To my bloggers:

My article on Epigenetics and Primal Therapy will appear in the Activitas Nervosa Superior (ANS), a journal for neurocognitive research of the World Psychiatric Association ( I will also publish it on my blog as a series over a month or two, as it is 80 pages long. It is the most important article I have ever written and I hope it will change the science of psychotherapy; this is, begin to turn it into a real science.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My War Years

This is a dialogue about my war years:

Art: There was a guy called Larry Allred and the dangerous part of war was what I didn't realize until the last week, was he and I were on a troop ship with 500 troops going to war and going to Europe and  German submarines were everywhere shooting down and torpedoing our boats, but he and I never talked about it, we never even were afraid. And he was a tough guy, a very tough guy. So I got off the ship, I went to a commando center, in the south of France, and he became the Admiral's driver, in London. So I went to visit him and while I was there, I, it was just before and after the blitz, there were bombs everywhere and rubble everywhere. Anyway, he and I and his girlfriend slept together; we didn't make anything of it, it was just like, this was war and we were all just pals, you know.  It was a very different atmosphere. So I lost touch with him for a long time and one day, twenty years later I called, and I said, how are you doing Larry Alread? And I said, Larry, how are you doing? He said, Fine, da da da, and I said listen, I've got to go back to work now, but I'll leave you my number and you can call me. He said, I can't. I said, Why can't you? He's a tough guy now don't forget. He says, I'm blind. And instead of saying to him, why are you blind, was it the war, what happened? I just hung up I was so shocked.  And then I read his obit, two days ago, and that he had Alzheimer's, he died of Alzheimer's, but it didn't say he was blind and I don't even know if he came out of it or what. But he was my war pal, and we were, in all the battles that I was in, the worst was being chased by German submarines because they were after us night and day and we had warning signals, they had destroyers around us at all times, circling us, going this way while we were going that way, and you know, it was harrowing because they had blown up a million troop ships, you know, they were circling cause we were the guys that were going to fight them, so, and eventually I got ready to fight them with the Rhine crossing, we crossed the Rhine and  went into Germany to fight em, anyway, that's another story. So I lost Larry, and I never followed up, and a lifetime passed, and I never knew what happened to him or why, I mean, except that he died of Alzheimer's and then I don't know what happened in the war, we lived in, he lived in, he had an office at a very luxurious hotel in London because he was the Admiral's driver. But then we had a little place just outside of London, I forgot the name of it, but I used to live there, I forgot the name of it, and he had a gorgeous girlfriend, and they had sex, while I was sleeping, but nothing was ever made of anything, there was no morality, no moral stuff, it was just life is what it was.

David: You were trying to get through the war.

Art: Yeah, that was just my life with Larry, and here he's dead, most of my guys on my ship are dead and I'm still here, but life is short, man, and that's the sum total.

Art: Now Dwight Eisenhower, he used to say, he wasn't very bright, but about these things he was very bright, and he said you can never recapture the atmosphere of war, never recapture the atmosphere of war.  And it's so true because everything during the war was so different, so different, and everything had an urgency about it, you know, and I mean, I was in many many battles, and I never even knew I was going to die, I mean, until a guy who came aboard my ship to driver food and chocolate. , I was in the Aleutians where it was like 50 below, and we were chased by Japanese submarines, again would you believe, this time Japanese not German, and they would wait, we had iron gates on the battleship, we had iron gates in front of us so that Japanese submarines could not get at us. And then we had to wait for our dash time, so we could get out of there and try and come back to Japanese torpedoes and we had destroyers to help us pave the way and get us out of there, and then we chased the Japanese fleet all the way back to Japan. But before we did that we had two battles, one in Kiska and one in Attu, and I remember the one in Attu, the fog was so thick you could maybe see three or four inches before your nose but that was it. But we'd hear a bang and they were setting off canons, and then we'd hear a splash, but we never knew where it was coming from or where it was going. So the terror of waiting for each of their big bombs, you know, and not knowing where they were going, was very very disconcerting, to say the least. And then we got up there and they forgot to send us foul weather here, would you believe, so we're 50 below zero, I'm wearing towels to keep myself warm. And then what happened after that? We had two sea battles, oh we chased  the Japanese fleet and that night we came back and went straight down to the Pacific for a bunch of other battles we had. The worst one was Tarawa. That was a very famous one, we were the first ship in, and they wiped out a whole platoon of US soldiers because they were hiding behind certain barriers that we couldn't see, and then they opened up on the soldiers and hundreds of em died, and they were floating in the water, and stuff, you know, it was just terrible. But I wasn't old enough, I wasn't human enough, to understand where it all ends.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Epigenetics and Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis (Part 12/20)

