I have decided upon my return from Europe to sample a collection of new therapies for my own unresolved psychological wounds. Some people may be confused about why I am doing this because of the access that I have to information within this universe and because I, myself am a “therapist” of sorts. But I personally think that one of the best things you can do is to seek outside opinions about yourself. Looking at the world from your own perspective is like looking through a pair of binoculars. When you are looking through the binoculars, you cannot see the binoculars themselves. It is beyond helpful to your progression therefore to sample advice from other people whose view through their own binoculars, allows for a clear view of your binoculars. This is the real reason why it is always much easier to have an objective and clear view about others than it is to have an objective clear view about yourself.
Two days ago, I went to see a spiritually oriented, cognitive behavioral therapist. Many psychologists and spiritual teachers alike continually guide people towards complete self-sufficiency and independence from others. They tell you that everything you need from others, you must provide for yourself. This expert advice tells you that happiness and love should come from within and should never be dependent on what anyone else does or does not do. It tells you that your well-being is not anyone else’s responsibility, it’s your responsibility. It tells you that every person needs to look after himself or herself and that we need to learn to distance ourselves emotionally from others so that we can remain undisturbed by other people. This modality teaches us that if we can’t keep an even keel, remain emotionally detached from them and be completely independently happy, something is wrong with us and we are enmeshed with others or “codependent”. All forms of dependency are seen as deficiency. Need for other people, is seen as an addiction to other people.
Following this traditional model, one begins to build a model of the world that is for lack of a better word… lonely. We begin to feel as if we are in this life alone and like it is inappropriate to ask others for what we want and need. We begin to believe that it is wrong to rely on other people or depend on them in any way. We are told that if we need other people, it is codependency.
This is the stance I was yet again presented with in the therapy session two days ago. It was a major “trigger” for me. A trigger is basically an emotional sore spot. It is something that exposes an internal unresolved wound and thus produces a strong emotional charge within you. Long story short, I ended up infuriated. I was nearly yelling back and forth with the psychologist. But I have been consciously practicing the art of using triggers and emotional charges as “red flags” which mark the spot to dig deeper to what is beneath them. So, instead of continuing to fight on the surface of the argument about dependency vs. independence, I asked myself 3 questions… 1. How do I feel? 2. When did I last experience this exact same feeling? 3. When did I first experience this same feeling in my life? Basically, this practice allows us to take our attention off of the “messenger” which is the physical event or person that is triggering us. It allows us to step back from the story that is urging us to react so strongly and detach mentally from the trigger. And it allows us to place our attention on how we are feeling so that we can recognize what deep unresolved past wound is unhealed within us and is thus continuing to mirror itself in our lives.
When I asked myself these three questions, I recognized that I felt extremely desperate and that I was on the verge of an anxiety attack. I realized that I had experienced that same emotion every time that anyone made me feel like it was not ok to get my needs met by others. I felt this emotional reaction any time I was told that I needed to take responsibility for myself, rely on myself and provide for my own needs. As I asked when the first time I experienced that same feeling, my desperate fury slipped into grief and despair. The psychologist directed me to hug my inner child before I let her get down and play. I told her that the inner child in me never wants to get down and play. I told her that I have to split my consciousness so she can be held forever. She scoffed at that idea and said, kids want hugs, but then they always want to go run off and play after. I got defensive and said “not mine”. The minute I said that, I was sucked inside myself into a memory. It was one of the most powerful flashbacks I’ve ever experienced in my years of therapy. I actually started crying as I was re-experiencing it. The memory was of my birth.
