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
Invite you to join me on Twitter:
friend me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sillymickel
Posted in Anthropology, Art & Entertainment, audio, authenticity, being yourself, Birth, Child Abuse, Consciousness, Environmentalism, Evolution, God, individualism, life, meaning, Metaphysics, Mystical, nonconform, Philosophy, Politics, Primal Spirit, Primal Spirituality, Psychology, Religion, Spirituality
Tags: adventure, amniotic surround, apocalypse, artistic representations, atman, atman project, audience, authoritarian, authorities, authority, baby, basic perinatal matrix, Birth, birth canal, birth trauma, bless, BPM II, bpm III, breathwork, call to adventure, Chevy Chase, coex, comedy, Consciousness, control, cult classic, CULTURE, Dan Akroyd, Dan Aykroyd, Dante, dark underside, darkness, death, denial, descent, die, different kind of hero, disease, dragon, earth, Ego, emotion, emotions, entertainment, Environment, evil, experience, experiential therapy, failure, fear, feelings, fetus, film, flick, God, health, hell, hero, hero’s cycle, hero’s journey, hero’s myth, heroine, higher forces, higher power, hopelessness, infancy, infant, inferno, John Candy, John Wayne, Joseph Campbell, junkyard, justice, life, light, media, memories, monomyth, movie, movies, Mr. Bonestripper, Nature, newborn, nick of time, nothing but trouble, occupy wall street, ows, pain, paradisio, perinatal, Peter Aykroy, planet, politics, postmodern times, prayer, prenatal, psyche, psychodynamic, psychology, purgatorio, rebirth, rebirthing, republicans, resistance, rite of passage, roller coaster, scatology, science, sex, society, spirituality, status, surrender, Surrender solution, transpersonal interface, trauma, trust, truth, unconscious, underground, underworld, universe, vision, womb, world, wreckage of the past
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
Invite you to join me on Twitter:
friend me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sillymickel
Posted in Anthropology, authenticity, being yourself, Birth, Child Abuse, Consciousness, Environmentalism, Evolution, God, individualism, life, meaning, nonconform, Philosophy, Politics, Primal Spirit, Primal Spirituality, Psychology, Religion, Spirituality
Tags: 60s, abandoning mode, abreaction, achievement, act-out, acting out, activist, affirmation, aggression, aggressive training, agrarian revolution, alienation, altered states, alternative, Alvin Lawson, ambivalent mode, america, American Revolution, amygdala, anthropocentrism reality, anthropology, antiwar movement, anxiety, apathy, apocalypse, archetype, arrogance, Arthur Janov, baby, baby boomers, battle, behavior, beliefs, bioenergetics, Birth, birth ritual, birth trauma, boomers, BPM II, brain, Carl Jung, Chairman Mao, child, child-caring, child-rearing, children, civilization, clarity, collaboration, colony, conception, Consciousness, control, counterculture, crazy, CULTURE, cycle, cycle of time, cycles, darkness, death, death rebirth, declarative memory, defense mechanism, defenses, defensiveness, delegate release, delusion, democracy, depression, development, devil, die, disappointment, DISCOMFORT, dissociation, distortion, earth, ecocide, eden, Ego, ego structure, elections, emotional memory, emotional sickness, emotionally disturbed, emotions, enemy, entrapment, Environment, ethnocentrism, event, evolution, existence, existentialism, expansion, experiential, experiential psychotherapy, extinction, fairy tale, Falls from Grace, fantasy, fear, feeling, feelings, fetus, fight, fighting, Freudian, Garden of Eden, generation, generation y, gestation, gila monster, Glenn Davis, gloom, God, greed, guilt, happiness, healing, health, hell, helping mode, higher self, Hinduism, history, Ho Chi Minh, Holocaust, holotropic breathwork, hope, human, humanicide, humanistic psychology, humans, humanticide, hypnotherapy, ignorance, impotence, imprint, imprints, individual and society, infanticidal mode, insane, integration, Jane Fonda, Jews, Judeo Christian, Kali Yuga, Kenneth Keniston, life, light, lives, Lloyd Demause, Love, matrix, Mayr and Boelderl, media, meditation, memories, Millennials, mind, moratorium, mosh pit, natural self, Nature, neo Freudian, neo-Jungian, neoFreudian, neurosis, new age, nine months, nonordinary states, normality, occupy wall street, oppressor, organic child caring, overexamined life, ows, pacifier, pain, parenting, parents, pattern, peace, peace symbol, pelvic opening, pentagram, perinatal, perinatal psychology, perinatal trauma, personal