Posts Tagged perinatal psychology

Falls from Grace, Introduction — The Radical Rational View of Us and It: “Normal” Truth Is Convenient Truth … and Is Anything But True

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Prenatal Spirituality and the Devolutional Model of Consciousness: A Revolution in Child Development, Parenting, Mental Health, and Spirituality Is at Hand

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“Normal” Truth Is Convenient Truth … and Is Anything But True

Falls from Grace presents a radical theory of spirituality, evolution, child development, stages of life, purpose of life, human nature, and the human species. It is a comprehensive theory, which basically turns everything on its head to find the truth. For its premise is that human ego is a filter to truth and so, for the most part, turns truth into falsehood and vice-versa. Thus truth outside of ego, absolute truth—what exists when ego needs are filtered out—often ends up being the opposite of what humans’ egos have propounded as self-evident. Seemingly unimpeachable, these “normal” truths are only convenient truth, in actuality. They are meant to placate and prop up the human ego and have nothing to do with truth outside of that psychological need.

Still, while Falls from Grace is a radical view, it is in line with mystical beliefs, platonic thought, and even much of primitive or primal-like views of the world and Nature.

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Falls from Grace — Description and Overview

This work brings the new information of pre- and perinatal psychology to bear upon basic spiritual and philosophical constructs regarding the nature of consciousness, child development, personal growth, and transpersonal “evolution.”

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A Devolutional Model of Consciousness and Development

It utilizes the results of the phenomenon of re-experience of events surrounding and preceding one’s birth, as well as the more empirically rooted findings concerning our origins and our earliest experiences, into a coherent structure for understanding their implications. This structure is a devolutional model, meaning that the normal process of development is seen as a regression from or “forgetting” of prior, more aware states.

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Prenatal Spirituality

After an initial overview of the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology, that review of the current understanding and findings in this area is built upon in making a case for the legitimacy of prenatal spirituality. Prenatal spirituality means basically two things: (1) that regression to pre- and perinatal states represents a spiritual progression and a proximity to and increased access of spiritual states and awareness; and (2) that these earliest events themselves, as they originally occurred, were characterized by a similar heightened spiritual proximity and awareness.

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Making this case is important for two reasons: For one, there is a strong tradition in the field of re-experience that reduces all spirituality and spiritual experiences to early traumas and neurosis. This is the dominant attitude in psychoanalysis, articulated initially by Freud. However it has been carried and promulgated forcefully into the field of re-experience by Arthur Janov — one of the field’s leading theorists. This idea that all spirituality is derivative of underlying primal pain, as Janov contends, is addressed and disputed here.

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Second, just as spirituality and spiritual experience are denigrated in the light of primal experience by Arthur Janov, on the flip side of this Ken Wilber denigrates primal and prenatal experience in the light of spiritual experience. Wilber — the dominant theoretician in the field of transpersonal psychology — claims that preverbal states, like primal and prenatal re-experience, are the opposite of transverbal states — what he considers to be true spiritual experience. I focus on and dispute this aspect of Wilber’s thinking in making the case for prenatal spirituality in Chapter Two, but also throughout this work. That prenatal states are identical to, akin to, or at least leading to transpersonal states and that Ken Wilber has made a major mistake in contending the contrary is a central theme of this book.

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200278333-001Thus, the idea, presented initially — that there exists prenatal and cellular consciousness as well as an inherent spirituality or proximity to the numinous and transpersonal, if not also divinity, at these levels of development — is a crucial idea in all that follows. This case is made, in Chapter Two, on the basis of the available evidence in relevant fields and in particular from the viewpoint of findings in primal therapy.

Where Primal Re-Experience and Transpersonal Experience Meet

What will follow this analysis of the case for prenatal spirituality are examples of it from my own re-experience through the modality of holotropic breathwork — a technique of transpersonal access and reliving developed by Stanislav and Christina Grof. These pages should be seen as providing a sample of the sorts of experiences, insights, and perspectives that can occur through the phenomenon of re-experience. Though no sample could possibly represent the essence, expanse, or necessary outline of this highly individual and vastly diverse level of experience, my own experiences demonstrate clearly the overlap between the personal and transpersonal — between the biographical/biological and the spiritual/numinous — that characterizes this arena of experience.

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“Normal” “Development” Is Devolutional for It Is About Gradual Separation from Divinity

Following immediately afterwards, are the chapters that present the ontogenetic model of consciousness and devolutional — meaning the opposite of evolution — development based on such inquiry. It is the heart of the vision of this book. This work, titled “Falls From Grace,” details a process of removal from divinity or a higher state during the process of coming into this world as a series of stages, four stages, in fact. These stages center on the events of conception, birth, the primal scene (around age four or five), and puberty or the identity stage. Astonishingly, they happen to correspond to Wilber’s (1977) levels of consciousness in his “spectrum of consciousness.”

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Implications of This Are for an Overthrow of the Usual Ideas of Child Development, Parenting, Personal Growth, Psychotherapy, and Spiritual Evolution

Finally, what will follow is a presentation of the implications of this model for child development and parenting, for psychotherapy and personal growth, and for spiritual evolution and higher consciousness. This part carries forward some of the themes presented thus far to their logical conclusions in terms of their effects on current models and thinking and on society and culture. The earliest indications are that the implications from including the prenatal and primal perspective are vast. For indeed this new perspective, this new information seems to call for an overthrow, or at least a reversal, of many of the aspects of the dominant paradigms in parenting, child development, psychotherapy, and spiritual growth.

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A Radical New Vision — Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology

So, now we look at an overview of the field of pre- and perinatal psychology. The findings from this new field of science make possible this radical new vision into ourselves, our place in the Universe, the purposes of our lives, and the directions along which our efforts to better ourselves might most fruitfully be aligned.

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Continue with Everything You “Know” About Life You Learned as a Fetus: Foundations of Myth and Mind and my Personal Involvement with This Research into Our Actual “Human Nature”

Return to Four Falls from Grace … And Back Again — Becoming Human Is Love’s Supreme Act of Recklessness: Experience Is Divinity, Part Sixteen — Existence Is Fun

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What’s Involved in Stopping War and Ecocide and the Necessary Mess of Transformation: Hard to Believe, But We’re Getting Saner

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The Cycle of All Events, the Evolution of Parenting, and Auspicious Collective Regressions: Being Crazy in an Insane World Might Mean You’re the Sane One

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Chapter Nine: Regressions in the Service of Society — Messy Healing

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There Is a Cycle to All Events … The Spiral Dance, Why We Can’t Get No Satisfaction, and Where There Is Real Hope

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The Spiral Dance – The Cycle of All Events: Wedded to Rebirthing Rituals, the Inevitability of Disappointment, and Where There is Real Hope

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Wedded to Rebirthing Rituals

clip_image002clip_image004At the point when the perinatal unconscious arises, individuals — and collectively, society — have the choice to turn toward the emergence of these feelings or to turn away from them.

In turning toward these feelings we embrace, feel, and if we go deeply enough into that, we relive the roots of them and resolve them finally.

clip_image006In turning away from them we shun them, act them out, and are enslaved by them…thus we act unconsciously, trance-like, zombie-like.

If we face these inner forces—we call that feeling them…in this instance, feeling through or reliving one’s birth—we integrate them and heal the underlying trauma, the perinatal trauma.

Satan.symbolCD_0094Or the individual and society can avoid this going within—as depicted in the peace symbol—and can choose instead to act them out, which is the peace symbol upside down—the Satan symbol, the pentagram.

one.tries.to.be.strongIn acting them out, one distracts oneself from the uncomfortable feelings, which though not focused on, are still there. POSSESSED-PERSONOne tries to be “strong” in the face of feelings but one is actually driven and directed by them—they “take over one’s mind.” maya-deren-photo-of-her1This is the source of the idea of spirit possession and in general of the idea that a devil or Satan can take over one’s soul.

So in running from our feelings we are captured and enslaved by them, we are forced to act them out in ways we would not otherwise choose which are negative to horrible but in all cases self-sabotaging. Of course war is the most horrible, most self-sabotaging, greatest, and most all-consuming form of such acting-out…the greatest struggle.

Humans are characterized by a particular kind of birth process.clip_image012 It is a coming into being that is traumatic and which is related to our distinction of standing upright and thereby decreasing the pelvic opening as well as suffocating the fetus prior to birth. The fact is that because of this “distinction” we are destined to go through periods of rebirthing purificatory rituals, whether for good or ill. [Footnote 1]

For we are psychologically wedded to reliving that which we could not fully experience at the time because of the overwhelming quality of pain associated with it.

A “Spiral Dance”

These rebirthing rituals we are doomed to repeat, one way or the other. We are going to act out this primal pain—this birth trauma—in an unending cycle of feelings having these components

    • Periods of feelings of expansion
    • Closedness or entrapment, guilt, and depression
    • Aggression
    • Release

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Ritter3Tao_YinYangEarth2Then back around again.

In winning the “war” or having the success or achievement, there begins the same cycle of expansion followed by entrapment. Losing the war…the struggle, the battle…is akin to death, even if there is no death. There is numbness and repression…akin to a kind of “limbo”…before life can begin anew. A reconception is necessary.

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The Pattern of Our First Nine Months Imprints Us For Our Entire Human Lives

pt654_84-croppedThe reemergence of hope in individuals and societies is biologically equivalent to conception. And following this reconceiving, there is a similar cycle of reemerging strength—akin to the expansion that follows winning. C11Then there is continuing depression or overarching gloom and helplessness feelings coupled with revenge feelings and blame as individuals and societies stew in the vessel of indecision, inaction, and doubt. This is quite like the closedness and guilt which follows achievement-success-victory. Note, however, that the revenge and blame feelings here are aspects of the BPM II matrix, just as is closedness and guilt.

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

highlights_pk2And then the cycle is the same again. Specifically, there is aggression against the oppressor (War and revolution both see the foe as an oppressor, even if one is actually the one who is the aggressor.) What follows upon fighting is release or “death”; and so on around. The “happily ever after” that inspires such battle truly only exists in fantasies and fairy tales. Prosperity and feelings of success are unfortunately doomed, on this physical plane of existence, to be short-lived.

