When Everything Appears to Be Conspiring Against You, You Might Want to Stop Fighting Rebirth: Atman Projects Versus Surrender Solutions and a Different Hero’s Journey
How Can You Be Borne Up, If You Won’t Let Go? Spiritual Experience Is Distorted by One’s Birth Trauma … The Necessary Hero Descends Into the Perinatal Below
Apocalypse – No! Chapter Twelve: Atman Projects vs. Surrender Solutions
The Necessary Hero and Descent Into the Underground–When There’s “Nothing But Trouble,” You Know You’re in The Perinatal Below
A Different Kind of Hero’s Journey for Our Times Is Depicted in the Cult Classic, “Nothing But Trouble”
A Perinatal Flick
A film of postmodern times that is bold with revelation for us is the cult classic, “Nothing but Trouble,” which was released in 1991. It is an especially potent example of the rising pre- and perinatal influence in the media we’ve been discussing as well as the different heroic response required in these strangest of days because of it. It is all this, plus a twist: As a comedy it represents an unlikely approach to such material and themes. More about that later.
It was produced and written by Peter and Dan Aykroyd and stars Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, and John Candy.Its reception by modern audiences mirrors exactly the perception in general, to date, that has been had of the perinatal material it depicts so well. For despite the movie’s star power and the popularity of its co-creator, Dan Aykroyd, it was met with overwhelmingly negative reviews and received six Razzie nominations, garnering one. I fully expect that until we know better I can expect much the same kind of reaction to this book, because of the perinatal perspective it is revealing of the dark underside of everyday pleasantries and sugar-coated media realities. Yet there is hope for all that we will integrate this hard-to-face yet redemptive material in the fact that the movie does have a strong following among some in our population, just as at present there are some who are not in denial of the bittersweet perinatal vision being revealed.
The Lure Into the Underworld and Call to Adventure
The perinatal adventure of “Nothing but Trouble” begins innocuously with the main characters “leaving the beaten path” on a rather ordinary trip out of the city. Interestingly, the Brazilian couple who have forced themselves on the main characters of Chevy Chase and Demi Moore in making the trip act as impish other-worldly instruments in the change of route.
Joseph Campbell pointed out that the “call to adventure,” which marks the beginning of the descent into the transformative nether regions, may be instigated by the merest chance or blunder. [Footnote 1]
Campbell also writes that the heralds of such a rite of spiritual passage are often loathly and underestimated characters. The Brazilian couple—as gaudy, overbearing, quirky, and from “down under”—perform just this function of luring into the underworld. Thus, they remind us that it is the quirky yet underestimated element in our familiar daily experience that opens us up to the process whose ramifications are huge by comparison.
The Merest Blunder, The Adventure Begins
Sure enough, this innocent-appearing outing is soon disturbed. The merest blunder of map reading results in an ominous tour of an eerie town and its somber and menacing-looking inhabitants. This is followed by a high-speed car chase as the police attempt to pull the innocents over for a bogus traffic violation.
In the tour of the town, it is as if the ego is shown getting a preview or having a precognition of what lies ahead and attempts to flee back into its safe familiar environs. But of course, this emerging piece of unconscious material will not be denied and is able to capture the fleeing ego that we see safely ensconced in its trappings of status and power—symbolized by the BMW with car phone. At this point the main characters, representing the ego, are led, under guard, into the bizarre town of Valkenvania—the encounter with unconscious perinatal begins.
The Junkyard of the Psyche
Campbell says that in the unconscious deep, to which one is beckoned, “are hoarded all the rejected, unadmitted, unrecognized, unknown, or undeveloped factors, laws, and elements of existence.” [Footnote 2]
Likewise, the set in “Nothing But Trouble” is replete with refuse. Bits of history—of rusted and broken refrigerators, automobiles, kitchen appliances, assorted junk, and pieces and parts of all the preceding…the wreckage of the past—are strewn about as well as heaped in clusters to construct the architecture and delineate the outlines of the drama. The correlation with subconscious remnants of forgotten memories and past emotional experiences is obvious.
Thus the drama evolves in the dumping ground and junkyard of the psyche—where all the rejected tidbits of experience have been relegated.
Stripped of Ego, Perinatal Begins
After being separated from the automobile—that is to say, the ego stripped of defensive trappings of status and worldly position—the characters are rather quickly shuttled into encounters with a myriad of perinatal elements. A few of the obvious ones are as follows:
- Mr. Bonestripper, which is a roller-coaster type ride whose entrance is a large vagina dentate mouth that swallows, chews up, and kills. Notice the roller-coaster ride aspect of Mr. Bonestripper, which reflects the emotional extremes and changingness of perinatal, specifically Basic Perinatal Matrix III (BPM III), events. [Footnote 3]
- The chutes inside the house and of Mr. Bonestripper indicate birth canal symbolism.
- Sexual elements, indicating BPM III influence, are manifest in the scantily clad heroine and the penis-nose of the judge.
- The dark foundry symbolizes the foundation work of the psyche as well as the ominous and eerie aspects of perinatal experience.
- The slave labor surroundings represent similar feelings in the enforced and helpless character of doings just prior to and at the time of birth.
- Notice that the body—the car, the “Beamer”—gets trimmed down, the excess removed, symbolic of the cutting away of past attachments and concerns of a worldly nature, one’s “status” reduced.
- Chevy Chase as the main character is at one point forced into a marriage with a huge woman, who is tellingly androgynous in that she is played by John Candy. In her threatening and suffocating embraces we see symbolism of the crushing womb.
