Sunday, February 7, 2016

Still More on the Act-out


If I told you that the way you breathe is an act-out, you might scoff, so let me explain.  Act-outs mean that you are acting out unconsciously and symbolically a trauma from the past.   Allow me to offer one example:  shallow breathing.   When there was not enough oxygen at birth, the mother being heavily drugged and/or anesthetized, the drug seeps into the baby to shut down her breathing, she learned to conserve oxygen to survive by shallow breathing, she becomes a shallow breather; those who do so, just think that’s the way it is for them, and not a  sign of anything else.

The fact is that it is a sign of an event that endures and directs the system in so many ways. And this extends throughout the system; so when oxygen is depleted during birth the blood vessels constrict or shut down to save one’s life. The result can be chronic migraines where the blood constricts to save oxygen supplies.  This happens when someone is upset over something, feels threatened or is anxious.

From then on, we hoard oxygen as a life-saving device.   The whole system is in locked-down mode.   And this modus operandi spreads throughout the system:  the way one speaks, bespeaks of energy conservation; softly, quietly, of being constantly in a state of holding back, which sometimes translates into conserving money, emotions, breathing. expression, etc.  In short, by not expending too much of anything.  One can become a general hoarder;  ”I cannot be without....otherwise, I will die” (Originally….without enough oxygen my life is in danger). Her life-time leitmotif is,  “It is never enough..” and “I have to make sure I have enough”.  The fear is I cannot run out (of oxygen, of what I need) or I will die.   If I conserve, I will not be danger; I will have enough.  If I have enough it means I am being taken care of and I won’t die.  This seems like a stretch yet so many patients report on this theme constantly.

In another case a patient harkens back to originally saving just enough energy to handle minimal tasks.  She avoids being overwhelmed (again, as originally).  She only buys what is basic and necessary.   She only travels lightly so as not to be overloaded.  A too heavy suitcase is a cause of anxiety because she fears she may lack the energy to handle the load.   Her whole life runs on the formula, “If I spend too much, I will die.”   And this is symbolic acting out of her original trauma.  Too much breathing can lead to death, so heavy exercise is avoided.   She prefers a simple life style, with little material worries so she is not overwhelmed.   The less she has, the less she has to take care of, the less energy she has to expend. This person wants others to take control so that she does not have to organize anything.

What we have here are different modes of behavior from roughly the same kind of imprint…. depleted oxygen during gestation and at birth.    Life circumstance adds to choices but the overall behavior has a single motif.
       
An extreme form of this is free diving; the idea is to go as deep in the ocean while holding one's breath, until one becomes a champion breath holder.  And believe it or not, there are medals for this.   Except it is dangerous and someone just drowned last week trying it.  It is done without any oxygen at all, and experts can go minutes without breathing.  The unconscious idea again is to re-enact the early trauma, coming close to death and trying to survive.  It seems that the closer one comes to the limit and near death, the more one is applauded.   It is the early trauma turned upside down.  I wonder who instigated this madness?  But one is attracted to it because it is a chance at reliving symbolically.  Coming close to death and living.   That is the paradigm, the leitmotif called "sport".  So here we have different modes from roughly the same imprint.  One embraces it and the other flees from; not even getting into an elevator for fear of reawakening the original imprint.  It includes many factors;  one is to dash ahead crashing into their imprint and conquering it, the other is avoiding it at all cost.   In any case, it pervades every aspect of one's being.   The counter-phobes find it and chase it, while the phobics  look elsewhere.  So free divers are counter-phobic?  I would bet on it,  but then again I don't bet.



Friday, January 29, 2016

The Act-out and More


The truth needs no defense…except…not feeling it causes a myriad of defenses.  Feeling is the opposite of defenses.

There is a certain paradigm in Primal which one blogger, Frank,  alluded to.   Truth needs no defense except when that truth is more than the system can integrate; then it requires defenses. That is why in booga booga land they live inside their defenses and imagine all kinds of things like freedom, liberation,  being one with the cosmos, etc.  They no longer feel the truth of their pain.  No longer know they live inside a defense. They grab onto  a strange unreal idea and ride with it; just so long as it keeps the truth away:  I hurt.

That is why after patients have deep feelings they come up with many truths about their lives.   It is buried and defended along with the pain.  Thus no one has to give anyone insights; they are already there just waiting for the exit.  And how do they get out”?    They hijack and ride along with the pain.

