Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Skipping Steps The Untoward Consequences of Cross-Dominance (Part 2/4)

(This is Part 2 of Frank's story)

How I Got This Way In The First Place

Where I come from, birth is hell – especially mine. My birth was a bummer. Although I must confess that I have only my memory to attest to this because there is no record of my birth in the state of Utah, where the tragedy occurred. The hospital in Ogden, where I have always been told I was born, burned down during WWII along with all the records contained therein. And my mother, dead now, wasn’t talking. She insisted that she couldn’t remember a thing about my birth except that the doctor said I had big hands. The rest of me was tiny. That said, the circumstances of my birth are covered pretty well on pages 209-10-11 of Art’s latest book, life before birth THE HIDDEN SCRIPT THAT RULES OUR LIVES.
My mother told me that her milk went sour but I didn’t really know what this meant or what it meant to me until Primal Therapy. It doesn’t sound so bad. All she had to do was switch me to a bottle. But the insights and connections about how my life was affected by that little bump along my road of life were cataclysmic. This led me to act out a dynamic of self denial. My belief was that what I need most in life; what I am most desperate for; what I can’t live without is poison and might kill me. Wanting, for me, was something to fear – and I spent my life keeping my wants suppressed, repressed, and depressed – anything but expressed. Wanting is dangerous. This belief was continually reinforced by my parents. My parents reminded me daily that I did not deserve what little I got. At the table I was a dirty little pig. A common saying in my whole family was “You ain’t the only turd in the corral.” So I lived in my head. I soothed myself every night with repetitive omnipotence fantasies. That’s how I put myself to sleep. They pushed all the ugly realities of my life temporarily out of my head.
But quite possibly my worst trauma was severe eczema. Or, more likely, the eczema was the reaction to my worst trauma of not being touched, held, or caressed = unloved. Hence, if any single trauma after birth set my path to ADD and Cross-Dominance, it was The Itch, that bloody itch. And I mean that literally. I would scratch myself so bloody my parents would cover me with a stinging pink salve. (I still have a strong memory of the smell of it, and it is gut-wrenching.) They would then cover my hands with socks and tie them to the sides of my crib. There they would leave me to cry myself to sleep. Or not. My crying at night drove dear old Dad to rage. “Go in there and shut that goddamn kid up! You shut up and go to sleep or I’m coming in there to shut you up!”
Perhaps if I had been blessed with loving parents, much of this could have been avoided. But I wasn’t. I am convinced that my eczema was exacerbated and entrenched by the renewed commitment of my parents to avoid touching me as much as possible. My mother was tense and rigid and wasn’t particularly affectionate anyway. And once the eczema took over, I’m sure they were told by the doctor to avoid touching me, as my wounds could get infected. And there was no place on my body that wasn’t affected. The eczema was with me in the severe form until I was about 5. After that it was mostly on my lower legs. It eventually left me but I’m still plagued with a lot more itches than most people. It also left me still squirming about, unable to sit still, and chewing my tongue. That was incused to imprint because I was constantly scolded for “tying myself in knots” fidgeting, grinding my teeth, and being completely unable to sit still or, “Sit on that God Damned couch the way you’re supposed to. You act like you’ve got St. Vitus Dance.” (Sydenham's chorea or chorea minor (historically referred to as Saint Vitus Dance)[1] is a disease characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements affecting primarily the face, feet and hands. Sydenham's chorea (SC) results from childhood infection with Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococci[2] and is reported to occur in 20-30% of patients with acute rheumatic fever.) My brother spent his sixth year on bed rest because of rheumatic fever, and I suffered a bout of it every spring for several years of my childhood. As a toddler, I also had pertussis, which like rheumatic fever and St. Vitus Dance, is caused by a coccus bacterium. Later my rheumatic fever turned into severe allergies each spring until I left home. So this might mean that my parents’ diagnosis was correct. And the allergies, being auto-immune could logically follow the rheumatic fever.
From my earliest memories I was uncoordinated and clumsy. And by the fourth grade the teacher started actively attempting to do something about my atrocious handwriting. Practice, practice, practice, but all efforts failed. To this day my handwriting is really bad. I suspect, even at this early age, I was cross-dominant. But the event that cinched the deal was another trauma that occurred about 10 years later.
I was reared under the watchful eyes of God, Jesus, the angel Moroni, Joseph Smith, and Brigham Young in Brigham City Utah, making God very real and omnipresent in my life. My parents had 2 boys, my older brother and me. I was a big disappointment to my mother because she wanted a little girl. Then one day in 1950 they come upon an opportunity to adopt a super cute little girl just 5 years old. Her mother openly hated her and didn’t want her. My parents brought her home to live with us. She was effusively charming. My mother almost forgot that I existed. New clothes and toys and presents for Penny. “What about me?” Penny could swear and they thought it was cute. If I did that, I caught the back of a hand along with additional punishments. I wanted her to leave - secretly. She would sing Candy Kisses and giggle to the delight of all who beheld her – at first. Then the reality of her life of abuse began to insinuate. Little things at first: She wet the bed, tried to hide it, and lied about it. She lied a lot. Dad carved a hardwood paddle and hung it up in the kitchen as a reminder. All 3 of us kids felt the sting of the reminder on a daily basis. Now I hated Penny, and desperately wanted her out of my life. Soon Penny was out of control. She’d pick her fingernails until they bled. She would tell any visitor we had that she loved them and wanted to go home with them. My parents couldn’t take it. They decided to take her back to her birth mother. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait for Dad to take her away – secretly. Then one Sunday, he did. I got exactly what I wanted more than anything. She was gone! That night my brother shot me with a bow and arrow and put out my eye. God had punished me for wanting Penny out of my life.
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray dear Lord my soul you’ll keep
Please let me die before I wake
And I pray dear Lord my soul you’ll take

