manuscript: prenatal emotional development - part III intro

This is a continuation of an unpublished manuscript of approximately 25,000 words - an exploration of the experiential evolution of emotional capacity and perspective in an unborn child - the child's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. Part I of the series begins here.




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

© 1983-2009. All rights reserved.



In the human adult, it is precisely the highly charged flows and 'streamings' (Wilhelm Reich) of emotional energies which stimulate and provoke the various neuro-muscular channels, resonators, containers and capacitors to respond via their specialized functions, all moving endlessly through the dynamic cycle that is common to all living things: tensioning-climax-discharge-rest-retensioning (etc.). When this very most primordial of the bio-energetic life-rhythms is played endlessly through an (effective) infinity of closely linked psychophysical processes, the highly individuated intrapersonal 'orchestra' of affective flows bursts into life, re-creating the 'stuff' and content of our normal experience.

Whole muscle groups which act-react in concerted harmony (levators, extensors, etc.) all vibrate differently, playing different 'tunes' which simultaneously flow into and emanate out from the whole-being center of all emotional experience. Likewise, each localized muscle and each cell within the larger structure resonates with its own 'sound' – unique vibrational and energetic contributions to the individual's whole-being emotional experience.

But muscles are not the only 'instruments' in the ongoing collage of energies and sensations which contribute to our emotional experience. The cardiovascular system carries its hormonal and respirational (blood-gas) counterpoints to the muscle’s resonance. Neuro-electrical channels conduct and 'mix' the component sounds, adding tonal 'color' of their own. Sensory receivers are so biased in their receptivity that every incoming bit of information is completely transfigured as it passes through the overlay of the prevailing 'score' or program structure (i.e., the 'software') of dynamic affective procession into our conscious perception. And there is still more: the skin modulates subtle sub- and supra-ordinate bio-electric currents (yet another 'section' of related instruments); the mind produces vivid imageries from memories, associative fantasies and projections to provide the 'visuals' and the emotionally determined contextual 'libretto' of the piece.

On and on we might go, naming the member-musicians, delineating the different potentials of each instrument, analyzing the subtle workings of melody, rhythm, harmonics, dissonance, counterpoint, etc. And finally we might become aware that in and through these many voices and themes there is always one paramount director (or, more properly, mediator) of this orchestra-of-experience, and that inner direction and ultimate self-regulation is the function and the power of breathing. For as the whole body breathes, so the whole-body feels.

Wherever breath is stopped, delimited or changed, each and every organ, cell, neural impulse and every bio-dynamic process instantly reflects-expresses this primal energy modulation and follows this unifying direction. Thus it is that through our experience of breath alone, we can contact our most profound innermost realities, actively feel each other's continual interplay of emotions and even learn to conjoin our material-plane consciousness with the cosmos-at-large, through a thousand breath-keyed process of meditation and yoga sadhana.

Breath is at once a purely reflexive and a consciously volitional process. Whole systems of therapy-healing-meditation-yoga are based upon its subtleties. But in the early moments of conscious being within the womb there is no breath at all. The womb-time thus differs from all other life experience – except, perhaps, the very last breath of life in its final act of letting go. For the fetal child there are no breathing rhythms or semi-volitional respirational pathway-to-change, no sudden inhales or rapid dis-charging exhalations. And yet the growth and changing of the little womb-child occurs with greater intensity and rapidity than it will at any other stage of incarnate life – except, again, for those moments which will immediately precede death itself.

There will come a time, a moment in development, in which the womb-child will begin to vibrate with the muscular processes that will later be used for breathing. But taking amniotic fluid into the mouth (or even the lungs) is far different than breathing in air as vital nourishment.

In many ways, the gradual development of emotional potential in the prenatal child (and the overall consciousness which it must mediate) is tantamount to the incremental creation of a vast assemblage of wholly self-integrating, resounding energies, all acting in total concert and as a manifestation of pure, reflexive synergy. And each day – no, each instant – sees the joining and spontaneous assimilation of a new 'instrument' or even a new 'section.' Each moment's passing sees the integration of new components of experience with in the whole-being resonance of emotional feeling which orchestrates every human life.

