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.
|STAGE||MOTHER||CHILD||BODILY ACTIVE PLACES IN THE CHILD|
|time just before the birth||gets ready||gets ready
experiences self as ready
has less and less space
|the navel, restlessness in the whole body, tendon
the first contractions
contractions come (dilates)
can tolerate the
|tendon attachments of the inner rotators fascia around
the tibialis anterior
|pushing contractions pushes||pushes out and uses all its power||tendon attachments of the extensors:
heels, sacrum, neck, and fascia junction in the shoulder
|delivery||pushes and lets go||comes through and out||the same as in hard labor plus:
tendon attachments to the iliacus and intercostals 2-4,
fascia junction at the crown of the head, skin surface
|The time just after the birth||makes contact with her child||is met, received||tendon attachments to transverse thoracis intercostals 2-4,
search, suck and swallowing reflexes, peristaltic and
grasping reflexes, 3rd eye, eyes and ears, Babinski Reflex
In this stage the therapist and helpers are giving pressure — simulating the contractions — and are helping to set the clients energy in motion as preparation for the birth extension. The client should be stimulated on the heels, sacrum, neck, and the fascia junction in the shoulders, depending on where he stops the energy. Often it is necessary in this stage of a re-birth to train the lumbar sway. It is our experience that the birth extension is, so to speak, issued from the lumbar region.
Depending on the client’s readiness it can, as already mentioned, become necessary to loosen the locking in the inner rotators, it is in this stage of the birth course that the child builds up its energy to resist the pressure. This energy will later be used to come through and out. The energy should be built up on the back side of the body. This is masculine energy built up in response to the increasing pressure from outside. We have already mentioned, but will underscore: the lumbar sway is central in this process.
Another type of complication can arise in this stage if the child is badly positioned, as for example in the breech position, which makes it difficult to build up the lumbar sway and the later outward push.
Breech born clients will often have the tendency to round the back and stick out their bottom. In such a circumstance the therapist must take considerable time to train the lumbar sway. This will enable a new and more adequate birth readiness and energy distribution.
Cesarean section born clients will stop in the birth process at one point or another. Re-birth with such clients should go through all the birth stages, especially those the client missed the first time.
3. Complications during hard labor.
In this stage the child should begin to actively use its built up (masculine) energy to push powerfully against the pressure, so that later, in the next stage of birth, it will be able to use the energy to push itself out.
In re-births, we frequently experience at this time, that the client begins to be more and more spontaneously active. The stimulation should continue (the earlier build-up assumed) as an increasing pressure from the therapist and helpers.
It is at this point that we often experience a paradoxical, almost baroque situation: a client who is in good form and moves effortlessly will have more and more pressure and enjoys it while pressing against it -contrasted with a sweating and hard working group of helpers, up to 6 people who give all they have in them. It is oddly enough seldom the client, but the helpers who ache the day after re-birth work. If the client aches, it is in the places the energy didn’t come through.
We have understood the recent descriptions of nervous system development and function to indicate that it is in connection with the birth that the noradrenaline and adrenaline balance shifts radically for the first time with the first large production of adrenaline. There must be considerable need for adrenaline to enable such demanding and straining birth work. The same physiological reaction must, more or less, happen with regressive birth therapy. It is particularly important that this adrenaline production is realized and used in the actual birth movements.
At this point in the re-birth work it is extremely important to be aware of several concrete details:
That the heels have proper support (in practice, for the adult who has considerably less joint suppleness than an infant, it is only possible to establish this support by having the feet up against a wall with a wedge or blankets under the heels.)
The lumbar sway must be established
The head and neck must be held properly, straight, so the physical push and energy can “go through”. (If the head is bent too far forward or back, the energy will be stopped.)
Many of the complications that can arise in an actual birth at this time result from a halting of the increasing buildup of the child’s energy and movement pattern. This can occur if the child isn’t ready or is more occupied with the mother’s difficulties. We have already discussed these different issues and how we work with them. Resolving these problems–earlier in the process is essential preparation so that the birth can proceed at this stage.
Another type of complication first arises here, coming from a “normal” phenomenon: The doctor often gives the mother anesthetic at this time. When this occurs with clients, we experience it as a sudden stop in an otherwise well-functioning birth course. Here it is necessary to help the client recognize and re-experience the unpleasantness of being anesthetized. The therapist must acknowledge the client’s attempt to close the navel again, and, afterwards, to back up a Tittle in the process and build up a new movement course, this time without anesthetic.
4. Complications during the actual delivery.
In re-birth the delivery is often a very happy experience. The client pushes himself out in a full extension through a “hole” between the helpers who give contact over the whole body. Repetition may be necessary if it goes too fast, or if the energy doesn’t come completely through the whole body the first time.
