Therefore, we need to systematically measure physiologic changes in our psychotherapy. Otherwise, we can have great new attitudes but our bodies may be degenerating.
I have often called my therapy, “evolution in reverse.” It includes evolution as its kernel. And it is that sense of evolution that makes it revolutionary. Because it overturns most current thinking about the value of thinking, particularly in terms of measuring progress in psychotherapy. What we feel is what we feel no matter what exhortations take place. And those often buried feelings determine our actions. Feelings can be deviated but there is always a home for them in the brain. They cannot be changed; though we can change our thinking about them, denying or projecting them.
Thoughts, bereft of feelings are, in essence, homeless; they have no roots. So any proper psychotherapy must adhere to the laws of biology and evolution; we need to find our roots, the basis of some many of our thoughts and beliefs. The history of mankind is found in us today, and the history of man/us is found in us, as well. When we follow our history in reverse it again must adhere to the natural order of things. In therapy if we do rebirthing it defies evolutionary principles by attacking the most remote and early imprints first. We must start in the present, give ourselves a good foundation in regard to our current lives and associated feelings and then finally arrive at the reptilian/instinctive brain a long time later. These are biologic laws that cannot be disregarded. Thus it is clear that rebirthing cannot ever work; indeed it most likely creates damage; and I have seen and treated the damage it does.
Any ploy or mechanism by a therapist that defies evolution will end in failure because evolution is merciless and unrelenting; it is how we survived. It will not allow us to cheat on its principles. If evolution is neglected it will perforce end in abreaction; the release of feeling without connection and resolution. Bioenergetics, focusing the body and muscles violates that law. Focusing on bodily release (the Gestalt Therapy, “act like an ape!” is inadequate). LSD and hallucinogens completely disregard the neurologic order of the nervous system, and spray feelings everywhere with no possible connection. A Primal will teach us evolution because it will follow the neuraxis precisely and tell us where and how evolution took place.
Do you ever wonder why it is that we fall asleep in reverse order of evolution? And why we come out of it in correct order. In means, first of all, that we are prisoners of the brain’s evolution; and when we start to become consciously/aware we move to the highest level of the brain. We come out of antiquity into modern life as though we have gone through the centuries or the millennia in proper order each day in order to achieve consciousness. We do the same thing in Primal Therapy; and in doing so we must strictly obey evolutionary edicts. We can no more change that order than do so in our sleep. And when we trump that order in sleep, psychosis lurks. If we do not have enough dream (second-line limbic consciousness) sleep we suffer. And we develop physical and mental symptoms. Now what is crucial here is if we trump that order in Primal Therapy we suffer from those very same symptoms. That is why re-birthing is so dangerous; it trumps evolution. That is why cognitive therapy cannot work; it trumps the feeling areas of the brain and ignores evolution.
As with dream sleep, Primal Therapy enters the deep unconscious, slowly in ordered progression. Down on that deep level lies so many of our remote and life-and-death pains. It shows itself in our nightmares which are associated with terrible terror/anxiety states, and it is demonstrated in deep Primals where heavy pains reside. Until we have access to those imprints we can never know about life-endangering memories, nor include them in a therapeutic process. What this tells us is that we are evolutionary beings who biologically must adhere to the history of mankind; there is an order to the universe of which we are part. I cannot stress this enough. We do not take patients into birth traumas in the first weeks of therapy anymore than in dream sleep we go directly into deep sleep. Evolution is an ordered affair. We must not superimpose our ideas, our theory or our techniques on patients. The rule is that it is not up to us to decide for the patient, as for example, that she needs dream analysis, or neuro-feedback or rebirthing. It is always the patient and her readiness that dictates our approach.
Each new brain level in evolution helps out with survival, otherwise it would not be there. The brainstem and early limbic system have everything to do with survival—breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. Evolution continues with its survival strategies finishing up with the neocortex. What this structure can do is detect enemies not only without but within—our feelings. And when it does it helps us survive by disconnecting us from the source of the pain; a self we will never meet again until we have access to deep brain structures. That may be never; and that may kill us prematurely.
