The roots of emotional and psychosomatic disorders

The roots of emotional and psychosomatic disorders

Stan Grof on emotional and psychosomatic disordersOver 60 years of research by Stan Grof, M.D., Ph.D., indicates that emotional and psychosomatic disorders always have peri-natal, pre-natal and transpersonal origins.


This 4-part presentation by Jevon Dangeli outlines Stan Grof’s perspective on the underlying factors that give rise to emotional and psychosomatic disorders.

This presentation is on a piece of the content from the article – The Healing Potential of Transpersonal Coaching

Stanislav Grof is a Czech psychiatrist, one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and a researcher into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing, and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche. 

Part 1:

Grof (2003) suggests that stress factors at work, at school, in one’s relationships, or in one’s social life are not the underlying causes of what are thought to be stress related health problems, they are merely the triggers that cause the emergence of psychological material from deeper levels of the unconscious. According to Grof (2000, p. 75) emotional and psychosomatic disorders develop as a result of the reinforcing influence of traumatic events in our postnatal history, which in turn have causal links to perinatal, prenatal and transpersonal origins. Grof (2000) argues that a newborn’s birth experience and postnatal period profoundly influence that individual’s emotional and social development, and therefore this has important implications for the future of our society. Grof points out that the amount of emotional and physical stress involved in childbirth clearly surpasses that of any trauma later in life and is an event of immense psycho-spiritual importance (2000 p. 31). Grof’s studies have revealed that the memory of birth is recorded in detail down to cellular level and it therefore profoundly affects psychological development (Grof 2000 p. 31).

Listen to part 1:

Part 2:

An example given by Grof (1995) is that the cause of claustrophobia could be traced back to an incident in childhood, but if explored further it will most likely have deeper roots that may stem from factors relating to birth or pre-birth, and looking further still one may discover that the potential for claustrophobia to manifest may even come from a particular experience in a past life. Full healing will therefore involve interventions that address all the causal domains and triggers that influence the existence of the condition. Further examples given by Grof (1995) indicate that traumas associated with prenatal and perinatal related experiences are of significant influence on the physio/psycho/spiritual development of each individual.

Listen to part 2:

Part 3:

Awareness of the importance of prenatal and perinatal care dates back to ancient China and India, with Caraka, an Indian embryologist writing in 1000 BC that psychological factors (which include stress and fear) in the mother may cause mental disturbance in the foetus (cited in Axness 2012, p. 93).

Michael Odent also supports Grof’s perinatal claims by suggesting that the quality of life in the womb, during birth and post-birth lays the foundation for a loving and altruistic relationship with fellow humans, or conversely for a mistrusting and aggressive attitude toward society (1995, cited in Grof 2000 p. 112).

Daniel Siegel (2012, p.11) confirms that our earliest experiences shape the narrative of our lives. Marcy Axness (2012, p. 94) also states that the baby’s experience during birth significantly influences that child’s psychological development. She adds that many in prenatal psychology believe a mother’s reaction upon discovering her pregnancy is the first and possibly most significant marker for the child’s future self-esteem.

In addition to Grof’s findings, the value of better understanding the extent of prenatal and perinatal trauma in order to address their influences on mental health and emotional wellbeing through life has long been suggested by those in the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology. (; cited in Axness, 2012, p. 93).

Support for Grof’s perinatal claims:

  • Caraka, Indian embryologist – mother’s thoughts & feelings influence her foetus (1000 BC)

  • Dr. Michael Odent – mother’s approach to birth affects baby (2010)

  • Dr. Daniel Siegel – our earliest experiences shape our lives (2012)

  • Dr. Marcy Axness – birth is traumatic (2012)

  • The Association for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Listen to part 3:

Part 4:

Healing of our psychological wounds as suggested by Grof (2000) should take prenatal and perinatal experiences into account along with postnatal factors and others determinants which influence individual and collective psychological development throughout life, while allowing for the existence of even more subtle realms that include spiritual aspects in seeking to comprehend the full extent of the human psyche’s cartography.

While it may not seem relevant or be desirable for most expecting parents to delve into their transpersonal realms of consciousness, given this introduction to the extent of our influence on our unborn babies as well as the trauma that is associated with birth, future parents should at least be encouraged to take steps toward treating pregnancy and birth as a precious and delicate transition into a new life that will be affected by the way in which the pregnancy and birth are treated. For parents who in hindsight are concerned about the effects of negative pregnancy or birth experiences on themselves or on their children, there is still hope. Tom Robbins reminded us that “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood”, and on that note the unwanted effects of prenatal, perinatal and postpartum trauma can be healed. While Grof’s approaches are known to heal the trauma that might be associated with birth, they are not alone. Other methods in depth psychology and in ASE are also known for their healing and transformative effects.

With some awareness of the extent of human consciousness, we can now make more responsible choices with regards to how we will pave the way for our next generations.

Listen to part 4:

Read the complete article – The Healing Potential of Transpersonal Coaching


Written and narrated by Jevon Dangeli – MSc Transpersonal Psychology


Transpersonal Coaching course – live or online 


Axness, M (2012). Parenting for Peace: raising the next generation of peacemakers. First Sentient Publications, USA. pp. 93/94

Grof, S. (1995). The Heuristic and Healing Potential of Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness. The Scientific and Medical Network, audio recording of presentation. Retrieved January 16, 2013, from the World Wide Web:

Grof, S. (2000). Psychology of the future, New York: State University of New York Press, pp. 31/75/112

Grof, S. (2003). Implications of modern consciousness research for psychology: Holotropic experiences and their healing and heuristic potential, The Humanistic Psychologist, Vol. 31, Issue 2-3, pp. 50-85

Odent, M (1995). Prevention of Violence or Genesis of Love? Which Perspective? Presentation at the Fourteenth International Transpersonal Conference in Santa Clara, California.

Odent, M (2010). The Two-Edged Mind: Placebo and Nocebo Responses. The Scientific and Medical Network, audio recording of presentation. Retrieved January 16, 2013, from the World Wide Web:

Siegel, D (2012). The Developing Mind. Second Edition. Guilford Publications, Inc. New York. p. 11