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Opening to the Power Within

by Barbara Bryan

There is a "knowing" inside each of us about what we need to do to become more whole and actualize our potential. This "knowing" is part of the power within us all, the inner child, the spark of self that we need to acknowledge and nurture. There are various ways to get in touch with this source of inner strength; some are spontaneous and some are guided. In Primal, we learn to "trust the Process" and eventually to trust our own inner wisdom to guide us on our journey. In our Primal Process, many of us have experienced very special moments of revelation and transformation. Primal Pain becomes Primal Joy. These are extremely healing moments that give us the spiritual strength to continue on our journey.

The Primal Integration Center of Michigan has been involved in this special growth process since 1974. Over the years, we have expanded our training and incorporate many modalities including Jungian Sandplay, Breathwork, Dreamwork, Psychodrama, Gestalt techniques, Rational Emotive and Guided Imagery to facilitate the healing of mind, body, sprit and the opening to the power within. While Arthur Janov was a pioneer with Primal Therapy and we appreciate his contribution, we have moved away from the rigidity of some of his views. The International Primal Association has adopted the term Primal Integration to describe our beliefs and practices.

What is Primal Integration? Primal Integration is based on a natural phenomenon that has been recognized and used in the past. Briefly, it is a letting go of conscious controls of the body and emotions which opens up the unconsciousness to awareness. This allows insights to emerge which have a healing value. Primal is rooted in the work of Mesmer, Charcot, Liebault, Janet, Breuer, Freud, Reich, Rank, Jung, Perls, Lake, Swartley, Farrant, Grof and Janov.

To quote Arthur Janov, "A Primal experience is the reliving of those early life events during which the child turned off his primal needs and pains and developed a personality split and an unreal self." Primals occur in varying intensities and feelings.

When a trauma has happened to you, it is held in the very cells in the forms of physical symptoms, rigidity of musculature, and vulnerability to dysfunction or disease. The trauma may affect your life in both subtle and more dramatic ways. Most people who come to this kind of growth process have already tried traditional therapy to relieve their depression, anxieties or other emotional problems. While talking is helpful, it doesn't release the trauma on a deep, body level. They often feel that there is something more to be resolved. Primal work is not a Band-Aid for your problems. It is a very deep cleansing of the wounds that have been affecting your life.

In Primal, you are able to regress and re-experience a time when you felt totally victimized. This could be an abusive situation or even being trapped in the birth canal. After you have released the painful feelings, you may be encouraged to redo the trauma in a positive way which will allow you to get in touch with your own sense of power and move away from the victim stance. For example, someone who had a Cesarean birth may continue to expect to be rescued. After working through the real birth issues and feelings, they could be helped to redo the birth as a normal vaginal delivery, They will then have the sense of being "in charge" of their life in a deep cellular way. This is called a Primal of Undoing.

How does someone get into a Primal Experience? A "Primal" is a natural phenomenon. The body wants to heal; to release the tensions and pains it is holding inside. Over the years, we have learned to repress and suppress our feelings and natural tendencies. We are told: "Be polite, be quiet, don't be angry, there's nothing to be afraid of, don't be a crybaby." Our reality is denied over and over until we don't trust our own feelings or experiences. We lose our real self and become what others expect us to be. So, we have layers of defenses to work through to get to our core Self.

A Primal can be described as a feeling that may start with a here-and-now distress, such as being upset and angry with an authority figure. As the client is encouraged to express feelings of anger, etc., they may find the feelings really taking over. There usually is a sense of giving oneself permission to "go with it." During that process, there may be a flash or vision from the past. In this case, it could be a parent figure and maybe a memory scene. Then, if the client feels safe, he/she may re-experience a traumatic event and release the feelings from the past. A connection is made between that scene and the present. This generally releases the energy of the current situation and the client is able to function better. The more we can release our angers, the more we can open to love and our own Power Within.

Who would benefit from this process? Primal is very effective with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, grief, rage, sexual abuse, rape, incest, pre-verbal traumas, pre- and peri-natal issues, abandonment, rejection and other issues that clients are able to work with, express, feel and release.

The process is basically self-directed so each person will open up and progress at their own pace. This maintains safety and also provides support for those who are not ready or willing to go into the deeper parts of their psyche.

The benefits include: feeling empowered rather than victimized, having more choices in one's life, freedom from repetitive patterns, becoming more authentic, and Opening to the Power Within.

This article appeared in the Fall 1996 IPA Newsletter.

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