manuscript: prenatal emotional development - intro

This manuscript has not been published before. It is an exploration of the experiential evolution of emotional capacity and perspective in an unborn child - the child's relation to the mother-womb, to mother-feeling and to exterior emotional energies. This piece was written in 1983, my first writing project done on a computer word processor (A KayPro running CPM and Wordstar) . As the first word processor experience unfolded, I became aware that perhaps this text was becoming very dense. With each read-through I was so excited at finally being able to edit the words and, re-form and rephrase the ideas that I reworked the text like a painter going over and over the same part of an image, painting over the past and showing only the new. Unfortunately, perhaps, the 'old' never completely faded away in the computer version of 'reworking' and so this piece is perhaps something of a challenge of complex and interwoven meanings.

As this piece unfolded with a decidely informatic and theoretical style, I noticed when posting it here that it occasionally includes the deep, spiritual meaning that I experience in relation to 'The Mother' - as archetype, as primal being, as the 'first' gender and as the womb-child's infinity. Including this dimension almost completely ensures that academics and those who regard themselves as empirically validated will leave this piece as soon as the experiential account transcends the materiality of incarnate life - which it most certainly does. For others - or the truly renegade academics - I hope that you might be able to sink into the depth of this very magical time of gently aquired emotional empowerment in the 'Sea of Amnios.' And if the words become too weighty... maybe you can just float with the Dream     - jai

ABOUT THE IMAGES - The photographs on these pages are of real women: images of 'The Mother' in the splendor of Her beautiful fertility. In my photography I try to represent essence rather than 'objects.' The faces are not shown here to respect each mother's privacy.

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PRENATAL EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT:
AN EXPERIENTIAL JOURNEY

by Jai Jonathan Daemion, M.S., M.Ed.

© 1983-2009. All rights reserved.


PART I

A MICROCOSMIC DEVELOPMENTAL MODEL OF THE EVOLUTION OF AFFECTIVE POTENTIAL

Woman's body provides the nurturing environment and the arousing stimulus for the microcosmic evolution of the totipotent consciousness of every newly conceived being. During her pregnancy, the mother's body becomes highly charged with bio-electric currents and subtle-energy impulses which are far more powerful and far more profound than perhaps at any other time. For during these precious months her body-mind must expand its potentials on many levels and dimensions to provide the holistically enveloping energy ecosystem which will serve as the matrix within which her child's consciousness will undergo its initial development.

Where her pre-pregnant body was the precise expression-reflection of the totality of her personal, psychophysical experience – with each organ, muscle and neurological network serving as both physical embodiment and experiential channel for her total consciousness – from the very moment of conception her whole-being energy system must now expand its potentials and its dimensional capacities to provide for (and to include the totality of) the nascent, independent consciousness which has entered her womb with the incoming spirit (or cognitive mind, if you prefer) of her child-to-be. Thus the mother's body becomes the well-spring resource for the early psychophysical experience of the child. However, her experience can be understood to play an enormous role as well. What the rapidly changing being inside her womb will eventually experience must derive, in the early months, directly from the vastly complex, maternal energy networks and flows which constantly encircle and enfold this ever-expanding awareness as it lives and grows inside the body-feeling-experience of its mother. For it is precisely these dynamic energy processes of the mother's body and consciousness which must necessarily provide the inspiration and the essential invitation for the expansive development of the womb-child within.

On the most primal physical levels, the mother-body provides the fetal child with an endless stream of fluid services as nourishment flows through the placenta and the umbilicus; as waste products and blood gases are returned to the mother's bloodstream for elimination; as the amniotic fluid provides its constant warming and gentle cleansing and lubricating wash; and as the mother's viscera provide the soothing touch of endless peristaltic waves. Such is the physical inter-relationship which exists between mother and child: a profound state of dependency for the babe within. It is, of course, a profound responsibility for the mother and perhaps becomes even more so if she begins to understand the ways in which the energies of her functioning body might be affecting the development of her child.

