Perinatal Matrix IV: Separation from the Mother

(Termination of the symbiotic union and formation of a new type of relationship)

"This matrix is related to the third clinical stage of delivery. The agonizing experiences culminate, the propulsion through the birth canal is coming to an end, and, finally, the ultimate intensification of tension and suffering is followed by a sudden relief and relaxation. The period of impeded and usually insufficient supply of oxygen is terminated as well. The child takes its first deep breath and its respiratory pathways open and unfold. The umbilical cord is cut and the blood that previously circulated in the umbilical vessel is redirected into the pulmonary area. The physical separation from the mother has been completed, and the child starts its existence as an anatomically independent individual. After full physiological balance is re-established, the new situation is incomparably better than the two preceding stages, but it is in several important aspects worse than the original undisturbed primal union with the mother. The biological needs of the child are not being satisfied on a continuous basis, nor is it automatically protected from extremes of temperature, disturbing noises, changing intensity of light, and unpleasant tactile sensations. To what extent the experiences in the postnatal period (BPM IV) approximate the prenatal experiences (BPM I) depends to a great degree on the quality of mothering. [p.138]

The manifestation of BPM IV in a symbolic and spiritual level constitutes the death-rebirth experience; it represents the termination of resolution of the death-rebirth struggle. Suffering and agony culminate in an experience of total annihilation on all levels - physical, emotional, intellectual, ethical, and transcendental The individual experiences final biological destruction, emotional defeat, intellectual debacle and utmost moral humiliation. This is usually illustrated by a rapid sequence of images and events from his past as well as from his present life situation. He feels that he is an absolute failure in life from any imaginable point of view; his entire world seems to be collapsing and he is losing all previously meaningful reference points. This experience is usually referred to as ego death.

After the subject has experienced the very depth of total annihilation and "hit the cosmic bottom", he is struck by visions of blinding white or golden light and has the feelings of enormous decompression and expansion of space. The general atmosphere is that of liberation, redemption, salvation, love, and forgiveness. The individual feels cleansed and purged, as if he has disposed of an incredible amount of "garbage", guilt, aggression, and anxiety. He experiences overwhelming love for his fellow men, appreciation of warm human relationships, solidarity, and friendship......

..... There are certain overlapping elements between BPM IV and BPM I. As a matter of fact, the experience of biological birth and spiritual rebirth is often followed by feelings of cosmic unity. In this context, transcendental elements merge together with the "good womb" and "good breast" experiences and pleasant childhood memories into one single complex. [p.138]

In this state, all the sensory pathways are wide open and there is an increased sensitivity and enjoyment of the perceptual nuances discovered in the external world. The perception of the environment has a certain primary quality; every sensory stimulus appears to be completely fresh and new." [p.139]

Grof notes that this period of intense environmental awareness can be blocked by unresolved elements from previous levels within the birth matrices which distort perceptions and result in reactions which are an outworking of the anxiety and aggression associated with levels II and III. He also notes the occasional interruption of BPM IV by:

"a specific complex of unpleasant symptoms. It involves piercing and penetrating pains in the umbilical area, which usually radiate and are projected to the urinary bladder, penis, and testicles, or uterus. They are accompanied by breathing difficulties, feelings of agony and emergency, sensations of dramatic shifts within the body, and intense fear of death and of castration.... This episode, usually of short duration, was identified by some subjects as the reliving of the crisis connected with the cutting of the umbilical cord. It can be distinguished from similar experiences related to the previous stage (BPM III) by a complete absence of feelings of external pressure and by the fact that the pains are localized in the pelvic area. Observations from LSD sessions indicate that this experience represents a deep source of castration fears." [p.141]

Grof completes this section with a survey of the religious and mythological symbolism, visual images, political and life events and associations, which cluster around the material generated by this fourth matrix. It is at this point that Grof's work links up naturally with the concepts of the absolute dependent phase in the life of the infant in which the carrying ability of the environment is fundamental for the wellbeing and continuity of the self..... The position which Winnicott takes as foundational. In turn, Melanie Klein takes her starting point somewhat later in the relationship between the infant and the breast from which she develops her object relations basis for anxiety defence, while Sigmund Freud took as his origin the awareness of interpersonal relationships symbolised in the Oedipus complex which onsets somewhat later. We thus see a continuous regression, or an increasing depth in the analytic penetration from Freud through Klein to Winnicott to Grof as the continuous field open to analytic investigation, expands its boundaries.