The Forth Perinatal Matrix according to Grof

by | Apr 23, 2022 | Article, Holotropic Breathing | 0 comments

According to Stanislav Grof, the fourth perinatal matrix is associated with “death and subsequent rebirth.” In a previous article, I have already introduced the birth matrices in general, and now I would like to present in detail how birth trauma in the 4th phase can present itself in a regression. This article is part of my series of articles highlighting the entire spectrum around therapeutic processing of trauma through techniques such as CranioSacral Therapy and Holotropic Breathwork.

Facilitators can use such techniques to initiate expanded states of consciousness that allow us to act on the subconscious levels of the mind. We recognize repressed traumas that lead to pathological imprints and psychosomatic effects on the body. In holistic or holotropic therapy, these transpersonal dimensions are the mental level where the causes of blockages and psychopathological patterns are found. Therefore, it is helpful to know the perinatal matrices comprehensively to identify and work on hidden traumas in therapy.

The 4th Birth matrix | According to Grof

Death and rebirth

The 4th perinatal Matrix is related to the third clinical stage of birth.

The fourth birth matrix, the actual arrival in the world, means a sudden relief and relaxation. The two last matrices are separated from each other by ego-death experience. The symbolic representation of the last stage of delivery is a kind of psychospiritual dying—a surrender to death, followed by a rebirth experience.

It signifies the end of the fierce struggle for survival that has taken place up to that point. Paradoxically, although only a small step separates the person from a great liberation, they feel that they are about to face a catastrophe of enormous proportions. This encounter often leads to a desperate and determined struggle to bring the process to a halt at this point.

The memory of birth is completed by the death and rebirth aspects.

Phenomena of the 4th Matrix

Peprägt is the 4th Matrix is characterized by a sudden release of strong pressure. The client feels an expansion of space. Visions of gigantic halls, radiant light, and beautiful colors (sky blue, golden, rainbow, peacock feathers) may appear to him, accompanied by an “epiphanic or enlightening” ecstasy. The desire for a simple life dominates the feeling of rebirth and redemption. Often there is an intensification of sensory impressions, feelings of brotherhood, humanitarian and charitable inclinations.

Physically, there may be a transition to elements of the first perinatal basic matrix. Pleasant feelings may be interrupted by a crisis in the cutting of the umbilical cord, which stabbing pains may indicate at the navel as well as by cessation of breathing, fears of death and castration, changes in the position of the body, but there is no longer any pressure from outside.

4th Matrix Example

A case study from the CranioSacral practice

After a backward somersault on a trampoline, the client had a cervical spine injury and was still suffering from the consequences. He also reports that the cervical spine is a kind of “weak spot” of his. The tension kept reoccurring after months, causing pain and limiting movement.

I first support the head and relieve the system to move completely free so that the cervical spine muscles can move. Now I followed the movement that resulted from this simulated state of weightlessness. The cervical spine starts to move slowly, then more and more dynamically.

Significance indicator

I had already used this technique of local relaxation of the cervical spine twice with this client, with repeated SA (significance indicators) until the whole body was completely relaxed. However, the entire body began to tense up in phases, only to relax completely again shortly afterward. In addition, there was an attempt to “kick-off” with the legs.

After the local release of the cervical spine, the process spreads to the whole body. The head kept moving and also tended to move in the cranial direction. These processes started gently at first until they became more intense and reached their peak. This movement was followed by total relaxation and expansion. After the treatment, the client reported that he felt as if he had to go through a narrow tunnel, and he had the feeling of trying to wriggle through with his head in front.

Wave-like movements

There were moments when the movement stopped altogether. Although the pressure was still pronounced, it ceased in phases. After some time, this feeling of pressure came back even more potent and again led to the wave-like whole-body movements.

Towards the end, the pressure became greater and greater until it stopped altogether. The client has the feeling of a widening of space. He saw bright light (while the room was rather dark) and felt liberation. He also reported a sensation of gaining more space and room throughout his body. It was a combination of absolute calm and relaxation. A sense of well-being in his own body, freedom, and bliss spread through him.

An intuitive dance

The connection between intuitive and intrinsic body movement, as it is in the case of accompanying spontaneous body movements and supporting weightlessness, is aptly expressed in a sentence during the scene from the tango movie “Shall we dance” – “May I please?” with Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere:

“Don’t say anything, and don’t think… And don’t move—unless you feel it!”

This is the rhythm of music, but so it is in the processes of regression therapies. Here, one can speak of a subtle “dance” that unfolds individually, according to pitch and beat.

Continuation of the matrices

Summary of the 4th Matrix

As described by Stanislav Grof, clients can experience the 4th Matrix of Holotropic Therapy in Holotropic Breathwork, but it can also emerge in regression in the context of CranioSacral Therapy. It is the last stage of the birth process, ending the struggle for survival. As a rule, the two preceding steps (2nd and 3rd Matrix) can leave deep psychological impressions, but most of them are shifted into the subconscious. These hidden traumas can lead to lasting imprints that bind people’s potential and block individualization.

In holistic therapy, we specifically enter expanded states of consciousness to uncover these traumas and scan the transpersonal dimensions for blockages and imprints. For more on this, see my series of articles.

Overview of the perinatal matrices

Further questions

Continue to the follow-up article >


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