Beyond the purely physical needs of the baby, however, there are many other levels and meta-levels of interaction between mother and child. Before the new child was conceived, the mother's body had to provide the respiratory-neurological-humoral-visceral-muscular vehicle for the entire range and content of her own emotional experiences – always expressing and reflecting completely the ongoing process of the holistic integration of her ever-changing affective flows. But now, this emotional energy complex begins to operate within new contexts of meaning and with new and far-reaching implications for the development and the future well-being of the child within. Where the mother's emotional experience was once hers alone, now it has become a less private matter. For whatever the mother feels will henceforth also be felt by the being within her. And whatever this new life form experiences within the womb will affect its consciousness in all ways – and forever.

In the early weeks of gestation, the tiny embryo has not yet developed the neurological apparatus which is required for the direct psychophysical experience of emotion. Nevertheless, even during this time, the emotionality of the mother carries the implicit potential for a profound influence on the child-to-be. If the mother is constantly anxious, fearful, depressed – or joyfully ecstatic – the embryonic child-body will be grown and molded by this prevailing affective environment and will be subtly but inexorably conditioned and programmed to live with and to process in utero, whatever emotional experience passes through the mother. Gestated in this emotional soup, the new child will be born preprogrammed to expect the continuation of these emotional experiences after birth.

In this way the emotional life of the mother begins to affect her womb-child long before the child can even ‘feel' for itself. A child which is gestated within the swirling confusion of its mother's unexpressed pain, anger or fear will firstly (and with great pressing urgency) need to develop whatever neurological processes and adaptive psychophysical strategies are required to survive and cope with these prevailing environmental pre-conditions before it can begin to develop the neurological tools and capacities needed to experience and explore its own affective needs and potentials - and its experience of any other personal emotions.

Thus when we are enclosed completely within the womb, there is no choice of environmental setting or, in the first few months of consciousness, even of our own, individuated feeling. When we are afloat in the amniotic waters (‘The Sea of Amnios') there is simply no way out! Whatever our mother might experience becomes at once our own experience, to celebrate, or to endure.

As the weeks of pregnancy pass, the self-synergizing, self-individuating child begins to develop its own inherent capacity for independent (autonomous) emotional experience. And as is true for most developmental processes, this acquisition of new affective potency does not occur all at once. No indeed! It is an incremental and gradual expansion of potential (and experience) within the developing child, evoked and provoked, perhaps, by the prevailing emotional ecology of the fetal child's temporary universe of the mother-belly.

The development of independent emotionality can perhaps best be comprehended in pure energy terms: initially, the little embryo is simply awash in a sea of maternal feelings. Powerless even to react to this ceaseless and ever-changing flow of feeling, the embryo is purely ‘at effect.' In time, the rapidly evolving child begins to internalize this environment of swirling oceanic emotionality and begins to develop the first nuances of a response-capacity to the feelings which flow so continually through its body-being from the mother-matrix. At first these responses are entirely pre-conscious – merely reflexive, whole-body reactions to another's affective world. This process of the internalization of maternal emotionality evokes and inspires the creation within the developing body-mind of the appropriate psychophysical processes, channels and mechanisms required to process the complex dynamics of emotional experience of the becoming human being.

Until the onset of truly autonomous (i.e., independent) emotionality, then, the embryonic child can only experience the emotions of its mother. The two are linked in a state of totally co-synchronous affective mutuality: a parallel energy-circuit of feeling in which the child is a wholly contained passive receptor and involuntary co-participant in all of the vicissitudes of maternal feeling and experience.

As it expands its psychophysical circuitry, however – and its whole-being consciousness in direct proportion, of course – the womb-child begins to manifest waves of emotionally charged energy which do not always run in exact synchrony (in parallel) to those of its mother. And whatever particulars of individuality are to manifest over time, it is precisely this tendency towards expressive divergence from the maternally centered beginning-point of all emotional experience that will eventually see the fully grown child launch as an adult, moving away from the parental home to begin life as a wholly independent being. So the initial movement toward an autonomous emotional experience is but the threshold beginning of a lifetime's adventure. And as a prerequisite of eventual autonomous life, the importance of this process of early emotional development cannot be overemphasized.

