Thursday, January 8, 2015


Jessica had always been haunted by the fear that the unthinkable had happened when she had been “made-up.” For as far back as she could remember, she had no sense of a Self. Her mother thought of her as the “perfect infant” because “she never wanted anything and she never needed anything.” As a child, just thinking of saying “I need” or “I want” left her feeling like an empty shell and that her mind was about to spin out of control. Terrified of who––or what––she was, she lived in constant dread over being found guilty of impersonating a human being.

Jeffrey Von Glahn, Ph.D., an experienced therapist with an unshakable belief in the healing powers of the human spirit, and Jessica, blaze a trail into this unexplored territory. As if she has, in fact, become an infant again, Jessica remembers in extraordinary detail events from the earliest days of her life––events that threatened to twist her embryonic humanness from its natural course of development. Her recollections are like listening to an infant who could talk describe every psychologically dramatic moment of its life as it was happening.

When Dr. Von Glahn met Jessica, she was 23. Everyone regarded her as a responsible, caring person – except that she never drove and she stayed at her mother’s when her husband worked nights.

For many months, Jessica’s therapy was stuck in an impasse. Dr. Von Glahn had absolutely no idea that she was so terrified over simply talking about herself. In hopes of breakthrough, she boldly asked for four hours of therapy a day, for three days a week, for six weeks. The mystery that was Jessica cracked open in dramatic fashion, and in a way that Dr. Von Glahn could never have imagined. Then she asked for four days a week – and for however long it took. In the following months, her electrifying journey into her mystifying past brought her ever closer to a final confrontation with the events that had threatened to forever strip her of her basic humanness.

This excerpt occurred about a month after her recall of her birth.

At the start of this session, Jessica seemed listless and without her usually supply of energy. After about 15 minutes of talking about some recent incidents, she grabbed a cushion off of the couch (we were at her house) and said she just had to lie down. She stretched out on the carpet on her back, rested her head on the cushion, and closed her eyes. For the next several minutes, her breathing gradually deepened and sounded very deliberate, as if something was making her breathe slowly and deeply.
          After several minutes, she opened her eyes and looked at me with a puzzled expression. “It feels like I have to lie still, and I don’t want do. Gosh darn it!” For a few moments, she remained perfectly still. Then she continued, “I could feel my face and hands go numb. Then I couldn’t feel my skin any more. Then my whole body felt numb. I kept trying to wake my body up and I couldn’t. I couldn’t figure out why my mind was saying ‘move’ and my body didn’t.”
“You know what?” she said a minute later. “I couldn’t breathe on my own. I could hear this breathing in my ears, and I had to keep listening to it and make sure I could hear breathing. I had to listen very hard because I couldn’t feel my body anymore. As long as I could hear breathing, I knew I was alive.
 “I feel like I’m sleeping with my eyes open. It’s like being alive but not being able to feel alive. Tell me! How do you understand that you have no feeling about your physical existence when you look down and see it there? It was like time just suddenly stopped, like I stopped being, but I could see. When you cross into that feeling of just seeing, it’s like you’re not human anymore. I felt that everything I had known as a human being had left me.
“Somewhere, something was in me that shouldn’t have been. Something crazy! It was more powerful and stronger than I was. It just did what it wanted. It felt like something was breaking down in me, that something in my human being was going wrong. I didn’t understand that it was a drug that was doing that to me. I didn’t know that it was happening from the outside, that somebody had done something. I thought I had given up. I thought I had done something wrong.”
While the fright over what was happening to her body had been difficult enough for Jessica to handle, the experience had had an even more profound effect.
“I was afraid I had lost the ability to react, to feel, to think for myself, to understand things. If you can’t feel and think and understand, what good are you? What use do you have? What are we here for? Why do you live?”

When Jessica was three months old, she had one radiation therapy treatment for an unexplained tumor in her throat that was preventing her from swallowing, and for which she was sedated.

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