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
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Sunday, May 24, 2015
There is a news story today about a writer who says he has always felt lonely, and no one has been able to solve it: he is at wits end. I will try to help understand it.
I have to take him at his word and believe what he means to say by lonely is feeling all alone. But feeling all alone, lonely, is not just a temporary state. It is something that never seems to stop, no matter what he does. So, I say to myself, “what makes someone feel lonely all of their lives?” Since I have been down to the lowest level of brain function, I have a good idea, and I shall share it. Left alone a lot during infancy and childhood certainly more deeply embeds the feeling and compounds the pain. But it is not always what makes it linger. It makes the feeling worst and more unbearable but the provenance is earlier, often much earlier. I know this from experience, as well as from observation.
So what could it be? What could make us feel so alone? It could be just after birth. When we enter this world, we are all alone, terrified in such a strange place, and no one is there; no one comes to soothe us. We feel isolated and ALONE. When you need a loving hand, when it is basically life and death; when it is as urgent as life itself. The baby cannot see a kind, caring face because he is being weighed, and “handled” by white coats done too often with a slight indifference. All is cold, unfeeling. He needs his mother’s closeness NOW!
But mother is sick and cannot attend to him. Or hospital rules demand that the baby not be placed right away on momma. They have to perform all sorts of ablutions first. Or that baby is soon put in some sort of basket or “holding cell.” When he needs touch and kisses. So what do we have? A room full of crying babies. And why do they cry? Because they are lonely and/or in pain. Babies are humans. Do we cry for no reason? Neither to they.
It is like asking if a crying baby should be picked up? If a friend were in pain would you hug and hold him? Of course.
I mention life and death because if the baby is immediately taken away for a time after birth, and placed by himself, the terror he may feel from the birth experience can be overwhelming. Then at 6 months of life he is put to bed, left alone in the dark with no parents around and the “all alone” terror mounts again. It is the compounding: feeling alone and terrified at birth reawakens the terror, and the system can’t take it. Death sometimes follows; it is all far too much……. Crib Death. Crib death tells us the power of terror inside. Or if he is placed in an incubator, again all alone and terrified, he will carry the terror and aloneness for a lifetime. Why for a lifetime?
Won’t he get over it? No. The feeling went on for so long and unrelenting, is so great and devastating that it cannot be fully repressed. It lingers as a pure state, gaining heft later on due to missing parents who work or party all of the time. He runs from being alone and makes up reasons why he needs to be with people and to keep busy. He needs distraction. He phones all of the time. He needs connection to others, and this again, comes from the continual lack of connection early on to himself and to parents. I mention “to himself” because terror during gestation already lays down the basis for disconnection from aspects of oneself. That means alienation from the pain. Those defenses are already in place in gestation. He no longer has all of himself.
The critical period for fulfillment is the neuro-biologic time frame when needs must be fulfilled. It is biologically circumscribed and allows for no deviation. Fulfillment is urgent to calm and soothe the newborn child. If not, then the feeling is imprinted for life because the child is becoming overwhelmed with the need for and lack of, hugs and kisses: but no one comes.
All the mélange of feelings involved in the imprint remain thrusting toward the top level consciousness for connection. Why do they move forwards and upwards? Connection means ultimate surcease and resolution. The brain knows that. Why don’t we? Alas, it is not to be because the pain/terror is so great that it cannot be repressed. Nor can it be felt, integrated and be done with.
We carry it along for a lifetime; even in a crowd one feels lonely and all alone. We find ways to handle it, and what does it involve? Pushing it back and down. The person often feels alienated, and distant. He looks and acts as if he lives in another world. He does, only he doesn’t know it. He lives in a world of aloneness and loneliness. He is dogged by those unrelenting feelings. The feeling, so devastating is unyielding. It is imprinted and embedded and has a life all of its own. It has hegemony even over what is going on in current life. So even in a happy feast he feels down. He cannot feel happy until he really feels. What? What is dragging him down: the imprint.
Why hegemony? (Hey if I never use good, big words, I will be dumbing down everyone, including me). Because it is so purely gated due to its load of pain that it is ever-present, even when no one knows what “IT” is.
We need to know about one of my primary concepts; that once the brief critical period is over, no fulfillment can fill the gap. No jollying him. Every single fulfillment becomes symbolic and unfulfilling. And hence requires more and more attempts. And then the person goes to therapy and gets hugs from groups members and feels soooo goood. Alas, sadly, it cannot last. The system allows no substitutes. It is either the real thing, a warm hug at the critical time, or nothing.
Yet, wow, hugs to stop the aloneness feels so good; it is addicting. Oh yes, so are drugs that ease the pain. I reported on one of my patients who needed constant sex; nymphomania. Only it was not that all. She was not sex-crazed. She was “being held” crazed. She was obsessed as she should have been because she desperately needed touch. Not a cause for opprobrium. (Oh my, those big words). It was all compounded and made urgent because in her childhood she was never held or touched.
So years in therapy this woman was trying to feel loved. Holy Sh…., is that the job of therapy? The warm and fuzzy doctor is to no avail because he deals in ideas not emotions. Besides, no one can love neurosis away. Why? Because we can never abrogate the critical period. (Jesus, Janov. stop with the big words!! OK, aj).
