BODYNAMIC ANALYTIC WORK WITH RE-BIRTH THERAPY
by Lisbeth Marcher,
Director Bodynamic Institute
and: Lennart Ollars, Ph.D.
Translated from the Original Danish
by: Babette Rothschild, M.S.W.
Lisbeth Marcher, born 1940. Founder and director of Bodynamic Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark. Director of 4 year training program in Bodynamic Analysis. Workshop leader in Denmark, Norway, U.S.A. Directs 1 year training in U.S.A.
Lennart Ollars, born 1948. Cand. Psych. Member of Bodynamic Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark. Teacher in the training program in Bodynamic Analysis. Private Practice in Denmark.
Copyright® Copenhagen, April 1989
In this article, we will present the method of working with therapeutic re-birthing as practiced by psychotherapists trained in Bodynamic Analysis. The principles set forth here were presented by Lisbeth Marcher in a lecture before the Third Congress on Pre- and Perinatal Psychology in San Francisco, California in 1987 (30).
Bodynamic Analysis is a Danish body-psychotherapy system that has been developed by Lisbeth Marcher beginning in the 1970’s and in cooperation with a number of colleagues over the last 10 years (6, 21, 29, 36, 37, 38). It is based on a detailed knowledge of the fetus’ and child’s motoric, psychological and social development. Its originating foundation is in Danish Relaxation Therapy.
Sources of inspiration have been many. The most important include: Lillemor Johnsen (17, 18, 19, 20); Humanistic psychologists like Carl Rogers (43), Abraham Maslow (31), and Fritz Perls (39, 40, 41); Bioenergetic practitioners and theorists such as Alexander Lowen and Robert Hilton (27, 28, 14); materialistic socialization theory (1, 2, 16, 22, 34); and, in the latest years, David Boadella (8, 9, 10) and Frank Lake (25).
Bodynamic Analysis is a psychotherapy form that includes the following, briefly stated, characteristics:
- An integration of knowledge on motoric, muscular, psychological and social development (3, 6, 12, 13, 15, 23, 33, 42).
- A developmental model which is based on this knowledge and includes development from conception to teenage with 8 developmental stages and 16 character structures. This developmental model is presented in an article in “Energy and Character’s Spring 1989 issue (7).
- Application of the Bodymap, a precise diagnostic test based on a form of muscle testing that identifies both developmental arrest and acquired resources.
- A personal growth model and theory that includes recognition and re-experiencing of trauma and developmental arrest, with emphasis on re-establishing lost motoric patterns, anchoring redecisions in the body and integrating cognitively; establishing new patterns and decisions in the adult daily life.
- On this foundation lies a working and intervention form that is both bodily and verbally based, resource oriented and takes into consideration the balance between psychological process and muscular structure/ psychological defense.
Many of these characteristics will be illuminated and illustrated in this article.
Bodynamic analysis is practiced today by members of the Bodynamic Institute and by graduates of the Institute’s training programs. Courses and sessions are currently offered in the U.S.A., Norway and Canada, as well as in Denmark.
Work with re-birth issues cannot be practically separated from work with problems before or after birth. In some instances, our clients only talk about energy, movement and developmental arrest in their own birth process (for example: because of anesthetic, caesarian section or breech birth), though often the arrest in the birth process is combined with, or hard to separate from, a difficult or anxiety filled pre-birth or preparation, a difficult or insufficient reception, or a loss of basic needed contact.
In this article, we will first describe the “natural» or optimal birth, in terms of body/movement, as well as psychologically and socially. Afterwards we will describe and discuss a number of examples of complications that can occur.
We will include the time immediately before birth, the birth itself, and the reception situation immediately following the delivery — the first hours after birth. In a later article, we will expand this description to include our work with conception, the fetus’ womb experience, and the first months after birth.
Before we begin we will review some of the more general principles of therapeutic work with re-birth.
General Principles of work with re-birth.
Clients can express important or urgent birth problems in many different ways:
Descriptions by a client that he, despite a lot of other therapeutic work, cannot come through or out with his own power. Or, that he can sense power ‘times, but “gets stuck” (i.e. reflection of an anesthetic trauma).
