What role does the heart play in a mother-child relationship that starts way before birth?
It’s everything. The heart is the center of all human life. The heart is the center of all cosmic life.
Often people get really excited about these new ideas, and then it’s like, well, what’s it look like? Or how’s it possible?
There are so many different stories, some of which I shared in _Welcoming Consciousness_, my book, and my other writings.
I just started opening my practice up to very young kids. And I had all these characters and toys and things that looked like a sperm, an egg, and a conceptus. And you know, all these things that a child could go over and we could start playing with them.
My intention was that early experiences may be part of what they need help with and what they’re dealing with today. Whatever they do is meaningful. I’m going to follow, reflect and help whatever was not able to express itself. One of the first experiences was with a little boy who came in. The parents had an open adoption. He was 13 months old and wasn’t attaching. And if he had any distress, he would disassociate, stop himself from crying, and just stare. They knew he needed help. These were great parents. He just didn’t show any real mutuality with them.
So they came. The father, mother, and this little 13-month-old toddler came toddling into the room. The parents went over and sat on the couch. The little boy immediately picked out a toy, put it in the middle of the floor. He picks up another toy, puts it in the middle of the floor. The first toy was a Marilyn Monroe little figurine in a black dress. And I’m a new therapist at this time and I’m thinking, I’m supposed to know what this means. I have no idea. Did he see a Marilyn Monroe movie? He’s only 13 months old. Is this inter-generational? I had no clue.
The second toy was a little mommy bunny, a baby bunny, and a stroller. Something about a mommy and a baby. Good. Later in the session, I asked the parents, do you have a scrapbook? It was an open adoption. The [biological] parents came and gave birth. The four of them took care of the baby for the first two weeks. Then they went and legally got all the papers signed and the biological parents left. I said, do you have a scrapbook of this? And they said, yes [but] we’re waiting until he gets older. In my viewpoint, it’s never too early to show them and talk to them about what happened. Would it be all right if you bring it in? And so they brought it in.
Deep healing occurs through honest play and expression
I probably gasped because there was a photo that looked exactly like the Marilyn Monroe doll. I put them next to each other [the doll and the photo]. It was his birth mother, the way she was dressed when the photo was taken on the day she left. Here’s our intention that we’re going to help him with issues of the heart that were too painful. And he comes in and shows us three out of 400 toys. Some part of his consciousness knew, this is where he’s at. He needs help with this. The integrity of our being-ness is so real. He was two weeks old and has a memory of that and this broken-heartedness about it.
His consciousness had integrity in that primary knowing. He taught me so much. In another scenario, he would take a baby [toy] and throw it away repeatedly. I’d say, “I’m so sorry the baby got thrown away.” The essence of it: He hurt his arm. It was broken. I could tell he was disassociated from it and didn’t want anything to do with it. Another hurt. Another dissociation. All I said at the end of the session was, I’m so sorry. You got hurt. He came back the next week. He threw away the baby again. And I said, “This baby needs a lot of love.” This baby got, he said, “[Got] hurt.”
It was the first time he said anything about his feelings. “Hurt,” I said. “This baby got hurt. This baby needs a lot of love.” And for the first time, he says, “Give me baby.” And he shows empathy for himself. He says, “Oh baby, you got hurt. I’m sorry.” The next moment he said something I didn’t get. His mother and I did not understand. We misinterpreted it because I could never have imagined what was possible. Luckily, I had videotaped that session. He was open. He was expressing. He was not dissociated the following week. He was much more in himself. I went back and watched the whole film. And at that moment, he turned to his mother, and he said, “I want to wake up now.”
He was emotionally connected the following week. He was dealing with what he needed to deal with. I never could have imagined that it was possible that he made a conscious choice. He finally took in our empathy, our caring—or that he could show it to himself and make a life choice of healing. It was remarkable. That’s an example, and I have many more. So many of us doing this therapy have those kinds of interactions with kids. At the heart of it is we used to believe, why do you have to talk to them about any of that difficult stuff back then? They don’t have memories of it.
That’s been our traditional way. We want to protect them from difficult things. But what we know is that does not work. What we’ve learned from pre- and perinatal therapies with thousands of people is [it’s] the opposite. We need our story. We need to have our feelings expressed and make sense of them to heal.