Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Absent Mother

There is an article today about stressed out babies who get anxious even when mother is absent for two minutes.( Their effects last until the next day. Levels of stress hormones soar. Conclusion: babies need their mothers. Oh wait! Maybe it is more than that. Yes, we need mother and father love but what happens when the absenteeism goes on and on?

There is just so much stress we can take and then what happens? Primal Pain. That is, the system has reached its asymptote and shuts down. Repression begins its life. So what? We now have a secret life; that is, there are pains and all of their concomitants, stress hormones, less or more thyroid, less natural killer cells; go on agitating and aggravating the physical system. And when pain gets compounded time after time, neglect, abandonment, violence, the underground life begins to wear the system down, attacking the most vulnerable organs. It is not one pain but pain piled on top of more pain, the daily threats, ignoring, left alone, and you can add your own life here. What is bad is that we do not often know we are in pain but the body knows. It speaks volumes, screaming through higher brain amplitude, faster brain frequency, higher cortisol, and so on. That is why we not only take the word of patients but measure them every day before and after sessions. The patient does not necessarily lie but she is often contradicted by her measurements.

I never knew that my frenetic and constant movements as a kid, the going and going, was the result of pain; I never felt it. I acted it out. But if one had looked at cortisol levels we would have understood. I doubt in my day we could have even measured cortisol. I just got my high-school records for my biography. Note after note says about me, “nervous.”

Isn’t it wonderful that the human system has a governor that shuts down many functions so we can survive? We become unconscious to survive. That is the miracle. So we have a hyperactive brain; is that so terrible.? Only if you don’t mind dying of Alzheimers or a stroke. That hyperactive brain is not normal. It is a reaction, a survival tactic to keep us unconscious so we can navigate in the world. It is super active due to repression. How do we know? There are major changes in the brain when patients have done this therapy. We have done four different brain studies (UCLA, Copenhagen, Rutgers, and in-house). The results are consistent. Moreover, we see great changes just after a session when the body temp, blood pressure and brain activity diminish. The body and brain are all of a piece. They are related, so when we measure just one aspect, say, blood pressure, we are missing out on the relationships to other aspects.

What is important about the above is that we mistake the deviations occasioned by the imprinted pain as bad and unhealthy. So then we have the biofeedbackers trying to correct the person’s brainwaves when they should be what they are. Or we do other measures to break down blood pressure, or we do EMDR to change anxiety states without once asking why are they deviated? Why is that heart racing? It is trying to survive against the onslaught of pain. It should race.

I was being slight facetious about dying of a brain disease but not entirely. When you see, as I have, month after month, year after year, patients reliving enormous early pains, you realize how the brain has to cave in eventually. No organ can withstand that pressure forever. Reliving and feeling is life saving.


  1. How do we get someone to understand (feel) that a boat floats because the surface tension keeps it back. We have been taught that it is due to surface tension ... but then how the process works is’t very few who are aware of. Our thoughts learns things but can not understand (feel) the content ... a breathtaking sense of what life contains.

    The writing you do is absolutely fantastic Art


  2. I got this comment in an email:
    Dear Art,
    when I read articles like this I can't help but to feel sad. It's sad to me that our world is so disconnected from our insides that we have to rely on science to prove something that is self evident throughout the natural world. Children need loving parents. How can any sane person think otherwise?

  3. "Think of feeling as being a switchboard where there are so many connections to feeling centers. the intellectual has few and the artist has many. The feeling person also has many and they are connected to the right place. aj"

    very good illustration

  4. Quote:"Children need loving parents. How can any sane person think otherwise?"

    Because for those of us who have become totally divorced from the need for real love--and in turn the feeling--love becomes mostly an abstract concept. As an abstraction its importance can be trashed on the whim of an intellectual/ideological fad.

  5. The more I learned about my earliest years, (what happened to me, and how I felt about it) the more I realized that everyone reacts predictably, based on their biology, and what their life experiences have been, since they were conceived. And of course, the conceived part I learned from Art... it just makes all the sense in the world... feelings/experiences in the womb.

    If we all had a film/sound crew, to record every aspect of our lives, (to document everything... along with our mother, during her pregnancy) nothing anyone ever did would surprise anyone (unless their early years had too many traumas, hence, their judgment could be off, and they might be surprised).

    I'm now 45, and at 26 (early Dec. 1990) I got turned on to psychology. Through John Bradshaw's "Homecoming" (PBS and book) I found Alice Miller's, "The Drama..." and then I found Arthur Janov's, "The Primal Scream".

    Though I've learned an enormous amount about my past (and who I am today) from these 2 incredibly sharp, brave, seekers of the truth... I don't worship them. I do however admire them enormously... because they have helped me find what was beaten out of me, when I was a small child.

    That being said, I wish Alice could have done Primal Therapy with Art, because she would have lived longer, and she would have been able to add more to the field.

    She did a variation of PT (in Europe), that wasn't affiliated with Arthur Janov (at this time, I don't know how to refer to you, Art. Should I go back and address my comment to you?... just thinking out loud here) but she was hurt by it. I'm not sure exactly how she was hurt, but looking at how privately she seemed to live her life, and the fact that her muscles gave out, to the point, where she could no longer type on her own website, tells me she missed out on so much.

    Also, I believe her general observations on PT had more to do with her unsuccessful experience with it (that's all she knew), than an accurate observation, and explanation of the profound benefits, PT can have on every aspect of a person's life (if done properly, with properly trained therapists).

