Thursday, December 29, 2011
On the Right and Left Brain. There Is No Cure Without Their Unity. (Part 3/10)
Let’s be sure that we don’t mean awareness. It means experiencing and feeling it. It means having the original feeling again. And that is the difference. Awareness keeps us on the left no matter how hard we want to get to feelings. So if I tell a patient, “You know what feelings you have hidden? A lot of fear.” And she says, ”Yeah, I guess so. Thanks for the information.” That is the end of it. No help. Or if the doctor tells the patient, “explain your feelings.” All is lost because the left brain was used to discuss and explain when it should have first been the right brain. Defying evolution will never get us there. If you think before feeling you still may be out of control; if you feel before thinking you are in control. If I know what is causing my migraines I can get control. If I don’t know I have no control.
Yes, one can do behavior therapy and drive away the symptom which makes the person sicker because she is deprived of an outlet. If she cannot check the gas jets twenty times a day she suffers and is full of fear. The obsession is exactly like taking a tranquilizer. It makes the symptom tranquil but it remains unrelenting because the feeling is. When there is a generalized terror set down at birth or before, (see “Primal Healing” for a full explanation), it stays locked-in. The act out is checking gas jets, and they must be checked many times a day to keep the low-level fear from becoming explosive terror. Now the left brain does not know there is terror forcing the act-out; it just goes on happily with its obsession. And, then the person can reason--after all, it is not so bad. The obsession binds the feeling; thus, the left brain surrounds the right feeling and places a barrier around it; that barrier is in many places, including the corpus callosum.
Yet this person decides to have therapy, not because he suffers but because his wife told him to as she could not stand it any more. They could not go out to dinner until all the jets were checked over and over. So he goes to a therapist who focuses on the act-out, not the cause. Those gas jets. He won’t get well, although his left brain will engage in a constant struggle to control his act out. The inner pressure remains and will be deadly, in the literal form of the word. When he feels what is on the right he has control at last.
And he won’t change until we help him descend to the origins of the terror, in context. And that has to be done slowly over months, one pain at a time; one lesser pain leading to more heavy ones as we progress deeper in therapy. The primal context is that devilish right brain, all disguised and hidden. Yet only it knows about the terror. There is such a gap between the deep feeling and what it forces the obsessive to do that neither she nor her therapist can make the connection. So what are they left to do? Keep on treating the obsession as a viable entity all by itself, ad infinitum. The left brain has extracted its meaning from the origin. It is a therapy of fragmentation, of splitting the patient off from his symptom. It is inhuman and de-human.
Now we have the intellectual left and the emotional right. When we consider having psychotherapy the left chooses cognitive while the right seeks out gestalt (a kind of free-for-all of do whatever you want approach). Those with intrusion of pain may seek us out. We search out whatever will reinforce our neurosis. Let me quickly add that there can be no real progress in any psychotherapy without the active participation in full of both hemispheres. We cannot get well on one side of the brain while the other stays sick. We cannot avoid the pain and feelings that drive us from almost conception on and hope to be rid of anxiety, phobias and depression. The right holds all those secrets; it is up to the left to make the first step toward a rapprochement with it. This is not intellectual theorizing; what I state has a good deal of research behind it, including any number of split-brain experiments that tell us the function of each side.
(To learn more start with Drs Joe Bogen and Roger Sperry’s split-brain work).
Historically, the reason the left hemisphere gets so active when there is stored pain is that it has to suppress it so that it can get on with its job of concentrating on the outside world, the job, school, etc. The right, too, tries to contain overwhelming feelings so that the left can do its job properly. But when it is filled up it needs help, and it turns leftward for help and connection; alas, the left is absent because it has all these meetings and projects and places to go. It can’t be bothered. The left seeks out success when the only real success is to be a feeling human being who can love and be loved. And the busy man comes to therapy and wants action. But he soon finds out that his left brain has to slow down into the feeling zone and that it must accede to the right brain, something it is not used to. The patient complains of constant difficulty in falling asleep. His lower right level has long nerve networks reaching upward that drive the frontal thinking area to be activated; hence, the rumination—on the left. It cannot let go and allow the right to fall asleep. And it goes on and on because the right brain has been neglected. The pain is saying, “let me out,” but the left won’t do it. And so the symptom. The pain has to go somewhere. And then we treat that pain, the back, neck and stomach, because we did not treat the real pain. Is it really only about pain? No, it is about joy, love and contentment but the only way to get there is over the bridge to the pain on the right brain. Then it is real.