In dream material: Recurring dreams of passing canals, coming from darkness into light, etc.
- Purely bodily, as energy, life or tenderness in the bodily areas we have found are tied to birth: The neck, the tendon attachments of the rectus capitis, a point in the shoulder region that is presumably a fascia junction, a muscle attachment point in the sacrum, and the tendon attachments on the heels.
- Spontaneous movement patterns: i.e. a tendency to contract into the fetal position.
On the other hand, there can be many reasons not to work with re-birth, even though the problem arises in awareness or as bodily expression. We consider it a good rule of thumb to work “from above”. That is to say, not to work with earlier problems, here birth, before later developed problems are worked through as thoroughly as possible. It is inadvisable to work with a client in re-birth therapy before he has built up a reservoir of client skills: ability to sense and follow the body’s impulses, and awareness and ego strength to contain the considerable regression and the resulting emotional and cognitive unbalance that follows from proper regressive therapy where the body is involved.
There can be exceptions to these ground rules. If, for example, the client is so locked in that he cannot access his energy without an opening through a re-birth. In such an instance, it is extra important to be sure there is the possibility for further therapy after the re-birth.
When the client has had a difficult or contactless after-birth, work with re-birth should be postponed until there has been as much work as possible on oral problems so that an opening has been developed to take-in, make attachment, and get nurturing contact.
A well-ordered follow-up of the re-birth work satisfies further needs in the client’s life situation:
There should be willing helpers who can, themselves, constructively contain the experience of participating in the re-birth both during and after.
There should be structured time and space for the client to be able to integrate the experience and the muscular and energetic changes.
There should be a sufficient and suitably insightful social network so the client won’t be isolated (often again) after the re-birth.
- The client should have the possibility for follow-up of the re-birth with a therapist.
If it is not possible to create these circumstances, one should consider putting-off the re-birth work.
Finally, we will also mention that there are always themes in the client’s actual adult life that appear as parallels to active birth problems, parallels that are often at least as important to work through in other ways before going into regressive re-birth therapy. Dreams about birth have, for example, symbolic meaning just as often as they are reflections of real and actual birth trauma.
In our work with re-birth it is crucial to establish a re-birth situation, with reference to the bodily/physical and contact frameworks that will resemble an actual birth situation as much as possible — not the original traumatic situation, but as it should have been — in which a new birth can be completed both in movement and emotions. It is our experience that 5-6 helpers are needed besides the therapist(s) to establish the necessary physical pressure and resistance for re-birth. If possible the helpers should be friends, some with therapeutic experience.
The optimal situation includes both a woman and a man therapist participating, in the re-birth. This offers the best possible balance between masculine and feminine energies in the contact field (46). A single male therapist must, of necessity, use a female co-therapist or helper to be able to establish the energy field throughout the re-birth, not just in the reception situation. A single female therapist can correspondingly use a male helper during the actual course of the birth. If not before, it is necessary that a male therapist or helper is summoned toward the end of the course of the birth to correspond with the father’s arrival when the baby is delivered.
In principle, the course of re-birth includes recognition and re-experience of the original traumatic or faulty birth course. This makes room for the subsequent re-building. One must have space and support so that the optimal birth course can be carried out in movement, feeling and experience.
Helpers are necessary both to establish a closed energy field and to Produce the necessary pressure to resemble a working womb. They are the also the welcoming committee for the “new born”.
After work with the birth itself, contact and “taking-in” are worked with. Here there will be need for — besides person contact– a baby bottle, teddy bear or other toy animals, and toys with different colors and sounds. There is also need for adults who will be specially instructed “baby sitters” over an agreed 1-2 days after the birth to provide the client with time and space for a slow integration Usually a re-birth session takes at least 3 hours to complete.
All of these conditions may seem overwhelming, but many of them are automatically met when the re-birth is completed during a 4-7 day workshop. Most of our rebirths are conducted in workshops.
The most ideal framework for a re-birth, however, is a private session, with therapist and helpers planning it as the day’s only work. After the re-birth, the helpers continue to give the client contact and support. It is preferred that they overnight at the site, if possible. The client should not be allowed to go home the same day unless he has particularly understanding and therapy-wise family and/or friends.
