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Letters To The Primal Page
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May 27, 1997
Some of us, considered to be "rigid character structures" (in Reich and Radix terminology), have an extremely difficult time being with a feeling and/or staying with a feeling. This means that it takes an enormous amount of dedication, intensity, and expended effort just to get close to surface feelings, never mind deep feelings. I think Dr.Vereshack "alludes" to this in Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad but doesn't single it out as a "special" category that can't be worked with. I think "we" are in the group that can do the work but we take an awful long time
I have now spent over four years in Radix bodywork/breathwork/physical work and only recently was able to say that I thought I might be ready for therapy now! This really meant that I was starting to be aware of REAL feelings and this means that my body armor had dissipated enough for me to detect some new inklings and ruminations. Dr. Vereshack mentions that trust and closeness is critical for the work and how he sees touch and holding, especially the therapeutic kind, as being critical for this process to work.
I'm interested in how important this trust development is, especially for those of us who have histories of both "object loss" and "object intrusion", and I certainly would like to know about techniques that accelerate this process! I imagine if someone I respected said "You can't go any faster, no matter what", I would relax and keep doing what I do, but I am also impressed by the need to minimize the time for this high trust state to be reached.
I currently do about an hour of laying on the back, knees up, deep belly-chest breathing, and systematic contraction and relaxation of paired muscles groups, and I do get into deeper states, but I am not yet able to catch a feeling and stay in it. I can kind of do this in therapy sessions (we go to Dallas every 5-6 weeks for a batch of sessions), and the depth of response does increase from time to time, but it seems my "trust" at home, by myself, is insufficient to permit going with" and "staying with" a feeling. Apparently I need the "re-parenting", the safety and warmth of a surrogate parent as a requirement for "going into the feeling". Dr. Vereshack notes the critical components:
1. client-centered reflection
From personal experience I know that to proceed at all in this work I need to ALWAYS say what I think, sense, or feel AT THE MOMENT, and that my process goes much better if I follow this simple rule. The interesting part is that as I do this AND I am reacted to in one of the above ways I am encouraged to do more; this is a positive snowball effect. If I don't do this immediately I can always get back to it, but it slows down the process. And my obligation seems to be to be on the look out for mistakes... departures from the above techniques or use of the same techniques but with bad timing. This latter style of interaction goes much more to "intimacy," where risks are taken by both parties. Success in this also adds to the development of trust.
And why do I mention all of this? Well, I see this trust development as the MAJOR hurdle for SOME of us and I'd like to get your take on this part as well as any info any one else may be able to share.
But whether it is recommended to access the feelings at the beginning of therapy, I'm not sure. The rules you listed are good ones; ones which should help connect to one's repressed material. However, I'm at at a loss as to make any other comments which might be helpful since I'm not a therapist.
Any one with suggestions for Doug can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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24 May, 1997
I've read all the letters from the archives, as well most of the articles that are connected with them. I came in touch with Alice Miller's books in 1991 after reading an interview of Sin‚ad O'Connor. I could relate to some of Sin‚ad's thoughts and experiences and as she mentioned the books of a certain Alice Miller and a John Bradshaw as a good help for abused children, I went to the library to check it out. I came back with Miller's latest book, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence.
When I was reading the book I felt liberated, enlightened and thrilled. Not only did I recognize many of my own ideas, I was happy that another person acknowledged the things I already knew. When I had finished it, I immediately started to read it again. I felt very confident in my own conviction. I knew for sure "nobody can't fool me anymore". But still, I found a certain resistance towards some things in myself. I continued reading her books For Your Own Good, and Banished knowledge, and ended up with reading Stettbacher's book Making Sense of Suffering. With that book I learned to relive the still unfelt experiences from my childhood and the results were indeed amazing.
Though it took the necessary time. Later I read and studied the rest of Miller's books, but I find her last two the most important, also because she has with them turned the psychoanalyses definitively on ther backs. Also I started to read Janov's books shortly after that which are amazingly accurate and well argumented.
Alice already wrote in her book Thou Shall Not Be Aware:
'The higher social classes dispose of more defence-possibilities against the trauma thanks to schooling and often one-sided intellectual development, and that yet the defense of the trauma (for example repression, aversion of the feeling against the memory, denial with help of idealism) causes the neuroses.'
It is very hard to see that yet they control all important positions in society. And that is exactly the reason why things go so slow or don't go at all.
