I wrote this for my now-defunct blog called "My Earth Adventure" but never published it.

In 1972, a couple of years out of college, I was a deeply troubled young man. I had been depressed on and off for a long time. And by this point in my life it was clear that relationships, career, and more recently, hashish (a form of marijuana), had all lost their power to provide insight or comfort.

My solution? I took leave of my Brooklyn brownstone apartment, said goodbye to my friends and piano students, and headed to Los Angeles for therapy. (That's the the sort of thing people did in the days before Prozac.)

To this day, I consider that decision to be one of the best and most important I’ve ever made.

The therapy I chose, as described in Arthur Janov’s seminal books, is based on the idea that unfelt pain due to childhood trauma or neglect is the cause of our present-day suffering. The pain is unfelt because we were unable to fully deal with it as the original events unfolded. So it stays with us into adulthood and manifests as tension, neurotic behavior, and distorted views of reality.

Until, that is, we stop running from the pain, and allow ourselves to feel it. Then we begin to heal.

My therapy began in the fall of 1972 with a three week “intensive.” As instructed, I booked myself into a motel room, alone.

No TV, no books, no phone calls, no distractions of any kind. My only social contact during those weeks was with Tracee, my therapist. Eliminating the thousand-and-one things we routinely do to comfort ourselves allowed the old, unresolved feelings to build to a crisis point.

Five days a week, for as many hours as I needed it, Tracee and I met in a soundproof, padded, dimly-lit room. She listened to me, kept me honest and undefended, and supported me in feeling my pain.

The first week was unforgettable. Up to that moment, I had never known what it felt like to simply be with someone. I didn’t have to be smart, funny, or good with Tracee. She didn’t need anything from me and I didn’t have to try to get her to like me.

And that’s all it took for me to open up. No techniques, no drugs. Just a caring witness, plus the knowledge that I would have as much time as I needed each day, for three whole weeks, to tell my story. All the time in the world to allow my body—myself—to simply be.

And that's when I began to cry.

I doubt that crying has ever felt as good to anybody as it felt to me then. For so many years I had been holding the sadness inside, trying in a million different ways to “solve” it, or pretending to myself and others that it wasn’t really there.

And now I was simply feeling my pain. Crying as a little boy cries, deeply, for long stretches at a time, as I re-lived moments from my life when I desperately needed to be listened to, to be cared about, to be held, but couldn’t find those comforts anywhere. There were countless such moments, so lots and lots of tears were shed.

Above all, during those weeks, I learned that feeling emotional pain doesn’t hurt. It’s the not feeling—the running from it—that makes us suffer.

The softening and healing process that began during those three weeks continued for years afterwards.

It continues today.