Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Presidential Address-IV International Congress on Pre- and Peri-Natal Psychology, Amherst, Massachusetts, August 3-6, 1989

Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Presidential Address-IV International Congress on Pre- and Peri-Natal Psychology, Amherst, Massachusetts, August 3-6, 1989

Article excerpt


Madam Chairperson, Ladies, and Gentlemen:

Let me begin by first expressing my deep and sincere appreciation to the key people who made this Congress possible: Dr. Rima Laibow, who as general chairperson has worked endless hours crafting a superb scientific meeting; Dr. Bernard Koser who has so capably steered this Congress through financial mine fields; Laura Uplinger and Dr. David Chamberlain for their constant advice and support and Marcia Penner and Bonny Bainbridge-Cohen for generating enthusiasm for the Congress in the Amherst area and creating a large group of volunteers who are so essential to the functioning of any Congress.

I also want to take this opportunity to recognize and honour our speakers and workshop leaders. Each and every one of you is a pioneer and an inspiration to the rest of us. I want to thank you for having the courage of your convictions, for daring to be experimental and innovative; I want to thank you for joining our quest.

And lastly, I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to all of you who have come together here because you want to work towards a better world, because you realize that human nature will not change until we begin to pay attention to life from conception on.


You have all learned by now that this is not an association for the faint of heart. There are millions of people in the world who are blind to the abuse of children and adults, who are blind to the environmental destruction of this planet and who are blind to the threat of nuclear annihilation. They lack any insight; they walk about in a state of unconsciousness. They are people whose psyches have become frozen from too much pain. They are either content or resigned to their lives.

There is a great gulf between us and them. We are wanderers, dreamers and searchers. We have not given up hope, we believe in the perfectibility of human nature and we believe that this can be achieved in humane and psychologically sound ways today.

Our focus is the study of the fundamental mysteries of the mind: when does life begin, how much and in what ways is an unborn child influenced by his or her environment, are a person's basic character traits formed before, during or after birth?

Just like Melville's MOBY DICK can be read simply as an account of a whaling expedition, or on a deeper allegorical level, so the subject of pre- and peri-natal psychology also lends itself to deeper explorations. The subtext deals with such questions as: what is the nature of reality? How do we arrive at knowledge? What is healing? This becomes clear when you study the writings and talk to some of the founders of preand peri-natal psychology such as Otto Rank, Nandor Fodor, Francis Mott, lietaert Peerbolte, Stanislav Grof, David Chamberlain, Michel Odent and others. As a result of their work they all underwent a major paradigm shift moving from a strictly mechanistic-scientific world view to a much more spiritual-humanistic world view.

Let me give you some examples to illustrate these points. This is from a paper written by Averil Earnshaw, an Australian child psychiatrist describing her experiences in a London, England childrens' ward:

(Journal of Child Psychology Vol. 7, No. 2; 1981) Baby X was lying in his container, watched by his special nurse; he was a wrinkled little fellow weighing just over two pounds, and he had many connections. An intravenous drip tube ran into his umbilical cord, one tube disappeared into each nostril, (one to his stomach and one to his duodenum), and he had an in-dwelling rectal lead measuring his temperature. Because he was a lively, wriggly fellow, and tended to brush at his tubes, and to displace them, his hands had been "gloved" and tied loosely down.

As we watched him, his mouth opened and began to "seek," I thought. His head moved from side to side a little, mouthing and gasping. He pulled with his arms against the ties, and his mouthing turned to grimacing. …

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