When the IPA was formed in the early 70s, it was part of the anti-intellectualism
movement in psychology that had started with Fritz Perls and the Association
for Humanistic Psychology and later was taken up by Janov and Primal. Psychoanalysis,
the main psychotherapy available up to 1960, was too detached, interpretive,
nonexperiential. Humanistic Psychology opened the door to the psychotherapist
as a real person while working in the therapy process and promoted the intensely
confrontational style of Encounter Groups. Perls brought in childhood experience
and Wilhelm Reich brought in the body (not the mind) as the place that held
experiences. I did a weekend with Perls, conducted numerous emotional Encounter
Groups and led many workshops for Humanistic Psychology conferences in the 60s
That was a heady time full of excitement about the new kind of psychotherapy that gave full range to the expression of emotions. We were young psychotherapy rebels who wanted to do away with the establishment norms and thought we could fulfill our dreams, even create a new, better society with the IPA.
Janov was the acknowledged originator, conceiver, and publicist for primal. Janov and his proponents thought that anything less than complete emotional license was a repressive refutation of the primal credo and didn't belong in primal. Then the period of troubles began. Word got around that Janov's method had gotten out of hand, that people were primalling in public places like theatres, that suicides were happening, and some people were being institutionalized because they didn't seem to know how to stop primalling. What saved the IPA from having such dire consequences for its patients and therapists was the early awareness that primal was basically a tool for growth and that participants in primal needed to be integrated within the social fabric of life if it were to be a successful therapy. The three week intensive was only the beginning, not the end of therapy. Certainly, repression of early feelings needed to be undone with the primal therapy process, and it was equally certain that an improved sense of self and new social values needed to be built up within the individual as part of their membership in society. That was a process that needed to be given its own time. Socially positive relationships would be founded on truthfulness, self-fulfillment, creativity, self-expression and love based on mutual respect and caring, for instance.
Easily said, but those are really very high and difficult ideals to achieve. The IPA found that out during its own Board of Directors meetings. Differences arose that were not treated respectfully. Some people wanted to continue the Janov idealism of total and free self-expression, some wanted a more aware, sensitive, mutually respectful model for relationships. The Janovian ideal was turning out to be self-destructive. The alternative was not to be supportive toward repression, but viewed integration within a social milieu as something demanding more than being able to primal. That schism has continued to plague the IPA.
I've always felt a skepticism among so-called "feeling oriented, primal people" towards intellectuals such as myself, particularly those with a Ph.D. after their name. I'd change Descartes' famous "I think therefore, I am," to "I am, therefore I feel, and because I feel .... I think." To have awareness means to know what your true feelings are, and then to be able to deal with them in a way that maximizes the best in your relationships. In doing that you maximize your capacity for being, and the potential of those around you. I don't see how anyone can aspire to live an effective life without including the parts that deal most effectively with problem solving, such as the mind (consciousness). It is the teamwork between feeling and thinking in the context of reflection and awareness that contributes some of the most wonderful, creative aspects of our being human. I enjoy using my mind as well as my feelings.
This article appeared in the Spring 1998 IPA Newsletter.