Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Most of our Lives is a Rationale For The Imprint.

We think we are rational beings driven by rational thoughts toward rational ends, but we are basically irrational beings driven toward a rationale, and that rationale is to justify the fact that we are being driven beyond our control.

Let’s start with the imprint. There are events very early in life, even while being carried in the womb that are engraved into the total system—blood, muscle, joints, brain and nerves. They happen when certain needs must be fulfilled and are not. How we react to that event becomes a prototype and determines our reactions, in part, thereafter. The prototype is an adaptive mechanism in the service of survival. It endures because it is the first major adaptation in life and helped us live. To do that there had to be compensatory behavior, dislocations of function that also endures. The dislocations endure as a necessity for the fact that the imprint is indelibly impressed into the whole system. So, for example, the serotonin inhibitory system may be compromised, and becomes deficient. Or the thyroid secretion may be diminished. There is always a compensation and dislocation, and that occurs in the most vulnerable areas, places where genetics may play a part. The imprint prevents the physiologic system from functioning normally, all because basic need is not fulfilled. When there is insufficient oxygen in the womb or at birth it is impressed. And when all that occurs before birth the dislocation of function will endure for a lifetime; the pre-birth system is not equipped to make up for lacks. The post-birth system is.

Now the imprint, by defintion is early and remains in the deep unconscious. Yet it has the force of survival. A pretty hefty force. What it does is create behavior, external (acr-out) and internal, (act-in) that still attempts fulfillment of those basic needs. That is why we are driven by it. And we need to make those behaviors rational; hence we develop rationales for what we do. Remember that I wrote about an experiment where in a split brain experiment the scientist input stimuli on the right side. The left brain had no idea what had happened yet to justify his behavior he needed to develop a rationale: “I am laughing because of your funny white coat.” That is the basic paradigm I am discussing. We have input from the right brain input (the emotional brain stores many of our imprints). Then due to repression and the inability to access our feelings we need to “explain” our beliefs and behavior. Once we get access to that brain we are no longer driven by the unconscious and are finally in control of ourselves.

Example: during the birth process there is no help. The baby is drugged by the anesthesia given to the mother and cannot help out to get born. It is “all too much”---the imprint. Even when there are no words to describe it is still imprinted. Much later when we have words and concepts we will put an explanation to it; but it will always be inadequate because until we arrive there we have no real idea what the feeling is that is driving us. Later, with parents who won’t help the child, who drive her to accomplish and do, the feeling is reinforce—there is no help. The feeling is also, “I have to do it all on my own.” It seems “right” to the person not to ask for help (and therefore not to get it). Not asking for help means “doing it all on my own.” And this is due to a feeling and need that is unconscious, deeply buried out of sight of conscious/awareness. Another example: a pregnant mother is depressed and drinks coffee constantly during pregnancy. She is low on many of her hormone levels. The baby is being over-stimulated. He cannot combat this input: “nothing I can do will make a difference.” At birth being drugged by painkillers given to the mother and again, “nothing I do will make a difference,” In college he drops out because it is too much and it seems like no matter what he does it is not enough. This has been compounded by parents who never praise, always criticized, and the child cannot please no matter what he does. He gives up easily because at birth the drug stopped all efforts; later he gave up because no one cared that he tried and did good, and now he is married to a hyper-critical wife who never lets up. She calls him a “loser.” He has no idea where the base of all this is; he just keeps giving up in the face of adversity, doesn’t even try for approval because inside he is sure it will never come. In a self- fulfilling prophecy he does become a loser. He is sexually impotent because the minute there is excitement he loses his drive and his will. Nothing he will do will turn out right. Total defeatism.

Another example: a child is born after a mad struggle to get out. He has learned aggression as a key mode of behavior. His passive parents give into him because he is so assertive. He takes on chores that are very heavy and he does not recognize real obstacles in his way. He does too much and does not know when to back off. To give up is to die, in his physiologic equation. He pursues a woman who really does not want him. He cannot see that because he has learned aggression as a survival technique. He thinks the woman just needs coaxing, but he does not know when to stop.

In these cases the left prefrontal area is just a large rationale-concocting apparatus to keep behavior ego-syntonic— comfortable to the self. It also keeps the feeling unconscious and unexamined.

A child with the same birth configuration as above is left feeling all alone—no one to help. His parents are emotionally distant and he learns to be alone. Right after birth there was a sick mother so that he was not cuddled right after birth. He grows feeling alienated, keeps himself removed from others and doesn’t notice his isolation. He is acting-out “all alone.” The force comes from birth and before, the emotional focus comes from how life experiences channels him. He is slightly reserved and not cuddly, so he gets less love. He can rationalize this how he wishes but he is still victim of his imprint.

The imprint endures for a lifetime. It is stuck in the need— unfulfilled mode. It can only be undone when it is no longer useful. What does that mean? It means that so long as the load of pain is inordinate and needs repression the imprint goes on. But when we feel the original need in context with all of its emotional force it no longer serves any purpose and is done with. To get there we need to take a slow, orderly descent down to origins; but not before we have felt the top level portion of it. We need, in short, to feel and integrate the least noxious part of the feeling first. Third-line (current) pains are rarely if ever life-threatening. As we descend down the brain we come to pains, such as a lack of oxygen at birth, that are life endangering. If we go below that top level part and plunge into the lower level pains it will all be too much to integrate. Suppose we have a level ten childhood/infancy pain lying below a level ten adult-level pain. The level twenty is too much to integrate. But if we have felt the top level pain first and then go lower the overall level will not be too overwhelming. Whenever we try to relive very early pains without seeing what lies on top we are bound to fail. Our gating system is masterful; it allows us to feel just enough and not so much as to be shattering.

Our act-out is just as unconscious as the feeling living inside of us. We are driven by the imprint until we are free from it. Then we are in the driver’s seat. It is the difference between being driven and driving. We will no longer be passengers on our wordly peregrinations.


  1. This is another interesting example why Primal Therapy has many enemies. Scientifically it has put an end to autonomous man. Eccentricity and behaviors previously believed to be part of a mans character and free will are in reality just symptoms of pathology, caused by a lack of fulfillment of needs. Free will only allotted to lucky people of good circumstance.

  2. It makes so much more sense than just believing we have no options. When a parent understands these principles they are able to help the child overcome.


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

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.