Body psychotherapy aims at retrieving and integrating the unconscious childhood patterns that drive our dysfunctional emotional reactivity. The following lecture, originally presented to a live audience in Germany in the middle of the last century, has been translated and edited by The Pathwork Foundation. I include it here for its apt and precise description of the framework that underlies the body psychotherapeutic techniques I practice.
COMPULSION TO RECREATE AND OVERCOME CHILDHOOD HURTS
From: The Pathwork Foundation, 1999 (Lecture, #73)
by Eva Broch Pierrakos
Our last discussion was about the fear to love. The subject of love was presented at great length and from various angles in past sessions. You will remember that I frequently mentioned how the child desires to be loved exclusively and without limit. In other words, the child's desire to be loved is unrealistic. Yet, it is also true that the child would be very satisfied with real mature love. In fact, if it were given, the unrealistic demand for exclusive love would be diminished considerably. However, the capacity for tendering genuine mature love is rare indeed.
Since the child so seldom receives sufficient mature love and warmth, he continues to hunger for it throughout life unless this lack and hurt is recognized and properly dealt with. If not, the person will go through life unconsciously crying out for that which he missed in childhood. This will cause an inability to love maturely. So you can see how this factor spreads from generation to generation.
The remedy cannot be sought by wishing it were different and that people would learn to practice mature love. The remedy lies solely in you. True, if you had received this love from your parents, you would be without this unconscious problem -- a problem of which you are not really and fully aware. But this lack need not trouble you nor your life if you see it, become aware of it, and rearrange your former unconscious wishes, regrets, thoughts, and concepts in that regard. As a consequence, you will not only become a happier person, but you will also be able to extend mature love to others -- your children, if you have any, or to other people in your environment -- so that a benign chain reaction can start. This is very contrary to your present inner behavior which we shall now consider.
This factor is greatly overlooked by all humanity and even by the few who have started to explore their own unconscious mind and emotions. Very few people realize and personally experience (theoretical knowledge notwithstanding) the strong link between the child's longing and unfulfillment and their present difficulties and problems. It is very important to become aware of this link.
There may be isolated, exceptional cases where one parent has a sufficient degree of mature love. Even if one parent has it to some degree, very likely the other does not. And since mature love on this earth is only a question of degree, the child will suffer from those manifestations wherein the loving parent is bound to fall short.
More often, however, both parents are emotionally immature and cannot give the love the child craves for -- or only in insufficient measure. During childhood, this need is rarely conscious. The child has no way of putting his need into thoughts. He cannot compare. He does not know that something else might exist. He believes this is the way it should be. Or in extreme cases, he feels especially isolated, believing his is the only lot. Both attitudes are not according to truth. In both cases, the true emotion is not conscious and therefore properly evaluated and come to terms with. Thus the child grows up never quite realizing or understanding why he is unhappy nor even that he is unhappy. Many of you look back on childhood convinced that you had all the love you wanted just because you actually did have some love, but rarely all that you wanted.
There are a number of parents who give great demonstrations of love. They may spoil or pamper their children. This very act of spoiling and pampering may be an overcompensation and sort of an "apology" for a deeply suspected inability to love maturely. The child feels the truth very acutely. He may not think it, he may not consciously observe it, but inwardly the child keenly feels the difference between mature, genuine love and the immature overdemonstration offered instead of it.
Proper guidance and security are a parent's responsibility and calls for authority on his part. There is the parent who never dares to punish or exert such a healthy authority. This is due to guilt that real giving, warming, comforting love is absent in his own immature personality. Another parent may be too severe, too strict. He thereby exerts a distortion of authority by bullying and not allowing the individuality of the child to unfold. Both fall short as parents, and their wrong attitudes will be absorbed by the child and will result in hurt and unfulfillment.
In the case of the strict parent, the resentment and rebellion will be open and therefore more easily traced. In the other case, the rebellion is just as strong but hidden and therefore infinitely harder to trace. If you have a parent who smothered you with affection, or pseudoaffection, yet lacked in genuine warmth; or if you have a parent who conscientiously did everything right by you, but also was lacking in real warmth, unconsciously you knew it when you were a child and you resented it. Consciously, you may not be aware of it at all because when you were a child, you really could not put your finger on the lack. You were outwardly given everything you wanted and needed. How could you differentiate in your intellect the subtle, fine borderline distinction between real affection and pseudoaffection? The fact that something bothered you without your being able to explain it reasonably made you feel guilty and uncomfortable. You therefore pushed it out of sight as much as ever possible.
