From the Womb…and Before
Mary Lynn Adzema
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With the publication of Voices from the Womb (later
Remembering Your Life Before Birth) by Michael Gabriel,
an important blow has been struck in the ongoing effort to awaken parents,
psychologists, M.D.s, and obstetricians to the vital fact that the unborn
infant in the mother’s womb is a conscious and vulnerable being deserving
both intelligent attention and far more humane birthing practices than
hitherto acknowledged by the mainstream. Using actual transcriptions of
individuals undergoing deep hypnotic regression, this study reveals startling
new evidence, in case after case, that the unborn in-fant is not only conscious
of her mother’s thoughts and emotions but of the interaction between her
parents as well.
In the chapter, "Coming Into the Power of Being Alive and Human,"
Gabriel establishes the point that the unborn infant is completely immersed
in the emotional currents of the mother, is literally "trapped" in his
mother’s feelings. He is at the mercy of the uterine environment, with
no place of escape. The mother’s joys, sorrows, shocks, and anger—not to
mention her addictions—all make deep im-pressions on the consciousness
of the unborn, who at this stage has no way of avoiding or defending against
them. And these impressions have potent consequences for the life of the
person to be.
The author of this fascinating work is a certified hypnotherapist
and professional counselor with twenty years experience; he has an M.A.
in psychology and is a post-graduate scholar at Columbia University. In
one dramatic case history after another, Gabriel shares his clients’ be-haviors,
life-long attitudes, and worldviews—each graphically demonstrating the
linkage to womb and birth experiences. Thus he is able to corroborate and
add significant documentation to the growing body of work in pre- and perinatal
psychology. For example, Gabriel quotes Thomas Verny:
The womb in a very real sense establishes
the child’s expectations. If it has been a warm, loving environment the
child is likely to expect the outside world to be the same. This produces
a predisposition toward trust, openness, extroversion and self confidence....
If that environment has been hostile, the child will anticipate that his
new world will be equally uninviting. He will be predisposed toward suspiciousness,
distrust and introversion. Relating to oth-ers will be hard and so will
self-assertion. Life will be more difficult for him than for a child who
had a good womb experience. (p. 58)
Gabriel goes on to assert a fact that experiencers of primal therapy
and holotropic breathwork can validate, namely that "the body does not
forget what eludes the mind. Who we are today is due, to a significant
degree, to our experiences in the womb, and to the way each of us has responded
to those experiences" (p. 59).
He outlines some patterns of response to prenatal stress which his
clients have demonstrated. These include: assuming responsibility for one’s
self or for one’s parents; withdrawing from life into safety (thus cutting
off feelings and nurturance); and "choosing sides"—that is, forming an
alliance with only one parent.
One of the most important points Gabriel brings up regarding these
"compensatory responses" to the shocks of womb life and birth is that the
critical choice to move forward and succeed, rather than becoming closed
down, appears to be a function of the unborn infant’s personality—a personality,
he hypothesizes, which exists before the infant incarnates. While paying
lip-service to old-paradigm premises such as genetic make-up and chemical
and other "environmental" factors in the womb, Gabriel fearlessly includes
the spiritual dimension so lacking in mainstream psychology. He says his
own work over fifteen years with his clients has convinced him that human
beings are indeed unique at the very threshold of life...that each is possessed
of a personality and soul orientation that appears to determine how they
will respond to experience.
For example, while developing in her mother’s womb, one of his clients,
Karen, experienced strongly the sense that she was ignored by her father
and, at the same time, that she was promoting only worry, tension, and
fear in her mother. She chose to compensate for these negative messages,
not by withdrawing but by asserting herself.
To quote from her case history: "I feel that she [mother] does not
want me. I am not special, I feel rejected. I will show her! I will be
special. I will have power like a man, but I will not give up being female.
I will gain power by being a woman....by expressing love as a female" (p.
And sure enough, early in life Karen knew she would become a social
worker. This choice she knew would give her the chance to gain power in
the world and yet express her femininity through caring for others. Eventually,
driven by her determination to make something of herself, she would earn
her doctoral degree.
Gabriel’s strong spiritual sense permeates this book. For example,
in the chapter "Connections and Disconnections" he posits:
We do not incarnate randomly. Parents and
child come to-gether in a way that is not casual or arbitrary. There is
a "soul magnetism" that brings us together in close family interactions.
