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4 Recalling past distress and releasing it

House, Simon; Ridgway, Roy Karnac Books ePub

“There’s a memory of the body, a visceral memory in the blood, in the muscles …”

Otto Rank, The Trauma of Birth (1929)

For decades prenatal psychologists were neglected by the general public and even mainstream psychologists. Then from the 1950s their views were taken up by psychotherapists such as R. D. Laing, Frank Lake, and members of societies such as the Association of Birth Psychology in New York, the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health of North America, and the International Society of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine, based in Heidelberg. Some understanding of their theories helps to understand the regression techniques in use today.

Perhaps the most famous of the early prenatal psychologists was Otto Rank, whose name is associated with the birth trauma. An Austrian, he was at one time a favourite pupil of Freud’s. Like his master, he noticed that severe attacks of anxiety were often accompanied by physiological features similar to those seen in babies at the moment of birth. This observation led him to the development of his theory that all neurosis originates in the trauma of birth.

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11 Ways that a mother affects her child

House, Simon; Ridgway, Roy Karnac Books ePub

“Following 2000 women through pregnancy and birth, Dr Monika Lukesch, a psychologist at Constantine University, in Frankfurt, West Germany, concluded in her study that the mother’s attitude had the single greatest effect on how an infant turned out.”

Thomas Verny, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child (1982b)

In all societies there have always been those who believe that the outcome of pregnancy depends largely on the mother’s own feelings and experiences, which are imprinted on the child in the same way as a film projector throws an image onto a blank screen. For thousands of years the Chinese have believed in creating a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere for the pregnant woman. The unborn child has been regaled with song and poetry. He is treated as a human being from the moment of conception. When the child is born, he is regarded as being one year old—presumably allowing three months for preconceptual preparation! This much, at least, modern research endorses.

Many Vaishnav Hindus believe that reading aloud religious literature—not fiction—throughout pregnancy influences the intelligence and moral character of the newborn child and makes it easier, later in childhood, for him to learn the verses (or slokas) he had heard in utero.

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Epilogue I

House, Simon; Ridgway, Roy Karnac Books ePub

Roy Ridgway

Finally—if I may end on a more optimistic note than perhaps much that has gone before would seem to justify—it remains a fact, whatever hurts we have suffered, that there is part of the mind of all of us that is uncontaminated by the past. Strictly speaking, it is not a “part”: it is everywhere, behind and in everything, and can be reached in meditation. David Bohm calls it “intelligence”, which is not, he says, what people think it is: the mere capacity for design, remembrance, or communication. Knowledge, the accumulation of facts and experience, however wide, does not necessarily indicate intelligence. Intelligence, David Bohm would say, is sensitive awareness of the totality of life—life with all its problems, vexations, contradictions, miseries, joys. To be aware of all this, to accept it completely without rejecting anything, and to flow with the whole of life is intelligence.

This means scrubbing the ego off the slate, emptying the mind of all the chatter that goes on all the time: which is meditation. Meditation does not, of course, by itself solve your problems: in fact, it is just an escape for some: better than alcohol or drugs, but an escape all the same—an escape back to the “nothingness” of the womb. The important thing is to bring the meditative mind into the everyday world where there are so many problems, so many conflicts, irritations, frustrations. The meditative mind sees what is there and does not invent anything that is not there. It sees through the fog of self-deceit.

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3 Dream-images of womb and self-healing responses

House, Simon; Ridgway, Roy Karnac Books ePub

“… go to sleep!
You will wake, and remember, and understand.”

Robert Browning, Evelyn Hope

“The basic principle involved in most forms of complementary medicine is Team to listen to yourself. But by the time the balancing or self-regulating instinct has to speak to us through physical symptoms, this generally means other messages in a gentler language have failed to reach our consciousness.

How does it speak to us, this law of our own nature, if not by means of disease, accident and despair? Its main line of communication is the dream. Night after night it begs to pay attention to the images it sends; to honour our feelings no less than our thoughts; to befriend the world of the senses and heed the promptings of intuition; to be our many-faceted selves as fully as we can.”

Ean Begg, Myth and Today’s Consciousness (1984)

A woman dreams she is scraping away the sand that covers the entrance of a cave. As she is scraping it away, she says to her son, “You cannot come in.” Inside she finds a rolled-up parchment, yellow with age. She unrolls it and finds the writing is in a language she cannot understand. She asks David to read it. But at that moment the parchment suddenly becomes brittle, and then crumbles away. In the cave a horrible smell of fungus assails the woman.

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1 Beginning and adapting

House, Simon; Ridgway, Roy Karnac Books ePub

“The universe resounds with the joyful cry I am.”

Alexander Scriabin, Poem of Ecstasy

The New Zealand gynaecologist, Professor A. M. Liley, pointed out that although in the temporal sense we spend a very short time in the womb, about 1% of our life, in terms of the division of cells, our physical development—apart from stature—is almost complete by the time we are born (Liley, 1977).

We begin life as a single cell; 45 generations of the doubling up of cells by growth division are needed to reach the thirty million million cells of an adult. Of the 45 divisions, 41 take place before birth. Yet even before this single cell there is “life before life”. The sperm’s life can be traced back months to its genesis in the testes, which were already formed in the father when in the grandmother’s womb. The beginnings of the ovum itself existed in the mother when she was still in the grandmother’s womb, where it is known to have been susceptible to the grandmother’s environment. Nor should we lose sight of the genetic trace unbroken down the generations:

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