In the memory, my mother’s body was expelling me too soon, before I was ready and I was being forcibly yanked out of my mother by my head and I was experiencing both my stress and the stress chemicals that were flooding her body as a result of the trauma of the experience. I was not ready to be born. I did not trust myself to live yet. It was the very first time that I had an anxiety attack. The root of my anxiety attacks is that I did not ‘decide’ to be born when I was born. My birth was an incredibly difficult and excruciatingly painful, Pitocin induced, vacuum suction delivery. I remembered hearing my mother crying and yelling in pain. I was pulled away from my primary attachment figure (mother). And I was not handed to her after I was born. She had to be sewn back up from a third degree obstetric tear, so I was not comforted when I was born. Instead, I spent time in the harsh prison of the hospital nursery. When I went back into this memory, I re-lived the damage done to both my mother and I when we were separated immediately after birth instead of allowed to bond instantly. This post birth separation is actually something we scientifically know effects the bond between mother and baby. It prevents a great many biochemical processes to take place between them and in their respective bodies. Not only did this experience cause me to distrust myself, people and life itself, it also caused me to developed my first fear… being taken from my parents or being separated from my primary attachment figure. Fast forward to my toddler years, I was the child who had such bad separation anxiety that I spent most of my early years behind my mother’s legs, hiding from people. Fast-forward to six years old, when that fear which came about in the delivery room manifested even bigger.
Because of the induced, vacuum delivery and subsequent separation from my mother right after birth, I developed the fear of being taken from my parents, and because of my focus on that fear, when I was six, I manifested being separated from my parents by a sociopath. I was absolutely blown away by this realization. I also realized that nearly all of my closest friends were either preemies, (who spent their first weeks or months in incubators alone), experienced induced deliveries, or were adopted. I also remembered that when I was 14, my parents took me to the hospital in New Mexico where I was born. After a few minutes in the building, I collapsed to the floor crying and went unresponsive and my dad had to carry me out. I never understood this highly visceral reaction that I had until today.
I was already a complete advocate of ‘skin to skin’ when it comes to infants and mothers. But I have reached a whole new level of obsessive advocate now. I am living proof of the effect that a poorly executed birth environment and experience can have long term. In animal research, separation of baby animals from mother animals is a common way of creating stress in order to study the damaging effects of stress on the developing newborn brain. At the same time, separation of human newborns is common practice, particularly when specialized medical care is required. You used to see it in hospitals all the time. Mothers would have to fight to keep their infants with them and fight to breastfeed against the “better judgment” of the medical staff. This is still the story in hospitals that do not prioritize keeping up to date on current research as it progresses. In the years to come, as we are able to study the long-term neurological effects of separating infants and mothers after birth, we will find that grave long term neurological and social attachment damage occurs as a result. It will, like so many other things, be seen as an archaic, inhumane and ridiculous practice; much like “bloodletting” of the 1800s.
I have been sitting with this memory and the aftermath of this memory today. I do not yet know how to heal it in its entirety. I did inner child work by putting the newborn me (the one in the memory) who was not ready to be born, back inside a womb. At a deep level, I realize that I am resistant to this physical life of mine because I am still not ready to be born. I also realized that the reason I am never satisfied with the intimacy level in my relationships, can never get enough closeness and cannot be alone, is because no man on earth can gestate me, which is ultimately what I am wanting from them deep down. This is the root of my separation anxiety and anxiety attacks, which are honestly the most debilitating part of my life overall.
It’s funny that when I observe myself, I can now see this suppressed desire to be ‘in utero’ still. For example, my joke has always been that I would be most happy if someone developed an adult baby carrier. I am sedated by pressure being applied to my body. I crawl into my covers and make a substitute womb when I’m upset. I can’t sleep with my head outside the covers. I ask people to ‘nest me’ (I curl up so they can completely cover me with their bodies) when I’m afraid. I am sedated by rushing white noise and heartbeat sounds (which is what it sounds like inside a womb). I still can’t sleep without my attachment object, a satin blankie that I call ‘danny’. And I have a strong desire to be completely inside people that I love.
Birth trauma is a very real problem for both mothers and babies. If you think about it, the birth experience is the foot you step into this life on. If it is traumatizing, then you step into this life with a vibration of trauma and fear. If the birth is traumatic, the foot the relationship between mother and child starts off on is a fearful one. The birth experience is such a “vibrational platform” for the rest of life that is to come, it is a wonder that we in the psychology, self help and spiritual community don’t do more to revisit and heal the trauma of people’s birth experiences.