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  June 10, 2002

Primal and Global Responsibility - Part 1

A.S. Neill, client of Wilhelm Reich and founder of the free school movement, said that he would consider himself a failure if any of his students became Prime Minister.

Neill ran his school, Summerhill, on the principles of self-regulation, and he believed that emotionally healthy children are not interested in the neurotic pursuit of power, status, and money. Being connected to their feelings and the richness of life, they are not interested in neurotic struggles, whether diplomatic game-playing or the empire-building of business, politics, or religion.

Summerhill was founded in 1921 and is presently run by Neill's daughter Zoe. In spite of being the inspiration for the entire progressive education movement, the famous Summerhill is simple, unpretentious - and poor. At other private schools, hard-driving fundraising campaigns reflect the competitive, hard-driving emotional states of their administrations, their parents - and their oppressed students. Apparently, the Summerhill experience does not create that type of drive.

I see the same phenomenon in the primal community. There aren't many authors, facilities, or training centers. The IPA membership is modest. Therapists are unobtrusively sprinkled here and there. Primal people, who must number in the tens of thousands by now, move silently through this society like some rare, elusive species.

I once read that Arthur Janov had expected primal people to become revolutionary activists for a new way of life. He was disappointed. It appeared that once clients began to feel and begin to actually enjoy life, they had much less interest in struggle. They would engage life and essentially disappear into it.

I have seen this myself. After a few years on the mat, the last thing a client wants to do is become a therapist! It reminds me of the scene in "Monkey Business" where Lucille starts dancing and says to Groucho Marx, "Oh, you know what I want. I want life, I want laughter, I want gaiety! I want to ha-cha-cha-cha!"

Just like Lucille, feeling people want to live, they don't want to develop a practice, write a book, build an association, struggle for a movement. Once out of the cage, they don't want to go anywhere near it.

However, this understandable attitude of emotional balance does not eliminate the larger problems. At the time of Columbus, most Native Americans were, on the whole, primally intelligent. Sadly, their feeling awareness did not save them from the neurotic epidemic of European civilization - in fact, it made them even more vulnerable. If they hadn't been so easy-going when the European "viruses" set foot on their land, Native Americans might still have their paradise.

We can primal ourselves to greater health, but we are still in the midst of the societal illness that made our parents - and us - sick. In fact, it's getting worse. The June 10, 2002, edition of Time article "Understanding Anxiety," lists only medications and cognitive/behavioral therapy as treatment options. There's absolutely no mention of emotion-based healing at all. With the rise of alternative medicine, where is the alternative therapy movement?

Saying that "I just want to enjoy life," neglects the larger family, social, and global picture. We may be out of the cage, but we're still wandering around in the zoo. Our way of life - the feeling life - is in danger, and we need to find unneurotic ways to defend and develop it.

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