Larger and larger does this orchestra grow, with sound-feeling that expands exponentially and in direct proportion to the growth of the self-generating and self-containing matrix-medium of the womb-child's body. And as would be true of any assemblage of separate musician-elements in a more conventionally concepted musical group, there inevitably comes a time when one or more of the players draws apart from the usually balanced ensemble and begins to exert an independent influence upon the overall sound. When the members of the ensemble are highly skilled and highly experienced it is precisely these self-chosen variances which produce the various subtleties and originalities of 'interpretation' which upon which the very appeal of the musical ensemble ultimately depends. But when these individualizing divergences occur in such a way as to cause a complete fracture in the overall unity of sound and in the mutuality of the players, then we might sharply react to the variance as a kind of dissonance or even as a perceptual ‘violence’ – as a self-centered expression of the individual musician which could only occur at the 'expense' of the total harmony of the group. And at such a moment the whole nature of the ensemble, its music and, indeed, its very function deviates from our expectations and becomes the dynamic expression of something improvisational – i.e., something completely new and different. Something that has never been heard before. And from that moment onward, everything will be new. As all of our predictions and suppositions are confounded and displaced by what is unfolding within, we must then find a way to surrender into the inevitable revelation of this newness.

The analogy of ‘the emotional orchestra’ can be carried onward indefinitely. What may be most germane to our present exploration of the process of prenatal emotional development is the way in which the evolving emotional capacities (potentials) of the gestating child mirror the incremental build-up of a large ensemble or orchestra, and the ways in which the dynamics of the interpersonal relationships affect the functioning of the organism as a self-orchestrating whole. For if we can but comprehend something of the enormous complexity of this process, then we may be better able to appreciate the ultimate implications of whole-being emotional freedom and individuality, for individuals of any age.

As we have seen, the prenatal child exists in total affective mutuality with the mother-feeling throughout what has here been termed the (Level II) vegetative phase of pre-natal emotional development. It is only when its internal emotional 'orchestra' reaches sufficient size and potential (i.e. intensity and complexity of affective charge) to permit individual member-component improvisational expressions, that the fetal body begins to 'play its own tune' And when(ever) this first occurs, then the self-synergizing prenatal being has begun to manifest truly autonomous visceral, cardiovascular, neuro-cerebral and musculo-skeletal movements of its own (pre-conscious) volition which are in fact its first individuated emotional responses to the deep oceanic mother-feelings in which it lives within the highly emotionally charged environment of the womb. And this development heralds the onset of a new dimension of emotionality and consciousness, and is the womb-child's initiation into the next phase of prenatal emotional development.



From its totipotent 'seed-being' beginning at the point of conception, through its gentle emergence into (Level I) passive pre-sentience, and then through the state of (Level II) passive reception-conductance (of the totality of its mother's emotions), we have followed the progressive evolution of the new person toward its eventual birth-time emergence as a being of already profound sensitivity and expressive ability – the result of a highly orchestrated response-relationship to internal, maternal and external emotional experience.

Now we have arrived at the beginning of yet another distinct phase or level in this outward-inward helix of growth, and the opening of a completely new dimension of experience for the womb-child, which we might term that of re-active or reflexive emotionality. For now the child's body-mind not only conducts (or channels) the energies of its mother's emotional experience, but can also (if non-consciously) ‘use’ the maternal emotionality as an ongoing stimulus for the energization and activation of its own autonomous, bio-energetic life-pulses of tension-climax-discharge-rest-retensioning (etc.). And this most primordial and basic life-rhythm has its first conscious expression in the realm of feeling when the powerful affective potentials of the maternal emotional matrix 'charge' the newly developed capacitance (or affective capacity) of the prenatal child and, quite literally, bring it to life!

Thus energized, this newly integrated psychophysical circuitry (and the wholly new dimensions or levels of experience which it facilitates) begins to actively generate affectively mediated bio-energetic responses – from the very 'center' of the barely conscious fetal child. And whatever form the first physical expressions may eventually take, we can know that it has occurred as the direct expression-reflection of the totality of the energy of that womb-child's 'affective ecology' through the development of self-regulating processes of 'emotional balancing.'

