Despite a deeply religious family upbringing and a religious educational background from grade school through college, I have been non-spiritual all of my life. I attend weekly religious services but lack religious faith. Over the years, my lack of spirituality had become even more ensconced as I began feeling my near-death in the birth canal trauma in primal therapy. About six months ago, I had written of my philosophy of morality and religion in an article entitled, On Bill Clinton, Jimmy Swaggart and Sin .
The trigger to the regressive feelings that I was dying during my birth was the diagnosis of a possible brain tumor. I did not have a tumor, but the resultant fear of dying triggered a severe depression and an eventual long series of primals about near death in the birth canal which alleviated my depression. The complete recounting is in On the Fear of Death: Dying In the Birth Canal. |
"God punishes us for what we can't imagine."
--Character in novelist Stephen King's, Duma Key
During a primal-type therapy week-end intensive near New
Orleans in October of 1999, after a particularly horrendous feeling of near death during birth and while feeling my mother's indifference to my pleas for help from her during my birth, I finally felt, with the therapist's and other's help, another one of the pieces of my traumatic birth.
Birth as Soul Murder
One day, about two month's earlier, I suddenly knew with a knowledge surpassing mere understanding, exactly what I would need to re-enact -- to "feel the feeling," more completely -- of the final phase of my birth. Accordingly, I asked two of the women participants at the intensive to simulate the pressure of the birth canal by holding me tightly between them with particular pressure applied to my chest.
I needed two women, two women I liked, who could apply the pressure needed to fulfill the regressive scenario. When the time was right, during the primal feeling, the therapist was to act as midwife (I would tell her when) and pull me out of their tight embrace and I would be born.
For the past year-and-a-half, at home, about twice each week, these primals of near-dying in the birth canal had been connecting consistently between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. When that time arrived during the second day of the intensive therapy week-end, the feeling once again connected on time. Had that been the time of my actual birth? I don't know, but on that day I found that the planned tableau of simulation of being stuck in the birth canal worked even better than I had hoped. I knew exactly what was needed to re-enact that phase of my birth, since at home the mere fantasizing of this scene, with that same cast of characters, had already begun to trigger birth feelings.
I also knew that I had felt half-dead when born after enduring the horrendous physical and emotional pain of being stuck in the birth canal and of coming close to death. As a toddler, I detested being touched when I was picked up after a fall. I would invariably lash out with anger and blows at my "rescuer." I had previously traced, in primals, the origins of this reaction. During my early childhood it had been a trigger of the unconscious memory of my physical condition immediately after birth. Who would want to be handled after being run-through a meat grinder? Rest and recuperation from the ordeal was what I needed -- not touch! Touch would only remind me of the suffering which had just ended.
While in the pressuring and restraining hold of my two friends, I had, in the primal, pleaded with my mother to help me get out of my painful predicament. As a fetus, during this last phase of my birth, I knew I was dying and when my pleas for help were not responded to, instead of wanting help from her to live, I wanted help from her to die! -- anything to stop my torment!
During the feeling I was angry with my mother for her seeming indifference to my suffering -- to her not heeding my frantic calls for deliverance from unbearable pain. (I know, of course, that she also wanted the ordeal of delivery to be over; I am simply reporting my feelings during the primal feeling.) Before my actual expulsion, I either became dissociated or lost consciousness. I "came to" during the external rotation which is described in Between the Mattress and the Box Spring
Sojourn in and Deliverance from God's Very Own Special Concentration Camp
'If, in the womb, or later, dependency on others has proved too risky, especially in situations so intimate that it is not possible to get away from them, the recoil
into non-attachment resists any call back into closeness and dependency.
This applies to God as much as anyone. This call to trust, in depth, the
steadfast love and reliable supplies that are "supposed" to come
from God, is felt to be particularly menacing if the primal
experience was of a bad maternal input which had an
overwhelmingly evil power of invasion."
-- Frank Lake, M.D. in Studies in Constricted Confusion, p. T8
"God is a concept by which we measure our pain."
-- John Lennon
That day at the intensive workshop, after the "midwife" had dutifully pulled me out of the "birth canal," I immediately began raging and cursing God for His indifference to me and to all those suffering in the world, especially the innocent ones -- the infants and children. This was something I had never experienced before!
I started cursing God by the names He is called in the major religions of the world. I began a blasphemous litany: "God Damn You, God," "God Damn You, Christ," "God Damn you, Jehovah." "I Hate You, Allah." I sent them all to hell where I had just been. I wanted God to suffer as much I had suffered.
I wanted to include all forms which God might have assumed. I did not want to leave unpunished the deities of any of the world's religions! My and others' sufferings somehow had to be vindicated, so all forms of God incarnate had to be condemned to suffer because of what I and others had suffered. I had volunteered to be the spokesman of all those hurting and to repay in kind the torment we had received. I wanted to be the avenger for all of the world's tortured humanity; those who lived now, those who had ever lived and who would live in the future!
