Abstract: This article examines the purported quicker resolution of early traumas in faith based and secular theophostic facilitation compared with primal-oriented psychotherapies and attempts to find an explanation for these results. The author maintains that theophostics intentially or unintentially fails to deal with birth trauma as do some other primal-based therapies . The position of psychologist Arthur Janov, concerning such avoidance of feeling one's prototyptic traumas which occur at the very beginning of life is examined. Both the negative and positive implications of avoiding traumas dealing with first line pain in primal type therapies are discussed. A listing of some typical peri-natal traumas is made. The existence of a correlation between coming close to death during birth and later suicidality is acknowledged.
"I believe that there is nothing in theophostic facilitation - no techniques, no exhortations,
no prayers, no encouragements, no therapist training, and no special knowledge of the
facilitator, which accounts for its purported more rapid results than primal-oriented psychotherapies. I believe that the continual and persistent working through
of birth trauma as occurs in the typical primal-oriented types therapy,
but which does not occur in theophostics, is the only factor which
accounts for theophostics supposed more speedy results."
"There are many therapies whose models also acknowledge that the most important source of
psychopathology is the trauma of birth yet one will search in vain in the literature
or websites of Theophostic theoreticians for references about the significance
of pre- and peri-natal trauma."
It has always been a puzzle how, in some forms of regression therapy, therapists are seemingly able to scoop out the pain from underneath their client's defenses and seemingly wrap up their therapy in just a few sessions. Perhaps that is because my self primalling efforts were not like that. I've witnessed, in group sessions, how some clients simply discontinue their regressive therapy and seemingly do not endure the discomfort and suffering of repressed birth and before pain pressing for connection and release. (An altogether different topic, which may be discussed later, is a comparison of the speed of the client's initial breakthrough or initial re-living of an early trauma in primal-oriented as compared with theophostic facilitation.)
After those few sessions these select ones are seemingly cured from what drove them into the therapy and do not have unwelcomed primal tension interfering with and detracting from their enjoyment of life. What is different about this class of client patients? It is obvious they have less trauma or stronger defenses. But is it sometimes more than that? Over the past few years I've been putting in an inordinate amount of time thinking about these questions.
And then I learned about a therapy called theophostic prayer ministry1 (TPM) which has claimed a remarkable and consistent speed of "cure." At first I theorized that it was the combination of religion with regression therapy which accounted for the ease and speed of "cure." - that it was the element of religious mysticism which worked its magic.2 ( Here is a book review which distinguishes theophostic facilitation from primal-oriented therapies. )3
Upon learning that some practitioners were having purported extraordinary results even without prayer, I once again returned to theorizing about the element(s) in TPM which permits such fast healing. In primal-oriented therapy many traumas were seemingly resolved with just a few regressions - even some birth traumas, were dispatched with speed. But some traumas took hundreds of primal relivings, other took thousands - many thousands of regressions. Perhaps, the lessened amount of therapy which TPM clients required, explained the rapidity of their "cure." Perhaps, theophostics clients just did not have as much psychopathology as those who are attracted to primal.
This article is the result of my subsequent ruminations and tentative conclusions as to why theophostics is able to have such rapid results. Psychiatrist Karl Lehman4 a prolific author and theoretician with prayer based theophostics, acknowledges that its techniques can be used as a form of purely secular psychotherapy.
Theophostic clients experiencing the benefits of either form of therapy seemingly find what they are looking for and often leave their first facilitated session with both symptom relief and connected insights, the latter, typically one of the accompaniments of a valid regression. In just a few sessions or weeks, or in some cases, after a few months, their loose strings having been bundled, tied and clipped they seemingly were living happily ever afterwards. Is it just a question of TPM clients having less overall trauma and minimal birth trauma? Or were they exposed to superior therapy techniques in TPM? Perhaps, is it possible that these clients have more rigid defenses? These explanations are all unlikely.
I had observed it many times in more typically primal therapy group sessions, - how some who were to go to extraordinary depths of feeling (including birth and before) were able to easily discontinue private and group primal-oriented therapy sessions. They seemed to have no need to continue feeling their uncovered pain or uncovering other pains. These clients had originally entered therapy feeling miserable, as they recounted to group members what had triggered their misery. But soon thereafter, they had discontinued therapy sessions and claimed to be feeling fine. Had they or their therapists known something I didn't know?