After “the delivery” the Babinski Reflex can be stimulated to see if it is active. It will be when the energy has come totally through the legs and down into the feet. The Babinski Reflex normally appears in infants shortly after birth and remains active until the child begins to stand, then it disappears.
In our practices, we run into two types of delivery complications. Either the client becomes stuck, as though he was coming out askew resulting, for example, in a physical trauma to the neck; or the child experiences being helped too much, for example, when a suction cu0 or forceps were used. Of course, these kinds of helps can be necessary. We are concerned here with the experiential consequences for the client.
Directions for treatment are, in principle, the same as we have mentioned before: Together with the client recognize and acknowledge the unpleasant experience, thereafter establish and go through an optimal and corrected movement course where the client comes out with his own power.
It can happen that the birth is stopped very late. We have had a case where, at the original birth, a client’s head was beginning to crown as his mother waited to come into the delivery room after a long labor. A passing professional helper who was panicked and stressed pushed the client back inside saying, “No, no –you shouldn’t come out yet.” We leave it to our readers to imagine what difficulties this client had with using his power.
5. Complications with the reception/taking-in.
The difficulties that can arise at this point are either due to various unpleasant medical procedures, or to something missing: attention, contact, peacefulness and time to slowly open to the new world and begin to take-in.
Unfortunate or wantful circumstances with taking-in will usual result in an arrest in the completed birth process. The natural conclusion should be something nice to come out to, i.e. peace and security. When this is missing the birth energy doesn’t get time to totally complete it’s cycle. As a result, the child will often want to “go in again”, try to return to the fetal position and may become suspended energetically in pre-birth and birth stages. This is often combined with giving up, or diffuse anger/infant rage. The experience can be described with adult words as: “Maybe my power is good enough, but it is meaningless to use because it leads to something bad.” It is for this reason that a good taking-in period clearly belongs with a complete and fully executed re-birth course.
Re-births where the original taking-in was wanting require extra work before the birth course can be properly completed. If the therapist is not aware of this, there is the risk that the client may become more frustrated than before the birth work, even though the actual re-birth has been successful. All the energy around birth and taking-in becomes actualized in the body, but is more associated to giving up or desperation than to release and happiness. The risk that this can happen is one of the essential reasons to be sure that the client can get therapy after a re-birth. We have experienced examples of actually good re-births with a good reception and taking-in that became unintegrated and were experienced as meaningless because the client in question had to go too long before follow-up with a therapist. As the Danish tennis player, Torben Ulrich, once expressed it, “It does no good to lean back proud and satisfied because the serve was successful.” In re-birth work with clients we, therefore, emphasize the taking-in situation, and follow-up therapy.
It is, of course, important that the “new born” comes quickly into close contact, preferably with the woman therapist (both client and therapist are clothed throughout the re-birth). Then, after a while, it varies from client to client depending on tiredness and energy levels, the delivery must be followed up with work with taking in both contact, and nourishment — through a bottle feeding. It is at this point that the client will sense if, at his original birth, he was suctioned, received a blood test or injection, or was struck in a resuscitation attempt. Such traumas must be recognized and worked through. Even if these different encroachments are necessary, they are unpleasant for the child. We know this from the reports we regularly get from our clients.
Complications can also result when the child, for various reasons, does not get immediate contact with the mother. This can occur when the mother, because of anesthetic, isn’t able to be totally present and in contact with her child. Along this line, but more extreme, are children who, because of impending adoption, or other reasons, are taken from the mother. They can, even though they may have gotten immediate contact with another, become confused and desperate: “Here is someone, but where is mother — the known energy?” The child in such cases will often try to close from nurturing and contact and seek to find the “right mother” by, for example, going “out of the body.” Other serious complications can arise if the mother was close to death with the birth, or actually died. Many of these difficulties will be seen in the re-birth as absence or a searching reflex and a sucking reflex. The client will not take in from the baby bottle. In such cases the event must first be worked through. Afterwards the search and suck reflexes must be stimulated. A bottle should be prepared and ready with warm milk and a little honey, or warm juice – by previous agreement with the client. (Here it is important to know if the client had or has a milk allergy!) Often clients at this point are angry and need acceptance of their desire to spit and close the mouth before they really get the desire to suck and take-in.
There have been cases of the Danish Childbirth Department having staff force a child to take in nourishment by a hard finger grab of the neck. This can lead to a deep closing and, as such, is extremely important to catch sight of and work through.
After acceptance of the spitting and anger comes the slow work with stimulation, giving time and contact until the client develops the desire to suck. The value of such work can hardly be emphasized enough. The power in this part of the work is the client’s learning to take in through the mouth and esophagus, instead of, as before, through the navel. This shift can be crucially meaningful for the client’s possibilities to take-in in the widest sense of the term.
