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John Chamberlain is Vice President of KnowWho.com, the leading provider of profiles and contacts for all US elected officials and their staff. He is a community leader, entrepreneur, nationally ranked athlete, author, speaker, and has played the violin for 49 years. He specializes in problem-solving with early-stage companies, helping them to find venture capital, build their teams, and put in place a strategy for success. He is the son of David Chamberlain, and recently joined the APPPAH Board of Directors.
Your father’s contributions to the field of pre and perinatal psychology and health are tremendous. We are curious to know about your father from your perspective. I also know that you have recently joined the Board of Directors for APPPAH. What things would you like our membership to know about your father?
Yes. I am on the Board so I guess it's a little bit of a legacy. Most of my experience with my dad was that he was a person who carefully nurtured. He carefully considered things. He always was a great reader and a learner, and as he came across the discoveries, he was able to share them with us in a transparent way that didn't compromise his work with his clients. You know it's funny, I was watching Britain’s Got Talent videos and this one kid got up there and they asked him, what are you going to do? And he said, “You will have a surprise tonight because my parents are in the audience,” and he pointed them out.” The boy said, “My father works in a biscuit factory.” They asked the boy, “What does your dad do?” And he looked over at his dad in the audience and said, “What do you do Dad?” I think all children have that moment when somebody says, “What does your dad do?” And they realize that they don't know. I think that is the feeling I experienced with David. I did not know exactly what he did because he was so careful with his client information. As a result, we didn't know any details for a long time growing up. We just saw him at the church, of course. I watched him preach. My favorite part of church was when he would go to the back of the sanctuary, raise up his arms in his robe, and he give these amazing benedictions.
So he would bless the congregation?
Yes, he would bless the congregation for the week ahead. They were just completely unscripted as far as I was concerned. He just had this ability to speak to the congregation. Obviously he wasn't standing at a lectern at that moment, and you just got the full-on presence of him giving a blessing. I honestly I think part of the reason that was so powerful for me was because we didn't pray aloud at our dinner table.
There was a very winsome moment during the last month of his life when we were sitting at the dinner table. Night after night, I would wheel him to the table in his wheelchair where we would feed him because he was having difficulty holding the spoon. Every night, Donna would ask him to pray, and every night he would decline, and I would say a prayer. Then one night she said to him again, “David, would you like to say a prayer?” He said the most beautiful prayer. The tears were just streaming down our faces as he spoke. He mentioned how the food had been cautiosly prepared with love. He knew and appreciated that Donna was preparing foods to heal him. She did this until the moment of his transition. It took us a couple of minutes to recover because we weren't expecting it. He just had these moments of lucidity in his final days. There were times in his final months when he would snap into a mental clarity that he had his whole life.
His ability to listen to what was going on around him and gather new insight from that information, and then translate it into words that you and I could understand and are meaningful to us, was one of his gifts as a as a pioneer and a researcher. It's that sacred ground that all researchers hope to tread across, which is that you've now discovered something new, whatever you are seeking. Whether your hypothesis was proven right or wrong, you now have this new information. How do you translate that and share it with people?
He definitely was very careful and thorough in his translation of the pre and perinatal psychology information and experiences that he came upon. His articles are well supported by research. He had this passionate message and it came across, over and over again in each article that I read. Each of his writings is about the sentience of babies. So in your story, I see a reflection of his approach. He really led the PPN movement and kept it so beautifully alive so long. Are there stories or snapshots that you would like to share that would help people really deeply appreciate your father?
Sure, maybe the best way to do that is to talk about some themes that ran through his life. He always said, “I gave you a good start and the rest is up to you.” At times in my life I thought that his statement was a bit of a copout. You know, I wanted more fathering and yet he empowered me by saying that. He allowed me to claim my birthright and he did that in his professional work by blazing this trail. He threw the door open and he very carefully laid the foundation, because I think he had a sense of what he had been shown in birth memories.