- The entire site of these doings is surrounded by a watery trench. This obviously reflects the amniotic surround in the womb.
- Police and guns point to the authoritative character of perinatal doings—in other words, do, or else!
- Death/rebirth symbolism of the perinatal exists in the form of skeletons and huge piles of skulls and bones.
- Scatological, that is to say, fecal symbolism is seen in the “bat-room,” which contains an enormous pile of wet bat-shit…excuse the wording, but it really is shit and not feces.
- The arbitrary nature of justice in the courtroom speaks to that perinatal feeling that one tiny thing, event, or action, has huge and horrifying ramifications.
The most obviously perinatal element, however, is the gargantuan and grotesquely flabby infant twins in diapers. Perinatal feelings are indicated in their extreme crying neediness. Their freshly newborn quality is evident in their fleshiness, which reminds one of the overweight appearance of some newborns, which is usually lost a little later on in infancy. The glossy, waxy sheen on their bodies is reminiscent of the skin of a newborn, which, fresh out of the womb, is wet and slippery, covered in amniotic fluid and cervical mucosa.
A Spiritual Interface
An interesting aspect that indicates the transpersonal, or spiritual, interface with the perinatal is an attic room—a higher mind of memory, kind of like an Akashic record—where all past IDs—identifications—and reports of them—newspaper clippings—are displayed.
Though, interestingly enough, in true perinatal fashion, a macabre lens is used to view these lives—only the reports of their tragic disappearances are seen. I believe that this is a wonderful depiction of how transpersonal information is distorted by perinatal material—the implications of which are far reaching for the pronouncements of so-called spiritual, or psychological, authorities who have not dealt with their perinatal undersides.
Trusting Higher Forces: Say “Good Night,” John Wayne, and How Can You Be Borne Up If You Won’t Let Go? When All Seems Lost…. You Might Want to Stop Fighting Rebirth
When It Appears the Whole World Has Been Conspiring Against You, You Might Want to Let Yourself Be Blessed
Just When You Thought….
However an important element in this movie, “Nothing But Trouble,” which is different from artistic representations that deal with only the personal or psychodynamic, is the way the ending opens up under it to a new level, a whole new arena, of issues. Those of us in experiential therapies or breathwork are only too aware of how the perinatal opens up to one, revealing a greater expanse and pervasiveness of dis-ease, at a certain point after dealing with the personal and the psychodynamic.
This layered, or multilevel quality of the movie is shown when the main characters, having heroically escaped through personal effort, find themselves returning to the perinatal realm. Thinking that they have the forces of authority and light on their side, they expect this time to be able to put the evil away once and for all.
But When All Seems Lost….
To their immense surprise, it appears that the whole world has been conspiring against them—a telling perinatal feeling. The evil is discovered to be pervasive, as if infiltrating every corner of the universe—another perinatal feeling. Even the thoroughly trusted elements of light turn out to be on the side of the darker forces—a vantage point that is part of the hopelessness that characterizes the classic no-exit BPM II scenario. And just like in the womb, then, when all seems lost, something new happens, an explosion or eruption of sorts, which brings down the old world and its structures in a violent conflagration.
Atman Projects Versus Surrender Solutions
This hopeless and futile aspect of the perinatal realms — as opposed to the merely personal or psychodynamic ones—lends itself to its distinctive response—which is surrender, not resistance. Unlike the hero of Campbell’s hero’s cycle whose task is to slay the dragon using the sword of analytical or cognitive powers, the correct solution here at the perinatal is to let go of all designs, manipulations, and attempts at control and to put oneself into the hands of the seemingly irrational and chaotic Universe, come what may.
How Can You Be Borne Up, If You Won’t Let Go?
The Universe’s response in the movie — the upsurge of fire from below the earth that brings down the evil structures—demonstrates the theme of being saved by higher forces when one finally is able to surrender. In the same way, in our perinatal experiences, we find ourselves “borne up” and elevated when we once are able to submit to the upsurge of fear-evoking perinatal emotion.
Indeed, when Chevy Chase is seen rolling and setting fire to barrels of oil in a superhuman nick-of-time rescue attempt—in typical “hero’s journey” style—I had an odd disjointed sense that we had switched modes. The element seemed incongruous.
Say “Good Night,” John Wayne
But, then again, not so. For the movie shows that the successful escape performed through one’s own effort is, in actuality, futile. In perinatal terms, such heroics are illusory “atman projects” that ultimately fail against the onslaught of perinatal material, which must be surrendered to, not heroically resisted or conquered.
Interestingly, the eventual surrender solution is echoed earlier on when Chevy Chase is about to go through the chomping jaws of Mr. Bonestripper, the devouring womb. His response, at the prospect of his imminent failure, is to pray—to call on higher forces.
Trusting in Higher Forces
Amazingly, the machine breaks at that moment, signaling the response of such “external” or higher forces. He alone, of all the others who have faced that fate, goes through the machine unscathed. Notice also that he says “Thank you, Lord” afterwards.
Thus it is not on one’s own powers that one makes it through perinatal material, rather it is by the relinquishing of such attempts at control and the relying and trusting in higher forces. We are reminded that Dante required the angelic Beatrice to show the way through purgatorio and inferno to paradisio.
In the next chapter, we will use another postmodern film to expand on these themes. This will allow us to fill out an emerging pattern, as we then compare it with “Nothing But Trouble” and other perinatal evidence.
So let us watch, now, as the pattern, like a photo emerging in solution, reveals to us its features, thus delivering to us the message it has come to bring.
