Chapter 1: The Problem
A theory is the meaning we give a certain observed sequence of reality. The closer the theory meets this reality, the more vivid the theory. A valid theory is one that enables us to make predictions because it fits the nature of what is being observed.
Since the days of Freud, we have had to rely on post-dictive theories—that is, we have used our theoretical systems to explain or rationalize what has gone on before. As the observable data increased in complexity, our observations have led us into a maze of different theoretical systems or schools. In psychotherapy today, fragmentation, specialization abound; neurosis seems to have developed so many forms over the last half century that not only is the word "cure" no longer mentioned among psychologists, but the word "neurosis" itself has been broken down into a number of problem areas. Thus, there are books on sensation, perception, learning, cognition, etc., but none on what can be done to cure the neurotic. Neurosis seems to be whatever anyone with a theoretical propensity thinks it is—phobias, depressions, psychosomatic symptoms, inability to function, indecision. Since Freud, psychologists have been concerned with symptoms, not causes. What we have lacked is some kind of unified structure that should offer concrete guidelines on how to proceed with patients during each and every hour of therapy.
Before coming upon what was to grow into Primal Theory, I knew in a general way what I expected from my patients. Nevertheless, a lack of continuity from session to session bothered me, just as it bothers some of my colleagues. I seemed to be doing a patch-up job.
Wherever a leak appeared in a patient's defense system, I was there, like the legendary Little Dutch Boy. One day I might analyze a dream; another day, encourage free association; the next week focus on past events; and at other times, keep the patient in the "here and now."
Like many of my colleagues, I was staggered by the complexity of the problems presented by a suffering patient. Predictability, that cornerstone of a valid theoretical approach, often gave way to a kind of inspired faith. My unspoken credo: With enough insight, sooner or later, the patient will come to know himself well enough to control his neurotic behavior. I now believe, however, that neurosis has little to do with knowing, in and of itself.
Neurosis is a disease of feeling. At its core is the suppression of feeling and its transmutation into a wide range of neurotic behavior.
The dazzling variety of neurotic symptoms from insomnia to sexual perversion have caused us to think of neurosis in categories. But different symptoms are not distinct disease entities; all neuroses stem from the same specific cause and respond to the same specific treatment.
Genius that he was, Freud bequeathed us two most unfortunate notions which we have taken as gospel truth. One is that there is no beginning to neurosis—that, in other words, to be born a member of the human race is to be born neurotic. The other is that the person with the strongest defense system is necessarily the one who can best function in society.
Primal Therapy is based on the assumption that we are born nothing but ourselves. We are not born neurotic or psychotic. We're just born.
Primal Therapy involves the dismantling of the causes of tension, defense systems and neurosis. Thus, Primal Theory indicates that the healthiest people are those who are defense-free. Anything that builds a stronger defense system deepens the neurosis. It does so by encasing neurotic tension in layers of defense mechanisms that may enable the person to function better outwardly but cause him to be ravaged by inner tension.
I do not console myself with the rationalization that we live in an age of neurosis (or anxiety), so it is to be expected that people will be neurotic. I would like to suggest that there is something beyond improved functioning in socially acceptable ways, something beyond symptomatic relief and a more thorough understanding of one's motivations.
There is a state of being quite different from what we have contrived: a tensionless, defense-free life in which one is completely his own self and experiences deep feeling and internal unity. This is the state of being that can be achieved through Primal Therapy. People become themselves and stay themselves.
This does not mean that post-Primal patients will never again be upset or unhappy. What it does mean is that, despite what they may undergo, they will confront their problems realistically in the present They no longer cover reality with pretense; they do not suffer from chronic, inexplicable tension or fears.
Primal Therapy has been applied successfully to a wide range of neuroses, including heroin addiction. Primal sessions are interrelated, and for the most part, the Primal Therapist can predict the course of his patients' therapy. The implications of this statement will become increasingly important, for if we can cure neurosis in an ordered, systematic manner, we also may be able to isolate those factors that will prevent it.