Much later still, what may seem from outside the womb as a randomly occurring 'kick' is in fact far more likely to be the climactic culmination of a myriad of phenomena of dynamic physical-emotional being: a gradual tensioning as affective energies (potentials) build up directly in the in the tissues of the child-body; the attainment of a pre-orgasmic level of tension; followed rapidly by an explosive release of that tension – and the child has kicked, or turned, or undergone a whole-body contraction. Depending upon the ambient levels of affective energies in the womb and their dynamics at any particular moment, the whole-body tension-release cycle (and its localized modes and outlets of expression) will sometimes be repeated several times in rapid succession. But whenever it ceases, the next phase of the bio-dynamic life-cycle engulfs the little body-mind in a state of deep rest – a meditative, receptive, autonomic-vegetative (i.e., parasympathetic predominant) state of tranquility during which all of the internal changes that the tensioning-climax-discharge re-action stimulated will be automatically co-synergized and spontaneously abreacted through-to-completion via a series of little twitches, jerks or shudders. And at the completion of this self-integrating process of affective ecology, the womb-child will be fully open – once again wholly receptive and fully 'cleared' to be able to re-act and respond to whatever emotional energies will next flow through the mother's experience.

The first abreactive (Reich) tension-release (or genuinely re-active) movements of the fetal being necessarily occur 'beyond' or before the tiny person-sprout's incarnate awareness. For these first movements are wholly reflexive – i.e., purely spontaneous – and, like any reflex action, they usually occur at pre-conscious (or at least at non-premeditative) levels. What is thus of prime importance to the ongoing growth and experience of the prenatal child, then, is not what happened to 'cause' any particular response, or even what the particular release movement entailed.

What is of paramount importance is what occurs after any climactic discharge re-action. For it is precisely during the post-release 'rest' period of non-volitional, whole-being psychophysical integration (or, eco-balancing) that the child’s body-mind learns from (i.e., is changed by, is experientially conditioned by) the effects of its out-thrusting reflexive reactions.

This period of internal integrative bio-physiological and bio-psychic synergization corresponds exactly to the post-orgasmic period in the cycle of dynamic sexuality: a time for resting, feeling, learning, meditating, integrating and balancing. A time of being 'beyond intention' and beyond volition. And as such, and no matter how far from its own self-awareness the little womb-child was when it jerked or turned or kicked in spontaneous out-thrusting response to some internal(ised) state of tension, it is precisely during this time of post-discharge surrender and natural dynamic balancing that the child-being becomes completely re-united with itself, and becomes truly self coincident, once again.

Interestingly, too, just as we can equate this post-discharge period of rest and self-integration with the post-orgasmic phase of later (overt) sexuality, we can also see that this same equation also holds true when it is applied in reverse. That is, the moment of total surrender which follows the fetal dis-charge/movement/ex-pression/re-action and/or the adult sexual orgasm is, in its very essence and nature, a mode of connected feeling and expression that moves through its first experiential cycles as a pre-natal experience!

This is a radical perspective that is worth some further study: here we are not positing the existence of a conscious, pre-natal orgasm experience, primarily because it can be assumed that the fetal neurology is not yet sufficiently developed to house emotional and physiological expression of such a magnitude of power as that which we associate with mature sexual orgasm. But as the difference may be quantitative (however measured) and qualitative (to the extent that the prenatal child’s potential for self-awareness is still developmentally limited), it is obvious that there exists an emotional experiential continuum as well as a physiological-developmental continuum and that external judgment of what constitutes an ‘actual’ orgasmic experience must yield to the superior perspective of self-experience. After all, the difference between the cycle of tensioning, climax and release (followed by rest) that powers life at even its most basic levels, and the much grander experience of adult sexual orgasm lies only in the involvement of a far greater integration of bodily components conjoined with emotional experience that is likewise the result of a much greater integration of prior experience and feeling. In essence, these two ‘experiences’ are exactly the same. At some point, the pre-natal child will become aware of its participation in this basic Dance of Life. In pragmatic terms, this suggests that there may be more to the contractions and kicks of the prenatal child than has yet been generally imagined.

When later, as adults, we quite naturally turn back 'into' ourselves following any intense ex-pressive, discharging, reflexive reaction, we are in a way simply responding to the conditioning effect of this natural bio-cycle, by returning to that tranquil moment in the womb when there was time to feel – and time to integrate and balance our every emotional experience.

