Sunday, April 8, 2012

On the Mystery of the Unconscious Part 1/2

There are two new and very important research studies that I will discuss that helps clarify what our consciousness is all about; and more, what access to deeper levels of consciousness mean. This is part one. Tomorrow part 2.

There is a scientific piece by a group of Finnish scientists on how consciousness emerges. Here is what they did: they took twenty healthy volunteers and gave them drugs that made them unconscious. Drugs similar to what Michael Jackson got(Propofol). Then they measured them with brain measurements (PET scans), and watched what brains were active as they woke up and came out of unconsciousness. You would think it would be the higher level (consciously/aware)neocortex (1). But no. What seemed to happen is that we come out of unconsciousness as the brain evolved. Deep brain, brainstem, then limbic system, then top level cortical areas. These brain structures. Brainstem, (1)thalamus and hypothalamus (2) were activated first. We start with the most ancient phylogenetic structures first, then limbic second; no different, by the way, from how we come into and out of primals. We call it, the 1,2,3 hierarchy; and coming in—the 3,2,1 hierarchy. The point is that there is a neuro-biologic schedule for going in and out of consciousness, and it must not be abrogated for convenience. And that is how we know we are getting proper primal therapy. There is specific hierarchy for feelings and they follow evolution, of course. They follow how we became feeling then thinking human beings millions of years ago in evolution. And that structure dictates life and above all, dictates how psychotherapy works. There is an order to how we become unconscious and conscious; an order to how we descend into the deep reaches of the brain in therapy and how we ascend back up to the top. So when someone tells you, as in EMDR, that you can access feelings through thoughts and ideas, with a current focus, they defy human evolution; when they say we can access the limbic areas without ceding top level consciousness they misread science. You cannot be on the top level and in lower level feelings at the same time. They are two different universes; two different brain regions; two different brain tissues.

On the contrary, when we plunge patients into deep brain structures with LSD or rebirthing we get overload and often delusions—“cosmic consciousness, at one with the world,” etc. We have defied evolution and we arrive at mental illness. No mystery, the top level is overloaded by the lower levels and it is all too much. It can well be a description of psychosis. When we first wake up in the morning we are briefly in touch with our deep brain (brainstem). And we briefly feel what is there; a stab of anxiety or depression or hopelessness. We are in touch with our beginnings; but before we can feel it we get ready for the day, get busy and ignore it. We move out of the lower level into the higher levels (the precise order in which we wake up). But if we lay back and allow that stab of anxiety to overtake us it would help make us free. It is that deeply imprinted feeling we have touched.

There are drugs that suppress the first line, brainstem and leaves the emotional level intact. There are drugs that suppress emotions and leave the top level neo-cortex intact, and there are drugs that suppress top level cortical cells that block inhibition and give us some access to feelings. That top-level suppression inhibits some of our inhibition and makes us feel somewhat freer for a time. Think of hypnosis. It blocks some of our top level critical faculties. It begins as something psychologic--suggestion, which then becomes chemical-- enhancing unconsciousness). But it allows us to descend to our past. The problem is that there is no final connection that would really free us. We need conscious/awareness for that. And again, when we defy evolution we fail. But it does show us our unconscious and how memories reside on lower levels. Hypnosis allows us to travel back to old memories. But as I noted, there can be no long-lasting cure there. There is no organic connection.

What we have done is set aside the top level for a moment, allowing lower level imprints surge forth. The imprinted memories were not suddenly manufactured; they reside continuously below higher levels of consciousness. They are active all of the time below the level of conscious/awareness. And they agitate us all of the time; hence we cannot sit still and relax. We are unable to relax, because in ordeer to relax we cannot be hyper-vigilant. We are hyper vigilant because down deep there is danger---of the imprints and their force. It is a vicious circle. When we let go of vigilance we get anxious because the feelings are right there. So we still can’t relax. Visiting them for a moment in hypnosis versus experiencing them are two different universes of discourse. It looks magical that hypnosis but it cannot be curative. The laws of evolution won’t allow it. But still, many of us want that magic. That is the attraction of EMDR, a magic wand (literally) that passes before our eyes and makes us well. Unbeatable. So even better, we take tranquilizers which take only minutes to work. That is good except it shortens life. Someone says, “yeah but it is only at the end.” So ask yourself when considering any therapy—does it follow evolution? It is not a theory; it is a fact.

When we look at evolution we also see confirmation both of the unconscious and the hierarchy of the brain. There are indeed three levels, as I have describing for forty years. Those levels have to do with neurosis, depression and cure. They cannot be ignored or defied if we want to provide a cure; neurobiology leads the way for how to do it. There is are brain processes underlying our actions, thoughts and beliefs; we cannot forget them to produce some psychotherapy that is not based on how our biology functions. What all this means is that a proper therapy must obey strictly to how we evolved.

