HUMAN BEINGS FORGOT HOW TO “FEEL” (Article originally appearing in Spanish in the Argentine magazine, “Uno Mismo”)
“Awareness is revolutionary in the same way that the repression of consciousness is anti-revolutionary. … Revolutionary consciousness is Primal Consciousness – an integrated mind freed from the internal realities of pain. Without Primal Consciousness, the neurotic person will externalise his inner conflicts and his rebelliousness will be symbolic.”
“The Primal Revolution, Towards a ‘Real’ World” by Arthur Janov Ph.d. 1972.
The ‘60’s were revolutionary in many respects. On the one hand the Beatles erupted and with them a rejection of superficiality and naïve idealism of post World War II. On the other hand, Spain and Latin America fought politically and militarily to free themselves from centuries of formalism. Meanwhile, the East summoned us to the depths of memory and to the awakening of Consciousness.
Those of us who lived those times of cataclysmic social and cultural transformation did it ‘big time’, with excesses and exaggeration, dramatic manifestations, cult to the chaotic in jazz and in the arts, redefinition of the family, transformation of social behavior, and a certain aversion to religious authority. Everywhere people spoke of peace, even if in some uncertain future. It was an emotional outburst of hatred and repressed resentment for all sort of past injustice. The therapies and bodywork that emerged at this time extended beyond temporary relief; they consisted in intense and severe regression and reevaluation. Sexual Tantra, the Primal Scream, Rolfing, cathartic bioenergetics… As the political policies themselves, the forerunners of the movement of the time, everything demanded total and imminent involvement that was drastic and painful. We needed to heal the present and this meant going to the roots and eradicating everything in order to be able to begin again.
The whole world seemed to be awakening from prolonged lethargy. Many people exhausted their physical and emotional resources to the point of absolute decadence, saturated by drugs, sex, and war. Those of us who found ourselves in the hub of battles and survived, looked for inspiration and healing in the silence of Nature or in meditation, in isolated communities. We extended our resistance into creating and participating in new alternatives. The New Age movement was birthed.
The following generation looked for another type of engagement and inaugurated the era of the computer. Without knowing, it dug a deep trench between the recent excesses and the visions of a possible future. The existential scream of impotent humanity that had projected itself into all types of violence was suspended, to culminate in the palpable aura of another type of repression, mental control and present-day fear. Automatism proportional to terrorism peeked out of every corner, and its shadows silently infiltrated the deepest parts of our inner sanctuary.
Various decades went by. The present, weeping under covers and stirred by suffocating currents of emotion, again asks for change. A blind impulse, incomprehensible and weary, longs for something beautiful, joyful, inspiring. The term “meditation” has come to define a pause between the frenetic rhythms of our surrounding world to become fashionable. Another thing “to do”.
Meanwhile, alternative lifestyles have spread. We again turn to Nature with the hope that it will come home and take its inevitable course. Even if only for a few minutes, we wish to return to the Mother’s lap we never had, to the father who was absent because he lost his way. The present, anesthetised by terror, artificiality, computers, cellular telephones, and miracle drugs seeks authenticity. A return to intimacy and to the understanding of ourselves. Subjected to a state of useless rebellion, humanity became a victim of stupefying collective hypnosis.
In this respect, the decade of the ‘60’s very eloquently mirrors the current human condition. Arthur Janov, author of ‘The Primal Scream’ (1970) said:
“(Humanity)… has the sensation that it never lived and doesn’t know how to. It is willing to trust others to lead them because years ago they gave away the only key they ever had – themselves.” (The Primal Revolution, Towards a Real World, 1972.)
The solution lies in the acknowledgment of a simple truth: the greatest human experience is to feel oneself deeply alive to explore all of life’s experiences consciously. All the rest occurs as a consequence, including the development of spiritual faculties. But, behind this possibility hides an unforeseen problem: human beings have forgotten how to “feel”.
The impulse to feel is equivalent to being present and co-creating with life at all levels. Learning to decode the language of our senses and numbed emotions. Only then may we feel ourselves feeling others. This feeling will lead to an awakening of consciousness, to the perception of that which is real or authentic, beyond appearances, with all the ethical consequences of this implication. Feeling, thus defined, is the only antidote against intellectualism and the frenzy of the instincts. We identify the present moment and ordinary reality, and within this reality we find the past and the future. Without it, illusion and deceit.
All children are born with the capacity to feel intact. This begins to diminish when basic needs are ignored. Besides the obvious physical ones, these needs are delicate and invisible: to be touched, loved, appreciated, recognised as an individual, and stimulated to express and manifest their Being. When they are not met, we develop symbolic compensations. We construct an unreal self-image that separates us from our essence or potential.
