Letters to the Editor 2,2
Publication Date:December 1987
Greetings from England as you enter the final months and weeks of preparation for the San Francisco congress. I should dearly love to be with you but sadly, this time that is not to be, but I do want to send my best wishes and hope that the Third congress will be a real focal point of creative development for the whole field of pre and preinatal psychology.
Please forgive my long silence. The 18 months following the San Diego congress were for us a period of profound metamorphosis, both in terms of personal integration and also in terms of redeveloping URCHIN in order to handle the agenda of applying insights from pre and perinatal psychology to the behaviour of social systems at every level of our world. The intense problems of sustaining resources to the unit through this period of transformation almost broke us (near spontaneous abortion!). It felt as if I was projecting an implantational trauma into the dynamics of the unit I manage, while at the same time working through the same material in the core of my own personal psychodynamics. With the intrapersonal agenda reaching a position of annealing and integration somewhere around last October, there has been a steadily increasing sense of groundedness and a more healthy relationship to the environment, a more realistic giving and seeking of resources, and an increasingly stable and favourable financial basis to our work.
The Congress provided an extremely powerful matrix of integration and development, both experientially and conceptually. I think Eve Bowen's beautiful, if unconscious, image of the dynamics \"going critical\" was in retrospect precisely accurate, though we still have to learn how to harness the power of a very large group \"training lab\" which such a Congress represented, to foster the process of defence deconstruction and human potential development in the future.
For me the most significant learning was on two particular fronts. The first had to do with widening the paradigm of our understanding of human behaviour, back deeply into those first days and weeks after conception. If 60 percent of fertilised ova fail to implant then it seems inevitable that the majority of the human population has a \"near death experience\" at or around this point of development. As we come to understand memory as relating to the protein molecular structures rather than the later developed neural structures, then it becomes conceptually possible, as well as experientially clear, that there are profound defences of idealisation and regression around the transition from free-floating blastula to securely rooted parasitic embryo. My sense is that it is these defences that characterize some of the more profoundly dysfunctional behaviours which emerge as individuals, groups, institutions and large social systems, indeed the species as a whole within a limited holding environment, struggle with the problems of survival. Previously, I had only been aware of social defences (as distinct from particular defences of particular individuals stemming from particular events at other points in development) as relating to commonly experienced perinatal trauma and stress.
The second point of development for me was in the clarification of perinatal behaviours in very large social systems (of which the Congress as a temporary learning system was an example). The dynamics of formation, development and termination of the Congress (with a membership very open to and aware of personal and interpersonal process) resonated, as we had predicted, around the fundamental core of primitive \"paranoid-schizoid\" defences stemming from shared perinatal impingement. I am now quite certain that it is the most common, most collusionally repressed and most deeply unresolved areas of perinatal imprinting that dominate the dynamics, the boundary management and the interaction between large systems, right up to and including the interrelationships of major international political, religious and economic groupings. I think it was those dynamics, projected by many stages of transference and displacement from the international community into the membership and eventually into the core leadership of the San Diego Congress which gave rise to the intensity of the dynamic experienced by the leadership of the team and which we were able to explore at some depth in the \"staff debrief group\" at the end of the congress.
I was aware that in acting as facilitator to that event I was exposing myself to systemic transference of a very high order, which would probably take me up to and beyond my own personal limits of tolerance, particularly in the absence of any context in which to do my own coconsultative debriefing after the event and in conditions of an 8-hour time-shift and cross-cultural relationships. That was why I insisted on the tape recording so that I would have a chance to transcript and review, to relive and to integrate the process back home over the coming months.
Again my profound thanks for all that your friendship and support meant in San Diego and my love and best wishes to you as you go forward to San Francisco.