Wednesday, February 10, 2010
On Vital Signs in Primal Therapy
For many years we have measured the vital signs of patients before and after each session and over the long term. Our results show a normalization after one year of the therapy (when we took the final measurements). Of course, when we measure vital signs we are measuring vital functions; those functions that keep us alive and allow us to survive. When any of them exceed normal limits we are in trouble. Whether too low a blood pressure or too high a heart rate or a continual body temp far over normal range, the minute we are dislocated one way (high) or the other (low) the body is telling us that something is wrong. And it tells us in what way is something wrong, and sometimes even why, if we know how to read the signs. Over the years when these signs are excessive we can almost be sure that disease will occur early in life, followed by life threatening illness later in life. It is ineluctable.
These vital signs mean vitality. And they reflect our imprints quite accurately. They also reflect what nervous system is in charge and is dominant. We know, for example, that many vital functions are either controlled by one of two nervous systems mediated by the hypothalamus. I thought for some time that the parasympathetic, that of rest, repair and repose, controlled body temp. But it may be that the direction of the dislocation depends on two different nervous systems. Thus, high is controlled by the sympathetic, the galvanizing, mobilizing, alerting system, while a swing to the low end is controlled by the parasympathetic. (This may also be true of the systolic and diastolic blood pressure). Thus, the direction tells us the kind of imprint we are dealing with. Today I heard from an epileptic, a breech birth, suffocating and strangling on the cord who had to conserve oxygen and energy to survive. His modus operandi was to hold back, not use energy. His imprint was parasympathetic, something that will dog him for a lifetime and determine his interests (writing), his non-interests (exercising), whom he marries (the aggressive one) and how he will treat his children (passively or with indifference). And that is not the half of it.
Now why all this? Because the very first life-saving effort becomes imprinted and remains as a guide for future behavior; what saved her life at the start will go on being utilized despite any reality to the contrary. Personality is formed out of this matrix and a certain biologic state. Of course, later experience helps shape it all, as well. But that first imprint is vital, in every sense of the word.
When patients come in for a session and we do measurements, we already have an idea of where we have to go. One of my depressives came in consistently with a very low body temp of 96 to 96.5. She was mired in hopelessness(and that low a measurement usually means first-line pain is involved). As our session went on (almost 3 hours each time), she started to normalize. That was important because a whole lifetime was wrapped around the vital functions. It wasn’t just the body temp that normalized but a whole host of biologic responses and personality features. Later on, she smiled, had energy and felt “up.” She could go seek a job, something she could not do previously. And of course, she never had enough money to buy proper food because she could not hold a job. A previous therapy informed her that hers was a “loser trip.” That didn’t help much except to put a label on her behavior. As she went on reliving the prebirth and birth traumas, a mother smoking and taking tranquilizers, suppressing her whole system, which was also imprinted, her body temp came up and stayed up to 98 degrees.
When a patient comes in with a very rapid heart rate and a brainwave signature of beta (very fast) our first job is to bring him into the feeling/primal zone. If we do not do that he remains above the primal zone. He will not feel and certainly not integrate. When the patient is too low the same law operates. We can only feel in the primal zone. We need to adjust medications to allow that to happen. We cannot and must not cajole a patient into trying to feel (and often the fast ones are also the tryers).
I believe that the parasympath operates on the low end of all vital signs. We can go to different doctors and be treated for a heart rate that is unsteady, another doctor for high blood pressure, and yet another for lack of energy. But the leader who sets the tone is the imprint. Unless we recognize this we will be bifurcated in our efforts and miss the essential. One key thing we want to know after each session is was there integration? Sometimes there is, after weeks of feeling one key feeling. But often there is a dredge effect; the patient feeling one feeling which resonates with a connected deeper feeling (hoplessness and helplessness). We know here that there is more to come. It may be that the patient will need tranquilizers temporarily to get over the hump. We need not be afraid of this since it is not an end in our therapy but a means. It is not THE therapy, as is the case in so much psychiatry, but something to use for a bit of time. We want patients off drugs, not on them. While on them there is a superficial and artificial state. Drugs nearly always hold back feelings and aid defenses. That is not the business we are in; quite the opposite, we want feelings to come up but in ordered, measured ways. Primal Therapy will get you there if you let it. If you stay with it the direction is nearly always right. I often say, “It is not a miracle but it is miraculous.”
In the same way that we may increase sexual drive in males with testosterone injections, it may well be that we can “inject love” into people, or at least inject a hormone that encourages it—give people a shot of love, so to speak. This shot may help us bond with partners, allow us to feel close to others, and to empathize with their feelings and pain, at least for a time.
Someone can swear she is full of love, only to find herself very low in the essential hormone of love—oxytocin. It is actually good news that “less love” has a physical base, for there may be something we can do chemically to alter that state, and there is certainly something we can do psychologically to change it, as well. At some time in the future, we may be able to determine what proper love from a parent to a child is through the measurements of various hormones.
Bonding is a strong emotional attachment that helps us want to be with one another, help and protect each other and touch and become sexual with one another. High levels of oxytocin encourage and strengthen bonding. Because early trauma and lack of love affect the output of this hormone, the ability to relate to others and have good sex later in life may be determined even before birth and just after. We learn how to bond emotionally in adulthood through early bonding in childhood, as simplistic as that sounds. Attachment is pretty well set in our childhood. It is not something we learn. It cannot be taught! And it certainly cannot be taught in later life. It is something we feel; something organic and physiologic, something biochemical. Those who did not bond very early on with their parents may well be condemned to a lifetime of broken, fragile, tenuous relationships. It may be in large part due to deficits in the hormonal wherewithal such as oxytocin. They key here is “early on.” That bonding takes place so early in our lives that later in life it is almost impossible to know where the problem in bonding may come from. So we give advice to a patient to try this and that when her whole physiology is crying out from the pain of the lack of early attachment.
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.