Editor’s Note: Have you heard? Birth psychology is ubiquitous in headlines and research today (see an overview of news in The Conscious Baby online paper and an overview of the new documentary IN UTERO here). But the Western science “discovery” that babies are conscious, remember their births and are developmentally impacted preconception through birth and beyond is not news, really. Pioneers of this frontier field like Ray Castellino, DC, who has worked with families and trained practitioners for over 40 years, are now working with practitioners who recognize birth psychology as a prerequisite for working with families. And families are discovering an alternative approach to cultivating wellness and connection that includes a foundational blueprint in bliss and field-tested principles and tools for creating and maintaining a “harmonic resonance” in their relationships with one another.
In the interview and edited transcript below, Castellino, an internationally renown “baby whisperer” and co-founder of the family healing center, BEBA, Building and Enhancing Bonding and Attachment, shares his personal journey into a yet emerging field of psychology which began with the birth of his son in 1969. His integrative approach to investigating and creating a body of work around birth/somatic psychology has illuminated a path for parents who want to move into a deep relationship with their child in the context of the family as a whole, living and connected entity. This holistic view allows Castellino to listen to all family member’s stories of birth, especially traumatic birth, for healing.
Creating “Harmonic Family Resonance” With Birth Psychology:
An Interview With Baby Whisperer, Ray Castellino, DC
An Edited Transcript of the Audio Interview Above
LISA REAGAN: Welcome to Kindred’s Fireside Chats. This is Lisa Reagan and today I am so very excited to be here with Dr. Ray Castellino. He is an original birth psychology pioneer, a well known baby whisperer, the director of Castellino Prenatal and Birth Training and cofounder and clinical director of Building and Enhancing Bonding and Attachment, which is a non-profit research clinic for babies, children, and families. Welcome, Ray.
RAY CASTELLINO: Thank you, Lisa. I’m glad to be here.
LISA REAGAN: You’ve been exploring and expanding the work of applied birth psychology for over 40 years. I’d like to know, how does one gravitate towards and explore a field of science that was just beginning to emerge? What called you to it?
RAY CASTELLINO: In 1969, my son was born and in that period of time, I started studying energetic body work, polarity therapy and studying with Dr. Randolph Stone, and in that work there are a lot of pre and perinatal references. And when I approached my own work, early imprinted material would show up.
Everything in the universe is expanding and contracting. Forgive me if I’m getting a little bit cosmic here, but there are basic rhythms that are going on all of the time throughout creation and every human being has these basic rhythms and so what we learn to do is to settle into and be in the rhythm of that foundation movement: expansion, contraction, you know, fire expanding, water contracting, and so on and so forth in that kind of language. So while I was doing that work and learning that work, early imprint memories would come up and ancestral memories. There was a group of us that kind of came up together and that’s where it started.
I didn’t know about APPPAH, and that there was a whole network of people doing pre and perinatal psychology, until 1987. A good friend of mine, Cindy Rawlinson, heard a talk that William Emerson gave in Petaluma, CA, and I had been talking with her about some of the work that I was doing and at that time in my chiropractic practice with families. I was discovering if I got quiet with babies, and basically out of the way, and came into connection with them – moving with them or having my internal rhythm be at the same rhythm that the baby was going and I mirrored that – the babies just showed up and they started putting themselves in positions and moving themselves in ways that looked like they were going through the birth canal – and sounded that way as well. And the babies’ moms would say, “0h my gosh, that sounded just like the labor sounds that I was making!”
I saw this happen over and over with my own kids and later in my chiropractic practice. So I called William Emerson up right away and two days later the 1987 APPPAH Congress in San Francisco was happening and William said, “You know I’m going to be there and you can come and meet me.” And I closed my practice down and I rearranged my schedule and I drove to San Francisco almost the next day and got to meet Graham Farrant, William Emerson and David Chamberlain and several of the other birth psychology pioneers there. I have been connected with APPPAH since then.