As long as this hurt, disappointment, and unfulfilled need from your early years is unconscious, you cannot come to terms with it. No matter how much you may love your parent, unconscious resentment exists, and you therefore cannot forgive for the hurt. You can only forgive and let go if you recognize this deeply hidden hurt and resentment. As an adult human being, you will see that your parents too are just human beings. They will not be as faultless and perfect as the child thought and hoped. Nor are they to be rejected because they had their own conflicts and immaturities. The light of conscious reasoning has to be applied to these very emotions you never allowed yourself to be aware of to their full extent.
As long as you are unaware of this conflict, of your longing for perfect love from your parents, you are bound to try remedying the situation in your later years. This may manifest in various aspects of your life. You run into problems and repeated patterns which have their origin in your attempt to reproduce the childhood situation so as to correct it. This unconscious compulsion is a very strong factor, but is so deeply hidden from your conscious understanding!
The most frequent way of attempting to remedy the situation is in your choice of love partners. Unconsciously, you will know how to choose in the partner aspects of the parent who has particularly fallen short in affection and love that is real and genuine. But you also seek in your partner aspects of the other parent who has come closer to gratify your demands. Important as it is to find both parents represented in your partners, it is even more important and more difficult to find those aspects which represent the parent who has particularly disappointed and hurt you, the one more resented or despised, and for whom you had little or no love. So you seek the parents again -- in a subtle way that is not always easy to detect by outer similarities -- in your marital partners, in your friendships, or in other human relationships. In your subconscious, the following reactions take place. Since the child in you cannot let go of the past, cannot come to terms with it, cannot forgive, cannot understand and accept, this very child in you always creates a somewhat similar condition, thereby trying to win out in the end, trying to finally master the situation instead of succumbing, as it seems to the child in you. Losing out means being crushed, and this must be avoided at all costs. The costs are high indeed, for the entire process is unfeasible. It cannot ever come to realization what the child in you sets out to accomplish.
This entire procedure is utterly destructive. In the first place, it is an illusion that you were defeated. Therefore it is an illusion that you can be victorious. Moreover, it is an illusion that, sad as the lack of love may have been when you were a child, it represents the tragedy that your subconscious still feels it to be. The only tragedy lies in the fact that you obstruct your future happiness by continuing to reproduce and then to attempt to master the situation. It goes without saying, my friends, that this process is very unconscious. Of course, nothing is further from your mind in your conscious aims and wishes. It will take a great deal of digging to uncover the emotions that lead you, again and again, into situations in which you wish to remedy childhood woes.
In trying to reproduce the childhood situation, you unconsciously choose a partner with aspects similar to those of the parent. And these very aspects will make it as impossible to receive the mature love you rightfully long for now, as it was then. Blindly you believe that by willing it more strongly and more forcefully, the parent-partner will now yield, whereas, in reality, love cannot come that way. Free of this ever continuing repetition, you will no longer cry to be loved by the parent. Instead, you will look for a partner (or for other human relationships) with the aim of finding the maturity you really need and want. In not demanding to be loved as a child, you will be equally willing to love. However, the child in you finds this impossible of course, no matter how much you may otherwise be capable of it due to development and progress. But this hidden conflict eclipses your otherwise growing soul.
If you already have a partner, the uncovering of this conflict may show you his similarities and immaturities. But since you know that there is hardly a really mature person, these existing immaturities will no longer be the tragedy they were while you constantly sought to find your parent or parents again, which of course could never come to pass. With your existing immaturities and inabilities, you may nevertheless build a more mature relationship, free of the childish compulsion now under discussion.
You have no idea how preoccupied your subconscious is with the process of reenacting the play, so to speak, only hoping that "now it will be different." And it never is! As time goes on, each disappointment weighs heavier, and your soul becomes more discouraged.
