I am ninety now so I have earned the right to reflect a bit. So here goes:
What have I learned about life? A lot and not much since it is what I have learned about people in my life that counts. First of all, my great great staff, some of whom have been with me for fifty years, others thirty years. It is a lifetime together that counts. And yes, they and I have many flaws but we are all human for God’s sake and that is part of being human. They are not “my staff,” they are my friends, my good friends, all of whom I trust completely. They care so much for their patients and for their lives. And my wife. We are together night and day for 41 years and it is not enough. It is a double Pygmalion. I changed her through the therapy and she changed me through her love. What more is there?
If you did not suffer, chances are you would not be interested in Primal Therapy, nor my books nor me. You can live a good life without me but a better life with me. Why? Because I have found what feelings mean to all of us, and I have found what an open brain means. Some of you already are there so congratulations. Many of you, like me, are still learning about me about life and about what drives us. You mean I am still learning. Let me give you an example: I used to work in a meat packing plant where they slaughtered pigs. I stood next to the racks of pigs and heard them screaming, and thought nothing of it. And I forgot it. As my brain has opened up, I now hear those screams all of the time and I cannot shut it out. It drives me crazy but they are part of me. It is no different from now feeling the hurt and pain my parents inflicted on me, I now hear my silent screams. I was never aware of it and never knew about it. After I felt my need over and over again I began to suffer from their behavior and just who they were. I am ninety, remember, but my life at five years of age never left me. I was driven incessantly by that hurt yet never knew about. I could not sit still and never could even imagine that it was due to my womb-life. I did not concoct a theory about it; I lived it. l never knew I need to be held and touched until my body ached and screamed it out, time and again. I did not even know it was about being held and touched until months and years after feeling raw emotional pain. Then it got specific. We do sometimes hold patients because it is a good tranquilizer and it brings pain levels down so that they can feel and tolerate it. We give them a bit of what they need so they can feel more of what they need. The totality is too much all at once.
We have turned psychotherapy upside down. I cannot imagine telling a patient who is crying deeply that her time is up. It is inhuman. l We have no time limit on sessions. When they are through feeling and only then do they leave. They go on feeling, and finally they leave me as a patient and come back as friends. Good, non-neurotic friends. I will publish some of the letters I received on my birthday to show you what I mean. Here is a letter that I received while writing this:
What a privilege it has been to have know of you for so many years and also have met you in person.
Your life’s work has given me and so many the opportunity to save themselves from themselves. To create a new life or just a life, a beginning of something great. It’s through Primal Therapy that I’ve been able to see myself, slowly become myself, evolve to who I was supposed to be, free of pain, free of painful acting out repression all day, every day.
I cherish the freedom of my own will, free of being caught by a web of past pain that was ever present, yet invisible. Primal Therapy to me is about awakening from a dormant state of living, letting the original child, the original blueprint, so to speak, flourish and be allowed to just be as it was intended.
thank you, Art!
I learned about my terror of death. Having approached death at birth, being heavily drugged and unable to get out, I already knew what approaching death felt like; and as I began to feel those early feelings erupted too. And I had terror attacks, never knowing what they were and where they came from. It seemed like I was dying NOW, Pure terror. I don’t want to leave this earth but I have come to terms with it… still…I have no rationales for what comes later because it is nothing; no special energy that exists that tells me that part of me is still alive. Nothing remains of me except in the memory of others who loved me. If you want to go on living you need to be loved, and you need to love, and realize that what endures is love and only that. But look, to finally be liberated from pain and to live a free and feeling life is a lot; cherish it. That is my goal, my job and my life’s work. I cannot stand to see people suffer when they don’t have to. I think now of Robin Williams. Maybe we could have helped him. We have helped so many like him. But if he knew about us then he would have at least had a shot at sanity and health. That is why, not I, but the therapy needs to be famous; to save lives. Robin had a right to know about us. He knew about famous rehab centers that did him no good. I have fame by the loads, my friends and patients, my wife. That is plenty. Applause is not a good substitute for physical love, kisses and hugs; aaaah hugs and kisses. What we all needed and need. We don’t need a wise man to tell us about the good life; we need someone to help us lead it. We don’t need someone else’s ideas; we just need our own. We don’t need brilliant advice; the learning we get out of our own bodies when it feels, is a lot and enough. What liberates us? Feeling the pain that kept us imprisoned. Those bars are stronger than steel. We never see them or know they are there but they keep us locked in. They make us behave in the same way over and over. We act in self-destructive ways without knowing it. And even if someone tells us we are doing that, we nod and say, “I guess so.” After doing 12 years of college and university all I got out of it was to know typing and spanish. Most of the rest was useless. Certainly, what we learn in psychology is really useless, coming from a bankrupt field that cannot ever acknowledge feeling. There is the apotheosis of the intellect even when it is the opposite that counts. Some of my patients had professors for parents but they could never touch and kiss their children so what good did their intellect serve when they were destroying their children? And they never saw it. They were blinded by their intellect and could not see around their blinders. Feelings opens the pathways for sight and understanding; they opened mine and then I knew the mistakes I made with the children. And then I could hear the pigs scream, and I will never eat bacon in my life. What we need is a feeling society and it can start with parents and continue with teachers; but first we all need to know the importance of feelings. They are lifesaving. Two twins born prematurely, were put into an incubator together. They had their arms around each other, and did far better then those who lived in an incubator all alone. We need each other; we need the hugs the caress and the kisses, as if life itself depended on it, and it does.