growth, philosophy, physical plain, planet, planetmates, politics, possession, pre- and perinatal psychology, prehistory, prenatal, prenated, price, primal, primal pain, primal people, Primal Renaissance, primal return, primal root, primal therapy, progress, psyche, psychiatry, psychic control, psychoanalysis, psychoclass, psychodynamics, psychogenesis, psychogenic mode, psychohistory, psychological mindedness, psychologists, psychology, psychosis, psychotherapy, psychotic breakdown, question authority, rational, re-experience, real, real person, reality, reason, rebirth, rebirthing, reconception, red books, regression, regression in the service of the ego, regressions, Reichian, release, religion, relive, reliving, repression, reptilian brain, resolution, revolution, rite of passage, ritual, rock concert, roots, sane, Satan, satisfaction, school, science, self, self-analysis, self-destruction, self-righteousness, self-sabotage, selfishness, shadow, sickness, sigmund freud, sixties, social science, socializing mode, society, soul, species, spiral dance, spirit, spirit possession, spirituality, Stanislav Grof, strategy, struggle, suffering, symptom, The Great Reveal, The Uncommitted, time, trance, transcendence, transformation, transpersonal, trauma, troll handlers, trolls, truth, uncomfortable feelings, unconscious, unconsciousn, universe, vanity, Vietnam War, vigorous guidance, violence, Vipassana meditation, war, Wayseer, wayseer manifesto, wellness, Western, will, will power, womb, Word War II Generation, world, WWII, young radicals, youth., zombie.
Cycles of War, Cycles of Birth … What Can Be Done: Changing the Patterns of Millennia Requires Learning That Feeling Good Is Not Bad
Derailing the Cycles of War and Violence: What Say We Leave a Planet For Our Offspring? And Can You Handle Happiness?
Apocalypse No! Chapter Eight:
Derailing the Cycles of War and Violence
Why We Invite War, Allow Fascism, and Pollute: Our Coming Into the World Makes Us Want to Leave It
The question posed at the end of the last chapter was whether we had opened the door to an unimaginable armageddon or were experiencing the birth pangs of a massive consciousness transformation and subsequent Earth rebirth. Are we going to self-destruct, bringing death to the entire planet along with us, or will we become good citizens of this planet and our species continue on?
What Say We Leave a Planet For Our Offspring?
Most folks would think there would be only one answer to that question desired by virtually all humans. But in previous chapters, especially Apocalypse Emergency, Chapter Five: Death Wish – Thanatos Walking, I showed how, and why, that common-sense notion would, amazingly, be wrong: We saw how there is a huge percentage of our human Earth citizens, and a part of all of us, that wants to “throw in the towel.” This has always been true of humans, but it is of critical importance only now.
But I will assume anyone reading this will at least consciously be wanting our vital question to be answered in the affirmative. You know as well as I that the folks on the other side of this question are doing vastly different things right now than us and are nowhere to be found around here.
How Do We “Like” Life?
So the next thing to be addressed is how we might change our fortunes and live. Since continuing on is not just of matter of deciding it—voting “like” on it or checking its box—as we saw in Chapter Five: Death Wish, how can we get around this part of ourselves and our population that wants to do us all in? We need to know how to derail our perpetual cycles of war and violence. We need know how to quit bringing pollution and suffering on us. We have to know how we can stop our secret desire to take comfort in failure, how to “unlike” self-sabotage on our inner “profile.”
How Do We “Unlike” Fascism?
I have written a great deal on this question, including an entire book in 2011 on the way we act out this masochistic tendency politically and culturally by taking comfort in totalitarianism and embracing fascism. [Footnote 1]
For our purposes presently I will focus on the element of it all that is critical to answering our question. So we first need to look into the place from which emanates our dilemma. I showed that this bugaboo is our Will to Death.
Our Coming Into This World Makes Us Want to Leave It
Now we need to get more specific on this negative inclination of ours. As we have seen this Will to Death arises from human’s unique-among-all-species primal pain rooted in our singular way of coming into the world, our unique human birth.
