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Publication Date: 
March, 1991
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Prenatal psychology is able to shed light on various experiences which appear to be creative mechanisms for coping with difficult situations of transition in life but which on closer inspection also seem to be re-enactments of pre-birth feelings and of birth itself. The symbolism of regression to the womb and of rebirth can be found in various cultural phenomena such as puberty rites, shamanism, the myths of great heroes, fairy tales, sacrificial rituals and initiation fights. However, the same basic pattern can also be seen to lie within the abstractions of philosophy and behind modern, technological enterprise. This basic, recurring pattern of symbolic regression and rebirth appears to be the fundamental way in which pre- and perinatal experience influences postnatal consciousness. The concept of narcissistic transformation is used to define such manifestations of early experience. The potential of this concept to elucidate cultural phenomena can only be hinted at here by exploring in a limited way its application to certain, central areas.


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Ludwig Janus, M.D.

Ludwig Janus studied in Munich, Essen, and Göttingen and trained as a psychoanalyst in Göttingen and Heidelberg. Employed as a psychotherapist at the Fachkrankenhaus für Psychogene Erkrankungen in Tiefenbrunn near Göttingen from 1969-1971 and at Psychosomatische Klinik in Heidelberg from 1971-1975. Has since been working as a psychoanalyst in his own practice and as a lecturer and supervision analyst at the Institut für Psychotherapie and Psychoanalyse in Heidelberg, being director of this institute from 1981-1987. He has written many scientific articles on neurotic and psychosomatic illnesses, the analysis of discordance in twins, psychophysiological measurements during therapy, the history of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytical treatment techniques, and prenatal and perinatal psychology.

He is a member of the executive committee of the International Society of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine (ISPP), and may be reached at Köpfelweg 52, 6900 Heidelberg-Ziegelhausen, Germany. The author wishes to acknowledge the help of Terence Dowling in translating this text from the German.

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