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.
Author Q & A
*What do you hope the world will learn from your book?
That emotional/psychological development starts at birth – and perhaps even sooner. What can possibly be more important than knowing the optimal conditions for an infant’s physical and psychological development? From my point of view, all of the social/economic/political issues in the world are actually people problems; ones that people who are more psychologically healthy than not would never allow to happen. The well-known humanistic psychologist from the The Sixties, Abraham Maslow, wrote that what we think of as psychologically healthy is really a mild psychopathology of the average that’s so commonplace that we don’t recognize it as such. I agree 100%. Also, the overall field of mental health and the practice of psychotherapy in particular will be far more effective than it is if crying is viewed as a powerful healing experience.
*What was so profound about your patient Jessica that compelled you to write this story?
Her remembering and recovering from psychologically hurtful events from the earliest days of her life is, by far, the most astounding human experience I know of. I am so fortunate that Jessica didn’t give up on me as her therapist and made her bold request for multiple-hour sessions for several days a week. If she hadn’t, this book would never have been written.
*Is this your first book?
It’s my first published book. I spent three years writing a novel before I started writing Jessica. The time frame was 35 years in the future, actually 2015! In 1980, a Ph.D. psychologist, aged 85, was the presidential candidate of the People’s party. With a month to go before the election and tied for the lead in the polls, he mysteriously disappeared. In 2015, a young Ph.D. psychologist is writing a book about him. He gets too close to finding out why that happened when he meets his new girlfriend’s grandfather, and then he also suddenly disappears. It had an agency-wide review by a top literary agent because he couldn’t make up his mind, but he declined to take it. He said the idea of dual-protagonists wasn’t viable. I thought it was quite clever. I immediately started writing Jessica. Since the 1990s, I’ve had 6 professional articles in psychotherapy journals, all on the method of treatment I used with Jessica.
*How long have you been writing?
Seriously, since 1977. Started with a few short stories. Wrote several over a year or two, never had one published, although a few people I knew who were able to have an objective opinion thought I showed “some talent.” One said that what most impressed her was how the next sentence picked up on what was implied in the previous one, and the writing just flowed. That knack of paying attention subtle cues is a direct result of being a therapist.
*What can we expect from you next?
Two possibilities. A small book for the public, tentatively titled: Saving psychotherapy from itself. Very briefly, the mental health system doesn’t believe in emotional release, such as crying, as having any long term benefit. From my view, the MH system is in the same state that medicine was in before the discovery of microorganisms and antibiotics; i.e., there’s no clear understanding of what causes problems and what cures them. The MH system thinks too much in terms of physical causes and medications. The other idea is tentatively titled: Cooperation or competition: Which would you choose? In short, what would a society be like if the purpose of government was to promote the physical and social welfare of its citizens compared to one that based on competition?
*Since Jessica, have you explored with other patients their recounts of memories from infancy?
No. That’s never happened again. I don’t ask; it has to come up in a spontaneous way. It’s actually quite rare. There’s just a few books and articles about remembering being born, and there’s a professional association: The Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. The book about Jessica stands alone. There’s nothing that even comes close.
*Since this is a topic new to most, how do you think your findings about Jessica's recounts of her infancy are being received by the general public?
I haven’t received sufficient feedback from enough people. Until very recently, it’s only spread by word of mouth. I've been too involved in academic writing. Undoubtedly, women will be more interested and supportive than men. It has received a strong recommendation from an entertainment company as a potential movie for the theater or TV, but as yet no contract. I always imagined a TV movie; never entertained the idea of a film – still don’t.
*Have you encountered those who didn't "believe" that this story was in fact based on true events?
Not yet, but I’m 100% certain it will happen. I’m ready with a response: What would convince you that it is or isn’t true? After the person answers, I’ll give mine. I was there. I saw the very positive effect it had on her life.
*Have you encountered those who said "There is no way an infant can remember anything about its birth?"
I don’t think I've ever met anyone in person who adamantly said so. There have been several who found it hard to believe. I immediately agree with them. There are plenty of my professional colleagues who don’t think it’s possible. The first known article about it appeared in a medical journal in France in the 1890s!
*What is Jessica's relationship with her mom today?
Her mother passed away at age 58 in 1990 (Jessica and I met in 1977). She had a very, very difficult childhood, which Jessica was very aware of. Jessica had great respect for her dedication to raising five children as a single parent, starting when the oldest was 8. When I interviewed Dorothy, the only question I asked her was: “I wonder if you tell me whatever you remember about what Jessica was like as an infant.” For various reasons, I didn't mention any of Jessica’s other recalls. Jessica had already told her about remembering her birth, to which Dorothy’s immediate response was, “I never told you any of that!”
*How is Jessica doing/coping today?
She has completely recovered from her various fears/phobias/etc. Despite all that, she always found a way to cope, though no one ever knew what was going on inside of her. Her various fears were just tolerated by those few who actually knew about them. After graduating from college with honors in her early 30s, while working part-time and raising a daughter, she’s had a very successful twenty-five year career where she interacted in an engaging and ongoing way with many people of varying ages and backgrounds. She also obtained two graduate degrees in her field. She is very active in her community, and has won awards/recognition for her activities. She has developed many deeply satisfying relationships with others, including a number from different backgrounds. They are all quite envious of her ability to understand human behavior, especially infants. They are all also envious of her ability to have a quick, deep cry, 15-20 seconds, and look so refreshed and immediately get back to what she had been doing. Married for a second time at 42. Lost her husband to cancer seven years later. Didn’t have any more children. My fervent wish is that someday a book will be published about her life and her therapy from her perspective.
"JESSICA: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN INFANT" by Jeffrey Von Glahn http://www.amazon.com/Jeffrey-
Von-Glahn-Ph-D/e/B007X6UNP6/ ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid= 1420255689&sr=1-2
Twitter: @JeffreyVonGlahnWebsite: http://JeffreyVonGlahn.com
***This tour was sponsored by 4WillsPublishing.wordpress.com