You see, biology knows little of compassion. It says, “I know you need hugs but it is far too late. Sorry.” The critical period is attached to and depends on, the duration of the critical need. It is often a short time. A newborn does not have a great margin of error. He needs love right away. When he is hungry he needs to eat, and when he is lonely he needs love. It cannot be given on our timetable; only on his.
We have found that any lingering feeling may have the same origin, or often, deeper. Some patients feel empty or unfulfilled as a chronic state. Look again at early life. Because unlike most other feelings, those occurring so, so early stay with us for life. That is to say, the memories are there to remind us what lies deeper, and needs to be resolved. They are poorly gated, and therefore haunt us.
You know about my concept of resonance; how there is a linkage among all strata of levels of consciousness that ties similar memories together and ties the ensemble to higher levels of brain function. That is why feeling down and lonely in therapy, over time, can drag the person back to the times when it was traumatic. Then begins the process of Primal Therapy; the voyage to the deep interior….where freedom and surcease lie.
What seems to rise for connection in therapy is the raw unadulterated feeling, bereft of its context and origin, That is why it is such a constant mystery. It has no adorned accouterments loaded with key information as to what it really is. “I feel so alone all of the time.” This is what I mean; no idea of where it all comes from. And that is why with connection the whole panoply of the feeling arises and helps us know what the feeling is all about and how it got started. So what does connection mean? As the patient descends to deep levels of consciousness over months in therapy he will arrive (add “she” if you want), at a weird sensation of being all alone, especially if he came in depressed and feeling all alone. That feeling, when he has deeper access, will carry him back to origins and will be resolving. That takes time. But the feeling is finally felt and is integrated; no longer hanging out there like some alien force cause damage. Remember, feelings carry us back, not admonishments from a therapist. If we obey the doctor we are done for. He can never know what is our unconscious. He is not a fount of wisdom despite the warm and fuzzy demeanor, drenched with a security of his knowledge which too often is absolute.
Why resolving? Because it is the raw feeling that climbs the chain of pain to bug us incessantly for life. Feeling it fully over time, months, finally lays it bare, and puts an end to and depression. Remember, it lingered because it could never be successfully repressed due to its load of pain. Its time has come. Aah!
We need to dredge up the original trauma and all of its original reactions within the early time frame and within the critical period, and then we find resolution. There is no other solution except to go back in time; back to our early history where feelings will come up raw again, but now we know what it is and can make the final connection. It needs conscious awareness, at last.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
I am going to depart from science on this one and tell you about my intuition and instincts. As I grow older, and I cannot get a whole lot older, I see memory loss among my friends. It is often considered a sign simply of old age but maybe there is something else.
We have to go back a long way in our lives to see the brainstem imprints but are often there but are surmounted by defenses and busy work and ignorance and denial. But there is no denying an imprint; it is locked-in and deeply embedded exerting its influence deep in the subconscious without our knowing it ("à notre insu"). But what seems to me is that it rises as a resonant wave, not as a specific memory (unless there is full access), and floods the cortex imperceptibly. It goes on with the flooding, pervading memory cells which barely register the influence but register it does. As the decades roll by and we are also flooded with other traumas, divorce, deaths, loss of job, etc., so that the input is compounded until some neural cells give way and memory falters. Then we scramble to find solutions: vitamins, exercises, special learning and memory classes, and so on. But the causes need to reach back to the dinosaur brain which does not offer up its secrets carelessly.
Now, the second aspect of this compounding is any long-term anesthesia (over 3 hours) where the brain is shut down for protracted periods. I have seen enough of this to see memory problems lasting months and years. If there is any way to avoid this please do. There is a spinal or other options that avoid cortical brain cell suppression. Perhaps there is no alternative in special cases, but this is a warning sign. We are shutting off the function of a key organ, the brain, and we need to do that with caution.
Oh yes! Did I leave out something critical? Yes I did? A lifetime of drinking, smoking and drugging all of which suppress aspects of cortical function. Now we add this to the mix and we can’t miss; memory deficit and incipient dementia. But let’s call it what it is: a lifetime of fooling around with the brain, especially alcohol, and expecting the brain system to go on working just right. Nope. It won’t and it can’t. It suffers but it cannot scream. The person will do that when we comes to our therapy.
OH my! Did I leave out something else? Yes I did. Any suicide attempt compromises limbic/feeling function and cortical efficiency. Shutting down the brain again. And what does a lifetime of taking tranquilizers do? Shut down oxygen supplies and eventually damage nerve cells; I mean, how much can they take? And don’t forget, the pain that is wafting up is from archaic traumas often involves oxygen deprivation. A mother smoking, for example. Ayayay. How can we win? We can’t.
So we now have a mélange of factors; a constant input of activation from stored pain deep in the brain, plus a repressive input from anesthesia, together with compounding from various adult adversities. Put them all together they don’t spell MOTHER, they spell brain dysfunction. Let us not always look for immediate causes (proximal) to long-terms aggravations but consider history, first, last and always.
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.