All my life I’ve wanted to live in a warm climate. I was about ten years old when I told my brother Nigg, “One day I’ll move to a country where it is always warm.” He laughed and in his typical vicious way, said, “A stupid girl like you goes nowhere.”
My wish came true in 1991 when I moved to California. Nigg immediately contacted me – predicted I would not make it – and said that I would be back in Germany soon. As an adult, I was again the recipient of the anger to which I had been subjected as a ten-year-old girl. In childhood, Nigg responded to his unmet needs with rage. And he used our parents as the primary learning example of how to inflict pain, show disrespect, and dominate with violence. At the age of 9 he was an expert at controlling and forcing anyone he could into submission. He had a perverted and sarcastic sense of humor. His preferred entertainment was laughing uncontrollably when others were frightened or in pain.
Now, after so many years, even when we were 12,000 miles apart, I felt him acting out his early rage on me. When I was not immediately intimidated by his prediction, he accused me of being the reason why we never had a real family. And now he triggered me once again. The shame and blame was back and suddenly I saw flashback pictures of our childhood together. This was when I had been both his punching bag and mother replacement during his times of anger and helplessness. Suddenly, the feeling of being belittled and humiliated switched from California back to the Italy of years ago.
Some of my earliest feelings were first revealed to me in primal “dreamstates.” It was 1986. I was lying on a beach, nude, in an attempt to have a sun treatment for psoriasis which had spread all over my body. The warm sun was covering my continual cold body as my skin produced that sweet almost baked aroma that only the sun can provide. Lying in the fine-grained sand, wrapped in the warmth of the sun, I discovered for the first time that I had a body which I did not have to hate. Lost in these revolutionary thoughts, I had fallen asleep. I woke up from a dream that continued even after I awoke. Irritated, I looked around the beach to see if anyone had discovered me laying there naked, but no one was there. The dream seemed to continue even though I had awakened.
I learned much later that it had been an extraordinary daydream. The warmness of the Mediteranean sun had triggered in me a return to a time of delicious warmness I had felt much earlier in my life.
In the primal dreamstate, I felt and saw myself inside my mother’s warm womb which I did not want to leave. I knew that I never would be welcome outside of her body, since I was produced for another reason than just becoming “me.” I knew I was in the same womb where a brother had been a year before me and I knew why he had died soon after birth. It was for the same reason that I did not want to leave the warmness of this womb.
I held on to my sheltered existence inside the womb and fought the process of birth as hard and as long as I could. Still, I had wanted to be born, I needed to live. Feeling no help from my mother and driven by the panic of dying, I birthed myself. The moment I was outside the womb I felt the physical and emotional coldness I was to endure. I also heard the sigh of relief from my mother and sensed that harshness and impatience was in the room.
As an adult, I remembered my Kunzmann Oma telling me that the day I was born was a bitter cold, sunny Sunday morning. I also learned from family members that my mother became conveniently pregnant anytime my father threatened to leave her. I understood the connection – why 6 kids were born and I understand the chain my mother had placed around my father’s neck with a pregnancy which was to become my personal chain – an infancy and childhood without love.
At that time, I had not paid much attention to the dream or primal I had had on the Italian beach. It was not until 1993 when I was working on my manuscript (Haunting Shadows From the Past, 2000*) that I suddenly remembered a conversation I had had with my mother in 1972. She jokingly remarked, “You were 10 days late according to the date my doctor had calculated you were to be born. Your birth took 70 hours because you didn’t want to be born. The labor pains I had were unbearable and I sweated a lot. Shortly before you were born, I asked the midwife to open the window.”Yes,” she said proudly, “You were born into the fresh air of a cold sunny Sunday morning and weighed 9 pounds. It was a hard, long birth and the midwife and Dr. Fuchs were becoming impatient, “I think,” my mother said with a grin of approval in her face, “The midwife gave you an extra slap for taking so long and told you, ‘It is about time you came out.'”
This memory, as many others I were to have, was live, and replayed like a video tape by every trigger I was to experience. At the age of 16 or 17, when I was at the home for “fallen girls” in Weiher Hersbruck, Germany, I was confined for four weeks of solitary isolation as a punishment for rebelling against the inhuman treatment I and others had received. In the third week of solitary confinement, I was depressed and when thoughts of suicide seemed to be the only way out, I remember seeing and feeling the same fetal experience, but it was not as clear as it had been on that Italian beach. Neither then nor now have I been able to connect my birth experience with my adult behaviors and feelings.
I was in the last stage of finishing the book and while driving to see my editor in Grass Valley, this whole birth scene appeared to me again. Amazingly, both sides of my brain functioned fully at the same time as I was able to drive my car and at the same time relive the very cold day of my birth. I felt the cold room, saw the open window and knew instantly the reason I had felt cold all my life, both as a child and as an adult. More so, the knowledge I had had as a fetus was still with me. I wanted to live, regardless of what I would have to face, even a life without love and respect. I finally had my answer to why I was layering on clothes as soon as the temperatures lowered to 45 degrees F.
My body temperature was always lower than normal – a parasympathetic reaction to my birth. My pulse rate is also slower and rarely over 65. Even under extreme conditions such as a treadmill test, my heart rate will go no higher than 136, and all of my life my metabolism rate only works in survival mode.
As the seemingly unorganized puzzle pieces became a picture, all the scattered incidences connected; the lifelong pain seemed to release itself without control. The pain rolled slowly up from the hill to my foot, then traveling through my body and ended in cathartic vocal relief. In the safety of my car, I screamed and screamed and screamed the pain out of my body in the middle of Highway 49 North.
I did not know at the time and during the many times before, that I was primaling, as I had regarded this unexplainable occurrence as a daydream or a spacing-out. It was not until in 1998 when I read J. Konrad Stettbacher, and learned that there existed a therapy based on such emotional and physical relivings which had their origins in earlier traumas. The book was, Wenn Leiden einen Sinn haben soll — the German version of Making Sense of Suffering. It was not until 2001 that I learned of Dr. Arthur Janov’s discovery of primal therapy.
*Sunday Child was the previous title for my published book “Haunting Shadows from the Past”. Primal Dreams will be a chapter of my new book.