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Where There Is Real Hope

facefeelingsagainandagainvulnerableinwombIt would seem we are fated to never be happy, for long. But progress is possible; herein lies our only real choice in the entire scenario. For we either work through these cycles in some deep psychologically BreathofLife (3)transformative way that helps us deal with and pass beyond the difficult and painful parts of the cycle as well as helps to fade the imprints’ potency in determining our behavior zombie_reaganor we are doomed to act them out in the external world in ways that we are blindly unaware are not congruent with the actual facts of our circumstances and are harmful to ourselves and others around us.

Self-Reflection-in-a-Cup-of-TeaWe are fated to experience these cycles of birth, and we will either act them out disastrously or we find ways KumbayaCrowdof dealing with them inside of ourselves in some way—and some ways are better than others for doing this—so that we can have some inner distance from these patterns and therefore some conscious ability or choice around our actions when these pushes and pulls arise.

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Railing Against the Darkness: The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of Reason, Progress Requires Regress, and Healing Is Nothing if Not Messy

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Railing Against the Darkness, The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of Reason, and Social Progress Requires Regression

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The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of “Reason”

pt654_84-croppedWhat we absolutely don’t have, yet arrogantly think we do, is the ability—through will or reason alone—to choose light over darkness, to replace these inner veils of distortion with clarity of thought and perception and hence of positive behavior and actions while in the midst of them.more-easily-irritated Trying to reason with and to obtain truly desired outcomes is about as possible as trying to reason with a lizard and convince it to conform to one’s wishes for its behavior. For good reason: Indeed our rational mind is as split off from the “reptilian brain” inside us within which these imprints circulate and from which they arise as are we from the consciousness of a gila monster.

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What We Call “Reason” Is Largely Just Rationalization

This impotence of intellectual understanding in the face of these patterns of self-destruction occurs because these schemas are rooted in memories existing in an emotional and entirely dissociated part of the brain, which is hardly touched by neocortical admonishing of any kind. As deMause correctly points out,

[The fetus’s] “early experiences have been found to be recorded in a separate early neural network—a dissociated emotional memory system centering in the amygdala, quite distinct from the declarative memory system centering in the hippocampus that is established in later childhood.” [Footnote 2]

Disclaiming these cycles, which inevitably pass through darkness, and reliance on “will-power” to change one’s patterns, which includes self-sabotage, has been exposed in its impotence in modern times. We see as evidence the growing acknowledgment of the ineffectiveness and, indeed, counter-effectiveness of psychoanalysis. [Footnote 3]

Railing Against the Darkness

So the question begging to be asked is “What do we do about it?” What do we do about these pernicious cycles?

bill-owensclip_image002And when these elements erupt in society in harmless, possibly healing ways, how do we view them? Do we, as Mayr and Boelderl do in their article, “The Pacifier Craze: Collective Regression in Europe,” decry the regression…as if by disclaiming it we could somehow keep the cycle from happening? [Footnote 4]

Mayr and Boelderl write, for example, that the situation of collective regression in Europe “strikes us as being high-explosive [sic] and bitter enough.” [Footnote 5]

In another place they exclaim, “What is horrible about this insight [about the increasing collective regression in Europe] is the additional observation that regression is becoming still more radical.” [Footnote 6]

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This response of railing against the “Darkness” is a Freudian response. Yet it is not even a neo-Freudian one, since regression in the service of the ego—which began to be seen as ever more important by neo-Freudians—is not acknowledged, let alone considered.

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Social Progress Requires Regression

406327_251312034972552_198185372_ngeologicallycuriousThat regression in the service of the ego is not considered is confirmed by Mayr and Boelderl in their statement that “[R]egression by definition is a process of repression and a defense mechanism.” [Footnote 7]

These are surprising words, in light of the concept of regression in the service of the ego and awareness of the clinically based evolution of psychotherapeutic theory since Freud’s original postulations, over a half-century ago.

death-as-an-allyclip_image004They are even more awry if one considers the universal, cross-cultural, implementation by societies of rebirthing rituals to handle the same kinds of forces we are confronted with. The anthropological literature is rife with these accounts.

Further, Grof has meticulously shown that regularly going into altered states of consciousness where one confronts this material is a prime function of cultures, and it occurs nearly universally although it is woefully lacking in Western culture for the most part.

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Moreover, these words by Mayr and Boelderl indicate a conflict with or ignorance of the fact that deMause’s theory of evolution of historical change requires regression on the part of parents, while parenting their children, as the primary “engine” of sociopsychological progress.

For deMause writes,

“[T]he ultimate source of all historical change is psychogenesis, the lawful change in childrearing modes occurring through generational pressure…. Psychogenesis depends upon the ability of parents and surrogates to regress to the psychic age of their children and work through the anxieties of that age better the second time than in their own childhood.” (op. cit., 1982, p. 135, emphasis mine.)

clip_image006satanBut this mistake by these two social scientists would not be all that important if it was not the perfect example of the kind of uninformed attitude we have, generally speaking, in Western societies about these forces. This attitude is reinforced by a Judeo-Christian tradition of specialness and scapegoating in the West. It is a pervasive feeling about these things; specifically it, itself, is the actual defense. While this is a widespread reaction to our inner realities it is far from science, and even further from the truth or reality about these things.

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“Stop It!” … Yeah, That’s Gonna Work

At any rate, if we adopt this Western, Judeo-Christian, Freudian tactic of decrying the darkness, we are as effective in derailing the cycle of violence and war as Freudians are in what amounts to admonishing their clients to “stop it!” when it comes to their neurotic self-sabotaging.

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For people cannot will themselves to merely stop their cycles of neurotic self-sabotage and self-destruction, which are the individual manifestations/ acting out of their birth traumas. As mentioned these directors of action operate out of a different part of the psyche, and brain, than one’s conscious willing part. They are simply not accessible, so hardly amenable, to rational or willful input. And changing one’s thoughts to affect them is about as helpful as rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic.

Being Crazy in an Insane World Might Mean You’re the Sane One: Auspicious Collective Regressions

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People Who Have It All Figured Out Are the Ones to Watch Out For … Emotional “Sickness” Might Indicate More “Wellness”

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Regression in the Service of the Ego

With the exposure of the ineffectiveness of the Freudian tactic of intellectual understanding has come the Freudian movement’s disintegration into schools advocating various other strategies for change.

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doctor-handing-pills-to-a-patientEponahorsegoddessThese schools/strategies include the psychiatric—the use of drugs; the neo-Freudians who acknowledge and use regression in the service of the ego and abreaction; the humanistic-existential approaches, stressing the “experiential”; and the Jungians and neo-Jungians, who would seek the resolution of these cycles in their inner archetypal acting out, resulting in an eventual rootedness of the ego in a higher Self (a spiritual center) beyond or transcending the cycles. [Footnote 8]

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cant.luxury.negative.thoughtOther approaches include the bulk of the spiritual, new-age, or transpersonal means that are flourishing these days. These alternative paths basically differ from all others in their belief that one can simply bypass these perinatal pulls and pushes and go directly to the Light or the Self by dismissing the birth cycles, or the Darkness or Shadow, through affirming the Light, meditating the Darkness out or the Light in, changing one’s thoughts, creating one’s reality, and various combinations of these.

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normal_ButterflyOfHealingFINAL_LG_Jpg2Finally, these newer schools and strategies for healing include those of what might be called experiential psychotherapy, which includes primal therapy, holotropic breathwork, some forms of (experiential) meditation (Vipassana meditation, for example), Reichian and healingcrisisbioenergetic approaches, some forms of hypnotherapy—experiential ones—ones that involve reliving traumas—and virtually all the techniques, treatments, and correctives that are espoused in the field of pre- and perinatal psychology.

reunionThe point is that from a good number of these other-than-Freudian perspectives—and all of those that acknowledge the importance of 947867-lightdarkness_largeregression in the service of the ego—and from the perspective of the entire field of experiential psychotherapy, the answer to the cycles of violence, war, and death-rebirth is to stop the acting out, not by simply intellectually decrying it—as if one can actually talk oneself out of one’s inner fears and one’s Darkness/Shadow—but by reliving those cycles of violence at their origins…their primal roots. In the case of perinatal forces, those forces from “the dark side,” this is accomplished by reliving the violence of birth, a perinatal trauma that is thoroughly and masterfully delineated by Grof and deMause. [Footnote 9]

Auspicious Collective Regressions

But from this perspective of experiential psychotherapy—one completely congruent with and grateful of deMause’s contributions in psychohistory as well—regression, in Europe, or elsewhere, is not seen as something to decry, disclaim, be horrified of, or be seen as dangerous but is seen as an opportunity. Regression is certainly not seen as a form of defense but as the opposite of that. Regression is part of a process of diminishing one’s defenses against one’s internal reality of pain and trauma.

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Thus, examples of blatant collective regression as in Europe—more so to the extent they are relived, released, and integrated—are entirely auspicious for the eventual elimination of war as a collective device of acting out—defending against—the painful feelings coming from one’s personal history which one carries around, all unknowingly, and which pervade, in one way or another, in forms subtle and not so subtle, every moment of one’s consciousness in the present.

From this experiential psychotherapeutic perspective, we have a different feeling about developments like those that Mayr and Boelderl describe as collective regression in Europe and Lawson describes as occurring at rock concerts. [Footnote 10]

From a more enlightened viewpoint these cultural phenomena should have us, if not dancing in the streets, at least hopeful of a gradual decrease in the use of war and violence. Why? It is because the youth who display this “regression” so blatantly were brought up by an “advanced” form of child-rearing than that of previous generations, that they have fewer defenses, fewer layers of obfuscation covering up their unconscious psychodynamics; consequently the regression is seen more clearly in their behavior. [Footnote 11]

Unflinching Belief Related to Total Dissociation

Why is this important? DeMause points out that people do go to war, and that prior to it their perinatal dynamics come to the fore, as evidenced by perinatal-laden words and images in the media and in leaders’ speeches used to describe the situation and its dynamics. Thus, our leaders take us into war, they act out their perinatal dynamics…and we in following them act out ours…in such gruesomely overt ways because these dynamics are so hidden, repressed, and overlaid with defenses that the conscious mind has absolutely no access to, and hence insight into, them as being part of one’s unconscious dynamics.

clip_image008Consequently the conscious mind is completely able to convince itself that those dynamics are actual, real, and doubtless parts of the situation and therefore require an actual, real, and extreme response. The amount of resolve required to act out war can only be wrought of an unflinching belief in the rightness, the absolute correctness of one’s perspective of the situation and therefore of that extreme course of response. And that can only be brought about by a total dissociation from one’s perinatal traumas, and a complete and utter projection of it on the outside—the enemy, to be specific.