Let me give you an example from my own life.  Early on,  I had to go out to coffee all of the time first thing in the morning.  I just did it without thinking twice about it. Then the Primal: stuck in the womb, could not get out and I acted it thereafter for decades.  The hidden feeling drove me and I had no idea I was driven.  And if I drank or smoked to keep the pain down, I would still have no idea why I did those thing, which I never did.    But…I had to get out, and if I had been smart or primal enough I would have traced my obsessive ritual back to its source by asking: what am I trying to do…Why silly, I am trying to get out! Pre-primal I would say I need freedom and I want to feel free, but that would not have made any sense.

I had a patient who had a different obsession: she had to fuck all of the time.  (not a dirty word, just an accurate one).  It turns out…..  What are you trying to do?  She said she needed to relieve her tension.  And why?  Because if she did not fuck, her body temperature and blood pressure went through the roof:  she was in danger of dying.    So why fucking?  It was the most basic and deeply rooted instinct.  Its buildup put the body into tremendous stress.  She had to find release through the act-out because she never knew she had an imprint embedded deep down and she never knew that it engendered all that tension.
Hi, I am your doctor.  Any stress lately?  Not that I know of but I think there was a stress event 50 years ago not sure what it was but it raised my body temp and blood pressure a lot:  to this day.  “How would you know that”?  An instinct I guess. I mean why else would I have those chronic  symptoms?  Dunno,

Oh, what is this act-out?   Our  symbolic way to deal with an unconscious concretized memory.  It is like a blind person with no knowledge of his unconscious, trying to shake off a terrible trauma.  He does the best he can, and he comes close, symbolically,  just like my having to go out for coffee every morning.   Surely that obsession meant there is something buried down below.  Even knowing exactly what it is would not change one thing because the insight lives on top of the brain,  while the feeling resides at the bottom.  They are far apart.  Isn’t it amazing that the deep-lying feeling sends messages from below to approximate the trauma without ever saying what it is?   And why is that?   Because if it sent up the whole package; the whole truth, we would be in agony all over again.  And so our merciful brain has found back-up ways to protect us.  It keeps the truth from us even when we go on searching for the truth.  The longer the search the less we discover.  Aah, that dialectic again.   Those poor philosophers; in a constant search that will never be finished because……oh no, wait,  the search is really for pain and it is only the pain that can liberate.  Us.   Does that mean they are looking for pain and  don’t know it?  Yep.

Jesus, Janov, you are so arrogant and sure of yourself.  Is that wrong?  It is better to not be sure when I have lived it?  And when I relive it and my act-outs disappear?    The truth lies in that deep pain, not in the higher level cortex where the search seems to be concentrated.   That is why it cannot be found.   We are looking for results, not causes, and like so much work in psychology, focusing on results cannot reveal arcane causes.  Oh my.  It seems so hopeless.  Nope,  because real hope lies in reliving that very hopelessness that drives so many depressions. And what do we do instead of feeling hopeless and finding causes; we run from it, keeping busy, keep working  and run and run……away from ourselves.  You cannot find your salvation nor yourself that way.

One last note on my act-out.  Why did I choose the trumpet for my instrument?  I was playing in a band, the psychopathic syncopators and I was hitting a high note and it felt like I was screaming……and it was, screaming in the only way I could.  Every week I went to the local mental hospital and played in LA.  With the best musicians around.   We went out for gigs in different venues and all the sax section who had lobotomies  had to hold hands so we wouldn’t lose them.   And all the girls from the area came and danced with the patients on Thursday nights.  One night from the dance floor I heard  “Art.  Art.  Arturo.”  A patient came up and hugged me and we talked.  “What happened to you?”(Hector Acosta)  ! pleaded.  He told me the story.  First of all he was a Mexican so that during battle he had to go down below and secure all the hatches with him inside so if we torpedoed,  the water could not flow into the rest of the battleship and sink us.   Hector was locked inside.   Why?  Cause he was a Mexican.  After months of this he cracked up and spent a long time in mental hospitals.  But it was no different while the blacks on our ship were fighting for their freedom, they were not allowed to touch a gun, and most of what they could do was cook and clean and wear white uniforms to serve the officers.  No one thought that was strange.

To this day I think the girls who came and danced with some psychotics were heroic.  They wanted to help the war effort and us sailors.   And it was wonderful.  I learned more about mental illness playing with my pals then I ever did in classes in school.

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University


In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System


A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.
Editor