3. As a reminder, BPM III events (Basic Perinatal Matrix III events), using the typology set forth by Stanislav Grof in his many works, are the events surrounding the actual birth struggle of the infant during delivery. These parts on the perinatal in film make mention also of BPM II, which is related to the time of severe compression and constriction of the fetus in the latter stages of pregnancy and prior to the actual onset of delivery—which are characterized by feelings of “no-exit”; of BPM IV, which is concerned with the feelings of release, triumph, being saved, and whatever else occurs immediately after delivery; and of BPM I, which is related to the state of the fetus earlier in pregnancy—prior to compression—which is often conceived to have “oceanic” and “blissful” qualities, though not always.
Continue with You Just Can’t Slay a Volcano: The Necessary Hero Uses Surrender, not Struggle … For Why Would You Not Be Borne Up by a Universe That Is You
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The Cycle of All Events, the Evolution of Parenting, and Auspicious Collective Regressions: Being Crazy in an Insane World Might Mean You’re the Sane One
What’s Involved in Stopping War and Ecocide and the Necessary Mess of Transformation: Hard to Believe, But We’re Getting Saner
Chapter Nine: Regressions in the Service of Society — Messy Healing
There Is a Cycle to All Events … The Spiral Dance, Why We Can’t Get No Satisfaction, and Where There Is Real Hope
The Spiral Dance – The Cycle of All Events: Wedded to Rebirthing Rituals, the Inevitability of Disappointment, and Where There is Real Hope
Wedded to Rebirthing Rituals
In turning toward these feelings we embrace, feel, and if we go deeply enough into that, we relive the roots of them and resolve them finally.
If we face these inner forces—we call that feeling them…in this instance, feeling through or reliving one’s birth—we integrate them and heal the underlying trauma, the perinatal trauma.
Or the individual and society can avoid this going within—as depicted in the peace symbol—and can choose instead to act them out, which is the peace symbol upside down—the Satan symbol, the pentagram.
In acting them out, one distracts oneself from the uncomfortable feelings, which though not focused on, are still there. One tries to be “strong” in the face of feelings but one is actually driven and directed by them—they “take over one’s mind.” This is the source of the idea of spirit possession and in general of the idea that a devil or Satan can take over one’s soul.
So in running from our feelings we are captured and enslaved by them, we are forced to act them out in ways we would not otherwise choose which are negative to horrible but in all cases self-sabotaging. Of course war is the most horrible, most self-sabotaging, greatest, and most all-consuming form of such acting-out…the greatest struggle.
Humans are characterized by a particular kind of birth process. It is a coming into being that is traumatic and which is related to our distinction of standing upright and thereby decreasing the pelvic opening as well as suffocating the fetus prior to birth. The fact is that because of this “distinction” we are destined to go through periods of rebirthing purificatory rituals, whether for good or ill. [Footnote 1]
For we are psychologically wedded to reliving that which we could not fully experience at the time because of the overwhelming quality of pain associated with it.
A “Spiral Dance”
These rebirthing rituals we are doomed to repeat, one way or the other. We are going to act out this primal pain—this birth trauma—in an unending cycle of feelings having these components
- Periods of feelings of expansion
- Closedness or entrapment, guilt, and depression
In winning the “war” or having the success or achievement, there begins the same cycle of expansion followed by entrapment. Losing the war…the struggle, the battle…is akin to death, even if there is no death. There is numbness and repression…akin to a kind of “limbo”…before life can begin anew. A reconception is necessary.
The Pattern of Our First Nine Months Imprints Us For Our Entire Human Lives
The reemergence of hope in individuals and societies is biologically equivalent to conception. And following this reconceiving, there is a similar cycle of reemerging strength—akin to the expansion that follows winning. Then there is continuing depression or overarching gloom and helplessness feelings coupled with revenge feelings and blame as individuals and societies stew in the vessel of indecision, inaction, and doubt. This is quite like the closedness and guilt which follows achievement-success-victory. Note, however, that the revenge and blame feelings here are aspects of the BPM II matrix, just as is closedness and guilt.
Can’t Get No Satisfaction
And then the cycle is the same again. Specifically, there is aggression against the oppressor (War and revolution both see the foe as an oppressor, even if one is actually the one who is the aggressor.) What follows upon fighting is release or “death”; and so on around. The “happily ever after” that inspires such battle truly only exists in fantasies and fairy tales. Prosperity and feelings of success are unfortunately doomed, on this physical plane of existence, to be short-lived.
Where There Is Real Hope
It would seem we are fated to never be happy, for long. But progress is possible; herein lies our only real choice in the entire scenario. For we either work through these cycles in some deep psychologically transformative way that helps us deal with and pass beyond the difficult and painful parts of the cycle as well as helps to fade the imprints’ potency in determining our behavior or we are doomed to act them out in the external world in ways that we are blindly unaware are not congruent with the actual facts of our circumstances and are harmful to ourselves and others around us.
We are fated to experience these cycles of birth, and we will either act them out disastrously or we find ways of dealing with them inside of ourselves in some way—and some ways are better than others for doing this—so that we can have some inner distance from these patterns and therefore some conscious ability or choice around our actions when these pushes and pulls arise.
