Intrauterine Memories
Twinship Experiences

By John A. Speyrer

Ever since I began the primal process, almost 30 years ago, I kept reading about other's regressions which I felt had aspects which were improbable or most likely impossible. But then, thinking about my frame of mind before I began my own regressions in therapy, I realize that I would not have believed it possible to access some of the material I have felt in primal therapy. For example, as an infant, having visions of my mother's bathrobe with its complicated design, and having other remarkable very early visions would have seemed impossible to me. [ See Three Visual Primals ].

Even after I began regressions in therapy, I felt that I would not re-live my own birth traumas since my mother and other family members had assured me that I had had a normal birth. But since I have been reliving my birth traumas for the past 29 years, my perception of my birth process was very different from that of my close relatives. Accordingly, I have become less doctrinaire about the limits of primal regressions into and beyond the intrauterine period and ultimately to one's very beginnings.

For a number of decades, I had been hearing and reading that inutero twins "know" that they have a partner with them. After I myself had experienced both physical and and emotional intrauterine primals, I became more open to the possiblity that returning to the womb was possible. Later, I attended primal workshops near New Orleans and witnessed such early twin regressions in others.

Last week, a local newspaper interviewed a woman who was a twin but had lost her twin soon before birth. The twin sister had died inutero 10 days before the surviving twin was born. She mentioned how the very early loss of her sister had affected her life. She often felt an overwhelming loneliness and sadness as a result of the loss and mentioned that when she met other surviving twins she felt a deep affinity with them. She ended the interview saying that it is very important that the survivor be told that they had lost a twin sibling.

Thanks to her discovery of an organization she has received support for the loss which has impacted her life. According to the founder of the organization, it was learned ". . . through regressive hypnotic therapy, that bonding (of twins) begins to appear by eight weeks. . . . Twins from stillbirth, immediate separation by medical needs or adoptions exhibit the same frustrations and loneliness which later twin-death causes."1 I checked out the website and found a mention of hypnotherapy as a treatment of this early trauma, but found that this website was primarily a support group rather than a source of therapy information.

I had witnessed a number of regressions by workshop attendees who also were seriously impacted by the inutero loss of a twin. In particular, they had problems in relationships with those of the same sex as their lost twin. There is a small but growing body of information about this subject in the primal literature, so I decided to write this article pointing to sources of information about the subject.

Leah Lagoy, the author of An Imprint For Life, has made the psychotherapy of very early traumatic imprints her specialty. She wrote that "from conception on through pregnancy to labor and birth, the trauma an infant experiences, including the early loss of a twin in utero and birth, has a direct relationship and effect on bonding and attachment." 2

In a book review of Dr. Arthur Janov's, The Biology of Love, I wrote:

Regression therapists around the world have been observing for decades that the fetus sometimes recognizes that it has an inutero twin. If the twin dies and is absorbed (remarkably common) or is lost through abortion, many believe that the surviving twin has knowledge of this and, as a result, may suffer depression in the womb, in infancy and in adulthood.

Such therapists claim that the surviving twin may spend a lifetime in a symbolic search for the dead twin. As far as I know, Dr. Arthur Janov, the discoverer of primal therapy, has not acknowledged that psychological reactions to inutero twin-loss are possible. However, the "lost-twin" syndrome arises frequently in the practices of other primal-oriented therapists.3

Other therapists who have stressed the importance of traumas or hurts on the period from conception to birth are Shelia, Dennis and Fr. Matthew Linn, S.J. With Dr. William Emerson as a co-author, they have written that twin conceptions are extremely common. The authors of Remembering Our Home report that embryologists believe between 30 and 80 percent of us were originally twins. Unresolved grief due to an unconsciously known twin loss is a remarkably common occurrence. They devote an entire chapter of their book to Healing Twin Loss, Abortion, Miscarriage and Stillbirth.4

However, Richard Morrock, a primal therapist, in a review of Elizabeth Noble's Primal Connections wrote that he believes that the memory of a lost twin is purely a "fantasy."5

The subtitle of Elizabeth Noble's book is "How our experiences from conception to birth influence our emotions, behavior, and health." Noble writes that Alessandra Piontelli ". . . has studied twins using ultrasound and confirmed that they interact in myriad ways clearly expressing their own identity and responding in different ways to their respective positions in the uterus." The entire process, "conception, implantation and birth present survival issues that are more of a challenge to twins than to singletons."