In these past years I've seen so many examples of defense mechanisms everywhere, that I wonder how things will evolve in mankind. I've seen defenses so subtle and invisible as cobweb, and I've seen defenses so big and obvious. It looks that only a minority understand Miller's books. Most people of that minority though misuse Alice Miller's discoveries for their own purpose (which is to defend themselves against their own truth, I'm sure).
You are one of them, John, even if your intentions are sincere and look professional. But that's also the case with most other therapists. One takes only the things from her that appeals to him, mix it with other writer's thoughts together with his own conceptions and a so-called therapist (or any other helper) believes he's the chosen one to help 'sick' people and can't wait to preach the word. Being a therapist must have neurotic causes.
Look for example to your reference to "PAST PAIN / TODAY'S GAIN, REPROGRAM YOURSELF for JOY, ZEST & LOVE" (by Alex Lessin, Ph.D.). What in heaven's name is this? This is suppose to give people help? It's so full of pedagogic phrases ("Do this, act that, etc.") and 'subtle' protection for parents, that it can harm people. It even starts to tell about our poor parents as they tried so hard..., shortly followed by learning us to forgive our parents and to actually thank (!) them for forming us.
And it doesn't stop here, further this Ph.D. has to emphasize the forgiveness again: "Deepen your understanding of her so you forgive and love her. (...) She gave you less affection, support, freedom and encouragement than you wanted. But put yourself in her place. Then you'll drop your anger, work through conflicts keeping you apart and forgive her." And it's exactly this 'forgiveness' that is such a hard concept to deal with. What Miller wrote about forgiveness is 100% against this kind of attitude. And she gave so many good examples why it is wrong to forgive. Let me shortly quote her again: "Forgiveness doesn't remove the latent hatred and self-hatred, but covers it on a highly dangerous way"
. This 'forgiveness for the parents' also comes back in John Bradshaw's books (it looks he never got further than Miller's first books) and is still inside Sin‚ad O'Connor's head, too. They didn't manage to make any progression and in the case of Sin‚ad this led to at least another suicide attempt, religious escapism, besides the usual repetitive mistakes to her own son and daughter.
I can understand why Alice Miller is in a depression. I would be in a depression too when I find out that almost nobody understands my simple books. But to criticize Miller as a person and then to reject everything she discovered is rather foolish. It's like trying to find inconsistencies in Galileo's life (I'm sure there will be plenty) in order to throw away his theory that the earth is round.
But we forget that there's only one truth and one reality and that everybody has their own natural abilities to reveal the truth. But it takes time, pain and patience. And most people are too afraid to give up/ change their "safe" life/ job to get better. It's not a coincidence that the people "who have nothing to lose anymore" are the first to make progression in primal therapy. (Or as Miller and Janov say: "Their defense is already low".) When harm is done to a little child, it has a biological response of reacting to the harm. If this response gets suppressed or ignored, the child finds another way or no way to deal with its hurt. But the primal reaction will linger.
Instead of pretending to help others, we should provide a way of stripping down defense mechanisms, so people in the future will be better off recognizing them and act on it. We don't need therapists to unravel our defenses, it's enough to contact others (more than one) who are in the same process as well. Sure, the "getting (temporarily) depended" factor could apply here as well, but at least it's mutual, without financial costs, and without pretentions. Therefore it's a good initiative to bring such people together here on the internet.
Most people who feel they need primal therapy, are not the ones in society who need therapy. What we advocate is the prevention of child misuse. So, obviously people who mistreat their children in such a hard way that their children grow up as feelingless criminals, childmolestors, big corporate money-holics or any other kind of oppressive authority, THOSE people need primal therapy!! This is not the case. On the contrary, in most countries it's still not forbidden by law to hit your child and America is one of them. (And abusive people certainly don't read books which provide them with ten handy tips NOT to abuse your child.) And more important on the scale of birth and the ever growing stack of proof that shows the unmistakable effects on human lives, nothing gets changed! On the contrary, it gets worse, more and more technology and chemicals are part of modern births, besides the old fashioned cruelty.
I recently had to witness that with my pregnant sister who wasn't impressed at all by a book of Frederique Leboyer Birth Without Violence I had gave her. Maybe she sympathized somewhere deep inside her with it, but she had let her herself be convinced by the medical experts that the modern hospital birth is more safe and with less risk for both. When the baby came, it was the same old story; that we know all too well. That the medical world doesn't have much respect for the living organism, is a fact proven by history.
