What Does Primal Therapy Mean To Me?
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
I entered the world of primal therapy through the door flap of a primitive sweat lodge. A sweat lodge is a low, round structure built of bent saplings and blankets, tarps, animal skins, etc. It is meant to symbolize the womb. Such structures are used cross-culturally and have been built since the beginning of our species. They are used to help people heal.
A large fire is built around stones outside of this lodge. Participants carefully and intentionally build the structure and the fire, blessing each stone as it is placed into the fire pit. After the fire has burned down and the stones are glowing red, the participants enter the structure and seat themselves around a fire pit. The stones are brought into the pit and the door flap is closed leaving everyone in a dark glowing womb. Herbs are sprinkled on the hot stones, filling the structure with their healing aroma and essence. Water is then poured over the stones, creating steam. As the stones lose their glow, complete darkness and hot steam envelopes everyone.
It was during one such sweat lodge that I began to feel my feelings…perhaps for the first time in my life. As I felt myself being engulfed in the complete darkness and the moist steam, I began to cry. At first this startled me. But it was not to be stopped. The crying increased in intensity, tears running freely down my face, body trembling. This was not frightening to me in any way. Rather, as the process grew, I became more and more curious about what was happening. It continued for almost an hour, unabated. As I sat in the mud keeping consciously aware of the feelings that were coming up, I was (as yet completely unknown to me) participating in the process of primal therapy.
Primal therapy is quite simply an opportunity for you to feel the feelings that you carry around inside of yourself unnoticed. When these feelings are painful, you suffer and don’t know why. Without knowing that you’re doing so, you continually hold down these painful feelings. This internal denial of feelings creates depression.
Those of us who have suffered trauma go through life in this condition. We pay unending attention to the thoughts in our heads. Our monkey minds leap endlessly from one bright bauble to another: Trump is this, Obama is that. My yogi is good, yours is bad. The news said this, the news said that. She made me do it, he is to blame for what I did…endlessly and etc.
Because our minds are so busy, there is no silence within which we can listen to what’s going on inside of us. But the cause of our suffering lives in this silence. It comes to us in the space that exists between words. Somehow, we need to find a way into that silence so that our bodies can give a voice to our pain. A sweat lodge practice is one such opportunity. Primal therapy is another.
one of the hardest and most powerful experiences I participated in was a vision fast in the Colorado mountains. It was led by Jeffrey Duvall, one of my mentors. I had to spend 3 days on a mountain top, alone and without food. With nothing to do but confront myself….to study the quiet spaces between my words. Not an easy thing to do, but positively life changing. (1)
One of the prerequisites of doing primal therapy is that you’ve reached a point in your life where you understand that you are the cause of your own suffering. This means releasing the comforting notion that you are being victimized by someone or something else. Another necessity is to find someone who has sat in this silence long enough to have felt his/her own feelings. This allows them to be comfortable with the expression of your pain. If this person has the ability to empty his/her mind and listen deeply to your voice without judgement, a healing circle can be created.
I help my clients create their own sacred healing circle. Then, it is up to them to take their journey.