Better had it been my brother they took away. For me he was a monster. He beat me up almost every day. After he put my eye out, the doctor said I shouldn’t have any jars to my head because the retina was detached and it could do more damage. My kind parents told my brother he could slug me only on my arms, and could no longer hit me in the face. That held him back a little, but the retina continued to detach and so they made me lie flat on my back with my head between 2 big sandbags with a towel over my eyes so I couldn’t move my head. That went on long enough for me to forget how to walk. God don’t mess around. But he was merciful. It was about 2 years before my brother resumed punching my lights as my daily bread.
Throughout my entire childhood our house was filled with screaming, yelling, and fighting. I don’t remember ever doing anything right for my father. I was often told that if I didn’t straighten up I would be going to reform school or prison “just like Uncle Lootie.” (I have lots of horror stories about Uncle Lootie) I was told that I was “just not normal” that “There’s something drastically wrong with your head” and my favorite, “We’re gonna have to take you down to Provo and have your head examined.” I already knew that. I was constantly scared in a life that made no sense to me.
That all occurred before puberty DIDN’T dawn. At that time of my glad season my whole life turned into a giant sized humiliation as the assumption of my toga virilus faded far into my future. I was just barely starting to grow hair under my arms at the time I joined the Navy. Not reaching puberty along with my classmates robbed me of what little was left of the real me. Every day I had to pretend that I was NOT devastated. Everyone thought I was always happy, always a big grin, and so easy to get along with. I became extremely careful not to piss off any of my classmates, lest they stomp my little ass. Or worse, they might throw my worst nightmare back in my face. I was pretty lucky in that I did not suffer open ridicule, but the reality of my life was right there for all to see. I wore short sleeved shirts most of the time and had to be careful not to raise my arms and show the world that I had no hair up there. When I was a senior in high school a little patch of hair started to grow, and my father tried to make me shave it off so I wouldn’t stink so much.
Now you have to remember that in my mind all of these things I suffered were God’s punishment. Add to that: One of the tenets of the Mormon Church is that of a pre-life. And our behavior in the pre-life determines what place we occupy in this life. So being tiny and poor and abused reflected what God thought of me in the first place. And good old God just couldn’t resist an easy target. You might guess that I didn’t do very well in high school because I couldn’t find enough focus, or sit still long enough to do any studying, even though my aspirations and the expectations of my family were for me to become a paleontologist (I loved dinosaurs), or an entomologist (I collected bugs all through high school), or a veterinarian (As a child, all my love came from dogs. So much so that I thought I really was a dog, and God had made a mistake putting me in this awful, hairless human body), or a doctor (Then everybody would love me).
These aspirations or expectations bring up one of the most traumatic processes that occurred throughout my childhood: Whenever I reached a certain age, I was supposed to be able to do those things kids my age should be able to do. It was all just supposed to happen at appropriate times in my life. It didn’t. One of my early on Primals began with the memory of an incident that occurred not long after I got married. My Gramma called me up and told me Uncle Rex was moving back to Utah and he said it was all right for Eileen and me to buy his house. I was ecstatic. She told me that she would take us down to the bank and get all the paperwork taken care of the next day. There we were in an office in the bank and they told us that the bank manager would be right in to take care of us. Just before the banker came in Gramma said to me, “Now I’m not going to say a word. This is your business and you must take care of it.” I didn’t even know what an escrow was. I’d never even had a bank account. Needless to say we did not get the loan, even though I was qualified under the GI Bill. This feeling dropped me right down to being a little boy sitting on the toilet calling, “Mama, I’m done. Come and wipe me.” Followed by my mother’s voice, “No, you’re old enough to wipe your own butt. I’m not going to wipe you anymore.” Nobody ever taught me to wipe my butt. But I was supposed to know how because I was old enough. And Mama, just like Gramma, left me helpless, hopeless, and hanging.
My whole childhood was terrifying to me, and I had to pretend it wasn’t out of the fear that if I let it be known, those around me would make it even worse. I was so uncoordinated, along with not having any depth perception because I had only one eye, that I had no skill in sports. That humiliation made life a lot more unbearable. Without really being aware of it would isolate myself and sink deeper into my private world of fantasy. When I was by myself, I could play “big” (with toy swords and toy guns and stuff) or I could play “little” (with modeling clay, mostly) or I could lie down and play completely inside my head (I had a whole world in there, and I could have everything I wanted).