I've always wanted to make a survey of all those who have been in a regressive type therapy. The question I would ask is, "How many sessions/regressions did you have and why did you discontinue therapy?" Do you feel cured? What I really would like to know is, "Are you still dipping into your pool of pain, and if not, why not? Then further answering my own question - Is it because your primals just quit happening and that you are feeling well and feel no need to continue feeling those and other memories? Did you attempt to discontinue the primals, or was that simply something that happened? Do you regret that you are no longer primaling?
Are those who just quit "feeling their pain" do so because there is no longer any pain pressing for release? Had these week-end pain warriors truly completed feeling enough of their repressed memories? It is even possible that they intentionally discontinued feeling? Perhaps, they just somehow stuffed whatever was coming up and then their defenses somehow got re-established? I'd like to know how to do that! I never was able to just quit the process. With or without a therapist the feelings continued to present themselves for resolution even though having a therapist was much more efficient. I have no way of knowing how others experienced their primal-oriented therapy. I only have the experience with my own therapy.
TPM began during the 1990s. It had since then been exclusively a Christian regression therapy and prayer ministry and had been growing rapidly as there are ministers or facilitators in many countries. As mentioned, I had originally theorized that its regressions included inducements to spiritual fervor with perhaps a tad of mysticism which explained its extraordinary results. However, I have long since discarded that particular theory of why it seemingly works so well. Needing to know what their therapists were doing differently from regular primal therapy, I had a number of individual TPM sessions. They had the look and feel of a regular primal-oriented therapy session.
Christian theophostic regression therapy seemed to be as different from the primal therapy with which I was familiar, as I imagine, is an appendectomy performed by a surgeon who prayers before the procedure compared to. . . well, as compared to one who offers no prayers. In other words there were no perceptible essential differences. I did like the way the TPM facilitator mirrored back to me each word, phrase and sentence I spoke. It helped me to know that I was being heard and understood. This seemed to intensify my regressive feelings. But, other than the prayers by the facilitator, that was the only perceived difference. The prayers had no effect - I am neither religious nor spiritual. These insignificant differences hardly accounts for the almost instantaneous healings I have heard that TPM can produce.
The personal story of my encounter with mostly self-primal therapy had been somewhat different from the history of most clients I had known. Was the practically continuous primaling I experienced the result of my having more and deeper trauma than is typical of those in theophostic facilitation?
Early in my therapy, I sensed that I was making rapid progress, as both medications and symptoms were being drastically reduced as I began my self-primal therapy. After a month or so of primaling, I no longer was bothered by heretofore perennially congested nasal sinuses. In five months my major symptom of psychosomatic duodenal (stomach) pains were almost completely gone; I was feeling so much better that I believed I would be completely cured in just a few more months of primal-type self-therapy. I just knew I would be home for Christmas! But hopefulness was to be become disillusionment, as all was not well.
After the following Christmas, I had not yet arrived. Even after decades of Christmases pass, and to come, I still was not home - and would not be home - home free of symptoms. After about five months of feeling better and better, I had begun to feel worse and worse. Unbeknown to me the slow return of tension and anxiety was my body's intimating that birth feelings were getting ready to descend en masse. And in a few more months, they did begin. Because of the suffering, I had to leave work early that day - the early departure from work would occasionally have to be repeated in the future.
Feeling my birth pain changed everything in therapy. I felt I had hit a brick wall. It was not that I was not making progress as I was feeling many different elements of the birth process. I felt that an invisible being had grabbed me and started shaking me, physically forcing me to contort and strain my body in ways which just would not stop. However, the gains I had made in self primalling had not been lost. Stomach pains and other symptoms had not returned and were not to return; colitis took nine years to resolve, hypertension and excessive intraocular pressure, almost thirty years, but despite three decades of experiencing the primal process in all of its incarnations, I still remain a confirmed insominac.
Birth regressions do not seem to happen often to those in theophostics, and when they do, they don't seem to have much of a life. Perhaps, my own trauma history made the difference, or is it that theophostics is seemingly rapid because its techniques keep a person from being opened up to a continuous flood of birth feelings?
