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

Saturday, November 8, 2008

On Why we Can't Express our Feelings

Having feelings and expressing them are two different animals; and I choose those words carefully because having feelings means having access to the feeling structures of the limbic system in the brain. Expressing feelings means access to the thinking neocortex. The only time expressing feelings is important is if the state of having feelings precedes the expression of them. Then the comprehension is an evolutionary outgrowth of those feelings.

Unfortunately, when I was doing insight/psychoanalytic therapy I thought that expressing feelings in a session was tantamount to having them. Not the case. In fact, too often expressing feelings can act as a defense against experiencing them; smothering feelings in a flurry of abstract ideas. When I say “it is two different animals,” it literally is: the primate (monkey) feeling brain versus the human thinking one. Animals feel even when they have no means to expressing them.

I have been writing about this for the last forty years, and just now, new research is coming to the fore to verify this. Early on I posited the notion that one aspect of expressing feelings was the proper connection between the right and left brain hemispheres. Now it turns out that this is basically true; (see Science Daily, May 27, 2008. “Why Are Some People Unable to Express Their Emotions.”) Italian investigators have found that there is a deficit in interhemispheric transfer with those who cannot express their feelings. What that means is that the feelings lying on the right lower brain do not make the trip across the corpus callosum (where emotional information is transferred from one side to the other) to the left understanding, comprehending verbal side. Since eighty percent of all emotional information cross the corpus callosum from one side to the other, it seems logical that there is one key locus for the problem of alexithymia, or the inability to express emotions. It seems obvious now that for help in expressing true feelings one needs access to right side lower brain sites. It does not help to engage oneself in a therapy that is primarily intellectual; an interaction through the realm of ideas. Expressing feelings in words is not feeling those feelings. One can express feelings precisely but cannot necessarily feel them. What is required is a therapist who has access to her feelings and who can know when someone has access or not. So we need a therapy of feeling; one that takes feelings into account, and just as important, a psychological theory based on need.
What seems to be the problem is a dysfunctional cortical frontal-limbic circuits. In particular, the orbitofrontal area. As I have written elsewhere the right orbitofrontal area (behind the orbits of the eye) contains a map of our emotional life and emotional history. It is internally oriented. The left, on the other hand, is externally focused. It is interesting that panic attacks often accompany this condition (alexithymia). These attacks usually emanate from deep in the brain (the brain stem) and are associated with trauma in the first few months of gestation.

A new study (Brain’s Gray Cells Appear to be Changed by Trauma of Major Events. Science Daily June 4, 2008) indicates something I have maintained for decades: “ This suggests that really bad experiences may have lasting effects on the brain.” I believe that the earlier the trauma, (especially during gestation) the more widespread and long-lasting the effects. It seems that the set-points for many physiologic functions are established in gestational life. These dislocations of function remain fixed and unalterable; whereas trauma after birth can often be compensated for. In short, there is a permanent deficit in gray matter when traumas occur while we are being carried in the womb.

We can’t get well just expressing our feelings; we can only get well by experiencing them.

3 comments:

  1. Im about to leave my relationship. The reason is because of my partners inability to express himself emotionally.Plus he is an alcoholic. My gut sense is that he has experienced some sort of trauma eg sexual abuse as a child and he has employed a mechanism of protecting himself by not having feelings. I thought he was such a "nice man" because we never quarrelled or had conflict but then neither did I experience fun happy positive emotions either. I suspect that he drinks in order to "feel a buzz" or numb whatever he is holding inside. He is a really intelligent man but cannot communicate if you know what I mean. I wish I had a key to figure him out but I cant. I feel really bored in this relationship. Anway just thought Id post this and see what your thoughts are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, you just explained my relationship! I had to leave the guy. Although, he expressed himself when he was drunk, now I helped him get sober, and he was unable to express his feelings while he became sober. My man was very intelligent too, but unable to communicate. Why stay in it? I left him, even though it broke my heart. I became bored. We need more than that.

      Delete
  2. Dizzylizzy: Since I don't know him, your observation is better than mine. But there are many blogs on my blog and you can find at least 10 on relationships, also try my new book Life Before Birth; it explains a lot. art janov

    ReplyDelete

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Yahoo News!

Arthur Janov Suggests that Stress During Pregnancy Leaves a Distinct Cellular Imprint that Predicts Mental Illness and Serious Disease


In his new book, 'Life Before Birth' (NTI Upstream, Nov. 2011), Arthur Janov makes the case that events during pregnancy and the first years of life leave a distinct cellular imprint that predicts mental illness and serious disease.



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
About our Therapy

Our therapy is constantly evolving. If a therapist has not had additional training in the past 3-5 years she is not up to date. The basic principles are the same but the actual therapy has taken a radical turn. It is much more precise, predictable and mathematical in practice. We have tried to tighten up what we do in keeping with current neurology and physiology. It is a constant learning experience. It is finally for the well-being of the patient who now has a much better chance of doing well. Yes, it was good before, but there is less time wasted now because the techniques are honed and the theory takes on more and more precision. We see patients from some thirty countries in the world, each with different cultures. It is up to us to continue the refining process so that the patient has the best chance of improving.

Training in Primal Therapy

The clear understanding and application of the theoretical and clinical aspects of Primal Therapy are essential in order to provide effective therapy. Citing the most current findings from the field of neurology, trainees will learn the role that the physiology of the brain plays in the shaping of mental illness. The training will thoroughly examine the scientific basis for Primal Therapy and discuss the unique clinical approaches employed in the treatment of various emotional and personality disorders.
For our first year students, the training will entail extensive work in the understanding of the basis for Primal Therapy. On the theoretical level, there will be an examination of issues that range from the nature of the unconscious to the nature of traumatic imprints and their lifelong effects on physical and mental health. On the clinical level, trainees will have the opportunity to learn proper diagnostic and therapeutic procedures as they relate to Primal Therapy.
Furthermore, first year students will be mentored by our third year students in order to ensure that the key concepts in Primal Therapy are clearly understood. There will be an extensive library of training notes and taped lectures from the past two years available as well.
For our second year students, the training will provide a unique and varied opportunity to gain more clinical experience. Through closely supervised clinical sessions, trainees will gain a deeper understanding of the various applied therapeutic methods and hone their skills as future therapists. In addition, second year trainees will have the opportunity to work with first year students thru discussion groups, tape reviews, and clinical sessions.
Our third year students will continue to hone their clinical skills through a rigorous series of didactic clinical sessions. These sessions will be video taped and will be reviewed by Dr. France Janov and our senior therapists.
Dr. Janov’s books have been translated in some 26 languages, have been bestsellers in many countries, and his theory is taught at many universities. He has combined decades of clinical practice with the latest in research. It is the therapy of the future.

To apply, please visit our website at http://www.primaltherapy.com/primal-center-application.php and select the ‘trainee’ option when filling out the questionnaire. For further information, please feel free to call us us at (310) 392-2003 or email us at
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We look forward to another exiting year of training. We hope you will join us.

My best,

Dr. Arthur Janov
Founder & Director