Myron Sharaf, Ph.D. (1926–1997), was a student, patient and coworker of Wilhelm Reich. Author of Fury on Earth, a biography of Reich, he was also a lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and in private practice in Newton, Massachusetts.
If you are having a difficulty, what you must do is face it. Go into your hut. Shut the doors and windows. Wrap yourself in all the robes you own. Sit there and don’t move and face it. Only then can you overcome it.
There’s a simple animal experiment that has profoundly influenced my thinking about therapy. If a dog goes down a grid to get food and is traumatically shocked, there’s no way to get the dog to go on that grid again. Even if you eliminate the shock and push the dog on the grid, he won’t realize the shock is gone. He rushes away. The only way that you can get him to realize that there’s no longer a shock is to hold him over the grid until he goes through all the feelings he went through originally when he was shocked—the screaming and urinating, the crying and trembling. Then, for some reason, that catharsis eliminates the fear.
Children have been “shocked” by their parents or other adults for having had certain feelings—sexual, angry, sad, etc. As a result, they don’t dare feel those emotions as adults. They fear that they will suffer the “shock” of punishment or neglect or lack of contact once again.
My basic approach is to work through the bindings or blockages of feeling and energy as they manifest themselves in the character and the musculature of the patient. These blockages often get in the way of fully living one’s life. The therapy doesn’t simply release energy or feelings, but connects the feelings with the original traumas that led to the withdrawal of energy, or the blockages of energy, in the first place. As in the dog experiment, we have to “hold” the patient over the pain until the agony is fully expressed. The stronger the feeling about the trauma reexperienced in the therapy, the more the release from the spell of the trauma.
As a therapist I try to see where the feeling stops in the body. Does it stop in the throat, so there’s no sound, or does the chest not move? Or the pelvis? I try to get the patient to cry with the whole body or be angry with the whole body or feel warm with the whole body. That can involve a lot of different techniques, from breathing to screaming to kicking. I sometimes directly touch the patient—perhaps at the back, the chest or the neck—in a way that provokes feelings. I also talk with the patient to help integrate past and present experience.
I find it very interesting to reflect on this question: When should you observe your negative feelings, and then let them go without holding on to them, or when should you do what I am talking about, increase the holding over the trauma so the emotion builds up and discharges?
If you haven’t yet wept deeply in your meditation a number of times, you haven’t really begun to practice.