It is difficult, perhaps, to believe that birth problems can give rise to suicidal tendencies years later. This is because we are not used to thinking about physiologic memory. Nor are we used to thinking that the most powerful memories we have are those without words, memories of events which predated our ability to understand what was happening to us. It's not always the case that the suicide method mimics the birth trauma, of course, but it is often what we discover in talking to and observing our patients. If we want to get an idea about our birth, look at our imagined choice of suicide. Conversely, if we want to know the origins of depression, we might examine the birth epoch. Eventually, we will discover the secrets of our beginnings in life.
Suicidal or Self-Destructive
There are some acts of suicide that are a cry for help, taking a certain amount of sleeping pills, for example. And there are others that say, I really don’t want to live anymore; that is a jump off a bridge. That is final, no call for help. It all seems so helpless and hopeless; they want to die for relief. No more pain; that’s enough. Their pain is importuning and relentless. Because so is the imprint. No immediate escape, as there might not have been during the original trauma. The pain is so devastating and militating to higher levels that the person cannot contemplate other options. Those feelings are terrible, and they say to us, “Life is terrible.” No it’s not, a therapist may say in an attempt to steer the patient’s mind away from desperate thoughts. But if we try to argue the person out of those thoughts we are using the wrong brain. Our words can never reach the wordless pain they are in. Yet counseling can be a help, although not a cure. It offers help against feeling helpless and hope against hopelessness. It means someone cares and wants you to live. Crucial.
There are some cases where it was impossible to try; further trying might have been life-endangering. Here lies the “loser.” Everything is too much and he gives up automatically. The whole parasympathetic nervous system dominates and directs, and leads him to a passive lifestyle. Why doesn’t get up and get going? He cannot. He is blocked by a memory of action is dangerous. This is not a fantasy; it is real history he is fighting and he lost originally and he will lose again. His depression deepens as he seems stuck in life and can find no way out. He needs to be led, encouraged; to have life breathed into him.
In many suicide cases, it turns out victims had suffered some sort of oxygen deficit early on, caused perhaps by a heavy dose of anesthesia to the mother or by being strangled on the cord at birth. And after an agonizing attempt to get born, death approaches and there is a sense of impending doom and then relief. That memory of possible relief is sealed in so that later in the face of utter hopelessness – triggered by an impending divorce, for instance – death becomes the answer. So an attempt at suicide follows. It is a memory of possible relief, stamped in, engraved that endures for a lifetime. It is the end of the chain of pain, as it were, the logical denouement when current hopelessness can set off the primordial hopelessness where death lurks.
How is it that hopelessness today sets off the same feeling during birth? It is again the chain of pain, the links between levels of consciousness. One way we see that link is through resonance; the current feeling sets off the same deeper feelings until the whole system is engulfed in utter hopeless feelings. And worse, there is no scene attached to it as it is pure feeling, naked and unadorned, the exact same feeling rising again to smother the person and make her suicidal. It is the most profound hopelessness. The current feeling, in short, has triggered off its progenitor with sensations of approaching death becoming paramount.
That early hopelessness is later expanded and ramified as the whole system and brain mature. As each new brain system comes on line, it adds its emotional weight to the feeling. But it is the same feeling with increased maturity and neuronal development. It is the system’s effort to suppress the feeling that produces depression. So depression is not a feeling; it is what happens as that feeling is blocked from higher level access. And when we unravel depression that is what we find: utter, unarticulated hopelessness. We get confirmation by drops in body temperature and blood pressure, a sign of giving up. That foretells a suicidal attempt. However, it can be felt and relived with all of its pain, which provides the ultimate relief as the depression begins to leave, at last. This is not done in a day because it is very deep, the end point of the birth agony, a cord around the neck, for example. This means that we must not trump evolution and feel it soon in therapy. And if we do not take care to go slowly we will touch the embed too early and abreaction results. Why? Because the patient is not ready for that much pain. We can only feel it as the body and brain allow, current hopeless feelings first, then the childhood compounding and finally, the first line, brainstem component where the deepest feelings always lie. I use the word “compounding,” because these are not different feelings; they are the same feelings laid down and layered at different stages of development, and connected through resonance. The child just seems unhappy and sullen and no one knows why. And certainly the child has no idea at all, nor do his teachers. He is in the grasp of that early devastating feeling that no one can say its name. It is literally “ineffable.” The feeling cannot respond to encouraging words because discouraging feelings take priority.
Suddenly, one day in therapy while the patient is feeling deeply about childhood events where he was blocked for whatever he wanted to do, he shifts into choking and suffocation; the precursor is on its way. It says, “I am strangling on the cord.” Only it does not say it for the moment. The patient is in the grips of first-line, brainstem imprints which only later can he give it a name and context. For the moment the patient only senses the physical sensations. As the body experience enters resonance again and moves higher in the nervous system, where words and thoughts become available, then he knows it is the cord that is stopping me from breathing. That cord has imprinted the trauma, and with the sensation of suffocation together with hopelessness and helplessness.
How does he know? The inevitable concomitant of this is during the Primal he again sinks into deep hopelessness, and with it a lowering of core body temperature. It can go down several degrees, and, happily, after the feeling it can normalize and rise to higher levels again. But the body nearly always follows suit in these situations; not just the mind at work. And they never say, “I feel depressed.” It is evident in all of their demeanor. Even how they breathe; it gets more and more shallow as conservation of oxygen takes over during the session as the patients goes deeper, approaching the primal imprint.