We can say that ideas are strong and change feelings when science shows that is exactly that opposite. This is the dilemma of the cognitive-behaviorists who do indeed believe that beliefs and ideas are the sine qua non.: change ideas and we change feelings. They develop a therapy based on a falsehood. No one can get well that way; in the mind alone. Ideas only slightly affect feelings but they do not radically alter or transform them. Only experiencing those feelings, back then when they were imprinted, can there be a cure. Feelings are stronger than any ideas; don’t forget, ideas and beliefs came along millions of years after feelings. When a theory does not correspond to the reality of how our brains and bodies work there is no way to get well. And neurology teaches us that when feelings get to be too much the neo-cortex whips into action to stop them. Evolution dictates how therapy should go, not some intellectual notion from a therapist. Humility is foremost; and let us not imagine we are smarter than evolution, probably the greatest discovery in history.


  1. We represent both God and "ourselves" in the same sentence... we represent hate and fear out of the same brain... so as during the day as in our dreams... everything happens in our own head.

    We are shy... hate and are depressed in our own brain... no one except the "self" can create an illusion for relief... I "myself" at the time are what's available to my mind. It is more soothing to hate someone than to take on what caused it. I am “myself” as sick... as well being.

    Who I am myself… in the sense I need God or do hate to relieve my suffering… is what the primal therapeutic process is all about.


  2. I think evolution's our gr8est discovery too. It is fascinating and has given us so many answers, in understanding ourselves +our world.

    Hey, a thought, *why* is it always that 'cosmic conciousness/one with the world' is felt on drugs/overloading? I have felt this a number of times, and it is disturbing; I think for me as I know it's not 'real'. It is like a merging, no boundaries, no concept of time or space. Many ppl seem to love it and lose themselves in it but I've always hated it, my heart racing.
    Is that 'one with the world' what the brainstem experiences? Is that what life feels that operates at that level? No wonder they are content to simply swim around all day!

    And feeling 1st line when waking. I'm aware of this every morning and just want to go back to sleep/die.

    1. Jacquie: Good point. Overload by drugs or other means indicates a breakdown of gating and boundaries; a lack of specific definition. Instead a vague "worldliness" . art

    2. Jacquie,

      We represent what the brainstem experiences… we are "always" talking about overload… the brainstem has no control... and control is what we not suppose to have to get to feelings… but our thoughts can be in "control" (have a focus)… control of to let go… let go in to the intensity... intensity which is our feelings. It is in an intensity because we don’t feel what it is all about. The intensity of all emotions conjured up all our cosmic views.


  3. Art,

    My wife gave me the article below to read, from our local newspaper, this morning. I said "Art Janov will like this". I think it ties in neatly with your latest blog in its emphasis on levels of consciousness? But then, almost everything in primal theory is connected to that concept of consciousness levels that you have defined? Anyway, read and hopefully enjoy…

  4. I'm wondering if you have performed an FMRI, or other test you deem appropriate, on your patients as they are saying those few words that they sometimes say to end their birth primals. Could it be that the patients exit birth to get the words, as you say, but then momentarily return to birth as they say them?

    1. Leonard: They begin to say the word, the insights some time after the primal, and sometimes the next day or two as the feelings sits in. It is never immediate; they need time to climb out of the first line to the third, and it often takes hours later. art

  5. We represent professionalism as well as foolhardy out of the same brain... it's just a question of who suggests the content of it... who determines what is what. We can wish us a "higher" power to help against this phenomenon… but unfortunately we have to struggle further as professionalism not seldom account for stupidity.


  6. Hi,

    I have a distinct impression of 'assembling my consciousness' in the mornings as Art describes. Sometimes I have to cry myself to sleep at night. Strangely, in the mornings, I can be wondering where my emotions are (or when they'll appear) for quite some time. Also I can be 'thinking' to myself that famous question: "who am I and who is thinking this question". . ? and then sure enough the feelings well up from my insides and there's the real me again (and the need to ask that question vanishes). Something different happens to my feelings when my 3rd line kicks in. I seem to have some choice; I've noticed there's a difference between griefs suffered recently and griefs from my childhood. There would seem to be mental anguish, emotional anguish and physical anguish, all different, felt in different parts of my body. Formerly I was unable to distinguish any of this and I'm sure most people are not able to differentiate this because they are still totally wrapped up in their repression; how could they?
    I've still a long long way to go.
    Paul G.

    1. Hello Paul,

      The choice you have is cognitively... a life-saving process for when it was necessary… unfortunately...but still "lifesaving".