Over time, it is precisely this continual excursion into re-active self-expression and the subsequent periods of rest, rebalancing – and the inevitable re-charging and re-tensioning which is so natural to incarnate life itself – that actively invites and provokes the development of successively complex and rarified dimensions of awareness and which provides the matrix for the development of the psychophysiological 'circuitry' which these 'higher' levels of consciousness require for their functioning and their ongoing synergistic integration as elements or dimensions of the whole-being, incarnate experience.

So just as the mother's emotional experience once provided the matrix in/through which the child-body could begin its (Level I) 'preparations for feeling,' and later provided the very content of the womb-child's first (Level II) passive-receptive emotional experiences, we now find that the ‘mother-stimulus' is utilized in yet another way: as the evocative inspiration for the womb-child's first truly autonomous (i.e., self-centered) reactions and expressions which function ecologically as self-abreacting and self-synergizing processes within the body-mind of the prenatal child and which, in turn, become the stimuli for all future development of the child's emotional potentials and self-awareness. And it is precisely this transference of response-ability from mother to child which both initiates and characterizes the dyadic-reflexive emotionality of this third stage of affective development.

Level III begins with the first autonomous re-action of the fetal body-mind to the full orchestration of the energies of the maternal emotionality in which the new incarnation has been immersed since sometime before the very moment of its conception. Even now, however, the little womb-child is not able to actually 'contemplate' its feelings, or consciously direct its newly individualized expressions. But now, at least, it can respond emotionally to any emotional stimulus. And because it is still well and truly safe within its mother's infinite belly, most of its affective inputs are inevitably still direct through-flows of maternal emotional streamings and experience. So even while it is 'learning to respond,' the newly self-expressive being is still reflexively interacting with the entire range of the mother’s emotionality. The very patterns and parameters of bio-electric charges and potencies which have not only accompanied the womb-child's development at least from the earliest moments of the desire which led to the conception, which in turn 'created' the womb-child's very body, have also provided, in a very real and tangible way, the very 'stuff' from which the child's emotionality has been wrought. Thus physical elements have been transmuted into conscious embodied being via the mother’s emotional experience – which has provided the primal substructure for the new child’s feelings, and the very parameters of affective possibility (potential) which the new individual has inherited through a simple process of 'experiential osmosis' across the energy-transducing membranes of the placenta and its amniotic bubble. In this way, maternal emotional experience dynamically evokes emotional experience to ‘light up’ within the womb-child she carries.

Level III finds the little womb-child emanating emotional energies in true harmony and direct counterpoint to the maternal source-resource of all feeling – energies which are now being wholly generated from within the partially autonomous body-being of the prenatal child. In this newly emergent ability to respond we find the source-point for a new mother-child relationship: that of truly dyadic co-reflexive mutuality – as distinct from the more parallel phenomenon of 'co-synchronous mutuality' which characterized Level II development. And we might describe this new attainment in the terms of wholistic phenomenology as: 'the simultaneous experience of total mutual effect and total mutual reflection.'

Co-reflexive (dyadic) mutuality might best be understood as a closed system in which there are two member-elements. Whatever either being feels, the other will somehow also feel, and will immediately reflect the totality of this reaction-feeling to the co-participant. This is a state of inescapable and total intimacy. For whatever either member of the dyad feels is at once a whole-being expression of his/her own experience, and yet is also and in all ways a reflection of the endless dyadic circle of 'feeling-the-other-feeling-the-self-feeling-the-other’ (etc.).

It is important to realize that within the actual experience of co-reflexive dyadic sharing there is rarely a perceptible 'first cause' or primary stimulus. Within this deep and enfolding intimacy there rarely exists any objective, linear time-frame whatsoever. The process begins with the inception of sentience (indeed, it is the most primal indicator of the existence of consciousness itself) and, once initiated by life itself, there will forever after be an (experiential) infinity of stimulus-response cycles occurring simultaneously. For there is enough emotional content in our every moment of sharing to keep the input-output cycles of dynamic co-reflexivity fully functioning and fully feeling for at least an entire lifetime.

