Until I watched Jessica (Jessica: The autobiography of an infant) remember her birth, I was as much of a non-believer as everyone else. It just didn’t seem humanly possible. To be convinced that it is, you either have to experience it yourself or watch someone you know do so.
Jessica’s remembrance of her birth began just like the others, with her talking about an upsetting feeling she found herself experiencing at the moment and not, at least at first, related to any memory.
Her immediate feeling on this day was “Something feels real dead and unimportant in me.” Her confident expression intimated that more would quickly follow. However, for the next 30 or so seconds she just stared over my shoulder at the window behind me.
Since Jessica had already remembered a few infant experiences in the past month or two, I thought that a direct “When did you first feel dead?’ was worth a try.
She had an immediate reply, and in the same confident tone: “I’ve always felt dead.” This was followed a few moments later by, “I was thinking about that earlier.”
“I remember ‘thinking’ before I was born about everything that was going to happen. I was going to be born so that somebody could love and touch me, so I could be enough, so I could be a part of a big, working thing, and I could have an effect on the world.”
I was mesmerized. I stayed in that state for the next 45 minutes, without saying a word the whole time.
Jessica went on to explain that the first few minutes of her actually being in the world had been so hectic that a part of her must have gotten “screwed up within minutes.”
When the top of her head appeared, she was pushed back in, turned over, and hurriedly pulled out – and with everyone totally unaware that she was trying to do her part in getting herself born.
While all this was going on, her mother was screaming over her body tearing and blood squirting about. The doctor barked urgent commands and all on the medical team scurried about.
The nurses handled her body like a rag doll and they joked with each other while they absentmindedly cleaned her up. And most importantly, no one looked directly into her eyes and welcomed her into the world.
Throughout all this, Jessica’s voice was vibrant and her words electrifying. Her face, her posture, her tone of voice radiated whatever emotion she was experiencing – excitement, hope, indignation, disappointment, joy, and even at one point, laughter.
At the end, she reflected on all she had remembered: “If visitors came to this planet, they’d leave and wonder how we got to be human beings. That’s exactly what I ‘thought’ when I first got here. How did anyone survive? I didn’t know how I’d survive. They were all screwy! That’s why you look so good. Because you’re not as screwy!”
My experience as Jessica’s therapist (Jessica: The autobiography of an infant http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-autobiography-Jeffrey-Von-Glahn/dp/0595364292 ) was, overall, a totally mesmerizing experience, and one that I would without a second’s hesitation do again even though it occupied untold hours, as well as many years of my life if one includes writing the book, which took about 20 years. What I was most struck by, and what made the most lasting impression on me, was how Jessica’s infant mind compared to my adult mind, and with all the other so-called developed minds I had come to know. As Jessica described more and more of her very early experiences, and in such minute detail, I became more and more envious at how her mind operated during those earliest days of her life. She was so curious, so interested, so fascinated, so eager, and so sensitive to what was happening around her. She was so eager to be a part of that “big, working thing.” Continue reading
The new idea, based on my extensive experience as a psychotherapist, is my concept of therapeutic catharsis (TC), and that this experience is the most effective way to regain one’s basic humanness. The idea of catharsis has never been adequately understood. The basic idea behind TC is that there exists a natural healing process for psychological “injuries” just as there is one for physical injuries/illnesses. They both operate in the same way: safety from further injury/infection and sufficient support. In medicine, support is physiological in nature, while in psychotherapy it is provided by the acceptance the client receives for his/her experiencing. TC is only effective when it spontaneously emerges coincident with the client receiving this kind of support. When emotional experiencing arises in this unforced way it IS NOT re-traumatizing. This well-intended but seriously misunderstood term has scared the proverbial living daylights out of people in the field. The misunderstanding, starting with Freud to the present, is this: When emotional experiencing arises in this unforced way the person is an engaged participant in and an objective observer of her/his own experiencing at the same time.
For how I learned all this, search: Jessica: The autobiography of an infant.