August 5, 2002
Safety - Part Three: The Safe Primaler
Although it's important for the therapist to create a safe environment for the primal process, it is essential for the person in the process (the client/primaler) to demand nothing less. This is easy to say, but harder to do when you are confused and suffering. Nonetheless, it is crucial that those of us who are healing not become pawns in the games of others.
If you enter the healing process, the first and most important step is to realize that it is yours. It is your emotion, your confusion, your suffering, your mind, your body. No one else but you knows exactly what it's like when you feel bad or what it's like if a therapy or a medication fails. It's your life. Become as informed as you can, and do your best to get the best treatment.
When you are choosing a therapist/facilitator, you have the right to ask as many questions as you like, and to be as cautious, skeptical, and untrusting as you like. You are not obligated to agree to anything or to do anything, because it's your body, your mind, and your life. Expect the type of therapeutic respect and treatment mentioned in the previous article. If you have doubts, feel free to question. If necessary, leave.
Caution does have its problems, however. There are those who have been abused in such a way that they are unable to trust anyone, including those who are genuinely trustworthy. They keep themselves in a protective shell by blaming and finding fault with everyone and everything. They are looking for the perfect "parent" and unfortunately, normal adults can never match up to that ideal. In this type of situation, this early need is used as a defense against engaging the healing process and getting well. This does not mean, however, that we should drop our shields and blindly trust others. It means that the only safety we will find is in ourselves. We don't need to trust others, we need to trust the process as it moves inside us.
This may not seem easy, but it is, in fact, a simple concept - and the only way healing actually works. You start with you. You are the sacred ground and deserve to be treated as such. You are the sacred ground, and you never have to give that up.
It's your process, so you take the appropriate steps to create and maintain as much safety as is necessary.
• Get informed. Read this site. Read the books mentioned on this site. Check out the links, especially the IPA.
• Get connected. Seek out primal veterans and therapists in your community and on the internet. Join the IPA. Go to events and talk to people.
• Choose a therapist/facilitator with as much caution and care as you can. Take care of you - you don't have to take care of them.
• When you feel safe enough to commit to working deeply with your therapist, be sure that they commit to your process for as long as it will take.
• In session, don't do anything you don't want to. A responsible therapist may encourage you to try something, but they will never push you into something against your will.
• Always ask yourself what it takes to feel safer. In session, feel free to move yourself - and your therapist - to whatever location will increase your sense of safety. You might also do things such as holding a pillow or a stuffed animal, turning away from the therapist, covering your stomach, pulling up your knees, closing your eyes, turning up the lights, turning down the lights, or turning on music. At home, feeling safer could include taking special sleeping positions, turning on lights, playing music, watching television, talking to friends, reading, cleaning, or working. Even though these activities are often escapes from primal truth, they are also the shields you have developed to stay stable. If you are aware of what they are and choose them consciously, you can also choose to drop them gradually as your process and your sense of safety develop.
• If you decide to engage a piece of work that feels unsafe (for a therapeutic purpose) be sure that you make the final decision to do it. Do not enter into a piece of work unless you are sure you can stop at any time without resistance or pressure from the therapist.
• Find ways to relieve stress and strengthen yourself - physically, materially, emotionally, mentally, and financially. Check out my series "Homework That Heals."
• Develop positive relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and healthcare workers who agree with and support your process.
• If you are in stressful relationships at home or work that create a sense of unsafety, find ways to gradually address or adjust them. This type of life management is an essential part of healing work.
• Be cautious if it seems that your therapist is attacking, blaming, criticizing, judging, shaming, insulting, or using indirect contempt such as sarcasm and ridicule. Confront them with your feelings and perceptions. These may be your projections, and they may not. Beware of a therapist who will take no responsibility for their expression. Remember that you deserve to be valued and treated with respect and appreciation.
• Be sure that the session room is equipped to handle a full range of emotional expression so that you won't hurt yourself accidentally or be heard and/or interrupted. If the environment inhibits you, it will inhibit your healing.
• Never get sexually or romantically involved with your therapist. Deep healing involves accessing innocent childhood trust, an area where adult romance and sexuality has no place. The awakening of deep trust often projects the need for unfulfilled parental bonding on the therapist. This developing attachment can awaken loving and sexual feelings in the client's adult body. Although these adult feelings are not wrong, they will only confuse the therapeutic process if acted out with the therapist. Adult love needs to be expressed and shared with another adult who can fully reciprocate on an equal basis, which a responsible therapist can't. If the therapist is being sexually or romantically suggestive, or initiating such contact, stop the session immediately, and request an explanation - or leave. You are not there to meet your therapist's unfulfilled needs.
• In your process, you can say NO. You can say STOP. You have a right to say "I don't want to. I don't have to. I don't feel like it. I don't like this. I want this to be different." You also have a right to be silent, say nothing, and do nothing. It's your time, it's your money. You can say "I'm staying" - or "I'm leaving."
Since safety is the key to healing, don't hesitate to assess your feelings of safety regularly. Make adjustments - or insist on adjustments from others - if you can. Feel the origins of these feelings if you're able. Direct your process as much as you can because it's yours. That's where the safety is.