As we travel through evolutionary time to the neocortex each adds its physiologic contribution. The reason that ideas cannot trump feelings is that feelings are integral to survival. They are a survival system. The neo-cortex is also very important to survival but in a different way. When we are in a coma without any neo-cortex really working our survival functions (heart rate, blood pressure, etc), are still operational. Animals survive very well without a complex neo-cortex. They won’t survive if the brainstem is damaged. We have to breathe no matter what.
Each lower level of brain function is designed to keep us alive. We can use lower levels to modify higher ones but it does not work in reverse. Imagine if the higher level neocortex could permanently modify brainstem functions? We survive because it cannot. Thus feelings can certainly sway ideas but ideas can only suppress feelings, not eradicate them. We see in our therapy how physiology and limbic feelings directly affect ideas and beliefs. A very rapid heart rate can push someone to go and do, yet no matter how hard we try we often cannot permanently alter the heart rate, especially the rate that is accompanied by anxiety. That is why we cannot “will” a slower heart rate over time. Ideas are hundreds of millions years away from physiological and emotional functions.
We know that the amygdala is pretty well mature at the time of birth so that we can code and register inchoate feelings. But the hippocampus is not yet fully developed for several years so that precision regarding the time and place and scene or origin is beyond its capacity. So we can dredge up feeling on the experiential level but not on the verbal one. So for those who claim to practice rebirthing we have to ask if there are any words to go along with the event. If there are, it is not a true event. We cannot overlook brain evolution in our therapy and perform what amounts to magic.
In dialectical fashion we descend to deep unconscious levels and immediately become conscious on that level. The unconscious is transformed into consciousness. This means that we will no longer be driven by those specific unconscious forces. We have access to our inner states. We thereafter will not suffer from such things as a bleeding ulcer or colitis without being aware of it. Chances are, however, that we won’t suffer from such afflictions.
Each lower level of brain function is designed to keep us alive. We can use lower levels to modify higher ones but it does not work in reverse. Imagine if that were possible; the higher level neocortex could permanently modify brainstem functions?
But we survive because it cannot. Thus feelings can certainly sway ideas but ideas can only suppress feelings, not eradicate them. We see in our therapy how physiology and limbic feelings directly affect ideas and beliefs. A very rapid heart rate can push someone to go and do, yet no matter how hard we try we often cannot alter the heart rate, especially the rate that is accompanied by anxiety. That is why we cannot “will” a slower heart rate over time or consciously drive away anxiety. Ideas are hundreds of millions years away from physiological and emotional functions.
I remember seeing a patient who had just started therapy who told me that since he forgave his parents he feels much better; proof that ideas can trump feeling. Yet when he was measured his stress hormone levels (cortisol) never changed. Thus the neo-cortex can trump what we think are feelings without ever touching feelings, per se. The neo-cortex is most adept at deceiving itself. It can produce the thought of being well without really being well. Ideas here function as anesthetics. In therapy we certainly don’t want to being anesthetized in order to get well.
The brain is a complex proposition and to stay on any one level in therapy to the exclusion of the others means that any progress made in therapy is partial. To do reprogramming of the brain to achieve so-called “normal brainwaves” (biofeedback) is deficient and cannot lead to cure.
When we wonder if we should call a therapy scientific we have only to ask, “does it elucidate and clarify the properties of nature?” We do not ask if it works because that is subjective and not always accurate. It is the difference between asking a scientific question and one that requires a moral perspective alone. Do we know more about humanity in this therapy or are we only after some sort of pragmatic, mechanical solution? Are we doing deep breathing or matching brainwaves to some ideal? Here the focus is on the technique, not the patient nor evolution; a major difference. When we focus on how the patient evolves we learn; when we decide on how we treat her beforehand we don’t. In short, can we learn from this therapy how to treat other human beings in psychotherapy? It is not a matter of defying evolution, but of harnessing it for the good of mankind. That is Darwin’s legacy.