The Dangers of Mock Therapy
In our four decades of experience, we have seen many ways the therapy can go wrong. A skilled therapist can take an upcoming feeling and channel it where it must not go. In the case of deep depression, it is an early death fore-told. But an ill-prepared therapist may take a near-death metric – such as very high heart rate – and refocus it into some other feeling that is not related to the cause but is decided on by the doctor. Whether aware or not, he is meddling with biology. The result is counter-productive because the patient begins to form a groove so that each time a deep feeling comes up with all of its power, it is rechanneled into a byway of unrelated feeling. And that is also an aspect of abreaction: taking a beginning, inchoate feeling and turning it into something else. The doctor thinks he understands the process and takes control, instead of the feeling controlling the session. The patient’s feelings, far from ready, are taken up prematurely, and the patient deals with an offshoot instead of the next feeling available. Those feelings seem to be in a queue, each waiting its turn, and each bringing relief when its turn comes. Primal sessions normally start with agonies up top of the brain; unhappy events in the present that can trigger more painful early associated memories. “My wife just suffocates me,” eventually connects to the basic imprint: “I am suffocating.” This is not thought out; it happens automatically through resonance where one pain high up can set off deeper lying pain, in a chain of events when the patient is ready to feel it. It seems like each feeling is classified as to its content and nature into separate compartments; one kind of feeling here and another kind of feeling there. Resonance in brain function connects the evolutionary links to each other to encompass most of our lives. Our biology decides, not a doctor or therapist, which feeling is on the rise and can be experienced. But when the unconscious of the doctor intercedes into this still untrammeled, pristine sequence of feelings, the result is an emotional detour – abreaction.
We do harm in therapy when we think we know where it all comes from, and we don’t. It is our guess against the reality inside the patient. So we have an internal battle: the patient’s system struggles to maintain his neurotic equilibrium, which is the body’s natural adaptation to early trauma and pain, while the misguided therapist struggles to change the neurotic’s life-saving ploy by tinkering with his thoughts and attitudes. The cognitive therapist, in particular, wants to change neurotic normal into abnormal by turning depression into a more positive, optimistic outlook. They don’t understand that depression is normal for the patient because his life experience drove him there and his biology is doing its best to maintain the equilibrium – the neurotic normal – established when trauma disrupted and rerouted his system’s natural state. The primal therapist also seeks to dismantle the neurotic normal but by resolving its origins, not by futilely trying to manipulate its present-day manifestations. Neurotic normal is what patients have to do to adapt to serious imprints, while abnormal is an attempt to enter into this equilibrium and alter its careful balance.
This is a state where the vitals betray the patient. It literally can be a death foretold because constant abreaction weakens the system and can lead to premature death due to the load of unresolved feelings weighing in, stealthily adding pressure on the biologic system. We don’t see the pressure that repression is exerting constantly on the heart, liver, lungs and other organs. We don’t see what chronically high heart rate does to the whole cardiovascular system. In short, what is killing us is exactly what we don’t see. And why don’t we see it? It is just too much to face and experience all at once, because it is life endangering in and of itself.
We can watch the descent into lower depths of the brain as the patient sometimes will touch on the first line, brainstem part (the base and/or lower part of the limbic system) during a higher-level Primal. At that point, he may show vital signs down into unimaginable depths – body temp at 96.0 and heart rate down into the fifties. We know what part of the brain is activated as the brain systems unveil and indicate unmistakably what level of the brain is at work; defending against what trauma and at what period of ontogeny. When there is suddenly a breakthrough – an abrupt trespass – we see intrusion at work; the ripping away momentarily of the defense system, giving way briefly to deeper feelings.
This tells us that deep material is now just below the surface and may be ready to be addressed and relived, or Primalled. It is not guess work as the body signals its readiness. If we do not recognize intrusion we may wait too long to allow deep imprints to mount; the body is ready but the doctor is not. Again, the feeling may be changed into something else by the doctor because personal evolution of the patient, his ontogeny, has been ignored. The therapist has led the feeling elsewhere. A neophyte therapist, anxious to show his skill and dramatic effects, will force the patient far too deep too soon. As a result, the patient develops far-out ideation as the top-level brain is doing its best to handle the doctor-induced overload. It is the same effect we see with the ingestion of LSD.
I remember during the LSD craze of the sixties when some doctors experimented with hallucinogens for patients. Many went into transient psychosis as out-of-sequence pains were thrown up and could not be integrated. The result: overload of the neo-cortex and delusions. In our early research, we saw the residue of all this: aside from universal sleep problems, the neo-cortex was in a constant flooded state and the brainwave amplitude came way down, which meant to us, after many of the same readings among other LSD patients, that the repressive defenses were faltering and crashing. When patients are pushed too fast in therapy we often get the same kind of profile.