Pre- and Perinatal Adventure in Film
I began to think I might be asked to leave the theater last night, as
I feasted on this perinatologist’s dream, in movie form. "Oh boy, Mary
Jane," I hissed into my patient friend’s ear, "The aliens look like fetuses!
There’s the cord! See, they’re moving into BPM II" (Basic Perinatal Matrix
"Independence Day," last summer’s smash hit about space aliens bent
on the Earth’s destruction, had me riveted to my seat, but not because
of the special effects. Rather, the fiery, explosive, and doomful portrayal
of the world’s impending end is an obvious projection of the writers’ unresolved
birth travail. I had serendipitously stumbled onto what could be a mandala
in film form, de-picting a Holotropic Breathwork session with Stan Grof.1
Directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Jeff Gold-blum, Bill Pullman,
and Will Smith, "Independence Day" is the story of "a day in the life"
of folks from Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and other places around the
Things are moving along quite normally at the beginning (BPM I, intrauterine
life, prior to the onset of labor), when the ripples of a disturbance emanate
through embryonic waters. That is, inexplicable forms are viewed on radar
screens around the globe.
The ubiquitous, destructive womb-presence is felt as the massive
"mother ship" and her offshoots, of a distant, malefic civilization, move
into position over the major cities of the world. Their intention? . .
. complete annihilation! All hell breaks loose (BPM II, or cosmic engulfment,
when contractions are in full-force and the cervix is closed), with fire-breathing
weaponry that destroys entire cities with scarcely any effort. In a feeble
attempt to regain control, the President orders "the big one" to be unleashed
onto the death-dealing monster.
The film’s two heroes, Goldblum and Smith, have given up all hope
of survival as this projected birth matrix (BPM II) heaves on. Goldblum
takes to the bottle, and Smith gives up his neglected girlfriend for dead.
Nasty but alacritous little space rockets tear through the atmosphere,
defeating everyone in sight. A pilot is asphyxiated; one of several legs
of a fetal-like alien (umbilical cord) chokes the life out of the weird
doctor. There is no hope, no light at the end of the tunnel, or cervix,
as it were.
A distinct shift ensues as Goldblum inspires himself to action. If
they can only inject the maternal beast with a computer virus, it could
derail her protective shields long enough for the united military of the
world (fetus) to strike a lethal blow (BPM III,1 or death-rebirth
struggle, when labor is still most forceful, but the cervix has dilated).
There is light at the end of the canal, oops, tunnel; they might come out
of this alive, after all!
That’s just what happens, too, as the nerd-like, Vietnam-era hold-over,
UFO abductee, hung-over pilot does a Kamikazi number on the mother-ship.
He thrusts his bomber right into the center of the fetus-crushing womb,
causing a behemoth circular explosion; birth! victory! orgasm! (BPM IV1).
The film closes with our heroes, their adulatory families, and the
exultant and victorious military walking away from the smoking, hulk-like
carcass of the mother ship (placenta). Back to BPM I,1 the circle
Now, I’m wondering, why is it that we had to wait an hour to get
in to see "Independence Day"? Three of six of the outlets in the mega-cinema
were showing it. Nothing about the cast is unusual or special. There’s
no academy award pending for this film. Typical special effects—much less
spectacular than "Star Wars"—are nothing we haven’t seen before. Could
it be that the film’s undoubtedly inadvertent perinatal plot is the real
Is it true, as Lloyd deMause purports, that we gather together in
groups with the sole objective of regressing to the perinatal realm of
the unconscious, to recapitulate our birth trauma (deMause, Foundations
of Psychohistory, 1982)?
I was pretty anxious last night, through all the tumult, not able
to ascertain if there was more tumult inside me or on the screen. How was
it for you?
1. BPM, or Basic Perinatal Matrix, is a division
of Grof’s "cartography of inner space" (Grof, Beyond the Brain,
1985, p. 92). Here he explicates his model of the subcon-scious realms
which he believes to be fundamentally interwoven with the birth experience.
According to Grof, as nonordinary states of mind are induced, one will
ulti-mately begin to reexperience birth in a healing and re-solving way.
The BPMs are correlates of clinical birth stages. Clinical stage
I, or BPM II, is the time in labor when contractions are forceful but the
cervix is still undilated. Research has shown that in altered states psychotherapy,
this stage is experienced as hellish and hopeless. The fetus is being beaten
steadily by contractions but can see no hope of liberation.
The next clinical stage aligns with BPM III, where labor continues
but the cervix has dilated. This is experienced in a more hopeful light;
the fetus still struggles but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Visions of massive disaster such as earthquakes, volcanoes, or tidal waves
BPM IV, the third clinical stage, is actual birth, the separation
of the fetus from the mother to render a new and independent human being.
Grof, Stanislav. (1985). Beyond the Brain:
Birth, Death, and Transcendence in Psychotherapy. Albany, NY: State
University of New York Press.
DeMause, Lloyd. (1982). Foundations of
Psychohistory. New York: Creative Roots.
ANNE MARQUEZ, LCSW, has a Master’s degree
in art and transpersonal psychology. In private practice in the San Francisco
Bay Area, she is also completing her doctoral dissertation on the transpersonal
aspects of birth reexperience. She works with individuals and couples,
battered women, and adult victims of childhood abuse. Her interests also
include chronic fatigue and candidiasis, alternative healing, nonordinary
states of consciousness, and all other aspects of transpersonal healing.
She can be reached at (707) 792-2663.
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