PRENATAL AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOMATIC THEORIES

-Shivakumar Belavadi, PPNE, Bangalore, India

TOPIC – Many prenatal and perinatal psychology theories include the subject of consciousness.  Why is this important to PPN?  Refer to Wendy Anne McCarty and William Emerson especially in your answer.

At the basic level “Who am I”, “What Am I here for” and “How do I engage with others”   become existential questions for every human being. However, at the more esoteric yet fundamental level, these profound questions seek a larger foundation for life, living and purpose.

It is thus inevitable that when one goes into a realm beyond the physical, mental and emotional components of a human being, we enter the domain of “Consciousness”.

Primal Questions and Consciousness

Deep questions have engaged psychologists and PPN practitioners over the decades. Knowledge and understanding of Consciousness, Awareness, Universe , Soul , deepest layers of the Mind have been pursued , discussed and debated over years.

William Emerson, quotes RD Laing in his book Facts of Life as saying “How can one cell generate the billions of cells I now am? We are impossible, but for the fact that we are”. Clearly this question leads us to a dimension which transcends the physical, mental and emotional planes we are exposed to through our senses/ sense organs.

Wendy McCarty poses the primal question thus –  “Are we first and foremost biological beings or nonphysical consciousness? She has postulated a comprehensive understanding of life, beyond the Newtonian/Objective understanding, to include the dimension of the ‘spirit’.   She states “Our fundamental nature is as nonphysical consciousness. Our human self is seen as a manifested expression of our more fundamental primary consciousness.”  

She evolves this into a model of Integrated Self – integrating the transcendental and human dimensions. By itself, this becomes the third dimension. According to her, babies are teaching this to adults and this is where we should cognize that there is a spiritual journey from spirit to human life.

The effect and importance of the concept and understanding of Consciousness to PPNEs can be considered from two perspectives – (A) Wider Foundational one and (B) Immediate Operational one:

  1.  Wider Foundational Premise for Prenatal and Perinatal Educators

Pioneering work of persons like William Emerson and Wendy McCarty has widened the purpose of Pre and Perinatal Education, both as a discipline and practice.

Wendy McCarty states that the prenatal and perinatal experiences affect the ‘embodiment process of prenate and children’. This is a very important understanding. It widens the vista of PPNE and enable practitioners to move from the realm of dealing with ‘traumas and downsides of life’ to creating a ‘developmental paradigm for a holistic development of life’ (i.e.  inclusive of a  spiritual dimension) right from the earliest stages.

A baby’s transcendental perspective is present prior to conception and thereafter. From this perspective, the incarnating consciousness already has a sense of a ‘Self or I’. With this understanding, Wendy states that the new proposition from the prenate to the parents and others with whom it is engaging is – “I know I am a person. I know you are a person. And, I am seeking connection. I am seeking relationship”.

William Emerson similarly refers to an “Unconscious” matrix connecting a prenate or baby with its parents. This is indeed the realm of “Consciousness”. Emerson alludes to this as the innate transpersonal cognition.   It is the realm of transformational and/or spiritual energies. He mentions that “transformational energies” refer to the essential energies that connect us to the Self. He further mentions that such energies can be accessed through meditation, or other spiritual disciplines.

Emerson postulates on the root cause of suffering as being the lack of awareness of the spirit / observer/ unconscious realm in human transactions. He states that “This lack of awareness has two aspects. The first is repression or forgetting, wherein unresolved suffering resides in the unconscious, out of awareness. In order to be externalized and healed, the unconscious material forces itself into conscious experience and into awareness in dreams, symptoms, or behaviour, causing suffering in the here-and-now. The second aspect refers to a historical disregard of prenatal consciousness from the time of conception onwards. So long as we refuse to acknowledge the consciousness of the prenate, we cannot make the protective discrimination between what we as parents are feeling as compared to our feelings for and toward infants in the womb.”

PPNEs deal with lives at the earliest stage viz. before conception, though pregnancy and the early period after birth. It is important for the PPNE to recognize all the dimensions of life and the way things truly are. As Human Beings we have dimensions beyond body, mind and feelings. But as PPNEs, we are not merely remedying problems and traumas but dealing with growth and progress in human life – which has a connect with the Universe or Consciousness.

  1. Widening the Operational Bases for PPNEs

At the ground level, when a PPNE engages in work, a wider awareness of/through Consciousness, helps in linking up the three players viz. Prenate / Baby, Parents and PPNE.

There are many benefits at the operational stage with this understanding. Both William Emerson and Wendy McCarty have touched upon many, including the following: 

(a) PPNEs can appreciate better their own lives and purpose.

(b) Higher spiritual purpose underlying actions at all levels. Hence the preconception stage becomes a potent space for a PPNE to act in.

(c) PPNEs can recognise/create a synergistic effect in the work they carry on with Prenates, Babies, Children and Parents – the whole being greater than the mere sum of parts. Healing and resolving traumas in prenatal and perinatal stages becomes more meaningful.

(d) PPNEs should widen the terms of engagement through empathy, care, compassion and love. It should in turn make the babies/parents/participants see the larger perspective. This facilitates a higher dimensional engagement which includes progress, opening of new doors or opportunities in children, growth, development and connectedness 

(e) Working out Holistic approaches and solutions in dealing with Body, Psyche and emotions with with transpersonal phenomena, or self-manifestations.

In summary, there is a much wider frame for the functioning of PPNEs. It maybe apt to end this essay with two quotations of Wendy McCarty –

  1. “(PPN) has taken the dynamic understanding of human development deeper by studying how babies’ earliest experiences in the womb, during birth and bonding, and as newborns shape and set in motion fundamental life patterns. These core patterns may be life-enhancing or life-diminishing”.

2. “The findings from PPN revolutionize our notions of who babies are, who we are, what is going on during this primary period of human development, and how these very early experiences form babies’ core foundations at every level–physical, emotional, mental, relational and spiritual. PPN offers a unique lens of exploring this developmental period from the baby’s point of view.”

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