In the circumstances where the birth is carried through by a woman therapist alone, now is the time for “the father” to come in. Either a man therapist, as we often use in our courses (often he has been working with another group) or a man helper who is to be the “new father” for a couple of days.
It is primarily our clients who have taught us how important this part of re-birth work is. Even though the client can clearly separate the part of the ego that is in regression from his adult part, it is very meaningful for both a man/father and other “family members” to welcome the “new born” and be glad for his arrival: “Oh, he/she is a delight/ is lovely.” “He/she is just what we wanted, perfect in every way.” Here it can be useful for therapists and helpers to use ideal mother and father sentences. Some very good ones have been formulated by Jack Lee Rosenberg (44). A very beautiful description of masculine and feminine energy balance in the optimal reception situation can be found in Angie Arrien’s description of the Basque people’s traditional reception of the new born (4).
After the client has successfully taken-in nurturing and contact, and he has been met by various people, it is time to offer new sight, feeling and sound impressions. It is a good idea to have a few different baby toys and/or soft stuffed animals. Good friends and helpers will often have bought something special for the client, but the therapist must be well supplied. Finally, it is necessary to be aware of the balance between the need for rest (in contact) and the need to sense, see, touch, listen and taste of the new world.
Circumstances after re-birth and taking-in.
After the work with re-birth and a new reception/taking-in situation, the “new born” needs time and space for a peaceful and gradual integration of the experience. Very often the first day after the birth is very literally experienced as growing up again. There is need for being carried/supported and “tucked in”. There may be desire for a warm bath and later to roll, creep and crawl. There should be no difficult tasks or powerful influences the first day. At the same time, it is important that there is someone with the client.
It is at this point that clients with an originally contact weak after birth period risk closing and being alone again. If this happens, the whole investment in time and work may not amount to much. Follow-up must be arranged either at the workshop where the birth occurred, or by agreement with the
helpers or therapist. As a transition, we have had clients in the past, choose a “new mother and father” from among the available helpers. But we have stopped this practice because it became too time consuming and projection filled for the helpers. Today we use “baby sitters” as it makes for a clear and bounded relationship. We let the therapist/s have the work of taking the role of mother and father.
Whole and complete, and partial, indirect and symbolic work with birth.
It will, hopefully, be apparent that whole and complete re-birth work has many sides and all are important:
- Work with the body, both the loosening, surrendering and re-working of old traumatic incidents and unsuitable movement patterns, help to build up adequate energy and movement patterns, and finally, an actual bodily re-experiencing of the birth course with establishment of pushing and an active extension reflex.
- A cognitive recognition and mapping of the original birth course and a new building-up of a better course in the body and movement and in terms of contact with the environment. It is understood that it is important that the client, himself, be able to follow the work with his observing ego step by step.
- A verbalized understanding of the birth’s meaning for obtaining and making use of his own power, both bodily, as in a wider energy sense, and figuratively.
- Work with the social and contact relationship both in the original birth, and in the re-birth, and for the current body and emotional interplay with the therapist/s and helpers, the “baby sitters”, and the friends in the follow-up work.
In our understanding, such work is optimal if the client has an actual birth trauma, meaning trauma shortly before, during or shortly after birth. We will, however, emphasize that birth can be worked with partially in many other ways — and we also do that.
We have already said that our clients can have an active birth problem without the circumstances and conditions being sufficient and/or conducive to recommend a proper re-birth therapy. In such circumstances, the therapist can help the client to gain energy and coordinate birth movements, and later to move the energy up the back side of the body — while standing. There after the therapist works with centering, power and moving forward.
We sometimes work with transforming birth energy and birth movements into other themes from later periods in development. AS we have mentioned before, there are many examples of apparently active birth problems, for example in dreams, that are actually more reflective of a current /adult life problem. For example, “to become oneself”, “to come through on one’s own premises”, or “that something new is on the way”. In such circumstances, it is wiser to work partially and/or symbolically with birth through movement, drawing, fantasy, etc. Relating the outcome of the re-birth therapy to the clients adult life is
crucial. The therapeutic work, in general, must move progressively — out into the client’s current life (as opposed to regressively into his past.). If one misses this crucial point, one risks client regression to infancy instead of, for example, standing for his own opinion in his work place.
How one finishes and follows through must be emphasized. In circumstances where a complete re-birth is required and gone through, the client must be supported, over time, in integrating his “now greater and now accessible energy” in his daily life.
Re-birth work should begin with something missing in the client’s adult life and end with the client using his new won power to grab hold of his daily world.
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