Noble writes,

Loss of a twin at any time is tragedy; the powerful imprint of this experience in early pregnancy is sometimes more profound that the loss at birth or later. One reason may be the phenomenon of survivor guilt. Survivors of a twin pregnancy, unlike a plane crash or freeway accident, feel that something they did ("took all of nutrients or space") enabled them to live but caused their twin to die. Other dimensions of self-doubt include feeling the less deserving or the less wanted one (i.e., wrong gender.) ibid., p. 220.

One twin described the problem as follows,

For me the physical sensations I relived in regression were very familiar and not frightening. My twin above me was a heavyweight; there was no room for me. Today I need a large house with high ceilings and glass. I also see how as a result of my intrauterine experiences I set up a victim relationship with men. ibid., p. 213

Graham Farrant, an Australian psychiatrist and primal therapist believed that the vanishing twin syndrome was becoming a better known psychiatric condition. In Primal Connections he recalls a client who was not aware of her "vanished" twin would often buy two items of clothing. Another of his clients bought a duplex house, so that the other unit could be kept empty. The survivors, as children, often have make-believe friends, sometimes dream of a twin and some actually set the dinner table for the nonexistent twin (ibid. p. 221).

Through therapeutic regressions to the womb, one gains insight into how that environment affects future relationships. See Birth & Relationships: How your Birth Affects your Relationships by Sondra Ray and Bob Mandel. Both practice rebirthing therapy.

Dr. Stephen Khamsi, a primal therapist, wrote:

Some came to feel, understand, and accept themselves inclusive of their birth experience. and things seemed less "mysterious" or to "fall into place." Hillery, a twin, claimed that birth reexperiences helped her understand current feelings in terms of her birth; these feelings then seemed less mysterious and frightening. "You know, like of having no space," she recalled. "Well of course I didn't have any space in the womb. And feeling pushed around and crowded a lot - it was my sister that was pushing me around." 6

On the internet, see Dr. William R. Emerson's article on birth psychology which includes references to inutero twin consciousness, The Vulnerable Prenate. The Birth Psychology website, where this article is located, contains much relevant information. Emerson has made the treatment of infants and children in regression therapy for birth and intrau-uterine trauma his particular interest and specialty.

In his doctoral dissertation, Stephen M. Maret analyzed The Maternal-Fetal Distress Syndrome of Frank Lake, M.D., a British psychiatrist who has written that the intrauterine period may encompass a feeling of, "(c)osmic unity, a sort of paradise. But equally well some people would go into disturbances of this intra-uterine life. A realistic recollection of a bad womb experience of foetal crisis, diseases, and emotional upheavals in the mother, twin situation, (and) attempted abortion." (Lake, "Perinatal Events and Origins of Religious Symbols, of Symptoms and Character Problems: he Possibility of Reliving Birth and Its Effects"). In the early 1950s Dr. Lake used LSD to trigger the regressive experience. Later, after primal therapy was discovered by Janov in the late 1960s, he discontinued the use of LSD and used primal regressions instead.7

Dr. Lake describes how the intrauterine period can have strongly negative effects on the fetus. He is quoted in Maret's dissertation in describing maternal distress affecting the developing fetus:

It may be due to her marriage, to her husband's withdrawal rather than more intimate supporting when he is asked urgently for more than his personality can easily give. It may be due to the family's economic or social distress in a distressed neighborhood . . . if she is grieving the loss of, or nursing a stilll dying parent, the sorrow overwhelms her and overwhelms her fetus.

Invariably, the memories of the womb, both physical and emotional, are hidden away from us, not simply because of repression but also due to our innate inability to retrieve such memories in a normal state of consciousness from such an early age. Yet, on some level, even without regressive therapy, many may already intuitively "know" of their uterine traumas. With the various regression modalities available, those memories may be tapped, and re-lived so that their problem-making potential is lowered.

So we find that womb memories are not just about having blissful feelings of floating, or of being in a heavenly paradise. It also means feeling guilty because we survived and "they" did not. It may mean feeling angry because we were the punching bag and they were larger and more aggressive and had more space and more nourishment.

The issue of lost twins is also discussed by Arizona regression therapist, Barbara Findeisen.[See her website.] In Pre and Peri-Natal Losses, she writes about,

"The Blighted Twin
Another cause of grief and loss in prenatal and perinatal psychology is the "blighted twin syndrome" described so eloquently by Dr. Graham Farrant at several Pre and Peri-Natal Association congresses.