Railing Against the Darkness: The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of Reason, Progress Requires Regress, and Healing Is Nothing if Not Messy
Railing Against the Darkness, The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of Reason, and Social Progress Requires Regression
The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of “Reason”
What we absolutely don’t have, yet arrogantly think we do, is the ability—through will or reason alone—to choose light over darkness, to replace these inner veils of distortion with clarity of thought and perception and hence of positive behavior and actions while in the midst of them. Trying to reason with and to obtain truly desired outcomes is about as possible as trying to reason with a lizard and convince it to conform to one’s wishes for its behavior. For good reason: Indeed our rational mind is as split off from the “reptilian brain” inside us within which these imprints circulate and from which they arise as are we from the consciousness of a gila monster.
What We Call “Reason” Is Largely Just Rationalization
This impotence of intellectual understanding in the face of these patterns of self-destruction occurs because these schemas are rooted in memories existing in an emotional and entirely dissociated part of the brain, which is hardly touched by neocortical admonishing of any kind. As deMause correctly points out,
[The fetus’s] “early experiences have been found to be recorded in a separate early neural network—a dissociated emotional memory system centering in the amygdala, quite distinct from the declarative memory system centering in the hippocampus that is established in later childhood.” [Footnote 2]
Disclaiming these cycles, which inevitably pass through darkness, and reliance on “will-power” to change one’s patterns, which includes self-sabotage, has been exposed in its impotence in modern times. We see as evidence the growing acknowledgment of the ineffectiveness and, indeed, counter-effectiveness of psychoanalysis. [Footnote 3]
Railing Against the Darkness
So the question begging to be asked is “What do we do about it?” What do we do about these pernicious cycles?
And when these elements erupt in society in harmless, possibly healing ways, how do we view them? Do we, as Mayr and Boelderl do in their article, “The Pacifier Craze: Collective Regression in Europe,” decry the regression…as if by disclaiming it we could somehow keep the cycle from happening? [Footnote 4]
Mayr and Boelderl write, for example, that the situation of collective regression in Europe “strikes us as being high-explosive [sic] and bitter enough.” [Footnote 5]
In another place they exclaim, “What is horrible about this insight [about the increasing collective regression in Europe] is the additional observation that regression is becoming still more radical.” [Footnote 6]
This response of railing against the “Darkness” is a Freudian response. Yet it is not even a neo-Freudian one, since regression in the service of the ego—which began to be seen as ever more important by neo-Freudians—is not acknowledged, let alone considered.
Social Progress Requires Regression
That regression in the service of the ego is not considered is confirmed by Mayr and Boelderl in their statement that “[R]egression by definition is a process of repression and a defense mechanism.” [Footnote 7]
These are surprising words, in light of the concept of regression in the service of the ego and awareness of the clinically based evolution of psychotherapeutic theory since Freud’s original postulations, over a half-century ago.
They are even more awry if one considers the universal, cross-cultural, implementation by societies of rebirthing rituals to handle the same kinds of forces we are confronted with. The anthropological literature is rife with these accounts.
Further, Grof has meticulously shown that regularly going into altered states of consciousness where one confronts this material is a prime function of cultures, and it occurs nearly universally although it is woefully lacking in Western culture for the most part.
Moreover, these words by Mayr and Boelderl indicate a conflict with or ignorance of the fact that deMause’s theory of evolution of historical change requires regression on the part of parents, while parenting their children, as the primary “engine” of sociopsychological progress.
For deMause writes,
“[T]he ultimate source of all historical change is psychogenesis, the lawful change in childrearing modes occurring through generational pressure…. Psychogenesis depends upon the ability of parents and surrogates to regress to the psychic age of their children and work through the anxieties of that age better the second time than in their own childhood.” (op. cit., 1982, p. 135, emphasis mine.)
But this mistake by these two social scientists would not be all that important if it was not the perfect example of the kind of uninformed attitude we have, generally speaking, in Western societies about these forces. This attitude is reinforced by a Judeo-Christian tradition of specialness and scapegoating in the West. It is a pervasive feeling about these things; specifically it, itself, is the actual defense. While this is a widespread reaction to our inner realities it is far from science, and even further from the truth or reality about these things.
“Stop It!” … Yeah, That’s Gonna Work
At any rate, if we adopt this Western, Judeo-Christian, Freudian tactic of decrying the darkness, we are as effective in derailing the cycle of violence and war as Freudians are in what amounts to admonishing their clients to “stop it!” when it comes to their neurotic self-sabotaging.
For people cannot will themselves to merely stop their cycles of neurotic self-sabotage and self-destruction, which are the individual manifestations/ acting out of their birth traumas. As mentioned these directors of action operate out of a different part of the psyche, and brain, than one’s conscious willing part. They are simply not accessible, so hardly amenable, to rational or willful input. And changing one’s thoughts to affect them is about as helpful as rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic.
People Who Have It All Figured Out Are the Ones to Watch Out For … Emotional “Sickness” Might Indicate More “Wellness”
Regression in the Service of the Ego
With the exposure of the ineffectiveness of the Freudian tactic of intellectual understanding has come the Freudian movement’s disintegration into schools advocating various other strategies for change.
These schools/strategies include the psychiatric—the use of drugs; the neo-Freudians who acknowledge and use regression in the service of the ego and abreaction; the humanistic-existential approaches, stressing the “experiential”; and the Jungians and neo-Jungians, who would seek the resolution of these cycles in their inner archetypal acting out, resulting in an eventual rootedness of the ego in a higher Self (a spiritual center) beyond or transcending the cycles. [Footnote 8]
Other approaches include the bulk of the spiritual, new-age, or transpersonal means that are flourishing these days. These alternative paths basically differ from all others in their belief that one can simply bypass these perinatal pulls and pushes and go directly to the Light or the Self by dismissing the birth cycles, or the Darkness or Shadow, through affirming the Light, meditating the Darkness out or the Light in, changing one’s thoughts, creating one’s reality, and various combinations of these.