Typically in primal when that stage is reached a person loses his state of well being until his birth traumas are felt and integrated. This can take a long, long time. Janov writes, "I am not sure if anyone can ever feel all of his first-line pain, because one must visit again and again feelings of near death."5
Five months after beginning my primal process, my honeymoon period had ended as my brain began laying the gestational foundations for the birth primals which were to come. I was beginning to feel worse and worse. I felt the irony of the situation in that nine months after having begun primalling, I had descended into non stop birth feelings.
I had not expected that to happen since I had been assured by family members that my birth had been a normal one. I had asked about my birth after I began the primal process, knowing that reliving one's birth could become a prominent feature of the therapy. How prominent it might be, I had no way of knowing. The subsequent decades of birth primals would both disturb my equanimity as well as force me to spend an inordinate amount of time on the floor reliving many different aspects of my birth. I had become a captive of my birth trauma. My body's insistence on reliving its store of experience about my birth became more and more insistently powerful and demanded that I submit. If I did not acquiesce to its planned physicality of movements and strainings, and other such unseemly contortions, tension would become almost unbearable. I was concerned about how many hours of daily tribute my now unrepressing birth memories would ultimately exact. I wondered if I could continue to be gainfully employed during the processing of the flood of birth material which was presenting itself almost daily.
"prototypic, adj. An original type, form, or instance serving as a basis or standard for later stages." -- http://dictionary.reference.com/
Dr. Arthur Janov, in his most recent book, Primal Healing (2007), addresses the issue of avoiding and not feeling one's birth pain, which for most contains their prototypic trauma. He writes, "It is sometimes possible to get relief by delving only into later childhood traumas, leaving the prototype in place. . . . If one is happy with having no symptoms, then so be it." 6 He covers this topic in greater detail in his new internet blog. (See article on his blog, 'On Curing a Symptom').
It seems to be almost impossible to change the behavior which is being pushed by early prototypic trauma. We act out its script as though we are marionettes. It belies the truism that man has free will as often we cannot take advantage of what we have learned.
Janov had earlier written about how the childhood aspects of the act-out, although felt, "cannot be fully resolved until the basis for it all, lying deep and remote in the unconscious is resolved. . . . If only later traumas are felt and resolved it will just take a greater stimulus to set it off." It is only when the very deepest traumas are resolved that we can say that neurosis is no longer present. The act-out or symptom "was formed in response to a near-death event." (my emphasis) For that reason, Janov feels, we cannot undo neurosis by ignoring very early near-death events. The only exception to this scenario, he believed, would be another earlier life threatening event which would be prepotent by resulting in a different kind of response. This would release or erase the imprint of the previously repressed material.7
Still earlier, in Primal Man, The New Consciousness (1975), concerning the resolution of somatoform symptoms, Dr. Janov had written:
It is possible to resolve much of second-line Pain and find oneself devoid of some somatic symptoms, but that does not mean that the neurosis has been cured. Rather, the process of Primaling continues, perhaps for years, until most of the first-line traumas have been reexperienced. We would expect that with the resolution of the major second-line Pains the symptoms of the body wall would be removed, leaving intact first-line symptoms such as asthma and colitis, however. . . If the traumas were exceptionally severe the person might be stuck for a very long time on this level. (my emphasis) . . . Neurotics with psychosomatic ailments are in a constant state characterized by unconnected first-line primal pain. 8
Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof also believes that even severe second line traumas are not the origin of psychosomatic disease. ( Janov uses, but Grof doesn't use the "line" phrases which refer to the predominant brain source of the repressed material being released during a regression. The phases refer to Paul MacLean's triune brain system ). Grof believes that the traumas which occur after birth simply are not of sufficient severity to ". . . account for the development of emotional disorders. This is also true, even to a much greater extent, for psychosomatic symptoms and disorders." 9 He believes that birth trauma, ". . . is the most profound trauma of our life and an event of paramount psychospiritual importance."10
Others who have also felt postbirth traumas and perhaps luckily avoided feeling a lot of birth pain, such as those in theophostic therapy, seem to remain in the honeymoon phase of therapy. There you have it - the gist of why I believe that TPM seemingly works more rapidly than does primal ! The clients in theophostics do not have access to their birth pains on a consistent enough basis to permanently lower the defenses encasing those traumas.