Here is what we don’t need: we don’t need booga booga therapy, bereft of science, where everyone goes around hugging one another and spouting love phrases. We need to know that pain is imprinted very early right after birth and stays for a lifetime and will not change with a few well meaning patients hugging each other. It is good for a moment but cannot last or change anything. We don’t need smart therapists. We need feeling ones. Beware the ides of intellect.
What it is that we all want? Love, of course, but when it is absent and we never knew it, we settle for substitutes…praise, approval, a pat on the head, an “A” from a teacher, a letter of commendation, a medal for work well done, etc. And we need those things as strong as we need love because that is what is behind our need for approval. I know, I felt, “say I’m good” dozens of times in therapy. That is what I needed, a wee drop of approval, a bit of praise from someone who counted in my life and at the time it was needed. If I get it now it is nice indeed, but not life changing. At age five after being called stupid time after time cause my father felt stupid and needed me to boost his faltering ego, that is when it would have done some good. You cannot make up for what you missed, which is what nearly every therapy does today. Those therapists care about you, are concerned for your success and advise you. Yet what we all missed is imprinted and fights back against all the help now. It cannot get in. We must must must go back and relive, undo the imprint and correct history. We need to reverse the pain and be free. How hard is that? Not as hard nor as painful as you might imagine. You cannot address the present and change your past. As obvious as that seems; you can only change the past by going back and reliving it, undo the chemicals such as methyl that engraved the memory into the system. It is reversing the imprint that is the sine qua non. That opens the gates to feeling and then we can breathe again; literally as some of my shallow breathers began to breathe far more deeply after therapy. See. feelings opens up the lungs and the vascular pathways so we can breathe and have more latent oxygen in the systems. It means averting seizures and clogging of vessels. It means lowering blood pressure all by itself and of stopping lifelong migraines. It means lowering the chemicals of stress and clearing the top level neo-cortex so we can think clearly again. You mean feelings can do all of that? Yes, but, but, Primal feelings, not the unleashing of a few tears and expecting miracles. It means releasing pent up tears that have lain there silently for decades waiting their turn. We have given them their turn.
I have been in practice for over sixty years, since my days on the Staff of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, Psychiatric Dept. And what did I learn? not much. I started practicing Primal almost fifty years ago, and what did I learn? Everything. Feelings taught me, and I became a patient of my clinic. I sat in the waiting room and waited my turn like everyone else. And then I started to learn about myself and then about others. New shrinks must have our therapy so that they can learn, so that they can suss out feelings in others and help them with those feelings. If you want decent kids and a good marriage you need to feel. I have seen what a primal child looks like and it is a joy. His father is writing a book about him. He just gets up in the morning and says, “wow, I feel so good today.” So simple and so great. He learns easily, has many friends and is most popular.
If you want friends you need to be friend, not in the booga booga sense, but in sensing when a friend feels bad and you know how to empathize with her, feel with her and be a real friend. Not in buying expensive gifts cause that has little meaning for a feeling person; yes it is nice but not if it has to fulfill the task of deprived early love. Then the receiver needs more and more and it never is completely fulfilling. When you are full of early love, gifts are terrific but they are not used to make up for what you did not get. Then it is never enough; never enough money, chocolate, boats and possessions, fame, clothes and so on. Never enough because you are trying to fill a vast hole. Life gets so simple when you feel that terrible burden you carry around all of the time. You need less because what you need you already have…love.