The first time I read about Primal Therapy was back in 1970. I was 18, nearly one year out of high school, and jobless. At the time I was taking a couple of classes at our local community college. Yes, that’s right, only two class! I’d started the spring semester with a full load, fifteen units, five classes, but by mid-April I was down to two, an English class and a PE class, badminton. Yeah I know, tough schedule!
I remember stopping by Thrifty’s to pick up a pack of smokes, a bargain at 35 cents. While I was there I perused the magazine rack and picked up a copy of Rolling Stone, which was then known as sort of a counter-culture, hippie view of the rock music scene. I headed home to my inner sanctum, my little room in the garage, turned on some sounds, kicked back in my big green, over-stuffed sofa chair, indulged in a little something to help me relax and began thumbing through my magazine. It was there that I saw the little blurb about John Lennon’s involvement in Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream Therapy. After his disillusionment with the Maharishi scene, it appeared he’d found a new way to deal with the pain, trauma and rage of his childhood through screaming.
I have to tell you, I was blown away by the small article, the whole idea of releasing the anger and frustrations of your past through controlled screaming was nothing new to me. You see I’d discovered it on my own. The short article just gave a name to what I’d already been doing for the past year.
By my senior year my psyche was pretty well shot to hell. I’d been through so much my junior year that my self-esteem was practically non-existent. I had a major bad attitude and really didn’t give a damn about much. The only reason I was in school was because I had too. No, that’s not entirely true. In spite of everything, somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice kept telling me that I wanted to graduate if for no other reason than to prove that I wasn’t the loser that some people, including my mom, had labelled me as.
But the system didn’t make things easy. Due to circumstances within my control, I was transferred out of a private school in the middle of my junior year, but hey we all make mistakes, mine just cost me everything is all. To make matters worse my mom’s emotional response kept me out of school for several weeks and by the time she finally got around to enrolling me I was told that I’d missed so much that I’d have to finish out the year at the Continuation High School. Talk about throwing fuel on the fire, my mom was irate! I had succeeded in thoroughly thrashing her good name in the community. I was a major embarrassment! For the next six weeks my mother would deliver me to the rear of the school so no one would see. It was a nightmare.
When my senior year began I was allowed to return to the regular high school, but then more fuel was tossed on the smoldering embers that were my life. We learned that I would get no credit for my 5 semesters of religious education. They were not transferable! So I was forced to begin my senior year as a junior! Yeah the cards were pretty well stacked against me. I was 20 credits behind, (I’d earned 10 at continuation) and the only way I was going to graduate was to go to school from 0 -7th period for both semesters. Eight classes! That was the only way I would earn the 80 credits I needed to get my diploma. Man I was pissed! All my friends had these kick back schedules and shortened days, while I was going to have to practically live at school. Then to add insult to injury, they tried to put my picture in the Junior section of the yearbook! I fought them on it and actually succeeded in keeping my picture out of the yearbook. It was a minor victory, but hell, I was a senior and if I couldn’t be in the senior section then I wouldn’t be in the damn book at all!
Yeah, my senior year was off to an incredibly bad start. I really didn’t think I could pull off graduation, no way. So how does a seventeen year old boy deal with all the pent up anger and rage that was surging through his body? How indeed. I found my answer behind the wheel of my 61 VW. After school a couple of times a week I’d head up Azusa Canyon and drive away my frustrations. I found it very relaxing and it did seem to help get the edge off.
One day I was up passed the second dam and pulled over into one of the turn outs. I sat there smoking a cigarette, listening to my music and just gazing across the dam at the mountains beyond. I remember getting out of the car and going over the edge overlooking the water. I stood there and I don’t know why but for some odd reason I thought about a David Frey comedy album from the previous year about Richard Nixon called “I am the President.” In one of the skits Nixon is standing overlooking a mountain canyon and discovers the echo in the canyon.
Nixon: “Hello!” Echo: “HELLO…Hello….hello…” Nixon: “I AM the PRESIDENT!” Echo: “I am the president…president…president…” Nixon: “I like that!” Echo: “Like that… like that… like that…” Nixon: “I’m the GREATEST president who ever lived!” Echo: no response only silence Nixon “Well?” Echo: “I’m an echo…echo…echo… not an idiot..idiot..idiot…”
Where that had come from I’m not sure but it prompted me to see if there was an echo there. I shouted out a loud “Hello” and sure enough it echoed down the canyon. Again for no reason other than to hear the echo I screamed a deep hearty scream and listened to the echo. It was awesome! I screamed a few more time and I have to tell you, I actually felt pretty good. I had just discovered an outlet for my pent up anger and anxiety.
From that day on I would go up to the same spot in the canyon and let out my frustrations by screaming. Sometimes I’d let loose with two or three good screams, but on particularly bad days I’d cut loose with five or six! It worked great! I always felt so relieved afterwards. I tell you it was very therapeutic. After each scream session I’d sit on the fender of my car smoking a cigarette, listening to music and simply enjoying nature’s beauty for sometimes up to an hour or more before heading back down the mountain ready to deal with another day in the life…