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January 19, 2004

Primal 101: Expressing the Need

Trauma and neurosis come from:

1) a need that was not met
2) the pain of that unmet need
3) the repression of that pain
4) the continued, unconscious drive to meet the need.

Emotional healing comes from:

1) becoming aware of our unconscious drives
2) expressing, rather than repressing, emotional pain from an unmet need
3) expressing the original need that preceded the pain
4) grieving the loss of not ever having that need met
5) Healthy, aware activities that meet present-day needs.

Need is emptiness. Need is the state when the organism requires something in order to grow and/or survive. It is a type of systemic vacuum. If a plant requires a certain amount of water, the lack of water is a water "debt," and the organism is compelled, by physics, to draw on its surroundings to get the water. If you pour water at the bottom of a pot, the plant's water deficit (need) literally sucks the water up.

In all living things, the mechanics of need and fulfillment are the same. They are the mechanics of emptiness and fullness. Children are growing, and their growth requires that many things be drawn into their systems, including water, food, safe touch, and love.

If a need is not met, we are compelled to keep calling or "reaching" for what it is we need. This expression is a part of the process that often precedes the fulfillment of the need. If we do not get what we need, the lack/deficit often feels painful. This pain compels us to express that need more strongly, in order to reach fulfillment.

If the need is not met at all, every system has a limit to how much pain it can endure before it shuts down. The intention of such a shut-down (repression) is intended as a temporary safeguard in the continued drive to have the need met. Unfortunately, in many families, neglect and abuse are so prevalent that children have little chance to undo their repression and correct the situation.

Primal integration is essentially about reconnecting with our unfulfilled need. Expressing the pain associated with it is a part of that experience rather than the main intention.

In this work we have to be careful not to get stuck in feeling and expressing the pain without also expressing the need driving it. For instance, we may cry and wail from the hurt we felt when a parent left, but it is essential at some point to get to the simple, original need. In this case it may be expressed in a statement such as "I want you to be with me." That's the need.

Other classic need statements are:

Love me
Feed me
Hold me
Touch me
Protect me
Keep me safe
Keep me warm
Help me
Be nice to me
Listen to me
Look at me
Tell me I'm good
Let me know you love me by . . .
Let me play

Whenever there is pain, there is some situation that would fill the need that is causing the pain. For instance, if you have a headache, you might ask yourself, "what does this pain need?" In other words, what could happen that would actually fulfill the cause rather than just mask or soothe the pain? If the headache is caused by a present-day issue, the need might be to stretch a tight shoulder muscle. If the cause is a repressed trauma, it might be the feeling that "I need Dad to stop talking and just hold me."

For body symptoms, this is often not something we can solve with thinking. It is a feeling/sensation zone that uses its own "language," its own answers, and its own expression. In every case, however, a need is there.

Primal pain is a symptom of an unfulfilled need that requires completion/fulfillment. If the need is old and the opportunity for fulfillment is past, that reality itself is something painful that requires expression/grieving. However, being aware of the original need—and expressing that need directly in a primal session—is an essential part of untying the tangled ball of our feelings.

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