For those of my friends who have not yet reached certain depths of their unexplored subconscious, this may sound quite preposterous and contrived. But those of you have come to see the power of your hidden trends, compulsions, and images will not only readily believe it, but you will soon experience the truth of these words in your own personal life. You already know from other findings how potent is the working of your subconscious, how shrewdly it goes about in its destructive and illogical way.
If you learn to look at your problems and unfulfillment from this point of view and, by the usual process, allow your emotions to come to the fore, you will gain much further insight. But it will be necessary, my friends, to reexperience the longing and the hurt of the crying child that once you were even though you were also a happy one. Your happiness may have been valid and without self-deception at all. For it is possible to be both happy and unhappy. You may be perfectly aware of the happy aspects of your childhood, but that which hurt deeply and that certain something you greatly longed for -- you did not even quite know what -- you were not aware of. You took it all as a matter of course. You took it for granted. You did not know what was missing or that there was something missing. This basic unhappiness has to come to awareness now if you really want to proceed in inner growth. You have to reexperience the acute pain you once suffered but that you pushed out of sight. Now this pain has to be looked at with the understanding you have gained in mind. Only by doing this will you understand the reality-value of your current problems and see them in their true light.
Now how can you manage to reexperience the hurts of so long ago? There is only one way, my friends. Take a current problem. Strip it of all superimposed layers of your reactions. The first and most handy layer is that of rationalization, that of "proving" that others or situations are at fault and not your innermost conflicts which make you adopt the wrong attitude to the actual problem that confronts you. The next layer might be anger, resentment, anxiety, frustration. Behind all these reactions, you will find the hurt of not being loved. We went into this thoroughly in a previous lecture. When you experience the hurt of not being loved in your current problem, it will serve to reawaken the childhood hurt. With the present hurt, think back, try to reevaluate the situation as to your parents -- what they gave you, how you really felt about them. You will become aware that in many ways you lacked something you never clearly saw before -- you did not want to see it. You will find that this must have hurt you when you were a child, but you may consciously have forgotten this hurt. Yet, it is not forgotten at all. The hurt of your current problem is the very same hurt. Now reevaluate your present hurt, comparing it with the childhood hurt. Finally, you will clearly see how it is one and the same. No matter how true and understandable your present pain is, it is nevertheless the same childhood pain. A little later, you will see how you contributed in bringing about the present pain because of your desire to correct the childhood hurt. But at first, you only have to feel the similarity of the pain. This, however, requires considerable effort, for there are so many overlaying emotions that cover the present pain as well as the past one. Before you have succeeded in crystallizing the pain, you cannot understand anything further in this respect.
Once you can synchronize these two pains and realize that they are one and the same, the next step will be much easier. Then, by overlooking the repetitious pattern in your various problems, you will learn to recognize where the similarities exist in your parents and in the people who have caused you hurt or are causing you pain now. When you experience these similarities emotionally, it will carry you further on the particular road of dissolving this basic problem. Mere intellectual evaluation will not yield any benefit. When you feel the similarities while at the same time experiencing the pain of now and the pain of then, you will slowly come to understand how you thought you had to choose the current situation because deep inside you could not possibly admit "defeat."
It goes without saying that many people are not even aware of any pain, past or present. They are busily pushing it out of sight. Their problems appear not as "pain." For them, the very first step is to become aware that this pain is present, and it hurts infinitely more so long as they have not become aware of it. Yet, many people are afraid of this pain and like to believe that by ignoring it, it is not there. They chose such a path only because their conflicts become too great for them. How much more wonderful it is for a person to choose this path in the wisdom and conviction that a hidden conflict, in the long run, does as much damage as a manifest one. They will not fear to uncover the real emotion and will feel, even in the temporary experience of acute pain, that in that moment it turns into a healthy growing pain, that they are free of bitterness, tension, anxiety, and frustration.
There are also those who tolerate the pain, but in a negative way, always expecting it to be remedied from the outside. In a way, such people are nearer to the solution because for them it will be quite easy to see how the childish process still operates. "The outside" is the offending parent, or both parents, projected onto other human beings. They have only to redirect the approach to their pains. They do not have to find it.
