Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Perinatal Memories as a Diagnostic Psychotherapeutic Tool

Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Perinatal Memories as a Diagnostic Psychotherapeutic Tool

Article excerpt

If I were somehow artificially limited in where 1 could go in a person's consciousness to resolve a specific problem, then I would work within prenatal and birth experiences.

Morris Netherton, Ph.D.1

Introduction

In the Netherton Method of Past Life and Perinatal Therapy, we trace negative emotional and behavioral patterns in the here and now to the root source within the unconscious mind. These patterns are defined by very specific unconscious belief systems. It is by changing these belief systems on the unconscious level and fully integrating those changes into the client's conscious awareness that we are able to create emotional and behavioral change. (Netherton 1978:22-42; Raymond 1985:1-6).

In order to change these belief systems, we must be able to identify the central issue underlying an emotional complex. Prenatal and birth experiences provide an excellent diagnostic tool for assessing the central psychodynamic themes in a person's life (Raymond, 1985), as the perinatal psyche seems to be a microcosm of all the developmental experiences from past lives and from this life (Netherton, 1978:116122, 145-164; Grof, 1985:97).

From our work with perinatal experiences it is clear that the mother's emotions during the gestational period are strongly influential in the creation of the central personality themes and emotional patterns of her developing child. These same themes are patterns that will persist within each individual's personality structure over many years, some to be resolved within the normal developmental context of daily life experiences, while others may remain as dominant characteristics throughout an entire lifespan (Netherton 1978:116; see also Verny 1981:13-14, 88-90; Chamberlain 1982:224).

Literature Review

A review of the perinatal psychology literature reveals that many researchers have addressed the influence of a mother's emotions upon the developing prenate. Other researchers seemed to confine their concept of perinatal trauma to the physical trauma experienced by the prenate during birth, incorrectly viewing the intrauterine existence as a peaceful state of bliss.

There are a variety of explanations for the influence of mothers' emotions upon the unborn child. Some are psychobiologically oriented; these researchers focus upon the endocrinological interactions between the prenate and mother.2

Other researchers offer explanations that are much more congruent with our observations of prenatal consciousness. Verny speaks of "sympathetic communication" (1981:88-90), and Chamberlain (1982: 224) refers to adult memories of prenatal experiences as ". . . psychic: clairvoyant in accurately describing disturbing events outside of the womb, including secret activities never told to them later; or telepathic in knowing the essence of what mother is thinking or saying about them. These mysterious communications are hard to explain, but cause suffering which persists and calls for resolution in therapy in adulthood."

Verny (1981:192) posits two pathways through which prenatal imprinting occurs. A central nervous system/autonomic nervous system pathway that depends upon a certain level of physiologic development of the prenate (about six months gestation), and "organismic memory," which are maternal emotions engrammed into individual cells from conception. He notes that the balance tips toward the biologic pathway as the fetus matures. Our results in the Netherton Method suggest that sympathetic communication remains a strong component of the memories engrammed in the child even to several months after birth, most especially during the bonding process.3

Chamberlain and Verny are closest to our particular view of prenatal imprinting of maternal emotions, and Chamberlain's experiential work is most congruent with the Netherton Method in terms of showing the relationship of emotional patterns in later adult life with the emotional patterns of the mother during gestation. …

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