      The cognitive ability of defense... is still in use... use to not know what there was that happened… as then was lifesaving. Now we don’t need it... it does not fill a relevant task... but we use it for the same reason as then… that is way we become fucked up in our heads.

      When we detects what it was that happened through our symtoms… when we start using our cognitive ability for what caused it… caused it to be life-saving... then... is not the cognitive ability so bad.


  7. HI Frank,
    Thanks, that helps.

    Paul G.

  8. Hi Frank,

    -"but unfortunately we have to struggle further as professionalism not seldom account for stupidity"-.

    It does in the trades, or my trade at least.

    -"The cognitive ability of defense... is still in use... use to not know what there was that happened… as then was lifesaving. Now we don’t need it... it does not fill a relevant task... but we use it for the same reason as then… that is way we become fucked up in our heads"-.

    I'm pretty sure my trade is not entirely a defence because:

    -"When we detects what it was that happened through our symptoms"…

    There are some 'activities' which are not entirely a distraction from feelings. My symptoms show through my trade, carpentry. That sounds nuts doesn't it? There are certain phases in a carpentry project and each requires quite a different mind/body/emotional set, but changing from one to the next generates a rift through which my real feelings get channelled and squeezed out (this is my choice I hasten to add, though I'm not the only one. . .) For example: Meeting with the architect who knows carpentry better than a tradesman because he's got a qualification in technical drawing, knows an engineer and built a shelf unit at home (using steel and plastic).

    Then there's losing your pencil in the sawdust. . . re-measuring (with total doubt yet again) so many times you break down and cry again, cutting your finger, bashing your face on a beam, pulling a long septic splinter out and finally getting a cheque, a smile and a pat on the back from a pleased customer (who inflicted the architect, beam and work on you in the first place).

    All this leads me closer to my feelings than further away, it also maintains a sort of emotional fitness and intelligence (again, I choose to learn this, obviously others don't, nor is this attitude necessary to earn money being a 'chippy', bish, bosh, bash). On the face of it much of what these projects force me to do 'looks like' distraction from feelings but my buttons are being pressed all over the place. Through all these activities, and the changes I have to go along with I maintain my ability to feel. I don't really want to 'come off' the tools till I'm too old/decrepit' and dangerous with them. I don't relish losing contact with myself through this work I do. That is why I am training over a long period as a facilitator so that when I'm too old to hold the tools I can share my acquired wisdom with others (for a bit of money). I Don't have enough of that wisdom to qualify yet; anyway, I'm still learning carpentry. . . .

    I consider myself lucky that I have acquired this carpentry skill and am able to scratch a living at it. I cannot imagine that working in a call centre or a shopping mall or the military or computer programming or transport or anything other than making things would maintain my personal ability to feel. But then we're all different aren't we?

    Jesus, what have we done to our Societies and our Lively-hoods? What do we have left to keep us Lively? To keep us closer to our feelings? Printing money? Selling UN-necessary artefacts and bullshit?

    Paul G.

    1. Paul,

      Being as close when something happens... so close that nothing interferes! I mean... to be with a feeling... one and the same feeling without slipping over into an other... brings out the vehicle Janov talks about... the vehicle… which itself is the “transport”... which in itself is just me... I am then without influence from other... something that will never cause an accident.

      In the confusion of our feelings we are lost and we are on our escape from feelings... escape from feelings because we needed LOVE... what a tragedy.

      Yours Frank

  9. Thanks Frank, "to be with a feeling, the same feeling without slipping over into another".

    Could you describe this as a 'core traumatic feeling/theme'? I could so. This may become apparent only after a long time and many repetitions; mine's Abandonment. As a perfectionist I get abandoned with the details, the truth, the angst, the loneliness, that is the theme for me. Then: "Brings about the vehicle Janov talks about- which is the transport- is just me" (abbrev.).

    If you are you implying the real us is the vehicle we build to ride back on that by-way of un-met need then I totally agree with you. Everything else about us is false or 'wrongly assembled'. The skewed set points are like 'wrongly assembled parts, wrongly wired' therefore not real, not who we really are. To feel all this again, with some conscious awareness whilst it's happening is to be gestated all over again? Who is loving us whilst this happens?

    Frank, what is the vehicle made from, what material? I could give it a name: "Consciousness" but what is that made from? Words fail me, mine try but. . .

    Thanks Frank.

    Paul G.

  10. Hello Paul,

    The vehicle incurred by the emotions we feel when someone gives their approval and tears fall for what we never got... love that we never got... but remain in an incredible sadness of need... need is the vehicle. It is the vehicle we do not want to get off as it goes.

    Yours Frank


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.