Perhaps theophostic facilitation sessions are discontinued before emerging birth begins to decrease their client's comfort and well-being, or perhaps the prayers offered during the theophostic session defend against the birth and intra-uterine on a consistent basis. Prayer can effectively be used as a defense against suffering our pain. As in TPM, there is a time in primal-oriented therapy when the client feels very well. This is after some of their childhood traumas have been felt. It is a time of jubilation; but, remember, it is also the time before birth material begins to descend in a continuing flood which, for some of us, cannot be shut off.
I don't mean a birth primal, here and two weeks later, another. Rather, I am referring to a series of thematic material, the feeling of which may continue for many months, years and even decades and which, during some phases, can occur on a daily basis. One day I primaled for seven hours! (This is not a record as I have read of cases when feelings lasted even longer.) Perhaps, if the therapy is aborted or somehow controlled, after minor traumas have been processed, but before birth trauma feelings begin, then the client may continue to remain symptom free, or with greatly reduced symptoms or act-outs. (It would also depend on whether or not one's second-line pains have first-line components.)
I believe that this may be the experience of the theophostic client and may account for the speedy positive effects of the therapy. I repeat once again that the avoidance of a consistent working through of pre- and peri-natal material may account for TPM's purported rapidity of cure.
The continual and persistent working through of birth trauma as occurs in the typical primal-oriented types of therapy, but which does not occur in theophostics is, I believe, the predominant factor which explains theophostics supposed more speedy results.
Looking back to the early part of my therapy, when I had processed some childhood trauma and when my prototypic pain of birth was still being felt, my life had become almost blissful. So long as the defenses around my birth traumas had not been lowered, I continued to feel fine; indeed I was feeling better and better as more childhood and infancy feelings were being processed. But even when prototypic defenses had not yet been breached, when birth trauma seepage had began disturbing my tranquility, their full potential for disrupting my life was becoming evident.
Note: This avoidance can often be completely unconscious on the part of the therapist as well as the client. It is no surprise that even in primal-oriented therapy, patients usually do not engage their birth material unless their therapist has felt their own birth material. You ask them if their clients have birth primals. If they reply "no" or "seldom" you can be sure that the therapist has little or no access to this part of their own biographical history.
Although theophostic clients may occasionally visit their birth material, they do not do so to a degree which would persistently and successfully reduce their first-line defense levels. I have not found in the TPM literature any material about birth regressions and can only conclude that its lack of inclusion is due to its being considered of little importance to the present or future psychopathology of its clients. My impression is that the occasional birth reliving which occurs during the TPM facilitator's watch is considered to be a novelty - an interesting and curious occurrence of altogether inconsequential significance.
Exactly what is operational on the part of the therapist which keeps birth material from continually pressing for connection and eventually full connection and beginnings of resolution? Other than prayer, a theoretical study of unconscious factors of therapists which could keep their patients from feeling their birth traumas would be apropos.
Birth and intrauterine regressions comprise a very broad range of material to process. Each particular pre- and peri-natal trauma can take many hours to resolve. Going from being an aquatic creature to an independent air breathing one involves adjustments to many systems. As a developing fetus much can go wrong.