Finally, these newer schools and strategies for healing include those of what might be called experiential psychotherapy, which includes primal therapy, holotropic breathwork, some forms of (experiential) meditation (Vipassana meditation, for example), Reichian and bioenergetic approaches, some forms of hypnotherapy—experiential ones—ones that involve reliving traumas—and virtually all the techniques, treatments, and correctives that are espoused in the field of pre- and perinatal psychology.
The point is that from a good number of these other-than-Freudian perspectives—and all of those that acknowledge the importance of regression in the service of the ego—and from the perspective of the entire field of experiential psychotherapy, the answer to the cycles of violence, war, and death-rebirth is to stop the acting out, not by simply intellectually decrying it—as if one can actually talk oneself out of one’s inner fears and one’s Darkness/Shadow—but by reliving those cycles of violence at their origins…their primal roots. In the case of perinatal forces, those forces from “the dark side,” this is accomplished by reliving the violence of birth, a perinatal trauma that is thoroughly and masterfully delineated by Grof and deMause. [Footnote 9]
Auspicious Collective Regressions
But from this perspective of experiential psychotherapy—one completely congruent with and grateful of deMause’s contributions in psychohistory as well—regression, in Europe, or elsewhere, is not seen as something to decry, disclaim, be horrified of, or be seen as dangerous but is seen as an opportunity. Regression is certainly not seen as a form of defense but as the opposite of that. Regression is part of a process of diminishing one’s defenses against one’s internal reality of pain and trauma.
Thus, examples of blatant collective regression as in Europe—more so to the extent they are relived, released, and integrated—are entirely auspicious for the eventual elimination of war as a collective device of acting out—defending against—the painful feelings coming from one’s personal history which one carries around, all unknowingly, and which pervade, in one way or another, in forms subtle and not so subtle, every moment of one’s consciousness in the present.
From this experiential psychotherapeutic perspective, we have a different feeling about developments like those that Mayr and Boelderl describe as collective regression in Europe and Lawson describes as occurring at rock concerts. [Footnote 10]
From a more enlightened viewpoint these cultural phenomena should have us, if not dancing in the streets, at least hopeful of a gradual decrease in the use of war and violence. Why? It is because the youth who display this “regression” so blatantly were brought up by an “advanced” form of child-rearing than that of previous generations, that they have fewer defenses, fewer layers of obfuscation covering up their unconscious psychodynamics; consequently the regression is seen more clearly in their behavior. [Footnote 11]
Unflinching Belief Related to Total Dissociation
Why is this important? DeMause points out that people do go to war, and that prior to it their perinatal dynamics come to the fore, as evidenced by perinatal-laden words and images in the media and in leaders’ speeches used to describe the situation and its dynamics. Thus, our leaders take us into war, they act out their perinatal dynamics…and we in following them act out ours…in such gruesomely overt ways because these dynamics are so hidden, repressed, and overlaid with defenses that the conscious mind has absolutely no access to, and hence insight into, them as being part of one’s unconscious dynamics.
Consequently the conscious mind is completely able to convince itself that those dynamics are actual, real, and doubtless parts of the situation and therefore require an actual, real, and extreme response. The amount of resolve required to act out war can only be wrought of an unflinching belief in the rightness, the absolute correctness of one’s perspective of the situation and therefore of that extreme course of response. And that can only be brought about by a total dissociation from one’s perinatal traumas, and a complete and utter projection of it on the outside—the enemy, to be specific.
Blatant “Sickness” Related to Being Real
The contrary is also true: When there does not exist that total and complete dissociation of the perinatal trauma—when it is, as in Europe and rock concerts currently, closer to the surface, less defended against, less repressed and, hence, more blatant—it is more accessible to consciousness and less likely to be acted out in the extreme as in war. Instead it is more likely to be acted out in less extreme forms, such as jumping into mosh pits, carrying pacifiers, listening to baby tunes about the, very real, difficulties of being a baby, and so on.
Finally, it is more likely to be actually allowed to emerge in consciousness and be relived, and thereby “healed”…and gone beyond, to be replaced by something more benign and more socially constructive, and thus to be removed forever as a motivation to war or violence. This is the auspicious view of the developments described by Mayr and Boelderl. [Footnote 12]
Janov was the first to point out that a permanent resolution of underlying trauma initially entailed an aggravation of symptoms and symbolic acting out. That is to say, the underlying dynamics become more blatant and apparent in behavior. [Footnote 13]
Janov was also the first to note that the acting-out and overt neurotic was closer to being “real,” and therefore really sane, than his or her highly functioning and “normal,” but repressed, rigidly defended, and unfeeling neighbor. [Footnote 14]
The Most Evolved Parenting … Boomers and Millennials … and The Cyclical Nature of History: I Know It’s Hard to Believe But We’ve Been Getting Saner
Thanks to You We’re Getting Saner: The Most Evolved Parenting … Boomers and Millennials … and The Cyclical Nature of History
Evolution of Parenting – We’ve Been Getting Saner
Finally, the correctness of the view that being “crazy” in an insane world might be more sane has been borne out in recent history. DeMause describes an evolution of parenting from ancient times to the present which involved ever decreasing psychosis and violence and increasing caring and consciousness of the needs of children. He connects this decrease in violent child caring to ever decreasing violence and psychotic acting out in societies.
