Monday, August 24, 2009

On Connection (Part 3/6)

Connection cannot be achieved when the connecting cable (corpus callosum) has been impaired or thinned out due to early trauma. Once the event has been dissociated, the right lower brain areas have a “mind of their own.” That is, the energy of the pain innervates (lead to, connect to) the heart and key organs and begin their ever-so-subtle damage so that years later, there is a serious illness and no one seem to know where it comes from. Suddenly the person develops high blood pressure or heart palpitations, or worse, a stroke. Because the origin is so remote, one could never dream that it was due to a birth trauma. The treating doctor says, “Have you been under stress lately?” “Not that I know of.”

How can we speak to a brain that has as yet no words? And no comprehension. The suffering component of infancy has direct connections to key organs of the body governed by the right brain. The left brain insists that all is well while the right is sending messages to the lungs, immune system, circulatory system, and heart saying things are terrible. All done “sotto voce.” After all, it doesn’t want to be overheard by the left. Once the secret is out it has to be dealt with, and the left just cannot do it. The truth of the hurt is already out, only it is revealed indirectly through the organs. There is a pain in the gut or in the heart (ischemia, angina). These are the somatic aspects—fragments of the memory— of an overall pain imprint, which as yet is not conscious. And it is not conscious because it is overwhelming in its force. Remember that there are nerve fibers from lower down that impact the pre-frontal brain area that can and do change its structure and function, particularly the right frontal area. A Primal means putting it all together, connecting the various disparate symptoms into an overall whole.

In neurosis there is a different brain. UCLA neuro-psychologist Allan Schore believes that early trauma overrides genetics in our personal development, and I agree.

The reason for the descent down the chain of feeling to be orderly and methodical is that as we descend, the valence of the pain increases. Thus, in birth where death may have loomed, the pain is horrible. It should only be experienced after many lesser and later pains have been felt. If we try to get there with hallucinogens, for example, as some therapists have done, the result is often wild symbolism as the neocortex scrambles to circumscribe and contain it. If the therapist sees this as normal and even healthy, then all is lost because the patient is lost. He now lives in a labyrinth of convoluted ideas that have no relationship to internal reality. Instead of feeling that reality, he is encircled and dominated by it.
Early trauma impairs the proper evolution of the right brain so we later misperceive, cannot sense nuance, and over or under react. We cannot sense nuance because that is right brain, and we are disconnected from it. Thus there is a tendency to be literal and not see the implications in certain situations. Right brain impairment may also cause us to lose our ability to empathize because that too is right side. Anything that involves feeling, in short, is missing with disconnection. It is critical for a therapist to have right brain access, and even more importantly, to be right-left brain integrated. She must see beyond the words of the patient. Or more important, see beyond the words of a politician. The right brain senses insincerity.

In the example of the inability to wait, it is clear that unless we go all the way down the chain, we will not have complete resolution and change. If we relive the waiting in childhood (the need to go home after being in boarding school), we would resolve only a part of the trauma. There will still be an urgency about waiting but not so desperate as before. What gives waiting its life-and-death urgency is the birth trauma, which, indeed was a case of life and death. This is a general rule about any problem or act-out. The compulsive-obsessive aspect of it is largely driven by preverbal traumas, which are usually pure impulses. It is what makes sexual act-outs so difficult to treat. And unless a therapy arrives at the prototype, they will not be eradicated fully. The difficulty here is that first-line trauma underlying the act-out already has an urgency about it. The devilish aspect of this is that there is no way to go deep without first going shallow—no visiting the past without first dealing with the present. We must obey evolution, albeit evolution in reverse.


  1. Dear Dr. Janov,
    If the corpus callosum is thinned/damaged and the connection between right and left hemisphere is weekend/interrupted, can PT establish a reconnection?

    After I saw my MRI, I asked the neuro-surgeon if my corpus callosum appears normal/healthy. Unable to relate to the reason why I asked the question, or connect a damaged corpus callosum with early Trauma, he said yes.
    Who would be the right person to contact who is willing to take a look at my 92 MRI (CD) pictures.
    Thank you for your answers.

  2. Arthur
    I know it is as Henry Miller put it… but I also know there are an infinite number of people who wish to participate in primal therapy... an you know that… the problem is availability… people who would give everything... just got the slightest chance of understanding what primal therapy contains… you write “It is astounding to me how few are willing to put in the time to learn this therapy”… for me it is not the whole truth ... there are too many who do not know and who are prevented from knowing what primal therapy contains.
    People that enter into something as vital to others without knowledge is just that… without knowledge… no warning can help a child not trying to be loved… hold that against them… is impossible… I do not think it is strange for you... that morality would have such an effect is found not functioning… man shows again and again that no limits are enough to stop her from trying to be loved… how will people past failure that is bound to need… to be just incapable? So… is there any one to blame… except those who don’t know what they are doing?
    It needs to be done more but what?
    Frank Larsson

  3. Frank: You tell me. It certainly is not a secret. I wrote 15 books, scientific articles etc. So it is up to others to learn and adopt. art janov.