A MUSICAL METAPHOR: THE PHENOMENON OF ‘BEATS' AND THE DIVERGENCE OF MOTHER-CHILD REALITIES

We might understand the nature of the prenatal child's first expressions of autonomy – its first slightly divergent waves of nascent individuality – by comparing them to the phenomenon of ‘beats' in music. When two sound generators approach matching pitch, ‘beats' or pulses in volume can be heard. When the sounds are farther apart in pitch, the beats are very fast. But as they are brought into tune with each other, the beats slow down and become very drawn out. When the two sources are producing an identical pitch, the beats can no longer be heard.

Pianos and stringed instruments are tuned using this principle. The beats are an expression of difference, of dissonance. They occur when the sound waves meet out of phase. When two precisely tuned strings are slowly drawn apart in pitch we may not immediately be able to sense (hear) the ‘beats' which are generated by this dissonance, for the first divergences of the respective waveforms will be very subtle as the pulsing of the ‘beats' occurs very slowly. Any such phenomenon which we know to exist, but which we cannot (yet) actually perceive is said to exist below/above our thresholds of sensory discrimination (or thresholds of perception). Often we can detect the phenomenon with the aid of some technological device. But until the phenomenon manifests with sufficient variation or intensity to cross our sensory thresholds of awareness, we cannot experience its energies directly. In psychology, this occurs at the point of just noticeable difference (or, JND). Now if we continue to separate the two tunings very gradually, the ‘beats' of dissonance become readily apparent as rhythmic pulses which accelerate in direct proportion to the relative divergence of the two tones. Also, if the two tones continue to ‘move away' from each other, the pulsing of the ‘beats' eventually transcends the upper threshold of perception in their rapidity and so becomes lost to our perception. Once this occurs, we experience two completely discreet tones, and any perceived relationship between these wholly autonomous tones will be no longer be one of dissonance (i.e. divergence from a common source/resource), but will instead be one of complimentary vibration, sympathetic resonance – or harmony.

But there is yet another phenomenon to be dis-covered within the physics of these ‘beats' of dissonance: when the frequency of the ‘beats' becomes too rarified for us to perceive it as an interaction between the two original tones, it is often possible to then hear the beats as a wholly discreet third tone, one which is then called the beat tone. And the beat tone represents a pure expression of the synergistic inter-reaction of the two tones of the primary dyad: for the mother-child dyad, it is the sound of 'us'.

And so it is with the growing womb-child. Until such time as its developing emotionality assumes sufficient power and manifests enough variation (from the maternal norm) to cross over our thresholds of perception and to break into our awareness with some overt and dynamic expression which finally succeeds in declaring its presence as an independent conscious being, we may well remain wholly unaware of this emerging autonomous consciousness, even though its ‘beats' of dissonance might well have been pulsing steadily for quite some time in a realm somewhere beyond our sensitivities – pulsing and throbbing within its own microcosmic universe in a very real (if faint) expression of self-differentiation, heralding the autonomous presence of the new human being which is ‘in process' within.

THE PROMISE OF PRENATAL CONSCIOUSNESS: A TIME FOR LEARNING

It is a sad commentary on our normal levels of human sensitivity indeed that for many parents (and most especially, it seems, for fathers) the first emotional expression of their new child which breaks through their own thresholds of awareness occurs when the child bursts into a scream of mixed pain, fear and amazement at the moment of its first breath – after an often insensitive birthing. For there is certainly highly individualized life and an individualized (and individualizing) consciousness of profound sensitivity fulfilling every prenatal child. How (and if) we can discover the presence of this consciousness early enough to actively share this amazing womb-time experience of grace and magic with our unborn children is a very fundamental pleasure and responsibility of parenthood. And our approach to this highly charged potential for early and intimate sharing and vital co-participation in our children's development inevitably serves as the very foundation of their later emotional experiences.

