The Primary Personality

by Gerda Boyesen

In Biodynamic Psychology we have this concept of a Primary Personality; however there is some confusion and uncertainty around it. So I will try to describe the concept and how it is used more specifically.

Before I start, I will say a few words about what the Primary Personality is not. Some people have got the impression that the Primary Personality has primitive and raw emotions and does exactly what it wants without any concern for others. This is not so. It is a total misconception of the nature of the Primary Personality.

There is also a confusion with what Wilhelm Reich called "The Genital Character". This has also been misinterpreted as describing a person who takes what he wants and lets out his emotions and anger without any regard for others. This is not what Reich meant. A Norwegian writer and part of Reich's circle in Norway once described the genital character as if it were the Psychopath. The Genital Character nomenclature has also led people towards a compulsory amorality with an emphasis on sexual potential that has even resulted in people taking their lives because they couldn't achieve the "right" orgasm and thus, in their minds, the liberalisation of the Genital Character potential. This is another super-ego imposition.

Before describing the many aspects of the Primary Personality, it is important to emphasise the reason why we hold this concept in our minds — and hearts. Whilst in one sense the Primary Personality is the Ultimate Human Potential (that we are aware of), in another way, every person has, to a greater or lesser extent, aspects of the Primary Personality that are present in his or her everyday life. They are not unattainable; they are there. So in our work with people we need to look for, to recognise, to make contact with these elements. In so doing we help and encourage, not just those aspects, but the whole person. This gives them the strength, courage and acceptance to look at and work with their more neurotic elements and the darker side of their character (the Secondary Personality).

We can help them see what aspects are missing or have been transmuted; and the reasons for this. We can help them to grow; to liberate other aspects of the Primary Personality that lies within them; and to connect these up so that that person can shed their constraints and fears and move constructively, every step of the way, towards their own potential and its fulfilment.

That is our intent and that is why we need the concept of the Primary Personality — in all its manifestations. We can thus recognise it in others and in ourselves.

By the Primary Personality I mean a person who does not withdraw or encapsulate their Life Energy and its associated "streamings" — the little rippling, tingling sensations within the body that tell us we are alive: a process that usually happens during childhood. It is a person who is in touch with his or her "libido" circulation; the pleasure that is derived from being in one's environment and obtained from participation in any situation; and who will not betray this in themselves or deny it for themselves or others. There is a natural joy in life, a euphoria, that is also practical and pragmatic. It is "grounded".

The Primary Personality is curious; not afraid of anything new. It is also flexible and can take the unexpected; not defensive, but able to protect himself. There is a basic security, a stability and an honesty. This person can give or take openly. He or she has a readiness about them and a presence that attracts and gives to others. On an auric level, the red and blue energies are in proportion, which means that the earthly energies and the more spiritual energies are balanced and work together. There is pleasure in work and relaxation: a gentle euphoria and mild intoxication in the pleasure of living.

She can be a person full of the wonder of life and fully in touch with the childish side whilst having no difficulty in also being an adult. There is also an integration between the two parts of the personality, the animus and the anima, the male and female sides; in one sense the inspiration and the action. There is no difficulty in saying either "Yes" or "No"; "I want" or "l don't want". Without the rigidity of will, of having to have her own way, she can be strong and flexible; determined and gentle; forceful and co-operative.

We all have these attributes within us and sometimes they are distorted a bit by our upbringing and our task in this life. What we need most is the capacity to balance, to self-regulate. With this capacity, we do not get fixated in any one aspect; when its function is fulfilled, it recedes back into the potential and another aspect takes its place. Our work with people is to recognise aspects that are stuck or have become chronic and to help them release a little so that new potential comes through. It is also to recognise what is not there; what is missing: to understand how the person compensates for its loss and again to help that missing aspect emerge from behind the defences that have prevented its utilisation up till now. We thus need not only to be familiar with other aspects of the Primary Personality but also to have a sense of it as a whole. If we can communicate this recognition and encouragement, the therapeutic process is eased immeasurably and more of the person's Primary side emerges.

The Primary Personality is one who hasn't developed the character armour that is held in the muscles and tissue of the body. Thus every cell is filled with energy and can flow freely. The tissue itself is soft and sensitive and not filled with neurotic waste material. This means that any creative stimulus from within can emerge easily to the surface and be "self-actualised". The person does not therefore end up frustrated by him or herself and their own victim. He or she can also receive easily stimuli from outside and react appropriately, unhindered by tensions or fears held in the body. The Primary Personality operates to the fullness of his or her capacity, actualising what is potential.