LISA REAGAN: Help me to provide the context for the listener which is, right now in 2015, mainstream media is regularly reporting on new studies and insights into birth psychology (see The Conscious Baby here for headlines). For example, Gabor Mate, MD, is quoted in a new documentary IN UTERO, “Human beings are affected by their environment as soon as they have an environment, and that means as soon as they are implanted in the womb… People are conceiving, carrying and birthing children under increasingly stressful conditions. Stress that affected one generation will be played out in the next generation. When we see dysfunction in people, we’re actually seeing the imprint.”
APPPAH co-founder, Thomas Verny, MD, is also featured in this new documentary.
While birth psychology is taking off, most public perception and policy exist in this old paradigm of broken disconnection as executed by allopathic medicine’s view that babies are unconscious and birth is a medical emergency. This means most of us – enculturated in these Old Story beliefs – will need to stretch to grasp this New Story, grounded in connection and consciousness, and views the baby and family as a dynamic, conscious unit. Listening to your presentations over the years, this gap, or shift from Old Story to New Story, is one that cannot be intellectualized, which means, we are going to be taking the listener into a worldview that requires this integrated, full-body awareness to really experience this New Story. Is that about right?
RAY CASTELLINO: (Laughter). Yeah. You know, if you look at implicit somatic memory and if you look at the development of neuropsychobiology and all of that – thank you Allan Schore and Dan Siegel and several others that have done with that realm, of those contributions – it actually opens up the whole field because in development, we are actively somatic and somatic being soma, meaning body. We are actively engaged in body before we are engaged in thought, you know, and thought may have something to do with how we think, the way we think, and what thoughts are. We’re speaking language right now. Thank you David Chamberlain, author of Windows to the Womb, for the research he did to show us that our language centers are online during gestation.
So by the fifth month, our prenate is beginning to develop listening vocabulary. But by and large, the way a baby expresses themselves is through movement, expression, body position, emotion, feelings. They’re not going to say, “I’m feeling sad,” but they’ll make a sound and move their body in a way that shows sadness. They won’t say, “I feel joy,” but they’ll move their body and express themselves and have expressions that show joy. You know, as we were saying earlier, I am a real strong advocate for the home birth movement and I have been to a number of home births with Mary Jackson and with some other midwives. My own daughter was born at home and I had the privilege of catching her. I noticed with my daughter, she showed expressions of joy, smiling, and bliss, before she got a whole lot of external mirroring from her mother and me. We would see it when she would go to sleep, her eyes would roll back and she would just radiate bliss.
LISA REAGAN: Oh, wonderful.
RAY CASTELLINO: And you look into the eyes of a newborn and you know, you can’t help by being touched and there is something that says, “Whoa! There is something awake there that if I paid more attention to it in myself that will open my consciousness to realms of understanding that I won’t get if I stay in all of the words and if I stay left brained.”
You know, the baby primarily is right brained. The new baby is primarily undifferentiated and undifferentiated means that they are not just in of themselves, but they are just a being in the environment they are in and they are taking in the whole environment in a way as if it is themselves. So a baby in mom’s womb, I like the way the noted embryologist speaks about this. He said, “The mother’s body is the outer body, the prenate. That means that prenates outer body is his or her mother. That prenate is having experiences of themselves plus their mother.”
Now, to even say self there, he’s got some trouble with it. So to go into this realm of pre and perinatal somatic psychology is a stretch, because you know, you can read about it in books and have “Aha’s!”, but until we drop into our body and drop into our energetic sense and we have that self sense of it, for me, it does not make sense. When I do drop into my body, it is just like right now. I just like sit and feel my body touching the surfaces that I am sitting on. My back against the chair, my butt against the seat, my feet on the floor. Oh, a breath comes. I can feel myself settle and there are some words rolling off of my tongue and I am speaking, but that sense inside my body is necessary to really come into some understanding about the pre and perinatal realm. So yes, I agree with you.
On Being A “Baby Whisperer”
LISA REAGAN: So tell me, I want to move into what you have witnessed. Some of the stories I have heard about you being this internationally famous baby whisperer. You were telling me earlier it is kind of true and kind of not true. There is a little truth to it, but if you don’t have a chance to explain, you know, what is really going on, as you said, that you don’t want the baby to become this identified patient.