When defenses are weak (when life deals some cruel blows), there can be a breakthrough of deep imprinted terror, and the person claims she is having a panic or anxiety attack. Here the feeling is uncontrolled and uncontained; it has no special context for the moment until the patient takes the vehicle out of storage and rides back in time. The left has to cede hegemony to the right and let it take over, something it is not used to doing. Feelings can lead us to the truth, and that is why we can have such insights as a result because the left now knows what that hidden feeling made her do. The left now knows exactly what circumstances lead to her high blood pressure or his exhibitionism. And the insights flow effortlessly. “I have to show my penis so I can get an emotional reaction (shock)from a woman.” The post session insights are very much part of the primal experience, tying the two sides tightly together. No insights no feelings. Not every time but often.
Let me add in the case of the exhibitionist that before the insights there are many many days of feeling. “I tried every day to get my mother’s attention. She was too depressed to pay attention.” He relived many of these scenes and then the key feeling, “Look at me momma! Please!” To try to have an intellectual insight without all the preceding events and feelings is useless. It remains intellectual, does not seep into the system to make changes.
Let me reiterate: the feeling is experienced; the rape victim invariably creates the same bound hands together during a primal,(her father held her hands as he took her from behind), and she now sees what it made her do. She was hostile to men and became a lesbian. (This is from an actual case that we have filmed). She only felt safe with women. These are the insights that tumble out after a feeling. If she cannot have the insights, then perhaps there was not yet a connected feeling. Perhaps more was dredged up that has yet to be felt and connected. In other words, if there are no insights we are bereft of understanding the act-outs. It is as if to say there were no consequences from a disastrous feeling. And as I noted elsewhere, the earlier and feeling the greater the chance of a serious affliction later on. The valence or force of the imprint never lessens; the left side just covers it up better. So we see here how the obsession with the gas jet and the turn to lesbianism may have the same roots. It is behavior in an unconscious attempt to control a past harmful and traumatic feeling. So in a way, neurosis is the current way we control the past. The only problem is that in the present it remains out of context. It was appropriate to be afraid of father in the past but not normal now to be afraid of authority figures. It is logical but not normal.
So why are there attention deficits? Because the right which is charged with sustained attention is so loaded with pain that it off-loads some of its burden to the left. Now all kinds of inputs are coming in to disturb concentration and focus. The right cannot do its job. Remember that the very early trauma is lodged in the right and takes up space there, and above all, it constantly agitates because pain is driving it incessantly. It needs to connect with the left, and the neo-cortex but the gates stop it. Connection means the end of it as an agitating force. It means rest and relaxation; it means integration. No longer alien feelings but those who have found a home. So long as they are alien the system treats it as a foreign force and considers it as an invading stranger. When the feelings come too close to conscious-awareness the system goes into alarm mode; the white cells treat the feeling as alien and dangerous and the blood pressure and heart rate mount. The happens to almost every patient when they come close to deeply-lodged feelings. The left sounds the alarm when feelings come close and the system goes into alarm/panic mode; mobilizes to keep it all away, while gating swings into action. It stimulates evasive action, avoiding anything that will evoke feelings.