It is estimated that 70 percent of all twins conceived do not reach term. Sonograms show cases of one of the developing embryos dissolving. Dr. Farrant and others believe the surviving twin experiences that loss and retains it in cellular memory. I have had many clients re-experience memories of a blighted twin.

Shirley came for therapy, desperate and depressed. Her third marriage was collapsing. She had a long history of feeling alone and guilt-ridden. She felt she did not deserve anything good. Although she was intelligent and attractive, her life was littered with losses and broken relationships. One day while she was in treatment, she slipped into a uterine memory.

'Somebody's missing. Itís lonely. Somethingís pushing against my back. Itís dead. Thereís supposed to be two . . . now thereís one . . . Iím all by myself . . . you were supposed to be there with me. You left me . . . I need to make a choice, going forward or back . . . I left him . . . I let go of his hand . . . Oh my God, I didnít mean to . . . Oh my God . . . Iím so sorry. I let go ? Heís all gone." Sobs racked her body as she grieved. ' In later processing the session, Shirley felt that she had carried the guilty burden of the loss of her twin throughout her life. She unconsciously sought ways to punish herself, denying herself healthy relationships, a successful career, and virtually any feelings of satisfaction and joy. Shirley has begun the road back to forgiving and freeing herself from very old and premature cognitive commitments which dominated her sense of self.

Perhaps Shirleyís relentless commitment to self-punishment might have been lighter if she had been brought up in a loving, healthy family. Unfortunately, her abusive, violent father, and helpless, victim mother served to exacerbate her prenatal experience of loss and guilt. This is always the case. Loving, healthy parents have great power to ease and correct prenatal and perinatal losses and traumas of all kinds. On the other hand, healthy, loving parents, particularly the mother, also have a great opportunity to avoid many of these traumas."8

"Kimberly Ann" a primal client, rendered a series of stream of consciousness paintings of her intrauterine traumas.9

This particular one was inspired by the feeling connections to a memory of her twin brother's abortion.

Here in poetic prose is a twin bearing primal witness to her sister's death in the birth canal:

death in the birth canal, my sister is leaving,
i died, i slept, i died.
did I die? could I have died?
my mom says I almost died.
i remember hearing this as a kid. what was I feeling hearing this?
i was scared. i think so.
the snow here. triggers feelings of being
trapped, claustrophobia.
i go back to check my writing now. i am
concious of how badly i write. i'm bad, dirty, poeple will hate me,
i hurt, i don't feel nothing. i know i hurt , i don't feel it though.

snow, winter, trapped,
if it weren't for the monument i pass everyday i would find no
release. the metal monument of a little girl to remember a school
that burned down. she, the girl is
counting with her fingers. one day in my stress of having to trudge
through the snow . . . panic anxiety . . . i am trapped.
I Iook up from the snow and stress and someone has put
a scarf around the neck of the metal girl! i love it. i laugh
hard into the vast white snow. last night i had to pass
by it again and glimpsing in her direction someone's taken the
scarf, and a coffee cup is planted in her hand. . . how i love
is doing this! releiveing the winter and my horrible symptoms
of fear and distress.

i will be a part of this fun game i tell myself. i want to place a bible
in her hands in my mind. it makes me laugh. it gets me home.
i had panic and high anxiety in the school yard yesterday with the
kids. the snow, getting stuck in the deep snow, the kids are
triggers for me. they get stuck, they cry of being cold, they whine
too much, i can't concentrate, i feel worse, i have to be present for
them. i have to move out from the centre of the snowy yard. i go
and hold onto the fence, the kids are drivng me insane, this is too
strong. "Debbie do this, do that, Thoren hit me, i need to pee,
i'm cold, i don't know where my mittnes are, run fast, pull me
faster, faster."

stop stop stop . . . my mind is saying, my mother is so clear in my
head. right in the forefront. every way she would handle all of
this. i
don't want to be my mother. . . i am not my mother. . . my mother
would scream and yell, and hit and swear on us. curse and swear
. . . "jesus christ, you god damn youngsters, get out of my site, stop
whining, stop complaining, get the hell out of my sight. . screaming, "take your god d
stop mommy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i feel sorry for my mom. i don't want to be my mom. i'm
happy for my human and real frustrations. i can't deal with
another moment of these kids needs. breathe, you are ok. . .
this is truly womb stuff, trapped in the womb, a breach baby,
trapped in there for 5 hours. after your sister Donna gets out,
leaves you, abandons you. i'm alone, didn't breathe when i was
"doctor couldn't get her to breathe, she almost died."

fuck i am so detached from what i am writing . not going near
the pain, the feelings. bastard world, bastard people.
fuckers. where's my sister??? stupid people, stupid doctors
and nurses know nothing of my pain, my trauma. where's my
sister, put me with my sister. i want to sleep with her.