Because of its nature, the birth process has the potential for causing a large number of different traumas, both physical and emotional. Some experiences are not traumatic but nonetheless encoded/remembered by our body. A physical problem of fit between the fetus and the size of the mother's pelvis opening is well known. Developmental psychologist, Aletha J. Solter, believes that, in becoming upright, the female of our species, could not have had a larger pelvic opening or there would be a spillage of the viscera due to gravity. Evolution, has seemingly assured birth trauma.11 Some of my own physical birth trauma relivings have included:
Difficulty in beginning the breathing process including suffocation, asthma, anoxia, coughing, choking and spitting up large quantities of mucous; guttural throat sounds; neck torsion pressure and internal rotation12, facial strainings, facial pressure, including jaw, cheek bones, gums and head pain due to pressure and molding, pressure involving the chest and ribcage, lower and upper back; hands turned inward like flippers, arms twisting of torso; twisting of legs, pressure on legs; shoulder blades compression; full body spasms, mild seizures and contractions, convulsions and vibrations; insistent full body inversions against and alongside a wall13, painful muscular strainings of the chest region, neck region, jaw muscles, facial muscles, stomach and buttock muscles. profuse body perspiration, straining and pressuring of neck region, jaw muscles, facial muscles, stomach and buttock muscles; guttural throat sounds, droolings; shakings; tremblings; head standing (to simulate head pressure against the cervix); head pushing; excessively flowing saliva; wailings, etc. I would also add here re-experiencing the minor hurt of the burning of my eyes probably due to use of silver nitrate solution by the delivering physician. The later item was only felt once or twice, the remainder of relivings, innumerable times.14
Continuing the earlier material from Dr. Janov's most recent book Primal Healing, he explains: "If the threshold for symptoms is raised by this approach,
( i.e., typically not feeling severe birth trauma - my comment ) all the better. There will be no overt symptoms but the tendency is still there." Not feeling the birth components of one's pain would seem to be a reasonable compromise. But, unfortunately those who begin feeling their prototypic pain often have no choice but to continue following the feeling train to its conclusion - oftentimes for many years into the future. This may become so as one's primal pain can demand expression and cannot be ignored expect by experiencing severe symptoms.16
An example of this would be the case of an individual whose trauma history includes both a near drowning in a swimming pool at age 8 and also suffered a near drowning from amniotic fluid during birth. For complete resolution, the person would need to feel not only the suffocation of his near drowning experience in the swimming pool, but also the near drowning trauma during birth. The two traumas might have the same feeling content but do not compare in severity because of the age differential.
The birth aspects of the drowning might have to be felt many, many times for complete resolution. The feeling of the second line aspects of the suffocation experience of the childhood experience would require many fewer reliving but would not resolve its first line aspects which derived from birth. First-line pain is invariably severe and often deals with life and death issues. Even though the near death by drowning years later also may involve life and death issues it is easier to access and is easier to resolve than the traumas at and near birth. During the lowering of one's defenses during sessions of feeling the first-line pain of fetal drowning, the suffering of this hypothetical patient might get worse before it would become better. Likewise, the rape of an infant would be more traumatic than would the rape of an child which, in turn, would be much more traumatic than that of an adult.
Everyone with whom I inquired as to whether my birth was traumatic, informed me that it had been easy, so I had assumed I would not be having birth primals or perhaps relatively few of them. That only demonstrates that what the birthing baby really experiences is not what the mother, family and attending physician believe what happened.
If my primaling had stopped, or at least had not descended into birth material, I would obviously have had fewer symptoms. Typically, access to birth material does not begin until one has been in therapy for about one year. This would mean that dozens of regressions typically occur before birth material begins to present for resolution. However, many never descend into what is their "prototypic trauma" and thus are able to discontinue primal therapy after their initial successful foray into eliminating their repressed pain. My understanding is that this is what is more typical at Vivian Janov's Primal Institute in Santa Monica, California -- not to be confused with Arthur Janov's Primal Center in Venice, California. 15
Becoming anxious while waiting is a common symptom for many and it usually reflects a prototypic trauma of birth17. Janov believes that If we deal with only the later childhood elements which contributed to this problem, the problem will not be fully resolved. He uses as an example, ". . . the need to go home after being in boarding school . . . " the imperative need will not be eliminated, even though some of its more minor issues may have been felt. He explains: "What gives waiting its life-and-death urgency is the birth trauma, which indeed was a case of life and death." You've got to feel the prototype, not just once but many times in order to resolve it. Unless you do, the later hurts continue to resonate in one's brain and in one's life.18
As mentioned, I would have been happy "with having no symptoms" but never knew how to keep the early material at bay so as to realize that state. Perhaps it was due to my having had poor defenses. When our defenses around a particular feeling have been lowered, one feels the earlier trauma deeply as we resonate with the original repressed material. As mentioned earlier, prayer can hold back or defend against one's access to this material
Like many others, once I started primalling, I could not find the off switch. Indeed, at first, I did not want to find it, although accessing my birth pains oftentimes had unduly interfered with "living" my life. I had to plan my life around knowing that I would be feeling those earlier traumas at inopportune times, so I had to make sure that there was a place and a time to feel any material which would arise and demand connection and resolution.
