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is one of the many forms of therapy known as primal.
may have begun with Freud. It's been reported that early in his career
he experimented with a form of primal before abandoning it for the
with which we are familiar. True or not, Wilhelm
Reich, a protégéé of Freud, appears to be the
first person to have focused on and made explicit the role of the body
in the understanding and resolving of emotional difficulties. Reich can
truly be called the father of primal Reichian methods are still
practised, mostly in the northeast U.S. Since Reich’s death in 1954, a
number of persons who were involved with him have devised their own
These are called Neo-Reichian. Among these are the Bioenergetics of
Alexander Lowen and the Radix
Body-Education of Charles Kelley.
is a different path. Many people were practising various primal
for many years before Arthur
Janov made primal a household word with the publication of his
"The Primal Scream." Dr. Linn was trained in Organic
Therapy--a unique form of primal--in 1977, by its creator, Daniel
Miller, Ph.D. Dan describes it as a "multidisciplinary approach,
upon methods of Primal, Gestalt,
Organic Process deals with "pain." Pain is comprised of
than such physical distresses as a headache or broken bone. It also
disappointment, anger, hurt, scare, shame, guilt, and so on. Pain is
sort of distress, any perceived interference with one’s hope for
of one’s desires (for comfort, safety, ease, love, success, wealth...).
the Organic Process is the focus on true acceptance/non-coercion. In
you in the Process, your primaler does not attempt, through
to dissuade you from what you feel or reassure you that there is
to worry about. Nor does he or she attempt to force or badger you into
feeling any particular way. You will find that no matter what your
e.g., stuck, guilty, ashamed, discouraged, enraged, hateful, scared,
primaler will not tell you what to feel but will endeavour to
and accept you, to encourage and guide you in being just as you are.
implicit--but inaccurate--beliefs about feeling and emotion that
often bring to the Process. Among these are:
yourself over in
these ways in the primal room will enhance your ability to be assertive
in your dealings in the world and will actually diminish your risk of
I feel, I’ll die. Strong emotion is dangerous.
fact, unless your body has already been damaged, (e.g., you have
or a damaged heart), being fully emotional is not dangerous, it is
cry, I’ll never stop.
fact, no matter how wounded you are, no matter how intensely you cry,
will not last forever. It is not likely to last more than five to
minutes.In reality, the more fully you embody your grief, the briefer
get angry, I’ll
fact, if you embody your unfinished anger in the primal room, although
you may destroy someone in effigy, all you will do is get beyond that
and find relief.
let go, I’ll go crazy
and never come back.
fact, in letting go in the primal room, you’ll discover that it is not
the source of craziness, but of sanity.You will thereby gain confidence
that you will not go crazy, while discovering how to maintain your
that brings people to primal is the feeling of being choked up, of
being something "inside" (possibly a scream, but not necessarily) that
seems to want to come out, but doesn’t seem able. Another is the
of being unable to contain emotional expression (often, tears). Whether
it is something they cannot get out or something they cannot keep in,
are likely to believe that there is something wrong with them for not
able to put it behind them once-and-for-all.
a sense of depression that never seems to leave for long, anxiety, low
self-esteem, a sense of not belonging or of being stuck or lost. In
such as the ending of an important relationship or a death, are primal
opportunities. At these moments, we are usually less guarded and more
to openly and deeply express ourselves.
based on the thesis that whenever emotional expression is withheld in
lives (e.g., for fear of hurting someone, or of being
or otherwise rejected), this expression continuously "strives"
be realised. As a result, it must be actively, concretely and
withheld (often, through subtle adjustments of breathing or the tensing
of various muscles, such as clenching the jaw or masking held-back
with a frozen smile) The Organic Process facilitates
of this perturbed "movement," this interrupted expression.