RAY CASTELLINO: The first thing that I want to say is that I have never worked with a baby by themselves. Babies always come with a parent, as a practitioner. Certainly I’ve held my own children by myself and I have been in a relationship that way. That is a diagonal relationship, but if anybody is going to be a pre and perinatal practitioner, that will necessitate to be in relationship with more than one person, if they’re working with human families, which is very different than being a solo practitioner and working with one adult. That is a diagonal relationship.
But babies never come by themselves; they always come with somebody else, usually a mother, sometimes dad, sometimes mom and dad. So that means that as a practitioner, if I just relate to the baby, I’ve got a problem, because the parents that are making the choice about what they’re doing with that baby. So from my perspective, I am interested in training people to be with small groups, families, and small groups of adults, and I am interested in working with the baby in relationship to their parents and we’re interested in strengthening the quality of connections that happen in the family so that babies could strengthen their attachment with their parents. The parents get to strengthen their bonding with their babies and children.
So we have to pay attention to the quality of energy that is going on in the relationships. So that is one thing. That’s really an important consideration. Baby’s language, when you’re looking at the baby whisperer idea, what I’m interested in doing is being with that baby in a way that supports them to connect with their folks and if I do anything that’s useful for that baby and for that baby’s parents, I want the parents to be able to go home and do the same thing. So that’s a huge consideration and most of what we do, the work I do with Mary Jackson and the work called Birth Connections or the work with do in BEBA, Building and Enhancing Bonding and Attachment, is to work to support the family to come into a resonant state. To come into a rhythmic, resonant state.
Moving A Family Toward Resonate Harmony
I have a background in music. I used to be a Junior High School music teacher, a choral teacher. And singing, you know, you have a group of people singing together at the same time and singing the same rhythm’s at the same time and it naturally creates a bond. It just so happens that all of us, whether we’re babies or adults, have rhythms in common. If you like sports, for example, there is the notion of coming into the zone. You know, when a team is in the zone, they are performing at a high level. I like to watch basketball. You see where the team starts coming, when they get into the zone, they have practiced so much that their autonomic responses are just in rhythm and not only are they in rhythm in the very fast pace of moving the ball up and down the court and getting it through the hoop and passing it back and forth between each other and all of that. Not only are they in rhythm together at that high tempo, but the whole team is in rhythm with the slow tempos at the same time.
So it’s just like an over toned series of rhythms. And so in our work, when we sit with a family, we will sit there and be with that family and it usually takes 15-20 minutes, 30-40 minutes depending on how challenged the family is, for the family to actually slow down and connect in the rhythms that they have in common. The parents get out of their thinking enough so that they’re not trying to direct their children to look a particular way and they start actually being in connection with each other and in connection with their children and in a responsive way with their children. When that happens, the children start getting reflection of these slow rhythms in themselves.
Now, you know, our whole culture – and this is where the paradigm shift is – our whole culture is tapped into high speed and fast moving changes. In our medical world, the way babies are born and transferred into a nursery and then to mom, when the research shows that babies need to be skin-to-skin right after birth. When there is no medical challenge going on, babies go skin-to-skin and you get quiet and you let the mom and baby discover each other. That is what I just so love about Mary Jackson’s practice. That is how she does it. She does her practice with birth and preparation with birth in those slow rhythms so that by the time the family gets to birth, they are in tune with those slow rhythms with themselves and then if you go there, a mom’s body and a baby’s body know exactly how to birth. You don’t have to tell them how to do that, but you’re in support and reflection to them and interventions become less and less and less and less.
