By Kate White
How many of us have been studying trauma resolution for many years?
I started healing prenatal and perinatal trauma 20 years ago when a client remembered her birth on my table during a Biodynamic craniosacral therapy session. At first, I was curious about her experience and wanted to help. But, when I started tracking feelings of anxiety in myself while working with her, I committed to learning more about prenatal and perinatal experiences. It turns out we had similar birth experiences as babies. I asked myself, How could her experience affect me in present time? That question opened the way for my energy to flow into the work that has become my passion.
Professionals in craniosacral therapy from all lineages (osteopathic, Biodynamic, or from the Upledger stream) are taught about the impact of birth on the body and the resource of the embryo in the fluid system. Biodynamic craniosacral work was developed by Franklin Sills based on the osteopathic understanding that there is a Health within, a Blueprint of natural wisdom and a healing capacity in the body. Some osteopaths wrote about it as Intelligence with a capital “I”.
Peter Levine (the originator and developer of Somatic Experiencing) built upon the body’s natural capacity to heal as well. He utilized titration and pendulation or techniques of slowing down, resourcing and then moving back and forth between a place of resource and difficulty to shift the state. Anna and John Chitty, founders of the Colorado School of Energy Studies, also worked with natural states and polarity or recognition that often there are two opposite states (a polarity). They believed that careful work with the states within can heal the condition in the body because of its natural capacity to heal. The Chitty’s have sayings from spiritual traditions and osteopathy that create wellsprings of awareness: Where two or more are gathered, a third presence arises; running water clears itself (often attributed to A. T. Still, founder of osteopathic medicine), what the practitioner can perceive, nature can relieve (attributed to R. Stone, founder of polarity therapy). One of the biggest illuminations for me was when Anna Chitty said: “The body is a portal.”
So, what exactly does “the body is a portal” mean?
Anna recently unpacked this in a class she calls Verbal Skills. Really, the name is misleading. Anna teaches somatic skills that incorporate words, or really, the art of recognition, naming, and open-ended inquiry. In her opening lecture, she reminded us that we are more than our bodies. We are “magical beings,” she said, quoting her late husband John Chitty (1949-2019), who introduced us to the importance of recognizing babies first before any therapy is done. Recognizing who a baby is (a unit of consciousness from a spiritual place) is the first step of John Chitty’s 5-step protocol. He says, we must see who the baby is first and welcome them. Recognition of who they really are, not an object or something that is not intelligent and sensitive. John says they are super-sentient and therefore this first step is super important.
Essentially, he taught us we are all units of consciousness that come from a spiritual place. Our purpose is to gain wisdom here on planet Earth. We forget our essential nature as we get injured in the process of being, especially in relationship. My specialty, as was John’s, is working with babies. My passion is starting treatment as soon as possible to support our purpose and thrive rather than spin us into feelings of less than, victimization, overwhelm, depression or anxiety.
Anna Chitty further teaches that we have an inherent Blueprint in our bodies and our essential nature that is always accessible. It is an invisible universal template that guides formation and underlies everything. It is part of our “original design,” including a template for connection that is necessary for our survival. Its nature is to expand and contract, rise and settle, fold and unfold. As a Biodynamic craniosacral practitioner, we can sense this with our hands. Working with somatic skills as any kind of professional, we can feel it in our body and in others, in families, in groups, even in towns, and cities, and more. The Blueprint has a torus shape (a three-dimensional ring shape), and is slow, predictable, reliable, and symmetrical. It has a feeling of purposefulness. When two of these blueprints come together, a third space arises. We grow our bodies in the space in between our parents and in between our lineages, but first, in our mothers.
The body contains the Blueprint. As we get injured (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) and these wounds are not properly healed, they hold energy. They are represented by little cyclones (image above). They can be dynamic, but they also can feel like a stuck place. These places are often referred to as “Imprints” in prenatal and perinatal healing. They are impressions and are often there because we felt overwhelmed by our experience. Not healed, these areas can hold tremendous amounts of energy, especially if they come from the earliest place in us, the prenatal, birth and attachment time of our lives when we are babies. Most early overwhelming states are coupled with survival, or that I-am-going-to-die feeling. When I am training practitioners, who want to heal and understand these states, I tell them they need to be able to regulate in the face of these huge feelings, like terror, rage, or near death. Often these states are coupled with joy, exuberance, ecstasy, and love. It is amazing territory.
Earliest memories from the prenatal and perinatal time often remain unrecognized, undigested, and unmetabolized. They can come from our parents and ancestors. With these kinds of experiences in tow, we enter childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Sometimes the imprints gather more power. The body will seek healing conditions. In other words, we will experience times when the original wound will open so it can be properly attended. One of my teachers, Mark Brady, called this the “Integration Imperative”, or healing wants to happen. These times can feel chaotic. We might say to ourselves, “No, not this again!” Not another failed relationship, or scary person, or the feeling of not belonging, or rejection just to name a few of these places. Imprints can start at preconception, they can become stacked and compressed. We tend to think our imprints are who we are, especially if they start at preconception, in utero and at birth.
Somatic trauma resolution practitioners recognize these states in the body as our overwhelming imprints. We can see that they are doorways into who we really are. If we metabolize these early imprints, our essential nature can come more forward in our experience. The stress and distress of overwhelming pain creates a negative bias. We just see ourselves as defective, or the world as mean, or both. We shape ourselves to fit into fields of experience: culture, society, family, relationships and often these are based on misbeliefs about ourselves. With healing, we can change our shape, and this in turn, can change the shapes that shaped us because we are nested, like the Russian nested doll.
The body is a portal: Each imprint is a doorway into who we really are. As Anna talked, she conjured the image of an energy advent calendar. My imagination took off. I love advent calendars. Usually, these are beautiful images with 25 doors or windows that are handed out the first day of December. Each day, until Christmas, a door or window is opened and a gift, or beautiful image connected to the story of Christ, or a sweet is inside. I have seen all kinds of advent calendars. These days they make them with little Lego toys inside, or even little bottles of beverages of all kinds. In any case, it is usually a special feeling, a little spray of anticipation and pleasure. Therefore, these painful experiences in our bodies can be like little doorways into a pleasurable experience of who we really are—energy, magic, spiritual beings, and our essential nature. I had an experience of this with Anna years ago. Behind a painful place in my heart lay huge reservoirs of compassion and forgiveness.
Our pain does not have to be a sentence for lifelong suffering. It can be a journey to who we are meant to be. Somatic skills, presence and the art of integrative therapies can help us digest and release these hurt places and open the doors to ourselves! I invite you to see the body now as filled with opportunity and let the healing begin.
Kate White is an award-winning prenatal and perinatal educator and an advanced bodyworker. She is trained in somatic therapies, prenatal and perinatal health, lactation, brain development, infant mental health, and has specialized in mother-baby dyad care using somatic prevention and trauma healing approaches for nearly 20 years. She is a mother of two children, holds a BA and MA in Communication, a Registered Craniosacral Therapist in the Biodynamic Craniosacral method and a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner. Her work combines somatic therapy, birth preparation, recovery from difficult birth, trauma resolution and brain development to help give families with babies and small children the best possible start. She is the Founding Director of Education for the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health and currently administers an online program for parents and parent professionals, runs a private practice and offers her own seminars through the Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Programs, ppncenter.com.