Only after experiencing all these emotions and synchronizing the "now" and the "then" will you become aware of how you tried to correct the situation. You will see further the folly of this unconscious desire, the frustrating uselessness of it. You will survey all your actions and reactions with this new understanding and insight -- whereupon, you will release your parents, you will leave your childhood truly behind and start a new inner behavior pattern that will be infinitely more constructive and rewarding for yourself and for others. You will no longer seek to master the situation that you could not master as a child. You will go on from where you are, forgetting and forgiving, truly inside of you, without thinking that you have done so. You will no longer need to be loved as you needed to be loved when you were a child. First, you become aware that this is what you still wish, and then you no longer seek this type of love. Since you are no longer a child, you will seek love in a different way, by giving it, instead of by expecting it. But it must always be emphasized that many people are not aware that they do expect it. Since the childish, unconscious expectation was so often disappointing, they made themselves give up all expectations and all desires for love. Needless to say, this is neither genuine nor healthy, for it is a wrong extreme.
To be fruitful and bring real results, it must go beyond mere intellectual knowledge. You have to allow yourself to feel the pain of certain unfulfillments now and also the pain of the unfulfillment of your childhood. Then compare the two until, like two separate picture slides, they gradually move into focus and become one. Once this happens, the insight that you gain, the experience that you feel exactly as I say here, will enable you to take the further steps indicated.
All this is of great importance for some of my friends who are well enough advanced in their own work. They need this instruction to give them a new outlook, to present further clarification beyond the point they have arrived at, and to enable them to proceed in the proper direction. For others who are not yet that far advanced or for new friends in the group who have not really begun on a self-search, these words will perhaps be a little obscure. Or, intellectually, they may understand quite well, but they will be unable as yet to apply them to their own emotions and life problems. Nevertheless, I say to all these friends: think about it, the time will come when you will glean a new understanding about yourself from these words. Perhaps an occasional glimpse even now, a temporary flickering emotion that these words may cause in you, will be of help and open a door toward knowing yourself better, to evaluating your life with a more realistic, more mature outlook.
Now, are there any questions in connection with this lecture?
QUESTION: There is something very difficult for me to understand here. The fact that one continuously chooses a person or a love object which has exactly the same negative trends that one or the other parent had -- is it a reality factor that this particular person has these trends? Or is it projection and response?
ANSWER: It can be both, and it can be either. In fact, it is most of the time a combination. Certain aspects are unconsciously looked for and found, and they are actually, and in reality, similarities. But these existing similarities are enhanced by the person. They are not only projected -- that is, qualities "seen" that are not really there -- but qualities latent in some degree without being manifested. These are encouraged and strongly brought to the fore by the attitude of the person with his inner problem unrecognized, and therefore unchecked. In other words, you (I do not mean you personally) foster something in the other person by provoking him to react that way. The provocation, which of course is entirely unconscious, is a very strong factor here.
The sum total of a human personality consists of many factors. Out of these many factors, let us say three or four are actually similar. The most outstanding factor would be a similar kind of immaturity and incapacity to love as in the parent in question. That alone is sufficient and potent enough in essence to reproduce the same situation.
The same person would not react with others as he reacts with you because it is you who provokes him constantly into reproducing similar conditions for you to correct. Your fear, your self-punishment, your frustration, your anger, your hostility, your withdrawal from giving out love and affection, all these trends of the child in you constantly provoke the other person and enhance in him that which is weak and immature. The more mature person, however, will affect others differently and will bring out that in them which is mature and whole. For there is no person who does not have some mature aspects.
QUESTION: You have stated that emotional maturity is the willingness and the capability to love. It seems to me that intellectual maturity must mean something else. How do the two interplay and influence each other?
ANSWER: Both are necessary functions of the healthy individual. As I once put it, they are like the two legs you need in order to walk through life. Intellectual maturity is your capacity to think, to judge, to evaluate, to discriminate, to form concepts, to plan, to use your will, to use your mind, to make decisions, to utilize your assets, to direct your life, and, last but not least, to educate or re-educate the childish emotions by implanting the proper concepts (your own!) that you have arrived at independently by thinking things through. Not because others said so, but because you deliberated on them are they your own. Thus your intellect can influence your emotions by your capacity to think. On the other hand, unchecked and childish emotions can influence your thinking capacity by coloring your views, by making you lose objectivity. Your capacity to think is intellectual maturity. And the way you manage your emotional reactions, feelings, and instincts determines your emotional maturity or lack of it.
