The Primal Mind

Exploring the primal roots of mental health

Archive for the ‘psychology’ tag

If you have to ask, you’ll never know.

with 4 comments

by Bruce Wilson

I’ve often told Arthur Janov that primal therapy needs good evidence from well-designed outcome studies before the psychological community will accept it as a valid therapy. I tell him this is the only way his colleagues will come to believe that the therapy works. His response is usually something like, “they won’t believe it even if you prove it to them. With scientists, the distance from the left brain to the right cannot be crossed.”

In a way, he’s correct. To those of us who have allowed ourselves to let go and drop deeply into feelings without inhibition or control, the concept of “feeling” takes on a whole new meaning. From that point forward, the common notion of feeling held by most psychologists is revealed as a pale facsimile of the real thing. Rather, it is only the tip of the iceberg, the bare beginning of what’s needed to connect with our deepest selves and reclaim our birthright as fully feeling human beings. And as Janov repeatedly reminds us, this process must be done slowly and carefully, with a constant focus on insight and connection, otherwise we can get easily get lost in empty catharsis with few insights or bizarre ideation. Janov calls this “abreaction.”

To psychologists who haven’t gone deeply into their own feelings, this is terra incognita. Most consider deep feeling as dangerous – something to avoid lest it “retraumatize” the client. Even the most well-meaning of therapists who say their approach is “all about feelings” miss the point. The loss of control needed to descend to the level at which the trauma occurred cannot be avoided. Without it, you remain at a distance, apart from the trauma. You must go into the center of the pain to resolve it, and when done properly, the pain dissolves into feeling and the insights flow. Left brain and right brain connect to create a wholly functional, feeling being.

But in today’s trauma therapy, the client is usually led part-way into the pain whereupon the therapist intervenes with advice on how to “appraise” the feeling. The cognitive brain stays firmly in control while the feeling is observed from afar, as though on a stage. A variation of this is EMDR – eye movement desensitization therapy – where the client witnesses the trauma from afar, as though in hypnosis, and then talks about it. She remains detached from her pain because to go deeper into it risks retraumatization.

And herein lies the difficulty in encouraging the scientific community to consider primal therapy seriously: unless you’ve been there and dropped to that level yourself, the concept of primal feeling is foreign and usually confused with loud screaming, crying, venting, flailing or flopping about, or some other display of extreme emotion, but with no understanding of what is happening on the inside. More often than not, deep feeling is avoided because most if not all psychologists have some degree of past trauma they are defending against. They may have touched on it in talk therapy, cried about it even, but very few have let themselves go to the depths because after all, it is painful, and most talk therapy situations don’t allow full expression of feelings, lest it disturb their professional neighbours. Also, later trauma often connects to earlier trauma underneath, a phenomenon Janov refers to as the chain of pain. There is a general fear of losing control, despite the fact that primal therapy has mapped this territory well over its forty plus years of development.

This is why the science of primal therapy must be done by researchers who have gone through the primal process, preferably all the way through therapist training. Otherwise, there will always be the question, “just what are primal feelings?” And as Louis Armstrong said when someone asked him what jazz was, “if you have to ask, you’ll never know.”

 

Share

Written by theprimalmind.com

June 25th, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Why Past Life Therapy is Not Primal Therapy

with 9 comments

by Bruce Wilson

On a previous post, I was asked why I neglect “past lives” in my discussions of primal therapy. The short answer is that I am not convinced that past lives or past life memories are real. If someone were to produce convincing evidence for this, I might change my tune, but the evidence would have to be extremely powerful and incontrovertible.

In scientific terms, the claim for past lives is extraordinary, and as Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I’m not saying I am certain that past lives don’t exist, only that the current evidence doesn’t support the idea. In fact, psychiatrists highly dedicated to the scientific method have produced suggestive evidence to support past life phenomena, but its relevance to psychotherapy is questionable. I explain why below. Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Written by theprimalmind.com

May 21st, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Primal Therapy on the World Stage!

without comments

by Bruce Wilson

Today, Peter flies off to Athens, Greece, where on May 18 he will present a talk on primal therapy to an international audience of psychiatrists and psychologists. The title of his talk is:

Primal Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapies, and the Early Life Determinants of Mental Health

The conference is the:

16th International Conference of the Association of Psychology and Psychiatry for Adults and Children

At this point, it’s unclear whether Peter’s presentation will be recorded, but we look forward to hearing all about it on his return.

Good luck, Peter!

 

Share

Written by theprimalmind.com

May 9th, 2011 at 10:46 am

Can empathy be learned?

with 3 comments

by Bruce Wilson

This morning, I received a tweet about a new book written by Simon Baron-Cohen, a Cambridge psychologist and psychiatrist who studies empathy. His book is Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty.

Baron-Cohen says that our view of cruel people as “evil” is misguided and rooted in obsolete, theological notions of morality. In an interview with the Guardian, he explains that people who are cruel have a low capacity for empathy because of genetic makeup and early childhood experiences. Cruel people tend to have had an insecure attachment in infancy, now recognized as a critical factor in the human development of empathy. Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Written by theprimalmind.com

May 5th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

No (deep) feelings please, we’re psychologists

without comments

by Bruce Wilson

Jules Roth, co-director of the Denver Primal Center used to tell a story about lectures he gave to university psychology students about primal therapy. Invariably, there were three types of response. The first and largest group of students just took notes with hopes of passing the exam; a second, smaller group would look askance or make sarcastic remarks about “screaming your way to happiness” and a third group, usually consisting of just a few students, would approach him quietly after the lecture to ask more about the therapy or where they could get it. There was a hush-hush quality about their questions, as though being interested in deep feelings was something to be embarrassed about.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Written by theprimalmind.com

November 8th, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Why is primal therapy ignored or criticized by mainstream psychology?

without comments

by Bruce Wilson

Search for “primal therapy” on PubMed, the US National Institute of Medicine’s database of the world’s medical literature, and you will a grand total of 12 papers.

There is only one paper in the 1990s: a survey that criticizes primal as one of the “least sound” of mental health treatments, along with neurolinguistic programming, bioenergetics, and aversive therapy. A more recent survey (2006) ranks “primal scream therapy” as less credible than prefrontal lobotomy, EST, NLP, craniosacral therapy, AND “dolphin-assisted  therapy for treatment of developmental disabilities.” Only slightly less credible than primal were “treatments for PTSD caused by alien abduction, past lives therapy, future lives therapy,” “use of pyramids for restoration of energy,” and angel therapy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Written by theprimalmind.com

October 6th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Welcome to The Primal Mind

with 2 comments

Welcome to our blog on affective neuroscience and how it can be applied to heal human suffering. We’re just getting warmed up here so be patient – we’ll be posting regularly very soon. In the meantime, mosey on over to the “about” page and learn more about why we are writing this blog.

Peter and I have been friends for forty years and over that entire period we’ve been involved in deep feeling therapy (primal therapy) in an attempt to heal our childhood wounds and open to a more fulfilling, integrated, and feeling life. When we met, each of us was suffering personally and searching for a more authentic, real life in a world that was, and still is, crazy in so many ways.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share