Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Hypnosis (6/20)

The Neurology of Hypnosis

With the discovery of the brain's hemispheric laterality (See the work of Gazzanaga and Bogen as well as: Psychology Today, May 1985, p. 43), the terms right brain/left brain have become virtual household concepts. The brain is divided into two halves, with each half mediating qualitatively different processes: the right brain mediates non-rational functions and holistic perceptions, while the left brain mediates the rational and specific. The right is holistic while the left is analytic. The right is internally oriented, while the left is externally focused.

Another recent neurological discovery is that of the "triune brain," where the division is concentric rather than lateral. Less well known than the concept of hemispheric laterality, the discovery of the triune brain may be more significant.

Based on Paul Yakovlev's research, the triune brain model describes the brain as organized concentrically into three zones or "neuropils."[1] Each zone consists of an interrelated network of nerve cells with its own biochemical composition. Each zone has its own storehouse for consciousness and memory. The three zones or levels of the brain develop chronologically in the fetus and newborn just as they did in human evolution. At birth and in primitive animals only the first level is operative, mediating visceral and body activity. By the sixth month of life the second level of brain development emerges to mediate the limbic processes of feeling and emotion. There is some evidence that in evolution this began with the turtle, which shows some limbic structure. The third or cortical level, which mediates all cognitive functions, is the last to develop and in its full development is uniquely human.

How does this relate to hypnosis? The dissociation so critical to all hypnotic phenomena hinges upon a disengagement of the third level of consciousness. It is precisely this third level that predominates in relation to the outer world. This part of the brain perceives, reflects, reasons, rationalizes, and comprehends. Its task is to process and evaluate information, to know what is: what the temperature is, the conditions of the environment, if danger is near, whether the body needs food or sleep, and so on. For hypnosis to be effective, it must disengage the third level, so that the individual is no longer able to independently process information.

A trance state occurs when the person operates from the emotional (second) or physical (first) level of consciousness without the benefit of the critical intellect (third level). In this state, no cognition is employed to determine whether internal and external conditions coincide, whether how one feels and acts is reality based. This is why children are generally more responsive to hypnosis. They do not have the well-developed evaluative functions of the adult. Childish complaisance is the neurotic feature in the adult which enables the trance to occur and sustain itself.

Notice two key phrases in Erickson's report of the woman in the somnambulistic trance: "with...juvenile directness, earnestness, and simplicity," and "in the manner of a small child." I believe his demonstration uncovered the woman's latent childish tendencies rather than inducing them. The subject's pre-existing complaisance allowed for even further dissociation (from what she ordinarily experienced) so that even external clues would not disrupt her trance.

Erickson's demonstration points up another crucial aspect of the hypnotic state. Unencumbered by personal embarrassment and social restraints, the subject was free to act as childishly as she was. Under normal circumstances repression defends against the admission of neurosis. Under hypnosis, with the last remnant of rational perception suppressed, neurotic people can allow themselves to be as dependent, childish, and hurting as they really are. The hypnotic procedure reveals what the self-censorship of repression conceals: the essence of the neurotic self. It does so, however, by avoiding full conscious experience, for it is this experience that provokes feelings of Pain. Clearly, we cannot get well through unconsciousness because that is the definition of neurosis. It takes full conscious/awareness to become whole.

Thus, the attraction of hypnosis is the apparent opportunity to have it both ways: you can show who you are without feeling the concomitant Pain. And this, as I shall explain later, is exactly why hypnotherapy cannot in the end be therapeutic.


  1. Arthur J >> This is why children are generally more responsive to hypnosis. They do not have the well-developed evaluative functions of the adult. Childish complaisance is the neurotic feature in the adult which enables the trance to occur and sustain itself.

    Me >> So a well developed intellect would seem to be quite useful and protective from being easily misled or easily induced to do something. Evaluating objectively and accurately, as well as Critical thinking, are important, even essential. In fact, there seems to be an inverse relationship between susceptibility to suggestion and a strong intellect. If one is strong, the other is weak.

    But also of note is how our unmet needs seem to sabotage the process of developing the intellect into a strong useful partner. At the very least, those needs make it more difficult to make sense of things in the external world. In fact, it would seem that the 1st and 2nd line are key in determining whether the intellect will be allowed to serve fully and accurately. That seems to be more dealt with in No. 7. I post more there.

    Art, this whole series, especially your last 2 postings on hypnosis, have been fascinating. I gather this is the first time these have been printed and if so, no money to be made. If so, I am most grateful for the info and understanding, free of cost. Knowledge is like gold to me. When someone hands me a nugget, I get all mushy. Many thanks for your efforts.

    Exploring the functioning of the human mind is always intriguing. Both the internal and external worlds are important to explore and understand. Darkness, blindness, and ignorance are a drag.

  2. Apollo: my reward is your letter, not financial recompense. art janov

  3. OH



    Art, you might have answered my question....the one i have been asking in many different ways, for several years.

    So.....if i want to have a successful birth primal, i must begin in the neocortex, drop down to the limbic and then drop down to the brain stem. when i am down in the brain stem, and ONLY the brain stem, i can THEN employ the neocortex to make the feeling a fully conscious experience......so that i have full conscious awareness of the feeling.

    in other words, at a later stage in the primal, i want to have my neocortex functioning WHILE i am squirming like a lizard?

    Art, my friend, we are getting somewhere. i agree with Apollo. this article is fascinating. it contains the type of explanation i am looking for. i am on the brink of understanding. when i finally understand, i will punish you by hitting you on the head with a rubber frying pan. you should have written like this a long time ago

  4. Richard: By george he's got it! I did write it a long while ago and it was available. you have to dig it out and study it. I did my part, now you do yours. art janov

  5. Hi,

    It's taken a while for me to get it too, but it is so simple, once the natural process starts.

    Paul G.


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.