2. Polarities for Survival|
While floating tranquilly in this environment something unexpected and unpredictable occurs. A process begins with powerful drives emanating from genetic-biological clocks within. (This is the same genetic clock that unfolds other behaviors essential for the continuation of life which become the basis for an independent, free life-support system such as breathing, sitting up, walking, talking, puberty and sexuality.)
A second set of drives come from the mother whose own intrauterine timetable has signified the end of the pregnancy period has arrived and expulsion is necessary. These two sets of timetables may not be exactly simultaneous in onset as for example false labor and very lengthy labors indicating one of the two is in opposition.
When the two coincide, the preborn child is subjected to acting on the basis of both these uncontrollable physiological inputs. Against anything it might want, the preborn is compelled to seek out a path and to move down the birth canal. It is a rude way to leave the safety of the womb and it seems that much adult behavior afterwards is a result of seeking out ways to reincarnate the womb as far as possible, with the people in meditation leading the way. This is not all that meditation can do, but it seems to be the desired end-goal of the most dedicated par-ticipants.
It is worthwhile to clarify the contrasting polarities of existence in the womb and during the birth process; but first let us remind ourselves that there is another polarity in this situation that must be given its due recognition, and this is the input toward the total behaviors in the situation coming from the Organic Energy of the preborn child with its derivative Drive to Function, and its incipient Organic Self. The latter, the Organic Self, beginning at this point, later becomes the interface between (and the source of continued connection for) physiological states and emotional states.
The somatopsychic system in turn leads through appropriate connecting pathways to characterological and psychological aspects of the person. The Organic Self may become disconnected from the characterological person due to heavily defensive psychological conditions but in the healthy person it is the flow of liveliness, good feeling and centeredness which is familiar and desirable.
It's necessary now to clarify the state of affairs that exists at the onset of the birth process. It is unquestionably complicated and it is very diffi-cult to do the situation justice. Even with the complexity described here there are undoubtedly a number of important factors which have not been introduced. However, for comprehensi-bility's sake, we will not attempt to further elaborate at this point.
This would be a structural sketch of the situation at the onset of birth as we have described it up to now:
Here in the birth process, the preborn infant is propelled into a sense of things happening in an environment surrounding it which gives it the first awareness of self and skin boundaries within being affected by events external to it. This may be the first time a need arises to deal with a reality of the external environment and at this junction in its life it may begin to institute defense systems to protect the biololgical self.
The statements that defenses are instituted as early as birth is undoubtedly provocative but justifiable. during birth primals, people go into withdrawl states and seem to purposefully cut off breathing to prevent feeling further onslaughts, which backfire because they approach close to death and, panic-stricken, are forced out of the withdrawal. Other people defend by total resistance, rejecting and refusing everything going on through aggression and fighting.
No matter how the defense manifests itself, there seems to come a point where death first is felt as a terrifying prospect and then is accepted as if it's inevitable which then releases the person from the death-like state and the birth process is actively resumed often with more freedom and success than before. It seems as if the first experience after the awareness, biologically, of life is the biological awareness of death. When this conflict is resolved and the person finally experi-ences the birth itself, a feeling of total relaxation, quiet pleasure, awareness of self in the cosmos on a large scale very often occurs. Whether this condition is a transcendental one or not isn't up for a discussion at this point.
To return to our dynamically-oriented description of the structures involved and created by the process of birth, it is clear that at first, survival was a condition of pure pleasure with security, and when the preborn infant is thrust into the birth process the pleasure is withdrawn when conditions are altered to their opposites. Survival is equated with pleasure initially and forms a survival-pleasure bond. Survival becomes threatened when birth begins, at which point pleasurable responses are no longer appropriate and the survival-pleasure bond becomes split off and separated into two separate functions.
To cope with the threat to survival, the Drive to Function demands more aggressive, self-initiated maneuvers specific to the changing demands of the situation. The preborn must develop or create survival-defense behaviors out of the genetic and physiologic capacities and givens with which he is biologically endowed. Physiological patterns are then cathected in the unmylenated sheath of the nervous system that will now help support the organism's life and these first patterns of biological defense are taken part of the Drive to Function with energy sources that remain patterned on the birth process right into later life with no awareness of the sources until evoked by the somato-psychic forms of therapy.