But how can we get to persuade governments if there are a million different groups out there that all claim something else? But a child growing up gets so many different messages that he must get confused. Even the works of Alice Miller are cleverly manipulated to hide the road that leads to the truth. Besides that, there is an overwhelming supply of books that all want to help us. How kind of those people. But only help in ways they can approve. Is life that complicated that we need to know all that intellectual psycho-babble?
It's natural to prevent pain, but to relive and therefore integrate (you know when it's been integrated when it doesn't hurt anymore) our past pain is the only way to make us complete. When you are dealing with your past pain and when there are moments when you feel you're about to get crazy, you can't make it on your own, you're 'dying', you desperately want someone to help you out, etc. is only your own defense against the feeling. Let your body take over and trust yourself. The feeling that you absolutely cannot make it on your own is a past feeling and is connected with various parts of your life (up till birth). Nobody needs any pills for suppressing your anxieties, because once you start feeling pain, it doesn't last forever. Of course you will be afraid and helpless and desperate, exactly like you felt when you were a kid.
There is another thing I would like to say in regard to early trauma's and that is dream awareness. Janov mentioned in one of his book briefly how he resolved a trauma in his dreams and I believe this is greatly underestimated. To feel in your dreams is also feeling, but on a lower level of consciousness and it makes the nescessary connections even if we are not aware of it. For some years I had a very scary dream, a few times per year. Though they were each time a little different, the basic elements were the same; I was lying on my bed where I couldn't move myself, no matter how hard I tried. There was nobody around but I felt a presence, an immense destructive force which I couldn't see but I felt like it could destroy me completely any second. In my life sofar I've never felt a bigger fear as in those dreams. I was always pretty upset when I woke up after these dreams.
But the last time I dreamt it, a few years ago, I finally could make the connection. I asked my mom about the time they took me to the hospital when I was 8 months old for a burned foot. Turned out that they had to strap me on a bed with my arms tied and that my mother wasn't allowed to stay with me and that I cried a lot when she left. The presence I felt in the dreams, must be the doctors behind glass. I haven't had these sort of dreams since. People who would like to know more about dream awareness I recommend Patricia Garfield's "Creative Dreaming" or "Exploring the world of Lucid Dreaming" (by Stephen Laberge & Howard Rheingold).
Another thing is that for some years, when I felt sleepy in the afternoon, and lied down on bed, I dozed off but still aware of the room and me sleeping on the bed. I had this contracting and burning pain in my stomach that disappeared as soon as I woke up. I assume it's something connected to the time when I was in the womb. It happened a dozen or more times but only in afternoons and occasionally I still have it, though less intense. I haven't made the intellectual connection to the cause, at this point I can only guess. Does anyone else had the same experience or knows the cause?
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June 10, 1997
I started to read Paul Vereshack's book from a link on the Primal Page. During the reading of the first chapters I was very enthusiastic and curious if he would tell me new things and hoped he would write things that I could use in my self-therapy. I felt the first chapters of Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad were really promising. Then I read more and started feeling that he was not telling anything new, and then I started feeling that his therapy lacks things that I find important in J. Konrad Stettbacher's therapy (the third and fourth step).
As I continued reading, I started thinking more and more often: I disagree with this. Then I became shocked and angry because I think it is really totally wrong what he does. This is exactly what has been done to me in a therapy and it didn't work, it only made things worse, and now that I am more experienced with Stettbacher's and Jean Jenson's therapy I can understand why. Then I read more chapters and I became more and more bored. Just a lot of words that told me nothing new and nothing important and nothing interesting. I stopped reading after chapter seventeen, I was too bored andI was really disappointed. The first chapters had been so promising. But he seems not to come any further than experiencing pain, he doesn't seem to have knowledge about dealing with the pain. I think it is really dangerous what he does, and not only the sexual things that he now acknowledges to be wrong.
I think, like Stettbacher, that it is really dangerous to see re-experiencing of the trauma as the goal of the therapy, like Vereshack writes. And I think and experienced that it is not true that experiencing the pain does heal. And, like Jenson, I think unmet infant needs should not be met in the therapy, but should be grieved. And I think that a "body necessity" should not be honoured, but only noticed as a wish and connected with the past, and then processed with the four steps. I experienced that it is important for me to stop re-enacting the past in life and also in the therapy.
