Thursday, January 26, 2012
On Murder and Being an Intellectual
Are they related? Are you kidding? Somehow I think they are. It started the other day when I was discussing with a colleague about a very smart scientist we know who has got into booga booga and how ‘we live in a parallel universe but don’t really know it”…blah blah. I was going to send him a piece that I wrote about booga booga, and then decided against it as a useless, vain attempt. He couldn’t hear it. Then I thought about the guy in Norway who killed 60 people in a murderous rampage. Nothing could have reasoned him out of it. Neither my killer or my intellectual could be reached. They were locked into an idea that was unshakeable. The left brain was being crowded out by massive right brain input.
Well, you might say, the Norwegian surely knew right from wrong so he was clearly sane. I mean he could decide on what guns to use and what ammo; what ferries to ride and made a whole series of “rational” decisions. Yet he killed at random. He wasn’t mad at anyone; he was just plain angry and had no specific target. He could not be reached; he was living in a brain that had no contact with his feelings, that absorbed a mountain of rage but could not connect. It was disconnection, dissociation, abstracted and alienated from one’s true self. He was being driven and importuned by his deeper and mostly right brain; beyond his control.
Isn’t that a bit similar to the intellectual who wallows in delusions and booga booga thinking? And he cannot be reached or have his mind changed? Both are victims of a deep and right sided brain that cannot connect. Both have rationales for their behavior and beliefs. These were not beliefs that one can be reasoned with; they had a force that first stops at a way station where complex and paranoid belief systems operate in the left brain, and then if the imprinted force is strong enough, carries the person into more complex bizarre behavior. And the point is that these strange beliefs live alongside perfectly rational thought systems, sometimes precise scientific beliefs. I attended a scientific meeting where one of the presenters said to me on the side. “I know you are from the hidden side of Atlantis. “ He wasn’t kidding, yet his presentation was unassailable. Clearly, there is a part of the intellect internally focused, that bends to right brain pressure, and another part that sees outside very well; the alienated self.
So what is the difference? Insane and not insane? If both harbor serious delusions, false ideas and irrational beliefs is there a real difference? One has thoughts out of control, and other has behavior out of control. We might say that there is enough cortical control left to understand that something may be irrational. Some chance to be reasoned with. With the Norwegian there was no functional cortex available; it was all submerged by pain. Pain became his total reality. Nothing to say, “I am overwhelmed by pain.” People had to die; his whole past flooded in at once leaving him no chance. It’s a bit fanciful what I am writing but it is food for thought.
Here is what science writer Bruce Wilson adds to the mix:
I checked the Wiki entry on Brievek. Here's his diagnosis:
"According to the report, Breivik displayed inappropriate and blunted affect and a severe lack of empathy. He spoke incoherently in neologisms and had acted compulsively based on a universe of bizarre, grandiose and delusional thoughts. Breivik alluded himself as the future regent of Norway, master of life and death, while calling himself "inordinately loving" and "Europe's most perfect knight since WWII". He was convinced that he was a warrior in a "low intensity civil war" and had been chosen to save his people. To the psychiatrists, Breivik described plans to carry out further "executions of categories A, B and C traitors" by the thousands, themselves included, and to organize Norwegians in reservations for the purpose of selective breeding. Breivik believed himself to be the "knight Justiciar grand master" of a Templar organization. He was deemed to be suicidal and homicidal by the psychiatrists."
He was clearly psychotic and a psychopath, but how different is he from Gadafi, Hitler, Kim Jong Il, or a host of other functional crazies?
The similarity between the psychotic and the intellectual is that they've completely lost touch with their right brain. McGilchrist likens our current culture to the world of the schizophrenic: non-feeling, non-empathic, individualistic, bureaucratic, no sense of the whole, rigid, obessed with rules. It's a schizoid culture. Like psychotic murderers, intellectuals are split from feeling; they resort to ideology rather than intuition, they support and uphold insane regimes (including the USA), they follow rules of logic rather than gut feelings, they miss the whole picture and focus on specifics, numbers, statistics, legal arguments, etc. Finally, intellectuals can easily justify mass murder as they did in Nazi Germany.
So I think it's a spectrum, with psychotic psychopathy at one end and cold, calculating intellectual psychopathy at the other end. Think Kissinger, Karl Rove, Machiavelli. You have those in the middle who are semi-delusional but functional.
Peter Prontzos adds: don’t forget the common every-day delusions like spanking is good for children; blind patriotism is good and greed is wonderful. These are delusions created in the zeitgeist and adopted as true by most of us. Our social life, in short, creates our conscious awareness, in a way. I grew up working class. Thus the idea of crossing a picket line was an anathema to me. It was part of my social being, engraved in me. Physiologically, to this day I cannot and will not cross a picket line.
Don’t mix psychopath from the psychotic; they are very different animals. I have written about psychopaths before, and if necessary I will write again. Whatever Breivik concocted in the way of being the regent of the world they came out of a mixture of so much pain until he cracked and then that past became his total reality; there was no present. Rather his past was his present. This is not so egregious in intellectuals because their theories and belief shave a rational patina even if they make no sense. Like the Fox News shrink who claims that Gingrich’s affairs will help him with the presidency unless he is seduced by some foreign power: I cannot make this up. But once you are detached from feelings you can concoct all sorts of nonsense. Yet, these people concoct ideas derived from feelings even though they have no way to connect to them. Like acting dumb and unfaithful is good for you; and for the country!
There has to be a special category for Kissinger. Not a psychopath but some kind of diabolic manipulator, hated by my hero Joe Heller and written about well as a war criminal by Chris Hitchens. Hitchens did us all a service with his book on Kissinger.
So here we have many schools of psychology which are only elaborate rationales for the theorist’s own neurosis. In the early days in the split from Freud there was the Will to Power, That Sex was paramount in all neuroses, and on and on’ raising personal neurosis to the level of a theory. But it was still extrapolated pain; the right side pressing against the left and forcing it to think nonsense. You want objective? Be relatively free of pain. Then make a theory all you want.
Yet they went on with elaborate philosophies, studies that supported their position, etc. Much like EMDR today which is utter nonsense yet has thousands of supporters who swear by it. Worse it has hundreds of “research studies” to confirm its validity. So let me say it one more time, ad nauseam: Once you understand that there is an imprint, an engraved memory that endures even during gestation and dominates our behavior and symptoms, then if you do not address generating sources you cannot change. It is no more complex than that. We can dance around the edges pushing back each surge of feeling and crying out CURE! But alas, it is a chimera.
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.