Monday, June 6, 2011
A New Therapy in China
Listen, I have a new therapy for smokers. Every time you pick up a cigarette I smack you in the head. After a while you will find a lessened desire for cigarettes. And I can produce the research that shows that after six treatments there is a lesser desire to smoke. Is this a joke? An exaggeration? No, simply a parallel for what passes for therapy these days.
I am reminded of this by an article in the L.A.Times. (“Chinese cures for being gay”. May 22/11 LA Times article) Here is the therapy, and I quote,” They get some beautiful men to walk around naked beside you, or make you watch gay porn.” This from the leading Chinese expert on homosexuality. You know what an expert is? Someone from out of town. This one is from out in space. The article goes on, “The man will naturally get an erection. When his erection reaches a certain level, the instrument emits an electrical discharge, which upsets him. They repeat the process until the man doesn’t get excited anymore.” They claim progress in China since the authorities have removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. Another Chinese expert states that gays need to learn to accept themselves. He goes on with more nonsense: “Homosexuality is innate, not something that can be cured.” Why do they come to this conclusion? Because they have no way to delve into the deep unconscious and see what generating sources of deviation lie there. Since they have no way to treat it, it must be untreatable. One of those syllogisms that I love.
So let’s see what this is all about. I have treated many homosexuals over the years. They almost never come to get over their homosexuality. They feel bad and want therapy for their misery, like anyone else. And sometimes they wake up one day and have no desire for sex with the same gender. It was cured by inadvertence. No one tried to do it but after feeling basic need for many months things change. It happens sometimes, not always, and it happens when there is what I call “second-line” homosexuality; that is, severe deprivation of love during childhood. There is a deeper origin, trauma during gestation and birth that also plays into homosexuality: first-line origin. This is very tough to treat because the origin is so remote and early, and because the imprint is so engraved into the entire system. Oh yes, that brings me to another facet; homosexuality isn’t simply a matter of the behavior of sex organs. It is a state being found in the altered immune system, brain circuits and physiologic processes. It does no good to extract the sex organs for study and therapy as if that is the be-all and end-all of the matter; like headaches is only a matter of the head. Yes, it is manifested there, but it is a reflection of the person and her history. If we ignore history we are forced to take the presenting manifestation as THE problem and treat it apart from the whole system. It is a fragmented approach where we treat fragments of the person instead of the person herself. So there is an imprinted memory of trauma, which is ultimately manifested in high blood pressure. We treat the blood pressure but not the origins. It is always palliation.
Why would we focus on homosexual behavior if the behavior is driven by basic unfulfilled need? If, for example, there was a cold, punishing father in the boy’s life or a tyrannical mother he may search out warmth from a man. Is that wrong? Does it need to be treated? Or is that natural, something that all of us need — love? Many of my patients became fixated on animal love because that was all there was in the household. Should we punish it? Drive it away? Smack the person when he sees a dog? Why would we smack someone who gets an erection when he sees a naked man? He is excited by the possibility of male love (mixed with sex).
I offer an example. I treated a gay man who loved sucking penis; and now I shall simplify. His feeling when his partner came was “mother’s milk.” His basic need was for a warm father and for sucking and having the breast, both of which went missing. Now would we want to smash his head when he gets an erection? His need became sexualized but it is still basic need. Do we want to double his neurosis by increasing his load of repression? His sexual response is keeping the need alive. It is a point of access, not for punishment but for accessing the need and his pain. He may be acting-out the need for a loving father or out of fear of angry women (his mother). Do we want to castigate that and make him deny that need? So what are the Chinese doing? Extracting the penis and treating it as the problem. Smacking the erection and warning it not to get hard again when it sees naked men. Like the absence of an erection constitutes treatment of homosexuality.
Here again they focus on the presenting problem because they remain on the surface and are content to stay there. There is no unconscious in their scheme, so they harken back to pre-Freud days; talk about retro. It is much better to feel what you were and are missing than to drive it underground; because that deprived need is what drives all of us all of the time.
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.