Blatant “Sickness” Related to Being Real

The contrary is also true: When there does not exist that total and complete dissociation of the perinatal trauma—when it is, as in Europe and rock concerts currently, closer to the surface, less defended against, less repressed and, hence, more blatant—it is more accessible to consciousness and less likely to be acted out in the extreme as in war. Instead it is more likely to be acted out in less extreme forms, such as jumping into mosh pits, carrying pacifiers, listening to baby tunes about the, very real, difficulties of being a baby, and so on.

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Finally, it is more likely to be actually allowed to emerge in consciousness and be relived, and thereby “healed”…and gone beyond, to be replaced by something more benign and more socially constructive, and thus to be removed forever as a motivation to war or violence. This is the auspicious view of the developments described by Mayr and Boelderl. [Footnote 12]

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Janov was the first to point out that a permanent resolution of underlying trauma initially entailed an aggravation of symptoms and symbolic acting out. That is to say, the underlying dynamics become more blatant and apparent in behavior. [Footnote 13]

Janov was also the first to note that the acting-out and overt neurotic was closer to being “real,” and therefore really sane, than his or her highly functioning and “normal,” but repressed, rigidly defended, and unfeeling neighbor. [Footnote 14]

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The Most Evolved Parenting … Boomers and Millennials … and The Cyclical Nature of History: I Know It’s Hard to Believe But We’ve Been Getting Saner

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Thanks to You We’re Getting Saner: The Most Evolved Parenting … Boomers and Millennials … and The Cyclical Nature of History

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Evolution of Parenting – We’ve Been Getting Saner

Finally, the correctness of the view that being “crazy” in an insane world might be more sane has been borne out in recent history. DeMause describes an evolution of parenting from ancient times to the present which involved ever decreasing psychosis and violence and increasing caring and consciousness of the needs of children. He connects this decrease in violent child caring to ever decreasing violence and psychotic acting out in societies.

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DeMause labels the most common modern parenting mode the socializing mode. Short of the quite recent helping mode—which only really rose to prominence in the last three decades—the socializing mode is the most advanced and most humane.

Lest there be any confusion, I wish to point out that my own theoretical first_peopleunderstanding differs from deMause’s in one important respect. While I agree with his evolution of child-rearing over the course of civilization and within recorded time, I believe he is wrong about prehistory and what primal peoples were like and the kind of child-caring they engaged in. He depicts prehistoric societies as psychotically oblivious of the needs of children, engaging in, first, infanticidal; then, second, abandoning; then, third, ambivalent modes of child-rearing. Whereas it seems to me the overwhelming evidence and increasing numbers of anthropologists point to a natural “organic” child-caring being employed in the the mists of the past quite a bit more “advanced” than even many modes employed today.

kapstadt-wandern-mit-pavianenI believe the change from the loving parenting we see in many primal peoples and in Nature among many of our planetmates to the infanticidal, abandoning, and ambivalent modes he has described for early historic cultures is a product of that ever increasing control of Nature that went into full gear with the agrarian revolution, some ten to twenty-five thousand years ago. So, I am saying that brutal parenting was a consequence of “civilization” and was at its worst at the beginnings of recorded time.

But I agree we have been gradually evolving to better modes of child-caring over the history of civilization to the most sane and psychologically beneficial modes employed in recent decades, which, you might want to note, are very much like the modes of the earliest humans. I describe why and how we lost our connection with Nature and loving ways of parenting—how we left “Eden”—in my book and blog “The Great Reveal.”

The Cycles of Time

I believe my understanding shows once again how much of what modern folks thought of “development”—including it being linear and increasing from “darkness” to “light” with ourselves always at the top (conveniently)—is wrong and merely part of an anthropocentric bias and an ethnocentric heritage. For more and more, as we lay down those blinders to reality, we notice the evidence of the cyclical nature of everything—from our lives (ashes to ashes) to the physical Universe’s expansion and contraction, to the vibrations at the subatomic level, the waves in the sea, the turning of the Earth and the revolutions of the solar systems, and I contend now also, the so-called “history” of our species on Earth. This is the thoroughly postmodern idea that human time is also cyclical, with over and again peoples returning to earlier halcyon times only to “fall” away from them.

The Worst of Times Quality of Current Events

This idea of time as cyclical not linear is in keeping with Eastern philosophies, as well as indigenous ones. Hindu thinking currently has us at the depths of the Kali Yuga, the worst part of the cycle right now, with matters to be reversed very soon and the best of times just ahead. And, as I have been describing in my books Falls from Grace and Primal Renaissance and will be directly pointing out in my upcoming book, Primal Return, we are currently seeing a most necessary return to a more harmonious way of being and a more natural self. And with it, requiring it, to some extent preceding it, we are evolving to the most advanced mode of loving parenting.

The “Best of Times” Nature of Our Parenting

Psychohistorian Glenn Davis, following deMause, analyzed the most advanced form of child-caring short of the most recent helping mode—the psychogenic parenting mode deMause termed socializing—and found that it comprised four submodes. In order, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century and each one a more “evolved” and humane one than the previous one, they are the submodes of psychic control, aggressive training, vigorous guidance, and delegated release. [Footnote 15]

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Oh, Be-HAVE. WWII Generation … Received Aggressive-Training and Vigorous-Guidance Parenting

Davis concluded that in America the Vietnam War was perpetrated by individuals belonging almost entirely to the aggressive-training and vigorous-guidance psychoclasses. [Footnote 16]

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Questioning Authority and Oneself Is Good. Boomers … Received Delegated Release Parenting

clip_image0048065543_origYet the Vietnam War was brought to an end largely as a result of the efforts of an antiwar movement whose largest component was a Sixties youth brought up under a more advanced delegated-release child-caring mode. [Footnote 17]

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The delegated release mode, which resulted in the phenomenon of Sixties youth and the counterculture, is the most “advanced” mode short of the helping mode.

Robert Altman at Altamont 1969

“Let’s Collaborate” – Millennials. Received the Most Advanced Parenting – Helping … “We Just Want You to Be Happy.”

trust-father-sonboyjumpintomanshandsclip_image006The helping mode is the child-caring mode employed widely by the Sixties generation for their children, the Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y. So, a helping mode of parenting was enjoyed by the children of a delegated-release psychoclass, the Boomers. Sixties youth are seen, psychologically, to have the most the most “advanced” ego structures short of their children taught within a helping mode. [Footnote 18]

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What’s Involved in Stopping War and Ecocide – Peace Is Painful: But Better Psychotic Than Warring

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Ending War and Humanicide—Peace Is Worth its Price of Suffering: Better “Emotionally Disturbed” Than “Healthily” Fighting in War

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Walking In Another’s Moccasins

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It is obvious that these Sixties youth did not have the same unflinching and unqualified belief in the absolute rightness of their country’s position in Vietnam as did many of their parents. clip_image009[1]This is obviously the case in a psychoclass of youth chanting a generational mantra, “Question authority!” and whose more extreme members would at times even go over to the perspective of seeing the war from the eyes of the “enemy,” the Other.

As I mentioned earlier, among the Sixties Generation we saw Jane Fonda’s journey to Hanoi, the waving of North Vietnamese flags by protesters, clip_image011[2]and the carrying of little red books on the sayings of Chairman Mao. These are obvious indicators that the generation as a whole was open to seeing the war from the North Vietnamese perspective: That is, as a conflict perpetrated by a foreign nation that was hypocritical in its espousal of democracy in that it prevented democratic elections that would have without doubt elected Ho Chi Minh and instead it installed a puppet-ruler in the South, making Vietnam a virtual colony of the United States. From this perspective, the clip_image013_thumb[3]Vietnam War was for the Vietnamese as much a war for independence as the American Revolution was for the U.S.

This is just an example of how there are two sides to every issue and how an attempt at empathy or “walking in The Other’s moccasins”—made possible by a closeness to a perinatal unconscious that is also an opposite perspective than that of the conscious mind—can lead, at the minimum, to the reluctance necessary to prevent engaging in at least the most blatant and horrific forms of violence…against others, but consider also, against Nature.

The Perinatal Generation

clip_image0143At any rate, is there evidence that this undermining of the self-righteous position necessary for the instigation and carrying out of war and ecocide—this ability to see at least somewhat from The Other’s perspective and not just one’s own—is in truth correlated with a closeness to perinatal dynamics, a closeness to the unconscious for that generation of youth, those of the Sixties? The answer: Absolutely yes!

clip_image016_thumbAs mentioned in a previous part, sociologist Kenneth Keniston did psychological studies of members of the Sixties Generation.

He was inspired to do so through his noticing that he was seeing something really unusual and radically different in these youth than what he had ever seen. This led to his fascination with discovering what made them so different. And he documented his findings in two books—The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society and Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth. Roughly speaking he chose to study the unconscious dynamics of both the “alienated-hippie” and the “activist” sectors, respectively, of that generation. [Footnote 19]

Blushing Troll-Handlers

pacifier.millennial.gen_thumbbill-owens_thumbAt the risk of repeating myself, I wish to remind the reader that a reading of his books—keeping in mind that Keniston knew nothing of perinatal dynamics at that time, and few people did, for that matter—reveals a degree of perinatal imagery, fantasy, and acting out—especially among “the uncommitted”—enough to make a troll-handling, pacifier-wearing, mosh-pit jumping youth of today to blush! [Footnote 20]

Self-Analysis and Psychological-Mindedness

woman-looking-in-mirror_thumbcandle.666655jpg_thumbBecause of this peculiar perinatal access, I don’t believe it is any coincidence that Keniston also found an unusual amount of inner reflection—questioning oneself—alongside the more well known questioning authority. This he labeled “overexamined life” for the alienated sector and “psychological mindedness” for the activists.

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Better Emotionally Disturbed Than “Healthily” Engaging in War

So, being close to one’s perinatal imprints, being less defended against one’s inner unconscious painful memories, leads to one being able to question not just oneself—and therefore to be a catalyst to personal growth and a quest for truth—but also the actions of one’s society. It is a counterbalance to our tendency to act out in violence to others as in war and to Nature as in ecocide. It means people will suffer more inner turmoil and pain, will feel more psychologically “disturbed,” and will be less likely to take it out on others, will be less likely to make others or the environment “pay” for what happened to them.