Dr. Janov writes that our personality is especially shaped by the particular kinds of birth traumas we have experienced. Later, infantile and childhood hurts will reinforce those earliest traumas. Birth traumas and the traumas in our mother's womb, during fetal development and before we were preparing to be birthed, are almost always the most significant of the hurts we will suffer. That is why Janov believes ". . . that a decent birth is at least half the job of child rearing and may be equal to years of positive experiences with parents. He continues, "To put it in another way, a proper birth can buffer the effects of adverse experience later on, whereas an improper birth leaves one vulnerable to even the most benign events."
He further writes that he has "seen every possible combination and permutation of mental illness. I have seen what bad families can do, what orphanages and rejection can do, what rape and incest can do; and it is still my opinion that birth and pre-birth trauma are prepotent over almost any later kind of trauma. . . . What we will become is found in (our) birth matrix." 19, pps. 248-9.]
Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof believes that during the period when the cervix is not yet fully open, encompasses a time which can be one of the most horrendous experiences we can ever endure. Accompanied by tremendous physical and emotional pain, it can result in a lifelong pattern of claustrophobic feeling. The periodic compression of arteries due to contractions can also cause anoxia. It is a time when feelings of helplessness, and hopelessness are common. He writes, "Feelings of loneliness, guilt, the absurdity of life and existential despair reach metaphysical proportions. A person in this predicament often becomes convinced that this situation will never end and that there is absolutely no way out. An experiential triad characteristic for this state is a sense of dying, going crazy, and never coming back."20
Waiting as a Prototypic Reaction
"Death has become a preoccupation for the person because his whole system is truly occupied by that hidden memory of impending doom. It is possible that death (suicide) becomes fixed as a solution to any current agony because it is seen as the only way out; indeed, for the neonate struggling in the canal the only way to stop the agony was death."
-- Dr. Arthur Janov in Primal Man: The New Consciousness
"For most of us, delving deep into the dark pits of our
earliest memories means reexperiencing the complete and total
abject terror of death. And wouldn't you know it
that's where the biggest payoff is."
-- A patient, quoted in The Biology of Love by Dr. Arthur Janov
"Once the great pain of the prototype--the near-death experience around birth--has been
relived many, many times, the preoccupation with death as solution is . . . gone."
-- Dr. Arthur Janov in Why You Get Sick - How You Get Well
". . . I would guess that almost 100 percent of our patients
are confronted with suicidal feelings at one time
or another during [primal] therapy. . ."
-- Dr. Arthur Janov in Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience
The four quotations above, refer to the almost universal presence, at one time or other, in clients in primal therapy and other deep regressive therapies, of death obsession and suicidal feelings.
Why are such feelings not typical of clients in theophostic facilitation? I contend that it is for the same reason why their therapy is so speedy. It is because their clients do not return to birth consistently enough, and on an ongoing basis enough, to lower their defenses enough, to trigger their death in the birth canal type feelings.
Birth regressions should be happening very often to those undergoing theophostics. It should be happening as TPM has already been used with thousands of clients since the early nineties. These feelings are expected to occur when first-line prototypic feelings begin to be felt on a consistent basis, although some may feel these "death in the birth canal" feelings much sooner than others. Usually, those with the most severe symptoms will present with birth material earlier.
It might take many months or years of therapy, but theophostic clients should eventually be experiencing existential and suicidal feelings on a consistent basis, even if such feelings had never been felt before they entered therapy. The theophostic clients who felt such feelings before therapy had very severe pre- and peri-natal traumas and/or very porous defenses.
It is not only theoreticians in primal-oriented therapies who acknowledge the link between birth trauma and suicidal ideation. Other theorists, besides Janov and Grof21 who has emphasized this connection in his writings include British psychiatrist Frank Lake.22 There are many therapies whose models also acknowledge that the most important source of psychopathology is the trauma of birth yet one will search in vain in the literature or websites of Theophostic theoreticians for references to the significance of pre- and peri-natal trauma.
"People experiencing deep psychological regression with the use of these new techniques very rapidly move beyond the memories from childhood and infancy and reach the level in their psyche that carries the record of traumatic memory of biological birth. At this point, they encounter emotions and physical sensations of extreme intensity, often surpassing anything they previously considered humanly possible. The experiences originating on this level of the psyche represent a strange mixture of a shattering encounter with death and the struggle to be born."
