Thursday, November 3, 2011
Serotonin and Anger
In my writings I have emphasized that early experience can deplete supplies of pain-killing chemicals that we produce, such as serotonin. And then we need to take medication that enhances supplies, medication found in many tranquilizers. Now there is a study of this in the journal of Biological Psychiatry (Sept 15, 2011). Here is one thing they found: reduced levels of serotonin make us more prone to aggression; something I have discussed for over thirty years. In other words, serotonin helps regulate serious emotions, especially those that can cause harm. And when there is very early trauma or adversity in the womb and at birth our ability to control our impulses is compromised, because our systems over a long time have evolved in order to keep anti-social impulses under control; otherwise we would all go around killing each other. Still it seems like all too many go around killing. Those, in my opinion, had very early trauma and neglect, and have diminished repressive capacities. Their brains are deficient. It might not show up for decades but they will be a danger.
What the research showed was that low brain serotonin made communication between certain areas of the brain more tenuous. Not any area of the brain but specifically in those areas dealing with feeling. Not just the feeling centers but their connections to the top-level control centers, the prefrontal cortex. So here we have confirmation that when there is diminished serotonin the prefrontal area has a much tougher time to control feelings. The researchers discuss the emotion of anger but I am certain that it applies to many of the deepest feelings we have, whether terror, hopelessness or helplessness. One way we know this is that we prescribe tranquilizers for depression, which has at is base both hopelessness and helplessness. When we suppress those feelings we tend to feel better. And when a carrying mother feels depressed there is a good chance that the offspring will also have a tendency to those feelings, as well. It all depends on later life experience.
We see again how the top level thinking area and feelings work in see-saw fashion so that the very active top level cortex can control the lower level emotions; or not. That is, when the top level is compromised the control evaporates and we have an impulsive individual. And we may have a criminal or someone who takes risk when he shouldn’t. Or we have a volatile husband who beats his wife. And so they go to a counselor who encourages him to control himself—anger management. But the cortex cannot manage the fury that lies sequestered just below the surface. And no counseling will ever, ever, change that. Exhortation does soup up the prefrontal area a bit, and in so doing arrays the forces of thought and belief against feelings, but that is at best ephemeral. The faulty equation between feelings and control centers still exists and will continue to exist. And obviously, we must address that equation and normalize it, which can be done. No amount of talk and encouragement will achieve that. That is the trouble with anger management; feelings were never evolved to be managed. They exist to be expressed.
And now the investigators concoct a new nomenclature for this: “intermittent explosive disorder.” (Now officially known as IED). Isn’t that the same as blowing up every now and then? Again, we are trying to ape medical diagnosis, while the inventor of this new diagnosis bathes in glory. Oh my, that love of diagnosis with fancy sounding names that does nothing to enhance science. But the behavior/cognitivists hold sway today and so they continue to add this behavior or that to a long list of so-called neuroses. And they believe that behavior is indicative of neurosis, rather than what drives it. It is as if there is no unconscious. Everything for them is observable. They believe only what they can see when most neuroses are hidden and not observable. Can we “see” depression? Can we see anguish? Can we see rejection internally? These are not single behaviors; they are systemic problems that affect the whole system. The real culprit here is the psychiatric diagnosis manual, which has as many pages and afflictions as the Manhattan telephone book. It is that thick because the behaviorists control all this.
When professionals limit themselves to the here and now they have eliminated the time and epoch where and when they could understand origins and generating sources. They have cut away the elements that could offer understanding. And who suffers? The patient.
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.