Though it occurs inevitably and continuously within and through the experience of every human being, it is not always easy to visualize this process or to feel confident that we can remain even conceptually aware of the literal infinity of experiential interactivity which its very existence implies.

To develop a working conceptual model of bi-directional 'all-time-no-time' process we must visualize its no-time infinity flow via a synthetically contrived (i.e., limited) temporal linearity, as follows: we can imagine a pregnant mother experiencing a highly charged event of great emotional significance. She will react to this event, whatever it may be, apperceptively through an emotionally conditioned matrix of affective potentials which is in itself the synergized totality of her entire emotional history and evolution. And, her re-action to this event will be her emotional experience.

Whatever the nature of her emotional feeling may be, her reactive experience will include whole-body responses such as changes in breath and heart rates, the immediate infusion of countless subtle metabolic chemicals into her bloodstream, perhaps 'racing' (or benumbed) mental imagery and, of course, pattern-reactions of contractions of both involuntary and some usually 'voluntary' muscles throughout her whole body via both autonomic and motor neurological channels.

Even within her most aware realms of experience, her reaction-response to what she has experienced is likely to involve the immediate activation and virtually instantaneous synergistic integration of so many psychophysical processes that she herself could not possibly feel them all or to be aware of them as member-elements of her whole-being emotional experience. At best, her ongoing experience of her 'self' may be maintained with some overt continuity – but always only partially so as she is tossed about on these waves of highly charged feelings, awash in a sea of wildly interactive (inter-synergistic) psychophysical energy phenomena.

What the woman in this example would be undergoing is simply the phenomenon of whole-being emotionality, with perhaps an unusual intensity of 'emotional overloading' built into (her conditioned reactions to) the event itself. But no matter how 'far' her own self-awareness might extend, she will inevitably be actually aware of only a fractional aspect of what is always a potentially overwhelming affective flow – an experientially infinite systemic interaction of energies, perceptions, thoughts, sensations, reactions, memories, projections, etc.

Within her womb, however, there is another being. One who is destined to receive the full effect of the mother's whole-being emotional experience. And this 'effect' becomes at once the womb-child's 'causal input' or stimulus to feel. It is a rich invitation and a lush environment and feeling certainly grows from this infusive medium and the catalytic reaction of affective consciousness.

By this time, the child will naturally and continually process affective energies flowing in two directions through the center of its being. It is no longer wholly passive-receptive to whatever affectively mediated energies impinge upon it as byproducts or artifacts of its mother's experience. For now the womb-child re-acts, and send its own emotionally charged and emotionally ex-pressive energies of alarm, tension, pleasure, etc., outwards-inwards in double-helix (efferent-afferent) vortices from and through its own psychophysical centers of consciousness in the chakras of the brain, the heart, the solar plexus, etc.* [* If inclusion of the concept of ‘chakral’ consciousness, after the Indian Vedic system is not comfortable for any reader, it is just as useful to conceive of the development of consciousness following a cephalo-caudal progression, with ‘consciousness’ supposedly based entirely in the brain. Of course, this medical model fails completely to account with the easily observable integration of the human body-mind as an entire system of which the limbic brain is merely a part, an operating system rather than a content controller.]

At once, these charged emanations provide the mother (the other member of this dyadic union) with dynamic feedback as to the effect of her feelings upon her child. In turn, of course, her emotional re-actions to her wombchild's expressive responses (i.e., its reactions to her reactions, etc.) provide essential conditioning and unavoidable feedback (or 'reflection') to the developing child about the effects of its own emotional expressions/experience. Thus the infinite circle of co-reflexive affective effect is energized anew and the endless process-ion of dynamic emotionality has been instilled in yet another 'new' human being!

Within this endless 'dyadic loop' each individual's emotional expressions (which are, in themselves, always re-actions to all preceding emotionally charged experience) become the stimuli for responsive reactions from the other member of the dyadic circuit. And these responses in turn become second- or third-level stimuli for the generation of new infinities of psychophysiological reactions, etc., ad infinitum. And within any here-now moment in the experience of any individual(s), there can be seen to be an experiential infinity of these 'networks of affective mutuality' – all freely synergizing with each other as their effects are abreactively processed through-to-completion – naturally merging and evolving into the new contextual arenas and 'networks of meaning' which are born from every moment's new experience. Over time, these swirling vortices of mutually inter-synergizing energies multiply exponentially... and forever!

