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PEER® (Primary Emotional Energy Recovery)
What is PEER®?
Stated simply, PEER® is a type of “body centered” experiential therapy that is designed to assist us in healing emotional blocks that cause us some form of chronic distress. It is a way of being “down in the body” instead of “up in the head”, where so many of us tend to live.
The result of our head-based living tends to be a lot of worry, obsessive thinking, anxiety and depression, often combined with body pain of various types. Our bodies hold and store old emotional pains from our past that we’ve never had a chance to safely clear. Bodies don’t like blocked up, swallowed emotional material, and it causes stress on the system, pushing our bodies toward a more pro-inflammatory physiologic state. In addition, a lot of our internal energy and resources are required to handle it. We end up with lots of tension that we carry, and that in turn causes stress on the organs in that area as well as muscle tension and body pain. Our bodies only hold onto this material because it hasn’t felt safe in our lives up to this point for it to be felt and released. In this work we create safe space for allowing the body to do what it already naturally wants and knows how to do: clear the old stuff out. This allows us to regain contact with that safe, peaceful, calm centeredness that we all have possess, which in turn it allows our brain to calm down and think more clearly.
I often use the analogy of house cleaning. Trash is something that we all generate on a daily basis. It isn’t good or bad, it’s just a natural by-product of living. We do have to have good systems for handling it however. In the best of situations, we examine what we are throwing away, decide we don’t need it anymore, put it in a proper receptacle, package it up, take it somewhere out of the house for disposal, and return to a cleaner house.
Likewise, our emotions are a natural response to our world on a daily basis, a natural part of living every day that cannot be avoided. Our experiences in our culture and our families of origin often do not prepare us well, however, for dealing with this “trash”. Our usual methods tend to be the equivalent of taking the trash in a house and daily putting it under the rug, in the closet, behind the door, etc. Sooner or later the house becomes toxic. Often we pack away and stuff the things that we feel about our lives, ourselves and our environments that we don’t feel is acceptable. PEER work is a way that we find safe space to clean out those old closets and sweep under the rugs so that we can have a cleaner, better functioning house. Additionally, through cleaning out the old stuff we also simultaneously learn a new, more natural process for handling the emotional material of our lives so that it doesn’t keep re-accumulating like before. We end up with a much more peaceful place to internally live.
PEER is not a set of magic techniques. There are physical approaches that are often used to help us more easily connect with the parts of ourselves that are in need of attention, but the core of PEER is simply about the creation of safe space. As I mentioned above, the only reason our bodies hold onto our old material is an underlying lack of safety. Accordingly, safety and a loving, accepting atmosphere are the only crucial tools we need to heal it. The rest is window-dressing. A deeper, more aware part of us naturally emerges when these conditions are set for optimal healing. Then
A distinguishing feature of PEER is that each person becoming a PEER counselor must do their own work, especially since the work is built into the training process itself. I often say to my clients, “I’m not going to ask you to do anything I haven’t done…so remember, if I ask you to try something that seems silly, foolish and ‘strange’ such as ‘make a face that shows me how you feel and add sound if you can,” I have done that before too (probably many times). Sometimes I do the process with them to help them get started.
The benefits of PEER are many. Most notably we get clearer thinking, more peaceful bodies, reduced tension, reduced addiction drives, lessened body pain, more humor in our lives and better intimacy in our relationships.
Clients always ask, “What is a session? What will we do?”
The answer I often humorously give is, “I haven’t got a clue”.
What I mean by that is that this process is about learning to listen to our bodies. Our bodies know very well how to discharge and clear out unwanted tension, our heads don’t know much at all. My job as counselor is to help both of us listen to what your body needs to do to feel better, and then to help safely facilitate that process.
That being said, there are some commonalities. Typically in a first session we may talk a bit, getting more details about your history and what you feel is going on. Often we may move toward what I call “body scanning”, beginning to notice where and how we are holding tension. From there we begin to work with the basic question, “How does my body need to clear this?” In terms of techniques we might employ, the answers will be as varied as the individuality of the clients, and often we create techniques on the spot. They are all designed simply to help us get more in touch with our bodies and more out of our heads. From there the body can guide the process. In general there are about six common ways of discharge we often encounter: tears, storming, laughing, yawning/stretching, animated talking, and breathing. There are most certainly others, but these are the ones we most see.
PEER is not just about the emptying, it is also about re-integrating. After clearance of old “stuff”, our bodies are less tense and more self-connected, and our minds can think straight. Our brains are reconnected to our wisdom center (something we access more through feeling than analysis, and thus need our body-connection for). Suddenly, problems that we have ruminated on and obsessed about for years seem to have more accessible solutions. We can see our way clear to behavioral changes we may need to make in our lives to break old, unhelpful and unwanted patterns that are hindering our lives.
The whole process takes the support and insight of a loving and open counselor and it takes learning to let go, accept and release the negative “stuff” of the past. Then, our task is to bring self love and true self acceptance to ourselves. This is not at all the same thing as reliving our childhood. This is about learning the key elements of self love after doing the hard work of facing and releasing the inner blocks that we inherently absorbed from our past. In essence, this is about reclaiming our original innocence and accepting our basic goodness, hence, Recovering our Primary Emotional Energy (PEER).
How is PEER work done?
PEER work can be done in individual sessions or in groups. Individual sessions usually last about 60 minutes and are a good way to begin this approach. Group sessions are more powerful and are offered periodically as enough participants are available to form a group. (Usually about 8-12).
One unique facet of PEER work is that it does not have to be a therapeutic process by itself, it is quite complementary to ‘regular’ psychotherapy. This means if you are already in a psychotherapeutic process, you continue as usual and add the PEER work to it. Permission and understanding of this process by your counselor is needed in order to maximize the benefit and integrate this work with your ongoing counseling.
Who can benefit from this work?
Well, almost anyone can benefit. But this work is especially suited to persons who know they need healthy and safe ways to release and deal with emotions such as anger, grief and fear. These are usually the underlying issues that lead to depression and anxiety, so it is very helpful to long-term healing of these conditions. Additionally, PEER work is particularly beneficial to clients who have body pain, such as fibromyalgia, neck pain, back pain, headaches or other problems where stress and emotional blocks play a large part in perpetuating the pain.
PEER and Meditation
John Lee, one of the PEER founders, has described PEER as “an intuitive art form” since it is not based or practiced with rigid rules and “logical linear processes”. For this reason, I find PEER to be an excellent process to combine with the type of meditation I practice and teach. This form of meditation is an open focus “free flowing” type of body or heart centered meditation. I find that this type of technique is a great way of going “down and in the body” to get to the deeper energy and blocks. From there, we work with the energy or blocks using the PEER processes as necessary to help us open, feel and heal. They are very complementary processes, each in their own way helping us to get out of our heads more in touch with our bodies and spiritually-centered guidance.