Because Freudian and Primal theories appear to have a number of formulations in common, many believe that Primal Therapy was developed directly out of Freudian theory. From a historical perspective, Primal theory is clearly the logical extension of Freud's position on many issues. However, Primal theory did not grow out of a theoretical scrutiny of Freudian literature, nor is Primal Therapy a psycho-emotive rendition of psychoanalysis. Primal Therapy grew out of a discovery which at first appeared to be one person's private experience, but which then turned out to be a primary (primal) experience potentially available to most people.
This is not to say that Freudian thought had no influence apperceptively. On the contrary, the development and scientific validation of Primal Therapy is in many ways a tribute to Freud's pioneering concepts on the biological basis of defense, repression, and neurosis. These concepts show that Freud was "on the trail" of a psychobiology of feeling more than eighty years ago -- a trail that was cut short by a lack of scientific proof ,the primitive state of neurology and neurochemistry, and professional pressure. In effect, Freud was ahead of the science of his time. It is not unreasonable to speculate that, had he had the science and technology available to him then that we have had in this era, he would have arrived at the key concept of Primal theory and therapy: the permanent, neurobiological imprinting of Pain and its release through feeling.
Attributing Neurosis to Non-Existent Causes
The Early Years
Freud's first inkling of the nature of mental processes came about as a result of his work with Viennese physician Joseph Breuer. By the time Freud joined Breuer in 1882, Breuer had already discovered that hysterical patients could recall experiences under hypnosis which they could not recall in the waking state. The famous case of Anna 0. fascinated Freud, and he discussed it "over and over again" with Breuer.
Anna had developed a disturbing array of hysterical symptoms after the death of her father. Her speech, sight, and limbs were all seriously affected. Under hypnosis, Anna recalled the traumatic scene with her father in which she had sat on his bedside as he lay dying. It turned out that there were unexpected correlations between the details of that scene and the exact location and nature of her hysterical symptoms. To Breuer's surprise, Anna's symptoms gradually diminished with the repetition of Anna's recollection of traumatic events while under hypnosis, which Anna herself nicknamed "the talking cure."
The theoretical outcome of this work with Anna 0. (and with other hysterical patients) was the formulation of a "traumatic theory of hysteria" which described the role of the unconscious in the formation of neurotic symptoms. Co-authored by Freud and Breuer, the publication of Studies in Hysteria in 1895 marked the historical beginning of psychoanalysis. In it, Freud and Breuer observed several important factors:
(1) an experience could be barred from conscious recall if it were sufficiently painful;
(2) it could then be recalled under hypnosis; and
(3) the hysterical symptom matched or mirrored some detail of the original traumatic experience.
They concluded that a traumatic experience could exert a lasting influence, producing symptoms years later, even though the memory of it remained completely unconscious. Finally, they stated that only when the memory was retrieved under hypnosis, and "was accompanied by an intense reproduction of the original emotion, often with a hallucinatory reproduction of the trauma...the symptom disappeared." They termed this process emotional catharsis.”
Here we see the seeds of several important principles of mental and physical functioning -- some of which have endured the test of time and some of which lapsed, later to be rediscovered.
* Pain and trauma produce repression.
* Repression results in symptomatology.
* There is a meaningful correspondence between psychological events and physiological symptoms.
* Repressed material exerts a lasting influence until it is released through recall and emotional catharsis.
Indeed, Freud's early work with Breuer broke ground which we all stand upon today, for in addition to laying the groundwork for psychoanalysis as one particular "school" of psychology, he was also laying a groundwork for psychology as a field and a science with its own rigor.
While hypnosis continued to play a central role in Breuer's work, Freud abandoned using it by the time Studies in Hysteria was actually published. He was dissatisfied with hypnosis for several reasons. One was that he found not all patients could be hypnotized . ; another that the hypnotic "cure" of symptoms was usually only temporary; and still another was that it could not influence many types of unconscious contents. Only those which were "seeking expression," Freud found, could be brought forth under hypnosis.
During his work with Breuer, Freud discovered that, if the physician listened sympathetically, patients could recall long-buried memories and motives without the aid of hypnosis. He then developed an approach that is as obvious to us today as it was thoroughly novel in Freud's time: he made the patient the focus of study by asking questions, listening, and then seeking to organize and interpret what was revealed. This new approach became known as the "free association" technique, and Freud was convinced that it accomplished what hypnosis could not: it tapped into unconscious contents, eliciting the "deeper, more primitive and imaginative components of the mind" while the patient was in the waking state. Freud became convinced that the same (or better) information could be retrieved without all the folderol of hypnotic procedures.
 Ives Hendrick, Facts and Theories of Psychoanalysis (New York): Knopf), 1967 p. 12.