So when we sit with families, the families come in with intentions. Mom and dad have concerns. Maybe baby is not sleeping. So the baby has got the problem with sleeping. Then we sit down with the family and we hear the mom and dad’s version about what’s going on with the sleeping and then we start asking mom and dad questions about their own sleeping challenges and it turns out that it is not just the baby that has the sleeping issue, but the mom and dad have a sleeping issue. In fact, if a baby is not sleeping, the whole family has got an issue, got a sleeping problem. So we don’t look at it like, oh we’ve got to get the baby to sleep. We look at it from the point of view of what does this family need so that they can come into a resonate field? So each one of them can settle into rest and sleep. It’s a whole different way of looking at it. I mean, that’s just one example.
Mindfulness, Presence And Seven Principles
LISA REAGAN: So I’m seeing, not to oversimplify, I am seeing the difference between this modern parenting version of controlling, what’s wrong with the baby, let’s focus on training the baby and disconnecting the parents, creating a separation that sets us up for misery. Here is this older model. It also seems to have a foundation in an expectation of pathology because it’s based in disconnection. And then we move into the somatic awareness and the body rhythm awareness and right away, just listening to you speak, what I feel is just this ramping down into a blissful state that feels natural and not forced. Instead of a family basing their relationships on exterior demands and expectations, you have a family that is able to come into this somatic awareness and harmonic resonance with each other, so that perhaps before we get to the state of babies screaming and adults breaking down and falling apart because the stress load is too much, there is, through your applied birth psychology training, an awareness and there are practical tools for awarenesst to help us stay in this resonant, even blissful place. What would you call this place?
RAY CASTELLINO: Well, you know, it’s interesting that in our psychological culture right now, the buzz word is mindfulness and so what I would call it is just coming into a state of mindful awareness and presence. It is really a state of presence.
LISA REAGAN: Presence.
RAY CASTELLINO: Presence. And in this state of presence, if we do that, just like right now, you know, so I’m talking and you’re talking and we’re making this recording and somebody will listen, but in the state of presence, we are aware of much more than that. It is actually more simple. And it’s not just the basis of what our senses are seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, all of that, but there’s an awareness that connects us into something that is bigger than any one of us individually.
So there’s an inner connection that gives us that and then when we go into relationship with others in a state of an intention for mutual support and cooperation, if we’re in a state of intention for supporting choice from the inside out so that each person, including the baby, have opportunities to be with themselves and find where they’re going from the inside out, and the choices that are coming from that. Whether you could do that and play, we do that in bed or we do that in play, or we sit with each other. There are basic principles that emerge.
Let me give you those 7 principals:
- 1. Mutual support and cooperation
- 2. Choice
- 3. Principle of the pause 4. Principles of self regulation
- 4. Principles for how to come into touch
- 5. Contact and touch and attention
- 6. Brief frequent eye contact
- 7. Confidentiality
If I see a family, if I work with a family that is healthy, they’re going to be manifesting already in their behavior mutual support and cooperation. When there is a breakdown in the health of the family, there is going to be a breakdown of mutual support and cooperation. When there is a breakdown in the health of the family, somebody in that family is trying to get somebody else to do something that in their nature they don’t want to do, so there are power struggles. This is the old paradigm that there is an assumption that our babies, for example, don’t want to have their diapers changed. Or there’s an assumption that we have to do something to do the baby or do something with the baby to get them to sleep because we think it’s our job to get a baby to sleep. But the point of view that we’re coming from is one that says the expression that a baby makes, that a child makes, has purpose. And by the way, that statement is right in keeping with Alfred Adler’s primary principal for his approach to psychology. So we’re taking that notion.
Everything a baby does. Every expression a baby makes has purpose. If I actually sit with that and actually get quiet and mindful and still enough, I will come into resonance with that baby in a way where that baby communicates to me what I need to know from them. Every parent that does that will be able to reflect the truth of that baby to themselves. Now a child that grows up that way, and we’ve got many children that have grown up in the BEBA system now and kids that we have worked with and followed over the years, when we see them, when we see these kids, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 years old, we see kids that are extraordinarily well coordinated in body, emotions, mind, and have some sense of spirit. They are cooperative human beings. They show leadership qualities. They move in extraordinarily integrative ways. They take on tasks in a way where it looks easy and then they very gradually increase the level of challenge to them. So it’s just quite amazing to watch these kids and how they are in their late teens and early adulthood. And on the qualities of empathy that they have and compassion and capacity for connection.