The optimal birth course.
The following is a description of the optimal birth course, as we know it, both from obstetricians and our clients’ processes (24, 32, 35, 47, 48, 50). In this section we will use the expression “the child” even though a part of our information comes from adult clients.
1. The time immediately before the birth.
The time immediately before the birth process begins is, in the best case, characterized by the child — gradually having less and less space in the womb -beginning to feel itself ready for a change to happen. The mother responds at this time with a sense of joyful accomplishment and readiness to complete this first period of bodily connection. She is also content with the environment, feels seen, heard, understood and supported, both by family and the professional helpers.
New studies indicate, that the child itself, at this point, sets the birth process in motion hormonally (48). In this phase, the child’s navel is
active (taking in) and the child often experiences a growing restlessness in the whole body.
Optimally, the child experiences readiness to change at his own tempo. To be able to proceed at its own tempo/time is essential.
2. The contractions increase: Labor.
The next phase has its starting point in the mother’s process and is usually known as labor, that phase where the contractions begin and grow and the cervix dilates.
For the child, this period is marked by a tenacious growing pressure from outside. The child, who is ready, experiences the pressure (anyway, after some time) as help. But the period is generally unpleasant to the child. There is less and less space. The child’s own restlessness grows. Particularly active are the tendon attachments of the inner rotators and the fascia around the tibialis anterior as the child pulls away from the pressure. In this transition phase the child can have a very unpleasant experience: it’s not possible to contract more. Towards the end of this period the child’s energy begins to change from pulling away from the pressure, to pushing against it. When this phase is optimal, the child experiences that it can stand and contain pressure without losing its own center.
3. The push period: Hard Labor.
Now the opening in the mother’s cervix is so big that it’s time to push. Optimally, the child is, at the same time, ready to put its energy into pushing itself out. Bodily, there is activity in the tendon attachments of the extensors, especially at the heels, sacrum and the neck. Often there is also a considerable energy in the muscles that push the shoulders up and in the fascia in that area.
What we have here indicates a powerful extension or “straighten oneself out” reflex on the backside of the body. At the same time the child, for the first time, uses its own masculine energy actively — the child’s power to come through and out. The mother is using her energy and power to push it out.
Optimally the child experiences here, first that it can survive violent pressure, and second that it can come through this on its own, but also with an actively supporting energy around it.
The child comes out. Most often, the child experiences both violent
upheaval full of power, and a feeling that is enormously freeing and redeeming: “I did it!”
For the mother this is centrally a combined experience of working together, supporting, and letting go.
Bodily activity with the child is in the same areas as during hard labor, adding the tendon attachments to, among others, the iliacus and the fascia junction at the crown of the head.
5. The first reception.
The child is often both tired and sensitive. He should immediately be met with contact, be held and talked to softly. Under the best of circumstances, the experience of birth is a violent physical and psychological shock — this should be countered with contact, happiness and appreciation. We recommend reading, for example, le Boyer’s description of the reception (26).
After a while the searching and sucking reflexes will start and, for the first time, the child will experience taking nourishment in through the mouth instead of, as before, through the navel. An important energy stream is, in the successful birth, turned here: The original taking in through the navel to nourish the body, ‘changes to taking in through the mouth, down through. the throat and all the way into the stomach, thus nourishing the body.
Often, at this time, there will be a lot of energy around the “third eye” (a point in the middle of the lowest part of the forehead) a sign that the child.is open to sensing energies. Moreover, there will often be energy in the transversus thoracis and in the intercostals 2-4.
In our practices, we test to see that the energy has come “all the way through” the legs and down to the feet by investigating if the Babinski Reflex is present after the re-birth. After a motorically successful re-birth, it is there.
The described optimal birth course is summarized in the chart on the next page.
Birth complications we have met in our practice and how to treat them in re-birth work
1. Complications in the time just prior to the birth.
One type of complication often can occur when the birth is started by outside measures, or if, for another reason, it happens too early.
In the cases where the birth is started from outside, the client will often experience something unpleasant coming in through the navel. Often the client (as in the original birth) will attempt to close the navel to hold out the unpleasantness. This expresses itself bodily with contraction of the fascia around the navel. At the same time, the client’s back bows (rounds backwards).