--Deborah Jackman

Dr. Alice Rose, who practices primal therapy in Atlanta, has written in Bonds of Fire, how early trauma can be destructive to relationships. She has developed a questionnaire that helps to identify potential twin-loss patients. In her book she has listed sixty-eight personality traits in those who have suffered inutero twin-loss.10

She calls death in utero of a twin the Vanishing Twin Syndrome and quotes Dr. William R. Emerson who believes "that at least 40% of conceptions are twins, but that one twin dies." Losing a twin means that the person becomes engaged in a life-long search for his or her beloved. Such loss can have devastating effects, Dr. Rose writes. The surviving twin may feel guilty and they often grieve their unknown loss. In relationships those who have lost a twin much prefer relating to one person at a time; they are very loyal. They may even remain loyal to those who abuse them. Everyone they meet is the potential lost twin. They even have trouble with sleeping alone! They never again want to risk any type of loss.11

Dr, Rose writes that food is an important issue with a surviving twin - there is guilt that they eat too much, yet at the same time, feel they can never have enough food. Dieting may trigger feelings of inadequate nourishment which were first felt in their mother's womb. Severe dieting may make them feel that they are dying. Loneliness is a constant problem. Twin loss can even result in severe depression. Inutero twin-loss reveals itself primarily in relationships, especially intimate ones.

Reliving one's past while regressed may often mean consciously living the repressed trauma for the first time. This helps to dissipate some or most of the stresses and relationship problems which are sometimes the result of in utero twin-loss.

A twin described the origin of his lifelong problem of feeling that anything beneficial for him was felt as a deprivation for others. He traced it to a uterine feeling.

Most of my life, anything that felt real good to me took away from somebody else, particulary the nine months before I was born. It seemed like any food or any space that I got, Claire didn't get.

I can remember times when I would move my body in a way to get more room in the womb, but I would hold any joy about it inside. I couldn't let my body let Claire know about it because if I got more space, it meant she got less space. So, this is a unique thing for me to say, 'Hey, I got something that's really neat for myself', and for somebody else to say, 'That's really neat' too. It's still something that's hard to get used to. Feels real good . . . 12


1Morning Advocate (Newspaper), Baton Rouge, La, May 2, 2003, Ellyn Couvillion, Twinless Twins, p. 2C.
2Lagoy, Leah, An Imprint for Life, The Primal Psychotherapy Page
3Speyrer, John A., Book Review of Arthur Janov's The Biology of Love.
4Speyrer, John A., Book Review of William R. Emerson, Ph.D. Shelia, Dennis, Matthew Linn's book, Remembering Our Home: Healing Hurts & Receiving Gifts from Conception to Birth .
5Morrock, Richard, Book Review of Elizabeth Noble's Primal Connections .
6Khamsi, Stephen, Birth Feelings: A Phenomenological Investigation, .
7 Lake, Frank, Theology and Personality," p. 66. Quoted in Stephen Maret's Frank Lake's Fetal-Maternal Distress Syndrome: An Analysis, p. 69, Dissertation, Chapter 2 .
8 Pre and Peri-Natal Loses, by Barbara Findeisen in Terry Larrimore website, Early Trauma Treatment and Trainings.
9 Kimberly Ann, Art From the Unconscious , The Primal Psychotherapy Page
10Speyrer, John A., Book Review , Bonds of Fire by Alice Rose , Ph.D.
11Rose, Alice, Ph.D. Bonds of Fire: Rekindling Sexual Rapture, p. 57-58.
12 Clay, An Interview. The Denver Primal Journal, Vol. 1, Issue 3, Fall, 1978, Denver, CO.
Help for Wombtwin Survivors

Return to the Primal Psychotherapy Page