DeMause writes, [T]he group-fantasy shared prior to wars expresses the nation’s deep feeling that the increase in pleasure brought about by the prosperity and progress that usually precede wars "pollutes" the national blood-stream with sinful excess, making men "soft" and feminine" -- a frightful condition that can only be cleansed by a blood-shedding purification. Again we can profit by using Stanislav Grof’s basic perinatal matrices (BPMs) in understanding deMause's cycles of social-historical violence and war. As I explained in Chapter Two under the heading "Elements of Birth Experience," Grof’s BPM I is sometimes described as "oceanic bliss" and involves the experiences and feelings related to the relatively undisturbed prenatal period. On the social macrocosmic level, it is the period described in the quote by deMause above in which there is a period of "prosperity and progress" and feelings of being "soft" and "feminine." The strong connection between individual experience (personal psychology) and collective realities (social-historical events and elements) is patent here since in BPM I experience the individual is still in the mother's womb and to some extent shares her identity, which is of course feminine, and being unborn and not having gone through the "toughening" experiences of birth and later trauma, which predominantly create one's defenses, the individual is also "soft," i.e., undefended. To further review Grof's schema and its relation to deMause's cycles of war, I want to remind you that BPM II is related on the individual level to the time near the end of pregnancy when the fetus is no longer rocking blissfully on the waves of oceanic bliss but is trapped in an ever more confining womb. As the fetus grows in size, the suffering becomes greater; no doubt this is the source of the common-sense belief that growing has to involve suffering (e.g., "No Pain, No Gain"). At any rate, the feelings are those of claustrophobia and "no exit." There is heavy non-agitated depression, since there appears to be no hope, no change in the situation that would indicate a way out of the suffering. Indeed, this period continues practically right up to the time of birth, ending only when the cervix becomes dilated and, experientially speaking, there appears suddenly to be a "light at the end of the tunnel" and therefore hope. However, up until that time there are feelings of being totally unempowered, completely in the hands of an entity (the womb) that imposes a horrifying reality that appears to be unending and eternal. Herein we have the psychological roots of notions of hell and Satan; and feelings associated with the state include despair, victimization, blame, and guilt. As birth comes nearer, "fetal malnutrition" increases, since the neonate's increasing size and weight press down on and constrict the blood vessels that carry blood to and from the placenta, when the mother is standing. The decreased blood supply means a reduction of life-giving oxygen as well as the build up of toxins that would otherwise be taken away by a normal blood flow. So feelings of suffocation as well as skin irritation and other feelings of wallowing in wastematter -- deemed poisonous placenta by deMause -- increase. As I have said previously, deMause has found that these feelings exist to an extraordinary degree in a society and its leaders prior to its engaging in a war. Similarly, they precede, and obviously can be held to be accountable for, individual acts of violence -- including everything from the murder and rape of criminals to all-too-common and ordinary spousal and child abuse in the household, and of course everything in between. BPM III is birth. Its social analogue is war or violent assault. Feelings that accompany this state on both the individual and societal level include rage and intense aggressiveness, all-encompassing struggle, and sexual excess. BPM IV relates to the time of actually coming out of the womb and the post-natal period. On the societal level it is the ending of a war. Feelings of expansiveness, release, exultation, coming finally out into the light and/or being "on top" of things, and victory are feelings associated with this matrix, whether in the individual birth or the collective war cycle. The societal analogue to birth is the ending of a war. And interestingly, just as in recent times harsh modern obstetrical practices and the removal of the baby from the mother can leave lifetime feelings of success not bringing with it the expected rewards and thus a post-accomplishment sort of depression, so also the ending of successful wars sometimes also leaves a society with a sort of letdown: For example, the euphoria following George Bush's Gulf War -- which catapulted his approval ratings into the ninety percent range in 1991 -- was followed, only a year later, by the increasing agony of a recession, and Bush's defeat a
Lloyd deMause, in his article, "Restaging of Early Traumas in War and Social Violence," printed in the spring 1996 issue of The Journal of Psychohistory, called for kinder and gentler birthing and child-caring practices to help us mitigate an otherwise inevitable disaster of war, which turned out to be more prophetic than any of us wished, as Bush engaged in two wars in the next 6 years since that publication. Along those lines, I would like to call for a larger awareness of and efforts in the direction of healing these perinatal elements in the consciousness and unconscious of those already alive right now — through, at this point, thoroughly tested and effective techniques of experiential regression and emotional release. For unless we act to heal the people currently inhabiting this planet, we might not leave a planet that babies can be born into! . . . let alone people to conceive and give birth to them. All of this is to say that in society, as it did in the womb, a period of uninterrupted and relatively undisturbed feelings of growth leads to feelings of depression (being too "soft" and "feminine," but also "too fat" in the womb and, therefore, extremely constricted and compressed). Another way of saying it: feelings of expansion are followed by a fear of entrapment; and I agree wholeheartedly with deMause in saying that it happens this way in a nation’s cycle of feelings because it happened that way to us prior to and during our births. We have these patterns of feelings as collective groups of individuals because our first experience of expansion was followed by extreme depression, guilt, despair, and then struggle and something bloodily akin to war -- our actual births. Now, for our purposes here, the most important part of the cycle is BPM I. Societies, according to deMause, go through these cycles of war and peace and have been doing so for as long as we know. But we can no longer afford theses wars, as World War I and World War II have shown -- with each one being an increase in our ability to destroy and to commit atrocities -- we can not afford to have a World War III, as that most likely would end life on our planet. Indeed, as I've been pointing out, we cannot even afford the less extreme forms of acting out of perinatal trauma that we have been doing in our polluting of the air and global overpopulation, to give just two of many examples I could have used. These also have the capacity to end our species and possibly all life on this planet. So the cycle of societal perinatal acting out must be stopped. And the most obvious place to derail the insidious cycle is at the point of societal prosperity and progress. Feeling soft, undefended, and feminine are, rationally speaking, not things to be alarmed about. Quite to the contrary, it is rational that prosperity should make people feel good; it is rational that feeling soft should be a source of contentment, sensitivity, and intimacy with others; it makes sense that men should have no shame about feeling feminine because that only means that they have access to sensitive and nurturing feelings that are a source of joy, "color," and fulfillment in life. It is not rational, however, to feel guilty over feeling good and to act that out in the kind of cleansing rituals -- called wars -- that humans have used for millennia to punish themselves for enjoying life. Humans are sick puppies, no doubt, but it would seem the easiest place to try to effect a change is in an effort to help people to understand that there is no sin in feeling good.