DeMause labels the most common modern parenting mode the socializing mode. Short of the quite recent helping mode—which only really rose to prominence in the last three decades—the socializing mode is the most advanced and most humane.
Lest there be any confusion, I wish to point out that my own theoretical understanding differs from deMause’s in one important respect. While I agree with his evolution of child-rearing over the course of civilization and within recorded time, I believe he is wrong about prehistory and what primal peoples were like and the kind of child-caring they engaged in. He depicts prehistoric societies as psychotically oblivious of the needs of children, engaging in, first, infanticidal; then, second, abandoning; then, third, ambivalent modes of child-rearing. Whereas it seems to me the overwhelming evidence and increasing numbers of anthropologists point to a natural “organic” child-caring being employed in the the mists of the past quite a bit more “advanced” than even many modes employed today.
I believe the change from the loving parenting we see in many primal peoples and in Nature among many of our planetmates to the infanticidal, abandoning, and ambivalent modes he has described for early historic cultures is a product of that ever increasing control of Nature that went into full gear with the agrarian revolution, some ten to twenty-five thousand years ago. So, I am saying that brutal parenting was a consequence of “civilization” and was at its worst at the beginnings of recorded time.
But I agree we have been gradually evolving to better modes of child-caring over the history of civilization to the most sane and psychologically beneficial modes employed in recent decades, which, you might want to note, are very much like the modes of the earliest humans. I describe why and how we lost our connection with Nature and loving ways of parenting—how we left “Eden”—in my book and blog “The Great Reveal.”
The Cycles of Time
I believe my understanding shows once again how much of what modern folks thought of “development”—including it being linear and increasing from “darkness” to “light” with ourselves always at the top (conveniently)—is wrong and merely part of an anthropocentric bias and an ethnocentric heritage. For more and more, as we lay down those blinders to reality, we notice the evidence of the cyclical nature of everything—from our lives (ashes to ashes) to the physical Universe’s expansion and contraction, to the vibrations at the subatomic level, the waves in the sea, the turning of the Earth and the revolutions of the solar systems, and I contend now also, the so-called “history” of our species on Earth. This is the thoroughly postmodern idea that human time is also cyclical, with over and again peoples returning to earlier halcyon times only to “fall” away from them.
The Worst of Times Quality of Current Events
This idea of time as cyclical not linear is in keeping with Eastern philosophies, as well as indigenous ones. Hindu thinking currently has us at the depths of the Kali Yuga, the worst part of the cycle right now, with matters to be reversed very soon and the best of times just ahead. And, as I have been describing in my books Falls from Grace and Primal Renaissance and will be directly pointing out in my upcoming book, Primal Return, we are currently seeing a most necessary return to a more harmonious way of being and a more natural self. And with it, requiring it, to some extent preceding it, we are evolving to the most advanced mode of loving parenting.
The “Best of Times” Nature of Our Parenting
Psychohistorian Glenn Davis, following deMause, analyzed the most advanced form of child-caring short of the most recent helping mode—the psychogenic parenting mode deMause termed socializing—and found that it comprised four submodes. In order, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century and each one a more “evolved” and humane one than the previous one, they are the submodes of psychic control, aggressive training, vigorous guidance, and delegated release. [Footnote 15]
Oh, Be-HAVE. WWII Generation … Received Aggressive-Training and Vigorous-Guidance Parenting
Davis concluded that in America the Vietnam War was perpetrated by individuals belonging almost entirely to the aggressive-training and vigorous-guidance psychoclasses. [Footnote 16]
Questioning Authority and Oneself Is Good. Boomers … Received Delegated Release Parenting
Yet the Vietnam War was brought to an end largely as a result of the efforts of an antiwar movement whose largest component was a Sixties youth brought up under a more advanced delegated-release child-caring mode. [Footnote 17]
The delegated release mode, which resulted in the phenomenon of Sixties youth and the counterculture, is the most “advanced” mode short of the helping mode.
“Let’s Collaborate” – Millennials. Received the Most Advanced Parenting – Helping … “We Just Want You to Be Happy.”
The helping mode is the child-caring mode employed widely by the Sixties generation for their children, the Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y. So, a helping mode of parenting was enjoyed by the children of a delegated-release psychoclass, the Boomers. Sixties youth are seen, psychologically, to have the most the most “advanced” ego structures short of their children taught within a helping mode. [Footnote 18]
Ending War and Humanicide—Peace Is Worth its Price of Suffering: Better “Emotionally Disturbed” Than “Healthily” Fighting in War
Walking In Another’s Moccasins
It is obvious that these Sixties youth did not have the same unflinching and unqualified belief in the absolute rightness of their country’s position in Vietnam as did many of their parents. This is obviously the case in a psychoclass of youth chanting a generational mantra, “Question authority!” and whose more extreme members would at times even go over to the perspective of seeing the war from the eyes of the “enemy,” the Other.
As I mentioned earlier, among the Sixties Generation we saw Jane Fonda’s journey to Hanoi, the waving of North Vietnamese flags by protesters, and the carrying of little red books on the sayings of Chairman Mao. These are obvious indicators that the generation as a whole was open to seeing the war from the North Vietnamese perspective: That is, as a conflict perpetrated by a foreign nation that was hypocritical in its espousal of democracy in that it prevented democratic elections that would have without doubt elected Ho Chi Minh and instead it installed a puppet-ruler in the South, making Vietnam a virtual colony of the United States. From this perspective, the Vietnam War was for the Vietnamese as much a war for independence as the American Revolution was for the U.S.
