Thursday, November 25, 2010
More on Self Esteem
There is so much discussion of the notion of self-esteem that I think it warrants more discussion; we need to find out what it is, actually. So first of all, is there such a thing? No. Why not? Because it is not a feeling. It is an idea, one that friends or therapists can use to bolster it or diminish it. So what is it? It is a sense that I am accepted, loved, approved of, wanted, desired, and believed important.
Normal, loved individuals never think about it. They just have it and act accordingly. Those who need to think about don’t have it. And so when others tell you what you need to hear, you are important, valued and approved of, it temporarily lifts the esteem a bit. This is an artificial lift. It dampens the real feelings, feelings that were installed from womb-life onward.
So why do we feel we have low esteem, something that needs to be bolstered? When we are born we begin to follow orders. Parents tell us what to eat and when to eat. Where to sit (and not fidgit or move around). When to go out and when not to. We are not told, “What would you like for dinner?” What time do you want to eat?’ Ad infinitum. Bit by bit it sinks in; “I am not important and no one cares what I think or feel.” Especially at the dinner table where the “important” people talk and we listen; no one elicits our opinion about the color of the walls, the kind of chairs we sit on and when we are allowed to have guests in. This is how esteem is created, not necessarily by a parent saying you are important, but rather by being treated from infancy onward as someone who is important. Parents who value you are governed by their feelings; parents who do not value you also are governed by their feelings, which quickly become the soundtrack of your life.
This can all be compounded by parents who do tell you that you are stupid and incapable. Or they keep you from handling important tools. Or they don’t take the time to explain things. What does that do? It means that you are not important enough to be worth anyone’s time. An impatient parent who is tense and anxious makes you feel unimportant. You have to speak right away and wait for the answer, which may not come. You have the feeling that you cannot take up too much of their valuable time. It creates the subtext, “I am not important”.
Right after birth when the newborn is left alone and not hugged and cuddled right away, the groundwork for low self esteem is created. If thereafter you have to struggle to get them to pay attention, you are building feelings of inferiority. It is those wee events throughout our early lives that construct permanent feelings of being unimportant. If parents wait for you to hug them, instead of them rushing to embrace you, another neurotic block is there to reinforce your low esteem. It is not a thought-out process. When parents are aloof and heavily repressed as individuals, and cannot respond to the child with feelings, with alacrity and passion, there will be another compounded feeling in a child who now feels worthless and not worth anyone’s time or anyone’s love—worth less.
Alright, we now go to get our esteem lifted. Can we do that? No. Our therapist thinks we are wonderful and praises us; that will last for a short time but the real feeling rushes back in. And that feeling is the result of a myriad of events, all of which spell “I am not important. I am unloved.” Those feelings set in during the critical period which probably occurs before the age of six. Anything after that is symbolic fulfillment and won’t last. But we can become addicted and need praise more and more because it is symbolic fulfillment, long past its due date. When we are complimented (and someone who feels unimportant can be “bought” for a single compliment), it eases the pain momentarily. It operates like a tranquilizer; softens the blow. “You are such a good person. You are so important to me.” The reason the real feeling is never thought out is because it is a feeling that is the result of thousands of very early experiences. Those experiences coalesce around very few feelings, but those feelings drive so many symbolic act-outs.
The very fact that a child in crib can cry out for his mother for a very long time instills that sense of being unimportant. Remember, “esteem” is a word. You do not necessarily “feel” esteemed. You feel loved and that does it all. Once you feel loved you no longer search for that elusive “esteem.” Those who go on searching will never find it. It is too late. And it is not one thing you are looking for—esteem. You are really looking for someone to help instill a feeling inside you that he cannot do; someone who can undo what happened to you. No therapist can lift your esteem level; only you can do it by feeling those key experiences where little by little you came to feel unloved and unworthy of it. Until then you need praise and more praise cause the real feeling is seeping through.
Conversely, a single criticism can devastate someone who feels unimportant. Why? Because it triggers off the real pain; “I am unworthy and (you) they just proved it. If there is one thing that most of us cannot tolerate it is criticism, even slight criticism. We spend our lives staving them off so we won’t have to face and feel those feelings. And those who feel bad about themselves do whatever they can to avoid criticism. When it does occur the person can manage to immediately rationalize her behavior or displace it onto someone else. “I would have done better if you had not done………” It can never be their fault because behind that accusation is a mountain of pain.
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.