LISA REAGAN: Joseph Chilton Pearce’s work is all this. This if we’re allowed to have this foundation that allows for the unfolding of our abilities and capacities, then they unfold. Instead of enculturated obstructions and distractions from this natural unfolding. So I am really happy you brought that up. That is wonderful. The whole point of Joe’s work is to talk about how we can set ourselves up for this unfolding of unlimited capacity, human capacity. All kinds of, of course, Joe has all kinds of awesome experiences. You started off talking about taking a thread into the cosmic realm and Joe certainly goes there. But I don’t think that’s farfetched now. (Visit the new Joseph Chilton Pearce Library at Touch the Future’s Academy here.)
RAY CASTELLINO: No, not at all. I mean, I was reading Joe when my children were being born, and they’re 43. I was reading Joe’s work in the 1970s. I have had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with him, and no question of the quality of inspiration that he brings and the most fundamental part of just actually being able to be with ourselves and our children and each other in a connected way, which is different than getting off of control and getting into discovery.
If I’m in discovery with a child and there is some task to do, we will discover how to do it together and everything from diaper changing, to nursing, to any kind of challenge that we’ve got, leaving the house and going to the car. Because of the amount of technology and interference that is involved in birth in the populations we work with, we see a tremendous amount of transition issues with kids. The faster a baby is birthed and taken out of the context of their family and out of their mother’s arms, the more transition issues there are from this imprint.
Addressing And Healing Birth Trauma
LISA REAGAN: You do have these seven tools or principles that make a practical path for working with families or practitioners learning to work with families to set up for the positive experience. But what you’re leading us into right now is the reality that most of us didn’t have ideal births. Birth is still treated for the most part as a medical emergency, even though there is a tremendous movement now to change this and it is wonderful to see how much is happening in the last couple of years. But this brings in the reality of parents who have come out of “normal” birth situations themselves. How does this play out in what you witness in your own practice?
RAY CASTELLINO: Oh sure. Well, it certainly gives us a lot of work to do. I mean, everybody needs the work we do. Everybody needs it. But the first thing I want to say is about the hospital: if a baby needs medical attention to get born or a mother needs medical attention to birth, I want to be in a hospital, so I totally support that. But if you look at birth from our perspective, birth is not a disease. Birth is a natural process. It does not need a pathological setting most of the time. Most of the time life is just where it is and babies can get born and if the mother has the right kind of support and right quality of support and babies have that right quality of support and dads and partners are supported in the way that we are speaking, babies get born. They will get born and they will get born in a natural way.
Now, if there is a medical reason for intervention, I am the first person there to support that, but most of the time, that is not necessary. So how does it play out in the work we do? Well, parents often go into birth with some sense of how they want it to happen something comes down where it does not happen that way. That’s a rather challenging, tragic circumstance. So what we get to do with the families after that is work with them so that those stories become coherent in their narrative.
I’m using words right out of the attachment world in with Mary Ainsworth’s work with adult attachment where they found that if the parents have a coherent, felt sense of open possibility in the way they tell their own stories, no matter how tragic they are, if that felt sense of open possibility is there, their children have an 84-85% chance of forming secure attachments with their parents. That’s really astounding.
What we do in our work when things come down where there is tragedy. There is death. There is need for surgery. There is NICU experience. They went to the hospital and something happened that wasn’t in the parent’s birth plan. We sit with them around that so that they can make sense of it in a way where the energy of that history loses it constriction and changes into the energy of open possibility. So the difference is huge.
In our context, when a baby is born, everybody has a story. Mom has a story about how it was for her. Dad, her partner, has a story about how it was for him or her. Baby has their story about how it was. Siblings have their stories about how it was. Aunts and uncles, grandparents, everybody has got essentially their own story and what we do is we make space for each of them, including the baby’s and the children, to be able to show and tell their own story about what happened.
