Treatment of Birth Trauma In Infants & Children: Collected Works of William Emerson, Ph.D., Vol 1 – Emerson Training Seminars, Petaluma, CA, 94952, pp. 132, 1996
– Reviewed by John A. Speyrer
Treatment of Birth Trauma In Infants & Children is one in a series of bound volumes of the writings of Dr. William R. Emerson, an innovator in primal regression therapy for infants and children. The publication, in manuscript form, consists of presentation papers given at his training seminars, interviews, articles he has written and transcriptions of publications. This volume contains twelve separate papers dating between the years of 1977 through 1994.
Dr. Emerson has made his special province the treatment of infants and children with primal therapy. In a recent book, he mentioned how be became interested in primal therapy. In pages 4-9 of Remembering Our Homes, Healing Hurts & Receiving Gifts From Conception To Birth, (Book Review) Emerson explains how he spontaneously began his own birth primals much to the distress and embarrassment of his traditional Jungian training analyst whose office, unfortunately, was not sound proofed!
By 1977 he had already accumulated over 2500 hours of facilitating re-births. He feels that a traumatic birth is usually the most severe of all possible traumas and its residuals are present in some degree in 90% of all births. After having worked with adults in birth re-faciliation for over a quarter of a century, the author noticed that symptoms which adults presented sometimes took many years to resolve. He reasoned that treatment of birth traumatized infants and children might be much more efficient than the treatment of adult neurotics. He experimented with holding therapy with children but soon decided that it did not specifically address birth-related trauma which was his main interest.
At first, Emerson used his hands to simulate the traumatic birth and most importantly allowed the infant to re-experience the trauma. He feels that it is important that the regressee have control over its positive outcome. This “re-patterning” is extremely important for infants with severe traumas. The hands-on procedure worked, but the author soon decided that it was too intense for the infant, so he began using the more gentler massage techniques to simulate the birth passage.
Trauma to the fetus can be laid down as early as conception and implantation. The author believes that often there is a relationship between the trauma which occured and the stage of development the fetus was undergoing.
In England he studied regression therapy with obstetrician and psychiatrist Frank Lake who like Dr. Stanislav Grof, was one of the first to use LSD in regressive psychotherapy (See Lake’s Birth Trauma , Claustrophobia and LSD Therapy. Patients of Frank Lake would sometimes bring their children to group session where they were often triggered into feelings. Witnessing children in regressive modes furthered Emerson’s interest and in 1974 he decided that he would devote his professional life to regression therapy with infants and children.
By 1987 he had worked with over 600 infants and children both in group and in personal sessions. The average treatment is completed in only twelve one-hour sessions. A surprising result of the therapy was not only the reduction or elimination of psychosomatic symptoms but the opening up of the child to spirituality, creativity, deep awareness, cooperativeness and independence. Regressive therapy treatment has also often released the child’s blocked abilities and talents.
Dr. Emerson feels that adoption trauma is in reality a birth trauma and that no adoptive child escapes this imprint. These children, he writes, don’t want to be born and then subsequently abandoned. Being unwanted reveals itself in infants and children by clinging behavior or conversely by refusal to be held and carressed.
Other sections of this volume of articles deals with treatment of premature births, C-section vs. vaginal births, the psychic results of abortion attempts, and problems with anaesthesized births. Dr. Emerson believes that modern obstetrical procedures are responsible for many traumatic births and has produced a number of video tapes which show treatment procedures for those born using these interventions.
Treatments of birth trauma in a number of infants are described. The most important requisities a therapist should possess is compassion and empathy. To uncover pre-verbal trauma one must take the body route, as that is primarily where the memory of the birth and earlier trauma is stored. The deeper the trauma the less there is a cognitive memory of the ordeal. Emerson writes that attempted abortion trauma is the most severe of all early traumas.
He believes that each of us has a core personality which even severe trauma does not touch. After trauma is resolved what is left is our spirit. This is from whence comes our real self – our uniqueness and human potential. This is the source, he writes, of our collective unconscious, our ancestoral memories and Jungian archetypes.