Thursday, December 29, 2011
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.
Monday, December 26, 2011
THE LEFT BRAIN
It is the left that is the thinker and the believer. It is the cognitive side, devoid of affect. This analyzing but unfeeling hemisphere seeks out single solutions for complex problems; its focus is narrow and superficial especially in my field. It believes what it is told and obeys readily.
One job of the left brain is to re-represent a feeling higher up in the nervous system. It helps symbolize the feeling as the conceptual brain comes online. And we can use that symbol (“he is suffocating me”) to gain access to the right unconscious (real early suffocation). We rely on evolution, understanding how early lower levels of consciousness move upward and forward pushing the next higher level into action. And in those high level actions there are imbricated the lower level imprints—in this case, real suffocation. So we do not have to guess what is there. The nervous system seems to join similar feelings, seamlessly, into its nerve bundles, classifying them as a single category for storage. Therefore, we know that below the symbol lies the feeling, and we are rarely disappointed. We in our feeling therapy never try to change the re-representation/symbol/left-brain alterations of the feeling, (you suffocate me), we only use it to open the door to the imprint, to history. Trying to convince the person that he is wrong in his belief that his wife is suffocating him, is ripping out the belief from its proper context and destroying the organicity of the experience. “OK. I now understand what you mean, doctor, and I see that is not what she is doing.” It is not her; it is his past that forced the belief. It comes not from outside but from inside. If we have no access to that inside we will mistakenly think it is simply her erroneous idea. Again, the belief was given birth by the feeling. The feeling on the right holds it in place.
I hesitate to say this but the left brain when left to is own devices and not softened by the right, is a tyrant, an unfeeling fascist who can do harm. Look at it in social terms; every fascist state denies the needs of its people and suppresses them when they show their face. So needs are not fulfilled and indeed are punished when they want fulfillment. The State is not democratic until acknowledges needs. We are not normal until needs are either fulfilled or felt; until the right brain sees the light of day.
The left brain is the symbolic self; it rises last out of evolution. It has the job of translating feelings from the past into current notions and beliefs, and helps us live in the present. Strange, because it does not speak the language of the right but it can translate it into its own verbal language. Clearly the right does not speak English but it speaks in its own way. Isn’t that odd? The left (say, in psychotherapy) tries to put words onto something that has no words; it is speaking the wrong language but is doing the best it can. Its language is numbers and statistics, after all. It is in theory and beliefs; that is why left brainers love theories and hypotheses. And they stick by them no matter what the reality. So they use the theory to interpret the patient’s words and cannot learn anything new that might contradict the theory.
You cannot get a doctor’s degree in my field without quoting a bunch of numbers. The only proof a student can proffer to get a diploma is statistics. And voila, there is the sought-after diploma, at last. But what happened? On the way the left crushed the right forevermore, never to be returned to is proper place. And they give the student the diploma with the right brain attached in case he may need it in the future. Alas, he doesn’t; I mean, he does, but he can’t find it. He lost it in the seven years of desiccated, disembodied, devitalized and etiolated study.
You see the problem we have had in psychotherapy? Left brain doctors adopting left brain therapies and getting left brain answers for their results. They publish in left brain journals for left brain scientists. Perfect. It reinforces itself and reifies the results in a closed circle of reason. Then a lonely right brainer comes along and says, “Hey I have a new idea.” No one wants to hear it. They are busy perfecting the minutia of their theory. They have a very good rationale for what they are doing.
We do need the left side for science and the right side for feelings but never one or the other. And if we have to make a critique of any other therapy it is because it skews to one side or the other. The right brainers get involved in airy-fairy approaches with little science behind them, (feelings and imagination from the right run wild), while the left brain maintains a narrow focus not seeing the implications nor totality of the event. We need both; left and right working together, good imagination and feelings even beyond the facts, and facts that place feelings and imagination within the constraint of science.
The problem we have in our profession of mental health is that those early experiences lie on the right and do not tell their secrets to the left. That is one reason it remains unconscious. The experience has no words nor scenes to help us know and remember them. After all, life in the womb is wordless and bereft of scenes. Here lies the problem. Ina verbal, intellectual therapy we are trying to learn about the unconscious with a language that is on the left. It’s watching the game from the far-away left bleachers and understands nothing. The right is trying to inform it with its anxiety, obsessions and depressions but the left can’t hear it. The right has the key responsibility for integration of the two sides, but it cannot do it alone; and too often the left is not interested. It has its modus operandi and does not want to be bothered. It never wants to get too emotional. It cries a few tears and believes that is the extent of human emotion. It is not. Clearly, the right is more “human.” It cares about the living and it cares about feeling.
As we mature, the left comes on line, and the right is relieved because it can “dump” some of its load onto the left. What it dumps is the energy and force of the feelings and imprints; not the content. The left hemisphere is like a shadow of the right, only vaguely aware of what the real feeling is. Yet in a vague way it understands a bit. The left is always looking through a screen trying to figure out what the real feeling is. So the person feels depressed but doesn’t know about the deep and early hopelessness and helplessness imprinted there. Then we have a doctor who labels it depression, when that is not the feeling at all. It is a left brain tag from the left field stands describing what may be wrong. Diagnosis is a label not a dynamic description. The left will try to make the emotional information rational, as best it can. When that load is too heavy with right side profound hopelessness, the left side can be overwhelmed. There is then a profound weltschmerz that overcomes the left, as well. And the patient just feels down. The doctor says, “You are depressed.” The patient says, “thank you,” and now what? How do we treat depression when we do not know what it is? The labels don’t tell us much but feelings do. Labels and diagnoses are left brain and can only approximate the right. When the patient plunges into right brain deep hopelessness the depression begins to lift and we have learned something.
So the poor left side, that aloof insensitive guy in our head senses depression and struggles to make sense of what is going on inside. Confusion reigns. (Unfortunately, only the right orbitofrontal cortex, around the eyes, can look back into our history and suss out our old feelings.
