Friday, December 3, 2010
The following letter to my blog was ostensibly about depression but I found something in it that to me is astounding. it also sounds kooky but it is not. She grew an inch at age twenty three. And she made no big deal about. "I grew" and then she went on to other matters. Growth happens pretty often and the patients always seem to have that "belle indifference" about it. Like it is expected and not surprising. I guess with all the other emotional improvement it may not be a big deal, but it is to me because it means that when you undo repression you undo not only a "mental" phenomenon but a total physiologic one, as well. And it means too that the patient has already gone very deep and normalized some hormones, including those that control growth. How else to explain it. My wife's foot size grew by a size and she could not understand it for years until we began to get many other reports about growth. And I have noted that there is sometimes a wisdom tooth growth after the age of forty. I have never much pontificated about this so as not to influence patients and others but it seems to me to be a monumental affair, not because of the growth but because it means that so much has been liberated in the entire system. So, yes, I would expect the depression to be lessened or eliminated. It is all of a piece. The system is one integrated affair so that change in one area means change in many others, as well. Yes, it is great that depression was cured but the "proof" of that is found in bone growth. and....and.....change in brain waves, vital signs, etc.
"Looking back to the way I was at the beginning of therapy, I can see how many things have changed. For a start, I have grown over an inch since my twenty-third birthday. I am much more relaxed in general, able to go out and live life without too much anxiety. I am not nearly as afraid of people as I used to be, and I do not let anyone push me around or take advantage of me. I am more spontaneous, following my impulses whenever it feels safe and appropriate to do so. I have periods of optimism and enthusiasm for life when it seems that I have been given a second childhood. During these times I feel good to be alive whether playing sports, listening to or playing music, watching a movie, talking with friends, or simply sitting quietly and doing nothing. I have more friends, and I can be myself around them, rather than trying to impress them or get them to like me. I have less anxiety during stressful situations, and I make better decisions to resolve problems. My memory has improved; I am not scrambling around to take care of myself anymore. I am less stuck “in my head” and more aware of what is going on around me. (People used to think I was stupid because they would say something two or three times before I heard them.) I have better coordination playing the piano despite almost no practice and I have discovered that I have a fair talent for ball sports. I can cook for myself now, which is a recent and exciting development -- I have had a huge block in that area. Food tastes different as well. Before therapy I had to smother my food with herbs and spices to give it any flavor, whereas now a small amount seems to go a long way. I get depressed from time to time, but even when I feel really bad I know that it is just a feeling and I do not consider suicide. I notice my act-outs and curb them. For instance, when my job is going badly I find myself obsessing about winning the lottery. When I feel bad about myself I tend to bounce from therapist to therapist, afraid to stick with the same person in case he or she grows impatient with me. Going against my fears is the way to feelings. Most importantly, I have a sense deep down that I am going to be all right, which I could never have said a few years ago.
In conclusion, I would say that depression is a state of emotional flatness resulting from a strong system of defenses. There is a voice beneath conscious awareness complaining that all is hopeless and that there is no point in living, but it is never heard because the defenses are working overtime. How does one cure depression? The platitudes my parents fed me certainly did no good, and I suspect that most self-help systems only push the “voice of doom” somewhere more obscure but ultimately just as damaging. The only real changes in my life have occurred after feeling, connecting to the source of my pain. The voice is being heard in part; one is not feeling sad for no apparent reason but for a reason that is known and felt. This second childhood is a great gift. To anyone reading this who is a long way from being able to do therapy, let me say that there really is hope. Above all, find friends that accept you for who you are, and look after yourself. You deserve the best."
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.