We Need Look Deeper
We need to look deeper into the elements of that part of ourselves that would have us take us all down. We need inquire into that tendency of ours to choose pollution over health, tyranny over freedom, war over peace, enslavement over autonomy, violence over pacifism, oppression over liberty, misery over happiness. We must derail the cycles of war, violence, and fascism. We must know how to “like” happiness.
We Need Know Where Exactly to Focus Our Efforts to Be Successful
To do so, we must separate the skeins of this inner entanglement and shed light into this darkness within. We need to know specifically, precisely where to place the lever of effort we will apply to truly move the world, to derail it from its current acceleration into oblivion.
So we look now into the elements of that perinatal unconscious manifesting currently as a will to die on the grandest scale imaginable.
Cycles of War, Cycles of Birth
We find there are two researchers who are particularly relevant to our understanding of the elements of the perinatal unconscious in a way as to avert collective, worldwide disaster. These are Stanislav Grof and Lloyd DeMause. [Footnote 2]
Men Would Rather Be “Manly” Than…Alive…
[T]he group-fantasy shared prior to wars expresses the nation’s deep feeling that the increase in pleasure brought about by the prosperity and progress that usually precede wars “pollutes” the national blood-stream with sinful excess, making men “soft” and feminine”—a frightful condition that can only be cleansed by a blood-shedding purification. [Footnote 2]
Men are more terrified of appearing “feminine” than of losing their lives. Why we invite war.
DeMause is saying we go forever into war because after a while peace makes men feel guilty, “sinful.” Men have uncomfortable, even shameful…homophobic…feelings of being “soft” or “feminine” when their lives are good. So men choose the “purifying,” masculinizing ritual of war to fight off these feelings. Nothing distracts one from looking inward better than a “good, old-fashioned” life-or-death struggle, and war is the most all-encompassing of them.
Men are more terrified of appearing “soft” than having the boot of totalitarianism on their neck. Why we allow fascism.
What DeMause says about bringing war upon us can be said also about allowing fascism, inviting totalitarianism. For whether we are fighting enemies of another nation or struggling to survive against oppression at home, we are involved in a daily struggle. Secret to us, we feel better being engaged in a dramatic battle, though it brings us suffering and misery.
We simply can’t hack peace for very long. We feel guilty, for some reason, lolling on the beach. You ever notice how at the end of your vacation time, you are anxious for it to be over and to get back to work? That feeling—that one where we feel…guilty?…uncomfortable…tense?…unfulfilled?…(you tell me)—that’s it. That’s the one I’m talking about.
It happens the same way collectively after we have experienced a “vacation” of national peace—for example, in the Nineties when we were prosperous and mostly peaceful under Clinton. At the end of it, with Bush, we ended up getting the misery and struggle many in America were driven to want, though no one would ever admit that.
A quick aside. The fact that the majority of Americans actually didn’t vote for Bush and so tried to choose happiness over struggle is a source of hope for us in all this. That’s a hint of what’s coming.
Cycles of Birth, Cycles of War … The Four “Colors” of the Perinatal Veils and Why Women Fear Fatness and Men Fear Femininity
Four Kinds of Early Experience Color Our Adult Experience in Four Distinct Ways … Cycles of Birth and War
Four Kinds of Experiences in Our First Nine Months Imprint Us for Four Feeling “Flavors” as Adults
But for now, let us get back to this opening provided us. We can make better use of deMause’s insight on the birth feelings that take us into war using Stanislav Grof’s delineation of this birth unconscious of ours. Let us review as described earlier and further stipulate on them: Grof explains we are moved as adults by four specific kinds of drives emanating from our earliest experiences. These specific tendencies in us relate to four different times in the birth process which involve four radically different kinds of experiences.
Grof uses the term, basic perinatal matrices (BPMs), to refer to these four aspects of our inner urges. I will describe them here and refer to them along with DeMause’s cycles of social-historical violence and war to pull apart the roots of our current apocalyptic dilemma. [Footnote 3]
Our Tendency to Always Screw Up a Good Thing, BPM I
The first of Grof’s aspects of our unconscious he terms Basic Perinatal Matrix I, BPM I for short.