you to check with your physician to determine whether it is safe for
to engage in strenuous physical exertion. Heart damage, epilepsy,
or high blood pressure may be contraindications. Since psychoactive
substances can impede the Process, the work will not be undertaken
with anyone who is abusing drugs or alcohol. Likewise, it is rarely
in with anyone who is taking psychiatric
medication (Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis). If
accepted, you will need you physician's permission to discontinue such
in the Process, you will need to spend a number of treatment sessions
with your primaler in more traditional ways in order for you to get to
know one another and to build a ground of trust for the work ahead.
usually occur weekly. But they might take place more often during
of crisis (or during weekend workshops, which consist of four sessions
during a weekend; or "intensives," which usually involve 5 to 10
a week for a one-, two- or three-week duration). They might also occur
less often, usually during the later stages of care. Generally, the
of treatment is shorter than in "talking" processes; it is usually more
intense and tends to plumb issues that are more at the "core" (hence,
issues that are less likely to be discovered in "talking"
or compelling. You will always retain the right and the
to refuse to proceed further. Should you do so, your therapist will
and discuss it with you, then and there, in order to determine whether
you might be willing to continue on. If you’re still unwilling, the
the be stopped (hopefully, only for the present session), without
work in some
sessions will be more intense than in others, there is no such thing as
a good primal or a bad one. Nor is any one primal more important than
We each have our own style of working, our own mode of coming to terms
with our painful pasts; we must journey down our own unique paths.
comparisons are meaningless. Today’s seemingly lacklustre session is
basis for tomorrow’s intense and obviously freeing experience.
course of care,
you will become increasingly skilled in the Process, as you learn to
your body/self. You’ll learn that it’s okay to be you: You’ll become
open and vulnerable and, at the same time, you’ll become more competent
at dealing with your life. You will have ample opportunity to talk
these experiences and to explore ways to integrate what you discover
your everyday life. You will probably choose some sessions to be
come to these
sessions dressed in loose, non-constricting clothing (e.g., jogging
and will work without shoes or stockings. You will remove all
glasses, false teeth, and the like, which could cause you injury. You
be asked to not use alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or other drugs (which
consider to interfere with authentic emotional expression), at least
the day of your session. In addition, you will be instructed to not
any food during the three hours before the beginning of the session.
who test this quickly discover that consuming food within this time
significantly and painfully interferes with the Process.)
will work is soundproofed, so that you can be loud without fear that
will hear. For your safety, the room is also padded, both floor and
(four inches of foam on the floor and on the walls). Most likely, you
begin to work lying down, on your back, on the mat. The room will be
and your eyes will be closed throughout the session.
and your primaler
greet one another, you will change into what you will wear while you
When you present yourself in the primal room, the ins and outs of the
wiill be explained (e.g., keeping your eyes closed, breathing with your
open mouth, not swallowing, etc.). Then, the focus will be on you: on
distress that you experience, on your understanding of its roots, on
hopes and expectations, and so on. (You may be asked to bring a six or
seven page autobiography to the first session--to be written no more
three days prior.)
first session--like the first of anything--is primarily an orientation.
It necessarily involves your beginning to learn "how" to primal, and to
trust the process. As with anything new, you will inevitably "make
and struggle with not being "perfect;" as time goes on, you will become
more at-home with the Process. For your primaler the first
is particularly a process of discovering you, and how to work
you; to discover "how" you choke down feeling, how you came to do so,
how to guide you back to yourself.
from most talking processes is the presence of touching. Whereas
is characteristically absent in talking sessions, it is of central
in the Organic Process. It often serves to reassure and encourage. It
also function to guide you to breathe properly and to facilitate the
of the muscular contracting that you use to inhibit feeling awareness
expression. There is no sexual or other inappropriate touching.
withstanding the different
context, primal sessions generally begin in much the same way as do
traditional sessions: with attempts to reconnect-usually necessary
a week’s absence/distancing-through greetings and inquiries about how
are going. However, the contract between you and your primaler involves
an intention and expectation of "authentic" and often intense
on your part.
