co-regression in co-counselling

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My basic co-counselling course often includes responding to any expression of distress which demonstrates strong signs of primal origins. The approach is always negotiated with the client and provides a model for members as this happens with individual work in the group. I always explain the scope of the session and invite group members to assist in appropriate ways. Plenty of re-stimulation can take place and opportunity is provided for further individual work in the group and for immediate paired work, to avoid it becoming group-centred rather than training and exchange centred. At the least, I can outline where advanced training can take us.

life as a journey

My notes begin with the following. We are all on a journey through life. It has a shape and a form. Conception and growth in our mother's womb immerse us in her culture and her experience. Fathers are heard through the mother's body and her experience of him. Mother's feelings wash through our bloodstream. Our souls are awake to our surroundings as our bodies grow and our brains can start to lay down the foundations of experience and memory and we begin to structure our personalities. Our sense of life's environment and our relation with it is laid down. Birth brings the archetype and forerunner of all future change. Each successive stage in life has to be experienced in its own terms, unique to each individual, yet within a way of experiencing common to us all.

birth and before

ideal world

This is the pre-personal realm. In an ideal world, the pregnant mother is fully supported, the child is wanted, the birth is “without violence”. Soul nourishment is full during pregnancy and the mother knows and fosters her relationship with her developing child. The child is a “Buddha baby” (see Leboyer's book "Birth without Violence"). Would that it were so for us all! The child’s basic sense of place in the world is good and life is welcome. The change from womb to world is thought to be symbolic of all change, perhaps as archetype. Certainly it is the first major change. The birth has gone well and change will be found desirable and manageable.


In real life there are traumas for mother during her pregnancy. Birth itself can be especially traumatic, partly due to the fear of birth professionals of abnormalities and dangers, justifying their interventions in a clinical hospital environment. Ego (the personal self) is brought in early to help survive the distress. Ego has therefore a foundation built on distress. The basic life position may be that the world is a hostile place to be in and/or change is undesirable or that no-one can help or that others cause damage. Trauma is easily re-stimulated and seems to be a fundamental aspect of personality and life, perhaps even present all the time to a greater or lesser degree.

it’s all there

What is important to us in co-counselling is that the experiences are accessible. Sometimes they present in a session, through body sensations and postures. They also show in our language, particularly in the form of "birth metaphors". People and problems are “on our backs”, we have our “noses to the grindstone”, we “bang our heads against the wall”. We feel sick or nauseous, we swallow our feelings, the world seems dark and dangerous. There may be “no light at the end of the tunnel”. We have feelings we cannot locate in an event and if asked how old we feel, we might say “no age at all”.


There are techniques and approaches to bring birth and before into consciousness. William Emerson developed a form of co-counselling at this depth which he named co-regression and teaches it as an exchange process. The techniques are easily learned, and easily assimilated into co-counselling. They can be considered a simple extension to it, an important part of the repertoire of the intensive co-counsellor. We can follow cues to the pre-personal or we can deliberately induce a kind of deep relaxation which opens up the pre-personal at precisely the point where we need to work.

a little more on birth and before

birth environment

Birth and the period leading up to brings medical intervention, machines and hospitals and corresponding alienation. Reasonable fears become translated into gross intervention, which increases mother’s fears and translates to the child and the birthing relationship and process. In any case, birth can be traumatic for the child.

the ground of personality

The problem of psychological trauma before birth is that it takes ego to deal with it. So ego may be initiated, called up, so to speak, before its time, and is grounded in distress. The archetype of the world is no longer a peaceful place, where life is basically good, nourishment is full and relationships are full of love and permission to be. Trauma brings dislocation, the basic ground is shaken, fear and unknown emotions are the norm. In particular, mother’s experiences are transmitted to the growing child (as foetus): joy, erotic feelings and love as well as fear, anger, grief and embarrassment. Especially important are those feelings mother has to control, even deny. These are the ones which distort development. Acknowledged feelings, especially when accompanied by talk to baby, are fine, and baby knows it is mother who is having a hard time. All feelings have chemical counterparts, chatecholamines, neuro-transmitters that cross the placenta and flood the baby’s bloodstream. So baby takes in negativity about the world and her place in the world.

birth has three stages

In the first, pressure builds up and expulsion is the goal, yet there is as yet no exit. Terror, rage, despair can build up, adding to the flood of maternal feelings involved in giving birth. Mother can play a wonderful part in supporting the child spiritually and psychologically here. Here is the archetype of cooperation: the first lesson. Yet the experience can be disastrous for the child, irrespective of the mother’s care, if the experience is too strong for the child to bear - the experience can be crushing. The second stage involves a fully dilated cervix, the exit is open, full cooperation and synergy are the ideal. Babies can however get stuck, especially boys. This is the centrepiece of the change. The third stage is the welcome into the world. What is normal and natural is the mother being with her family, the baby given straight to mother before the cord is cut and mother-child-family relationships are given priority over cleaning and technical matters. Breast feeding is started as soon as the child is ready and so on. The actual experience can be the opposite: the cord is cut before baby breathes, baby is taken away from mother, gross physical invasion takes place (often in the pursuit of life-saving, perhaps necessary because of the medical intervention) and separation continues until all technical procedures are spent – all in spite of the baby’s direct communication that all is not well. If you can listen to the nuances of the baby's cries you can discern pain, rage, terror, grief. In an ideal world, these feelings are perceived, acknowledged and acted upon. Alas, a baby crying is often taken as a good sign, without any recognition of what the baby is actually communicating, if only anyone could read the sound.

a template for personality

Birth and before form a kind of template, the perinatal matrix, on to which life’s experiences are grafted and referred. It is as if primitive decisions are taken by a baby, which it is in principle able to review, if supported by informed or intuitive parents. If parents always listen to their child’s distress, support the child, reflect what they are hearing about their child’s life-story so far, to the limit of their own abilities, they can undo much of the damage already experienced which was out of their control. Without this expression and support, these primitive decisions are often confirmed and strengthened and become major personality traits.

dissolving patterns with co-regression

What we as adults can take comfort from is that though many of our own deep-seated patterns originate before, during and after birth, we can review the relevant experiences through co-regression techniques. These can be grafted into a normal co-counselling session, preferably both partners understanding what is involved. The finest training is provided by William Emerson, who developed the process and who is very sympathetic to co-counselling. There are a good number of cocounselling teachers who have trained with William in a good position to offer such an advanced training to cocounsellors.


introduction to the whole idea of resolving birth traumas

key topics in birth psychology

BEBA explains the more negative aspects of birth trauma

an interview with Stan Grof the pioneer in perinatal experience and its consequences

article by Stan Grof

a good account of healing and the matrices, and summary of Grof's work

Grof's article: Psychology of the Future - Lessons from Modern Consciousness Research which gives a deeper account of why cocounselling works and why coregression into the perinatal experience is a necessary extension. Introduction to the Transpersonal realms.

an extended essay by Grof on the work of the artist Giger about the 20th century

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