Prosperity and Progress Equal Feeling “Soft” and “Feminine”
Grof’s BPM I is sometimes described as “oceanic bliss” and involves the experiences and feelings related to the relatively undisturbed prenatal period. On the social, macrocosmic level, it is the period described in the quote by deMause above in which there is a period of “prosperity and progress” and feelings of being “soft” and “feminine.”
The strong connection between individual experience (personal psychology) and collective realities (social-historical events and elements) is patent here since in BPM I experience the individual is still in the mother’s womb and to some extent shares her identity, which is of course feminine. Being unborn and not having gone through the “toughening” experiences of birth and later trauma, which predominantly create one’s defenses, the individual is also “soft,” in other words, undefended.
“No Pain, No Gain,” Hell, Satan, and Poisonous Placenta; BPM II
To further review Grof’s schema and its relation to deMause’s cycles of war, I want to remind you that BPM II is related on the individual level to the time near the end of pregnancy when the fetus is no longer rocking blissfully on the waves of oceanic bliss but is trapped in an ever more confining womb. As the fetus grows in size, the suffering becomes greater; no doubt this is the source of the common-sense belief that growing has to involve suffering, for example, “No pain, no gain.” At any rate, the feelings are those of claustrophobia and “no exit.”
There is heavy non-agitated depression here, since there appears to be no hope, no change in the situation that would indicate a way out of the suffering. Indeed, this period continues practically right up to the time of birth, ending only when the cervix becomes dilated and, experientially speaking, there appears suddenly to be a “light at the end of the tunnel” and therefore hope.
Where the Hell We Get the Idea of Hell
However, up until that time there are feelings of being totally unempowered, completely in the hands of an entity—the womb—that imposes a horrifying reality that appears to be unending and eternal. Herein we have the psychological roots of notions of hell and Satan. Feelings associated with this state include despair, victimization, blame, and guilt.
“You’ll Wallow in Your Shit, and You’ll Think You’re Happy.” – Kurt Cobain, from the Song, “Sad”
As birth comes nearer, “fetal malnutrition” increases, since the neonate’s increasing size and weight press down on and constrict the blood vessels that carry blood to and from the placenta, when the mother is standing. The decreased blood supply means a reduction of life-giving oxygen as well as the buildup of toxins that would otherwise be taken away by a normal blood flow. So feelings of suffocation as well as skin irritation and other feelings of wallowing in waste matter—deemed poisonous placenta by deMause—increase. [Footnote 4]
“You’re Really in a Laundry Room.” – Kurt Cobain, from the Song, “Sad”
As I have said previously, deMause has found that these feelings exist to an extraordinary degree in a society and its leaders prior to its engaging in a war. Similarly, they precede, and obviously can be held to be accountable for, individual acts of violence—including everything from murder and rape to unfortunately all-too-common and ordinary spousal and child abuse in the household, and of course everything in between.
Bloody War, Bloody Birth — BPM III
BPM III is birth. Its social analogue is war or violent assault. Feelings that accompany this state on both the individual and societal level include rage and intense aggressiveness, all-encompassing struggle, and sexual excess.
Nothing’s Ever Good Enough, BPM IV
BPM IV relates to the time of actually coming out of the womb and the post-natal period. On the societal level it is the ending of a war.
“Busting Out All Over”
Feelings of expansiveness, release, exultation, coming finally out into the light and/or being “on top” of things, and victory are feelings associated with this matrix, whether in the individual birth or the collective war cycle.
As I said the societal analogue to BPM IV, or actually being born, is a war’s end. It is no coincidence that in triumph or peace, the two-finger peace symbol is used. What better way to signal we have come from constriction into openness, specifically through the vise of a mother’s cervix, out from between two legs. As John Lennon so aptly put it, using the peace sign frequently, “War is over (if we want it).”
Mission Accomplished … Not!
Interestingly, just as in recent times harsh modern obstetrical practices and the removal of the baby from the mother can leave lifetime feelings of success not bringing with it the expected rewards and thus a post-accomplishment sort of depression, so also the ending of successful wars sometimes also leaves a society with a sort of letdown. For example, the euphoria following George H. W. Bush’s Gulf War—which catapulted his approval ratings into the ninety percent range in 1991—was followed, only a year later, by the increasing agony of a recession and Bush’s defeat at the polls.