Thus we have the amazing opportunity to choose something of our next generation's emotional heritage from the moment that each conception occurs . And whatever we choose for our children – and even if we choose not to notice their prenatal consciousness at all – the effects of our involvement and attitudes will reverberate throughout our children's lives and far, far beyond, through the lives of all the children... of their children... and of their children in turn.

Until very recently, in European-American cultures, most individuals have not even considered that prenatal consciousness might be a real possibility. Now, things are changing on all fronts and through all dimensions of awareness. And as we slowly open our eyes to the feelings and the meanings which attend the processes of conception, gestation and childbirth, we are beginning to lose our innocent ignorance.

Yes our prenatal children can feel! And however much or however little we are able to feel with them, we might still understand that the emotional environment (i.e., the affective ecology) of their mothers' wombs will serve as their introduction to emotional experience and so provide the matrix for their later emotional development.

PRENATAL SYNCRESIS: THE COMBINING OF MANY DIMENSIONS OF MOTHER-CHILD INTERACTION

We are conditioned from our earliest years to comprehend the nature of the mother-child relationship during pregnancy as one of physical enfoldment and provisioning which is usually construed as flowing in one direction only: from mother to child. It seems that our materialistically oriented perspective can readily grasp the importance of the umbilicus (and the placenta) as they serve to provide ‘all the nourishment that the new baby needs from the mother.' With a little imagination, also, we can acquaint each new generation of big brothers and sisters with the magical way in which the umbilicus also serves to transmit oxygen to the womb-child “because it cannot breathe for itself while it is still in the mother's belly.”

This physical supply system understood, it may be somewhat more challenging to understand that the mother-child connection also supplies many other essential, non-material energy needs of the new baby as it undergoes its ritual of primal formation within the womb – such as the subtle interplay of maternal emotional energies which provide the affective matrix from which the child's emotional potentials and its basic affective configuration (traditionally, ‘the personality') develop, and the earliest pre-experiential, integrative synergies of body-mind-emotion-spirit (the primal process of prenatal holistic syncresis ) in the newly-incarnating consciousness.

Thus it is that the functional facilitative-nurturing relationship between mother and fetal child is certainly not limited to that of providing material containment and material nourishment to the unborn child. In fact, the mother must be able to provide everything the new being requires – or, we might say, everything which is needed by the fetus must be able to pass through the body-feeling, consciousness and whole-being energy complexes of the pregnant mother, if the womb-child is to have access to these elemental building blocks of eventual autonomous consciousness.

IMPLANTATION: THE BEGINNING OF AFFECTIVE SYMBIOSIS

As we open to what may be wholly new possibilities of mother-child involvement, we begin to feel the presence of the mother on many levels as she relates (both consciously and non-consciously) to her unborn child's developmental needs and potentials. To be sure, the mother is the source of all physical-metabolic nourishment for the embryonic being. We know that she provides the essential functions of respiration and elimination through her bloodstream. But she must also embrace her child with a vast range of inviting-evoking-provoking-forming-catalyzing-timing-cleansing-initiating-companioning (etc.) energies which serve the highly specialized needs of the developing child in ways which we may only partially comprehend.

Soon after conception the fertilized ovum reaches out to attach itself to the endometrium (lining) of the uterus. When it is attached, the tiny structure begins to extrude the primal connection link of the placental organ. As soon as the placenta is functional, the mother and child are conjoined in a union of affective symbiosis and mutuality until sometime after birth. In the early weeks of pregnancy, it is the mother's contributions to the physical nourishment of the tiny speck of life that sustain it in its primarily non-conscious or pre-experiential, vegetative state. But as the womb-child's capacity for emotional experience develops, the mother may recognize her pregnancy as a time of true emotional symbiosis – in which each of the two persons contributes to the other's emotional wellbeing and provides emotional content that fills the other's experience.

