INTERVIEW WITH SHAKURA
What is Primal work?
Primal is a therapeutic method, a way to work on oneself. In Primal, we go back to the past, particularly the first seven years of life, bringing clarity to the conditioning we received and light to shine on old wounds carried from that time. In ancient times, the Indian mystic Patanjali developed meditations and techniques to relive the past in order to clean the mind and reclaim the space of Being.
In modern times, about 40 years ago, Arthur Janov, an American therapist, developed Primal Therapy to revisit our early years and heal neurosis created at that time.
In the past few years, new concepts and techniques have come into existence, such as the Bradshaw Inner Child work and Co-Dependency. My Primal work includes these different approaches, plus others like: Gestalt Therapy, Bio-Energetics, the Levine Trauma Work, the Almaas Diamond Approach, Hellinger’s Family Constellation work, etc. My own unique approach, while embracing all these methods, has been nurtured and created within the umbrella of my devotion to Osho and his insights.
If I had to put it in a sentence I would say: Primal is a process that takes us towards our real self, towards an authentic way of living. It is peeling off the layers of conditioning and pain, so that our true nature can shine through.
What is the need to go back to the past, when life happens now and we have a future ahead that seems more important?
The fact is that most of us still carry the past inside, in the form of body-mind pain. The strategies we developed in childhood to cope with the family situation still run our lives, often with damaging consequences. For example, we are unable to live fully in the present because the mind keeps pulling us back, as we have not completed our past. It still hangs around us as a big burden.
As a result:
We don't feel good with ourselves
We cannot enjoy healthy intimate relationships
We may have problems with authority
We cannot be fully alive or creative
Some people may become chronically ill
These are just a few of the difficulties we may face.
When the child is born, he is pure Essence. He has no personality, he is in a state of grace. If you look at a small child you can perceive a tremendous fragrance, a divine beauty.
However, the human child is fragile and helpless, and from the birth onwards he can experience a lot of traumatic events. I am not only talking about children who come from abusive families; a lot of situations that seem 'normal' to an adult are extremely painful for a child. For example: when the mother leaves the room, a very small baby often feels terror; he experiences a kind of death.
He is one with the mother, he needs her, and he does not have the capacity to know that she will come back, as she did yesterday. For the infant, in that moment, mother has gone forever; it is a major abandonment.
What to say when death or divorce happens in the family, or when the child gets sick and has to be hospitalized, or when the parents fight, or when the mother gives birth to another child and withdraws her attention?
All this is terribly painful for the child, but because nature wants the child to survive, it finds ways to block part of the pain, so that it is not felt in its totality, a kind of anesthesia takes place.
In addition, every child experiences a decisive moment when the Essence, or Being, goes into hiding and is replaced by a superficial personality, or social mask, that is needed in order to fit with the family. This is a kind of psychological death when the child loses contact with his, or her, true self. In this way the survival of the child is guaranteed -- at least in most cases -- but deep wounds are created that stay within the body-mind system. By the time we are adults we are loaded with pain.
Many of us notice how we keep on reacting to situations in abnormal ways. For example: someone who carries an abandonment wound, either closes himself off and does not allow any intimate relationship, or keeps on getting attracted to unreliable people who will abandon him, or her.
These are not conscious decisions. We don’t do this deliberately. We are being driven by the wounds buried in our minds and bodies. Pain attracts more pain.
What do you do in Primal work?
We bring clarity to our dysfunctional behavior and see how it originated. Then we open the wounds, bring into present awareness the pain that is the cause of this behavior. By consciously feeling it, the pain dissolves.
We focus attention on all the beliefs, “shoulds” and parental voices stored in our minds, understanding that the brain recorded these messages when we were very young, and we identified with them, accepting them as our own. An important part of my work is to help people see the damaging effects of these messages and the reasons why we hold on to them, thereby creating dis-identification.
Why do this work now?
As adults, we can see that the actual situation that provoked the pain is not happening now, it belongs to the past. Instead of acting out, as we usually do in every day life, we can consciously choose to relive the pain during therapy, in a safe environment.
As adults we have a more developed body and nervous system that can handle intense feelings, and we have resources available – awareness, strength, courage, compassion, a desire to know oneself -- that we did not have at that time. We are no longer helpless, nor dependent on parents.
How long does it take to heal Primal wounds?
We all carry the magical belief and hope that someone or something can heal us in a split second without any pain or effort from our side. The child inside us is waiting for the fairy godmother who can make the miracle happen with her magic wand.
Hence, many workshops are offered all over the world that promise instant results. But the effects of such courses have a short life span. They don't last long simply because this approach doesn’t work. The truth is, I cannot say how long the healing process takes, and, in any case, after a while, this question becomes irrelevant. We become more interested in discovering our inner reality than in achieving a goal.
