Saturday, July 3, 2010
The Timetable of Feelings
There has been an apotheosis of the thinking cortex in most current psychotherapies. The idea is when you change your ideas and beliefs thefeelings will follow suit. It is not the case; quite the contrary. The limbic system, particularly the amygdala has many more
neural pathways, hence more influence, to the neocortex than the reverse. Ideas and beliefs are weak arms to battle feelings; remember our feelings are important survival mechanisms and should be permanently strong. They should not be easily turned off in by ideas. In psychotherapy we need to pay closer attention to the structure and function of our brains so that we don’t concoct sham theories. Insights are not the powerful weapon we once thought they were. In fact, the major part of the twentieth century psychotherapy relied on insights as the principal focus. Feelings were too often neglected; again thinking that ideas could control and change feelings. What we need is a proper balance between thinking and feelings. We cannot have runaway feelings or cemented-in ideas that refract feelings. When a psychotherapy has ideas as its principle mode of operation there is bound to be an imbalance.
Animals can feel without attached ideas. But in humans, feelings have an ideational, comprehension counterpart that helps integrate the feeling. But we should not confuse ideas about feelings with the feelings themselves. A therapist who tries to “correct” a patient’s feelings is dissuading a biologic/feeling memory. Neurotic ideas are deviated based on historic feelings of the person. They are in line with feelings; only an outsider can diagnose them as deviated or neurotic. He can do this because he cannot easily see buried feelings that drive the beliefs. When the therapist and patient see and understand the feelings, the ideas will no longer be considered aberrant. But those feelings drove deviated ideas for survival. It is not whimsy or caprice that one chooses ideas. In fact, ideas are chosen by the feeling, not the reverse. “I hate women,” is one idea that a person can have due to a harridan mother who smothered her child. He hates his mother and then generalizes to all women. He is generalizing early experience and feelings with his mother. Hating women is our carte d’ entrée, allowing us to probe deeper. Once we lock-into the patient’s hate and then allow the patient freedom to express and feel it, he will automatically be taken back to origins of the feeling. And there lies integration and resolution. Comprehension is the last stage in the experience of a feeling.
When a patient begins to resolve a long-standing feeling (imprint) she has been liberated. When we rely on the therapists’ comprehension of what the patient may be feeling, all is lost. If the therapist talks more than the patient all is really lost; there is no hope of a cure. If the patient is feeling, she has greater involvement of more brain systems than with insights or ideas. It is deeper and more profound. For that we need a therapist who has access to her deep unconscious. For therapists who spend years perfecting the intellectual side of psychology to the detriment of feeling, it is a daunting task.
In our psychotherapy we help the patient to take the general and reduce it to the specific (hate women, hate mother), From this we can produce general laws that apply to a broad band of individuals, hence helping those others to feel, integrate and resolve. All patients need to experience a feeling and integrate it. Most all of us have the same brain system. There is no other way to produce a cure for neurosis; no shortcut to health. But to state that we must understand the role of ideas and feelings in our ancient history and in the history of the evolution of the brain. And when a patient abreacts and does not feel completely we can be sure there will be no progress. We have a very large feeling brain system; we cannot ignore it in a psychotherapy and help the patient to get better. I should add that the only time an insight can help is when the patient does not have sufficient access to his comprehending brain and needs help; that is not often. Some people really do need to enlarge their thinking capacity to help control metastized feelings. I am thinking of habitual impulsive-laden behavior. In any case, feelings generate brain states, not the opposite, at least not in the way I am discussing it. If we want to expand consciousness we all must feel what lies in the subconscious. When we become conscious of the unconscious we are on the road to health. I did not say “aware,” because awareness without feeling is just another belief system. Awareness is simply
gobbled up by the top level cortex and lies impotent in the brain. “You know you’re acting impulsively all of the time?” I know, but now what?
As I note elsewhere, when the patient is locked-into a feeling, history will present itself. When she is engulfed by rage we know that the origin is first line where rage began its life. When the vehicle of feeling begets anger we know that we may be dealing with events later in childhood. When the patient is triggered by mild fear in a session into terror we know it is first line in origin. When her feelings lead to fear we know there is a limbic/feeling origin, and it is there that we must focus. We cannot skip evolutionary steps and help the patient. We cannot ignore the deep feeling because it is there and needs to be experienced, but in a correct biologic timetable. If she is locked-into anger and then rage in a session we need to take the feeling with the least valence to work on. It is that lesser powerful feeling that has the best chance of resolution and integration. Taking a feeling (rage) out of evolutionary order in a session usually results in overload and lack of integration. Ours is not a theory of random psychological states but of a hierarchy of integrateable feelings. Rage and terror tells us where to focus a patient. It unerringly turns us to the page we must address and to the era where it all began.
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.