In this podcast, therapist Svarup speaks to Bhavi about Primal and Inner Child Work and her upcoming online workshop.
The interview starts with Bhavi’s invitation to a live 10-session online Childhood De-conditioning Process, organised by Kannagara Journeys, from October 2022 to January 2023, a journey to understand our childhood wounds, meet the qualities of our inner child and strengthen the adult within. More on kannagarajourneys.com (limited places).
Taster: A free live Inner Child Masterclass with Svarup, Coming Back Home to the Child in You, Sunday, 14 August 2022, 5pm UK, 18:00 Central Europe. Register: kannagarajourneys.com
I am an adult. I live in the here and now. I realize the importance of addressing what is lying unresolved in my unconscious. And I am willing to meet the child-part of me.
Welcome Svarup. Would you like to introduce us a little bit to your work and what you do?
I have been involved in Primal Work for the last 35 years in the field of the spiritual master Osho, who has added a spiritual dimension to the work which was created around the 70’s by Arthur Janov, a Russian therapist who lived in America.
Originally, Primal Work was to unblock the flow of physical and emotional energy from the body-mind system of a person, that felt impaired and wounded by childhood experiences. This is still the line, but with some additions that come from other streams of inspiration and from the spiritual background.
Primal Work is the understanding, basically, that still as adults we often, from our unconscious, still act out of unresolved childhood issues. ‘Childhood wounds’ as you might call them. Because, unconsciously, we associate the present situation with something that lies unresolved in our unconscious from our early days.
So the work aims at bringing out from the unconscious the past experiences that lie unresolved, and through bodywork, understanding and sharing, complete them. Because, whatever lies incomplete inside us… there is an urge inside us to solve that situation.
I will give you an example. For instance, Mother is not so affectionate physically, although she is there and present in all other practical ways. This creates in us a feeling of an unresolved need. And when we grow up, we might protect ourselves against that feeling that keeps on rising (because it’s unresolved) by either feeling that we need to take care of others, or by feeling that we can manage our own needs like nobody else. So, we live in a kind of glass box with our needs. And we have long lists – and we anticipate any possibility of that feeling arising. Or we renounce all needs.
This is just a living reality inside us. It’s not just a memory that gets activated but it’s a physical experience that gets activated. It’s something in our heart that aches and that we want to protect by acting in a way that covers the wound. But by covering that wound, we don’t resolve it, because it seems that in the physics of the inner world whatever wound is there needs expression and resolution, to dissolve.
What is the process then of healing these wounds that we all carry? How does the Primal Process, or the Inner Child [process] work with these wounds?
First of all there is a basic understanding that in us there is an ‘adult-part’ and a ‘child-part’. And then in our unconscious, actually half of our unconscious, we carry the imprint of early experiences, earlier emotional experiences with the parents.
These realities are very alive and present inside us. The adult is the one who has basically learnt through his or her own experience to move in the world, to actualize their goals and manage life. Then there is the child which is also a living reality. It doesn’t belong to the past; it’s the field of our emotional response, the emotional response to events that touch us internally, that trigger our emotions.
Some events in the present time trigger clean, pure feelings that are related to what is happening in the here and now. But a lot of our emotional responses are triggered because there is something inside us which is incomplete and unfinished, which belongs to the past. And that’s the wounded child.
It’s not like you remember something from the past. It’s actually triggered the moment something happens on the outside – like a boss looking at you frowning or a person saying “No, I don’t want to connect with you.” These instances trigger a much much bigger reaction which have to do with emotional experiences in childhood.
For instance, the boss might remind us of a stern teacher or somebody who says, “I don’t want to be with you.” It might trigger the association with a deep feeling of rejection either by Mother or by Father that we haven’t cleared inside our system. So that child is still reacting inside us. That’s why it’s a living reality. It’s not just a memory. We feel it in our body. We almost get blinded by that feeling because it brings us back to something that made us, that created pain, fear or shrinking when we were children.
Then the emotional reality of what the parents created in us when we were little – most of the time unwillingly, unintentionally – still plays inside us. And the messages that we received from our parents are still triggered by situations in which we feel insecure, in which we feel we need a point of reference because we don’t know how to act in the world. In a way they constitute the first map of the world that we carry in the pocket of our unconscious.
So these realities – the adult, the child and the internalized parents – are still alive inside us. The first thing, the great groundwork, is to understand who is who, when we are acting in our daily life. Very often we realize that many of our choices, many of our reactions belong to the unconscious reactivity of the wounded inner child. And that’s why then in life we feel either embarrassed or guilty or confused about our responses that are disproportionate to what is happening on the outside.
So that’s one thing – that’s the understanding. We basically redraw a map of our past and our present to understand better who is talking. Is it the adult? Is it the child or are they the internalized parents who still take over the stage? Once we understand that, we address our attention to the wounds of the child.