I was one of only a couple of people that were transcribing the very first tapes that came out of his clinical hypnosis practice. These were the tapes when he was first learning that were memories about life in the womb. He was recording the sessions on cassette tapes. He did that as a matter of professional care because in his practice he wanted to be able to go back and listen to these tapes to see if there was something that he might have missed during a counseling session. As he began listening through them, he was able to knit together information. I guess that is the best way to say it because in hypnotherapy, you have big pauses in between what people say. He began to see that they were really telling a story and that it was a form of poetry. They were revealing to him their memory of being in the womb or another memory that was so startling that it was hard to believe that they could be reporting this. So we took those tapes and started to wade through the long silences, and transcribe each word into a sequence on a page. You could start to read the story as a form of poetry. What was revealed was a window to this whole new possibility that not only were these memories real, but they were therapeutically important; they had an influence on that person's life. Now, after therapy with my father, that person had a new form of perspective.
So my father realized two things that really came out of his work at the Anxiety Treatment Center: Early memories exist and that not all memories that were reported from early life were bad memories. Good memories could still be therapeutically important. So he realized that in order for people to believe what he had learned in therapy, there was a profound need for his work to have a rooting in science. His work needed to be grounded in research or in getting other people to corroborate that these memories existed. He began to design studies that would help to solidify the reality of these memories. That was when he decided to recruit pairs of twins who had never discussed their birth during their lives. It was a large sample of twins and their parents. He interviewed all of them and they agreed to hypnotic regression. These correlations came out about what happened during the delivery or before the delivery or around the time of birth that ultimately became material for his first book, Babies Remember Birth. which later became The Mind of Your Newborn Baby.
What years were those that you were transcribing?
I moved to California in 1973 and I was working at this clinic during the next couple of years after school and on weekends
How long was he a minister?
He got a Bachelor of Arts degree from Randolph Macon in Virginia. He earned a Masters of Psychology from Washington State University and then moved to Boston. There, he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from Boston University. He began preaching in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1953 while continuing his studies at BU. He earned his PhD from BU in 1958 with a focus on pastoral counseling. Over a period of approximately ten years, he was a parish minister in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York City.
My father worked at the Methodist church through 1967 when he moved from Ohio to California. His career as a pastoral counselor began in 1963 and ran for four years. He then established the Anxiety Treatment Center in California and was introduced to hypnotherapy in the early 1970s by his clinical partner, Ed Yeager.
I love listening to all this history. Is there another snapshot of your father you would like to share or anything else that you would like our readers to know?
He was a builder of things. He taught me at a very young age how to use tools and how to do carpentry. We built a lot of things together, including a HiFi cabinet that was about six-feet long and three-feet tall. It housed his reel-to-reel tape machine, radio tuner, turntable, speakers, and had special slots just for the LP albums. I listened for hours to classical music as I was learning to play the violin beginning at age seven. He was a builder of things. That theme reflects throughout his life as he went on to become a co-founder of APPPAH. He felt that an organizational structure was the way to nurture the leadership that was emerging. That is exactly the kind of person I experienced in him at an early age.
I think that it was this theme of him being a builder of things that led to being a builder of organizations and a rebuilder of lives. He helped people to experience healing through his effective use of hypnosis. This enabled him to get at the root cause of the problem that an adult or a teen was experiencing. In a very short therapy of four to six weeks, he could heal them. He established a reputation for effective healing and people began to come to his clinic from all over the world. Through guided therapy, his clients were able to engage in the self-discovery they needed to turn their lives around. They were able to go back and discover what the original stimulus was and in many cases it was related to their birth experience. He helped them correctly identify what that experience was through guided therapy.
He never told people how to change their minds. He helped people to understand the facts in a new way. He practiced what he preached. He helped me in that same way as a parent. He would say: What do you want to do now? What do you see? What is happening?
So I have now the themes of your father as the man who could easily give benediction, the builder, the father, and the pioneer. Are there any other themes you want to mention? Are there any other snapshots to share?
He liked camping. We did a lot of camping on family vacations. We went to see big trees and big oceans. He and my mother had purchased property in Maine. His professional community might be surprised to know that he really love the outdoors in addition to his academic interests. Also, there was a musical theme in his life. Music was very important to him, even in his final weeks and months. Each day, he wanted to listen to Mozart and Hyden.
He loved to be in the garden. He especially loved bees. This was something that he picked up later on in life, but he felt that the bees were really critical to our ecosystem and that we were losing ground in terms of the bee population. He was focused on the importance of bees as pollinators helping us provide food for humanity. He and Donna kept a beehive on their property during the past several years.