Cycles of Birth, Cycles of War
All of this is to say that in society, as in the womb, a period of uninterrupted and relatively undisturbed feelings of growth leads to feelings of depression—being too “soft” and “feminine,” but also “too fat” in the womb and, therefore, extremely constricted and compressed.
Why Women Fear Becoming Fat and Men Fear Appearing “Feminine”
Another way of saying this: feelings of expansion are followed by a fear of entrapment. And I agree wholeheartedly with deMause in saying that it happens this way in a nation’s cycle of feelings because it happened that way to us prior to and during our births. We have these patterns of feelings as collective groups of individuals because our first experience of expansion was followed by extreme depression, guilt, despair, and then struggle and something bloodily akin to war—our actual births.
What to Do to Stop War and Violence: Changing the Patterns of Millennia Requires Learning That Feeling Good Is Not Bad
To Derail War and Violence, Replace Self-Sabotaging With Self-Actualizing … We Can No Longer Afford Our Delusional Ways
What Can Be Done?
So knowing this, how can we use it? In previous chapters, I explained how and why we see the dynamics of this perinatal unconscious, not coincidentally right now, on the ascendance, just at the time when it is crucial we deal with it to survive. I called this an emerging perinatal unconscious, and I went into detail about why it is happening now, what it means, and how we should take advantage of the opportunity it brings that could aid us in our current dilemma.
For now, I need only remind that is imperative we face these unconscious forces instead of turning away from and thereby insuring our continued ignorance of them and helpless acting out of them.
So, how do we consciously participate in these drives, not merely be driven by them?
Lloyd DeMause, in his article, “Restaging of Early Traumas in War and Social Violence,” printed in the spring 1996 issue of The Journal of Psychohistory, called for kinder and gentler birthing and child-caring practices to mitigate the ferocity of these forces within humans and help us avoid an otherwise inevitable planetary disaster. He was restating what other pre- and perinatal psychologists…I am one, by the way…including Thomas Verny and Stanislav Grof assert. [Footnote 5]
However, I believe we need to go further than that. I, along with Grof, call for a larger awareness of and efforts in the direction of healing these perinatal elements in the consciousness and unconscious of those already alive right now. For unless we act to heal the people currently inhabiting this planet, we might not leave a planet that babies can be born into!…let alone people to conceive and give birth to them. Healing the perinatal traumas can be accomplished through, at this point, thoroughly tested and effective techniques of experiential regression and emotional release.
But it is impossible for everyone to take advantage of these techniques, especially in the short time we have to make the changes. But something short of that ideal may be sufficient to stave off otherwise inevitable doom.
Let me explain what I mean by that.
Finding the Weakest Spot
Of course only time will tell what will be the result of this emerging perinatal unconscious for our species.
Real, not blindly delusional, action is required.
But to get an idea of what we might hope for, given a readiness to actually do something about this, I offer a perspective. This understanding requires we remember some critical aspects of the cartography of the psyche described above. Looking into them we might begin to see where are the openings allowing for realistic action to be taken to bring about true, not just blindly delusional, change for our species.
We can no longer afford otherwise.
For our purposes here, the most important part of the cycle is BPM I. Societies, according to deMause, go through these cycles of war and peace and have been doing so for as long as we know. But we can no longer afford these wars, as World War I and World War II have shown—with each one being an increase in our ability to destroy and to commit atrocities. We cannot afford to have a World War III as that most likely would end life on our planet.
Indeed, as I’ve been pointing out, we cannot even afford the less extreme forms of acting out of perinatal trauma that we have been doing in our poisoning of the earth and air, global overpopulation, and the ongoing regional wars to give just a few of many examples I could have used. These things, along with many other current quite insane tendencies of ours, have the capacity to end our species and possibly all life on this planet.
Feeling Good Is Not Bad
So the cycle of societal perinatal acting out must be stopped. And the most obvious place to derail the insidious cycle is at the point of societal prosperity and progress. Feeling soft, undefended, and feminine are, rationally speaking, not things to be alarmed about.
Quite to the contrary, it is rational that prosperity should make people feel good. It is rational that feeling soft should be a source of contentment, sensitivity, and intimacy with others. It makes sense that men should have no shame about feeling feminine because that only means that they have access to sensitive and nurturing feelings that are a source of joy, “color,” and fulfillment in life.
