Elizabeth Noble is a pioneer in the fields of prenatal psychology and
physical therapy and has written a number of books on childbirth. If you
enjoyed reading Thomas Verny's The Secret Life of the Unborn Child,you
will enjoy Primal Connections. As with Dr. Verny's book the book's
thesis is that what you experience in the womb and in birth shapes your
emotional and medical problems for the rest of your life.
The author began her primal voyage during a vacation trip to Australia
where she met psychiatrist and primal therapist Graham Farrant and was
introduced to his theories of cellular consciousness. She returned to Australia
a year later to undergo the therapy.
Elizabeth Noble draws enthusiastically on the writings and insights
of many others in the field of pre and peri-natal psychology. From Buchheimer
to Winnicot and from deMause to Chamberlain. They are all mentioned, as
is the International Primal Association. The author describes in detail
her therapy at Graham Farrant's clinic in Melbourne.
Primal Connections contains
an interesting foreword and afterword by Drs. Ashley Montague and Graham
Farrant. There is a chapter on resources which includes a
listing of therapies, organizations and audio-visual material. The book
is not a good introduction to the primal process since it will be difficult
for non-primal persons to relate to it and even those in the primal process
who have not experienced birth work may find it somewhat esoteric. The author introduces many of the concepts of "cellular memory" beliefs of the late Graham Farrant.
Primal Connections: How our Experiences From Conception to Birth Influence our
Emotions, Behavior and Health, Elizabeth Noble. New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1993. 335pp. $12.00 (Paperback).
Reviewed by Richard Morrock
Primal therapist Arthur Janov once said that psychoanalysts had misread
Freud. Janov would be sad to see how Elizabeth Noble, a self-styled pre-natal psychologist, has misread his work. He might feel kinship with Freud.
Like Roger Woolger, who hypnotizes his patients into reliving past lives,
and John Mack, who believes his patients' tales of alien abduction,
Elizabeth Noble does little more than provide grist for the mill of the False
Memory Syndrome Foundation. How can the public be convinced that
memories of child abuse and incest could be valid when Noble argues that
our problems come from traumas experienced while we were sperm cells?
Her understanding of biology is limited. "A single cell like an amoeba, we
learned in high school, can exhibit learned behavior." Had she taken a college biology course, she would have found that the simplest life form able to
learn is the flatworm, which can barely remember how to run a T-shaped
maze after dozens of trials. Though the flatworm is far more complex than
a sperm cell, Noble would have us believe such cells without brains or spinal
cords can remember the experience of conception in detail.
She describes one person who 'felt himself as a struggling sperm, arriving close to death and being overwhelmed by an "omnipotent, emasculating egg. . . . One woman described her conception as taking in a sperm,
while having the feeling that there was a better one for her somewhere out
there for her.
It seems incredible that Noble does not realize that these are
symbolic truths/fantasies. These patients are expressing feelings about their
mother or husband through the medium of what is essentially a fairy tale
about their conception. Who could seriously believe that a microscopic
human egg was in any way 'omnipotent,' or that it could judge the relative merits of sperm cells that approached it?
Another of Noble's favorite fantasies pertains to the lost twin, slipping
down the vortex into oblivion during pregnancy. Now this does occasionally happen - perhaps in as many as 0.2% of all pregnancies. Noble
claims that twin loss during pregnancy is so common as to be a virtual
norm. She says that Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, and two of the four Beatles
are surviving twins: Presley's stillborn twin is well known, but there is no
evidence that this happened for the other three.
Noble endorses hypnotism, along with everything else, as a road to the
unconscious. She outlines methods of hypnotic induction to supposedly
recover memories of conception and birth. Yet, she seems unaware that
anyone who has had even cursory primal therapy is not capable of sinking
into a trance. As a former primal therapy patient I know this first-hand.
There is primal therapy and there is hypnotic fantasy tripping. Sadly,
Elizabeth Noble does not know the difference.
This book review is from the Summer, 1997 issue of The Journal of Psychohistory