For years I was in a therapy in which was exactly the way Vereshack described. At the time, I felt and thought then that it was a very good therapy and my intuition also led me to believe this. I realize now that when I bought Stettbacher's book, I expected something like Vereshack's book. It was what I felt to be good then, that was what my body and my intuition told me and I was absolutely sure that it was right, although my symptoms didn't go away by doing this therapy.
So, when I first read Stettbacher's book, I was disappointed and didn't understand what he wrote. When I started doing Stettbacher's self-help therapy, I still did not understand, and it was only during the past two years that I started to understand what was wrong with this regression therapy and that the result - my becoming more and more ill - was to be expected.
The only benefit from this therapy was that now, every time that I feel I can't do the therapy without my childhood needs for holding and comfort being met, I remember that it didn't help me even the slightest bit all those years that they were met. That the holding did not bring the healing that I feel it would bring, but that this therapy made things only worse and that I lost many years of my life with it.
It taught me very thoroughly and convincingly that I should do the therapy instead of trying to get my childhood needs met. That I am adult now, that the past is over and can't be repaired, only grieved. That what should have happened then, should have happened THEN and not now. That it is an endless and hopeless story to do in the present what should have happened much earlier in my life, in spite of whatever urgent feelings I have about it.
Without having done this regression therapy I probably would not realized this, and then I probably would not be really convinced that I have to do it Stettbacher's and Jenson's way. Then I would again try to follow my needs. So in a way this awful therapy did bring me some good things: I learned very well that I shouldn't do it this way anymore.
I feel that this regression therapy made me more confused about past and present. I also felt a lot of hidden manipulation in this therapy that made me sick, and I read that in Vershack's book, too. And it made me drown in horrible old feelings and gave me no tools for coping with the past. I experienced that holding is not a tool to deal with the past. For me Stettbacher's four steps are really important!
For me a lot of healing came from the third step, finding out about what I thought as a child to be the cause of the abuse (like me being a bad child) and realizing now that I had to think that as a child but that, in reality, isn't true. And saying no to the abuse, always ending with feeling and saying that it was wrong what happened and standing up for what I needed is also very important for me. It is remarkable how hard I often find it to come to feel, really feel, that it was wrong what happened.
Often I struggle a lot with feelings of guilt and excuses for my father before I eventually feel that it was wrong what he did and that I deserved something else. I absolutely can't do therapy without this third and fourth step! I don't understand how this man can be so enthusiastic about his therapy. He is right in the first chapter when he writes that the results of psychiatry are very disappointing, that these "therapies" take too much time and that no real changes seem to occur.
But I think the same can be said for his therapy. His story about a woman sucking his breast for three years does not look like much progress in the therapy. It looks the same as my experiences with this therapy - an endless story without real benefit. And I find this story of this woman really disgusting. So, well, I am not positive about what I read of this book until now. But I also realize that I am overreacting. Reading the book triggered awful memories, memories from the therapy that I did, and childhood memories. Horrible memories.
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June 27, 1997
Here is the revised letter I promised to write for the PPP:
Three years ago it took all the strength I had to leave family, friends and a well-paying job to search for ways to fill the emptiness I felt and to mend the broken bonds to God, Nature and myself. After months of wandering around I settled in a town and found a group of people who seemed to have found a solution. I was skeptical, but curious and desperate enough to give it a try.
The group was determined to eliminate our destructive patterns and become connected by clearing ourselves of past- and present-life traumas. It used a form of educational kinesiology to access these traumas. Although present situations were used as starting points to access past wounds, the full force of the trauma was kept at bay by talking and visualizing rather than allowing feelings to surface. The practice used almost every topic under the New Age sun, including auric bodies, angels, aliens, channeling, past lives, good and evil entities, etc. After a few months of practicing this without any progress and with rapidly growing suspicions of the motivations of the leaders, I dropped out. Ironically, shortly thereafter the leadership dissolved due to personality conflicts.
Feeling quite a bit more cynical and disillusioned, I wondered if there really was a way out of the swamp. A friend suggested that I get in touch with my inner child. My what? Your little boy, she said. Talk to him. Write to him. Okay, I'll try. I talked. I wrote. I found out my little boy doesn't trust me. That was that. I wasn't going to go any further until I found a guide.