Those who had a harridan for a mother will avoid aggressive women in their lives. Most of us avoid whatever might set off alien feelings; and so in a way we are programmed. Those who had a tyrannical father may become obsequious in the face of male authority in order to stave off anger. The latent fear is already so high that the person cannot take any more. We can tell ourselves—the right self, not to be afraid but it is a weak force against a lifetime of terror; in the same way we can tell our selves not to eat chocolate when the imprint of starvation in the womb hidden on the right is importuning. The left is no match for the imprints on the right. They are always packing more power than the left, as they should; it is our emotional self. So we have an emotional self, an intellectual self and finally, a real self…united. It is that real self that can control things such as overeating or premature ejaculation. Why overeating? Because there is a history underlying it. He is eating out of his history. He is not only hungry now but back then—starving in the womb. He is trying to get fulfilled back then, as well. The same as trying to get love now to make up for no love as a child. Fulfillment is sine qua non; it cannot be forgotten so one is always looking for fulfillment in one way or the other. It is the left that takes need from the right and tries to find ways to get fulfillment, and it is always symbolic because the left side is basically the symbolic side. It wants more and more money because he cannot feel any fulfillment. The left brain sees the steak and the right brain rushes in with its history of starvation or deprivation to make the person eat for both times…..that is over-eating. The intellectual self has no emotional wallop by itself; that is why it is so weak in the face of powerful feelings. So there is sexual stimulation with the resulting premature ejaculation because the early pain is so heavy and the controlling left brain so weak.
For therapists, what the patient says is put into context by the right so that the doctor can also read the emotional subtext of what is going on. In other words, the doctor is not just listening to words but emotions. The left brain needs to hear words and cannot make decisions until he hears the right words. It cannot suss out what is an appropriate move without them. For example, when president Bush was told the Twin Towers were bombed he could not react immediately. He could not feel what was the right thing to do. So he waited, waiting for instructions so his left brain could decide what to do.
It would seem that deep depression is another one of those right brain imprints that never quite make it to upper level left connection; and so the malady lives on untouched by conscious/awareness. Repression of feelings set in so early that we come to think that depression is some kind of alien, unknowable force. We feel “heavy” because the deep powerful imprints are being held down, and we cannot seem to lift the burden. We are literally carrying a load—of pain. These imprints are all nonverbal and exceptionally early. They are almost unreachable except with a therapy that can get down that deep. No intellectual therapy can touch it; which is why there is widespread use of tranquilizers in conventional therapy. Imagine how far the imprint has to travel to reach the higher left brain cortical canopy and make a connection. Then the therapist says, “tell me how you feel.” All is lost because it is preverbal and nonverbal and cannot be expressed in words.
A little example from my life: someone is writing the story of my life. And so he went pretty far to interview one of my shipmates on the battleship we were on together. My pal recounted the story of a Japanese submarine that came up to the surface and was trying to ram us. Then we and another destroyer fired on the sub and sank it. I have no memory of all this, and I was standing on the gun station next to my pal. How is it possible that I do not remember and never did, except small snippets? I wasn’t there. I was in my past and my terror without cease. Where is my past? I have no idea. But I do know that my left side was not properly registering events. I may have seen what I saw but the left side did not acknowledge it and so I have no memory; and it bothers me no end that my life went by unconsciously. I was unconscious of my life; and it happens over and over again that friends tell me about high school and I have no memory of it. I was so deep in the hold of my early painful imprints that I was never there in the present in my childhood.
Just because the patient is unconscious doesn’t mean the doctor has to be. The doctor needs to know about the right brain and what it holds. When it is ignored any therapy that follows must be misleading. The doctor needs to know about how prenatal events get imprinted on the right and what they do to the left. Above all, the doctor needs herself to be connected.
One might wonder why I believe the force of the imprint never lessens even when we are sixty years old? Because in the reliving the force is there with all of its power, and the blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate climb to monumental proportions.
We don’t need to study brain damage to understand the contribution of each hemisphere because neurosis and the disengagement from the two hemispheres can explain so much. In other words, neurosis is very much like brain damage without there being damage, only dysfunction, which is reversible. That is the good part. We can be disconnected neuro-physiologically through destroyed or damaged tissue, or we can be disconnected through gating without serious damage. The result, however, is the same. One side doesn’t know what is going on in the other side.
