Therapy? More Like TheRAPEy

I bet everyone has heard of weird and controversial therapy methods, but I have a strong feeling that most of you haven’t heard of this one, the one that killed. A therapy called ‘rebirthing’ was invented by Leonard Orr in the 1970s after he supposedly re-lived his birth during a bath. Obb claims that correct breathing techniques can be used as a method of catharsis to cleanse traumatic childhood memories that have been repressed. Speaking of, isn’t it obvious that Obb was deeply influenced by the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud? Considering that he has also mentioned and studied on repressed childhood memories. The difference here between Freud and Obb, though, is that Freud tried to help recall these traumatic memories because he believed that this was the only way to cure the ‘hysterics’, however, Obb believed not in recollection but rather direct catharsis. He stood behind the idea that rebirthing aided people to regain their ultimate longing: to feel as though you are the center of all, just as the common belief of humanism during the renaissance. It also helped the person feel strong, confident and powerful -all of the feeling of which he or she was deprived due to a childhood trauma.

However, although this method might have seemed to work for some -as do all controversial therapy methods, rebirthing caused the death of a little girl called Candace Newmaker. Some have heard of the case of Candace Newmaker as ‘the girl who was sat on and killed’, but let’s go more in depth. Candace was a 10 year old adoptee who suffered from attachment disorder. Her newly adoptive mother, strong believer in pseudoscientific therapy methods, decided to try one that supposedly cured the child who had difficulty attaching to her adoptive mother by making her feel like he or she was ‘reborn’. To do the therapy her adoptive mother, Jeane Elizabeth Newmaker, called Connell Watkins, a pioneer of the treatment for children with ‘attachment disorder’, and her partner Julie Ponder, a marriage and family therapist. The therapy started on April 18th 2000. Candace layed down on a blue flannel sheet and got into the fetal position. Then Candace was bound in the sheet, the ends twisted above her head and held by Ponder. She was covered by pillows and four adults began pressing on her. Candace was requested to imagine herself as a baby in her mothers womb. Candace’s mother continually expressed how excited she was to be giving birth to a baby girl and how she was going to love her and hold her forever. Candace was asked if she believed what her mother was saying and when she responded positively, her ‘rebirthing’ commenced. Ponder stated that her head had to come out of the sheets first, and then her whole body. However, Candace repetitively screamed that she couldn’t do it and whoever was sitting on her was suffocating her. “I can’t do it. I can’t do it! I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!” were the sentences that she repeated until after 40 minutes, when she failed to respond. Ponder and Watkins continually chanted that she was a quitter but after a 20 minute period of utter silence they decided to unwrap Candace to discover that she was covered in her own vomit and dead.

The case of Candace Newmaker has made this therapy method extremely controversial amongst society, and it is clear that nearly no one ever uses this method anymore. It is unfortunate that the bizarreness of this method had to be comprehended after the decease of a little girl.

-Ceylin Donat (Konuk Yazar)

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