The therapist encouraged me to go even deeper into those rageful, despairing feelings. I was reluctant to fully express my hatred of God after being "born," but with her support I was able to descend even deeper into my fury and wrath at God. The therapist told the participants at the primal intensive that I had needed to get out those unfelt feelings of anger towards God and feel them deeply. In time, she said, I would lose the blocks to my spirituality, as I had arrived at, and had begun to feel their origins. One of the participants remarked afterwards that she had felt scared during my tirade.
A few weeks after the intensive, while driving in my hometown, I again became furious at
God. I continued the feeling on my living room floor. During the primal, I became insightful as the anger towards God unexpectedly crossed over to my mother for not helping me get out of the torment of my birth process. I then knew and understood that in my unconscious mind my mother equaled God and that God equaled my mother! The symbolism was perfect. My mother was not hearing my pleas for help and, as a fetus, I had concluded that she was indifferent to my cries for help. This was the image I had always had of God -- uncaring and indifferent -- and an image which had intensified during the past few years.
Prior to this particular primal feeling, I had had no idea that this interpretation, made in a fetal state, was the origin of my conception of God, my philosophy of religion and my lack of spirituality. During the primal feeling I knew with certainty that this was true -- that my entire theodicy of God had been based on those few seconds or minutes of conditioning during my birth, while in a near-death state.
Another week went by, and during another birth primal, to intensify the primal feeling, I had, appropriately enough, used the music from Martin Scorcese's film, "The Last Temptation of Christ." The intense dramatic electronic music which accompanied scenes in the movie of Christ's crucifixion, last sufferings and death, helped propel me into the primal feelings of my first sufferings and near-death: "I Hate You God," "Go to Hell, God," "God Damn you, God," and "You Hurt Me." I doubled over in pain as my stomach felt as though it had been kicked. The stomach pain was a defense and instantly shutdown the ascending feeling. My mind had decided that I had felt enough for now.
The following week, during another primal, I again became angry at my mother and screamed, "I'm Dying, Help Me Mom!" However, this time, with one track of my mind, I intentionally began directing the feeling toward God instead of toward my mother. The newly placed object of my anger felt very appropriate, as I went back and forth between ranting and raging at God and then at my mother. I was not surprised that the feeling directed towards either was totally appropriate.
To my unconscious mind each had symbolized the other. In the primal, I had made a conscious effort to use the word "God" instead of "Mom," but that interjection did not stop the feeling, but rather intensified it, so I continued to interweave, "I Hate You, Mom" with "I Hate You, God." Those angry words had unlocked floods of insights -- of understandings of my life philosophy, my personality, and how and why my ideas of God had been formed.
It was and is difficult to accept the reality that only this one trauma, even though very early and very severe, was to become the cause of my lack of religious and spiritual feelings for the next six decades of my life.
And yet, all of my conscious memories of my mother are happy ones. It is only when I am in a primal state of infancy or in birth feelings that hurt from her is perceived and believed. [For an example of how denial can intrude into even a therapist-supported session, [see my article A Primal Session ]
At one time I believed that the origins of guilt, fear and other negative emotions were the result of indoctrination by the pervasive melancholy and gloomy theology and rituals of my Catholic faith. The Way of the Cross with its emphasis on the death and sufferings of Christ is one such powerful evocative devotion.
Nonetheless, I have found that such morbid religious rites are not the origin of the neuroses and psychoses. For most of us their fundamental beginnings lay elsewhere -- specifically in the torments of the birth canal, sometimes during our gestation and in our early infancy.
Religion is almost never the source of mental illness. [Also see my article on guilt ]. Our mind simply uses the sorrowful gothic images with which it is most familiar to construct symbolic representations of suffering and torment. It happens that the Christian religion, as do other religions, have an abundant supply of these symbols and for that reason we unintentially facilitate their use by our subconscious minds by projecting the elements of early life traumas onto familiar religious images. We especially project our pre- and peri-natal impressions of our caregivers, whether they are true or false, unto the Deity.
Clinical Psychologist, Daniel W. Miller, Ph. D. weighs:
"One may question whether the terror the adult experiences in going through a birth primal is experienced at all by the preborn infant, and there is no simple answer.
Nevertheless, it appears safe to say from innumerable experiences with persons of all ages that the biological patterns that are established by the withdrawal or threat of life support system remain very intact and are recoverable in fairly much pristine form as much as fifty and sixty years later.
Obviously, a word like "terror" is an adult form of identification which is applied later to birth's biologically patterned exprience. The word "death" is likewise an adult way of identifying a response to a physiological event, the two together giving "terror of death" a not uncommon ego signification.
The preborn of course does not have the words, it only has the biological patternings which eventually give rise to the words."
-- From Birth, Death and Organic Energy in the IPA Journal, Primal Community, www.//primal-page.com/birth-death2.htm
The concept of God's concentration camp was originally used by Randall Jarrell in referring to children growing up in abusive households. The term soul murder was first used in a German court in 1832 and later by Morton Schatzman in his book Soul Murder: Persecution in the Family. It is perhaps best known from psychiatrist Leonard Shengold's books, Soul Murder (1989) and Soul Murder Revisited: The Effects of Child Abuse and Deprivation (1999) [Ref. op.cit.., (1999), p. 2.]