Babies do it through movement and expression, as I was saying before, and as they get older, they will get more symbolic with it. They will do it in symbolic play or with toys or they’ll show the imprints of their story. So we make space for baby, for child, for mom, for dad, especially that grouping. For each one of them to be able to tell their story in a way where it is slow enough or it is fast enough – if you’re playing with a child where the primary quality of it is it starts to integrate the energy of what happened.
So when trauma happens, it’s our job as practitioners to actually sow in to the energy underneath and that was before the traumatic event. Then what we do is we tap into that primal resource energy and the rhythms feel really good. Then we work with the family so that they can connect with each other around their individual stories and everybody gets included.
You know, babies and children have a need to belong. All of us have a need to belong. When challenges happen and trauma happens, usually those traumas will in some way serve to separate us. Especially if the medical intervention separates us – baby is born and within a few minutes, somebody is scrubbing him or even sooner than that, cord is cut, and there is a whole series of events from cleaning, washing, doing heel sticks, and doing things that are basically uncomfortable and often painful to the baby. If we actually do birth in a way where the baby is connected, they are skin-to-skin and they get to share in the awe and feel the awe of what they did in the birth, the reference that they’re coming from goes way way deeper than just the fact that they birthed. It could pass into the very primal core energy of the basic rhythm of life itself.
LISA REAGAN: I just want to mention that one of the upsides of the birth movement is the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative that is trying to change birth culture in hospitals to be aware of exactly what you’re talking about, limiting interventions and supporting skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding and the attachment science right away. So I know where I am in Virginia, 2 out of 90 hospitals have adopted this, so we have a ways to go. I think you were saying earlier that Europe seems to be more on top of this than the United States.
RAY CASTELLINO: Oh, way more on it.
LISA REAGAN: Curious, because a lot of the attachment sciences come out of the US, but does not seem to land here in a public policy way.
RAY CASTELLINO: In England, the most ideal person to do most births are midwives. That’s an interesting statement and that’s a national policy for England. Then you look at the Scandinavian countries and Germany and Switzerland and there are strong home birth movements there and when I go there and when colleagues go there, in Spain, England, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, the people are really interested. The field is wide open. The range of people that are interested is very wide from medical practitioners, nurses, physicians, midwives, to the body work world, cranio-sacral therapy. There is a huge movement.
There is also a huge movement in this country, energetic body work disciplines, where the people are taking a much broader view to help then the allopathic notion. You know, within allopathy, you’re looking at the principal of opposites. In homeopathy, you’re looking at the principle of similars. It’s interesting what a baby and a mom have to do right in the beginning is they have to be able to perceive their similarity of what they have in common. If a mother can perceive herself and her baby, she is going to bond with that baby much more thoroughly. The baby is able to perceive accurate reflection from experience of that reflection from his or her mother. That baby will securely attach, but if there is tension in that field and the adult world is bringing tension in it and it is not going the rhythm of the baby, the baby is going to have a hard time feeling the similarity. So the sense of similarity actually at first really comes out of the rhythm and the medical world really does not know how to slow down and needs to.
Moving From “Outside In” To “Inside Out”
LISA REAGAN: As with your work, there are training programs now for parents and professionals, anyone who works with families, to be trained in birth psychology. Can you tell us in a practical way how birth psychology training as a family wellness professional could be really helpful?
RAY CASTELLINO: You know, I laugh at that question because for me, it’s such a basic knowing and understanding. Our culture and our inquiry and science is like, “What is the origin of things? What is the reason? What caused that?” We have these pre-constructed concepts of origin through biochemistry and so when we look at biochemistry, then we look at drugs and we look at anesthetics and we look at surgery and that range for healing is not very broad. But if you get interested in the origin of what is the cause of something and you keep tracing back and back and back, sooner or later, you get to look at prenatal dynamics, preconception dynamics, you see ancestral dynamics.
The new paradigm question becomes, “What is going on in that family’s system and the ancestors before hand? What happens in how babies are conceived? What happens during gestation? What happens during birth? What happens after that? What kind of a reflection and support do we have so that we’re actually discovering from the inside out how to be with our babies and our children?”
