The change process
Everyone has an inherent potential to experience processes of inner development resulting in a continuous process of 'becoming'. These processes are spontaneous and unfold in a unique way for every individual. They have their own dynamic pressure and their own pace. The question of change is one of allowing these inherent processes to function more fully. Primal Integration endeavours to offer an environment that is conducive to this.
Biological gestation and birth provide rather a good metaphor for this process of 'becoming'. You become aware of being 'pregnant' - a sense of something going on inside. Gradually you become more and more aware of its nature. It gets bigger and moves towards some sort of coming out into the world. This can be an uncomfortable process, a painful process. It may be dramatic. It may be ecstatic. Either way this is a forward and outward process.
The practitioner's role is akin to that of a midwife - albeit one inspired by Michel Odent (Odent 1984) - to encourage the client to follow the instinctive processes that will produce the natural emergence. In giving birth to aspects of oneself, even the memory of traumatic experiences - such as having been stuck during one's biological birth - will emerge naturally. One does not need to extract these experiences with forceps! Recovery of traumatic memories does not require the psychological equivalent of the obstetrical intervention that was perhaps necessary for one's survival 'back then'. As practitioners we remain midwives - midwives of consciousness - rather than obstetricians.
The 'delivery', including that of traumatic memories and 'difficult' feelings is enabled by the configuration of a contained, 'free space'. In Primal Integration, we have a high degree of structure 'around the periphery' which allows the space within to be very free. This encourages the 'structures' within people to become apparent, to be experienced as in their formation, and for unexpressed feelings bound up in them to be released and completed.
It seems that the intensity of the experience necessary to melt inauthentic 'structures' within people will be comparable to the intensity of the original experience from which they split-off. Seldom is intellectual understanding of the relevance of these experiences enough to effect change. It seems that the 'understanding' has to run as deep as the event is significant in that person's development. The events are in a sense 're-lived' at depth and in context. Important to note here and crucial to the 'wholing' process, are the differences between the original context and the present one. This time around there are resources available that were not there the first time, not least one's own 'adult'. A memory is what is being engaged rather than a present reality and it is being engaged voluntarily.
This discussion will be found wanting without also talking in terms of love. It is 'tough love' that makes up the container, attentive love that is held within it and love energy - energy for life - which emerges from it. Love contains the process. Love drives the process. Love is the process. Warmth, kindness and humour are present alongside the pain and suffering. Deep human compassion is both evoked and needed in the presence of people confronting their innermost issues.
The period after the 'birth' is one that requires attention worthy of this 'new beginning'. This is integration - welcoming and creating space for the newly recovered 'self' in one's life by giving it appropriate recognition.
Integration takes place in two stages - the integration into awareness of the formerly excluded aspects of oneself and then the practical application of these new discoveries in everyday life. Whilst the former can happen spontaneously, the latter often requires some form of active work.
The welcoming involves changes in outside life, where choices made in the absence of these now recovered aspects of oneself may have established social roles and patterns of living which have gathered considerable inertia. Changing these when possible usually involves 'donkey work'. However, it is not always feasible, or wise to completely change them, so there is much challenging work to be done in finding a way for the 'new self' to manifest which is meaningful and fulfilling.
This process of recovery and integration is not a 'one off' project, but rather forms a continuous cycle of change. When it is Self-regulating, this process seems to provide for its own furtherance. The fruits of one sequence of recovery and integration provide resources for the next, continually bringing a deeper way of living into being, and a deeper way of being into living!
Put simply, the 'goal' of Primal Integration is an increase in awareness of one's Self, one's true nature, and the integration of this increased awareness into everyday life. There is no 'goal-as-end-point' envisaged but rather a path, a continuing process of becoming more authentic, a personal journey of Self-discovery.
This contrasts with approaches that posit specific end points to therapy such as the Reichian therapist's notion of a 'genital character' (Baker 1967) or Janov's Primal Therapy (Janov 1970, 1991) with its notion of 'The Cure for Neurosis' and of a 'Post-Primal' state.
Primal Integration is not an approach whose aim is problem solving or the treatment of psychological 'disorders'. What have been perceived as 'problems' frequently resolve as a result, but this is a by-product of growth, the role of such problems having been to signal one's self-estrangement and need to live more authentically. Thus its healing aspects offer a different way of 'treating' problems.
This is not a rationale for doing Primal Integration groups or individual sessions ad infinitum! Participation in such a setting may make it easier to attend to these growth processes and allow for a fuller expression than is often possible in society at large, but the same basic processes can occur anywhere. The Primal Integration setting is a resource to be used at times when it is helpful rather than something to 'go through'.
Rather than aspiring to achieve a 'done', 'finished', 'post- primal' state, it is in our view more relevant to learn how to live with primal process in one's life in general, to cultivate an attentive, respectful and inclusive attitude towards it, and to learn to live with it in a more creative way. In this regard we see the way of dealing with primal material as being an important learning experience in itself - as important as dealing with it.
© Juliana Brown & Richard Mowbray 1994