As the load of pain increases the left is obligated to fabricate paranoia or fantasy of some kind, “They are after me and want to kill me.” Or it can adopt booga booga, far-out, spacey ideas that are beyond reality. We might call those ideas “crazy,” but it is only the left trying to accommodate the pressure from the right; to encircle and bind the terrible force, and to make it rational. The left is trying to fabricate a rationale for the feeling without knowing exactly what the feeling is; a strange paradox. But if we asked the person who was rationalizing what was the feeling behind it all he would have no idea. It all remains unconscious because of the lack of connection. We see this in the political sphere where groups want more and more arms because they feel unsafe. They concoct an enemy that we must arm against. They will never feel safe because “unsafe” is an imprint, an imprint that forces the left to find a rationale--an enemy. Yet they will only feel safe, ultimately, when they have gone back to feel "unsafe" in its original context.
One would think that the right simply dumps what it can to the left and that is the end of it. But no. There are filters that scramble the message so that only a bit of the memory/feeling gets through. The left must guess what the feeling is, and it manufactures ideation to cover it. To produce the message and its comprehension we must address the brain that is holding the old, old secrets, and we cannot do that with the left brain; that means we cannot use the intellect to accomplish the task. We must seduce the right brain to give up its pain, and it does so reluctantly—and slowly, and methodically and ever-so hesitantly. It is not in a rush to feel pain but it will do so if it is not thrust into it abruptly. Gently, gently is the watchword. The left must relinquish its hold, as well. And we must use the language of the right; simple sentences, a light tone, unforced cadence and mostly non-verbal cues; a touch here a nod of the head there. If you want to talk big words and long sentences go to the left and ruin the session. And above all, do not use abstractions that the left side loves because that throws the patient into the wrong brain and stops feelings in their tracks. We use her body language to tell us where to go; a cough, a tear, a tension all speak volumes and talk to us explicitly. When we feel someone is hurting, a little hug will bring forth the tears, whereas a lengthy discussion or positive cheerleading won’t. It is only what we do in therapy but it takes years to learn it.
Now we see why the ideas we manufacture are so unchanging; they are defending against a deep unconscious feeling that is not changing. And we/the left don’t know about this. I find this incredible that we have feelings on one side that are not recognized on the other. Alas, that is the human condition. It makes us eat chocolate and drink vodka and yet it is as if that side belonged to someone else; I guess in a way it does. What happens is that the left side takes the leitmotif of the right-side feeling and gives it structure. The right cannot do that; structure is not what it is about.
So we have a danger (of the feeling—lack of oxygen at birth or lack of love)which forces the manufacture of an enemy. And now the left does what it can to protect itself against that enemy. In extreme psychosis one puts foil covers on the head to stop the aliens from getting in.
It is pretty much the same in all cases. For example depression, which most often has at its base deep hopelessness. Until the person feels fully that hopelessness, in context, the tendency to depression will stay. And it stays a threat for a lifetime. Where does the feeling come from? Many places and many different times; perhaps at birth being impeded from coming out into life or being strangling by the cord; whatever engenders hopelessness—insuperable odds. This may be compounded later with feeling unloved with no chance at love by two statues (parents) incapable of love, compounded again by a husband later on who is cold and indifferent. All this exacerbates the feeling of hopelessness. So, depression is not a feeling; it is the result of feeling, the suppression of it. The left side is often playing whack-a-mole; knocking down any sign of that hopelessness as soon as it shows its face. The person, driven by right, obliges the left brain to stuff itself with pain-killers without even knowing that there is pain. And if the left knows there is pain inside it rarely knows what it is. That is because the right is protecting the left from too much information--pain. The right is both a friend and an enemy. Choose your weapons; you cannot have both. When you feel fully you have only a great friend who liberates you.
The left brain loves categories which is why the new psychiatric diagnostic manual is as thick as the Manhattan phone book. Each new behavior has a category, so instead of seeing how feeling underlies it all, the experts, under the emprise /hold of the Behaviorists decide to concentrate on diagnostic categories, as if that can really helps or makes a difference in therapy. So now they want to include forgiveness and also gratitude as categories; the only thing left out is sneezing but it won’t be long. The truth is when my patients begin a certain kind of deep cough they are usually into something from deep in the neuraxis and it is truly diagnostic; so you see coughing is a diagnosis. Why list each behavior in lieu of the motivation/feeling behind it? Because feeling has been left out of the mix. So those left brainers are building one by one several thousand diagnostic categories and they do it because the insurance companies require it for payment. Nothing to do with science; nothing to do with the brain or psychology or people’s suffering; more to do with finance and economics. Categories are not people; they are things, inhuman, devoid of humanity and suffering. Doesn’t that fit nicely with giant insurance corporations? And isn’t that perfect for the left brain?
The left adores vocabulary. Big words to confuse and obfuscate(oops)meaning. We then have to wade through the verbiage to see if we can understand it. Again, feelings lead to simple language; the more abstracted we are the bigger and more complicated the words. And that is why when we professionals read textbooks or scientific reports they are almost indecipherable. But if you want another professional to respect you, you need this kind of vocabulary.
If we meet someone who is inflexible we have a left-brainer. If one is thinking about divorce because the wife is so rigid, think about a therapy that will help her join with the flexible, creative side.
The left side has a certain arrogance to it; it can’t be wrong---at least until it is humbled by the right side truths that show it reality. Meanwhile, the left side is that of defense, “I am not wrong. You (or the devil) made me do it.” The left-brainer cannot accept emotional reality until he checks statistics to be sure; to have his unreality verified. The left side, in short, doesn't easily adapt to new ways of doing things. It is obdurate and unyielding. The left-brain doctor thinks she can cure addiction without acknowledging the right. She focuses on the addict’s bad ideas and compelling behavior. But neglects where the feelings lie. The left does not like to hear emotional truths, therapist or addict. It is an unconscious conspiracy of two. But when the load is so great on the right there is a burst-through of pain, and the left can no longer function well, drastic measures are required. “Burst-through" means from right to left; the right is now a gate-crasher. It has to get out no matter what. It needs freedom from constraint, a constraint that may have begun during the birth process where egress out of the womb was blocked.
