Monday, January 3, 2011
More on Language as Anesthesia
We have found that circuits from feeling centers to the top level cortex are stronger and more numerous than the circuits leading down from the neocortex. The implications are that language and thoughts do not change feelings so much, but that feelings do change ideas a lot. Thus the premise for so many insight therapies contradicts how the brain actually works. And explains why those who have undergone insight therapy (in all of its ramifications) have been self-deluded into thinking they are much better. The whole point is that the brain figures out a way to be self-deluded. Too much imprinted pain sets this in motion. And so thoughts go off in the direction of the feelings. If we feel like a loser then we give up trying to go to college or to study, in general. Or don’t try to get the girl or guy of our dreams. After all, “Who would be interested in me?”
We have to think, “Why would the brain grow itself in a certain direction; a direction that evolves to repress feelings? How is that a survival mechanism? Think: suppressing feelings helps survival. It has to do with blocking menace, the danger from terribly painful feelings, and
then we have to wonder where do those powerful feelings come from and what are they like? They are mostly imprinted from our womb-life and birth and are memories of what we had to do to survive. Those behaviors become fixed and drive our lives. When a fetus, for example, is probed (in amniocentesis) he withdraws and he shows signs of withdrawal. He grimaces as if in great pain, which he is. And his pain chemicals, stress hormones, rise radically. He is learning what to do in times of danger; withdrawal, removing himself from the scene, is one approach. Because the experience is life-threatening the system remembers it as a heuristic experience (setting guidelines for future behavior). In short, there is a flight to the head, to the intellect; a flight away from feelings and toward something that will reduce the danger. And what is that? Ideas and beliefs. It is the last in evolution and is our most precious defense. We can rationalize and theorize; we can project blame and mentally escape from the danger of terror that lies below so much intellectuality.
So in a strange paradox we flee to our heads to escape feelings and that flight is what becomes dangerous. We live in our heads or take drugs for further suppression, or we drink to help sequester our feelings, but no matter what the feelings never go away, grinding away inside, wearing down the system. They are treated as alien forces by the system; the enemy who must not be allowed to attack us from inside; hence we take blocking-medication to keep the attack from inside from happening. The drugs slow down or block the message from rising to the level of conscious/awareness. So we can think we are fine because we have blocked out of awareness of the painful feelings.
Language is the last evolutionary weapon we have against ourselves! Isn’t that strange? We develop something that can combat our own experience. And shunt it aside. And which allows us to pretend it never existed; and instead of feeling bad because of it we have the tools to make ourselves feel good; a self-deluded state that we all can share. That is what is universal, repression and denial. Wonderful.
Now how is that we evolved a thinking brain that anesthetizes pain? When we think about that too much we get into theology. I prefer science. We first impress pain into the system; we register code and store it for the future and then we develop a system to block it from conscious/awareness. We smother it with thoughts; and you thought they were a wonderful new addition to the human being. They are, and they are also this pharmacy of painkillers which is also wonderful. The system knew it could not go on under a terrible load of pain and find love and avoid danger. So it pushed it aside in order to remain stable and functional. Those who could not set pain aside are the ones who are dysfunctional. And what are those terrible pains? Lack of love, by my definition, of lack of fulfillment of basic need. So it must follow that we need love more than anything. We need it for life, for survival, for sanity. We need it to maintain the basic physical and physiologic structure. Otherwise, we don’t grow properly and our organs do not evolve correctly. Think of it: we manufacture chemicals that block the experience of pain. They do not block pain; that is another matter, although scientists are now close to removing the biochemical elements that build into pain. But most of us will settle for not knowing about it. Repression is the original denial. It denies reality, a reality that lives on a different level of brain function; on a different level of consciousness.
Look a the cult leaders; they hypnotize us with their promises of fulfillment, if not in this world then in another of their choosing. And it is indeed hypnosis; grabbing our need and twisting it so that we no longer are conscious. We follow blindly. We obey without question. And we do so in psychotherapy. They lull our critical capacities so that they are rendered useless, and then they move in to control and manipulate us.
One of the crimes of the century, not including the holocaust and other disasters, is the psychotherapy of denial; for that is what nearly every therapy extant practices. It makes patients more repressed, hence sicker. It helps bury reality, through medications which are designed for that, and through insights and beliefs that shut out the truth of our existence. I mean just a bit of neurology will tell us that the prefrontal area has a major role in blocking feelings. How on earth can we enlist it for change? We are putting the mask of anesthesia over the brains of our patients and we are calling it therapy. Let’s stop the crime!
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.