Let us contrast that with its opposite. DeMause writes,

Hitler’s projection of his fears…into Jews and foreigners helped him avoid a psychotic breakdown and enabled him to function during his later life, as long as others shared his delusion of poisonous enemies.

Therefore acting out collectively, as in war, can prevent a psychotic breakdown in certain individuals.

Better Psychotic Than Waging War

clip_image0173But when the consequences of acting out one’s birth trauma, collectively, is millions of people—including oneself—dead, not to mention the uncountably large loss of material and personal resources, it is clear that by comparison a psychotic breakdown is a more benign alternative for either the individual or the society in which that or those individuals act.

Similarly, not providing the outlet of war as a collective birth ritual…oftentimes, for the soldier involved, euphemistically called a “rite of passage”…would allow the genuine neurotic breakdowns, the collapse of people’s defenses, and their opening up to their underlying perinatal dynamics. Thus accessed, they can be healed, or in the least they would prevent the kind of unflinching belief or self-righteousness required for war and violence.

Some folks might even be motivationally paralyzed—receiving information from the unconscious that contradicts and undermines the stance and beliefs of their conscious ego. But when that egoistic stance is slanted, commonly, towards war, violence, selfishness and greed and corresponding environmental apathy, then better one would be indecisive, overwhelmed, and doing nothing.

The Price of Emotional Pain Is Minuscule Compared to That of War

Yet it is true that this neurotic breakdown, of at least a small amount, on the scale of society would result in the kind of collective regressions that Mayr and Boelderl, and Lawson describe. That is, the cause of peace, of the saving of human lives, requires that people pay the price of encountering their primal pain.

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clip_image019[1]By all measures, this peace price is minuscule. It is even more worth it when you take into account the fact that many people, after initially “breaking down” for lack of a collective…and highly destructive…act-out like war/aggression, will actually succeed in reconstructing a self more in line with reality, through the dynamics and means categorized under the term regression in the service of the ego, desccribed above. Regardless of professional help…which would be nice but is not always available or practical…some people just find a way.

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Continue with Chapter Ten: Where There Is Hope, Cultural Rebirthing

Return to Apocalypse No! Chapter Eight:
Derailing the Cycles of War and Violence

Footnotes

1. A. Briend, “Fetal Malnutrition: The Price of Upright Posture?” British Medical Journal 2 (1979): 317-319.

2. DeMause, op. cit., 1995, p. 12, emphasis in original.

3. See, for example, Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, trans. by Hildegarde and Hunter Hannum. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, especially “Vantage Point 1990,” pp. vii-ix.

4. Daniela F. Mayr & Artur R. Boelderl, “The Pacifier Craze: Collective Regression in Europe.” The Journal of Psychohistory 21 (1993): 143-156.

5. Ibid., p. 144.

6. Ibid., p. 148, emphasis mine.

7. Ibid., pp. 149-150.

8. Regarding the “experiential,” I should make clear that this approach is, from the perspective of the experiential psychotherapeutic approach I will be describing shortly, actually the superficial symbolic acting out of these underlying and powerful cycles in a way that is only a little less impotent than the Freudians.

9. DeMause, op. cit., 1995.

10. Alvin H. Lawson, “Placental Guitars, Umbilical Mikes, and the Maternal Rock-Beat: Birth Fantasies and Rock Music Videos.” The Journal of Psychohistory 21 (1994): 335-353.

11. Mayr and Boelderl claim quite wrongly and quite strangely—as if to make the facts not conflict with DeMause’s psychogenic theory, or as if to cover up some hole in their analysis—that those caught up in the pacifier craze were raised under the intrusive and socializing parenting modes (op. cit., 1993, p. 145) and yet, in 1992, were between the ages of 15 and 30 (Ibid., p. 143). This is hard to understand because these youth would have been born between the years 1962 and 1977 in advanced Western countries of mostly Western Europe—Italy, Germany, Austria, all of Europe, and even the U.S. (Ibid.).

However, the intrusive and socializing modes are associated, by DeMause, with the eighteenth century and the nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, respectively, in the Western world (DeMause, op. cit., 1982, p. 62). On the other hand, the helping mode begins mid-twentieth century in the Western world (Ibid., p. 63).

The conclusion from this is that these youth, described by Mayr and Boelderl, would have been greatly influenced by the helping mode. They would be expected, at least, to have received the most advanced methods of child-caring overall in the world at this time—considering DeMause’s theory—since they are the most recent progeny of the Western world!

Indeed, if these cannot be considered products of the helping mode, who can be? In order for Mayr and Boelderl to dispute this and claim they were exceptions to the rule and were raised under intrusive and socializing modes, they would have had to do a study demonstrating this, or at least cite one done. And this they do not do.

12. Michael D. Adzema, “Reunion With the Positive (Self), Part 1: The Other Half of ‘The Cure.’” Primal Renaissance: The Journal of Primal Psychology 1(2): 72-85. Reprinted on the Primal Spirit site.

13. Arthur Janov, The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis. New York: Dell, 1970.

14. Ibid.

15. Glenn Davis, Childhood and History in America. New York: The Psychohistory Press, 1976.

16. Ibid., especially Ch. 7, “The Great Society and the Youth Revolt,” and p. 240.

17. Ibid.

18.Ibid., p. 241.

19. Kenneth Keniston, The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society. New York: Dell, 1965; Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968.

20.While these aspects of youth are laid out by Keniston, a fuller delineation of these dynamics are to be seen in my work-in-progress, tentatively titled The Once and Current Generation: “Regression,” Mysticism, and “My Generation.” [Stay tuned.]

Continue with Chapter Ten: Where There Is Hope, Cultural Rebirthing

Return to Apocalypse No! Chapter Eight:
Derailing the Cycles of War and Violence

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Everything You “Know” About Life You Learned as a Fetus: Foundations of Myth and Mind and my Personal Involvement with This Research into Our Actual “Human Nature”

Your Map of Reality Was Written in the Womb: Falls from Grace, Chapter One — Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and the Phenomenon of Re-Experience

Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and the Phenomenon of Re-Experience

Prenatal and perinatal psychology is the field that deals with the effects of events occurring prior to (prenatal) and surrounding (perinatal) the time of birth upon later life and personality. An ever increasing amount though certainly not all of the information we have about these periods of our lives and their effects is derived through the later and vivid remembering of these events in a phenomenon known as re-experience. Correspondingly, the two most frequently asked questions about this relatively new field, put by those initially encountering it, are those concerning the specific meanings of the terms perinatal and re-experience.

At the outset, I wish to present an explanation of these two terms and of my unique personal relation to this topic as well as some of my background in exploring it. I will follow this with an historical overview of the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology, which will reveal the key concepts and understandings employed throughout this book.

Re-Experience and Reliving

For over forty years, beginning in 1972 when I was a senior undergraduate in college, I have been involved both personally and professionally in a comprehensive investigation into the phenomenon of re-experience. Also called reliving, this phenomenon is reported to consist of a full somato-cognitive remembering of previous events in a person’s life. Reliving involves experiential but also observable and measurable components, such as brain wave changes, characteristic physiological and neurological changes, and typical observable body movements.

This phenomenon can occur, to varying degrees, in many consciousness-altering modalities—including hypnosis, LSD psychotherapy, primal therapy, rebirthing, and holotropic breathwork; to a considerable degree in re-evaluation co-counseling and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder; and, occasionally and spontaneously, even in mainstream forms of psychotherapy, counseling, and “growth seminars.”

Re-experience is a more vivid and more completely somatic catharsis than what has been described in psychotherapy in terms of abreaction. It is in such contrast to normal abreaction that when these seemingly bizarre yet healing events have spontaneously erupted in traditional or mainstream Western contexts they have usually been mistakenly labeled psychotic, been intervened upon, and then aborted—via drugs and other highly coercive measures—by the attending therapeutic authorities.

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However, with an increasing appreciation for their therapeutic value, these events are gradually becoming understood and accepted in therapeutic contexts and thus allowed to complete themselves and to instruct the participants and observers in their meanings. Therefore, they appear to represent something new in our culture in terms of both a way of approaching knowledge and in terms of the kinds of information that are discovered (Grof 1976, 1985; Hannig 1982; Janov 1971; Lake 1966/1986; Noble, 1993; Stettbacher, 1992).

My Relationship to the Phenomenon of Re-Experience

My interest in the phenomenon of reliving began forty-four years ago at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate there I was most inspired by a course in religious studies titled “Religious and Psychological Approaches To Self-Understanding.” I was so inspired by the course that I constructed my major around its topic and initially even used the same title for my program’s name. This major in “self-understanding” would lead me, in a few years, to a profound interest in and exploration of primal therapy, as presented by Arthur Janov (1970) in his much-publicized book, The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis.

By 1972, I had completed all but the one final semester for a B.A. That semester was to include the cumulative project—required of such a Special Studies (individually structured) major. However, since my project would focus on primal therapy and one of primal therapy’s basic premises is that knowledge cannot really be known except through experience, I could not in good conscience turn in a project describing primal therapy without first experiencing it. Consequently I withdrew from college, for what was supposed to be only a semester, with the intention of “going through” primal therapy and then returning to school to write my cumulative project on it. In those days, the entire process of primal therapy was reputed to take only three to six months.

But a lot was unknown about that modality in those early days. As it turned out, I would not return to school to complete that final project until 1978—at which point I had five years’ experience of primal therapy behind me and was living in Denver, Colorado.

In addition to these experiences, I have amassed a broad array of other experience and training over the years that have contributed to my understanding of re-experience and of this field in general. Besides my two decades and more of primal therapy … both formally and in “the buddy system” … I have received training as a primal therapist. I am also a trained rebirther, having explored that modality since 1986. I have been experientially exploring the modality of holotropic breathwork since 1987 and did training with Stanislav and Christina Grof in that technique.

Finally, I have been facilitating people in their journeys into deep inner primal and holotropic states since 1975. I’ve given individual sessions in all three modalities of primal therapy, rebirthing, and holotropic breathwork. And with my wife, Mary Lynn Adzema, I conducted three day workshops in something we called primal breathwork. I’ve conducted two-day group workshops in this modality at conferences, which were attended by as many as sixty experiencers at a time.

Thus, I have experience in my own process in these modalities; but in addition I have facilitated for others on many occasions, and at times, it was my main profession—though most of my life I have spent in writing, teaching, and research.

