"Why is death anxiety so common? Because a lot of us. . .
have probably experienced
at least one of those near-death events
. . . most likely at or around birth."
-- Réal Beaulieu
Those terms were coined by Arthur Janov, based on Paul McLean's biological concept of a triune brain. According to McLean, the development of a human being recapitulates the evolution of the species over millions of years, from reptiles to mammals and, eventually, to Homo Sapiens. McLean thus gave credibility to the existence of three distinct levels of consciousness.
First line pain is pain associated to a very early event (before, during or soon after birth) with severely traumatic consequences, because of its life and death meaning. Anoxia (lack of oxygen) at birth is a good example of it. The trauma , with all its physical components, is imprinted in the primitive brain of the baby and the body remembers it for life, even if it cannot be remembered intellectually with words.
The imprinted suffering is associated with abnormal vital signs such as high or low body temperature and blood pressure, fast, slow or irregular heartbeat, shallow breathing, fragile digestive system, etc. Later, it will show up emotionally (panic attacks, for example) and also in the way we think (e.g., paranoia, suicidal thougts..) and behave (especially behaviors taken to the extreme). First line pain always involves sensations and will often show up in nightmares.
Second line pain is emotional pain due to traumatic events that occurred later in chilhood. Those pains are not forgotten either, although they can be repressed just like first line pain. They leave a trace in the more evolved emotional brain (limbic system) of the child and can be remembered as specific emotions associated with the painful events. Loosing a parent, being sent to boarding school, being molested, are all examples of such pain. Besides anger as a possible first reaction, the language of tears is mostly associated with that level of consciousness. The language of words is also accessible by that time.
Third line pain is pain that is processed later, when the adult brain (neo-cortex) is fully developped and can make sense of it or alleviate it by taking actions that involve abstract reasoning and planning. The third line level of consciousness provides us with the ability to differenciate our internal states from the reality out there.
FIRESTONE, Robert W. (1985). The Fantasy Bond, New York: Human Sciences Press, Inc.
FIRESTONE, Robert W. (1987). The “Voice”: The dual nature of guilt reactions. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol 47, no. 3, 1987.
JANOV, Arthur (1983). Imprints: The lifelong effects of the birth experience. Coward McCann, Inc. New York.
LIEDLOFF, Jean. The Continuum Concept. Revised edition New York, 1977.
You may e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Réal Beaulieu has also written:
Primal Therapy: What It Is and What It Is Not
Primal Theory vs Past Lives Theory
Before The Plunge: Preparing For Primal Therapy
On Buddying and Self-Primalling
Return to the Primal Page Inside Links Index
Return to the Primal Page Index of All Articles and Book Reviews