The left side is the “aware” side, (of full conscious/awareness), and when the depths of emotional pain surges forward the person is suddenly aware of what is down there. But the left side often flees from that knowledge. It is a very reluctant customer, and accepts ideas most skeptically.
The problem is that those early traumatic experiences lie on the right and do not tell its secrets to the left. Worse, the left side is largely indifferent to it throughout life. The left wasn’t even “alive” when all the sturm um drang took place. That is one reason it is unconscious. And why we do not know about it. The left hemisphere has its modus operandi and does not want to be bothered. Its focus is outside. It never wants to get too emotional; in fact, it can’t. There is insufficient emotional equipment on the left. So the person has mastered economics and knows nothing of the body she carries around all of the time.
Too often the left won’t help out with feelings, and indeed, runs from the right and its contents. The left senses danger. While the left brain is telling her analytic/cognitive therapist, “My parents could not show their feelings but I knew what they meant and I forgive them for it,” the right brain is screaming to her feeling therapist, “Hold me. Touch me! Love me just a little.” And that need/feeling is burrowing away in our unconscious stealthily doing its damage, weakening the heart, raising blood pressure and going about the job of killing us because the left brain refuses to acknowledge the need. Not only “refuses” but aids and abets suppressing the need and keeping it out of contact with our left side thinking, comprehending selves.
The left is often fear-ridden, jumpy and startled, with good reason because when the imprint rises from the depths the person can begin to feel terror, not a pleasant experience. The right side is literally strangling while the left side senses panic. Think of this because I cannot get over how bizarre it is. The right side is holding the actual memory and its sensation/feeling of strangling, while the left side is screaming at her husband, “You leave me no room to breathe.” When the right moves toward conscious/awareness that actual sensation starts to become conscious (always think conscious=right intrusion; the transformation of the left from simply “aware” to conscious). But when we insert tranquilizers into her system she will stop yelling, “You leave me no room to breathe.” Because we have further stuffed that feeling deeper into the unconscious so that for the moment it no longer drives the left side to yell about strangling and no breathing room. The closer the right moves to the left the more impelling the behavior. When the right moves all the way over into the left we have a primal. For that we need help because the defense system usually won’t allow it. It is only when the defense system has already opened and the right has broken through that we suffer and become partially aware of it.
When there is a strong right-left defense system, with the person heavily on the left, his interest for a lifetime will be business, science and external symbolic focus (like money and scientific facts). The arts are over on the right; which is why the artist often suffers and takes drugs. He is living inside the pain; the good part is that he is also on the side of creativity.
If one is to be liberated from the unconscious we have to suffer again, as unfair as that seems. The pain has to surface so it can be connected. The right has to cross over into the left; no cure without that. Remember, when all those different approaches out there discuss making us conscious, we need to know what and where the unconscious lies and what it takes to make it conscious. The left almost never has a clue. The right does. It never tells us the reason but we can feel it. The left knows the reason after connection because the feeling is there. The right is ready to connect when the left is. When that connection happens we can finally experience joy. The right has met its soul-mate and what a relief! We are connected, integrated. But wait, there is more; much more to this story. Let’s look some more at the left hemisphere.
The left loves the mechanical. It works point by point in meticulous fashion. It is the left side that is cognitive and helps form belief systems. Its focus is narrow and channeled. It does great brain surgery, but as I noted, don’t ask it to do a riff in a jazz piece. It can read the notes but cannot feel the music.
The left often thinks it feels but it only thinks it. It cannot feel it until it feels, as simplistic as that sounds. It is basically detached from feelings and is devoid of emotion. The left loves numbers, statistics and categories, and the so-called “objective facts.” It is the hemisphere of abstraction, of shredding the emotions out of emotional events and human interaction. Think here of cognitive therapy; it shreds the last ounce of feeling from psychologic observation so that we are left with dry facts.
I note that one of the key functions of the left is to suppress feeling. When the right feeling threatens to become conscious the left rushes in to shut it down; it orders the gates into action. The prefrontal cortex moves against the rising feeling on the deeper right and we remain unfeeling, which is one way we block bad feeling—numbed out. The left makes sure that there is an infusion of serotonin and other inhibitory chemicals (GABA and other repressors) to bolster gating against the right.
It is the left that forgives, blames, regrets, is ashamed, shows gratitude, remorse and appreciation; all of which are not necessarily feelings but looks like them, and can be faked. And if in a criminal proceeding you do not show remorse and say how sorry you were to kill that girl you will not get a reduced sentence. But if you can fake sincerity you will get off sooner. Why? Words, words, words. If we cannot feel we must take your word for it. If we can feel we can suss out the feeling in your words. If there is any.
The left side can manufacture all sorts of rationales to explain why there is and was no love or why I was not wrong and you are. It is expert at defending, while the right succumbs to these left-side rationales, and burrows itself more deeply into the physical system. We do need the left side for science and the right side for feeling.
So now we can understand such symptoms such as obsessions. Obsessions are not just thoughts; they arise out of obsessive feelings which drive them. They are in evolutionary order; feelings at the beginning followed by thoughts and beliefs. One may try doorknobs ten times a day to get over the fear of something being there, i,e,. bugs. The right feels very unsafe, perhaps in the womb with a very highly strung, anxious mother. Later on, years later, the left tries to keep the imprinted unsafe feeling in bounds by checking the gas jet twenty times. What is diabolic is that the obsessive rarely if ever knows what lies in the right brain that makes her do it. So isn’t it obvious that when the two sides connect it means the end of all that?
