As time goes on and I learn more about the human condition, I have decided to share some of my thoughts on what we are all about. I will publish my reflections on this blog, hopefully to enlarge our understanding of what makes us human. Art Janov

LA Times Festival of Books

LA Times Festival of Books
Come join us at booth #348 where all of Dr. Janov's books will be available. Along with previews of the Janov Legacy Series.

Blog en francais

Call to Francophone Readers!We have launched Art's blog in French and we need translator volunteers! If you want to translate one of Art's blog article, please send it to: Thank you!
Appel aux lecteurs francophones! Nous avons lancé le blog d'Art en francais et nous avons besoin de traducteurs de bonne volonté! Si vous voulez proposer la traduction de vos articles favoris, envoyez-les à Merci!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What Is More Important Genes or Epigenes?

Now with the new work on epigenetics we have to ask the question which has the most impact on influence on us, genes or epigenes (what happens to the genes when they meet experience?).    So maybe it is not either-or but both at once.  That is how does the gene affect experience, epigenetics?   It is obvious that genes affect the brain; affect our thinking, reasoning and understanding.   But the genes and how they behave are dependent on experience.  The genes interact and affect each other, as well.  And they mix with epigenes to merge and drive symptoms and behavior.

The new article on this is reporting a survey of Swedish students, over 1300, of them, re: family history, sexual abuse, delinquency, quality of rapport with parents and many other factors. (see
One thing they found, is what we find; those females who had an abusive childhood have a high activity variant of the MAOA gene. That translated into enhanced ant-social behavior.  The MAOA gene is a brain enzyme that breaks down certain elements (serotonin) and releases energy.    Those who carry low serotonin variant and who had bad childhoods were likely to be more aggressive.  This is the result of the admixture of genetics and epigenetics.

What the genes do is not cause certain behaviors but form a crucible for living experience to play on them in order to induce behavior. If there were a loving environment then those genes will not supply the susceptibility to delinquency.  So we begin to see how experience interacts with genetics to produce who we are and what symptoms we will suffer.  It is not that we didn’t already know about this, but we now begin to have research evidence to confirm it.

So is criminal behavior genetic?  Yes, in part, and no, in another part.  If we leave out experience then we only have half the story.  And if we confine our research to one part we will go off-track.   When we hear that something is genetic we need to hear the whole story.  In our therapy we get the whole story because we see the whole person reacting.   And when we extract a load of pain from him or her, we see what is left.  It gives us a better view of what is genetic and non-genetic.

Is homosexuality genetic?  We have successfully treated it, which makes the assumption that it is a disease.  Let me clarify:  in every neurosis there is a detour or a dysfunction of certain biologic and neurologic elements.  Sometimes it feminizes the man.  I have cited many animal studies to support this view, and the fact that with no special intent we have altered this tendency in only some patients.  As the sexual apparatus begins to mature, there can be experience  that changes the sexual orientation.  Yes, but my patients say, but I have felt this way all of my life. And I say, I agree but the dysfunction may largely predate memory and verbal explanation.  In other words the changes can begin in the womb and accumulate during the birth process and for a few years afterwards.  I have no stake in whether it is genetic or not, but experience dictates to me the experiential factors that may play a role, and only in some cases.  After all, we do not treat every homosexual patient for his or her sexual orientation; most do not want to change sexual orientation at all, but simply want to get rid of their depression, anxiety or anger.  We do not dictate what aspect is to be treated. The patient dictates and we follow. In the cases of change we never started out to change any orientation; it came as a surprise.  When this happened I asked a female patient what will you do now with your lover?  She said we won’t be lovers but we will be close friends, just as we always have.  I should add that without descending down deep in the brain where the imprinted culprit lives, it is most often impossible to change anyone in any profound way.

All this is a way of saying "chacun sa vie",  everyone his own life and chooses how she or he wants to live it.  I have no grand scheme for anyone, and no special style of life for anyone.  If they want to start college, that is fine.  If they don’t, that is also fine.  It is their life and not mine to direct it.  I never tell them they should get married or divorced.   When they get themselves back they will decide, usually wisely.   What a relief for me and my therapists, and what a relief for patient who does not need to follow anyone’s dictates.   Not to have to live up to anyone else’s values or desires.   Everyone relax!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Let's Pay Attention to Evolution to Find Out Who We Are

I have been looking over some animal research on evolution.  There are literally thousands of studies but two stood out for me.  The first, done in the early twentieth century, and the second very recently.