contrast, in other
processes there are almost always at least implicit limitations
by office walls through which others can hear if one is loud,
who are frightened by and do not encourage or facilitate intense
and chairs and dressy and tight clothing--such as belts, brassieres and
buttoned collars--which constrict free expression.)
sessions, you are likely to employ the variety of strategies you have
learned early and practised long to evade experiencing your distresses
(e.g., joking, changing the subject, thinking of pleasures, swallowing,
holding your breath, trying hard). Your primaler's task is to "track"
you, in order to help you stay "focused." If successful,
at some point you will become "triggered;" that is, you
to track you and to help you keep breathing and stay focused, you will
experience yourself falling into what is called a primal space,
a more-or-less-sudden and spontaneous (that is, you don’t will it)
of intense emotion, of a sort that you are unlikely to have ever
before. Generally this will seem at once very surprising to you and yet
absolutely appropriate. During this phase of the session, as you are
you are likely to be curiously observing yourself. You are also likely
to be seeing "movies," that is, scenes in your life
which you were affected in the particular way that you are now being
but held back from fully expressing it. All of this is part of your
outflowing, you are likely to express yourself in the voice (as well as
the movements and breathing patterns) that was yours at the age you
in the particular scene. (Believe it or not, at times you may well
like an infant or a three-year-old or a ten-year-old, etc.) You may
a whole primal session at one particular age or you may "skip" from one
to another to another. Similarly, you may dwell with a single emotional
theme (such as anger or dread) or you may "flip" from one to another.
is a collaboration.
It is not something that your primaler does "to" you. Since deep
sound and movement facilitate it, you will frequently be reminded to
Your primaler will likely to ask you to speak to various people in your
life (as though they were actually in the room), as well as to make
(expressing what you are feeling at the moment). In addition, your body
will move, often without your realising it. At such times, your
will call your attention to it and encourage you to let it happen.
what makes this possible is your willingness to let it happen, to give
yourself over to it. By contrast, you might try to make it
happen in a particular way, strive for a particular kind of experience;
or you might attempt to keep it from happening. These efforts will
the Process. You needn’t worry about this, though. It is your
job to guide you.
continue until you arrive at what is called a clear space.
When people are clear, they describe themselves as feeling "peaceful,"
"calm," "relieved," "empty" (of their pain), "mellow," "good."
expect to feel
anxious and/or scared as you begin a session. (As Janov says, everyone
has to be prodded.) After all, you choked yourself down in the first
because you were too anxious and frightened to express yourself. You
expect to feel very intensely, and to discover that you can safely do
first in the session, then "out there." You can expect to discover lots
that you knew, but had forgotten, as well as much that will surprise
about you and your life and about other people in your life. You may
find yourself temporarily experiencing old maladies, such as the
that you thought you had surpassed. You can expect to notice changes in
the way you deal with your life and with others, and in how you feel
of Change as a Result of the Process
changes generally take place very early, often even after the first
At first, although you might notice the changes, you may be scared to
it and will tend to ask a lot whether it really is
These changes are apt to include diminished anxiety and depression, and
increased confidence, esteem and sense of being able to handle burdens
as you become
more aware of how you feel during the early stages of the Process, it
appear to you that you are feeling more distressed.
you are not more distressed, simply more aware of how
you are and have been.) At the same time, however, you will also
the changes just mentioned.
Process is to help you complete your presently unfinished and disowned
past in order for you to rediscover and reclaim it, alleviate
and stop living out others’ dreams of who you are; it is also to gain
esteem, hope, insight, and a passion for life. While there will always
be issues to work through, as you feel better and better about who you
are and about the life you are creating for yourself, you will feel
and less in need of care. There is no hard and fast rule about when to
terminate; however, as you become ready, it will begin to be a question
for you. You are likely to wonder how much longer you will have to
in care, first to yourself and then aloud. You and your primaler will
discuss it and arrive at a mutual decision about when it will be best
end care. This is not an irreversible decision. The option to return is
always available. In fact, we all need periodic "tune ups," and some
opt to come back for a few sessions from time to time.
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