This is just an example of how there are two sides to every issue and how an attempt at empathy or “walking in The Other’s moccasins”—made possible by a closeness to a perinatal unconscious that is also an opposite perspective than that of the conscious mind—can lead, at the minimum, to the reluctance necessary to prevent engaging in at least the most blatant and horrific forms of violence…against others, but consider also, against Nature.
The Perinatal Generation
At any rate, is there evidence that this undermining of the self-righteous position necessary for the instigation and carrying out of war and ecocide—this ability to see at least somewhat from The Other’s perspective and not just one’s own—is in truth correlated with a closeness to perinatal dynamics, a closeness to the unconscious for that generation of youth, those of the Sixties? The answer: Absolutely yes!
As mentioned in a previous part, sociologist Kenneth Keniston did psychological studies of members of the Sixties Generation.
He was inspired to do so through his noticing that he was seeing something really unusual and radically different in these youth than what he had ever seen. This led to his fascination with discovering what made them so different. And he documented his findings in two books—The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society and Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth. Roughly speaking he chose to study the unconscious dynamics of both the “alienated-hippie” and the “activist” sectors, respectively, of that generation. [Footnote 19]
At the risk of repeating myself, I wish to remind the reader that a reading of his books—keeping in mind that Keniston knew nothing of perinatal dynamics at that time, and few people did, for that matter—reveals a degree of perinatal imagery, fantasy, and acting out—especially among “the uncommitted”—enough to make a troll-handling, pacifier-wearing, mosh-pit jumping youth of today to blush! [Footnote 20]
Self-Analysis and Psychological-Mindedness
Because of this peculiar perinatal access, I don’t believe it is any coincidence that Keniston also found an unusual amount of inner reflection—questioning oneself—alongside the more well known questioning authority. This he labeled “overexamined life” for the alienated sector and “psychological mindedness” for the activists.
Better Emotionally Disturbed Than “Healthily” Engaging in War
So, being close to one’s perinatal imprints, being less defended against one’s inner unconscious painful memories, leads to one being able to question not just oneself—and therefore to be a catalyst to personal growth and a quest for truth—but also the actions of one’s society. It is a counterbalance to our tendency to act out in violence to others as in war and to Nature as in ecocide. It means people will suffer more inner turmoil and pain, will feel more psychologically “disturbed,” and will be less likely to take it out on others, will be less likely to make others or the environment “pay” for what happened to them.
Let us contrast that with its opposite. DeMause writes,
Hitler’s projection of his fears…into Jews and foreigners helped him avoid a psychotic breakdown and enabled him to function during his later life, as long as others shared his delusion of poisonous enemies.
Therefore acting out collectively, as in war, can prevent a psychotic breakdown in certain individuals.
Better Psychotic Than Waging War
But when the consequences of acting out one’s birth trauma, collectively, is millions of people—including oneself—dead, not to mention the uncountably large loss of material and personal resources, it is clear that by comparison a psychotic breakdown is a more benign alternative for either the individual or the society in which that or those individuals act.
Similarly, not providing the outlet of war as a collective birth ritual…oftentimes, for the soldier involved, euphemistically called a “rite of passage”…would allow the genuine neurotic breakdowns, the collapse of people’s defenses, and their opening up to their underlying perinatal dynamics. Thus accessed, they can be healed, or in the least they would prevent the kind of unflinching belief or self-righteousness required for war and violence.
Some folks might even be motivationally paralyzed—receiving information from the unconscious that contradicts and undermines the stance and beliefs of their conscious ego. But when that egoistic stance is slanted, commonly, towards war, violence, selfishness and greed and corresponding environmental apathy, then better one would be indecisive, overwhelmed, and doing nothing.
The Price of Emotional Pain Is Minuscule Compared to That of War
Yet it is true that this neurotic breakdown, of at least a small amount, on the scale of society would result in the kind of collective regressions that Mayr and Boelderl, and Lawson describe. That is, the cause of peace, of the saving of human lives, requires that people pay the price of encountering their primal pain.
By all measures, this peace price is minuscule. It is even more worth it when you take into account the fact that many people, after initially “breaking down” for lack of a collective…and highly destructive…act-out like war/aggression, will actually succeed in reconstructing a self more in line with reality, through the dynamics and means categorized under the term regression in the service of the ego, desccribed above. Regardless of professional help…which would be nice but is not always available or practical…some people just find a way.
Continue with Chapter Ten: Where There Is Hope, Cultural Rebirthing
1. A. Briend, “Fetal Malnutrition: The Price of Upright Posture?” British Medical Journal 2 (1979): 317-319.
2. DeMause, op. cit., 1995, p. 12, emphasis in original.
3. See, for example, Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, trans. by Hildegarde and Hunter Hannum. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, especially “Vantage Point 1990,” pp. vii-ix.
4. Daniela F. Mayr & Artur R. Boelderl, “The Pacifier Craze: Collective Regression in Europe.” The Journal of Psychohistory 21 (1993): 143-156.
5. Ibid., p. 144.
6. Ibid., p. 148, emphasis mine.
7. Ibid., pp. 149-150.
8. Regarding the “experiential,” I should make clear that this approach is, from the perspective of the experiential psychotherapeutic approach I will be describing shortly, actually the superficial symbolic acting out of these underlying and powerful cycles in a way that is only a little less impotent than the Freudians.