There is a natural friendliness because of a love of other people and of being with them. They extend one's own life and work and knowledge. There is also a capacity to take one's own privacy when it is needed with no fear of being alone. He or she can fulfil themselves with love, peace and energy when alone without being lonely; though when this happens this too is felt. There is a faith in life and a love of life. Its fluctuations are experienced fully. Death is not feared but accepted. It too is part of life.

The Primary Personality has what I call an "independent well-being", as opposed to the Secondary Personality which is more neurotic and has no independent well-being but is dependent on others and things outside for satisfaction and gratification. The Secondary Personality is not in touch with his "streamings". This is because, although the energy is there, it does not flow through the body tissue easily, as it tends to be congested by waste material, and restricted by body tensions; the organic manifestations of neurosis.

The Primary Personality is also an ethical personality which means that s/he doesn't only think of the Self and his or her own needs. There is altruism without a thwarting and sacrificing of the person's natural needs. This too is part of the giving and taking mentioned earlier. There is a natural cleanliness and order that is not imposed; nor is the person stuck in false misconceptions of liberation that mean one has to live in dirt and deny oneself.

There are also more "spiritual" qualities apparent. This comes from being in touch with the instinctual self and the unconscious; the primitive side and the animalistic urges. This contact transcends itself and the person towards the Higher Self and the spiritual side. The two complement each other and create a balance. The Primary Personality is "open" sexually; not only to the physical side but also to a more transpersonal or transcendent sexuality — a tantric one. The heart is also "open" and not "closed". This person can love. This is a necessary condition but it is not sufficient. The opening of the Third Eye brings a psychic dimension of intuition and contact with the Higher Self and thus the Spiritual side of Man. He comes into touch and is motivated by the "qualities of eternity"; beauty, compassion, grace, nobility and passion. The "streamings" of Life Energy flowing through the body can now pass out, outside the body, and with them go our awareness. We begin to interact with something larger than just ourselves. Our sensations extend beyond our physical bodies; our perceptions extend beyond the limits of the mind.

On a wider level, there is a sense of being at one with the universe, and not just an isolated individual. In human terms, this means a natural sense and love for humanity and, at times, a rage for those who abuse this in others. There is empathy too for other people's suffering, combined with a determination to fight the evils of the world, without being overwhelmed by it all and within the limits of reality and one's own capacities to realise one's potential. The saint, the martyr and the all-conquering hero are only parts of the Primary Personality.

More than anything s/he can reconcile opposing characteristics. There is an integration within the Self of the different stages of the cabalistic Tree of Life: the Child, the High Priestess, the Warrior King, the Chariot, the Emperor or Empress. These characteristics are taken in, in many various ways, absorbed and used to help the Primary Personality reveal its true potential in any given situation. All the attributes from religion, philosophy, the common goals of humanity are part of the Primary Personality's potential. We have an awareness of them all, not only through our culture but also in our unconscious. These attributes: patience, justice, righteous anger, love, understanding, the search for knowledge, compassion, playfulness, passion, humour . . . all are there for our disposal. We only have to realise them.

There is no limit to the development of the Primary Personality; except that first we must throw off our limitations, our armour and our neurotic character patterns. The first stage is to contact the Life Force within us; the streamings. From there on there is no end. It goes on and on and becomes thrilling and life responds through synchronicity. Incredible things start happening. There is no time for boredom, wonder and joy take its place. There begins to grow a belief in something more than just ourselves, and the seeming limitations of the material world do not fence us in any longer. This manifests itself uniquely for any and every individual. There is more contact with a sort of universal wisdom. and with the "deep collective unconscious" that is common to all. We get guidance from these in our path through life. The Third Eye and its intuition also leads us the more we trust it. With all this, our understanding of the universe, humanity, ourselves and the process of life and death grows.

It is really there, in all people, all the time. We are born with the potential for inner happiness, security and a wonder of the world around us. We can lose part of it as we become limited, over-rational, deprived and thus self-seeking. This tends to blind the Third Eye and the mysterious dimension that makes life worth living as the higher consciousness gets replaced by the superego. Our parents and teachers are our masters in this process, for better or worse. It is our role as therapists and fellow humans to help the people we come into contact with. In this way they can sift what is good and what is not in their own growth towards realising those aspects of the Primary Personality within themselves. This gives us our delight in our work. The pleasure of helping people to come back to their Primary Personality, unique to them but common to all, is no less than their own pleasure in re-experiencing it. It is holy work; for Man and Woman are sacred beings, as are animals and all of nature - God's creation and work.