I have left-brain friends, super-intellectuals who remember everything about their lives, dates, times and places. They are devoid of feelings but their memory is intact. If you had to make a choice what would you choose?
The two brains are symbiotic; and if you get into a therapy that does not fully account for that symbiosis it cannot work.Cognitive/behavior/insight therapy cannot get us deeply into the right side, while Reichian, Gestalt, hypnosis and other similar therapies miss out on the left. It is not like a choice they all make; their brains won’t allow it.
I will use myself to explain all this: I was always a right brainer. My mother while carrying was pre-psychotic, and the day I was born I was given over to my grandmother. When she killed herself my mother then went to a mental hospital and shipped my sister and I off separately for quite a long time to strange families. I never could recover from this and began a lifelong anxiety state that never stopped until Primal. I had serious ADD and ould not concentrate nor read anything complex. I could not pay attention and had to move constantly in class. I had serious image problems; very low self esteem. I was imprinted on the right and was dominated by it; there wasn’t enough left brain development to help repress feelings. Agitation on the right did not permit it. So there was a constant flow of pain from the right that decimated the left side function. I had constant nightmares and was terrified of going to sleep. I did badly in high school and never ever thought of any intellectual pursuit like going to college. But, in the navy I took an intelligence test and scored high, so high I was taken off my ship in mid-pacific and sent to university to study. I got straight A’s and realized “I can do this.” I then went to college and got serious about it. But it was not until Primal that I shook my anxiety, ADD, nightmares and the rest. Now after many decades I can think, and think abstractly. I can plan for the distant future, starting a book that will take years to finish.
The Primal Scream was a right brain piece, full of feeling. It took decades until I could use the left side to embellish my work and include serious science into it. I think now both sides are equal and work in harmony. Not easy. I could finally develop the left side because I got rid of all that garbage that was infiltrating into it from the right. As long as the right was overloaded there could be no harmony. And memory never made it to the left to be etched there permanently. The right had a terrible burden, and needed help. I discovered the help and gave it to myself. I invented, rather discovered, a therapy and could finally could make a marriage of the two sides and they get along famously. I can get to sleep easily because I can cede the left side to the right and get below the constant rumination and nightmares. And I can concentrate very well indeed. Apart from the damage surgeons did on my throat I am in perfect health; all systems working fine. I don’t think that is an accident. I use my case in order to illustrate all this for others.
THE RIGHT LEFT BRIDGE
There is major bridge connecting the two hemispheres; actually, there are several bridges (commissures) but the main one is called the corpus callosum; it carries over eighty percent of all emotional information to the left side. It has two functions: one, to carry information from right to left and back again; and two, to block information from right to left and back again. And why would it block information? When it means a lot of pain, more than the left/awareness can tolerate. Then we rationalize, “God will take care of a everything.”
When in our therapy the gates open up and the information passes through from right to left the patient is in pain. Happily, not for long. Once joined there is finally a way to relax; there is harmony and a mutual understanding. When the two sides make their contribution the patient is being integrated and on her way to getting well. And in our brain research there is a greater equilibrium between the two hemispheres.
The distance between our feelings/pain and our conscious/awareness of it I call the Janovian Gap. The wider the gap between right and left brains the sicker we may be and the earlier we may die, at least in my theoretical scheme. The two hemispheres are working against each other instead of in harmony with one another. The gap really is the distance between the right and left brain; how much information is allowed to traverse the corpus callosum (I call hereafter I call the corpus). When there is a wide gap there is an internecine battle going on. The loser is us. That gap often forces us to smoke and drink and take drugs. That is why the strict intellectual, and I know many in my field, has got to fall sick in his or her later life. And that sickness is often cancer. I wish this were just theory. I am at the age of having lost many friends. I see what they die of and I am rarely surprised. The right-siders, the impulsives, due to leaky gates, in my opinion, most often die of a stroke as the pain bursts through without sufficient control. Here the left side is weak.
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.