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Primal Therapy

  Primal Therapy was developed by Arthur Janov in California in the 1960s. It came out of Janov\'s practice of working with groups. In a particular session a young man was talking about an argument with his girlfriend and in the process of doing this let out an extraordinary, painful wail. In this he seemed to have broken the rules of the group, but he was unrepentant. He said that he felt much better, and that he had touched a place in himself which he had not experienced before.

As a result of this incident Janov began to create ‘safe environments’ and the therapy became a place to find and re-experience early trauma, for example, birth trauma. The idea of birth trauma came to Janov after several years of research. The key was to trust your impulses and body. There is very little interaction with the therapist until afterwards, when an attempt is made to put the experience into words. The therapist became an enabler and observer. The ‘Primals’, containing groups of up to 30 people, were encouraged to trust their impulses and bodies in a small room with low lighting and padded floors and walls. A loss of self-consciousness enabled the release of memories, thought and insights. Janov restructured the idea of the primal scene (a term used by Freud to describe the child witnessing its parents having sex) as a term to describe the most painful trauma each individual has, something which is different for every person. Traumas are seen as imprinted on the nervous system. Working within the pain of this enables the experience to resurface and to be exorcised. Without this healing, it will be acted out in ways which are neurotic and far removed from the original traumatic experience. MJ

Further reading Arthur Janov, The Primal Scream.



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