Sunday, October 16, 2011
Toward a Grasp of History
Once we have a firm grasp of history and its evolution we will know that addressing mental illness is not a matter of just understanding it but being immersed in it; submerged in our history, in its feelings, ceding to its power until words (our top-level brain) will no longer suffice; only feelings can. Words will simply not do it; in fact, words are the antithesis of cure, inimical to any therapeutic progress, as odd as that sounds, because they are too often used for a defense. As a matter of fact, in many situations the more the intellectual brain is active the more suppressed the feeling centers are.
I practiced Freudian-oriented psychotherapy for many years. One key reason was that there was relatively nothing else for the practice of dynamic psychotherapy. At least Freud posited an unconscious, and were he alive today I am sure he would not be a Freudian.
Let me start with my first important observation in therapy. A young man in conventional group therapy was recounting a visit he made in New York to see Raphael Ortiz in the theater of the absurd. He said that Ortiz was marching up and down the stage shouting mama! And inviting the audience to do the same. When they did many people in the audience began to cry and scream. I encouraged this young man to do the same. He refused but I insisted. Finally he began to scream mama!, fell off the chair and was writhing in pain on the floor. It went on for a half hour, something I had never seen before. When he came out of it he touched the carpet and said, “I can feel!” He felt different. I taped this session and for years afterward I listened to it to see what secrets this held. I also tried this again on other patients with very much the same result. I knew that I saw something that therapists practically never see but I did not know what it meant. I finally figured out what it meant only years later. I tried to see what these patients had in common. It was feelings—access to feelings that made the difference. It would take another twenty five years to figure out what was going on inside the person and her brain; but there was some basic truth I had uncovered. The result, I believe, is a new paradigm in psychotherapy; and it is not just a belief.
Obviously, if we allow patients to go deeply into their past without any intellectual interference we can learn so much. There lies a sequestered reality undreamed of in our field. And there lies the cure. By “cure” I mean arriving at ultimate causes. If we see time after time that those with migraine often relive oxygen deprivation at birth we begin to realize that perhaps oxygen deprivation may be one “cause” of later migraine. Particularly when those migraine begin to disappear after many relivings. This without a fixed theoretical mind-set. The same is true of many symptoms. Until we see in therapy the relationship between high blood pressure and traumatic events around birth we cannot alter it significantly. “Cure” means addressing and reliving the ultimate cause of our behavior and physical problems. We cannot do that until we acknowledge that very early events, even before birth, are imprinted and endure for a lifetime; that in order to eradicate serious even life-threatening symptoms we need to go back and relive those suffering aspects of an imprint that could not be experienced originally due to their load of pain. In my book, Primal Healing, I document the many, many studies that confirm the enduring power of early imprints.
There is no Jungian unconscious or shadow forces to blind us to the patient’s reality, no id nor other mystical notions. We can observe and later, we may draw some conclusions. Those conclusions would follow our observations. The problem is the need to absorb current observations within some kind of pre-established theory in order to make sense out of it. Some of the past trauma makes no “sense” in the ordinary scheme of things. there are no words nor scenes to put to it. I saw birth reliving for months and told my patients this was absolute nonsense because a local university neurologic department said that it was not possible. But they continued on and I had to reorient my thinking. Not only is it possible but we have seen it now with hundreds of patients from many countries of the world including those individuals who never read about it in my books. It is a measureable event. And we have researched it at the UCLA Pulmonary Laboratory as well in several brainwave studies.
Thomas Kuhn wrote that in the evolution of science there are periodic shifts or jumps that represent major changes in the direction of a particular scientific discipline. He labeled these jumps Paradigm Shifts. In our view, Primal Therapy and Primal Theory represent a major paradigm shift in the science of psychology. And in the course of this new perspective I want to demonstrate how a brain system designed to allow us to function under stress is in fact at the root of our mental problems. It is the story of the evolution of the brain and feelings. And evolution cannot be ignored in the therapy of human beings. Let’s take the case of deep depression. There are now modern techniques to ameliorate it—from tranquilizers and pain killers to drilling holes in the brain and probing deep down. The reason that we have had to used drugs and surgery is because there is no therapy extant that can go deep enough to affect the areas specifically involved in processing emotional pain. We can and we do. It is why we can use the word “cure.”
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.