by Paul Vereshack M.D.
Would you discuss the problems of primals which seemingly need to continue indefinitely?
These are questions that strike to the very heart of the efficacy of primal therapy itself. These questions in turn, ask about the the degree and kind of childhood damage, the degree and kind of early support and parental love, and if that weren't enough, they also ask us about our genetic background.
I have often said to my clients that primaling is not a cure all; that in fact this therapy can blow off and or integrate 30 to 70 % of our pain but that there does remain, depending upon all the above factors, a percentage of pain that simply must be lived with, and attended to from time to time. The amount of ongoing work that we must do, of course, varies with the particular problem, and all the above factors as well.
Now this may seem an uncertain kind of answer, but in fact it looks squarely at the deficiencies of the treatment method and challenges those who would say that primal cures everything. It does not in fact cure everything. I have had communication from people who have attended even the most competent and well known therapists, and who agree with what I have found to be true.
What then can be done?
I am myself very sceptical about the quality of Primal Therapists, and that includes scepticism about myself. We all of us (and there are no exceptions) have holes in our personalities and brain function, and thus have holes in how we attend to our clients. Taking all this into account, I suggest to clients that across their life times they do their work with several different therapists. I myself have in my earlier years worked with at least eight different practitioners at all depths of therapy. This is one solution to the problem of unfinished primal work. What one therapist leaves, another may correct, or not, as the case may be.
Another solution to this central issue, of never finishing primal therapy, is to get an evaluation from several therapists as to where you are and what you are doing. It is important when seeking this kind of evaluation, that you spend time with therapists who do not bring heavy theoretical belief systems to their work. The world of therapy is filled with people who hold all sorts of bizarre beliefs, and I do mean bizarre.
Healthy scepticism, a mind that is empty of rigid beliefs, a complete training in psychology and psychiatry, with a rich background of clinical experience, inside and outside of hospitals, as well as years of therapy practice, do inform the practitioner very deeply about what is, and what is not possible.
For instance, if someone is in a job or marriage or any other situation that creates pain, that pain will seek out and flow through the easiest pathways in the brain, and in the primal person, may lead them to have to return to the same old primal paths forever. In medicine this is called " the path of least resistence." Thus the asthmatic who is in general, or even specific stress, has an attack of breathing difficult, while the ulcer patient gets ulcer symptoms. Similarly the deep primaler gets triggered into primal pain no matter what the stress.
How we treat ourselves as sensitive people, how we organise out lives, maintain our personal boundaries, refuse to let ourselves be used by others, or be their dumping ground, all this will determine how we are in our mental and primal health. As we grow in consciousness, and deepening sensitivity, these issues become more and more vital to our balance. As I said, ignoring them and any other unfinished business in the present, will lead to primalling without an end. Therapists who take people deeply into their past without working first from the present contribute greatly to the problem of endless primalling.
There is the additional difficulty of some damage being irreversible, due to some or all of the factors mentioned in the first paragraph above. This again means that we must treat ourselves with great caring and have a deep sense of what is and is not curable. Arriving at this knowledge is difficult.
I have had people in my practice who when I talk to them about this very real issue have left me in anger. One highly educated man, when I warned him he might be moving into a serious mental illness, told me that he did not come to me for my knowledge as a doctor and clinician, but rather came to me for Primal Therapy! He behaved as though primal was a sacred cow unrelated to anything else we know about in mental health. The fanaticism of some primal clients seem to match the fanaticism of some primal therapists.
If you make a meticulous inquiry into the precise training of a therapist you may uncover a lack of any real training that staggers the imagination. Be very careful about this. Our wonderful therapy is much rejected by the mainstream of mental health practitioners. This means that it must spread through the general population as a folk movement. Many untrained "natural" pracitioners have great talent. Nonetheless one must be very careful about final opinions as to your core mental and physical health and where your future therapy proceeds.
Do your primal work with many different therapists, so that you can get a number of opinons about what is keeping you stuck, and what is in fact is a final goal for you.
-- Paul Vereshack
Dr. Vereshack makes some cogent observations about endless primalling. Some, who experienced very early pain such as birth and intrauterine trauma may actually need decades of primalling and perhaps more than a lifetime for complete resolution. Naturally, that would depend on what age a person began the primal process and how efficient he is in self-primalling. Dr. William Emerson, et. als., believe that, optimally, primalling could begin soon after birth.
After initial therapy some can continue accessing their traumas without a therapist. Otherwise, continuing therapy with a professional would cost a small fortune! That's when primal buddies can be of assistance. See Buddying and Self-Primalling by R. Beaulieu and Telephone Primalling by P. Törngren.
Even after many years of reliving early pains, the results may not be what one may have expected. One may no longer suffer from the emotional "wound" but the outcome for the client may not be what it would have been had the trauma not occurred.
Another thing to consider is that the most severe traumas often do not present themselves for resolution until the very end of the primal process. Without a lot of prodding, our defenses are sometimes too resistant to allow us to feel these very early major hurts. Resolution of these traumas are usually the most difficult to reach. They sometimes resist being accessed and instead simply lie in wait until emotionally wrenching life circumstances occur. A divorce, bankruptcy, major accident, death of a loved one, or a severe illness can encourage the feelings to rise and make their presence known to us by a return of symptoms, or of new or old primal material.
For example, my fear of death phobia had never presented itself for resolution until after about 15 years of primal-oriented therapy. It was not until I received a diagnosis of a possible fatal illness that my "fear of death" feelings were triggered and hopefully resolved after hundreds of primals dealing exclusively with the origins of that feeling. If I had not had that particular medical diagnosis, perhaps I might never have felt the "dying during birth" scenario.
Dr. Arthur Janov observed that you can't get in therapy what you never got when it was originally needed. Developmental needs must be met at a particular time, whether inutero, in infancy or during early childhood. All you can do in therapy is feel/relive the pain of not having had that need met. Having these feelings will lessen and sometimes abate the present day suffering, but one usually does not become the person he or she would have become if their needs had been met at the proper developmental time.
-- John A. Speyrer, Webmeister, The Primal Psychotherapy Page