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The Effects of the Limbic Imprint
As adults, we unconsciously, automatically recreate the conditions that were imprinted at birth and through early childhood. Research conducted by the pioneers of prenatal psychology, such as doctors Thomas Verny, David Chamberlain and William Emerson, shows that an overwhelming amount of physical conditions and behavioral disorders are the direct result of traumatic gestational experiences during pregnancy and complications during delivery. These can include sensory overload, unnecessary mechanical interventions, chemical stimulation, elective cesareans, circumcision, separation from mother right after birth, lack of breastfeeding and more.
Beyond the devastating effect of trauma during the actual birth, what happens afterward is also a source of trouble. These problems aren’t out of the ordinary; they’re a matter of routine impersonal postpartum hospital care. Lack of immediate warm, soft and nurturing contact with the mother, immediate cutting of the cord, rude handling, needles, bright lights, startling noises… all of this becomes instantly wired into a newborn’s nervous system as the new comfort zone. As the child grows, he’ll continue to unconsciously recreate and attract the same repeated situations of suffering, pain and helplessness, or else become abusive. Even if his rational mind later accurately recognizes this as a pattern of abuse, the imprinting will have already happened in a different part of the brain.
According to a 1995 study by Dr. William Emerson, 95 percent of all births in the United States can be classified as traumatic. Fifty percent were rated as “moderate” trauma, and 45 percent as “severe.” This problem affects all of us.
Born into excruciating labor pains or into the numbness and toxicity of anesthesia, we are limbically imprinted for suffering or numbness. Traumatic birth strips us of our power and impairs our capacity to love, trust, be intimate and experience our true potential. Addictions, poor problem-solving skills, low self-esteem and an inability to be compassionate or responsible have all been linked to birth trauma.
Breaking the Pattern Normally, a woman gives birth the way she herself was born. Due to limbic imprinting, that’s simply the way her body knows how to procreate. If she was born with complications, in all likelihood her body will repeat them. Unless she consciously alters that limbic memory, she will hand down her own birth trauma to her daughter, as she herself received it from her mother.
Giving birth for the first time is a huge opportunity for healing. So much can be done to prepare for a graceful, dignified delivery! How we experience life is greatly determined by our limbic imprint. It affects our likes and dislikes, our vocational and marital choices, what we find attractive and what repels us. We owe it to our children to provide a gentle arrival for them into our world, and learn to give birth without suffering.
In order to give birth to an enlightened masterpiece—whether it takes the form of a human baby, a beautiful poem, a healthy garden or simply a rich, fulfilling day that was worth living—we must first heal our own birth trauma. Despite the powerful force of limbic imprinting, healing is possible. There are many ways to recover our sense of well-being. We must recognize that, however harsh our beginnings, as adults we can change our basic settings, reprogram our limbic imprint and transmute our suffering and helplessness during birth into the love and joy of being alive on this planet.
I invite you to envision the possibilities that would open up for humankind if women fully claimed the original capacity of all mammals to give birth and raise our young without trauma. We can improve the quality of our species in just one generation by letting our children enter this world without being programmed for suffering and pain, instead bringing them into a world of safety, compassion and common sense. We cannot thrive as a species unless we create a new generation that was not damaged in utero by a high level of stress hormones in their mother’s bloodstream or by unnecessary physical and emotional traumas. As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
When the consciousness of birth shifts from anxiety and fear to love and safety, then we will truly have a chance to reach our greatest potential. We can regain our authentic power, clear the pain of our ancestors from our system, and set the stage for our children to step into their lives as peaceful, empowered guardians of Earth.
About the Author:
Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova is the founder of Birth into Being, an international movement for conscious procreation founded in 1982. She produced and directed the 2006 documentary, Birth as We Know It. She travels the world teaching her seminars, conducting apprenticeship trainings and speaking at conferences. For more information, visit BirthIntoBeing.com.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #25.
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