That opens up the field and a lot of times, it opens up the practitioner. For a personal example, I was doing a whole lot of psychological work called Gestalt therapy. I was trying primal work and so on, but when I got to energetic body work, the people that were doing it, were quiet enough and still enough so that I could actually feel from the inside, not just the trauma that was going on in me and the memory of the trauma that was going on in me. I could feel the basic rhythm of life itself that preceded my conception.
Now if I get that and I can move from that point and I get that reflected, it opens in the therapeutic context of work to discover from the inside out and empower from the “inside out” rather than impose from the “outside in.” So then the “outside in” part becomes more of a reflective field rather than an intervention field. The “inside out” becomes more of a discovery of, “What’s the impulse that’s coming from me? What needs to be expressed and done in a way that we can sit with the self sense of awe and being and discovery..and yes, oh yes, when I was born, I was immediately separated from my mother and my mother hemorrhaged and I was wrapped and put in a container and my era, it was a glass container, and left by myself. The staff was young. This is stuff I put together around my own birth:
The staff was seasoned, but there were very few because it was during the war, so they were understaffed and they had to give my mother attention and they did and they saved her life. That was wonderful. Then they went into a situation where they brought me to her at four hour intervals.
Now, what does that do to a baby and the mother’s rhythm? So the pre and perinatal knowledge of that helps me understand how I’m organized and how I will speed up in specific areas of my own sequencing and as a practitioner, the work that I am fortunate to be able to do and my own history actually helps me as a practitioner, as a facilitator, whether it is with small groups or individually, because if something shows up in me, my own counter transference, there are ways of working with that if I have some sense of my own history, where my own counter transference does not have to get in the way of supporting whomever I am working with and the work can actually aid me in it.
LISA REAGAN: It feels like eventually birth psychology is going to be recognized as a prerequisite for a professional working with families to have some knowledge and awareness of their own birth. To have this awareness and a body of tools to work with will allow a practitioner to differentiate between “their” stuff and their client’s “stuff” – to be technical, ha.
RAY CASTELLINO: That’s the issue that a baby has. The baby is not differentiated and the parents raising kids, most parents really don’t have a clue about their own differentiation process, a lot of them don’t, so the parents get with their baby and they start doing things because you know, they read books and they have some intuition and they’re following that. But most parents are parenting from the “outside in” and we want to support parents to work from the “inside out.” My parents raised me by reading Dr. Spock and that was bad advice. And we know that if we really support a mom and a baby to discover their way into connection and nursing and that happens from preconception onward, that family team is going to be way more securely bonded and attached than if they did it otherwise. So the implications of the pre and perinatal view is huge.
LISA REAGAN: It is huge.
RAY CASTELLINO: First as a practitioner, it really takes looking at our own histories and for my clinic this is a 2.5 year training, and in Spain it is four years. This training is about learning how to be with families and with small groups of people, but a huge part of that is to give the practitioners the opportunity to become acquainted with their own histories in a deepening and resourcing way. So that’s one part of it. And the other part of it is when we’re sitting with people and that person does a lot of work and basically the underlying symptom is still there, whether it is a medical symptom or psychological symptom or a relational symptom, implicit somatic memory, explicit memory, right/left brain. All of that, you sit with the person and you sit with their pre and perinatal history, which we in our practice opens up the field to a level of understanding that can allow for the discovery of what we actually need to do to change on the inside and change the perception of our quality of life.
Most people’s intentions when they come to the groups that I do and the folks that I train, there is just something about their quality of life that they want to change or they want to change how they form relationships because they are used to making a whole series of decisions about how they choose people to be with or don’t choose people to be with but they end up with. And you know, how we make choices today in our present age is so influenced by the early time. And it’s not until after, it’s not until we’re 18 months or three years old or after we learn how to talk that it starts from the beginning preconception onward.