Pre- and Perinatal Re-Experience

Re-experience of birth and of the events immediately prior to and after birth are termed perinatal—from the Greek, literally “surrounding birth.” It has been widely described at this point by a number of authors but is most closely associated with the work of Stanislav Grof, Arthur Janov, and Frank Lake.

However, one significant and as yet little explored or understood phenomenon, arising also from the modalities mentioned, is that of prenatal re-experience. In this case, the experiencer reports … and observationally appears to be … experiencing events that happened en utero, sometimes going back as far as sperm, egg, and zygote states (Buchheimer 1987; Farrant 1987; Grof 1976, 1985; Hannig 1982; Janov 1983; Lake 1981, 1982; Larimore 1990a, 1990b; Larimore & Farrant, 1995).

These reports of remembering experiences that occurred before birth are at such variance with Western professional and popular paradigms that they are met with near-universal incredulity and, too often, premature dismissal. Yet the evidence from the mounting numbers of experiential reports and empirical studies attests that something which is at least unique and interesting is going on here.

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Nevertheless, much of this prenatal information is thus far unformulated, untheorized, and unintegrated into a coherent structure for making sense of these experiences. This book will go a long way toward doing just that—making sense of prenatal experiences and exploring the implications and prospects of the knowledge gleaned from this fascinating new area of research and which arises from the vision that an exposure to this material induces.

The present work represents an attempt to bring this new information concerning our origins and our earliest experiences into such a coherent structure. After the initial overview of the field to be presented in this chapter, I deepen that review of the current understanding and findings in this area in making a case, in Chapter Two, for the legitimacy of prenatal spirituality.

First, let us take a closer look at what we know about the time before and around birth and what it means for us throughout our lives.

Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field—Early Theorists: Psychoanalysis and Birth

Sigmund Freud — Birth as Prototype for All Anxiety

While Freud (1927) disregarded major effects of birth on personality, he still saw the birth experience as the prototype of all later anxiety. His overall disregard of birth, however, was largely influenced by the belief—although discredited (see Chamberlain, 1988), still common in mainstream psychology and medicine today—that a newborn does not possess the neurological capacity for consciousness at birth.

Otto Rank — Psychoanalysis, Birth Trauma, Foundations of Personality and Some Myth, Separation Anxiety

Other early psychoanalysts disagreed with Freud on this. Otto Rank is the most notable of these. Following Freud’s basic psychoanalytic reasoning for personality patterns in early infancy, he asserted basic patterns of experience and ideas that are rooted in even earlier experience. Rank (1929) claimed the deepest, most fundamental patterns of these personality constructs originated at the time of birth, which Freud thought was not possible. Based upon the dream, fantasy, and other patterns of associations arising in his patients in psychoanalysis, Rank postulated a birth trauma, which he saw as a critical event in laying down in each of us particular patterns of thinking, motivation, and emotion for the rest of our lives. Notable among these prototypes was a feeling of a paradise once known but somehow lost, a separation anxiety caused by the separation at birth, and a resulting futile and lifelong struggle to re-unite with that golden age and that early beloved because of a desire to return to the womb.

Nandor Fodor — Dreamwork, Birth and Prenatal Processing and Relivings, Prenatal Origins of Consciousness and Trauma

Also a psychoanalyst, Nandor Fodor (1949) focused on the reflections of birth and prenatal material in dreams. He also designed interventions in therapy to release the negative effects of birth and to process prenatal memories. He was the first to mention actual relivings of birth, in which veridical memories were recovered. He agreed with Rank on many points, but he stressed the origins of consciousness and of trauma being in the prenatal period.

Donald W. Winnicott — First Primal Therapist? Birth Relivings, Importance of Birth—Negative Imprints but Positive Effects, Too

Another psychoanalyst, and pediatrician as well, Winnicott (1958) also held that birth is remembered and is important. He insisted that the birth trauma is real, but he disagreed with Rank and Fodor that it is always traumatic. He suggested that a normal, nontraumatic, birth has many positive benefits, particularly for ego development. Still, he contended that traumatic birth is permanently etched in memory and leaves a lifetime psychological scar. Winnicott (1958) also suggested the possibility of prenatal trauma.

He has been called the first primal therapist in that he described the first birth primals—actual observable relivings of birth—spontaneously occurring by some of his patients during their sessions with him. Thus he was beginning the trend beyond mere talking association or dream analysis as ways of accessing and integrating this material.

Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field — Later Research and Theorists: Hypnosis, Primal Therapy, and Birth

David Cheek and Leslie LeCron — Hypnosis, Birth Memories and Imprints on Personality and Relation to Psychiatric Disorders

Cheek and LeCron (1968) used hypnosis to retrieve early memories in their patients. They discovered that memories earlier than what they expected, going back to birth, were possible. Importantly, a relief of symptoms seemed to follow from the re-experience of these birth memories. They came to the conclusion that a birth imprint occurs, which is induced by the extreme stress of that time and is resistant to fading from later experience. Further they asserted that this imprint could be the cause of a wide spectrum of psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders.

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Leslie Feher — Psychoanalysis, Birth, Cutting of Umbilical Cord, Separation Trauma

Leslie Feher (1980) sought to extend the Freudian tradition farther back into areas that, she asserts, were until only recently unknowable. Thus, she describes a natal theory and therapy that includes experiences of cutting the umbilical cord, birth, and even prebirth. In fact, she considers the cutting of the umbilical cord to be central in her theory of trauma, calling it the “crisis umbilicus,” and echoes Fodor in claiming that it is the true origin of the castration fears made so much of in psychoanalysis. This is so because, according to Feher, the cord and placenta is an object of security and is considered by the fetus to be part of him- or herself. Thus, this cutting represents a supreme threat in being a separation from a total life support system, a major organ, a part of oneself. In these ways, she also brings forward for renewed appreciation Rank’s speculations on the element of separation trauma as a crucial element of the birth trauma.

Arthur Janov — Primal Therapy, Traumas of Birth and Early Life and Healing Them, Empirical Foundations and Neurophysiology of Early Events and Healing

Perhaps the major theorist and popularizer of the phenomenon of re-experience (which he termed primaling), Janov was reluctant to acknowledge the pervasiveness of pre- and perinatal re-experience and trauma. Yet when he did, it was in a major work on birth trauma, which remains as a touchstone in the field in its depth and detail. Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience, published in 1983, among other things places birth as the determining factor in creating basic personality constructs, called sympathetic and parasympathetic, which roughly coincide with the more common terms introversion and extroversion.

This work is more empirical and neurophysiologically rooted than most in the field. While the book is recognized in the field, Janov and his work have not gotten anywhere near the respect and attention that they deserve. He remains the unfortunate kicking-boy of a movement that is itself scapegoated by the academy and the larger scientific community.

Thomas Verny — Primal Therapy, Birth, Especially Womb Life and Relation to Personality … Prenatal Mother-Infant Bonding

The actual stimulus for a new field of pre- and perinatal psychology and the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health—APPPAH was Thomas Verny’s (1981) The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. His work brought together a good deal of the new empirical research that had opened the doors to us on the events in the womb. While himself a practitioner of “holistic primal therapy,” he integrated the accumulating data from the phenomenon of re-experience with the new information from the more traditional, “objective,” scientific research into the prenatal—made possible by the latest advances in technology.

One of his conclusions from this combination of lines of inquiry was that “birth and prenatal experiences form the foundations of human personality” (1981, p. 118). His other conclusions center around the importance of intrauterine bonding in that his research strongly suggests that the prenate, via pathways hormonal and unknown, picks up on the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of the mother. More importantly, he asserted, the imprint of these factors on the fetus predetermines the later mother-child relationship. He emphasized that positive thoughts and feelings toward the fetus—”maternal love”—acts to cushion the new individual against the normal stresses and unavoidable harshness inherent in birth and early infancy. Yet all of this cannot be completely avoided. “Birth is like death to the newborn,” writes Verny (1984, p. 48).

David Chamberlain — Hypnosis, Confirmed Validity of Birth Memories

David Chamberlain (1988), for many years the president of APPPAH (the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health), has further substantiated the claim of consciousness at birth and the accuracy of pre- and perinatal memory in the phenomenon of re-experience. He reported one study he did in which he compared hypnotically retrieved memories of birth from mother and child and found an astonishing degree of conformity in their responses. Of note was the degree of inner consistency and originality in these memories as reported by the former neonate. They often contained technical details of the delivery and labor unlike what would be expected of the medically unsophisticated, a perceptive critique of the way the birth was handled, and other details of the event that could not have been known through normal conscious channels.

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Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field — Later Theorists: Societal Implications, Psychohistory, Birth and Prenatal

Lloyd deMause Psychohistory, Prenatal and Poisonous Placenta, Sociohistorical Implications of Gestational and Birth Events

Lloyd deMause (1982, 1987) was instrumental in establishing the new interdisciplinary field of psychohistory. In his study of historical happenings he discovered that stages in the progression of events related to stages in the progression of gestation and birth … which stages happened to correspond, by the way, remarkably well with Stanislav Grof‘s four stages of birth, his Basic Perinatal Matrices.

He found that natal imagery especially predominates in societies during times of crisis and war, when national purpose and state of affairs are construed as a need to escape or break free from an enclosing and constricting force. He also noted the suffering fetus and the poisonous placenta as sources of these later metaphors and imagery. In fact, in studying the imagery in the national media of various countries he has been able to predict political, social, and economic events such as wars and invasions, recessions, and political downfalls.

His work begins to look at the prenatal influences and imprints and how they related to macrocosmic issues of politics, history, social movements, and issues of war and peace.

Later Theorists — Dream Analysis

Francis Mott — Conception and Gestational Basis of Myth, Archetype, all Patterns of Macrocosmic and Microcosmic Realities and the Nature of Reality, Devolutional Model of Development

Francis Mott’s work is less well known even by this field’s standards, yet it is undeniably impressive. Mott’s (1960, 1964) major contribution lies in his focusing on basic patterns of mind and cosmos that correlate with prenatal feelings and states. He traced consciousness back to events around conception and saw these events as instituting patterns affecting all later experience and conceptual constructions. Through dream analysis he elicited these “configurations,” and he demonstrated their manifestation as seemingly universal archetypes in myths and universal human assumptions about the nature of reality.

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In fact, through his study of womb and conception patterns he claimed to have discovered patterns that underlie and unite all of reality at all levels of manifestation—astronomical, social, personal, cellular, and even nuclear. While this may seem rather grandiose, his work was highly regarded and admired by Carl Jung.