On the Breakdown of Our Adaptive Capacity

Some time ago I wrote about how it is the unrelenting input of pain that taxes our ability to adjust and adapt, causing a breakdown of this capacity. The result is a scrambling of our brain cells and a collapse of our ability to cope. It can lead to early psychosis or mental insufficiency. What does this mean?

For the answer, we must look not only to our clinical experience but also to the latest in brain science. In a recent study, entitled “Epigenetic changes in the developing brain: Effects on behavior,” researchers from Rockefeller University in New York and the University of Cambridge in England looked at how methylation works to stamp in painful memory and imprint it (Keverne, Pfaff & Tabansky, 2015). When you block methylation you prevent the nerve cells from adapting to changes in their environment. It becomes maladaptive. New learning cannot take place without successful epigenetic programming. And this makes me wonder about the insidious effects of this process when so many orphan children cannot learn well, suffer from dyslexia and are slow to form sentences. When there is day-in day-out neglect, indifference and lack of love, deep damage occurs and the ability to adapt falters.

The researchers noted that there are adverse effects on the feeling/hippocampus areas. In short, chronic unrelenting pain overtaxes the native ability to adjust, and we see the results. On the feeling level the person claims, it is all too much. He gives up easily and cannot try hard to succeed. The schizophrenic does not explain it verbally but he lives it. He needs help to navigate his daily life. He cannot adapt to new circumstances. This is the extreme breakdown of adaptation. This is because the adaptation mechanisms help us evolve and deal with different circumstances. They are crucial for our evolution. We can take minor setbacks, such as being left alone for a day or two, but being isolated for long periods damages our ability to adapt.
If we look for confirmation of all this in hard science, it is there. Researchers from The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston discuss cancer in terms of methylation. Their surprising findings are described in an article entitled “Disorder in gene-control system is a defining characteristic of cancer,” posted on the website of the Dana-Farber teaching and research center affiliated with Harvard Medical School(18). Their conclusion: “The behavior of a cancer cell is dictated not only by genetics – by the particular set of mutated genes within it – but also by epigenetics, the system for controlling the expression of genes,” states Catherine Wu, M.D., a lead author of the study.

Scientists know that cancerous tumors are made up of a variety of genetic mutations within many different subgroups of cells. In this study, Wu explained, researchers wanted to find out if cancer’s inherent genetic diversity was matched by a corresponding epigenetic diversity. At first, the scientists expected to find a systematic match between the genetic and epigenetic changes; in other words, they thought the genetic diversity in the tumor would be mirrored in the range of methylation patterns. Instead, researchers were surprised to find methylation patterns with a great deal of random disarray. “
In fact, disorderly methylation pervades the entire tumor," stated Alexander Meissner of the Broad Institute who joined the research team.

The findings, published online in the journal Cancer Cell, revealed that this disarray in methylation is one of the defining characteristics of cancer (Landau et al., 2014). And counter-intuitively, rather than presenting a problem for the disease, researchers theorize that the random disruption of methylation might help tumors survive and even thrive by increasing their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. "Cancer survives through some wildly inventive ways,” Wu concludes. “Methylation disorder is one of the ways it creates the conditions that enable it to adapt."