Sunday, December 25, 2011
In the psychologic literature they often equate having delusions with schizophrenia or psychosis. But I believe that there are many ways to go crazy not just delusions; in fact, delusions are the mind’s way of going off track. But what about how the body goes crazy? Remember there are levels of brain function, of levels of consciousness and each of those can go crazy in their own way. I submit that cancer may be the insanity of the cells and those cells may be crazy long before we have the capacity to think crazy. We know now that the DNA of cells on the lookout for developing cancer cells, our cellular guardians, are heavily methylated. Methylation usually means trauma earlier on. It is how the cells are tagged for trauma. That is, as the cells encounter adversity they are marked thereafter and they change through a process known as epigenetics. Those cells are now aberrant. And they can go crazy, spilling over their natural boundaries and continuing on a rampage for years; cancer can be considered psychosis of the cells, but as we evolve the message of damage moves higher up and transmutes, perhaps, into what we usually think of as insanity. It is still the cell DNA going crazy. The point of all this is that we should not only consider current damage, (pollution, bad diet, etc., all valid) but also we need to go back to generating sources to ultimate causes.
There is a good evidence now of how external toxins affect the DNA of the fetus and result in serious disease, whether cancer of psychosis. But the mother is also a spillway of toxic chemicals as her disturbed condition can result in overproduction of stress hormones (cortisol) which ultimately affect the baby she is carrying. Again epigenetics is the study of how the environment affects the DNA of the offspring, how it changes genes and their expression. Thus, the genes are the notes but the epigenes play the music. And they can play discordant music that adversely affects the system into developing cancer and/or later psychosis. There are several studies out now that indicate epigenetic dysfunction and the development of psychosis. Imprints take the notes and twist them according to adverse early experience. The early experience I call the imprint and it means that related DNA has been methylated and marked as traumatic. This methylation may be the culprit in all sorts of diseases later on, including Alzheimers disease. If we find a way through reliving to de-methylate key cells and that reverses Alzheimers we are our way to an important therapy.
(See the work of B.P Rutten on Epigenetic Mediation of Environmental Influences; and also F. Perera and Julie Herbstman on Prenatal environmental effects on disease. Also the work of Mill and Petronis on psychotic disorders) .
But now consider this: suppose we could treat all forms of cancer in the same way. Remember that trauma is inscribed in the cell DNA from the time soon after conception. The earlier the trauma and damage the more severe the response. It is why, in my opinion, mental psychosis begins its life in the first months of gestation where a smoking and drinking mother, a mother who is mentally unstable, can imprint great damage to the fetus. It is where the brain cells are being organized, but the damage is there long before we have the capacity for a false thought or delusion—a false belief. On its way upward as we evolve, the cells are already reacting to the damage in their own way. And heavy methylation affects both the cancer control cells and the cell DNA that produce mental illness. It is, in short, the same cause, different targets. Those targets may also be “chosen” due to genetics (inheritance), lifestyle, and many other factors.
The task, it seems to me, would be to try to reverse the damage, go back and undo the trauma. That sounds impossible, but there are chemical ways to reverse methylation, and I am proposing psychological ways—reliving the early trauma, even without words or scenes and return the cells to the original form, given that there is not too much damage already. Just because I call it psychological ways, it is still neurochemical at its base. It is just a more natural process without introducing chemicals into the system; rather, allowing the entire organism to normalize and see if the methylated cells return to normal.
I have written about resonance in my new Life Before Birth. It means that feelings that are related, hopelessness, for example, all levels of our personal evolution, bundle together so that when we set off one feeling in the present, hopeless over getting into college, it can dredge up related earlier feelings and sensations, deep hopelessness, futility and depression. This means that very early trauma--sensations in the first months of gestation before there are feeling structures in place are also part of the resonance. The primordial imprint and methylation becomes elaborated as we mature so that each new higher level of brain organization adds to the generating source; adding first, emotions and feelings, and secondly, thoughts and beliefs. It is still the same neural circuit. And each level is damaged, as well. Hopelessness is experienced in different ways but at the very bottom of it all is damage that has no words and no scenes. It is cellular damage done in the first months of life; it is a damage that has no words, a damage the predates words by millions of years in antiquity.
The good part of this is that as we begin a reliving, starting with a disappointment and despair in the present, the circuit will open up to deeper feelings until finally the reliving incorporates damage long before we had words. We may not be aware of is the added trauma from the past but it is there as part of the feeling, incorporated into the feeling circuit. And it is in this way that we may undo severe very early damage that may have caused cancer, in the first place. It is all part of a gestalt, of an overall imprint that has its antennae higher in the nervous system; related together, perhaps, by chemical similarities and by similar electrical frequencies.
This is not entirely theoretical since we see this taking place every day. As patients begin reliving they dig deeper in their nervous system as the therapy goes on., which allows for deeper more comprehensive access to the deepest imprints in the system, imprints that share a commonality—specific, shared feelings. It may be one reason that we rarely see cancer among our advanced patients. This, of course, needs to be tested. It is not that the patient tries to go deeper; it is that the system opens up all on its own permitting deeper access. If we hurry it by forcing the patient or giving him drugs it can only damage the process. It can produce mental psychosis as things are being brought up prematurely. Evolution needs to take place, and that means that we need to learn from evolution, seeing how our present structure has evolved over many years, but adding on each time new structures. Thus there is a base, a primitive reptile, that becomes a chimp and finally a human, in the same way in our personal evolution that we are humans in the present reliving, descending to our mammalian era and finally down to the basic reptilian epoch. All levels are part of our humanity. The point is that they are all related, still in our systems. Evolution has not discarded them; it has incorporated them. I see our personal evolution, ontogeny, in the same way. Each trauma leaves a trace, a tag, that is related to other similar kinds of trauma later on. There are representations of the original imprint on higher levels; thus, each new level adds its contribution to the memory--the imprint. They all add up to what makes us human both in phylogeny (in human history) and ontogeny (our personal history). It is those markers or tags that identify and inform the specific feelings to each other. Combined, they compound the feeling and its pain; adding to the force that one day will cause serious disease. Cancer, then, is the end result of evolution just as deep early imprints result in mental psychosis later on. They are part of the distortion and dislocation of the function of cells. The imprints change the neural circuits resulting first, in the psychosis of the cell—cancer, and secondly, psychosis of the mind—schizophrenia; deformation and distortion of the neural cells. The system can only take so much before there is a breakdown. We call that cancer and psychosis but it is all part of the same evolutionary process. It is an ineluctable result of our history; how then can we properly understand it without a return to that history? If history and historic imprints are the cause, and if we ignore them, then we can only beat back the symptom and never eliminate the cause. That is why there is an inevitable fall back into cancer and psychosis; the generating source is still alive. That is why we need to wait years to see if the sufferer is “clear,” if she has escaped history.