-- Stanislav Grof, M.D., H. R. Giger and the Soul of the Twentieth Century
I never searched for a primal type therapy. The primals began as surprising spontaneous regressions to early childhood traumas. The rise of this material into consciousness had been made reachable by my being in a combination of transactional analysis and gestalt therapy. But, after twenty-five years of feeling all types of feelings, including a preponderance of birth material, I finally began feeling my first line prototypic material - which encompassed my reexperiencing death feelings, with a deep desire for fetal suicide during my birthing process. Over time, the length and depth of these inutero death/suicidal primals intensified.
Who would have believed that a fetus could possibly wish for its own annihilation? For that matter, who would have believed that an unborn baby could think? When the fetus is faced with the alternative of unbearable suffering, its choice, although completely automatic, becomes an easy one to make.
Because of rising degrees of anguish, my desperation escalated. I went from wanting to get out (to be born), to asking for help in getting out, then from wanting to die, and then to pleading for help to die, then finally to pleading to be killed. My adult ego state, in regressing to a fetal experience had obviously used later thought vocabulary to express what was originally in my mind as a birthing fetus.23
When I first began this phase of therapy, these fetal feelings of wanting to die could/would be felt and processed for only a few seconds at a time, as my body and mind could not tolerate that continued level of suffering. Slowly, over time, as the feelings became more tolerable, they were accessible for a minute or so, and then, eventually, for even longer. The total number of these re-livings which involve dying in the birth canal? Specifically, four hundred and forty-seven and counting. They presently comprise about 99% of the content of my my regressive feelings, but occur at a greatly reduced rate: about one or two each month, unless externally triggered by some event relating to death and dying.24
Interestingly enough, despite decades of feeling incredibly intense birth traumas, I had never felt "death in the birth canal" type feelings. Before I began feeling my prototypic death and dying material, its existence had been completely unknown to me.
I began my primal-type self-therapy in my early forties. That was untypical, being very late. Perhaps, everyone's birth should take place in a facility where a primal therapist has his offices and where resolving one's birth traumas could become an essential part of the birthing experience before the pain has a chance of becoming more deeply repressed and therefore more difficult to reach. Infants, are obviously very close in time to these traumas. As one proceeds along the developmental path towards adulthood, it becomes more and more different to access this early material. The reduction, or the removal of negative birth imprints, should be everyone's birthright (pun intended!).25
Even if one has felt much of his or her birth trauma, there is no way of knowing if one has finally resolved most of it, or even its most significant part. This material is well defended against and thus its existence hidden away from one's conscious mind as is all repressed trauma. Indeed, if you are (or were) in a regression type therapy, it is possible (probable) that you have not as yet fully felt the most severely traumatic part of your pre- and peri-natal trauma. One's brain seemingly keeps the most severe part of such trauma for the very end of therapy, when one is able to handle the fear, terror and suffering of birth - and of death. This is so because the feeling of our prototypic pain, by definition, may consist of imprints surrounded by strong defenses. The encased traumas are felt in a sequence partially based on triggers and on the degree of the original suffering involved and the developmental time when it occured.
Perhaps, the optimum plan parents should follow would be to bring their newborn infant into a primal-oriented therapy as soon as possible after birth. Beginning therapy, after one becomes an adult, can sometimes be problematic as the further in time from birth one is, the more one's defenses become hardened and the more difficult access to pre- and peri-natal material becomes. This suggestion of having therapy soon after birth is not as preposterous as it may, at first, seem.
Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof believes that the second half of life is typically when ruminations about one's decline and when more frequent thoughts and concerns about death and dying begin. If such matters predominate earlier in life, he believes that it usually points to individual psychopathology. The dominant force of the first half of life? Sex!26
However, our concerns during the second half of life about death and dying may also point to our having imprints which are being strongly defended against. These imprints deal with our pre- and peri-natal traumas and may ravage us in old age as depression is a common geriatric symptom. As we age, our defenses around these traumas become weakened by chronic illnesses and progressive decrepitude of both mind and body.
Hypochrondrias (health obsessions), at that time (and before), are actually unconscious reminders of the physical and emotional traumas associated with our beginnings when we had actually come close to dying. Most will not get that close again until we die.
Even though we are less efficient primalers as we age, becoming old brings into focus the specter of death and can help us confront our set of prototypic traumas. The psychic seepage from psychosomatic symptoms can be used as added psychological pressures against our last remaining defenses.
