Thursday, May 17, 2007

Foetal Attraction

This may be a weak pun, but the story about early intervention with unborn children to prevent criminality in later life is interesting, despite the "Brave New World" overtones of some media coverage.

Stanislav Grof and William Emerson linked foetal experience (once dismissed by scientists and doctors as speculative nonsense, it is now generally acknowledged that the foetus is sensate and conscious from a very early stage in the womb) to subsequent perceptual and behavioural templates or 'schemas. For some individuals these carry powerful overtones of transcendence, visions of heaven (or hell), and a typology of trance experience including the experiences of deep meditators. For most of us, intra-uterine and birth experience lays down a matrix of conditioning that determines the way we experience the world at later stages of development, our subsequent behavioural patterns, and our susceptibility to stress, disease and impaired relationships.

About twenty years ago I undertook a year-long experiential programme in regression and integration (based on Grof and Emerson's teachings) as part of my professional development, and although it only nodded in the direction of Buddhist abidharma, it led me to discover exciting links with Tibetan Buddhism via the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead). What I learned from them has always been a major element of my life-practice as well as a powerful influence in my nursing work. Cutting a long story short, I see every reason for supposing that the experiences of intra-uterine and perinatal life (and the intimate connection between mother and unborn baby) are so crucial to subsequent development that any positive nurturing of the relationship must stand the individuals concerned, and the wider world, in good stead.

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