience itself and was unable to let it be what it was, possibly something more grand then knowledge itself can express.
Something within him began to rationalize his experience with biblical information and the overly used clichés of charismatic Christianity, which to some may seem to have words for such experiences. It is possible though that he could have integrated his revelations deeper within himself if he would have just let his experience work naturally within him untouched with judgments or knowledge.
What if he simply treated the insights and revelations he received as one would treat a dream, instead of the way one would treat fact? If he did this, would it not help his insights integrate organically at a subconscious level?
Memories, experiences, feelings and senses experienced during deep primal work can be likened to a 3-D dream.
Primal experiences have our experiences, feelings, senses and imagination contained within, plus, I believe they can contain something more. This something more is a spiritual, other then self, or God component which is able to pull us beyond ourselves into a universal awareness.
It is tempting to treat what at first seems to be a revelation of factual truth contained within primal insight as absolute truth. It is my experience, however, that when I refrain from capping my primal insights with the belief that "I" know exactly what truth they are revealing, primal insights can grow and mature within becoming fuller, more holistic understandings.
Over time, these primal experiences become organically rooted deeper within my being. I have found my initial interpretation of primal experiences if left without judgment can eventually illuminate truth that may even reveal opposite meaning to what I first understood them to be.
Michael Holden’s experiences as he describes them, although they seem to have an important element of truth, may have been capped too quickly with understanding and judgment. There is much which makes me suspicious of his revelations and its source. Some of my suspicion comes from my theological training, some of it comes from gut feeling and some from personal experience. I suspect that Michael’s air tight explanation of his experience may be an ingenious and elaborate defense that is keeping him from the pure truth to which he possibly may have came very close.
I do not claim to be a depth therapist. I do not use the language of a therapist and do not pretend to analyze this article as one. Though, I have learned to trust my gut feelings and, stated simply, the feeling I have around this article is that something is not quite right.
I hope by my reply and insight, correct or not, illuminate who I am as I share my understanding from where I stand. I do feel that I have been given a gift of sensitivity. Growing in me is a desire to be more focused and responsible with such a potentially powerful life-giving gift. I therefore, am searching for the best way to receive formal counseling training in depth or primal therapy, as this field seems to be breaking new ground in how to achieve the revelation of truth and wholeness. I also suspect the paradigms of both contemplative prayer and primal therapy have powerful contributions to make to each other.
Rev. Earl Klotz
(Note: Rev. Klotz is interested in others' opinions and would appreciate any feedback you wish to give.)
Thank you very much for your thoughts re Dr. Holden's born again experiences. I believe that your thoughtful analysis is correct.
While I was a student at Loyola University in New Orleans, it was compulsory for all Catholics to attend an annual religious/spiritual retreat. The retreats were quite a burden for me and each year the retreat left me feeling depressed. I vowed that after graduation I would never attend another retreat and I never have.
Even though I'm a long time primaler I never considered the possible reasons why I hated the idea of a retreat so much. It was only upon reading your letter that I realized that the retreat brought me close to my pain. So simple an explanation and yet it was never considered by me as a possibility. In fact I did not want to think about this at all. So thank you also for opening my eyes to this avoided truth.
I like your description of a deep primal as a 3-D dream. Well said!
Unfortunately, I have never been, and am still not, a spiritual person. I believe that this is because, after all these years of primaling, I still have a large amount of unintegrated birth trauma to be felt. -- John Speyrer
Thank you for being so open with me. I always mourn when I hear experiences like your college retreat experiences. It can be very harmful to be pushed into retreat, just as it is harmful to push one in therapy. So many people, especially in religious professions, have strengthened defenses that keep them from being one with whom they are because of the kind of requirements with which you were forced to comply. - E.K.
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November 10, 1997
After discovering the Primal Page recently, I have read a number of different articles and letters. Doing this gave rise to the following comments:
1) I was quite impressed by the very high quality of the two phenomenological studies The Seven Stages of Primal Therapy (by Stephen K.Witty, PhD and Stephen K.Khamsi, PhD) and Birth Feelings: A Phenomenological Investigation (by Stephen K. Khamsi, PhD). These two papers seem to have a feeling of "completeness" about them.
Dr. Khamsi's article on Birth Feelings has always been a favorite of mine. -- John, Editor of the Primal Page2) Why do we never hear anything from The Primal Institute (ie. Vivian's establishment) ?. Does it have a homepage ? (I couldn't seem to find one).
Good question Ron. No, I don't believe The Primal Institute has a web page.3) Any short reports about media appearances or lectures by Dr Janov, his wife France or his ex-wife Vivian would be of interest (similar to your own brief report, after Janneke's letter dated March 10, 1997) about their comments about insomnia. here in Australia, you rarely hear ANYTHING about Primal Therapy (In the past 30 years, I've only seen ONE tv program about it. And that was about a so-called "mock" Primal Centre, to use Dr Janov's terminology.
I have not heard of any lately, Ron. I believe Arthur Janov lives in Southern France for 6 months each year and is semi-retired.4) I wish there was someone knowledgable enough to write a DETAILED comparison of the various methods of SELF-PRIMALLING, ie. generic, Stettbacher's, Jenson's, Vereshack's etc.
My opinion, and only my opinion, is that there is no essential difference between the various approaches to accessing one's primal pain. Many have disagreed. Each of us bring into our self-therapy all of our past baggage; this is an important reason why, for some, one approach may be better than another.5) I am very interested to know what is happening in other countries with respect to Self-Primalling (ie. outside of Australia and the U.S.), partly, I guess, to get an idea how widespread interest is.
If I can make a valid judgment based on postings in the internet Odyssey mailing list for self-primalers , my guess is that in Germany there is an interest in self-primaling. I have received queries also from the Scandanavian countries and Holland.
6) The E.M.Holden transcript's "Editor's note" claims that EMH's pulse rate "went from between 90 and 100 to between 50 and 60." Surely for a PARASYMPATH that 90-100 can't be right ?? Those values seem more appropriate to a SYMPATH ! As EMH himself states on page 3 of his article, "I am a parasympath. I am organised into low pulse rate ...".
I'd like to ask Dr. Holden about that contradiction, but no one seems to know where he lives. Hopefully, he will turn up soon and mightl respond to your question. If he has a telephone, it is unlisted.
7) Ian Rawling's letter of Dec 9, 1995 was quite interesting and enjoyable to read. His problem of having no one to talk to about P.T., in his small country town, can perhaps be solved by maintaining regular phone contact with another self-primaller, if he can manage to find one.
8) Here in Australia, the Cognitive/Cognitive Behavioral professionals have, and have had for a long time, an almost complete domination over both the mental health scene and the university education system. I wish someone could write a very detailed and extensive critique of that erroneous theory (thoughts ==> feelings !! as a primary cause). Its adherents are among the most defended and impenetrable people I've ever met. A detailed critique of the use of medication would also not be out-of-place.
I believe that one of Janov's forthcoming books will analyze the deficiencies of that form of psychotherapy, Ron. I also would like to read an article about the use of medication in primal therapy. On some occasions its' use is helpful.9) Is there any PUBLIC information available as to WHY Dr Janov split away from The Primal Institute and set up his own Centre ?
Rumors and gossip. I've heard that in the divorce settlement between Dr. Janov and his wife, he agreed to relinquish the Primal Institute to her.
10) I've clicked on the outside link The Silent Scream - by Carol L. Mithers (Article in Buzz Magazine About Arthur Janov), but it doesn't work and comes up with an error message.
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