So to resume, since this is a rather complicated subject; the tag or marker on the primitive gene DNA, the epigenetic imprint is methylated; then as we mature those markers are rerepresented higher up so that first we get cancer and then later we become psychotic all from the very same imprint and distortion of the cell DNA. It is the antennae of the imprint that creates the havoc; the re-representation on higher levels the culprit. Here is one reason we can go crazy in life when there is adversity. It is not just that event, a family member dying, but what those cells contain as information that puts us over the top.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Nearly all of us know that our brains are split in two: the right and left brains. They are very different, like two separate parts of us. They have their distinct personalities and functions. One is more human/feeling than the other, as we shall see. When they don’t work together there is conflict and we are in trouble. We may get sick early in life and die prematurely. Sounds like an apocalypse, and it is. Connections between the two brains can be life saving. They need each other desperately in order to establish our humanity; this is not just an intellectual idea. If we don’t have them working together we are less human, as I shall show as we go along. The question is: what makes them not work in harmony? How do we get them to do so? And what does each hemisphere do exactly?
Let’s look at each side and see what they do:
THE RIGHT HEMISPHERE
First of all, we should know that the right side came into being first and is primordial in every sense of the word. It is the feeling hemisphere. It helps store old emotional memories inside its orbit. It absorbs and registers our very early trauma while in the womb. The early experience has no words nor scenes to help us know and remember them. After all, life in the womb is wordless, nor are there scenes attached. It is all sensations and then feelings. The right brain has the key responsibility for integration of the two sides, but it cannot do it alone. It needs a partner. We will see who that will be. Clearly, the right is more “human.” It cares about the living and it cares about feeling. It is more sensitive and caring. It senses nuance, honesty and insincerity. `
The right side is flexible and prefers a panoply of choices. It is no accident that creativity increases in those who have had a left hemisphere stroke. (The right controls the left side of the body, and vice versa). So many of my patients have discovered their artistic capabilities after therapy; they have been opened up not only to the pain on the right but also the creativity. Research has the shown a jazz riff (improvised solo) to be strictly right brain. In short, it is the feeling side that handles creativity.
One of the reasons for the right’s flexibility is that it is better myelinated early on, meaning it has thicker myelin sheaths (a kind of fatty covering) around nerve cells that help them transfer information to other cells. It is more able to inform the top neo-cortex of what information, including pain that it is holding down deep. There is much to discuss on this hemisphere subject.
The right side is musical, it comprehends tone, and nuance, the subtleties of sounds. In therapy the doctor needs to be aware of shifting tone because it offers us the subtext of what is going on in the patient. The tone exposes the right brain while the left brain of the patient rattles on with sophisticated big words. We understand the right side pressure by the torrent of words the patient uses. If she is loaded up to the gills with feelings the words may rush out toppling over one another, and spill out under great pressure. A slight little wobble in the throat tells us that feelings are right there. Music helps us deal with patients; it helps bring up key feelings and scenes. It evokes a special time in their lives. It is the right brain expressing itself, its emotional self. And when patients recall scenes and events, sometimes we ask them to sing the song or hum along with the radio; up come feelings. We are addressing and giving voice to the right brain; very helpful in a feeling therapy.
To repeat: the right brain is the feeling one for good and bad. It takes precedence in our lives, gathering into its maw all the unhappy events of our early life, including life in the womb; the carrying mother’s drinking cocktails, staying on a strict diet to keep her shape, a stressful job, and/or fighting with her husband. The right hemisphere is the keeper of the truth of our early lives and what happened to us emotionally. The right cannot sustain focused attention. The left can and does. The left is interested in what is going on exactly. The right maintains a more general vigilance.
The right lacks focused attention; just what is needed in class when the teacher gives an assignment. The right goes into panic mode and the person cannot learn.XXXXXXX Anxiety suffuses and suffocates the left’s attempts to learn. It crosses the corpus bridge (explained in a moment), to upset the status quo. “You know,” says the right, “my right hippocampus which is suppose to handle the memory of new events cannot do the job.” It seems to be overwhelmed, and that is why anxiety cases have such poor memory of past events. The past is mostly a blank as the brain structures charged with memory have defaulted under the imprinted load. And information on the right cannot inform the left of its experience so the memory does not get embedded on the left, and the person later on can hardly recall infancy and childhood events.
The right is often so loaded with feelings and pain that it cannot pay attention to the present; that is, it cannot focus on the present when the past is demanding attention, as well. When the past is full-up with terror and anxiety, memory vanishes. It is no accident that the right hippocampus is involved in emotional memory, and not the left. It always sees the bigger picture, and is always looking for patterns of behavior that would fit into that whole. There is a poverty of detail on the right which the left can supply. The left side loves detail. The right can’t be bothered. If instructions say, “pour out exactly two tablespoons into a saucepan,” all goes blank. The right goes by “feel” and guesses how to do it. Precision is not the right’s forte. That intuitive side is necessary in a feeling therapy, (but a little science is also helpful).
A patient can explain how afraid she is all day long but when she gets down and feels it in past context, it is another story. The left hemisphere senses terror but only the right has access to it; it can feel it in all its strength. When there is a breakthrough of feeling to the left side there can be a panic attack; the right is purging itself.
To repeat: all of the very, very early traumas are mostly processed on the right side, even before the left side comes into maturity; before it exists as a force. And those early experiences are imprinted and engraved in the system. And since the original experience is non-verbal the reliving must be non-verbal. And since the original experience was accompanied by a blood pressure of 170 over 115, the reliving must duplicate that exactly. The imprint cannot lie; it is remembering in its own way--neurobiologically. And when there is a reliving of the birth trauma there are very high vital signs throughout the process. It is our way of verifying the reliving is a true event. Therefore, no therapy that is intellectual at its base (cognitive/insight) can work on this. There needs to be a different kind of language to get the patient back there.