Changing the Patterns of Millennia
But how do we do this? How do we convince people that feeling good is not bad? For these unconscious forces, these cycles of violence, have been pulling our strings for at least tens of thousands of years. How can we change such an engrained pattern?
Chasing the Mirages of the Future
Well, again, we get our leads from the experiences of individuals undergoing experiential psychotherapy.
“It’s never enough.”
For individuals also, if they are to heal themselves, have to learn how to appreciate success and to stop sabotaging themselves in the myriad of ways they do. Individuals act out their mini-cycles of “war” in their struggles to achieve. And people are driven to struggle to achieve because they cannot be pleased with what they have.
Relating back to deMause’s societal schema, people cannot simply enjoy their “prosperity.” People cannot stop to smell the roses occasionally. We cannot count our blessings and feel contented with what we have. Nor can we enjoy the natural pleasure of being alive in the moment.
“Wrong…It IS enough.”
No, instead what characterizes we humans—for the most part because of our having birth trauma—is a persistent drive to always have more than we do. We find that every accomplishment or success is short lived, with inexplicable depression following it. For each new attainment does not bring the expected (unconscious) rewards and leads us almost immediately to a new struggle, a new accomplishment to be sought.
Humans are driven to chasing mirages of better times somewhere off in the future, and we fail to live in the present. We feel unsatisfied with what we have and are continually deluded that some new possession, accomplishment, or love “conquest” will bring with it the missing happiness.
Becoming Self-Actualizing Instead of Self-Sabotaging
When people are aware of the way they unconsciously sabotage their happiness, they sometimes seek help. And if they seek help in the experiential psychotherapies, they are enabled to work through their birth trauma so that they are no longer driven out of the moment, with its pleasure and pain, into an imagined but never attainable pleasureful and happy future.
Learning that it is enough
So people derail their cycles of drivenness and their tendencies to sabotage their successes by learning to enjoy their “prosperity,” even if it is the simple pleasure of being alive. And when they act to add to that pleasantness, they do so, not out of drivenness, but out of feelings of flow and the simple joys of acting and actualizing one’s tendencies, talents, and desires. They become self-actualizing instead of self-sabotaging.
Can You Handle Happiness? What to Do – We Get By With a Little Help, from Our Nature … Stand in the Place Where You Are
A Hierarchy of Healing … Becoming Human Beings (Not Doings): Removing the Hood from Homophobes, A Hard Rain, and Stand
OK, knowing this, one might ask if I am suggesting that to save our species everyone needs to get into experiential therapy. While that would be nice, it is not practical.
But I believe it is not necessary either. There is an element of that societal period of prosperity that can be used and focused on in order to make the societal change of pattern, the societal derailing of the tendency to self-sabotage through war-making.
Getting By, With a Little Help From Our Nature
And that element is this: During times of prosperity, when one is less engaged in a struggle to survive, we find that one’s body will naturally try to heal itself of unresolved and somatically imprinted trauma by bringing into consciousness the repressed traumatic memories needing resolution.
Hierarchy of Healing
This occurs in a manner similar to that of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Basically, one’s needs to “grow emotionally”…i.e., clear away the unresolved trauma…can only come to the fore when one’s physical survival needs are relatively taken care of. And arise they unerringly do, given any opportunity to do so.
“Don’t just do something, STAND there!”
However, when these traumatic memories come up seeking resolution, they, also unerringly, bring with them the associated feelings of depression, unease, and pain. But because these feelings are anything but pleasant, to their detriment most people seek to avoid these feelings through addictions and other forms of “acting-out” behavior. So addictions and acting-out behavior emerge after periods of relative stability precisely because that stability allows unresolved feelings an opening for emergence and a possibility of resolution and healing.
Allowing Our Society to Be Honestly, Blatantly “Sick”
So there you have it; that is the crux. The period of societal prosperity can be maintained and added to if that society refuses to run away from the negative feelings that come up with success. As I have said, one needs to get “sicker” in order to get really well.
“Stand in the Place Where You Are … Just Stand.”
Societally, we need to allow the social, formerly repressed, “sicknesses,” negativities, and the pain that comes with them to arise and be socially worked out, to be hashed out, rather than to escape them by resorting to scapegoating enemies and waging war against them. [Footnote 6]
Are We Doing This?