If, unfortunately, the post-natal mothering care is inadequate or hostile, the traumatic experiences of birth will become reinforced and possibly even amplified, setting the base for severe behavior problems and a later psychosis. It's possible too, that with adequately loving post-natal care, there may be extinction of early trauma to some degree since biological patternings too can change.
When early biologically rooted emotional experiences are reached, they can be effected in life experiences as well as in therapy. However, birth traumas are resistant to change since they take place under highly impacted conditions. The preborn is under enormous pressure from powerful energies that bombard it with incredible concentration in a relative brief time period so the effects are just less than durable.
with the child into birth itself as a survival-defense bond. "The Enemy" (and in some instances, a case may be made out for the beginning of what we call paranoia during birth) is then recognizable as anything or anyone that triggers these first physiological patterns, or any situation that makes their reinforcement necessary.
What is the first kind of awareness of "mother" in all this? Birth primals: tend to indicate that there is an awareness of the "other" person who is later called "mother" during the course down the birth canal. There is the awareness of her presence or of the lack of it; of the quality of her support psychobiologically, or the lack of it; of the creation of toxic or secure conditions in the preborn environment.
From this we can assume that just as the first strong positive loving cathexis which we call symbiosis occurs during the survival-pleasure bond in the womb, so too, the first strong negative cathexis connected with withdrawalfrom the pleasure-survival condition and changed to defense-survival is associated with the mother. Shortly after birth when the infant is being nursed, bathed, fed, touched and given loving care, the pleasure-survival returns to the mother and the defense-survival bond is repressed. However, the latter remains a
Abstracting several crucial elements from the Polarity Tables above, the central factors are:
Even as adults we fluctuate between wanting symbiosis wherein appears to lie extremely loving pleasure and terrors of various irrational (as well as reality oriented) kinds that are kin to death. Becker's call for awareness of the terror of death and the consequences of its denial is extremely well taken, but his hopeless conclusion hardly seems necessary.
The conflicts during the years of development take the form of fluctuation between wanting to join and be close to others, avoiding threatening situations, wanting more pleasurable and leisure activities and wanting states of harmony with ourselves, with others and with the universe.
These needs are continually reacted to with demands that we become independent, feel our pains and fears rather than hide from them, deal purposefully, realistically and forcefully with the others in our environment and separate from those who interfere with our autonomy and to face the ultimate terror we have of death. In between is the Organic Energy and its Drive to Function which attempts to keep us on a path of conflict resolution and self-fulfillment which will essentially promote the interests of self growth and provide developmental needs.
There is no point in placing a value judgement on one polarity or the other. Neurotic difficulty arises when one attempts to deny one polarity and dedicate oneself entirely to the enhancement of either of the others. We all know people who attempt unreservedly to put all their energy into Pleasurable activities, others who concentrate on Function and Work activities and still others who apparently dedicate themselves to the enhancement of anguish or to Destruction in its various forms. In any of these persons there is an easily recognized imbalance which takes its final toll in disease of physiological as well as psychological capacities.
Each of these three polarities reflects an important and legitimate somatopsychic condition that normally has to be experienced at various recurring times and in various ways during the course of a lifetime. Any attempt to repress one or the other polarity by creating defenses which will make it completely unconscious places an energy burden on either one or both of the others. Such overloading destroys the homeostatic balance with which a person functions optimally. The repressed polarity becomes an unfinished Gestalt (Perls) which makes itself felt through disguised forms in the creation of unconscious affects which influence behavior.
Problems beginning with birth trauma may lie dormant for a long time and only become evident in later disturbances in self concept or in behavior (Rank, Grof) when semantic forms of expression are available. Somatic therapies that facilitate and accept expression of all three polarities through opening physiological blocks which return a person to biologically patterned emotions help a person regain somatopsychic homeostasis. Fixations to dysfunctional bonding can be opened up and abreacted allowing the energy to flow into one of the other polarities' where it has been missing or inadequately es-tablished. Physical and emotional diseases can then be altered for the better or in some instances entirely eliminated.
From the Spring/Summer 1978, Primal Community, a journal of the International Primal Association - Reproduced with permission.