He was a man ahead of his time. We are still grasping how we are not taking care of bees. Can you tell me about conversations you had with your father about APPPAH? He created the website and I know he wanted it to be research based.
He was adamant that it not be a commercial site. I felt it could serve the needs of the people coming to the APPPAH site who were parents or who were about to become parents. They had a need for all of those things that help you do parenting and dealing with newborns and all those kinds of things, especially the learning activities for prenates. I felt that the website could be a place to purchase tapes, for example, or CDs that that they could learn how to do what they were now doing but better. At the time he wanted to keep the APPPAH reputation as being purely about research and the application of that research. He felt that it was very important to the professionalism and the reputation of the organization that there not be a commercial component of the website. So we had some disagreement about that. He and I shared his vision for the APPPAH community, but we didn’t exactly line up together on the commercialization aspect. We agreed to disagree but it was a healthy disagreement. We never fought over it. We just didn't agree about certain aspects.
Did you know his vision for the website?
I wasn't involved in the original creation of the website so I can't really speak to it on the original motivation behind it, but he had an awareness that it was vitally important to the future of the organization that he was creating, and that he wanted to build. His vision was that this would be a global resource and that these congresses would be promoted through the website. He saw that this was the new way that people were learning and communicating in the world. The internet was not a part of his upbringing but he was quick to adapt. He was probably what we would call an early adopter in terms of this new technology. The advent of the World Wide Web and using conference calling and e-mail were new during his lifetime. He wanted to utilize those resources to reach more people with this message. He thought that was vitally important that the more people who knew that babies are sentient, whether in the womb or newly born that the world could be a better place.
I can see how he would think that way. And now APPPAH has this curriculum online. It came from him and he is the one that started putting the materials together.
He was really concerned that his website be professionally presented and managed. He wrote over eighty professional papers. He and I selected 28 papers to put up on his website, www.dbchamberlainphd.com. It is a resource that he wanted to be easy to navigate accessible to people, and a place where people could purchase his papers. We’re now in the process of transferring those papers into e-books so that people can read them electronically. I'm in the process of doing that right now, as a curator of those works.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your father and your relationship with him as you grew into a man, and all around you was this movement of baby sentience? Now it is starting to really mature. David played a huge role in that. So anything you want to share your perspective?
I think he was very consistent person. He was always careful and he always tried to really be present in his relationships and not be a distracted person. When you were with him, you always felt that that you had his undivided attention. That turned out to be a really great skill as a therapist, as a pastor, as a pastoral counselor, and as a father. He also was very disciplined. I had to sweep, wash, and then wax our wooden stairs in our household every week before I could go out to play. That's just one example of his disciplined work ethic. He was a big believer that you work first and then you can play. That discipline would establish a sound foundation in my life and I think that it was the kind of person that he was. He tended his gardens.
He knew that that by tending your gardens that you got access to the good stuff.
That was true in gardening and it was also true in relationships.
From experience I know that when people pass away, there are two worlds: The world before they pass, and the world after they pass. You are in a new world now. Is there anything you would like to share on your perspective about your work on the Board and in relationship to your father or anything at all?
I was asked to come onto the Board for a completely different set of reasons than why my father would asked to be on the Board. If he were 57 today, and APPPAH was looking for board members, he would be recruited onto the Board because he's a psychologist and a researcher, and has this wealth of knowledge from his private practice. I chose a different career. My career has been in birthing companies and my brother's career has been in birthing babies. I think my father's career was spent in birthing APPPAH.
You are each midwives in a way.
That’s right. What I bring to the Board is a sense of perspective on organization life and of the importance of being on a solid financial foundation. I hope to bring my expertise to build a healthy Board environment and nonprofit with good departmentalization and great leadership. And I don't just mean singular leadership. My vision for the APPPAH board is that we recruit new, gifted, and dedicated people who currently manage the different committees. The work you are doing in education and certification of is absolutely critical to the future of the organization and you're just beginning.
What I do is I specialize in helping young companies get to market through effective commercialization. When I find an idea that is worthy of a mass-market, I help make it happen.
We all look forward to your legacy on the Board, John, and your help in bringing APPPAH to the next level of professional growth so that what we have here and what we have been working on for decades will benefit even more people on the planet. Thank you for spending time with me today.
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