December 10, 2001
Homework That Heals - Reading
Reading primal-related material can help you know your process. Knowing your process can help in many different ways:
• you are less likely to be manipulated into methods that do not suit your nature
Those Wily Belief Systems
Most of us are driven to growth and healing by problems and pain, not because we question our belief systems. When we walk into session, however, we bring our entire belief system with us - a system that is often both a reflection, and a cause, of the problem.
Belief systems are not just ideas we pick and choose like cards. In fact our ideas, and the actions we take based on those ideas, come out of neurophysiologic (bodymind) patterning molded by the pressures of our development. For example, extremely conservative thinkers don't just choose their ideas - their stringent stance (physically and ideologically) emanates from a stringent bodymind, molded by an overly stringent/neglectful childhood.
"Myth" is a word used eloquently by Joseph Campbell to describe these all-encompassing belief systems, or worldviews. Myths are more than ideas - they are the way we perceive the world. Myths attempt to indicate the way things are, and the way things work - including ourselves. Religious and spiritual beliefs, scientific views of the universe and medicine, political platforms and governmental systems - these are all myths. Unfortunately, most of them describe life in divisive terms - good/evil, matter/energy, brain/body, feeling/thinking, liberal/conservative, should and shouldn't, right and wrong. These myths present views that split up the wholeness of reality - the essential unity and interconnectedness of things. They come from, and lead to, a sense of being divided and separate. This is the emotional illness of our times.
It is important to know that we have been infected with divisive mythologies and we bring them into our growth work. They are extremely resistant to change. Just doing deep feeling work and letting emotions flow won't always dislodge all these bodymind patterns. And, as a part of our defense structure, they will often interrupt our process just as we are about to make a significant breakthrough. When big feelings start to come to the surface, often people run away to the "protection" of their familiar worldview - and a band-aid solution to the problem.
Reading relevant material can be a big help with this. Instead of blindly going along with the "expertise" and "superior methods" of the priest, teacher, therapist, doctor, or politician, you can seek the truth and direction for yourself, both in your feeling work and in print.
Primal purists believe that primaling alone will heal, and that reading is an intellectual distraction. Although reading can become a distraction from feeling, one of the things that "Primal Integration" means to me is an integration of the feelings and the intellect, the body and the brain. To go from exclusive thinking to exclusive feeling is just another divisive swing of the pendulum.
Picking through the Minefield
Unfortunately, there are a million books that shout "my way is right!" What do you believe?
Start with the essential reality. You are you. Your life is your life, not somebody else's. Nobody knows what it's like to be you better than you. You may be thinking, "But I don't know, I'm confused." That's right. That's what you are right now - confused. And nobody knows what that's like better than you. So right away you can exercise caution toward authors and books that insist they absolutely know what's best for you, or that you should follow their way. As an author, I may suggest things that have worked for me, but I firmly stand by your right to discover what is true and right for yourself.
Another caution: beware of systems that do not accept you as you are, that judge, criticize, or present an ideal image of what you should be like - even if they do so in an apparently caring, expert, or "holy" way. Living things grow and change from the inside outward at their own pace if they are not manipulated, abused, or denied. You are a living thing.
Psychotherapy and self-help books are an especially challenging minefield of advice on how to "get well quick." Authors with letters after their names often try to convince us to accept their methods and theories as facts "we now know." The assumption is that they, because of their expertise and pages of "findings" and scientific studies, know something you don't. They are saying, "You don't need to question this. You can't trust your own experience. I have a Ph.D. and you don't. Believe me because I say so." But scientists and doctors and professors are just people like you and me - with the same addictions, health issues, and personal problems as everyone else. Ask yourself - if the scientific method is so reliable, how can all these authors with opposing methods manage to find hard research to back each of their conclusions? The infallibility of science and credentials is just another lie we were brought up to believe. Don't fall for it. Sift through the information. Find out for yourself.
I find that most therapeutic approaches are "technique heavy," defined by a righteous attachment to method. In natural growth there are no set techniques - just humans being what they are. If a client feels stuck, there are times when I may suggest certain methods for allowing feelings to find their way. At these times, I borrow techniques from whatever school of therapy or growth will fit the situation. So beware of methods that insist that this or that way works best all the time. There is only one way that works all the time - your way.
A Place to Start
Besides my Primalworks writings, the Suggested Reading on this site is a good place to start. The first books on the list tend to be limited to the psychological theory and practice of primal therapy, which, though important, is only one aspect of growth and healing. Primal theory is an elusive animal, and although Arthur Janov has done an excellent job at proposing the essentials, his interpretation still carries the scent of control and authority. Alexander, Jenson, Stettbacher, and Stone all present their own theoretical variations and style.
The other books on the site offer a wide perspective on personal growth and discovery. They are suggested for their power to challenge restrictive myths and worldviews.
It can also be helpful to go "link hunting" from my site, and read articles on other related sites that catch your interest. Some of them will be confusing and contradictory. Others may speak directly to your own experience.
When reading, rather than just accepting the information, see if it resonates with your own experience or intuition. Your truth is in every cell, so it's not a question of learning something new. It's more like remembering what you already know.
Take your time. There's no rush. Reading does not need to become another "should." Mull over the topics. Test the suggested theories against life. Talk about them to your therapist and to friends who are receptive. Let the parts that fit settle in. Gradually, with session work and reading, your bodymind will naturally adjust to a worldview that is in harmony with the growth process.
In my own process, I had read the theory for years before the deepest part of my growth work began. Due to this reading, I always had a sense of where I was going and how to be a director/partner with myself and my mentors. Even in the darkest moments, in those tangled jungles of feeling, I could pull out my tattered "map," have a look, and allow myself to take another step.
Sit back, and open up a good book.
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Homework That Heals - Introduction