Several months later, an acquaintance said her sister does inner child work. I was going to go overseas in a few weeks, but thought I'd give it a try. I went for a session thinking that it would be the first and last. After giving her some background on my life, she explained that she uses guided visualization to access childhood traumas. She also said that she believed in Alice Miller's works as well as Jean Jenson's. She kept copies of Jenson's Reclaiming Your Life for sale at her office.
She began the session by asking me to visualize myself standing on a platform. Behind me were stairs leading up and in front of me were stairs going down. We went downstairs first. There was a door at the bottom of the stairs and I opened it. She asked me to look down at my feet and tell her what I saw. I saw the little feet of a child. I told her what was going on in the scene. We talked about the scene. I could interact with the people in the scene - ask them questions, tell them my feelings and thoughts. My mother appeared in the scene. We talked about my present search for healing. I began sobbing. I hadn't cried in years. The therapist asked if I was ready to go back upstairs. I was and when I reached the platform I opened my eyes, still crying. Well, I was impressed by this therapy's ability to tap my emotions and my past. She later explained that going downstairs lead to the subconscious and upstairs took you to your higher self.
It was my task to initiate a relationship with each of my "children" that appeared in the visualizations. I was to dialogue with them and gain their trust by listening to them. I was to become the parent they never had. This is how I would integrate them with me and become whole. The idea is that these "children" are running my life. Each represents a painful childhood event. If they remained hidden, they would continue to control my life trying to get their needs met.
I had decided to continue the therapy and since I was leaving soon, I asked if it would be allright to have a session every day. My therapist said that it was fine as long as I felt up to it. We would take it a day at a time. I had 12 sessions in all. I wanted to establish a foundation upon which to continue the work while travelling and afterwards, when I found a place to settle.
Each session involved the visualizations. More "children" appeared for me to reparent. I felt overwhelmed by the task and decided that it was too much for me to do. I didn't understand how this was going to heal. She said I could use my higher self for guidance. She couldn't explain her approach saying that it was different for each client. I was rather disappointed.
Upon returning from my travels, I read Jenson's book. I was astounded by its simplicity and sensibility. Ironically, Jenson doesn't believe in fragmenting one's self into "inner children" and reparenting these children. I found that comforting. But, I still wonder if the visualizations could be used to uncover unconscious material and feel it consciously. Or does one always need to begin, as Jenson states, with a present event to tap into the unconscious memory underlying it?
I find myself quite paralyzed these past few months. It has been a year since I went to the "inner child" therapist. I have returned to the place I had left three years ago. I have been staying with family for several months - I had intended to be here only a couple of weeks to visit friends and relatives. I haven't been able to follow through on any decision to move out. It feels as though there is a tug-of-war inside. The ropes pulling in opposite directions resulting in no net movement. I am unemployed as well, living off my savings. I've never felt so stuck in my life. I have resigned myself to making any move - just to get out of this rut.
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July 6, 1997
This is such an amazing thing to find. I've been doing this stuff myself for about four years, and at times it has been very, very lonely. I have about 50 tapes inspired by the Stettbacher method. I also went back to my childhood home and asked the current residents if I could measure it and make a floor plan. They said, "Uh....ok." Then they gave me a penny dated 1943 that they had found jambed inside a door lock. Possibly, as a child, I had stuck it there.
I also have many drawings as suggested by Alice Miller. Can one still mention her name favorably? I wonder after reading some of the stuff I've seen here. But her books were an enormous help to me. I've also read Janov and found that helpful.
Please put me on the list to receive mail. I'm from North Carolina.
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July 8, 1997
It was good to find your website, as I'm part of a group which is just starting the self-regressive therapy. There are 3 regulars, and about another 4 or 5 who come and go to our twice a week meetings. We have all read Jensen (who I think is great) and tried a couple of exercises from her book. The informal leader is reading Stettbacher right now. We have also tried a little non-dominent hand inner child work following the book by Lucia Capacchione.
So include me on you e-mailiing list, bulletin board, and whatever. We're located in Pittsburgh, PA.
Any comments or suggestions concerning the directions to follow would be greatly appreciated.
Editor's Note: It's done Ed! Good luck to your group. -John-
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July 24, 1997
I'm happy to finally let you know that we have our mailing list ready to go and are officially opening it up.
Here are a couple of details:
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