The first step in the PPN therapeutic process is one in which the therapist encourages the participant to connect to and experience his feelings, in a safe and supportive environment. This involves the participant giving up cognitive control of his experience or getting out of his head and into his feelings. It requires him to be vulnerable and that requires a deep level of safety. It is not a cognitive, methodological construction of ideas or thoughts about oneself. Annie related that, “it [therapy] just allows everything, there’s no limits, there’s no constraints.” It happens when one leaves the safety and control of one’s cognitive mind and lets one’s feelings take over. Annie explained, “[the therapy] just says okay, who are you, how do you feel, how can I be with you and be a witness to what you’ve endured, and how can I let you unfold and let go.” Sophie stated, “If I don’t feel safe, I can’t connect….I have to know that somebody’s going to be there for me in therapy.”
To explain further, the participant does not consciously direct his feeling. He attempts to identify and go toward his feeling. He lets the feeling intensify. He may talk toward the feeling or let his body move in ways that the feeling takes him. The closer he gets to the core feeling the more intense the experience becomes. He feels it, follows it wherever it takes him, and expresses it. It is a different kind of experience than thinking. Feeling at this level requires giving up control to a great extent. His intention is to connect to and feel his feelings rather than try to understand them or block them or defend against them or rationalize them. Frank said, “I remember just sobbing and sobbing [in therapy] and I hadn’t cried, I can’t remember when I had cried before, even as a kid.” Later he said, “I’d never experienced feeling that deep…it felt like I was just back there experiencing those feelings.” Larry described one session as follows, “I could feel…all this wanting coming out, wanting to suck, wanting to reach with my mouth, and just profuse tears, really wracked in this.” Later he said, “I felt like I was really returning physiologically [to a perinatal state], cause it was all pre-cognitive.” Mary explained that in one session, “this deep sort of shaking started to happen just along…[the] digestive tract, it starts from your mouth to your anus, and just kind of ripples.” Later, during this same event, she said, “I started crying and there was this profound sense of grief and finally landing and being connected to somebody and, there was grief and relief.”