In the science of the inner world, any wound has stopped our natural response. Mother telling you, “Don’t do this!” blocks in a certain way the enterprising spirit, the spirit that is testing boundaries, that is adventurous, of a two and a half year-old child.
In this work we encourage the participants to go on and express what has remained blocked in the body and in the emotions, so that the interrupted action can be resolved. And a new space of adventure-ness and fluidity in movement can establish itself. I give a lot of space for people to complete the unfinished emotional expression and to clean out something that stands in the way of experiencing the present moment in a fresh way.
The last stage, which is very important, is to come to the understanding [that arises] when you are relieved from the heaviness of unexpressed emotions and the shadow of these parental voices that lurk in our unconscious.
Then there is one point which, in a way, is the ultimate flowering of Primal Work: when you can start understanding from the adult standpoint of view that the parents are like every human being, having a bad side and a good side. (Because the child, to feel safe, had to somehow deny the so-called bad unconscious side, and highlight and idealize the good side.)
Once we deal with that so-called bad side, the unconscious side of the parents, we can also realize that we do not need to take it all as a package deal. We can be grateful for whatever inspiration, gift and nourishment we got from our parents and can let go of the unhealthy bonding with them.
So, ultimately, Primal Work aims at making us more human and thankful for the good things that we have received, free from the negative imprinting that we kept in our unconscious.
I know that in the Primal Process it’s quite confronting to look at our wounds and things that are going on inside of us. And it’s also quite a courageous step to look at one’s wounds. My experience is that it’s easy to want to distract ourselves or not really look at the issues. It’s kind of like a step of courage to go into the pain.
Yes, yes, it is a step of courage. And it needs a consolidated adult part, a strong – therapeutically speaking, not spiritually speaking – a strong ego structure. Ego in the sense of knowing how to function in the world. And having an adult part that is aware that these wounds are not happening in the present moment and that has a loving connection towards the child-part of us, so that we understand that when we relive the pain or the terror, or the unexpressed anger of the child, we are actually also an adult that is able to contain, embrace and empathise with that child without acting it out.
So it’s a dance between being conscious that we are an adult and diving into reliving the childhood wounds without drowning in them. That’s why the Primal Work is structured in such a way that no participant is thrown into the deep end of the deepest pain that he or she has experienced in childhood, but is guided – and it’s clear for them – that there is an adult-part that can take care, that can contain, and can eventually also provide for the child with what it was lacking in childhood.
Are there any steps to strengthen that adult?
Yes. That is like a milestone. The beginning of Primal Work is to guide the person as an adult to meet the child so that the person can actually experience, “Aha! I am an adult. I live in the here and now. I realize the importance of addressing what is lying unresolved in my unconscious and I am willing to meet the child-part of me.”
You mentioned that the child has so many overwhelming emotions. From what I understood, these emotions get suppressed. Does Primal give the space and allow all these emotions to be felt and expressed?
Emotions in themselves are not overwhelming. In fact, if you see a child, for instance, getting angry… If the expression of that emotion is supported it lasts for very short. In fact the child can be very very angry for a few minutes, release it from his or her body, and then move on. Run after butterflies or dance or laugh.
So, emotions are overwhelming simply because there is a mechanism inside us that suppresses them. Or there is a message that we carry inside, for instance that anger is bad, that anger should not be expressed. Then the overwhelm is caused by the overload of that emotion that cannot be expressed. In itself, in a healthy body-mind system, emotions are fluid. You move from one emotion to another without feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you feel taken by it. Maybe you feel elated by it. Or maybe you feel the intensity of it, but you are not overwhelmed. The overwhelm comes because these emotions are blocked.
The overwhelm that the child-part of us feels, when we open up to the expression of those emotions, has not to do with the emotions themselves, but with how they were blocked, judged, punished or rejected.
How would we integrate or deal with that in our day-to day-lives? Say, for example, you mentioned triggers. If someone triggers you and then you just feel this anger, and it’s not acceptable in today’s society to express those emotions freely.
That’s where the adult comes in. The adult can feel the emotion without acting on it and then create an appropriate situation or surrounding for the child-part to release it from the body. There are specific meditations for that, or simply the flexibility, the fluidity that you gain after doing Primal Work [which] postpones the expression of that anger for a little. You cannot express it in the supermarket or at the office, but you can postpone it until you are in a safe surrounding, say at home. And you can dedicate a few moments to the expression of that anger, the release of that anger from your body. The child-part of you will be so grateful and happy about that expression. And you will feel lighter.
That’s where the play between adult and child comes in. The adult can be aware, can feel that a certain event on the outside triggers anger and can then, for the child, implement the expression of that anger through the body in an appropriate situation – maybe one hour later or a few minutes later. There are specific techniques I teach in the Primal for the expression of that anger in a safe and very satisfying way.
The audio interview continues with more questions about Svarup’s workshop.
Transcription edited for space and clarity.
- Nature is absolutely innocent – “Every child is being taught that he is not what he should be,” states Osho