In Russia, mid 20th century they took a group of wolves who generally remain wolves throughout their lives and do not change easily into pussy cats, and selected out those who were most gentle when approached.  They were raised with care and gentleness as you would a dog. Guess what happened in one lifetime?  They became dogs.  They had a different coat, many different colors and shades, their hormones and bone structure was different, their behavior tame and playful, and above all,  they looked like dogs with the same hair and faces.  They had changed biologically in every way.

Second research:  they took a group of fish and lowered the water level for them until they needed to walk rather than swim.  They became almost bipeds.  Their feet and bone structure changed and little by little they could live on land. They already had some capacity for breathing, however.  But in both cases we can see evolution at work, and at work rapidly.

Now let us look at us.  Early life in the womb begins to inform us about the world we live in, and more importantly, the world we can expect to live in.  And what do we do?  We begin to adapt; we change in every way.  If the mother is highly anxious and fearful, the boy can expect fear in his life and adapt to block  too much input.  He could be hyper to deal with that fear and danger and be wary and cautious at all times.  Other factors during that time will shape who he is.  If the mother who is carrying is highly depressed, the child may expect a sullen world, absent of joy and enthusiasm, who needs much stimulation to get going and seems motivation-less.  His physiology is low and slow, low body temp, blood pressure and heart rate.  He has been transformed into a biologic parasympath. (The parasympathetic nervous system will change its function and come to dominate). He will not be a self-starter; not because of heredity but because of what very early experience has done to change him.  It is the same principle with the fish and the wolves. Early experience does change us in many ways.  We become different.

Evolution should tell us that the same early experience that made wolves into dogs can make us into different kinds of human beings.  It governs our future behavior, our ideas and our possible illnesses.  Those rare humans reared in the jungle with no human contact do not learn to speak and react as we do.  We are pliable early on, so when the mother is a certain way while carrying, the child changes to adapt to this key early environment.  And that adaptation remains in force for life.  We are learning how to get along, how to live with others, whether to be afraid or suspicious, whether to approach or retreat.  We have learned what kind of world we can expect and be ready for it.  Only that may not be the way the world really is; only a different version of it. And so one maladapts, living out his past world in the present; also called “neurosis”. He misinterprets because his view of the world is very skewed.  And his physiology becomes neurotic too, to accommodate his early warped life.  Allergies, high blood pressure, migraines are some of the results we see; and we change when we return to those early months.  We don’t necessarily have an awareness of these depths but they are dredged up as we plunge deeply into the brain and its depths; a process known as resonance. Where each brain level is connected to a higher level, each level sharing information in its own "patois" to levels above.  That is how feelings become transformed into ideas.  Feelings await the development of the neo-cortex before provoking ideas, just as happened in ancient evolutionary times. Once ideas are in place that can be suffused and altered by feelings.  We don’t speak English, we speak feelings that long ago predated English.  We give those feelings a name.

My point in all this is that pain and healing are one.  We cannot have healing without the pain laid down very early in the development of consciousness. Those who have never had that experience, which is most of us, will never know who lies deep inside.  That means that those doing psychotherapy will never plumb the depths necessary for healing. If we want to be whole we must bring all levels of brain function, all levels of consciousness together.  I am not sure that we can make dogs into wolves again, but happily, we can go back and be what we were meant to be if we visit ancient times and ancient levels of consciousness.  Despite Mindfulness and other such nonsense, the neo-cortex alone can never get us there.  It wasn’t designed to reach deep into our biology.  Mental tricks are just that, tricks to fool our system. They do not endure  and make no permanent changes.  They are games perpetrated in lieu of proper scientific therapy.  It is not the memory of pain I am discussing, but the experience of it. That experience is deep inside us.  It will not come to us, except for the use of LSD; we need to meet it; to travel downward and feel what lies there waiting to get out and be liberated.  And the minute we experience it we at the same time liberate it.  What a relief!


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.