  1. Art: Geezus Kristofolous; is this your story? How the hell that kid survived beats me; and I thought at times I had it bad. That, to me, is the horror story to end all horror stories. If this is your story Art; I am in deeper admiration of you than ever.

    What a mad, mad world. Will humankind ever realize the unutterable vulnerability of fetuses, infants and young children? I contend it is our only hope.


    1. Jack: It is the story of Frank, done in 4 parts. art

  2. Frank, How on earth did you survive that amount of abuse? It’s a gut-wrenching account. You must have some amount of strength. JL

  3. Yes, that's what I was thinking +was gonna say, the vulnerability of this child, then experiencing this stuff. We have to remember the extreme state of dependence children are in. I just wanted to wrap him up in a blanket, eczema and all.

  4. Wow, I really feel for Frank. What a story...With regards to another subject which may be a little off-topic here, anybody have any ideas what causes post-partum depression, which seems to affect so many women? I suppose it is not a specific ailment,of course; what puzzles me is why these women would spiral into depression right after the birth of a child.I just happenned to read about this topic in a book called "Fair Game" ,which was mainly political, by one Valerie Plame, an ex-CIA agent, who wrote of her experiences tangling with Bush, Cheney et al and getting royally screwed by the Republican hate machine; and who sufferred horribly of this post-partum depression after the birth of her twins.


    1. Marco,
      the subject post-partum depression came up yesterday. A woman who stopped reading Life before Birth said, “the book makes her feel guilty”. She gave birth to two girls a few years apart and both times, she had post-partum depression and could not bond with her children. Both times her child was 4 weeks premature and in an incubator for one week. She could not produce milk. My guess is, she did not produce oxytocin.

    2. Sieglinde: In my book I say, "get over the guilt" and go on. You cannot change the past, do the best you can now. That is the point of the book art

  5. Frank: Beezjuzz! Millions of adults still think hitting kids "for their own good" is great parenting. Basically they torture.

    People should have to get licenses to have children.

    Then again, who'd be the "deciders"?

    Art: "In my book I say, 'get over the guilt' and go on. You cannot change the past, do the best you can now."

    Oy! Yet you also say we can't get over guilt (or other feelings) until we spend years in padded rooms in California reliving life in the womb.

    Personally, your saying "You cannot change the past, do the best you can now" makes me sad, then smiley, then animated.


    My father couldn't bring himself to do simple things like hold me, tell me he loved me, show me he had faith in my abilities (or even interest in my interests). On the other hand, my mother would often use what interested me against me. For example, when she found out I loved music, she'd withhold access to the radio to punish/shape me.

    The result? I get enthused about doing something, start doing it, then feel anxious. I fear someone (God? Friends? Tumors?) will trip me up.

    It seems silly, but it's been lifelong. I hold back to minimize anxiety/pain. In college, I slept through too many classes, then pulled all-nighters. It was a way to not be "present." I thought I was being slick. Now I think I cheated myself.

    Not that I haven't done things, just that I've self-sabotaged and/or put on brakes more than I'd care to admit.

    Again, why?

    I can't remember feeling supported for more than 3 days from birth to age 18). My bipolar mother, enabled by my emotionally aloof father, acted-out this sequence:

    (1) My mother would pull some shite to mess up my life (or piss me off, anger me, threaten me, etc.).

    (2) I'd react by withdrawing, feeling absolutely livid/betrayed.

    (3) My mother would feel regret, get morose, start moping around, then beg for forgiveness.

    (4) I'd hang tough through day 2, refusing to ever-ever-ever talk to her again.

    (5) By the end of day 3 I'd start feeling bad...perhaps realizing her "love" was all I was ever going to get. So I'd begrudgingly "forgive" her...until the cycle repeated.

    Had my father been more involved, more protective of us 3 kids, been more emotionally expressive...things might have been different. And/or had relatives been around (no members of either sides of our family were very present in our lives. I saw my aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents maybe twice growing up).

    I think I began writing to cope. And maybe because my father brought pens back from his various business tripps. When I write, there's always a point when I feel, "What's the use? This won't get me love."

    On the other hand, like Steinbeck (a fave of mine). I've tried numerous jobs-trades-endeavors and find writing the only thing that doesn't make me feel like I should be doing something else.

    Anyway, would that my father (also a WWII naval vet) had been able to say and mean the things Art does. :>(

  6. Hi Trevor,

    It took me several decades to work out that my mother set impossible tasks for me in the home so that I would fail and then be answerable to my Dads' vengeance.

    Decades to work out that. Now I go to see my Mum with alzheimers and I thank myself for having made so many attempts to break free. Because I can face her and see how my Dad used her as an excuse to hate me. . . juggled between two opposite poles of hate.

    As we little children so often are.

    Paul G.


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.