Neurosis, in this context, extends into a search for symbolic satisfactions that never reach the hollow inner space or heal the wounds. To open ourselves to sensitivity in all respects, an extremely difficult task, does not appeal to our current state of mind. The rigidity of the system of defense and justifications is too strong. And here is where we are. Layers of artificial emotions and representations cover unresolved needs.
The problem is the dead end that we face when we become aware of the traumas and distorted meanings that held our symbolic behavior together. Instead, we feel a vacuum. No more excuses and justifications. In the absence of all that held us together, aloneness arises and with it responsibility. It is not easy to recognise that “we do not need” others; for the first time we are capable of loving, and this impulse is more than enough. It fills us entirely.
The beauty of the work with sensitivity is that it occurs subtly and indirectly. We serve ourselves of silence, long periods of time, isolation, and the breaking with automatic daily routines. With exercise and stimulation, during this period of time we tend to care for the physical body, the edifice that sustains it all. We eliminate every habit that alleviates tension or stimulates us artificially, because what we look for is precisely to go through and beyond the pressure, and through this reach the intensity of inner truth.
The process of regaining sensitivity leads us to discover the inner aspects of body, mind and emotion, and decode cellular and energetic language. We learn to feel the body and to recognise emotions, to join isolated parts, to distinguish sensation from feeling, and perception from imagination. We become aware of what we feel and how we feel, getting to know, organize, and reorient ourselves. Above all we learn to trust ourselves. We find our inner path and can read its signals. Eventually, we lose the hardness and insensitivity that covered us, and the energy that is liberated is lived as fullness and pleasure.
Our real self, or inner self, possesses unlimited capacity to feel, connect and decode its relationship with everything.
During a lifetime, the Real (Inner) Self, in order to survive lives with pain, cloistered behind a wall that has become impenetrable. When life is fully experienced, pleasure and pain, what has been satisfied and what has not been satisfied, the capacity to feel spreads and becomes wisdom. It opens to the possibility of stepping out of the wheel of cause and effect.
The human being is a complex unit. Our sensitive organism responds to inner and outer stimuli of all kinds, constructing a system of reality that transcends time and space. It has awareness and unlimited possibilities. Neurosis is a mental attitude, not a state of being. It is not intrinsic to the body or the emotions, which in the end are manipulated by the mind. Fullness of experience in one aspect affects all other aspects. It opens the way to higher states of Consciousness.
What is important is not meaning but energetic experience. That which is liberated has its corresponding part in the central nervous system. Proportional to the intensity of the experience, electric and chemical neuron impulses (neurotransmitters) become activated and seek resolution. Real liberation includes the reformulation of thought-forms, as much as the subsequent development of awareness as subtle sensitivity. It includes the refinement of perception and the expansion of language, recovering thus the power to re-qualify and create our own experience.
The level of depth with which we ‘feel’ determines the meaning of our life. The first step consists in developing a conscious and flexible personality. The second is to acknowledge that we are not the personality, which creates a certain distance that allows us to learn mastery while enjoying life, to create a conscious identity and to construct our world.
A recent newspaper interview (in Argentina) referred to my training in Primal Therapy and to the fact that I ‘worked’ with John Lennon.
Arthur Janov, Ph.d. was my first teacher. It was in 1969. I lived in New York and my husband worked as a reader of unsolicited manuscripts at a leading publishing firm. Sometimes he brought the manuscripts home to read. When he read “The Primal Scream” he became so excited with its theories that we ended up reading it out loud together over a long 4th of July weekend. When the publisher for whom he worked rejected the manuscript, he himself carried it to another publisher who, ultimately, published it, although not without conditions. They demanded proof. They wanted some reliable person go to Los Angeles to undergo the novel therapy. This person would be accompanied by one of their psychologists who would certify not only their ‘neurosis’ but also the beginnings of a ‘cure’. My husband suggested me.
This is how I met Dr. Janov. When the psychologist who accompanied me returned to New York after the three week intensive, I stayed and begged my husband (tearfully over the telephone) to move us to California.
We settled in L.A. and I became part of Janov’s first group-in-training, while I attended a few courses in psychology in San Fernando Valley College, to fulfill the requirements of the state. Shortly after the publication of his book, his fame exploded. One day he received a telephone call from John Lennon and Yoko Ono from London. A month later they joined us in the practice of Dr. Janov on Rodeo Drive for the group sessions that followed the personal intensive periods. I was already assisting in those groups, and this is how I also met the famous couple. One day, responding to Dr. Janov’s request, Lennon sang ‘Julia’ a capella. It was, of course, addressed to his mother, and sung in between heart-wrenching sobs. And we all cried with him.
John Lennon, we all know, was the most ‘sensitive’ of the Beatles.