The agony and near death at birth endures in our brain for a lifetime. No matter how old we become, these unconscious memories remain pristine. The traumas most often felt at the very end of primal-type therapies often relate to the feelings of death and dying at birth. This material gets pushed into our consciousness and perhaps does not become an overwhelming concern until they are finally triggered by the conscious fear of death and dying which we may encounter at the end of our lives. When is there a more logical and opportune time for these memories to become triggered, and therefore more conscious, than during our last illness and death?27
"The man who dies before he dies, does not die when he dies."28
In this sentence, Sancta Clara, expresses the seeming recognition of the benefits which would accrue to someone who, during his life, had experientially resolved the issues of near-death in the birth canal. When such a person later contemplates his future death and also when he is near his actual death - both instances will be times of much less anxious depression.29
Abraham á Sancta Clara was a seventeenth century Augustinian monk. He lived in what is now Austria, during one of the frequent epidemic periods of bubonic plague (The Black Death). Stanislav Grof, quotes Sancta Clara as having written,
1Theophostic Prayer Ministry Website - Dr. Edward M. Smith
2Speyrer, J., Theophostic Ministry: Speculations On the Effects of Combining Deep Feeling Experiential Therapies With Mini-Mystical Experiences - Article.
Since the results of one study showed that 96.4% of clients indicated that they underwent communication with the Holy Spirit during the session and 99% felt that the experience deepened their experience with God, it might have been premature for me to abandon my earlier hypothesis that theophostics is mystical in nature. ( See, at Dr. Smith's theophostic website, Research Findings )
3Speyrer, J., Book Review Healing Life's Deepest Hurts by Dr. Edward M. Smith
4Psychiatrist Karl and Charlotte Lehman's Website
5Janov, A., Pain In Sleep, p. 152, The Journal of Primal Therapy, Summer, 1976
6Janov, A., (2007) Primal Healing, p. 184
7Janov, A., (1991) The New Primal Scream, pp. 171-172
8Janov, A., (1975) Primal Man: The New Consciousness, pps. 91-92 & p. 88.
9Grof, S. (2000) Psychology of the Future: Lessons From Modern Consciousness Research, p. 127
10ibid., p. 31
11Geddes, H., Inversion Primals section of The Art of Primal Midwifery - Article
12Solter, A. (2001) The Aware Baby
13Speyrer, J., Peri-natal Agonies - Article
14Speyrer, J., The Varieties of Primal Experiences - Article
15Törngren, P., Having Birth Primals: Sooner or Later?, discusses whether it is preferable to begin having birth primals during the earlier or during the later phases of primal therapy. In, How Do We Know If We Are Getting Safe Primal Therapy, the author examines the possible disintegrative effects which may arise when birth issues are explored in primal-oriented therapies.
16Janov, A., (2007) ibid., p. 184
17Speyrer, J., Road Rage, Impatience and Ascending Birth Feelings, - Article
18Janov, A., (2007) ibid., pp. 182-183
19Janov, A., (1983) Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience, p. 249
20Grof, S. (2000), pps. 41-42
21Grof, S., Birth Trauma and Its Relation to Mental Illness, Suicide and Ecstasy - Article
22Speyrer, J., The Origins of the Fear of Death & Dying: The Thoughts of Frank Lake, M.D.
23Miller, D. W. Ph.D., (1977) Birth, Death and Organic Energy, A Somatopsychology, Part 1 - from Primal Community, Vol II, Nr. 1,
"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 to the life support system remain very intact and are recoverable in fairly much pristine form as much as fifty and sixty years later.
24Speyrer, J., On the Fear of Death: Dying In the Birth Canal - Article
Obviously, a word like 'terror' is an adult form of identification which is applied later to birth's biologically patterned experience. 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 (Pierce)."
25Emerson, W., Primal Therapy With Infants - Article
26Grof, S., (2006) The Ultimate Journey: Consciousness and the Mystery of Death, p. 305.
27Fisher, G., Psychotherapy for the Dying: Principles and Illustrative Cases - Article
28Grof, S., The Cosmic Game, p. 151
29Grof, S., (2000), ibid., See Chapter 7, The Experience of Death and Dying: Psychological, Philosophical, and Spiritual Perspectives.