is the art and science of easing emotional problems. Many forms
of psychotherapy are designed to help the client know and understand
what is in their unconscious. Very few are designed to actually
change what is in the unconscious. However, if the material
in the unconscious is not changed, it retains its enormous
power to occasionally override even the most powerful of conscious
egos. When it does that, we call it "neurosis." In one way
or another, it always results in emotional pain.
The unconscious is primarily a record of the past and
a storehouse of past physical and emotional tensions.
These tensions can be triggered by present events so
that they are felt in the present. In fact, because their
origin is from the unconscious and we are thus unaware
of their actual source, these powerful tensions seem
to originate in the present and the person or situation
triggering them appears to be their primary cause --
when they may in fact be only a very minor part of the
My understanding of the object of psychoanalysis is
that it helps the client discover these unconscious origins
of present-day tensions (and their accompanying but misplaced
ideations) and to analyze and use the knowledge consciously
to change present and future behaviors.
On the other hand, the object of primal psychotherapy
is to enhance one's life by first lowering the tension
levels of the material stored in the unconscious. That
makes these tensions less likely to be triggered and
greatly lowers their ability to affect the consciousness
when they are triggered.
In a session, I first help the client become highly
conscious of previously unconscious memories (being very
careful not to suggest anything that wasn't there already).
The past is actually "re-lived.'' Previously buried motivations
become obvious to the client. No interpretation or analysis
is needed from the therapist.
I totally accept and thereby encourage the client to
accept the reality of the new discovery he is making:
that some of the pain he experienced as a child was so
immense or prolonged that it had to be buried, and that
those forgotten memories and their accompanying emotional
tensions have been the source of life-long painful emotions,
psychosomatic illnesses, neurotic thoughts, defenses
and self-defeating behaviors.
He may discover that in having to build walls to contain
the pain, he not only reduced his sensitivity to painful
feelings, but also reduced his ability to enjoy pleasurable
feelings. By slowly confronting the old pain that he
had to endure, he starts to regain the compassion for
himself that he had to diminish in order to survive;
with that comes more compassion for others and greater
ability to feel warmth and closeness.
I believe that most therapists and laymen recognize
the value of a cathartic experience used in connection
with recent trauma. (Such as crying to express the grief
of losing a loved one.) It vastly lowers tension levels.
But long-forgotten past traumas still maintain very high,
though unconscious, tension levels. It is this tension
that gives such incredible power to neurotic impulses.
("I know it's self-destructive, but I can't seem to stop
myself.'') By doing a connective catharsis of the past,
the neurotic impulses greatly diminish (and some are
At this stage in each session, the therapy changes from
an emphasis on the unconscious to an integration of the
unconscious with the conscious and then to an emphasis
on the conscious. Because the client has lived from unconscious
neurotic impulses all his life, there are areas where
he is inexperienced at living in a relatively un-neurotic
way. The therapy then focuses on exploring the new relationships,
life-styles, and extraordinarily pleasurable deep emotions
that become possible when one's conscious mind (rather
than one's unconscious), is truly in charge!
© 1993, all rights reserved, H. Lawrence King