Thursday, July 21, 2011
Do We Really Have a Shot in Life?
It may be that our destiny is sealed before birth, and then our basic personality is simply reinforced or compounded but not changed. Here is what several studies have found. That trauma while we are being carried affects us for life and sets up vulnerabilities that dog us forever. This is especially true when there are serious disputes and maybe violence between the parents during the gestational period. So the background level is high, and when there are dust mites or allergens in the environment this person will suffer the most. It is different for everyone. For those who are susceptible to migraines even a slight disagreement might lead to the symptom. And here is where heredity comes in, for there may be genetic tendencies toward migraine or high blood pressure or whatever. What will finally set off the symptom is the level of imprinted stress which raises the level of vulnerability.
There is a certain level at which symptoms appear, and that also means there are certain levels of pain that raise the risk of the development of symptoms. Our inbuilt serotonin level may then be inadequate to keep the symptom at bay, and so under just a bit of stress a migraine appears. It appears because the system cannot manufacture enough pain killers to suppress it. In general, what I have seen in therapy over and again is when patients become overwhelmed with a feeling, a symptom appears. It says: Overload.! Stop! Suppress.! It is somewhat of a biologic law. When a therapist makes a mistake and allows too much feeling to rise, or when she plunges the patient into pain before he is ready we will see a symptom. It is not always a therapist’s doing. It is simply through the process of resonance too much early pain has been dredged up too soon. The patient’s gating system is weak and cannot withstand too much input. One way we know this is that the vital signs rise sporadically throughout the session and do not fall below baseline at the end, as happens with an integrated feeling.
So the symptom in daily life comes up, which means overflow and the person goes to a doctor for migraine or to a shrink for anxiety, and what do they do? Prescribe painkillers. And they help; they bolster our own chemicals such as serotonin. Those drugs push the pain back down below the level of the symptom, and so, voila, the person no longer suffers. That is, she is no longer aware of her suffering. They push back the manifestation; not dealing with the real underlying force.
Let’s go back to gestation for a moment. If the mother has a chronic fear of a violent husband that fear gets transmitted, not only as fear but also as a chronic stress level. And the baby senses she is being born into a dangerous world. Afterward, she may be constantly on the qui vive, alert and too vigilant for whatever happens; a chronic apprehension. She has learned an important lesson in life before there was a social life. “You have to watch out for danger!” And what is that danger? She does not know. So later in life what does she do? She manufactures dangers—paranoia—there is someone coming to hurt me.” And that is a direct transmission from her mother, now duplicated by the offspring. The mother was in a chronic stress mode due to her chronic fear of her husband, and although it seems genetic it is her life experience that now makes the child believe she lives in a threatening world.
And as she enters into life this child has now compounded pain. This happens when life is terrible for the her. The mother has died, the father has left, a sister was killed, a parent was an alcoholic. There was no love anywhere. And she is now full of symptoms, perhaps full of allergies. And too often she goes to a shrink who focuses on later life experience because it is the most obvious; a divorce, a drunken mother, etc. But that is the origin; not the base. It is secondary. It is ignoring all those catastrophic events at birth and before. We know now that due to resonance later painful event resonates with something earlier and the whole force is evoked. It drives the brainwaves very high and fast, and the vital signs also very high. One simple example. There may be a heredity tendency to migraine; the mother and grandmother had them, but the fact of depleted oxygen both during life n the womb and at birth (a smoking mother and too much anesthetic at birth) affects the blood circulating system resulting in migraine. It is a primal or primordial response to the original circumstance. In order to eliminate the symptoms we have to go back to the trauma and its original context for resolution. That is, there still may be a tendency to migraines but it never becomes an overt symptom without a trauma that affects oxygen levels early on.
Symptoms appear when the person smoked pot for years that wears down the defense system. Then that very early pain comes bubbling up and the person senses that early fear again; there is that danger again, the same one the mother suffered from during gestation. The fear she transmitted to her son. Paranoia sets in. Paranoia is the idea evolving out of the fear. It says beware! Something or someone wants to hurt me; a danger concocted to justify the fearful ideas. The focus also happens in the general zeitgeist when those loaded with fear imagine the communists are coming to ruin their lives or the mafia. The danger has to projected onto a group that society has defined as dangerous; so they have a socially-institutionalized paranoia that doesn’t seem so weird or pathologic. The idea blends in, is accepted in the zeitgeist. But notice carefully because it is a mistake often made in shrink-dom; ideas follow out of feelings, not the reverse. Most of today’s psychotherapy is based on ideas changing feelings, which is not the case. Ideas can suppress feelings, but that is a different story entirely. But today too many focus only on ideas and insights neglecting neurologic science and evolution.
Let’s see how this works: When we are conceived and after few months we produce receptors for stress hormones. If the mother is highly stressed, if there are serious problems in the marriage the child will be born with an inability to handle stress. His stress level is already so high that he cannot deal with any more input. Later on, everything seems like it is too much. The slightest task become overwhelming, and that was set up before our birth. And then later the parents pile on the homework and the chores, believing that the tougher the homework the better the school. It is too easy to focus on all that to the neglect of original causes, the generating sources. The maternal stress level is imprinted in the baby. It is imprinted via the addition of methyl (methylation) to the stress gene, known as the GR gene. This then affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and we have a stress syndrome. We are less equipped to deal with trauma. And that inability is imprinted permanently. It is in the genes, actually in the epigenes, meaning, what happened to those genes while we lived in the womb. It looks so fixed and unchangeable as to be purely genetic. It is not. A mother’s chronic depression can produce the same result. It is not just a psychologic depression; it is how her chemistry changed due to her mental state. That chemistry is what affects the baby. It speaks to the baby in a special biologic language. So here we are; science is finding, is that stress in the carrying mother can imprint tendencies for a lifetime in her baby. And that is what I mean by, “Do we have a fair shot at life?” Not always.
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.