9. DeMause, op. cit., 1995.
11. Mayr and Boelderl claim quite wrongly and quite strangely—as if to make the facts not conflict with DeMause’s psychogenic theory, or as if to cover up some hole in their analysis—that those caught up in the pacifier craze were raised under the intrusive and socializing parenting modes (op. cit., 1993, p. 145) and yet, in 1992, were between the ages of 15 and 30 (Ibid., p. 143). This is hard to understand because these youth would have been born between the years 1962 and 1977 in advanced Western countries of mostly Western Europe—Italy, Germany, Austria, all of Europe, and even the U.S. (Ibid.).
However, the intrusive and socializing modes are associated, by DeMause, with the eighteenth century and the nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, respectively, in the Western world (DeMause, op. cit., 1982, p. 62). On the other hand, the helping mode begins mid-twentieth century in the Western world (Ibid., p. 63).
The conclusion from this is that these youth, described by Mayr and Boelderl, would have been greatly influenced by the helping mode. They would be expected, at least, to have received the most advanced methods of child-caring overall in the world at this time—considering DeMause’s theory—since they are the most recent progeny of the Western world!
Indeed, if these cannot be considered products of the helping mode, who can be? In order for Mayr and Boelderl to dispute this and claim they were exceptions to the rule and were raised under intrusive and socializing modes, they would have had to do a study demonstrating this, or at least cite one done. And this they do not do.
12. Michael D. Adzema, “Reunion With the Positive (Self), Part 1: The Other Half of ‘The Cure.’” Primal Renaissance: The Journal of Primal Psychology 1(2): 72-85. Reprinted on the Primal Spirit site.
15. Glenn Davis, Childhood and History in America. New York: The Psychohistory Press, 1976.
19. Kenneth Keniston, The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society. New York: Dell, 1965; Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968.
20.While these aspects of youth are laid out by Keniston, a fuller delineation of these dynamics are to be seen in my work-in-progress, tentatively titled The Once and Current Generation: “Regression,” Mysticism, and “My Generation.” [Stay tuned.]
Continue with Chapter Ten: Where There Is Hope, Cultural Rebirthing
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Consciousness Evolution from the WWII to the Millennial Generations: A Hierarchy of Healing, a Global Healing Crisis, and the Unseen Revolution
Psychology of Generations —The Changing of the Generational Guard: Why There Is Less Violence but More Depression…. And What’s Good About That
Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Fourteen: Psychological History of Today’s Generations and Changing of the Guard
Healing Crisis Means Needing to Get “Sicker” Before We Can Be “Weller” and Making It When You DON’T Fake It: Centaurs, Wounded Deer, and the Consciousness Revolution, Untold
What’s in Your Head, Zombie? Being Really Sick, But Denying It — WWII Generation, Nazis, KKK, Right Wing, Tea Party
Getting Sick In Order to Get Well
What does this all mean? What does this portend? What might be the outcome of this emerging perinatal unconscious? In other words, consciousness evolution or apocalypse? And what is the meaning of this change in consciousness and of these wounded deer and centaurs? Is there hope in this development?
To answer what is the portent of these wounded deer and centaurs and what the emerging perinatal unconscious might mean on a macrocosmic or societal-global scale, it is helpful to look at what an emerging perinatal unconscious portends on the individual or microcosmic level.
What we have learned from the experiential modalities—holotropic breathwork™, primal therapy, rebirthing, vivation, and others like them—is that unerringly people need to get “sicker” before they can get well. This should not be news to psychoanalysts or any of the other mainstream psychotherapists or counselors either.
Basically, the underlying repressed material must come to the “surface,” must become more conscious…and obviously when it becomes more conscious its accompanying symptoms are exacerbated. This can be called a healing crisis in that the symptoms get worse, more obvious, more blatant; and there is a period of acting them out before integration and resolution happens.
One Must “Die” to One’s Sickness Before One Can Be “Born” Well
When Grof talks about birth/death scenarios in the perinatal unconscious, he is including these sorts of healings, where one must “die” to one’s sickness before one can be “reborn” into another way of being, without those sick patterns or symptoms.
Degrees of Disease
Dissociation – Completely Split Off
It’s YOU! YOU’re the f&^$#r!
We see a progression over the last century in which there was complete dissociation from the perinatal unconscious by those of the Fifties, the World-War-Two, and previous generations—hence complete projection of it on The Other—to lesser dissociations from it by the generations since, baby-boomer and afterward, which involve more awareness of it as being a part of oneself and less projection of it on The Other.
In this latter instance, there is more suffering from it and more individual acting out of it, so that in a sense one appears “sicker”—the perinatal is more obvious in one’s behavior, taking more individual forms, and it is more easily recognized and seen to be a personal problem…a “sickness.” Earlier I described this consciousness as being the way of the centaur, for it reflects Chiron, in ancient myths, having an ongoing wound but eventually becoming a teacher and healer.
To understand the ways the perinatal manifests depending upon one’s “closeness” to it, let us contrast the two extremes of being split off from it and being close to it.
Being Really Sick, But Denying It: WWII Generation, Nazis, KKK, Right Wing, Tea Party
Can’t Know That You Don’t Know
First let us take a look at what the perinatal appears like when it is completely split off from one’s conscious personality. This complete splitting off from the perinatal entails a complete repression and denial of it. Consequently, one has absolutely no access to it, and thus one is in total ignorance of the underlying motivations of one’s actions. One unconsciously acts out perinatal elements and traumas and manifests them in one’s behavior, rationalizing all the while that one has really good—non-perinatal, “real world”—reasons for why one is doing the things one is doing.