The synchronicity of the universe works in a wondrous way to ensure that
our interchanges with those we love provide growth and learning for all
individuals in-volved—the mother, father, and all the children. (p. 134)
In his final chapter "Recommendations for Parents," Gabriel offers important
advice. He briefly explains a variety of techniques for communicating with
the unborn infant in order to build a relationship with him or her. He
describes some of the more humane birthing practices and emphasizes the
value of using prenatal regression. Eloquently he reminds us that the most
precious gift we can give to our unborn child is to love ourselves. Only
then will we be open to learn from our children.
Soothingly, he urges us to put aside any guilt we may feel about
our past parenting. In true alignment with the spiritual core of his book,
he reminds us that "we are dealing...with the concept of a continuity of
consciousness—the idea that we are in the process of personal evolution
as we pass through the various realms of existence" (p. 159). Thus, he
adds, we must realize that infants and parents are in relationship in this
life in order to learn together, to facilitate one another’s evolution
in this ocean of consciousness we call the universe.
If there are weaknesses in Gabriel’s presentation, they can be attributed
to the author’s apparent lack of experience with such in-depth cathartic
modalities as primal therapy and holotropic breathwork. In the section
dealing with processes for releasing prenatal stress and trauma, for example,
he misses an important opportunity to remind his readers of the efficacy
of such methods, as we know to be effective. At another point, after describing
the process of releasing painful emotions incurred in the womb and during
the birth process, he suggests "rescripting" or restructuring the client’s
emotional patterns as a way of changing the patterns which he or she has
been repeating throughout life. Here Gabriel emphasizes "active imagination
and mental imagery," as a means of imprinting a new positive image of the
birth experience. Those of us who know the power of primal therapy and
holotropic breathwork realize that it is more important to tap into the
"joy grids" of what Grof calls BPM I. Although Gabriel is on the right
track when he advises us to express "a higher level of spiritual truth
and union [so that] healing may come about" (p. 185)—what he fails to realize
is that this will not happen to any lasting degree through mere "mental
imagery and affirmation." It can only come from deep experiential work
where the life-death trauma of birth becomes a door to one’s transpersonal
reality. And this is a felt experience, not an imagined one.
However, these flaws aside, I strongly recommend Gabriel’s work.
As mentioned earlier, he does yeoman service—rendering his own unique assistance
in the current birth struggles of the new paradigm by emphasizing the component
sadly lacking in mainstream psychology: the spiritual. Those of us who
are working to usher in the new paradigm are well aware that without this
acknowledgment of our true nature, we will fail to achieve both personal
and societal integration—essential prerequisites for lasting peace and
unity on this planet.
By painstakingly recording his clients’ experiences and sharing them
with us, Michael Gabriel has added important new material to the pool of
data accumulating in recent decades thanks to the work of Stanislav Grof,
Thomas Verny, Graham Farrant, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Raymond Moody, Elizabeth
Noble, and others. This data, however slowly, is building to "critical
mass." At some point the scale of observation will be so compelling from
sheer numbers of case studies that mainstream scientists will have to relent
and admit the validity of this new-paradigm truth—that consciousness, not
matter, is the fundamental basis of life.
Copyright © 1996 by Mary Lynn Adzema
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MARY LYNN ADZEMA is a former journalist,
civil-rights activist, and poet, whose writings have appeared in a number
of West-Coast, national, and international publications. She has been a student of yoga and Eastern spirituality for over
years. She has also been a lecturer in psychology at World University
in Ojai, California, where she had previously earned a Master’s degree in Consciousness
Psychology and an A.B.D. in Philosophy. She wrote a chapter for and co-edited a book about
the experiences of Sai Baba devotees titled Transformation of the Heart. Mary Lynn
has received training with Stanislav Grof in holotropic breathwork and with
various people in primal therapy. Having served with the International Primal
Association on it Board of Directors and as Assistant
Editor of the publications, Primal Renaissance: The Journal of Primal
Psychology, a professional journal of psychology, and Primal
Spirit: The Deeper Wave of the New Age, a magazine; she now serves as
Assistant Editor of those some publications in their reincarnation on this
website, and as consulting editor for Primal Spirit
website in its umbrella-role for those publications plus all its other
facets. Most importantly, she serves as Assistant Director of the newly
opened Primal Spirit Center for Human
Evolution, offering primal breathwork, primal therapy, a community of
healing -- to name its major intentions. Mary Lynn's extended bio can be
found at Mary Lynn Adzema's Writings. She can
be contacted at P.O. Box 1348, Guerneville, CA 95446-1348; phone:
(707) 869-9008; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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