Participants in these workshops receive tools that help them to be more aware in daily life, dealing with issues in a conscious way whenever they are triggered, and recognizing the voices that try to direct them.
A major transformation happens in the course and will continue if the participant is willing to allow it. The majority of the participants say that dramatic changes take place afterwards.
I have done many groups in which childhood issues came up and were worked on. Do I still need to do a Primal Group?
Primal is such precious work that it is important to do it at the right moment, when you feel motivated, when you feel pulled, when you feel, “Yes, this is what I want to do now. I need to go back to my childhood and see what happened to me.”
Often, people go to a Primal workshop in moments of crisis, when something happens in their lives and they realize that their usual strategies don’t work, or there is a negative or damaging pattern that keeps on repeating itself.
Yes, Primal issues do come up in other courses -- in fact all our issues, in a way are Primal issues, because, everything started in childhood.
A Primal group is not the end, nor the beginning, of the process of healing the past. However, there is something unique about a Primal group that can only be experiences in such context.
What makes the difference is that your whole attention is single-pointedly focused on childhood, parental influence and conditioning. This creates an intensity that allows a deep surgery to happen. A layer of protection cracks and many things we could not see as small children reveal themselves now The naked truth behind illusions surfaces, becomes conscious. Deep layers of feelings, buried for a long, long time, begin to emerge.
A Primal group is in a way an earthquake; it is an eye opener about what really happened in childhood and how the past is still carried inside.
In order to survive, every child protects the parents and their behavior, and even as adults we keep on carrying this illusion. In a way, we keep on being children in a big body, until we see through the dream and look at the reality without tainted glasses -- only then we can start growing up.
Since I was a child, I promised myself I would never make the mistakes my parents did. I would be a good mother to my children, and yet, in spite of myself, I often get angry and shout at them. Why is it so?
This is a good question. I think everybody can ask it, because this is everybody’s predicament: we want to be good partners, good parents good friends and this does not happen. On the contrary… The problem is that these decisions don’t go very deep. They don’t affect the unconscious part of the mind, or, as we call it in our work, the wounded child inside us.
Primal work is for that inner child, the one who carries pain and anger from the past and cannot just change because we want to. We need to be able to open up that pain, validate it, feel it and express it in the right context, so that it can get transformed.
Our wounded inner child still lives in the past, cannot see reality and people for what they are now, keeps on projecting mommy and daddy on everybody – especially on people close to us, such as our lovers, partners and even our own children.
This child tries to get from them the love it did not get when we were young, using the same strategies, or gives to them the anger that we weren’t able to express towards our own parents. Unless we become aware of this hurt child and embrace its feelings, it takes over our life, with very damaging consequences.
At first it is shocking to realize that we don’t see anybody as they really are, and that we project mommy and daddy on everybody. Some people have called it the Holy Trinity: Me, Mummy and Daddy.
This is our reality: we are not one, we are three. But this shock transforms us, it starts changing something, and even if we still get caught in the same behavior, some light has entered and sooner or later we can recognize what is happening. Then we start having more freedom, we can stop it, we are not driven to repeat the past forever.
Is your own personal Primal work finished, Shakura?
People often ask me this. I see how the mind wants to have some schedule and some guarantees – do one group and be free forever!
I say jokingly that Enlightenment is the end of Primal. Before that, we keep on working. I continue to have understandings and insight about myself and my childhood, while I facilitate courses for others.
Life gives me plenty of opportunities to feel the pain I still carry, by putting me in challenging situations. And yet, if I think of myself as I was, years ago, everything is much lighter now.
Sometimes I still cry in deep pain; abandonment and separation are wounds that are not completely healed inside, and they get touched every now and then.
In the past, I used to cry almost every day. There was so much pain and heaviness around me! Now this is no more the case. I used to feel a bitterness around my heart; now, when I tune into it, I feel a sweetness instead.
I still catch sometimes the Inner Critic, doing its job of putting me down, and I just tell it to go, thank you, no need for your advice now -- and I immediately feel better. As I have become more experienced in dealing with the Inner Critic, I feel more trust in my inner being, and in life. I feel stronger and more centered, less needy, more compassionate towards myself and others.
Sometimes fears come… something to watch, something to work on. I ask myself: is it something from my childhood? How are the voices inside me reinforcing these emotions? Whose voice is it? How would I live now if I did not believe to this voice?
The Inner Critic sometimes says that I should be over all this by now. Well, I am not. Sometimes I cry like a baby, sometimes I am scared or upset… that’s how it is.
And when I am able to simply accept myself as I am, things move fast and change. The journey goes on and it is fascinating, sometimes it is even hilarious. It might seem a paradox, but since I am willing to feel the pain, I have less suffering.