And this is the phenomenological basis of all emotionality! The ongoing flow of emotionality is ever-changing and infinitely variable, even though there may be only a few truly differentiable primary (or primal) emotions. It is both an amazing gift and an incessant burden of incarnate life that there is no end to feeling. Through time, 'emotional infinity' becomes the home and hearth of our incarnate consciousness. And this infinity of affective flux begins for each new person with the first manifestations of autonomous emotional expression which herald the beginning of the Autonomic-Reactive Phase (Level III) of prenatal emotional development.

No emotional experience is ever lost. No experience of pure co-reflexive sharing is ever erased entirely from our bio-psychic (and bio-cosmic?) memory banks. The most primal experience of truly wholistic consciousness (and, indeed the very basis of Wholistic Phenomenology per se) occurs within the double-helix revelation that: 'every experience is at once the reflection and the expression of every other experience, through all time-space-dimension-etc.' And one important implication of this unifying 'is-ness' is that no matter how completely 'cleared' any affectively charged experience might seem to be, that it was ever so potentized (i.e., charged) guarantees its inevitable endurance forever – channeled via infinite chains-of-effect through ‘the all’ of our future experience.

In direct proportion to its very depth of meaning (and note that meaning = affective charge; and meaningfulness = intensity), each fleeting moment of emotional feeling contains great power, to affect and to condition (i.e., to predispose) our emotional capacities and tendencies ever after. And at no time during our mortal lives is this more vitally and irrevocably true than during the formative time of (Level III) Prenatal Emotional Patterning in which the mother's emotionality channels through the womb-child and provides an entire cosmos of reflexive potential for the formatting of her womb-child's emotional matrix. Whatever she feels during these precious weeks will live in the experience of her child in the way s/he deals with emotional experience throughout her/his entire life.

For the womb-child within, and for the entirety of its physical existence through this phase of prenatal emotional development, the mother is the universe-at-large. Her feelings and the complex psychophysical reactions/abreactions which they elicit are the 'experiential infinity' in which the prenatal child swims.

The onset of (Level III) dyadic reflexivity-reactivity and the earliest manifestations of the capacity for truly co-responsive emotionality find the child safely ensconced within the womb, to be sure, but also effectively 'shut away' from direct contact with everyone but the Infinite Mother (and the Infinite Father, of course, especially when the parental sexual relationship is alive and constantly nourishing to the womb-child throughout the pregnancy). The reality that parental emotional experience and consciousness is the womb-child’s only source of emotional catalysis creates a profound state of emotional dependency in the fetal child, which points to an essential and significant inequality in the emotional 'mutuality' which exists between mother and child.

For the mother-being, the co-reflexive dyadic mutuality of emotional experience which she shares with her unborn child is not wholly unique or all-pervading in her experience. Once she too was a womb-child, and spent her season of enforced familiarity with her own mother. Also, her own post-natal relationships will have contained some very similar 'circles of co-reflexive mutuality' – those that she has shared with her parents, her lovers, her other children and, in fact, with every other person with whom she has been intimately involved. But now, as an adult, her every experience of her own child within must be interfaced with and related to the totality of her whole-being experience.

For the mother, the child is only a part of her life. During this period (and perhaps especially now), one of her prime maternal functions is precisely that of dynamically interfacing the child-to-be with the world-at-large. There is the life within, and there is the life without. The mother lives between these two universes of experience and must seek a balance between the two. And while the child is awash in a whole-being experience which is still wholly mediated by and through the emotional dynamics of the mother's experience, the mother herself is introducing her newbeing child to the 'outside' world through her ongoing emotional involvement with life itself.

At first this will happen as the child quite literally dis-covers its 'self' in the process of feeling-responding to its mother's emotional responses to her own, 'outside' life. Later, of course the child will begin to generate emotional content of its own. But that is another story, and that will constitute yet another phenomenologically differentiable plateau or experiential dimension (Level IV) in the procession of prenatal emotional development.


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life process

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