Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

The Power of Beliefs: What Babies Are Teaching Us

Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

The Power of Beliefs: What Babies Are Teaching Us

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This paper explores the development of beliefs during the prenatal and perinatal period and how babies portray their beliefs. Four vignettes from therapeutic work with babies illustrate the powerful impact beliefs already have in shaping their lives. Basic principles to help babies shift potentially constrictive beliefs to more life enhancing ones are included. This paper is intended as a theoretical and clinical exploration leading to new thought, research and clinical direction. This paper calls for a paradigm for infant development and communication with babies that is based on the premise that consciousness is the organizing principle of human experience. The importance of both practitioner and parent's beliefs is discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Since I began working with children and babies within the prenatal and perinatal psychology framework in the 1980s, I have been fascinated with how the blueprint of core beliefs is already actively shaping babies' lives in terms of their physical structure, physiology, their relationship to self, others, and to the world as well.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the development of beliefs during the prenatal and perinatal period and how babies portray their beliefs. The importance of practitioner and parent beliefs is discussed. Four vignettes from therapeutic work with babies are included to illustrate the power of beliefs in babies' lives and to highlight basic principles to help babies heal and shift from potentially constrictive beliefs to more life enhancing ones. The vignettes included give babies an opportunity to teach us themselves. This paper is intended to serve as a theoretical and clinical exploration and points to new arenas of thought, research and clinical direction. This paper calls for a paradigm for infant development and communication with babies based on the premise that consciousness is the organizing principle of human experience. It is not intended to be a thorough examination of clinical work with babies.

ABOUT BELIEFS

Our beliefs are the foundation of organization of our reality. Beliefs organize and determine what we make real. They not only shape our perception of ourselves and the world, but they continue their cascading impact by shaping and directing where we focus our attention, our motives, attitudes, thoughts, feelings, choices, decisions and our actions (Talbot, 1991; Benson, 1996). Beliefs directly impact our mental and physical health (Rossi, 1993). They are the raw materials from which our reality is created shaping our expectations of the future; they direct where we focus our most precious human treasure-our imagination. We know that much of our experience is actually filtered out before we even are aware of it. Beliefs determine what we will become conscious of or perceive.

We know that our beliefs not only filter our perceptions of reality (Ornstein and Sobel, 1987), they can even override physical reality (Rossi, 1993; Talbot, 1991). Dr. Herbert Benson (1996) in Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief writes of a research study in which women who had persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy were given a drug, syrup of ipecac, a substance that causes vomiting (Wolf, 1950). The women were told the drug would cure their problem. What happened? If physiology had the most power, the women should have continued vomiting. In fact, their vomiting stopped. Their beliefs overrode the physiological action of the drug. Benson suggests that many successful outcomes of new medical and pharmaceutical interventions reveal more about the impact of belief than about the usefulness of a specific agent. He points to three contributing factors: the belief and expectancy of the patient, the belief and expectancy of the caregiver, and the beliefs and expectancies generated by both caregiver and patient sharing similar beliefs and expectancies.

We also know that the brain cannot differentiate between what is experienced as real in the outer world and the imagined inner world. …

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