No level of brain tissue can do the work of a different level of brain function; the left can never do the work of the right. We need to address the painful feelings on the level at which it occurred and in the hemisphere that holds it. We cannot use words to get us to preverbal times. This is the basic mistake of today’s psychotherapy. Trying to verbally comprehend that which has no verbal rationale; that which cannot only be understood in non-verbal ways: that must be relived without words, words that had no part in the original imprint. It makes as much sense as getting the right limbic, feeling brain to engage in complex mathematics. That is not its job. You cannot talk complexity to it but you can sing to it. And because there are no words you can hum to it. Now you know why those who stutter or suffer cross dominance of the brain can stop stuttering if they sing. You can actually pinpoint the cause in this way. When we take words out of the equation things get simpler.
The close colleague of the right hippocampus, is the right amygdala, the agent of fear and deep feelings. This is one of the key structures to limbic area feeling. The amygdala is also involved in overall emotional processing. When deeper level terror in the brainstem comes up to join feelings of fear in the right limbic area there can be an out-of-control panic. When the right amygdala is loaded with feelings it seems to engorge waiting to get rid of its load. New research indicates that the offspring of depressed mothers have enlarged amygdalas. Among other functions it scans the environment for threats and sends signals of fear so that we may react appropriately. These people become adults who might be supersensitive to threats, and when the valence of it early on was enormous we have the soil for later paranoia, someone who sees threats everywhere. This is particularly true of those long time pot smokers where the right side defenses weaken and become more and more of a threat to the left. Then the left has no choice but to produce more and more strange ideas, essentially paranoiac in character. Those ideas tell us clearly that feelings are threatening and defenses are crumbling: beware! As the years go on those ideas become fixed and unassailable.
(Science: “How Sad Moms Change A Child’s Brain. Aug 22, 2011).
A carrying mother’s deep depression makes a change in the baby’s brain; there are no words or scenes to express it or remember it. It is remembered organically. There is a tag on it, a mark made by a process known as methylation which labels the experience and alters the expression of genes and influences behavior. The genes are often interpreted wrongly by the nervous system but the addition of the chemical methyl group to the cells marks it for a lifetime. It creates an epigenetic event which changes how the genes unfold, or at least how the brain interprets those genes. When a gene changes is “face” it sometimes cannot be recognized. This change not only affects later behavior but also the propensity for certain serious illness including cancer. And these traumas are heavily right brained. So later in therapy when we address the patient and have her explain what is bothering her she simply does not know; the left brain wasn’t in the loop at the time, and the right brain is not talking, literally. Yet she is depressed and doesn’t know why and cannot seem to get out of it. Meanwhile, the event is tagged and waiting for connection. Until there is that connection—the hook-up, there will be damage. It is clear that only an organic, systemic therapy that can reach preverbal events can change things and help the patient get well. And that means not using the left brain primarily to accomplish it. The left brain is in secondary position.
There is ample information now that when the carrying mother is under stress she is spilling stress hormones into her placenta; it impacts the fetus who is thereafter under stress, as well. It is now an imprint that will endure perhaps for a lifetime.**
**(“Prenatal Programming of Human Neurological Function.” C.A. Sandman et al., International Journal of Peptides, Vol. 2011)
We must remember that most all of the very early traumas are processed on the right side, even before the left side comes into maturity; before it really exists as a force. And those early experiences are embedded into the system. And since the original experience is non-verbal the reliving must be non-verbal. And since the original experience was accompanied by a blood pressure of 170 over 115, the reliving must duplicate that exactly. The imprint cannot lie; it is remembering in its own way, neuro-biologically. And when there is a reliving of the birth trauma there are very high vital signs throughout the process. It is our way of verifying the reliving is a true event. Therefore, no therapy that is intellectual at its base (cognitive/insight) can work on this. There needs to be a different kind of language to get the patient back there.
Both the feeling/limbic structures (hippocampus and amygdala) are part of the feeling aspect of our being and are principals in dealing with emotion. Discussing one’s fear is left brain; feeling it is right brain; think of the difference between psychoanalysis and primal. Explaining one’s feeling without the actual experience is invalid, as we shall see. It cures nothing. Discussing feeling after having relived the imprinted memory is valid. The evolutionary cart is not before the horse and the system says, “Each his turn. Mind your manners; feelings first, thoughts and insights second.
When the right side is saturated with painful feelings it becomes overwhelmed. This shows in later life as the inability to do several tasks at once because the incoming input on the left is vying for space with the internal right side activation. It becomes all “too much.” Then begins the avoidance of any task that would overwhelm the already filled-to-the-brim container. The left is not sure why it is doing this avoidance, and indeed, it remains mostly unconscious. It just acts-out, and the act-out is as unconscious as the feeling. The person is simply easily overwhelmed, seemingly by the input from outside but in reality, from old remote imprints from long ago. They surge forward and keep us overloaded. So when the husband gives orders to do this and the wife blows up and scorns his constant demands, she just “can’t take any more.” So there is constant information coming from the lower levels of the right brain telling the left of its troubles but it doesn’t want to hear. The right is saying, “Listen, there is something that I have to tell you that will save our lives.” And the left says, “Try later, I’m busy right now. I have projects to finish.” And the right responds, “You don’t understand. I have a connection to make and you are so distant; you need to welcome me.”
Sunday, December 18, 2011
A kid acts up and acts out and we ask, “who does he take after, his mom or dad?” Maybe his grandmother? Or maybe none of them or all of them. I will need to explain. The point I am going to make is that we are pretty much driven not so much by our genes but by our epigenes; that is, what happens to our genes as we mature. Because experience, especially while we live in the womb, channels those genes into diverse circuits, turns them on or off, and generally, controls their behavior. Is it nature or nurture? It is what happens to nature through our nurture, and that is not a play on words. What happens to us early on doesn’t change our genes but changes how and when and if they are expressed. And there are chemical processes that help explain all this, as well. I won’t make this complicated but it helps us understand ourselves and others if we take a little effort to suss out how this all works.