THE TIME OF CO-SYNCHRONOUS EMOTIONAL MUTUALITY

Gradually, the child's body-mind becomes adequately formed to permit the reception (or channeling or conductance) of energies of all kinds from the mother and, later still, begins to actively resonate with the maternal rhythms of feeling and consciousness. During these weeks their dance is very close. No emotional or experiential ‘space' exists between mother and child. For all intents, they experience one, unified feeling. This time may be understood as a moment of perfectly co-synchronous mutuality.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF CO-REFLEXIVE EMOTIONAL RESPONSE

As time continues to bring change, however, the little womb-child begins to resonate and vibrate in complimentary or co-reflexive response to the mother's experience. From the moment that this reflexive emotional response potential ‘switches on,' the child can be said to have reached a stage of semi-autonomous emotional capacity (and experience). Although the change takes place over some weeks, the co-reflexive relationship initiates another leap in the development of pre-natal autonomy: from this point onward the child's emotional potentials will begin to move away from the perfectly co-synchronous mutuality with maternal energies or feelings. And in doing this the child begins to express its first real independence.

THE EMOTIONAL TRINITY CIRCLE: FATHER-MOTHER-CHILD FEELING

It is approximately at this stage of development that the womb-child can also begin to resonate with energies which impinge upon its tiny body through the mother's body, but which have their source somewhere beyond her being – from the outside world of other people, noises, etc., and even from sources well beyond the mother's conscious experience . It is at this time that the prenatal child becomes capable of responding to the auric energies (i.e., the life-energies which surround the body) of its father and of other family members. [For those who are unfamiliar with subtle energy research, let us accept for now that such phenomena do indeed exist and are easily demonstrable]. Often, whenever the father even comes near the pregnant mother-to-be, the little spirit inside the womb begins to move – to kick and ‘dance' and respond to the father's presence. Of course, since the father is also necessarily interacting with the mother's experience at these times, it is impossible to state with absolute certainty that the prenatal intelligence is actually ‘feeling the father' per se (as, of course the child may simply be feeling the mother's experience of feeling the father).

This is often a difficult interaction for fathers to experience. Because the father has no direct access to the fetal child without also affecting the mother, the father is dependent upon the mother's sensitivity to his effects on the child, for information (and invitation) about this new relationship.

This three-way affective relationship can be cast as a triadic emotional circle in which the child, the mother and the father may each or all be actually ‘feeling-the-mother-feeling-the-father-feeling-the-child-feeling-the-mother-feeling-the-child...' (etc., ad infinitum). This progression continues, in effect, forever and allows for the movement of experience in all directions from any here-now moment of experience within any of the now-three individuals involved.

In the spontaneous generation of this experiential trinity circle we find once again an exact analogy to the phenomenon of musical ‘beats' through which two tones which are vibrating in purely co-synchronous mutuality as lovers surrender to the magic of conception, catalyze a ‘third tone' (the ‘beat tone'), the perfect expression of the new, three-way relationship.

THE POSSIBILITY OF EXTERNAL ACCOMPANIMENT OR GUIDANCE

Also at this stage of development we must be open to the reality that the child will begin to interface and inter-react with other energies, persons and entities than those which pass through the conscious experience of either parent. For example, whatever spiritual alliance or guidance has accompanied the child-spirit to its new womb-home might express itself to the child through an extraordinary parental experience and/or it may interact freely and directly with the womb-child entirely beyond the awareness of the mother-father. Likewise, if we subscribe to any belief in even the possibility of the reincarnation of a soul, we must acknowledge that there may also be past-life presences or other transincarnational factors which will be interacting with (and acting through) the children we might too casually imagine are ‘ours.'

On an experiential level, we must also accept that the newly independent consciousness of the womb-child may react to (or interact with) the freely interpenetrating energies which emanate from the body-consciousness of other human beings both close to and far away from the mother-child center of gestation. People who like our babies (and those who do not) can and will affect the emotional experience of the prenatal child whether or not their own consciousness is sufficiently sensitized to even be aware of the possibility that they may even have such an effect on others – and whether or not the womb-child is sufficiently developed to be consciously ‘aware' of any such influence.

