(by Gloria Arenson, MFT, DCEP)
I will never forget the first time I attended a class given by Dr. Wendy Anne McCarty, specialist in the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology. She described how the emotional problems that bring our clients in for treatment may result because of their experiences from conception through birth. I was mesmerized. What I learned that day changed the way that I counsel. From then on I began to question everyone who seeks my services about his or her beginnings.
These are some of the questions I use:
- What was your parents’ relationship like when you were conceived?
- Were you wanted, planned, unplanned?
- What was Mom’s pregnancy like?
- What were you told about your birth?
- Were there any complications for mother or baby?
- Is there anything about your birth that is still an issue for you today?
Sometimes it is also helpful to know what was going on in the world at the time of birth, since the fetus is often affected by the mother’s reaction to war, famine, illness or other types of hardship. One middle-aged woman with anorexia was born during WWII in Europe. The Nazis had surrounded her town and starved the population. Her mother was obviously starving during her gestation.
Many years ago, I had a friend who told me that she never wore choker necklaces because they gave her panic attacks. In addition, she couldn’t tolerate turtleneck sweaters. After suffering for many years with this puzzling problem she finally discovered that she had been born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, strangling her! Although of course she couldn’t remember her birth, her body did and kept reacting when it felt in danger of choking! Unfortunately, just knowing that didn’t eliminate the problem.
Now that I have energy psychology tools to work with, I can help people like my friend get to the origin of the issue and eliminate these unexplained terrifying reactions. One of my most intriguing clients was Rebecca, who was afraid to fly and avoided anything that would necessitate a plane trip. She needed to overcome her fear of flying in order to attend a family reunion across the country. Rebecca wasn’t as afraid of being in the air as she was of being in an enclosed space.
As we explored her past she was able to remember some other times when she had panicked in a closed space, like the time she went camping and had to sleep in the tiny compartment behind a truck’s cab, or when she went to an underground cavern and had to be carried out due to her panic meltdown. Rebecca didn’t remember the first time this terror of being shut in occurred, although my intuition told me that it started much earlier in her life. She described the sensation as being in a dark place where the air wasn’t moving.
When I asked Rebecca’s unconscious mind how young she was the first time she was in a dark place where the air wasn’t moving, she began to hyperventilate and had trouble breathing. I wondered if it had anything to do with her birth. She suddenly said, “You know I was a breech birth.” Every time Rebecca had been or might be in a small, dark space where the air was limited, her body relived the original moments of birth and she experienced inexplicable feelings of terror. Since there is no time in the limbic system, and the past sometimes hijacks the present, her body remembered the birth struggle as an implicit memory.
An implicit memory involves an automatic reaction without any recollection. To treat this terrifying problem when her body automatically relived the horror of that moment, Rebecca used EFT, saying thoughts such as:
- Even though something traumatic happened to me at birth that is still affecting me, I am ready to free myself of this problem.
- Even though I felt as if I was dying, the truth is: I survived; I am alive; and I can be free of this reaction.
- Even though I can’t stop my body from reacting in panic, I am using EFT to disconnect the trigger in my brain that causes this to happen.
- Even though I am terrified that I will break down on the plane, I am healing that fear now.
After two EFT sessions, she got on the plane and had a successful trip. When she returned she called me to say that she felt like a new person.
Scientists are now telling us that trauma can be transmitted through the DNA from generations past. It will be interesting to see if energy psychology methods can heal those historical wounds too.
Gloria Arenson, MFT, DCEP
Past president, ACEP
Learn more about energy psychology www.energypsych.org
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