QUESTION: Might one be developed much further in one direction than in the other?
ANSWER: Indeed, very often there is an imbalance between these two "legs," with one leg more developed than the other. This imbalance causes lack of integration in the human being. Among other aspects, the purpose and aim in this work is to achieve a proper balance. In many instances, a person is more developed in one direction, in one area of its personality, with an imbalance in the other. Many who do not pursue a path such as yours continue to nurse and cultivate the one already overdeveloped aspect. That, of course, is not healthy; it does not bring the desired harmony and balance. It is done because man prefers to think of his strength rather than of his weakness.
QUESTION: Would you say that emotional lack of development is indicated by an emphasis on strong likes and dislikes without discriminating as to what the values are? We use the wrong yardstick. Instead of measuring and discriminating, we are either for or against something because we "like" or "dislike" it, regardless of its intrinsic merit.
ANSWER: Exactly. I spoke about that in one of the lectures. That is the subjectivity that arises out of childish emotions. Of course, a halfway intellectually mature person will find adequate reasons to hide this emotional reaction and subjectivity. That is what is called rationalization. An intellectually mature person will find reasons and explanations for his irrational, emotional, subjective behavior or attitude.
QUESTION: At one time, you said that you could hear the soul scream. Does that also work between the different subconscious minds of one human being and another? Does one subconscious hear the screaming of the other? Is that why one feels the hostility emanating from the other person?
ANSWER: Yes, that is why I always say that your subconscious affects the subconscious of the other person. You go through life resenting other people because they do not respond to your outer actions. You are yourself unaware of what your inner actions are. Your inner actions or reactions are accurately perceived by your fellow human beings, and they react to that part of yourself. Their souls hear that voice, or perceive with other inner sense organs of hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting. That is why the subconscious of one affects the subconscious of the other. So often, man feels unjustly treated when he knows his actions were quite all right. He concentrates on all the outer right actions he did, but leaves out the inner motivations which exist in addition to the conscious and proper outer ones. If you learn to be utterly honest with yourself and acknowledge your hidden motivations and feelings, then you will understand why other people react to you as they do, and you will no longer consider yourself the victim of injustice.
QUESTION: How can I make the distinction as to whether the other person provoked me or I the other person?
ANSWER: It is not necessary to find who started, for this is a chain reaction, a vicious circle. It is useful to start by finding your own provocation, perhaps in response to an open (or hidden) provocation of the other person. Thus you realize that because you were provoked, you provoke the other person. And because you do so, the other again responds in kind. But as you examine your real reason, not the superficial one, why you were hurt in the first place and therefore provoked in the sense of tonight's lecture, you will no longer regard this hurt as disastrous as it appeared before. You will have a different reaction to the hurt, and as a consequence, the hurt will diminish automatically. Therefore you will no longer feel the need to provoke the other person. Also, as the need to reproduce the childhood situation decreases, you will become less withdrawn, and you will hurt others less and less so that they will not have to provoke you. And if they do, you will also understand that they reacted out of the same childish blind needs as you do. As you gain a different view on your own hurt, understanding its real origin, you will gain the same detachment to the reaction of the other person. You will find exactly the same reactions going on in you and the other. But so long as that conflict remains unsolved in you, the difference seems enormous. You ascribe different motivation to the other person's provocation than to your own even if and when you actually realize that you initiated the provocation. Thus you perceive reality, while before you did not. And so you begin to break this vicious circle.
