I recently received this email from a long time Primal Patient of mine. I was immediately taken aback by the nuance and seemingly endless permutations of our deepest Primal feelings. This patient’s ruthlessly honest personal inventory detailing the damage done to him and the damage done by him to loved ones and others is heartbreaking. The painful childhood filled with hurt, anger, neglect and abuse, the Primal/Existential horror of what was done to many of us seems to have its mirror image in the scar tissue we may have contributed to in the lives of the people we love. This depth of Primal reality is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. Barry Bernfeld
“Letter to Barry” by Shane Roberts
Barry, This is the worst.
I was reminiscing about how I might have chosen someone who would have
been a caring, nurturing, supportive, partner to me.
Then I pictured all the women and girlfriends I have been with. I
remembered how I had been cruel to all of them and hurt them all. I
thought how this had undermined my opportunity for love.
Then Susan came to mind.
I spent three months dating Heidi in my sophomore year of high school.
She was 6 months older and a junior. Susan was a popular, beautiful,
petite, Jewish girl (reformed, her NY relatives were orthodox), who
made me feel more loved than anyone ever had.
I adored her. I couldn’t imagine life without her. I wanted her
I grew possessive, frustrated and angry. I hurt her. She left me. It
broke my heart. For years.
So I cried this morning about the lost opportunity with my one true
Then like some deep sea creature, some monster of the deep, broke the
surface of my consciousness.
First all the women I have abused. Then everyone in my life who has
Any time I might have offered refuge and comfort to a suffering
friend, lover or family member, and didn’t.
Barry I don’t think I would or could ever confess this to anyone but
And I’m not even sure why I’m doing that. I don’t know what it serves.
Some need I have.
It just came rushing in. Anyone who has ever suffered anything like
how I have, if I might have held out a hand, slung my arm around their
shoulder, offered some bit of comfort, some reassurance that they are
not just alone. Alone with their pain.
I aspired to be that person. I certainly held it as an ideal. A
humanitarian approach to my brother and sister fellow travelers. To be
a kind person. A sympathetic person. A generous person.
I just didn’t know how. Just did not have it in me.
I feel like Lenny in Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”. I don’t want to
hurt nothin’ but if I get excited and confused I squeeze the puppy too
hard and it dies. I don’t mean to kill it.
It’s the worst. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt. The worst.
I’ve howled and howled. I don’t know why but it is the worst. Nothing
has ever been worse. Not even the agonies of infancy.
This is definitely the worst.
I find myself posturing against the pain. I have to remind myself to
relax my body and breathe and not posture to grip against the pain.
Weird postures. Weird movements.
I’ve pictured catatonics in mental hospitals for years. They are no
mystery to me at all.
By the time I was ten we lived on one half acre with a horse coral, a
large swimming pool, huge yard, a large home in an affluent
neighborhood of Sacramento, California. Behind our fenced half acre
was a field with a modest shack of a home on it that we did not have
direct access to.
One summer a boy about my age and build (small and skinny) with ring
worm all over his scalp causing hair loss, showed up from the “shack
house” behind us to introduce himself and play. He was dirty and
shabbily dressed (about the way I would have been appeared a year or
two before, on our farm) and seemed lonely and eager for a friend.
I think I was intrigued at first, although somewhat put off by the
ring worm, and we played together the first time we met. I may have
played with him one more time and then he showed up at the window of
our back door one day.
I thought; “Oh god, this creepy kid is going to want to come around
and play with me all the time.” And I could feel his need. I froze in
the doorway of our kitchen staring at him. He waved and stared back. I
just stood and stared. Finally I walked away from the kitchen door,
away from him, and I never saw him again.
I felt ill. Sick inside. One of my worst memories ever. Always. I’ve
never forgotten. I felt like I took a poisoned dagger and just stuck
it straight into that kid’s heart. I knew I might be his only
“friend.” And I wasn’t his friend. I knew he desperately longed for a
friend and might have a hard time finding one.
I was wracked with guilt.
Another time I was walking the mile home from school and I saw three
boys bullying another boy. Pushing him down on the ground.
I thought that wasn’t right. Someone should do something. And I felt
weak and helpless. I should go stop those boys, not let them do that.
But I knew I wasn’t strong enough, or just too cowardly. I never would
have tried to stop them.
Some years later in high school two boys started a fist fight in the
hall. I stood back watching. John , an acquaintance of mine and
star of the varsity football team burst on the scene and broke up the
fight. I thought; “That was the right thing to do. Why didn’t I even
think of doing that?”
These are the incidents that came immediately to mind once I stopped
rolling around the house screaming with the shear agony of such an
Instead of being a refuge and a comfort to people in my predicament,
suffering, lonely, longing for love, I was another blind self-absorbed
hypnotic, incapable of seeing them, empathizing, recognizing their
suffering, their need for a little comfort, some kindness.
That hurts so much. That hurts more than anything. Nothing compares.
That I just wasn’t there for people who might of cared for me, loved
me, been kind to me, but I drove them away, adding to their load of
Oh god that hurts.
I feel so alone. So bad. So radioactive.
This is the worst. So far. This is the worst. I really hope it doesn’t
get worse than this.