Mott also carried forward the intimations of earlier prenatal theoreticians, notably Rank and Fodor, on the gestational basis of archetypes. While he does not address or seek to discredit the range of, supposedly genetic, archetypes postulated by Jung, his work is highly suggestive of an experiential, specifically, pre- and perinatal, as opposed to genetic basis for many of these.

Denial and Incest Taboo

Mott (1960) also helped us to understand why if these prenatal memories are possible they are not more prevalent by suggesting denial is necessary in order to protect against incestuous feelings that might arise around feelings remembered from being inside one’s mother.

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Devolutional Model of Consciousness Development

Finally, he made the postulation—hugely relevant to the theme of this work—that our original expanded capacity to feel is diminished, as he says, “divided,” by experience not increased by it. The idea is that there is a reduction in awareness as a result of early traumatic events, beginning around conception and then on, and not the buildup of consciousness and feeling that we assume from the mechanistic paradigm that sees consciousness as a byproduct of increasing physical, specifically brain, activity during our early years. (See, for example, The Doors of Perception: Each of Us Is Potentially Mind At Large… When Perception Is Cleansed, All Kinds of Nonordinary Things Happen and Occupy Science … A Call for a Scientific Awakening: In Tossing Away Our Species Blinders, We Approach a Truth Far Beyond Science.)

Later Theorists — Breathwork

Stanislav GrofBreathwork, LSD, Birth and Prenatal, Myth and Archetype, Spiritual and Consciousness

A pioneer in this prenatal area is Stanislav Grof (1976, 1980, 1985, 1990, to name a few). His many works, providing a framework for conceptualizing perinatal and transpersonal experiences, are a profound and useful starting point for an investigation into this area.

In his use of LSD beginning in 1956 for psychotherapy, called psycholytic therapy, he discovered four levels of experience of the unconscious: the sensory, the biographical, the perinatal, and the transpersonal. He noted a tendency for growth and healing to occur in a progressive way through these levels. The sensory band is the level of expanded sensory awareness and is usually initially encountered by participants. The biographical band is the realm of the personal unconscious wherein unintegrated and traumatic memories and material from childhood and one’s personal history are retrieved, often relived, and integrated. The perinatal level of experience usually follows after dealing with the biographical material and involves the remembering, re-experiencing, and integrating of material that is related to the time prior to and surrounding birth. The transpersonal band, the level of spiritual experience, is usually reached after dealing with the other three levels.

Four Modes of Experiencing—the Basic Perinatal Matrices

Grof has also delineated four matrices of experience, four general experiential constructs, which he called basic perinatal matrices (BPMs). He discovered that experiences at all levels of the unconscious often group themselves in four general ways that are roughly related to the four stages of birth. Thus, Basic Perinatal Matrix I (BPM I) is related to the generally blissful or “oceanic” feelings that often characterize the fetus’s state in the womb in early and middle pregnancy. BPM II is characterized by “no exit,” hellish feelings that are related to the situation of the fetus in late pregnancy when the confines of the womb become ever more apparent but there is as yet no indication of any possibility of relief. BPM III relates to the birth process itself, the birth struggle, which is still characterized by feelings of compression and suffering but in which there is movement and change and thus hope of relief through struggle. If BPM II can be compared to hell, where there is no hope, BPM III is more like purgatory. Finally, BPM IV relates to the actual entry into the world, the termination of the birthing process, and is characterized by feelings of triumph, relief, and high, even manic, elation.

In his descriptions of the levels of experience and the matrices of perinatal experience, Grof has provided useful maps of the unconscious and experience in nonordinary states, which have incredible heuristic value in our understanding of cross-cultural religious and spiritual experience, psychopathology, personal growth, and consciousness and personality in general. And they have been utilized successfully in providing a context and guide for many tens of thousands of participants in his psycholytic and holotropic therapies.

However, while Grof is exhaustive in his descriptions of fetal and perinatal experience, he says less about the earlier experiences in the womb—the first trimester—and even less about conception and the experiences of sperm and egg—what is known as cellular consciousness. Still, this area is beginning to be discussed among his followers. And through his current nondrug modality, called holotropic breathwork, people are accessing these areas and beginning to give word to them (e.g., Carter, 1993).

Frank Lake—Breathwork, First Trimester, Early Experience as Foundation for Myths

Frank Lake, though less well-known again, has probably been the premier theoretician on the topic of prenatal events during the first three months of gestation. Just prior to his death in the early eighties, he wrote a culmination of his thirty-year investigation into pre- and perinatal influence in two works titled Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling and The First Trimester. In these works he goes beyond his other works (for example, 1966) in placing the roots of all later experience, and in particular, distress, at the first three months of physical existence.

Lake began his investigation of re-experience in 1954. Like Stanislav Grof, he did this using LSD, initially, in the psycholytic therapy that was being developed at that time to facilitate therapeutic abreaction. Later he, again like Grof, developed a nondrug modality to accomplish the same thing. His method of “primal therapy” employed a type of fast breathing—again, like Grof’s later technique—to access theta-wave brain levels, which are levels of consciousness that he saw as crucial to accessing and integrating these memories.

His thirty-year research led him to the realization of the importance of ever earlier experience. Thus his earlier stress on the importance of birth gave way to his later emphasis on the first trimester in 1981 (Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling) and in 1982 (The First Trimester).

He stressed the maternal-fetal distress syndrome, beginning at around implantation, as a major time of trauma. He also described a blastocystic stage of relative bliss just prior to that.

His one other major disagreement with Grof was his belief that the mythological and symbolical elements described by Grof were a product of LSD and that the first trimester events were the actual roots of much of such symbolism and supposed transpersonal/mythological scenarios (1981, p. 35).

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Later Theorists — Myth and Sacred Text/Mysticism

S. Giora Shoham — Devolutional Model of Development, Falls from Grace

While not strictly a pre- and perinatal psychologist, I include this too little-known theoretician and criminologist because of the close relationship and influence his work has had upon my own work regarding these Falls from Grace. Falls from Grace and other devolutional models of consciousness postulate that during life and over time, beginning at conception, we actually are reduced in consciousness and awareness, not increased in it, and it corresponds to a “brain as reducing valve” theory of consciousness. (Again, See The Doors of Perception and Occupy Science.)

While I initially constructed and wrote down my devolutional theory of consciousness—Falls from Grace—without the benefit of Shoham’s work, upon discovering it I could not help but be both confirmed and reinspired by the astounding resonance his understanding has with my own.

Shoham (1979, 1990) starts his devolutional model in the womb and carries it through birth, weaning, and the oedipal periods of development. Though, as I delineate in Part Two, I disagree with his model by beginning mine at the creation of sperm and egg—as does other devolutional theorists like Francis Mott and David Wasdell—in virtually all other major instances his model corresponds to my own if one simply … in keeping with a normal trend in child development in general as it begins to integrate the new pre- and perinatal evidence … places everything back a little farther in time—in this case, specifically, one stage back.

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Later Prenatal Psychology Theorists — Cellular Memory and Conception, Foundations of Myth and Personality, Spirituality and Soul

Lietaert Peerbolte — Conception and Cellular Memory, Soul, Spirituality

Peerbolte (1954) was one of the earliest theorists to relate spirituality to conception and sperm/egg dynamics. In addition to claiming that a regression to conception is the inevitable result of all prenatal states, he traced the sense of “I” — the “I-function” — back to the egg, existing even in the mother’s ovaries. He further postulated that the spiritual self was invisibly present within the field of attraction between the egg and the sperm. Correspondingly, he was the first to point out that the existence of conception, preconception, and even ovulation symbolism in dreams indicates the existence of a soul. For, he asked, what mind records these events otherwise?

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I wrote the article, “A Primal Perspective on Spirituality,” which later became the next chapter in this book before I knew about Peerbolte’s work. Yet, once again the conclusions I came to, especially about the existence of soul being established by the fact of these memories and especially those at the cellular levels of sperm and egg existence, are very much in line with his.

Michael C. Irving — Primal Therapy, Birth, Sperm, Egg, Myth, Dragon Symbolism, Prehistoric Cult and Ritual

Michael C. Irving is a primal therapist whose contributions include his relation of these earliest events from sperm and egg through the birth experience to fundamental mythological motifs and images across cultures. The originator of a way of interpretation that he calls natalism, he has brought together a host of artistic and artifactual images from a wide range of time periods and cultures which relate, with an astonishing degree of accuracy, to actual pre- and perinatal events.

In particular, he has traced the universal serpent/dragon motifs and mythology to birth and sperm experience, noting, among other things, that the serpent/dragon shape represents the birth canal or tunnel, that the fire-spewing characteristics of dragons relate to consuming pain, and that the constricting characteristics of snakes correspond to the constriction of the birth canal. Of great interest is his deduction that the widely prevalent snake and dragon cults, which were especially popular in prehistory, indicate an attempt to deal with such unfinished birth trauma material as we are only now, in modern times, rediscovering the importance of doing.

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Graham Farrant — Primal Therapy; Sperm, Egg, Cellular Consciousness; Soul and Spirituality

Graham Farrant (1987; Buchheimer 1987), a psychiatrist and primal therapist from Australia, is probably the most influential and well-known of those discussing the phenomena that occur at the earliest times of our lives. In addition to echoing Frank Lake in describing fetal, implantation, and blastocyst feelings, he has been able to elicit and describe sperm and egg imprints. He has found trauma from these earliest events to influence lifelong patterns of personality and behavior. He produced a notable video in which segments from the widely acclaimed movie “The Miracle of Life,” which shows actual footage of gamete and zygote events, are juxtaposed via a split-screen with actual footage of a person reliving the exact same events in primal therapy, which occurred before such cellular events were ever able to be seen and recorded. The effect is astounding in the detail in which the relivings replicate the actual cellular happenings.

In addition to his emphasis on cellular consciousness, Farrant has stressed the spiritual aspects of these earliest events. He relates incidents of spiritual trauma at the cellular level in which the individual splits off from Divinity—thus setting up a lifelong feeling of loss and yearning and a desire to return to Unity and the Divine.

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Paul Brenner — Sperm, Egg, Cellular Consciousness and Biological Foundations of Myths

Paul Brenner (1991), a biologist and obstetrician, has been presenting at conferences and in workshops on the idea of the biological foundations of myth. For example, he relates basic biological, cellular events to biblical events described in Genesis.