As you truly perceive mutual interplay, it will relieve the feeling of isolation and guilt you all are burdened with. You are constantly fluctuating between your guilt and the accusation of injustice towards those around you. The child in you feels itself entirely different, in a world of its own. That is such a damaging illusion. As you solve this conflict, it will increase your awareness of other people. You are so unaware of the reality of other people. On the one hand, you accuse them and are inordinately hurt by them because you do not understand yourself and therefore do not understand the other person. On the other hand, and at the same time, you refuse to become aware when you are hurt. This seems paradoxical, yet is not. As you experience for yourself the factors set forth tonight, you will find this to be true. While sometimes you may exaggerate a hurt, at other times you do not allow yourself to know it happened at all because it may not fit the picture you have for the situation. It may spoil your constructed idea. It may not correspond to your desire at the time. If otherwise the situation seems favorable and fits into your preconceived idea, you leave out all that which jars you, while it festers underneath and creates unconscious hostility. This entire reaction inhibits your intuitive faculties, at least in this particular respect.
This constant provocation from one human being to another, hidden from your awareness now, is a reality you will come to perceive very clearly. This will have a very liberating effect on you and your surroundings. But you cannot perceive it unless you understand the factors in yourself I discussed tonight.
QUESTION: Is it possible in some way to make a truce, for even two or three minutes, with one's own subconscious and the subconscious of the other person? Sometimes you see the reality intellectually, but by the time you order your subconscious to do something, it is already in revolt and has made the other person unhappy, and then you are unhappy too. It might all have been avoided if there were a few minutes of truce.
ANSWER: You see, in the first place, it is not a question of ordering your subconscious. You cannot order it. That is impossible. As long as you attempt such commands, it will be very resistant. Or it may deceive you so that you deceive yourself. The subconscious can only be re-educated by the slow and gradual process as pursued in our work. Most important is that you become fully aware of what you really feel. Actually, you are only half aware of it most of the time and resort to superimposing your real reactions with another set of feelings. These may be other negative emotions, or if positive, you are deceiving yourself even more. Only by stripping away all these superimpositions can you understand the reason why your subconscious is often so stubborn. If it continues to resist your good efforts, there must be something present that you have not understood and connected. Then it is a question of finding the block causing this particular obstruction. When this happens, you will not need a short truce. You will have real peace with yourself and therefore with others. While you may command a truce in your outer actions, your words, and even your thoughts, the subconscious does not respond to such discipline. It goes on in its own way until it has really changed.
Truce, as you see it, cannot really work. It is as unreal as would be the effect of attempting to command it.
QUESTION: Suppose a person is able to bring his house in order. Will he then eliminate provocations in the other person?
ANSWER: You do not even have to bring your house in order to the extent that you are fully mature and more or less perfect. This perfection hardly ever exists in the human sphere. But the awareness of your immaturity, the real insight and understanding of your reactions and feelings that cause provocation, will weaken it sufficiently and will progress until you finally will cease bringing on provocations and you in turn will not be provoked by others. As you gain a certain detachment from yourself in a very healthy way, the smoldering, unhealthy drive and force will be taken out of your emotional reactions. In fact, I would even say that this is the only kind of valid "truce" that can be accomplished. Allow yourself to see what you really feel and why. And when you have an overall view without any further subterfuge and self-deception, such knowledge will no longer disquiet you. It will have a very calming effect. You will have made peace with yourself by accepting your still existing imperfections and not harrow yourself into a perfection that you cannot possibly attain at the moment. Once you accept the reality of your imperfect self, the resulting hurts will no longer be so serious and tragic. You will accept them as a consequence of your accepted imperfections, which you can now observe calmly while gaining more understanding about them and thus nearing perfection and maturity. In this way, your hostility will vanish, and your provocations as well. Gradually but nevertheless surely, relapses will occur, but you will accept them with a realistic outlook. You will gain further insight from them, knowing that if they are possible, it is because something has not penetrated deeply enough and has to be found anew so as to be assimilated on deeper levels of your being.
Hostility exists because you are unaware that you are hurt and why you are hurt. Just think of times when you are really aware of a hurt without anger and without feeling hostile. You may feel sad, but feeling sad seems to many people so humiliating that they prefer to be angry and therefore hostile. That is a particular kind of childishness existing in everyone. You think it is superior to be angry and hostile than to be sad, so you suppress the real hurt. But the hostility has to be hidden too because it makes you feel guilty for other reasons so that it comes out in a devious, hidden way, which in turn again brings on further provocation. Provocation is a result of unaware hostility, suppressed hostility; and the hostility results from unaware and suppressed hurt.