So it is not surprising how signals from the environment change the expression of our genes. What may be surprising is how early all that takes place; from the earliest months after conception on. The fetus (and embryo) changes according to its environment; we are too used to thinking about environment as what happens on the playground, in school or at home. But what is crucial is that the mother is the key and only environment for the fetus in the womb. What happens to the mother happens to the baby, as well. When she is anxious her stress chemicals are dumped into the placenta and affect him. He is born into a world of stress; he anticipates a stressful environment throughout his life, and it doesn’t take much later on to set him off. His latent stress level is already very high. When the mother is depressed the fetus can be down-regulated so that many of his biochemicals are also depressed. He will be in the “hypo” mode where his vital signs are low and there may not be enough key chemicals, such as thyroid, produced. His physiology duplicates his mother’s. He is a reticent and diffident child with little aggressive, little energy and drive and little enthusiasm for life.
I have been writing about the imprint for over forty years. It is how early experience becomes engraved in our system and endures, driving behavior and symptoms for years to come. We now know a bit more about that imprint. It is a chemical signature, actually two of them. One is methylation, and the other is acetylation. Very early on when there is stress, the carrying mother and father are arguing all of the time, there is the release of part of the methyl group which attaches to the DNA of the baby. It is like a “stop” or “caution” signal that says, “go slow.” “hold back,” “do not express yourself.” It “speaks” in biochemistry but it still speaks; it just has not words for it as yet. There will be words for it years later. Meanwhile, when there is serious trauma while we are being carried the genes are being methylated; and once that happens there is a greater tendency to depression and suicide later on. In the brain study of suicide cases there was a much greater incidence of methylation of the genes that turn off stress than those who died of other reasons. It would seem that in stressed babies there may not be enough steroid chemicals to overcome the methylation, and then there is overt anxiety. The stress system is in overdrive and cannot adjust properly. It may be that there is insufficient serotonin secreted to bind or gate the stress. Higher levels of methylation adversely affect the output of serotonin. . We need serotonin to help in repression and gating in order to keep us feel comfortable. What analysis of serotonin often reveals is not only trauma but the fact that it is unresolved. I believe we have found a way to resolve pain.
In early loss of a mother or in early abuse there is increased methylation. And I wonder if when we resolve those pains we also decrease or reverse methylation. It is true that genes and epigenes change us but it may also be true that we change them. And then they are visited upon our offspring. One thing has been found. If deprived babies are later licked a lot by their mothers there is a reversal of methylation.
In short, methylation is one major factor in the imprint that I have been putting forth, lo these many years. It endures and can cause major serious symptoms as we go through life. Not the least of these is cancer. Cancer cells most often have changes in the epigenomes which become abnormal; that is, there seems to be trauma to the cells that may cause them to go out of control. Cells that ordinarily prevent the appearance of cancer are heavily methylated and less efficient while the genes for cancer cells themselves seem to be less methylated. So we have a reverse function; cells which shut off are not, and cells which should be functioning are not. We do not want a “go” in developing cancer cells.
There is also a “go” signal that can attach, as well. It is called acetylation, and the genes are infused with acetyl chemicals. The “gates” are more open and there is greater expression, for the moment. That is, activation is enhanced. So we seem to have repressor activity (methyl), and activating processes (acetyl). Love, or positive rapport, tends to enhance acetyl production (animals who were licked a lot after birth by their mothers). And it can sometimes overcome an excess of methylation. The point in all this is that early life trauma can change the baby for a lifetime. It puts an indelible tag on the cells. We are thereafter programmed. It is now a memory trace; an embedded memory that affects so many aspects of our neurophysiology. This methylation is a record of our past, our history of adversity. Remember, it is not just a tag affecting recall of early life circumstance, impacting only the top level cortical memory processes. It is neurophysiologic, with its effects everywhere in our system. When we remember trauma it needs to be physiologic, as well. And it is that kind of memory that is resolving and curative. Because it is the embedded memory we are after, not the detached, disembodied, eviscerated, devitalized, etiolated memory that is never resolving. How we behave, in short, gives us clear clues to what happened to us very early in our history.
We behave according to the imprint; and we will not make major changes until we revisit the origins of that imprint. It can be done.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Almost every week now, there is a story of a mass killer that fires on many people, kills a few, then turns the gun on himself and commits suicide. Why do they do that? Why not just kill? Because then, the neurologic sequence would not be run off. Let me explain:
I use the sequence of my patients in their reliving as an example. First they feel amorphous pain and suffering, then they attach a scene to it such as “they don’t love me. “ “You bastards, why don’t you love me (fury) ?!” Then the patient begs, “Please love me.” And finally, “It is all hopeless.” If we think of the gunman who seems to follow the same sequence. Often the wife has left and taken the kids who give him love. He is furious and wants to kill (in Primal) but actually does kill in real life. Then there is the ultimate hopelessness and giving up (in therapy the truth is finally felt and sets the patient free) but in life the gunman stops at hopelessness and kills himself. He has gotten rid of his anger but there is nothing left, nowhere to go with his feelings and no resolution. Life has lost its meaning.
Patients feel that way along the route to full feeling but they do not stop there, and if they do leave therapy too soon they will be stuck with those feelings forever. What gives the kick to those feelings is very early trauma that digs up rage plus a lifetime of no love from the parents and then finally, the loss of love in the present. The stalker cannot stand the feeling and checks up all of the time on his wife. The killer is more emerged in the feeling and kills. Both cannot stand the loss of love; the difference is, I assume, that the pre-birth and birth traumas add a layer of extreme feelings to the mix, which cracks the defense system and places the person out of control. And it is those early traumas that compromise the part of the cortex that controls feelings and create the out-of-control sequence. This happens very early on when the cortical cells are just being evolved and proliferating.
