The following are excerpts from an article by Esko Rintala and Marja Rintala, who do primal regression work in Finland. It gives a fascinating sense of the history and lineage from which Primal Integration has evolved in Europe. The full article, Healing Deep Pain, written in 2002, will soon be available in its entirety on the IPA website, and gives a fuller description of the way the Rintalas practice. Their work is informed by those such as Frank Lake, William Swartley, Stanislav Grof, and Eric Berne. Esko was first introduced to primal regression by Lake in 1979, and he and Marja have run a total of 43 weekend groups since the 80s.
I first discovered a trauma chain in myself during a five-day psychodrama marathon in 1978. The continuing storm of emotions evoked in me a deep distress concerning my family relationships, and I started to cry. My psychodrama was staged as an imaginary family counselling session. I changed roles with my daughters, represented by group members. I realized I was a despicable sissy, and I was thrown into a state of strange stupefaction.
On the bus home, early situations of being subjected to ridicule by my peers emerged from the depths of my being. Then I had a symbolic vision: I was diving submerged through a filthy ditch behind the railroad yard of the small town of my childhood. Sensations of nausea emerged in waves and lasted for the following fortnight. Only later I realized that my psychodrama had brought me into contact with my birth trauma. My psyche had expressed this in a symbolic vision. Next year I was able to attend a primal integration seminar conducted by British psychiatrist, Frank Lake, in Helsinki and later one in Nottingham.
The trauma of birth had originally been postulated by Otto Rank, a pupil and early follower of Sigmund Freud. In his book Das Geburtstrauma (1923), Rank had proposed his hypothesis that birth experience is often heavily traumatic and that many neuroses have their origin in birth trauma. Rank assumed, incorrectly, that the main traumatic factor is the experience of abandonment, the expulsion from the maternal womb. However, he predicted sagaciously that it would once be possible to relive and integrate the birth trauma under the assistance of an experienced "midwife". By using this term instead of "doctor", Rank wanted to emphasize "the purely human and practical factor of the process."
Sigmund Freud was at first positively interested in these ideas of his young protˇgˇ and wrote to Ferenczi that Rank's idea was "the most important progress since the discovery of psychoanalysis." Unfortunately, Freud yielded to the protests of Abraham and Jones and rejected Rank's important discovery in 1924, as it threatened the key position of the Oedipus complex and patricidal wishes as the earliest source of neurosis.
Frank Lake, taking Rank's work even further, discovered the means to heal the deep wounds inflicted on us before we were actually born. Lake, a missionary doctor working in India, was commissioned by his mission society to specialize in psychiatry. During his studies he adopted the psychodynamic theory, according to which most psychic problems have their origin in traumatic experiences inflicted in earliest infancy. In 1954, Lake began treating some of his patients tentatively by using the psychoactive drug LSD invented by Albert Hofmann in the Sandoz Laboratories.
Two years later Stanislav Grof, a young psychoanalyst, began similar experiments in the psychiatric department of the Charles University School of Medicine in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Grof himself became one of the early experimental subjects and later wrote: "I was hit by a radiance that was comparable to the epicentre of an atomic explosion, or possibly to the light of supernatural brilliance that according to Oriental scriptures appears to us at the moment of death. This thunderbolt catapulted me out of my body. I lost first the awareness of the research assistant and the laboratory, then the psychiatric clinic, then Prague, and finally the planet. My consciousness expanded at an inconceivable speed and reached cosmic dimensions."
Soon the patients prepared a surprise for both Frank Lake and Stanislav Grof. They began reliving their actual birth experience in vivid detail. The therapists did not give credence to these statements, as their neurologist colleagues had stated that it is impossible for anyone to remember one's birth, because the nerve sheaths have not yet been myelinated at this early stage of development. But, irrespective of what neurologists said, patients went on describing their sensations of gliding through the birth passage, and sometimes of being almost strangled by their own umbilical cord, or being extracted from the channel by means of a forceps.
Lake admitted that he was not prepared for such frequent abreaction of birth trauma. He wrote later that he resisted for three years the realization that these were in fact reminiscences of the actual birth experience of the patients. Finally he decided to contact people who had been assisting in the delivery. They confirmed the veracity of the statements. In an international conference, some psychiatrists working with LSD also reported on cases of abreacted birth trauma. "This left me free to allow my patients to continue my education," wrote Lake.