He also relates male and female adult behavior to basic patterns of sperm and egg behavior and to events prior to and surrounding conception. He has said that male and female behavior are just sperm and egg activity grown up!

Elizabeth Noble — Cellular Consciousness and Spirituality, Empirical Underpinnings

Elizabeth Noble (1993) is an educator in the field of pregnancy and childbirth and is a student of Farrant’s. She published a comprehensive overview of this new field, titled Primal Connections, in which she doesn’t hesitate to stress the issues of cellular consciousness and the spirituality that appears to coincide with the re-experience of these earliest events. She provides empirical and theoretical avenues for understanding how memory can occur at such early times. Some of these are consistent with mainstream physicalist science while others coincide with the cutting-edge, new-paradigm discoveries in fields such as biology, physics, and neuroscience.

David Wasdell — Sperm/Egg and First Trimester Imprints, Devolutional Model of Development, Social and Historical Implications

One of the more recent theoreticians in this area is David Wasdell. Wasdell’s (1979, 1985a, 1985b, 1990) major contribution lies in his relating these earliest events to social and cultural patterns. He describes a process of devolution of consciousness beginning at around conception and proceeding through other reductions caused by traumas at implantation, in the womb, and at birth.

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Most importantly, he delineates how the result of this diminution of potentiality is projected outwards into the problems and crises of violence, wars, and the mediocrity of modern personality on the scale of the masses and the macrocosms of the group, society, and global events.

In describing the problems of “normality” as rooted in a deprivational and deformational series of traumas from our earliest biological history, Wasdell emphasizes that this gives us the possibility to change that tragic social and personality outcome by focusing on the prevention and healing of such traumas. Thus, he holds out the vision of a new person and new society as an outcome of the efforts directed at the earliest laying down of human experience.

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The Importance of the Intrauterine for Understanding Our Times and the Goal of This Book

Despite this long legacy of work and thought in this pre- and perinatal area, much of it, especially the prenatal, remains ignored by mainstream psychology and is largely unavailable to the public. Within the field itself, in addition, the prenatal information, in relation to the more widely accepted and circulated perinatal evidence, seems to be analogous to Otto Rank’s (1929) ideas of birth trauma were to Sigmund Freud’s concerning early infancy in that they are cast under an extra cloud of suspicion and disbelief and disregarded accordingly. Yet, like Rank’s findings also, their main problem may lie with unfamiliarity and prejudice rather than validity or scientific viability; and these findings, like his were, may end up harkening the outlines of future endeavors and being confirmed by subsequent research.

Thus, I believe that this prenatal area in particular is ripe for reaping what it can teach us about what is human, about “human nature.”

Therefore, this book will put forth the possible relationship between our earliest ontogenetic experiences as humans and the structure of human consciousness and stages of human “development.”

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I build a model that seeks an initial formulation of this information, teasing out its implications, and integrating it with relevant thinking and theoretical perspectives in anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and others.

However, before proceeding, it seems important to establish this pursuit within the logical-empirical framework that validates it. To do this, let us now turn to the re-experience movement I am most familiar with and feel to be the most important, primal therapy, and discuss its relation to the phenomenon of prenatal re-experience and spirituality.

Continue with How Valid Are Spiritual Experiences? Psychedelic Research and Deep Experiential Psychotherapy Have Intensified the Exploration of Spiritual Aspects of the Unconscious

Return to Falls from Grace, Introduction — The Radical Rational View of Us and It: “Normal” Truth Is Convenient Truth … and Is Anything But True

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We Are a Fever, Part Two — The Evidence That Life’s Blueprint Is Written at Birth: Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology Overview — Early Theorists, Psychoanalysis, and Birth

The Template for All You Think Was Created at Birth: Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field — Early Theorists, Psychoanalysis, and Birth

Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field—Early Theorists: Psychoanalysis and Birth

Sigmund Freud — Birth as Prototype for All Anxiety

While Freud (1927) disregarded major effects of birth on personality, he still saw the birth experience as the prototype of all later anxiety. His overall disregard of birth, however, was largely influenced by the belief—although discredited (see Chamberlain, 1988), still common in mainstream psychology and medicine today—that a newborn does not possess the neurological capacity for consciousness at birth.

Otto Rank — Psychoanalysis, Birth Trauma, Foundations of Personality and Some Myth, Separation Anxiety

Other early psychoanalysts disagreed with Freud on this. Otto Rank is the most notable of these. Following Freud’s basic psychoanalytic reasoning for personality patterns in early infancy, he asserted basic patterns of experience and ideas that are rooted in even earlier experience. Rank (1929) claimed the deepest, most fundamental patterns of these personality constructs originated at the time of birth, which Freud thought was not possible. Based upon the dream, fantasy, and other patterns of associations arising in his patients in psychoanalysis, Rank postulated a birth trauma, which he saw as a critical event in laying down in each of us particular patterns of thinking, motivation, and emotion for the rest of our lives. Notable among these prototypes was a feeling of a paradise once known but somehow lost, a separation anxiety caused by the separation at birth, and a resulting futile and lifelong struggle to re-unite with that golden age and that early beloved because of a desire to return to the womb.

Nandor Fodor — Dreamwork, Birth and Prenatal Processing and Relivings, Prenatal Origins of Consciousness and Trauma

Also a psychoanalyst, Fodor (1949) focused on the reflections of birth and prenatal material in dreams. He also designed interventions in therapy to release the negative effects of birth and to process prenatal memories. He was the first to mention actual relivings of birth, in which veridical memories were recovered. He agreed with Rank on many points, but he stressed the origins of consciousness and of trauma being in the prenatal period.

Donald W. Winnicott — First Primal Therapist? Birth Relivings, Importance of Birth—Negative Imprints but Positive Effects, Too 

Another psychoanalyst, and pediatrician as well, Winnicott (1958) also held that birth is remembered and is important. He insisted that the birth trauma is real, but he disagreed with Rank and Fodor that it is always traumatic. He suggested that a normal, nontraumatic, birth has many positive benefits, particularly for ego development. Still, he contended that traumatic birth is permanently etched in memory and leaves a lifetime psychological scar. Winnicott (1958) also suggested the possibility of prenatal trauma.

He has been called the first primal therapist in that he described the first birth primals—actual observable relivings of birth—spontaneously occurring by some of his patients during their sessions with him. Thus he was beginning the trend beyond mere talking association or dream analysis as ways of accessing and integrating this material.

Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field — Later Research and Theorists: Hypnosis, Primal Therapy, and Birth

David Cheek and Leslie LeCron — Hypnosis, Birth Memories and Imprints on Personality and Relation to Psychiatric Disorders

Cheek and LeCron (1968) used hypnosis to retrieve early memories in their patients. They discovered that memories earlier than what they expected, going back to birth, were possible. Importantly, a relief of symptoms seemed to follow from the re-experience of these birth memories. They came to the conclusion that a birth imprint occurs, which is induced by the extreme stress of that time and is resistant to fading from later experience. Further they asserted that this imprint could be the cause of a wide spectrum of psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders.

Leslie Feher — Psychoanalysis, Birth, Cutting of Umbilical Cord, Separation Trauma

Feher (1980) sought to extend the Freudian tradition farther back into areas that, she asserts, were until only recently unknowable. Thus, she describes a natal theory and therapy that includes experiences of cutting the umbilical cord, birth, and even prebirth. In fact, she considers the cutting of the umbilical cord to be central in her theory of trauma, calling it the “crisis umbilicus,” and echoes Fodor in claiming that it is the true origin of the castration fears made so much of in psychoanalysis. This is so because, according to Feher, the cord and placenta is an object of security and is considered by the fetus to be part of him- or herself. Thus, this cutting represents a supreme threat in being a separation from a total life support system, a major organ, a part of oneself. In these ways, she also brings forward for renewed appreciation Rank’s speculations on the element of separation trauma as a crucial element of the birth trauma.

Arthur Janov — Primal Therapy, Traumas of Birth and Early Life and Healing Them, Empirical Foundations and Neurophysiology of Early Events and Healing 

Perhaps the major theorist and popularizer of the phenomenon of re-experience (which he termed primaling), Janov was reluctant to acknowledge the pervasiveness of pre- and perinatal re-experience and trauma. Yet when he did, it was in a major work on birth trauma, which remains as a touchstone in the field in its depth and detail. Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience, published in 1983, among other things places birth as the determining factor in creating basic personality constructs, called sympathetic and parasympathetic, which roughly coincide with the more common terms introversion and extroversion.

This work is more empirical and neurophysiologically rooted than most in the field. While the book is recognized in the field, Janov and his work have not gotten anywhere near the respect and attention that they deserve. He remains the unfortunate kicking-boy of a movement that is itself scapegoated by the academy and the larger scientific community.

Thomas Verny — Primal Therapy, Birth, Especially Womb Life and Relation to Personality … Prenatal Mother-Infant Bonding 

The actual stimulus for a new field of pre- and perinatal psychology and the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health—APPPAH was Thomas Verny’s (1981) The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. His work brought together a good deal of the new empirical research that had opened the doors to us on the events in the womb. While himself a practitioner of “holistic primal therapy,” he integrated the accumulating data from the phenomenon of re-experience with the new information from the more traditional, “objective,” scientific research into the prenatal—made possible by the latest advances in technology.

One of his conclusions from this combination of lines of inquiry was that “birth and prenatal experiences form the foundations of human personality” (1981, p. 118). His other conclusions center around the importance of intrauterine bonding in that his research strongly suggests that the prenate, via pathways hormonal and unknown, picks up on the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of the mother. More importantly, he asserted, the imprint of these factors on the fetus predetermines the later mother-child relationship. He emphasized that positive thoughts and feelings toward the fetus—”maternal love”—acts to cushion the new individual against the normal stresses and unavoidable harshness inherent in birth and early infancy. Yet all of this cannot be completely avoided. “Birth is like death to the newborn,” writes Verny (1984, p. 48).

David Chamberlain — Hypnosis, Confirmed Validity of Birth Memories 

David Chamberlain (1988), for many years the president of APPPAH, has further substantiated the claim of consciousness at birth and the accuracy of pre- and perinatal memory in the phenomenon of re-experience. He reported one study he did in which he compared hypnotically retrieved memories of birth from mother and child and found an astonishing degree of conformity in their responses. Of note was the degree of inner consistency and originality in these memories as reported by the former neonate. They often contained technical details of the delivery and labor unlike what would be expected of the medically unsophisticated, a perceptive critique of the way the birth was handled, and other details of the event that could not have been known through normal conscious channels.

Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field — Later Theorists: Societal Implications, Psychohistory, Birth and Prenatal

Lloyd deMause Psychohistory, Prenatal and Poisonous Placenta, Sociohistorical Implications of Gestational and Birth Events 

Lloyd deMause (1982, 1987) was instrumental in establishing the new interdisciplinary field of psychohistory. In his study of historical happenings he discovered that stages in the progression of events related to stages in the progression of gestation and birth … which stages happened to correspond, by the way, remarkably well with Stanislav Grof‘s four stages of birth, his Basic Perinatal Matrices, as we shall see.

He found that natal imagery especially predominates in societies during times of crisis and war, when national purpose and state of affairs are construed as a need to escape or break free from an enclosing and constricting force. He also noted the suffering fetus and the poisonous placenta as sources of these later metaphors and imagery. In fact, in studying the imagery in the national media of various countries he has been able to predict political, social, and economic events such as wars and invasions, recessions, and political downfalls.

His work begins to look at the prenatal influences and imprints and how they related to macrocosmic issues of politics, history, social movements, and issues of war and peace. His work is extremely relevant to the issues of this book and we will be returning to him again and again in this work.

Continue with Everything You “Know” About Religion You Learned as a Fetus: We Are a Fever, Part Three — Later Prenatal Psychology Theorists — Breathwork, Myth, and Consciousness

Return to We Are a Fever, Part One: Perinatal Psychology, the Phenomenon of Re-Experience, and my Personal Involvement with This Research into Our Actual “Human Nature”

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Being Crazy in an Insane World Might Mean You’re the Sane One: Rebirthing Rituals, Part Three – Auspicious Collective Regressions

People Who Have It All Figured Out Are the Ones to Watch Out For … Emotional “Sickness” Might Indicate More “Wellness”: Rebirthing Rituals, Part 3

Circle Ceremony

Regression in the Service of the Ego

With the exposure of the ineffectiveness of the Freudian tactic of intellectual understanding has come the Freudian movement’s disintegration into schools advocating various other strategies for change.

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doctor-handing-pills-to-a-patientEponahorsegoddessThese schools/strategies include the psychiatric—the use of drugs; the neo-Freudians who acknowledge and use regression in the service of the ego and abreaction; the humanistic-existential approaches, stressing the “experiential”; and the Jungians and neo-Jungians, who would seek the resolution of these cycles in their inner archetypal acting out, resulting in an eventual rootedness of the ego in a higher Self (a spiritual center) beyond or transcending the cycles. [Footnote 9]

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cant.luxury.negative.thoughtOther approaches include the bulk of the spiritual, new-age, or transpersonal means that are flourishing these days. These alternative paths basically differ from all others in their belief that one can simply bypass these perinatal pulls and pushes and go directly to the Light or the Self by dismissing the birth cycles, or the Darkness or Shadow, through affirming the Light, meditating the Darkness out or the Light in, changing one’s thoughts, creating one’s reality, and various combinations of these.

normal_ButterflyOfHealingFINAL_LG_Jpg2Finally, these newer schools and strategies for healing include those of what might be called experiential psychotherapy, which includes primal therapy, holotropic breathwork, some forms of (experiential) meditation (Vipassana meditation, for example), Reichian and healingcrisisbioenergetic approaches, some forms of hypnotherapy—experiential ones—ones that involve reliving traumas—and virtually all the techniques, treatments, and correctives that are espoused in the field of pre- and perinatal psychology.

reunionThe point is that from a good number of these other-than-Freudian perspectives—and all of those that acknowledge the importance of 947867-lightdarkness_largeregression in the service of the ego—and from the perspective of the entire field of experiential psychotherapy, the answer to the cycles of violence, war, and death-rebirth is to stop the acting out, not by simply intellectually decrying it—as if one can actually talk oneself out of one’s inner fears and one’s Darkness/Shadow—but by reliving those cycles of violence at their origins…their primal roots. In the case of perinatal forces, those forces from “the dark side,” this is accomplished by reliving the violence of birth, a perinatal trauma that is thoroughly and masterfully delineated by Grof and deMause. [Footnote 10]

Auspicious Collective Regressions

But from this perspective of experiential psychotherapy—one completely congruent with and grateful of deMause’s contributions in psychohistory as well—regression, in Europe, or elsewhere, is not seen as something to decry, disclaim, be horrified of, or be seen as dangerous but is seen as an opportunity. Regression is certainly not seen as a form of defense but as the opposite of that. Regression is part of a process of diminishing one’s defenses against one’s internal reality of pain and trauma.

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Thus, examples of blatant collective regression as in Europe—more so to the extent they are relived, released, and integrated—are entirely auspicious for the eventual elimination of war as a collective device of acting out—defending against—the painful feelings coming from one’s personal history which one carries around, all unknowingly, and which pervade, in one way or another, in forms subtle and not so subtle, every moment of one’s consciousness in the present.

From this experiential psychotherapeutic perspective, we have a different feeling about developments like those that Mayr and Boelderl describe as collective regression in Europe and Lawson describes as occurring at rock concerts. [Footnote 11]

From a more enlightened viewpoint these cultural phenomena should have us, if not dancing in the streets, at least hopeful of a gradual decrease in the use of war and violence. Why? It is because the youth who display this “regression” so blatantly were brought up by an “advanced” form of child-rearing than that of previous generations, that they have fewer defenses, fewer layers of obfuscation covering up their unconscious psychodynamics; consequently the regression is seen more clearly in their behavior. [Footnote 12]

Unflinching Belief Related to Total Dissociation

Why is this important? DeMause points out that people do go to war, and that prior to it their perinatal dynamics come to the fore, as evidenced by perinatal-laden words and images in the media and in leaders’ speeches used to describe the situation and its dynamics. Thus, our leaders take us into war, they act out their perinatal dynamics…and we in following them act out ours…in such gruesomely overt ways because these dynamics are so hidden, repressed, and overlaid with defenses that the conscious mind has absolutely no access to, and hence insight into, them as being part of one’s unconscious dynamics.

clip_image008Consequently the conscious mind is completely able to convince itself that those dynamics are actual, real, and doubtless parts of the situation and therefore require an actual, real, and extreme response. The amount of resolve required to act out war can only be wrought of an unflinching belief in the rightness, the absolute correctness of one’s perspective of the situation and therefore of that extreme course of response. And that can only be brought about by a total dissociation from one’s perinatal traumas, and a complete and utter projection of it on the outside—the enemy, to be specific.

Blatant “Sickness” Related to Being Real

The contrary is also true: When there does not exist that total and complete dissociation of the perinatal trauma—when it is, as in Europe and rock concerts currently, closer to the surface, less defended against, less repressed and, hence, more blatant—it is more accessible to consciousness and less likely to be acted out in the extreme as in war. Instead it is more likely to be acted out in less extreme forms, such as jumping into mosh pits, carrying pacifiers, listening to baby tunes about the, very real, difficulties of being a baby, and so on.

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Finally, it is more likely to be actually allowed to emerge in consciousness and be relived, and thereby “healed”…and gone beyond, to be replaced by something more benign and more socially constructive, and thus to be removed forever as a motivation to war or violence. This is the auspicious view of the developments described by Mayr and Boelderl. [Footnote 13]

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Janov was the first to point out that a permanent resolution of underlying trauma initially entailed an aggravation of symptoms and symbolic acting out. That is to say, the underlying dynamics become more blatant and apparent in behavior. [Footnote 14]

Janov was also the first to note that the acting-out and overt neurotic was closer to being “real,” and therefore really sane, than his or her highly functioning and “normal,” but repressed, rigidly defended, and unfeeling neighbor. [Footnote 15]

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Footnotes

9. Regarding the “experiential,” I should make clear that this approach is, from the perspective of the experiential psychotherapeutic approach I will be describing shortly, actually the superficial symbolic acting out of these underlying and powerful cycles in a way that is only a little less impotent than the Freudians.

10. DeMause, op. cit., 1995.

11. Alvin H. Lawson, “Placental Guitars, Umbilical Mikes, and the Maternal Rock-Beat: Birth Fantasies and Rock Music Videos.” The Journal of Psychohistory 21 (1994): 335-353.

12. Mayr and Boelderl claim quite wrongly and quite strangely—as if to make the facts not conflict with DeMause’s psychogenic theory, or as if to cover up some hole in their analysis—that those caught up in the pacifier craze were raised under the intrusive and socializing parenting modes (op. cit., 1993, p. 145) and yet, in 1992, were between the ages of 15 and 30 (Ibid., p. 143). This is hard to understand because these youth would have been born between the years 1962 and 1977 in advanced Western countries of mostly Western Europe—Italy, Germany, Austria, all of Europe, and even the U.S. (Ibid.).

However, the intrusive and socializing modes are associated, by DeMause, with the eighteenth century and the nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, respectively, in the Western world (DeMause, op. cit., 1982, p. 62). On the other hand, the helping mode begins mid-twentieth century in the Western world (Ibid., p. 63).

The conclusion from this is that these youth, described by Mayr and Boelderl, would have been greatly influenced by the helping mode. They would be expected, at least, to have received the most advanced methods of child-caring overall in the world at this time—considering DeMause’s theory—since they are the most recent progeny of the Western world!

Indeed, if these cannot be considered products of the helping mode, who can be? In order for Mayr and Boelderl to dispute this and claim they were exceptions to the rule and were raised under intrusive and socializing modes, they would have had to do a study demonstrating this, or at least cite one done. And this they do not do.

13. Michael D. Adzema, “Reunion With the Positive (Self), Part 1: The Other Half of ‘The Cure.’” Primal Renaissance: The Journal of Primal Psychology 1(2): 72-85. Reprinted on the Primal Spirit site.

14. Arthur Janov, The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis. New York: Dell, 1970.

15. Ibid.

Continue with The Most Evolved Parenting … Boomers and Millennials … and The Cyclical Nature of History: Rebirthing Rituals, Part Four – I Know It’s Hard to Believe But We’ve Been Getting Saner

Return to Railing Against the Darkness: The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of Reason, Progress Requires Regress, and Healing Is Nothing if Not Messy

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