THE ‘RELATIVE EFFECT' OF OTHERS' FEELINGS

In this way, concerned grandparents, doting uncles-to-be, eager (if ambivalent) siblings, etc., can all be assumed to have a relative effect on the prenatal child's experience and, hence, upon the rate and direction of its development (the ‘direction' of development being a complex of individualized and individualizing influences and expressions which we might regard as the primal psychophysical orientation or the primal emotional ecology.

EXPERIENTIAL INFINITY AND THE LIMITS OF PARENTAL UNDERSTANDING

As is so consistently true on every other dimension and front of our experience, development, consciousness and evolution, there are an experientially infinite range of energy influences acting upon and through the gestating child, just as there is upon and through its mother-father, etc. It is far less important (and, coincidentally, pragmatically impossible in fact) to attempt to isolate all of these influencing variables than it is to realize that no developmental model of prenatal consciousness can be complete (i.e., holistically inclusive) until it allows for the bi-directional interaction of the growing womb-child consciousness with the universe-at-large – with all of its potential energies, with all possible manifestations of sentience, and with the totality of its all-encompassing and self-reflexive one-ness.

Whatever our children 'are' in their inner essence will manifest in ways far beyond our comprehension. There is no proviso that governs the service of parenthood which states that “Every parent can or must know everything about his or her children.” Obviously such a notion is absurd on many counts. In opening to the privileged experience of parenthood we are in fact opening ourselves for a journey into 'The Great Unknown' — not an endless fall into the infinite yawning maw of the 'Great Abyss' of our primal, mortal existential dread, but into 'The Great Unknown' which always lies ahead in time-space-dimensionality – ahead of all that we have yet experienced, ahead of all that we know... and even beyond all that we can yet imagine.

If we feel the need to create a guiding blueprint or model of the functional role of parenthood which we might productively follow into/through this great adventure of co-creation, let it then be a model which is entirely open-ended: a paradigm of relating-serving which can include 'the all' of the infinite variety which each new human incarnation brings to fruition in our experience, if only as the expression of a nascent potential of human consciousness; a set of expectations which might begin with the postulate: “anything is possible!” And perhaps offering as its only ‘security base' our open-hearted commitment to humbly serve this wondrous unfoldment and this ongoing process of inevitable mystery and awe to the best of our abilities... to pledge ourselves to the ultimate service of the next generation(s) and to approach that office with the total surrender which is the sole pre-ordinate requirement which we have been given for meeting divine grace face to face and heart to heart.

For so long as we allow ourselves this freedom from dogmatic and delimiting expectations, so long as we allow our children fulfillment of their God-given right (and, thereby, perhaps, an implicit responsibility) to be different from anything that we have ever even imagined, then we shall be doing all that we can to break the chains and agonizing cycles of attachment (in yogas, 'samskara') and the self-defeating social-religious dogmas which so hinder each successive generation... and to help our children in their naturally rebellious striving to break free from the particular self-negating patterns which so limited and confined their and our parents' experience.

It is up to our children to be different than we might ever imagine. and it is up to us to let them be!And if we are interested in first-causes and causal chains of linearly fixed, moral responsibility, then let us begin our quest for the holistic understanding of ‘The All' of these factors-of-formative-influence exactly where our children themselves begin again and again: within our own feelings and experience; at that very beginning-point of desire which served as the conscious or mindless prayer for the conception of the child-body and the in-coming of the child-spirit through our mortal-sexual lovemaking and communion. And start we there, then we have infinity as our matrix and spirit (or God, however defined in concept, however known in experience) as the only 'strange attractor' (as in chaos theory) and/or the 'inviting determinant.'

Beyond this, there are the vastly intricate 'networks of affect' and the experiential infinity of influences, interactions and synergies upon which we may only meditate in pure surrender, and in rightful awe and wonder.

 

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