  4. SWA: any good neurologist and MRI center of which there are many. art janov I do not know where you are.

  5. Dear Arthur
    If we would know how near life and death we were at our birth... we would understand what the primal therapy has to offer... it is not difficult to understand the creation of heaven and hell… when something as close to life and death with that intensity color our lives… that many ignorant take on primal therapy where confusion has to find target... without insight… but with an energy that triggers the intellectual is only a consequence ...the accumulated tension must find goals to satisfy the concerns.
    Who can this be passed on to when the society is driven by people within the faculty of 'professional' who only "hear" what allays their concerns.
    We have nothing to surprise us... so close... yet so far away... that we sacrifice our lives ... how do we "understand" the child in us when all we do is to avoid it? Experience that… would have given us great experience... but was limited to avoid it.
    Experienced patients together with some primal therapist should provide a possibility spreading information worth a try… is there a possibility true the primal institute?
    Dr Geoffery said “Dr Janovs work is potentially amongst the most important of any research in any field over the past century” who can anyone put something so right… we must do all we can.
    Frank Larsson

  6. Hi doctor Janov!

    I have to tell you, that even tho I’ve only actually read “The New Primal Scream,” (due my lazy, perhaps neurotic relationship on reading books), your theory has opened a new chapter in my life. The time to come visit your center and relieve the feelings of frustration, fear and emotional unsatisfaction, is unfortunately not yet. I was first raised to the left-brain world of morals and symbols, which played a high number in my constant act-out struggling to get away from my sorrow; that was until couple years ago when one nowadays a good friend of mine interrupted me in my endless speculation. He helped me to retain a touch on my life and realized how close I really was to my feelings, but I didn’t notice them because of a certain reason:

    With a slight exception of me, my whole family are complete left-brainers, who have no connections on their past, some even in cognitive level and some in emotional level (which I would consider to be more a level reachable by the “right-brainers.”) I’m not sure about my brain-type (which I'd still consider to be “right-brain” due the emotional leaks that affect even my social life) and I haven’t seen myself fitting fully on all the personality splits you have explained in the Primal Scream (For instance: parasympath/sympath.) Not that I wouldn’t agree with the truth in your theory, I’m very certain that my environment holds me back in all the possible levels of “real” psychology, which I think your therapy is compared to those basic forms of therapy our society gives, that rely on “scientific research,” which basically is: “Regarding the latest mass-surveys made for people, who always tell consciously what they feel, blablabla…”.

    Tho they never reach a level that would be noticed as problem, I have imprints that might be very primal related or not and they’ve all been reinforced by traumatic events. Such are things as fear of the dark, slight sensations of cold even when it’s warm (and when I’m being anxious,) and many more. I had a quite fast birth according reliable sources and I’ve though if that could play a part in my morning-aggressive-wake-up temperament, which is something like: Eyes open -> a moment of breath -> and a quick jump out of bed. The heaviest trauma however seems to be the total controlling of me by my mother at the expense of my emotions and even my weak self-confidence (that surely hasn’t had any boost from my parents at any rate, tho all those empty praises they’ve tried to give me as “artificial respiration.”) My mother made me a child full of anxiety and social fears, because of her own critical events in early childhood. The love I had was dipoled, she threw me of and then comforted (thing that probably led to my contradictious personality.)

    I have had much help from my friend and I'm to continue this as a basic line of life I can rely on in every situation and I wish I could have more connection to my feelings. Problem is that I live in a widely collective family-society which has all it’s waits and limit’s which restrict the speed I’m already going. I hope I some day have all the strength to break over the borders and do as I desire, which is that I would like to attend the primal therapy. Dr. Janov, as I’ve been emotionally depressed since my childhood and I haven’t been able to get very strong connection to my feelings when I’ve had an (not at all primal) but therapeutic feeling sessions with my friend (that indicates that my context is only partially revealed), I wonder: If I could move out from home and break through the collective social web that is apparently my family, could I have stronger connection to my feelings and my depression eased?

    (About me? I’m a high-schooler reaching age of majority this year.)

    sincerely J. A.

  7. hey don't screw around. I think you think I will last forever. art janov

  8. "I won't last forever".

    You used that line on me, Art. I hope you're not dying, but if you are, I hope you have confidence in the primal therapists ability to carry on without you.

    And...don't work too hard.

  9. That's, by the way, a crucial and very essential point in many respects. Have you, Dr. Janov, discussed it at your Center that what the future of Primal Therapy will be like after your earthly era? Have you by today managed to train enough such therapists, so that even one of them (perhaps France) could take your position one day? (And not screw anything up and keep the strict scientificness still there.)

    It is important to have the center existing if offering correct PT, but of course if that is not the case, then alas.

    E. Kr.

  10. Fear not. My wife, Dr.France has absolutely mastered primal and won't allow anything to happen to it. art

  11. Richard: OK your obedient servant A.J

  12. Art, without meaning to sound morbid or humourous, I suggest when your time comes, you preserve yourself at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona. The technology has been refined so the damaging effects of ice formation has been dramatically reduced. The patient is vitrified to avoid ice formation and then stored inexpensively in liquid nitrogen.
    The technology required for future revival is not impossible.

    I am not obsessing about death and I am not frightened by the thought that you will die some day. I am giving you and others the suggestion because I think you might be open-minded enough to take the idea seriously.

    by the way, I'll be at the primal center as soon as I can (I'm not screwing around).

  13. I prefer death to purgatory, thank you very much. art janov


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.