In the late 60s emotional and legal reaction against the wild and unrestrained use of LSD rendered even the medical applications of this agent impossible. In 1969, Frank Lake began using hyperventilationdeep, intensive breathing, adopted from the bioenergetic therapy of Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen. He also gave a verbal induction in the form of a fantasy journey. Using this new method gave the steering wheel into the hands of the experiencer, who was now able to regulate the depth of his experience himself.
By induction and hyperventilation it became possible for the client to regress to the event of his conception. Lake postulated that the foetus receives the worst traumas during the first trimester of the gestation period. He also probably regressed his patients to this early event so that he could research this important phase of development. Amethyst Resource in Ireland, following Lake, lays much emphasis to these earliest experiences. Primal therapist William Swartley and others have in fact discovered a number of traumas inflicted in various phases of development: conception traumas, fallopian tube traumas, implantation traumas, embryological traumas, uterine traumas, birth traumas, and bonding traumas (http://www.primal-page.com/bills-2.htm).
Stanislav Grof, who had moved to the United States, relinquished using LSD as well, and developed an alternate method in which hyperventilation, music, and focused bodywork were used. This new method he called Holonomic Integration, and later Holotropic Breathwork (Grof: Beyond the Brain , The Adventure of Self-Discovery , Psychology of the Future ).
Also the pioneering work of William Swartley must be mentioned. He co-founded the International Primal Association in 1962, and the term Primal Integration was coined by him. Swartley had been influenced by the encounter group movement, by Gestalt Therapy, Roberto Assagioli's Psychosynthesis, and Carl Gustav Jung. He worked in Britain from 1976 until his death in 1979.
Since the adoption of hyperventilation instead of LSD, these integrative methods have been open for lay people to use, that is, for people who do not have professional psychiatric training, just as Rank had predicted. Frank Lake hoped that primal integration would be accepted in local churches as a method of mutual pastoral care in depth. The Clinical Theology Association, originally founded by Lake in 1962, which had trained thousands of parish workers and lay members in methods of clinical pastoral care, became in the late 1970s a centre of deep healing. CTA established contacts to various groups, among them several Protestant and Catholic charismatic groups. From the Nottingham headquarters of CTA, primal integration began spreading to a number of countries, to Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, the United States, Brazil, Hong Kong, Finland, and Sweden.
Frank Lake died in 1982, and after his death CTA succumbed to the pressure of frightened local churches and the psychiatric institution, and decided to discontinue primal integration. The medical and psychiatric convictions based on the materialistic scientific paradigm and view of the human being are still obstructing the use of the important discoveries of Frank Lake, Stanislav Grof, and other prenatal therapists.
In 1983, Dr. Thomas Verny, author of The Secret Life of the Unborn Child (1981), together with some of his colleagues, founded the Association of Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH) after having met with difficulties when trying to publish their research articles in scientific journals. APPPAH is working to further the study of this early period of human development and to disseminate information.
Through its Internet pages, APPPAH is contacting daily some 4500 people in about 50 countries. Its past president, David Chamberlain, Ph.D., is still working as the Editor of its Internet site which contains a wealth of information on conception, birth, and early lifethis vitally important formative phase of our psychological development.
In this time of global agitation, it is critical to remember that most or probably all of our repositories of malignant aggression and violence are unconscious and originally caused by very early painful experiences of violence, abandonment, and neglect. The early repositories of these horrible experiences are our gestation period and our birth experience. Later similar experiences just increase their painful and vicious strength, because traumatic experiences interact.
In primal regression, the primalist's consciousness is elliptical. By this term, regression therapists mean that the consciousness is divided into foetal consciousness, which experiences, and adult consciousness, which is aware of the objective of the workout and is directing it. In close mutual cooperation, these two centres of consciousness are able to discharge the painful contents of old traumas encountered, to integrate them, and to undo the negative influences on the emotional life and human relations of the primalist. Deep capsules of pain are opened and emptied; the positive experiences are freed and activated.
If we succeed in primal regressions to bring our life script into our consciousness and make constructive decisions to change it, the inner enemy which most of us harbour deep in our being, will be integrated. And we shall, in a variety of situations, send unconscious script signals which are different from the past. Our world will be different.
Esko Rintala and Marja Rintala can be contacted at:
Korkeavuorenkatu 17 D 17,
Tel: 09-611184, 040-7795533 firstname.lastname@example.org
This article appeared in the Fall 2003 IPA Newsletter.