    I wish she could have simply learned about it from you (I say all this, because I learned so much from her work, and I've learned, and I'm still learning, so much from you... I feel very emotional right now, writing how I truly feel).

    I have one life, so I figure, I can write what I feel, while you make the decision, on whether my comments are appropriate for your blog. I'm okay with that. I know if it doesn't, at least it will be read.

    Now, getting back to Art (I know I'm writing to Art, but I seem to be writing to whoever may read this also), you have the energy, and quick mind, of someone in their prime! That being said, you may still be in your prime (I think you are). But how can my observation be correct, because I never fired on all cylinders. Though I was once the age of someone in their prime.

    With all that being said... it's very important for me to connect with you (even though it's only through these comments) because the truth is vital to my mental heath. It's been just about 9 years since I did Primal Therapy for the first time. I never thought I would have the funds to ever do it again. I don't right now, but the fire has been lit again. Somehow, at sometime, I shall return to California, to continue what I started.

    I'm feeling a good feeling, and from that, I'm wishing you, and your staff (patients too) all the best!

    With the warmest regards,

    Larry Jankowski :)

    PS. I told you I would try to keep my comments short, after I posted my wordy first comment (man, I got to work on that!)... great article!

  6. ... also, I just saw your new video on Anger (from March 2008).

    Near the end, they were talking about what roll(s) anger played, and if it was something everyone had access too or could express... were some people born without their anger.

    I believe anger is something all healthy humans have access to. How else can we express ourselves when someone hurts us, or hurts a loved one. Anger is as natural and as vital as feeling happy, or sad. Anger can't be an optional feeling, even though some will never be able to express it. Though, I would be very curious to see how these people treat their children. They might be scaring their kids, and be in total denial that they're angry.

    ... I don't know where to post this out of context stuff? Should I look for an article that's a good fit for this comment? I'm gonna copy and save this... I'll look around and see what I can find.

    Time flew. It's 4:30am Florida time.

  7. Larry: About Alice Miller. She came to see me and have lunch in Paris. I showed her around, showed films and discussed the therapy and told her how dangerous it was for charlatans to be practicing it. She was impressed and then she had therapy with a lamp salesman. Ay ay ay. you are probably right. all that might have shortened her life. She was a good writer. art janov

  8. I, too, experienced "faux PT." It was devastating...though at the time, like my childhood, I thought I could "take it." When you open up after trauma and get retraumatized, it's like being doubly damaged.

    I suppose Alice Miller hoped she'd finally have the oceanic experience she'd missed out on as a child. She trusted her choice, took a chance, and got bamboozled by a man who violated the Hippocratic Oath by harming his patients. It no doubt made Alice gun-shy, scared to try anything too "feeling" thereafter. She tried to connect by writing and art (but alas, not Art Janov). I hope she enjoyed some happiness. It's one thing to pen the movie "Casablanca," another to watch it alone, something else entirely to view it with a lover.

    I think she was much more than just a "good writer." I think Alice was a brave pioneer. She had guts, integrity, compassion, and empathy. I miss her a lot. I was shocked when I read a post on her website saying submissions would be protected by copyright after her death. Why did she mention death, I wondered?

    Sadly she died shortly thereafter.

    What I liked about her...and the vivid, concrete explanations of complex things. She preferred Occam's Razor to obfuscation. It's like the lyric, "Don't talk of love, show me!" She'd cut to the chase. Take a political situation and show its underlying impetus. She'd reveal the essential trunk from which other things branched out.

    Not all left-brain activities are "neurotic." Words and language can be complex because the world is complex. But an essence, at least to me, is something that nails reality in a way that more explanation buries. It's the difference between information and understanding, facts and meaning. Alice had a knack for finding causal threads in disparate situations. She succeeded in giving millions the love she'd been denied as a child.

    I truly believe that we are today what we were yesterday. That is, we are shaped by early forces that, if we were lucky, made us strong. Those of us who lost out on consistent, healthy nurturing need to "process" how we came to be in order to be free now. It's a mix of Art (!) and science, pun intended. That is, both feeling and intellectuality. Pure instinct is no more a good guide than pure reason. We have two brain haves, like we have two sexes, for a reason.

    We survived when young by denying certain truths to ourselves. It's hard later to say the truth to others who have a vested interest in keeping themselves from knowing. If you ask a CEO what "really" motivates her/him, I bet s/he will rarely refer to unexamined childhood issues. Yet anyone who feels will see the Girl in the woman, the Boy in the man.

    My mother was a manic-depressive who never got the help she needed. My father remains the repressed son of two repressed parents. So I missed out on safety and comfort and guidance. I was described as a "worry wart" and "pack rat"...because I ate so much. Luckily (?) my metabolism let me eat a lot without getting fat. Then again, if I'd slowed down and been allowed/supported to feel my unmet needs I'd not have eaten so much. Yet what child can feel the pain of loneliness, being abandoned, and lacking love alone?

    We are social creatures, indeed.

    Art says he sells pain. I disagree. I think he sells pain relief. We need to make it okay for people to say they're not feeling "fine and dandy" when they're not. Especially men, raised to be stoics. How often, when asked, "How's it going?" do guys answer, "Can't complain!" ?


    How could Alice Miller spot a therapeutic fraud after she'd trusted her own abusive parents?

    The world is a darker place without her. I found great insight and comfort in her books.


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.