Addressing The Cultural Trap Of Birth Psychology As Pro-Life or Pro-Choice
LISA REAGAN: So I have one last question for you and I saved the tough one for last. But as this field of birth psychology, somatic psychology comes out, and you know, the top level chatter on the internet is that babies are conscious and I’ve seen the initial knee jerk responses, sometimes, are, “You people are pro life and this is your double secret mission here.” And I was wondering if you could just respond to that? How does a pioneer of birth psychology and of somatic psychology respond to that charge? Because they’re saying birth psychology is anti-choice and anti-abortion and it didn’t occur to me until that charge started flying around out there.
RAY CASTELLINO: Yeah. Well, first of all, just to say you’re pro-life or you’re against life, or to make any kind of statement like that, or you’re pro-abortion, those statements are politicized. The whole abortion question, we’re dealing with questions of life and death here and when you take questions like that and you politicize them and then you have people for and you have people against, what that does is that takes us totally out of the realm of mutual support and cooperation and totally out of the realm of choice.
In a very profound way, when we sit with anybody and we really sit with them with the intention of supporting them from the inside out, every mother needs to make choices about conception and pregnancy. Now, it’s a huge thing. It’s a huge responsibility and dads need to make choices about that too. And you know, no matter what we do, people are going to continue having sex, and people are going to have sex when they’re not prepared for pregnancy and pregnancy will happen. What I like to do is just really get out of the whole politicizing of that question and just sit with what does a mother need to have in contact within herself so that she can make a choice based on her circumstances, based on her inner knowing?
One of the 7 principles is the principle of choice. As soon as you start messing with that, you put it in the realm of ideology rather than in the realm of human need and compassion and so, my daughter is 35 years old and I used to think about this, if any child of mine came home and they were pregnant, I would want to do everything I could do to support them to make the right choice for them. Not the right choice for me or how it’s going to look or whatever, in that sense. This worldview changes the notion of what pro-life is. I have sat with women making the choice to have an abortion and I cannot counter that. I have sat with women who have thought they needed to have an abortion and what they discovered is that they just did not have the support they needed to be the mother they wanted to be and that’s a whole other question.
So, to politicize it, when you get into the realm of how much money is allocated to this and that and ideology, it dehumanizes people and it dehumanizes babies. It does not matter what side it comes from. You have people sitting and fighting with each other. I actually want to just step out of that question and just let’s look at what the human need is, and let’s get to that basic level of life and death and where people are within themselves from the inside out.
LISA REAGAN: Well, I appreciate you taking that question on, Ray, because I feel a real need to have a way to answer it when it comes up. For people who are interested in exploring birth psychology or becoming a practitioner of birth psychology, it is almost a cultural trap that is laid down and you don’t want to side step it, but the answer is not in the paradigm that the question is constructed.
RAY CASTELLINO: That’s right.
LISA REAGAN: So to help the person to translate to a place of understanding, there is no answer to this question that is just a cultural trap. Let’s sit and talk with each other and see if we can go through this process and perhaps then, as you say, the shift from the inside out and the awareness from inside out, instead of an ideal coming through dominance and control outside in, that awareness could somehow be cultivated.
RAY CASTELLINO: Yeah.
LISA REAGAN: I appreciate you taking that on.
RAY CASTELLINO: Well, thanks for asking the question.
LISA REAGAN: What else would you like for our listeners to know before we wrap our spectacular call?
RAY CASTELLINO: Well, thank you for listening if you’re listening to this, I really appreciate your presence. Lisa, thank you for doing this interview with me. I appreciate getting to know you better and it is great to know that there is another person out there that is part of this movement that is in and around APPPAH, the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health. I certainly support folks to go to their conferences and broaden their perspective and if folks are listening to this and they are part of the APPPAH training program that is awesome. I would like you guys to know that I have training for professionals. I have a website, castellinotraining.com. I have a video that has been out about a year now called Two Layers of Support. It is 88 minutes and you can get that online and download it.
Featured Photo Shutterstock/Tania Kolinko
Excerpt from Two Layers Of Support, by Ray Castellino, DC