Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Transforming Feelings Through Resonance
This article was first published on June 1, 2009. I just want to run it again, as it is so important.
How do we transform sadness into depression? Anger into rage? Fear into terror? RESONANCE. The deeper we go in the nervous system the more unreasoned, out of control, impulsive feelings/sensations there are. For good reason. The deeper we go, down into the brainstem the more survival, animalistic, immediate reactions are elicited. Rage and terror are there to help us react quickly to save our lives. Also there is deep hopelessness (the basis for severe depression). It is all there and can be triggered off in the present through resonance. It seems to me that all basic feelings are held together through specific frequencies which unite such feelings as anger and rage. Rage and terror are the first line components of feelings that are triggered off, resonate, with/by current feelings which are far less severe. Nothing in the present is ordinarily meant to be terrorizing. Yet giving a speech can be just that. Why? Because when one’s childhood is ridden by constant lack of love and neglect and often hatred by parents, the defense system is weakened and resonance can go deeper without impediment because of weakened or leaky gates. Those early traumas when early and severe damage our ability to develop a good gating system.
So giving a speech elicits terror, which actually has nothing to do with what is going on in the present. But what is resonated with is real and tells us a lot about what lies down there in that primitive salamander brain. Is there an immediate life-threatening event? Often yes. A mother smoking or drinking or taking drugs. A pre-psychotic mother can do it due to her high levels of mobilizing chemicals. The excessive vital signs speak to us in the language of the body, and they tell us how severe the early event was. This is particularly true in psychotics. I treated a young man who was born on a marine base to parents who were divorcing. The mother abandoned him and he was reared thereafter by a father who was nearly always absent, sent to war zones. There was trauma after trauma, meaning no love.
The problem is that we often do not recognize the resonance factor and treat the top level as the problem. In cognitive/insight therapy the patient is convinced that there is nothing to be afraid of. Ay ay ay. There is a lot to be afraid of only we cannot see it. It is like anger management. We treat rage through top level cortical pleadings when the real rage lies sleepily but stealthily down deep ready to pounce. Here is where words are but a weak, weak weapon for dealing with it. We must understand resonance, for that is what we must treat. We must attack what we cannot see; the imprint that has been there for decades, something that will eventually give us cancer or a heart attack, and we will wonder why?
How can we be sure about all this? One way is through vital signs. We systematically measure all patients’ sessions before and after. As the resonance factor kicks in, we find that the deeper we go in the brain the greater the vital sign measures. So down in the brainstem where much of our birth trauma and prenatal trauma is registered is where we find the long slow-wave brain signatures in our patients as they approach the deeper levels. It is where we see blood pressure of 200 over 110, and of resting heart rate of over 100.
Thus, the terrific impact these very early imprints have is demonstrated every day in almost every session. A patient comes in very hopeless and depressed and her blood pressure is very low. Another comes in with great anger and his heart rate is exceedingly high. It is of a piece, and we literally see the contribution of each level of consciousness during the session. We rarely if ever find a patient down on the brainstem level without resonance. This alone should guide us in the therapy of those who are ridden by out-of-control impulsiveness.
Someone comes to a doctor with chronically very high blood pressure and they immediately give blood pressure medication. And they should offer medication. It must be controlled. In our therapy, we have an idea already of where the origins lie because we are a therapy of genesis, of genotypes, not phenotypes. In fact the phenotype (appearances) is one way to arrive at the genotype. If we suppress the phenotype with medication we can almost be sure the patient will not get well. We know very little of the minute details of a malady but we know a great deal about genesis. This tells us a great deal about the status of the gates, how leaky they are, how solid and impenetrable or refractory they are. As soon as the patient comes in her body is sending out information. If she is awash in first line input we know where we have to go in therapy. Either help her into the imprint or perhaps helping with the gating system through the temporary use of tranquilizers.
A new patient with very low blood pressure and body temperature already signifies parasympathetic excess. We may have to boost her vital functions for a time with energy boosters. We may have to offer something that enhances stress hormone output. As I have pointed out, in our therapy we attack the conductor of it all, not the individual players such as blood pressure or heart rate. And that is the difference between what we do and what other therapies do. We have an overview. We know the music and it often has no lyrics.
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.