Here, the therapist must recognize and describe the original situation for the client. Thereafter, the work is new bodily learning. First, the client must learn that now it is possible to close against unpleasant stimuli (the child couldn’t close totally without threat to life. Second, the client must learn to open by his own choice. The client should be given time to open at his own tempo, and to experience taking in something good from the outside. The therapist works to relax the fascia around the navel, gives acceptance and understanding, while also sending acceptance and good energy in through the navel. It is also important to teach the client that he can physically close and push away — which makes a lumbar sway possible. When the client is ready to open the navel, and does it, there should be further work with building up the lumbar sway — it is very important for the later birth course.
In this and other circumstances where the birth has been too early, there must also be work to give time and space for the client to have the experience of wanting to continue with the process. “There is enough time” and “You don’t need to hurry,” are central sentences that the therapist uses here.
Another type of complication has to do with the birth situation becoming unsure and anxiety filled. An extreme example of this is birth that happens under war conditions, or where the mother, because of outside circumstances, has been alone, without help, afraid, and, therefore, in crisis just before the birth. A more common example is when the mother has become placed alone in the hospital awaiting dilation and hard labor.
In circumstances where the mother becomes anxious, the anxiety clearly is transmitted to the child. As the mother’s anxiety grows, the more difficult it becomes for the child. This is true especially in circumstances where the birth actually occurs without the necessary outside support and help.
The child can, as we find in practice with our clients, react in different ways. Navel closing is one kind of reaction. Another reaction can be that the child notices that there is something wrong and experiences taking on the role of the helper. In this instance the child can easily loose contact with its own center, its own process. It “decides” to help the mother. This can be the situational cause for early altruistic and existential decisions, as for example described by Gerda Boysen (11).
The problem in this situation is that the child misses the experience of being wholly itself, or, in other words, that it loses the experience of its own center. This can cause a basic displacement of the balance between awareness of others and awareness of the self, and therefore, has long-range existential meaning.
In this circumstance, the therapist, again, first recognizes and describes the situation for the client. It is then important to emphasize that it is not the child’s own, but the mother’s anxiety that is experienced. (The higher the anxiety level, the more help the client will need to make the separation.) “You only need to concentrate on yourself”, “it’s not your job”,
“it is the job of the other adults to help your mother now.” With this support
the client can re-establish contact to and anchoring in his own bodily and energetic process; regain his center.
It’s not unusual for the child/client to go “out of the body” energetically in such a situation to “investigate” what is happening. This is indicated when the client disappears energy-wise and begins to describe the situation from outside the body. Here the therapist must recognize, describe, accept and follow the client in his “out of body” experience, so he can later support the client to “come back in” again. Knowledge of working with energy and “out of body” experiences is a prerequisite for working with re-birth therapy. It is not only here, but in all the birth and after birth stages that one can meet this phenomenon. It is common for the child/client, because of a traumatic birth to have “out of body” experiences (49).
The central point for work with birth complications in this stage is to give time, support and space for the client to find his way back to his own bodily sensing and movements. The child’s own movement course and tempo must be re-established, regardless of whether the birth is going too fast, has become started from outside, or has stopped.
2. Complications during labor.
When the contractions begin in earnest, the child comes under increasing pressure from outside. The natural first reaction is to pull away. The energy is in the inner rotators and on the front of the calves. This stage is often ‘ unpleasant, but soon the child will begin to push against the pressure, a process that is the start of the birth extension.
The difficulties that can arise here are connected to the child’s lack of power, first to tolerate, and second to fight with/against this unpleasantly increasing pressure.
This can occur after a predominantly unpleasant pre-natal experience or if the child, because of another reason, isn’t ready to be born. The child will, in this circumstance, tend to either lock in the inner rotators at the tendon attachments and in the neck, or worse yet, to give up and more or less let go of its own energy.
Assuming the birth/re-birth has gone well to this point, it becomes particularly important here to give the client acceptance; the experience of pressure is unpleasant. Then, a little later in the process, the therapist supports the client in building his energy, helps to physically move the energy from the leg’s inner rotators to the outer rotators.