What I am positing is that Primal imprints are heavily responsible for this epigenetic tumult and disarray, since the entire adaptation process has broken down. Under normal conditions, as I have noted, methylation is part of the natural order of things; it is a key adaptive mechanism. And what I believe is that, in some ways, it gets scrambled and can no longer do its job. It has lost its cohesion. Further, I think the origins of so many catastrophic diseases arise from this disorganization, which is why it is so difficult to treat. The Boston researchers found, for example, that certain leukemia patients had shorter remissions if their tumor tissue showed signs of highly disorganized methylation, which actually benefits the tumors by rendering them less vulnerable to anti- cancer drugs. In other words, the random derangement of the methylation process can make the disease harder to treat.

One final note on this important research. The researcher from the Broad Institute, which is associated with both Harvard University and MIT, helped develop the technique to measure this deregulation, using a process known as bisulfite sequencing to track the presence or absence of methyl groups at specific rungs on the DNA ladder. He and his colleagues also devised a simple measure they call, PDR (Percent Discordant Reads), to quantify deranged methylation. I consider this a major step in epigenetic research, which suggests that soon we may be able to quantify the degree of physical and emotional damage to a human being, and ultimately, the degree of resolution we achieve in a feeling therapy. We are rapidly getting the tools to achieve our aims.

In my opinion, the dangerous time for unceasing pain that threatens the adaptation process is in the womb during gestation. Here, the chronic smoking, drinking or pill-taking of the mother, or her continuous depression or anxiety states, become inescapable from the fetus and he suffers. It is ultimately imprinted and endures throughout life. It is as if he lived in a straight jacket for nine, agonizing months and could find no way to stop the input. He goes to a doctor and the doctor asks, “Any stress lately?” Yes, there is stress, but decades before anyone, including the patient, can even remember it. So he shakes his head and says, “Everything has been OK for some time now.” Those imprints are shouting in the only way they can, through the physical system – migraines, asthma, anxiety, depression, and on and on. He just cannot get comfortable in his skin, because just below that skin is a mountain of hurt and agitation that won’t let him relax. Why agitation? Because the pain is sending a message to awareness that there is serious trouble down below. Alas, there is no one to listen. And even if they could, they could not translate that message because – and this is all-important– it is not in English. It is in a wholly different brain language where words do not exist. We have to travel with the patient to the inner depths and see for ourselves. And there it is, the agony is right before our eyes: The suffocation, the shortness of breath, the misery on the face. All finally observable signs that answer the question, “What is wrong with me?"

Epigenetic science can help explain all this. Methylation is the agent for repression, which in turn prevents the person from putting away the pain and moving on. Certain switches turn on and off to accommodate the painful intrusion; when it gets to a certain level there is a breakdown of its efforts and “normal” adaptation is no longer possible. The result: abnormality in physical development and psychological adjustment. The person can no longer be neurotically normal. There is now serious pathology which endures. The imprint literally lasts a lifetime with the person all the while trying to get normal, in and out of mental hospitals, seeing this doctor or that psychiatrist, and all to no avail. They will not respond to current treatment efforts because that is not where the damage lies. It is locked up with the epigenetic switches that were overwhelmed early on and no longer function properly. They almost don’t know what to turn on or off. They are as helpless as the patient because they are far out of reach of understanding. Alas, he is condemned.

But there is a way out. If he can travel back in time with us toward the buried vestiges of the imprinted pain and connect with the Primal feeling we can commute the sentence. Because then the epigenetic switches can be reversed and a salubrious state can be achieved. What does this mean? That soon, we will be able to go back down the feeling chain from current to past imprints, observe how deep the pain is by its methyl traces and know where to go for the least dangerous pains first. That feeling those painful buried feelings in sequential order from current to remote past so as to finally resettle the methylation process; that is, to normalize the biochemistry and allow the genetic switches to normalize so that they can do their job of adaptation.

18 "Disorder in Gene-control System Is a Defining Characteristic of Cancer, Study Finds." Dana-Farber Cancer Institute | Boston, MA. December 8, 2014. gene-control-system-is-a-defining-characteristic-of-cancer-study-finds.aspx.

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.