February 3, 2003
Working with Feelings - Steadiness and Duration
Even in the early days of primal, the idea of a quick cure was believed to be possible. The proponents of almost every type of therapy or healing modality present the most dramatic success stories to make their case. The hope for a "sudden enlightenment" does capture our imagination.
I believe that there is far more to the universe than my little brain can fathom. I believe that unusual things can happen, things that I don't yet understand. At the same time, however, I am not inclined to believe anything I am told unless it makes sense to me or I actually experience it myself. The faith that many belief systems require seems like a dangerous request - to give the power of our decisions to a greater authority, whether a priest, a lama, a doctor, a teacher, a professor, a scientist - or a used car salesman.
Many of the things I have experienced, such as the recall of preverbal trauma, may not be believed by others if they have not experienced them. Similarly, claims beyond my experience made by others will be subject to my own experiential investigation before I believe. The idea of the "miracle cure" or "quick fix" is one of those things.
In the Zen tradition, there are two major "schools" of practice. Rinzai practitioners contend that enlightenment is sudden, while Soto practitioners state that enlightenment is gradual. Their disagreement illustrates the polarities in the ideas of how change occurs. In my experience there are times when change happens suddenly, but in retrospect, I can see that this sudden shift was a result of a more subtle, gradual development.
I learn about myself and human behaviour by looking at the natural world that we are a part of. On the Niagara Escarpment, which Niagara Falls tumbles over, huge ledges of rock will suddenly crack off and fall - after years of gradual erosion underneath. Using another example, stunted plants do not suddenly straighten as soon as they are cared for and repotted. Even though moments of quick change can occur, they always happen within a longer continuum of change. In comparison to the modern culture of instant relief, I see significant growth and healing as gradual.
In my opinion, most members of modern society suffer various degrees of neurosis stemming from many, many years of neglect and/or abuse. People can do any number of things to affect a quick cosmetic change, but significant adjustment of long-term cellular patterns takes time. The good news is that it does not have to take equal time. Neuroses that take thirty years to create don't usually take thirty years to unravel! In my forties, it took me about three years of weekly sessions to go from being very troubled to being better than normal. I consider that my traumatic load was about average.
People who still have significant problems after years in the primal process are often struggling because of various factors. Often the extended length of their process is due to horrific traumas and the greater challenges of such a condition. Others who are still struggling after years of therapy have often been subjected to therapy that is destabilizing or sporadic. In these cases, they were not able to commit to a reliable process and let the gradual healing take place.
Steadiness and duration are two of the most important elements in healing. People who leave in the middle of their process often end up feeling very stuck and discouraged. They are often the ones who say that the process doesn't work. It is common sense, however, that if you go back out into the cold before you are well, you are more likely to stay sick.
Any growth or healing process requires regularity and repetition, whether it's learning tennis or taking medicine. I have never seen any ailment, from cancer to the common cold, that has disappeared in a second. I would rather place my belief in the systems of gradual healing and change I see everywhere in nature than in the one-in-a-billion hope of a sudden, miracle cure.
Stick with the innate process, and it will work.