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Child of holocaust survivor asks if imagery can help stress in utero..

31 May
A child of Holocaust survivors asks if imagery can help if she herself didn’t experience the traumas. She was in utero during this time, and she’s read that such babies are born with abnormal cortisol levels..
I am a child of Holocaust survivors. I believe I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which occurred possibly in the womb as my mother was under terrible stress during that time (escaping from the Communists taking over Prague-escaping borders while she was pregnant - my father was taken away by Russians and escaped, etc etc). This was all after she lost her entire family at the age of 17... sole survivor..etc etc etc.

Can someone like me be helped by your tapes? I personally would obviously not be able to recall such early events. I noticed the reference to low cortisol in a study of World Trade Center mothers and the reference to Holocaust survivors and their offspring. Thanks!

Dear Martine,
Yes, the principal investigator of that WTC study was Rachel Yehuda, who has spent years studying cortisol levels in trauma survivors and looking at the biochemistry of Holocaust survivors - arguably the international expert in these matters. That''s a very important study you''re referencing.

And although it’s true that you would not have access to recall of such early events - at least not in ordinary waking consciousness - you could benefit from regular use of guided imagery and other self-regulation techniques, because imagery (as well as yoga, mindfulness meditation and massage therapy) has been found to balance cortisol levels. Initially this biochemical shift occurs for just an hour or two after the practice, but, with regular use, you can really start to notice a difference... as if your body were gently and kindly being reminded, over and over again, that it does indeed know how to self-regulate and re-balance its biochemistry, and so it gets better and better at doing it, for longer and longer periods of time. So, yes, imagery can help, as can many of the techniques and resources we’ve posted over at our PTSD pages in our catalog.

In addition, there is one therapeutic technique that is particularly helpful for those who are carrying the traumatic burdens of their parents and grandparents. It’s hugely successful in Europe, and is growing rapidly in the U.S. in only a short decade. It’s called Hellinger Intergenerational Family Constellation work, a supremely morally-grounded method, based on a mix of Murray Bowen’s Family Systems work, Gestalt and psychodrama techniques and Jungian symbology, among other things. Although the mother lode training is in Germany, where octogenarian ex-priest Bert Hellinger is based, there are many wonderful trainings here. Astonishing breakthroughs can be achieved as you symbolically heal and repair, not just your own vicarious or in-utero-absorbed traumatization, but those of your parents and even their oppressors, going back however many generations are necessary. It may sound like hokum, but results are very impressive.

Dr. Dale Schusterman in the DC area brilliantly combines this method with applied kinesthesiology and energy psychology, to produce dramatic effects. You may want to look up his workshop calendar to see if something is coming up that agrees with your schedule. He’s at .

Good luck.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award