This analogy isn’t theoretical; I have seen this run off in patients, and the more unloved and deprived they were earlier on, the more violent the tendencies. Happily in therapy it all remains internal and benign. Outside of therapy it is a catastrophe.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
You know I read a lot of case histories of abuse, sexual and otherwise and other terrible events visited by parents on helpless children. But I was thinking that in my case and in many others the pain wasn’t overt and obvious. It was the subtext. Let me explain:As you know we all have needs that change as we grow up and evolve. And parents, when caring and loving, fulfill those needs. Natural and normal. But suppose they don’t. Then you grow up unfulfilled, but you don’t know it since you never had your needs fulfilled in the past. You don’t know you should be hugged and adored. You don’t know that you should be cherished and protected. You don’t know that you should be talked to kindly with care and asked about your feelings. So what happens? Since you don’t know that should be the end of it. Ahh, not so, because the body knows better than our conscious/awareness; it registers pain and it stays and drives us even though we never know it is there. Isn’t that amazing? So you cannot get on with your life. I never knew there were needs that had to be fulfilled until decades later when I felt them; either that, by some accident, someone fulfills a need or two: a stray hug or pat on the head, and are suddenly aware that something is amiss.I have already accounted how I went to a friend’s house when I was twelve and their mother was in the kitchen, leaning against a butcher block discussing life with them. I ran home and told what I had seen at dinner. My dad yelled at me and I never knew why; it was a rebuke against them that I wasn’t aware of.Then two years later I was walking out of a café and it was a circular glass affair where a mother and her young daughter were going in. I
heard her say, “You know people are not perfect , and you have to learn to accept other humans sometimes with their flaws. “ Five or ten seconds, at the most. That’s it. But I never forgot those words, nor the faces of those two people. Why? Because I never knew parents could talk to their kids. It was an epiphanic moment, not conceptualized as yet but it had a great impact. Later, I realized it was pain by inadvertence. It was not what my parents did, but what they did not do. It was missing and that is why I never knew about it; until I saw it and learned something that stayed with me. And what they did not do left my needs unconscious; in the oubliette. Yet, I was a mess, could not learn, could not sit still or concentrate. I was driven by unfulfilled needs; i.e., pain. This was a pain that no one could see, yet I was sent to doctor after doctor for a constant running nose (my tears found another route). You cannot deceive those needs nor forget them because the body won’t let you. The title of my next book ought to be “death by inadvertence.” This is not a joke because those needs we don’t know about are killing us; they give us heart attacks far too early and also cancer. You see, it happens because the needs not fulfilled are pain and that calls into being repression. It is that repression pushing back feelings that will kill us. And all that goes on without our knowing it.Those are the needs we are never aware of. We have to read books about “attachment theory” to get a hint about it. Imagine, we need to read a book and theory about holding your child, looking at her in the eye with love and talking to her a lot. It is like reading a book about the tribes along the Amazon. It is so alien.You do not get over those needs and “get on with life.” They cut short your life so you cannot get on with it; oh yes, for a while you can but you can’t fool mother nature and she will get you while you are not looking.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
(I am taking part of this from somewhere but I lost where? Part from Shirley Ward)
The brainstem takes care of sensations and vital functions such as breathing, heart rate, hormonal output, the alimentary canal, digestion and urinary processes. Interestingly, during the zygotic period after fertilization of the ovum, the first organ to develop is the alimentary canal and digestive system. Bodily sensations of fear, such as stomach ‘butterflies’ or pain, originate in the alimentary canal and digestive system.
After fertilization, an embryo develops from the 3rd week, the primal brain structures (the spinal cord, midbrain) developing simultaneously with the organs and limbs. The brain/body architecture morphs into recognizable form by the 11th week of womb life. The first three months of womb life are ostensibly the most critical period of human development, because this is the time when all internal and external brain and bodily structures develop. During this critical period, the exposure of an embryo to certain agents such as chemicals, drugs, alcohol, nicotine and or cortisol may cause major congenital malformations. and safety are of paramount importance.
The period from the beginning of the 3rd month to the birth is known as the fetal period. The main characteristic of the fetus in this period is the rapid growth of the body and the brain and the maturation of the tissues. The brain functions in a partnership with the body and early embryonic memories are stored in the cellular structures of the body as well as the brain.
The zygote, embryo or early fetus has primary needs which can be met by the parents. These primary needs require the mother and father to be nourished in the healthiest way, to be fit and not have toxins in their bodies. The mother needs to be calm and contained, in other words, happy and contented. She needs to know that her partner will support and help her. The father of the baby needs to be involved and taking full responsibility for his paternity. It is best if each member of the couple loves each other and that they exist in a peaceful society. This state of affairs creates the best possible conditions for the tiny being to develop in the womb.
Very early experiences of stress or traumatic events in the womb , such as lack of oxygen or nourishment, or increased cortisol levels when a mother is exposed to prolonged or severe stress, will affect the brain stem. Neuro hormonal and chemical receptors and pathways of the brain are permanently affected by stress in the early period of brain development of the embryo A state of war, food shortages, famine, violence, conflict or loss will induce severe fear and anxiety in the parents, and particularly the mother, affecting the neuro-chemical development of the unborn child.
When, as adults, we experience inexplicable symptoms for example, sweating, increased heart rate and respiration, it may be that our primal brainstem memory is being triggered. Many people experience adult anxiety, panic attacks, fear, depression and other so called psychiatric symptoms, which may well be related to the very early months of womb experience.
A zygote and early embryo holds cellular memories of womb events in the body. No information is ever lost. Think about this. In terms of trauma it means that whole groups of people may be carrying memories of trauma that many generations ago and echoes of which are stored in the body and particularly in the brain stem. Unfortunately, because these memories are not easily retrieved, humans tend to act out their traumatic imprints on others and the world around them.
It is incumbent on us to prevent unnecessary trauma occurring to our offspring, and therefore recommended that each one of us, both individually and collectively, become conscious of our own traumatic imprints and commence a healing journey, both alone and with others. This link to Shirley ward’s article describes how people feel when they are assisted to relive their early conception experiences. http://primal-page.com/ward2.htm
Love, the way humans feel love, is the greatest force in the universe. It is love that will help us heal and reassemble our past and our future. It is love that will help us to educate, to guide and to show others how to conceive in love.
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.