Primal Therapy and Intention
The willful practice of staying with a feeling “is the central and crucial mechanism in all feeling-oriented regressive psychotherapy”.
Paul Vereshack’s term “regressive psychotherapy” is a misleading description of what happens in primal-oriented therapies. Regression implies mentally and emotionally going back to an earlier time in your life.
What we are working with in the primal process are sensorimotor artifacts of past traumas…which continue to exist in the present. How? They are preserved and brought from the past to the present by a process called fear conditioning…a very ancient and powerful way of memory making. When we seek out, and work with, these artifacts we are working with them in the present moment. As a matter of fact, the process requires us to be willfully present with ourselves. Why is that?
Sensorimotor artifacts of prior trauma represent information that was never consciously experienced by us. They are the unconscious survival reactions we had during the trauma, which then express themselves repeatedly throughout our lives. But, while we are not conscious of their expression, we react to them. They make us feel and act like danger is present, when it is not.
Our unconscious survival reactions generate unwanted behaviors that we know as anxiety disorders, chronic anger, and emotional withdrawal.
Going after these artifacts requires learning a new skill. Learning any new skill requires concentration and willful attention to details.
Our survival reactions live in the spaces between words. They reside in very primitive brain structures, which are engaged in the much more primitive world of feelings. Our intellectual mode of existence dominates this world. Our consciousness is inundated with words, which effectively drown out the signals that are generating our feelings, which, nonetheless, are motivating us to act in unpleasant ways. We use our intellect to repress these signals.
So…the first step into the primal world requires making a conscious intention to let go of the intellect:
“When we actively turn away from cerebral intellectual function (normal daytime thought) and give ourselves over to the sensory experience of remaining attentive to feelings and body sensations [the content of amygdalic fear memories], the brain reorients itself toward deeper repressed material. The sensing we involve ourselves in acts like a magnet and draws the past powerfully and experientially into our awareness.” Paul Vereshack
We’ll now touch upon some simple, yet powerful, techniques that help us remain attentive to our feelings.