But can societies do this? Are they doing this?
It does not seem so at the moment. For we have extreme acting out going on from Tea Party type elements. The homophobia that characterizes them is an indicator of the degree to which they are fearful of that feeling of being “soft” and “feminine,” I mentioned.
But Then Again…
However there is a pattern in change that things can not really change until the negative slide has “hit bottom.” These negative forces cannot be gone beyond until they have wasted themselves in desperate acts. At this time also, positive forces are strengthening in the wings, burnishing their skills, tempering their character and nobility, fully capable when the time comes to take over. There are so many examples of this in social and individual histories, but not to get bogged down, I will mention one powerful one—Nelson Mandela. You can take it from there.
The more common thing to mention about change is that prior to a major paradigm shift, the forces on the decline always wage a fierce, desperate battle…a bloody retreat, a burning of the fields, near suicidal and totally reckless forays.
We see people do this, too, just before they are about to change. We see people who self-destruct being the ones whose last desperate battle before awareness can dawn being something that takes their life and perhaps others with them.
We currently can point to Gaddafi, Assad, and other tyrants. We can observe reckless tea-baggers willing, as in the debt ceiling clash, to bring down the country for ideals that, however rationalized and spun, are at their roots as simple and crude as jealousy—of those smarter and more capable; hatred—of minorities, the poor, the “dirty,” the “slobs,” the “lazy”…basically all the scapegoats society allows them to vent the rage of their inner fears and hurt on; and homophobia—that fear of being “soft,” feminine, unmasculine, and being willing to kill or be killed rather than to let oneself be seen that way.
Homophobes Don’t Fear Homosexuals … They Fear What’s Inside Themselves
Before continuing, one big misconception around that last point needs clearing up: homophobia is at base not fear/hatred of homosexuals, it is terror/hatred of the “feminine” and “softness” inside of the man himself who is homophobic. And this is the result of tens of thousands of years of “civilization,” still continuing, in which men are threatened with disapproval, ostracism, ridicule, attack, or worse for not repressing their softer sides down to the level of the norm of their group.
Boys Learn They Must Be Less Alive to Survive
Boys learn they must constrict their potentials and diminish themselves to that which coincides with—and does not threaten—the older males in their group or face severe punishment. Boys learn the consequences for not becoming less than they could be are severe, often from their own fathers.
Girls Learn They Must Feel Less Pleasure to Be Liked
And by the way, something similar goes on with young girls and the reduction of their potentials. We see a blatant example of this in the practice of cliterectomy—also called female genital mutilation—in some cultures. In this practice the older women—mother and aunts usually—are responsible for this brutal and extremely painful and bloody attack. It tells little girls they will have no pleasure more than that which was allowed the older women, themselves, in that patriarchal world. So girls must diminish themselves in order to not be hated and ostracized by the women of the group, who, already having been diminished, would be jealous of someone being allowed to have what they have not. This is an exact mirror image of the process that goes on in the diminution of the personalities—the potentials—of young boys.
A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
Now to continue: So seeing so much of this pathos, hate, and bitter fear and anger is hopeful for us to be near the end of the cycle. Certainly it could get worse. But I personally don’t see how we could go much further on this path to oblivion without going past the point of no return. Perhaps we are not meant to succeed. Perhaps we are doomed. But I know in my own life, and that is the only true basis anyone can have for knowing how things really work, that, without fail, every seeming “loss of ground” was a prelude to an even bigger “advance.”
As Jung said, we need to take two steps backward to make a big leap forward. That is the way individuals are. And societies and populations are just collections of individuals. As the Tao symbol depicts, the seed of light is in the depths of darkness. So we can hold on to that, for one thing.
So Let Us See. A Scenery of Healing?
With these considerations in mind, the next chapter will evaluate our current social-cultural scenery for our prospects. In Rebirthing Rituals – The Sometimes Messy Scenery of Healing—we will look for any indications that this standing firm in the face of the rising up of the repressed social Shadow—allowing the pain of it and facing it foursquare, hashing it out—is to be found in the current social arena.
If we can find this being done, we may allow ourselves at least the hope for a change in consciousness radical enough to save us from extinction. On the contrary, if we find little or no evidence for this kind of auspicious, fruitful healing activity, we might as well consider ourselves doomed.