Tuesday, December 4, 2012
The central nervous system receives input from outside but also, importantly from insides, as well. It processes and stores information. So why exactly are we neglecting the nervous system that processes and contains inner input in therapy? Is it because we only can treat what we see, and since we don’t see what’s inside we imagine it doesn’t exist? Or is it because some of us live in “our heads” and cannot believe in a life deep in the interior; a life in the underground; in the zone of the interior? This is the system that responds to stress and threat. The system that cares and feels. It is the system of need and deprivation; why ignore it? It is the system that remembers early hurt and deprivation; of suffocation at birth and of not being touched right afterwards. It is the system that needs.
It is also the system that begins its connections with other brain circuits to help us mature and make us whole. It is the system that begins the maturation of the blood and circulatory systems. All detours are registered here, and here is where answers lie to early hurt and lack of emotional care and touch. How on earth can we ignore the key system that remembers what must be remembered; the system that fully informs us of what we underwent very early in our lives? It is the system that speaks of epigenetics and how genes and their expression were permanently changed. It is the system that forms our personality, that shapes how we respond to others in life; whether we battle on or give up easily, our future passivity or aggressivity. All this is set down so early but it is there for the looking; all we have to do is ask and seek. How in therapy can we not believe in all this and go on treating only the here and now? The early traumas take on and store early indifference and neglect by parents; it is early on that some neurons settle in the brainstem while others find their home in the neo-cortex to make us top heavy with intellect and prevent easy access to our feelings. Don’t we want to know how mother’s taking drugs and alcohol caused the detour of key neurons and changed our bodily functions? Doesn’t this count when we are trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it? Don’t we want to know how experience in the womb reduced the brain’s dendrites and changed inner communication? This resulting in learning problems and ADD? We want to know how experience changed the brain to take in less input and therefore to be easily overwhelmed with too much stimuli or input. We must know that all the key major changes have taken place before we play in the schoolyard. Even before we have words to describe our problems.
Our first major phase of development lies in the brainstem where we organize terror, rage and impulsivity. From this later comes feeling and then thoughts. There is a whole world of living before the top level even exists. And a whole world of hurt, too. It is the lowest level that impairs heart function and is the precursor for later cancer. It is the site for organizing later diabetes and high blood pressure. So when we wonder about an early heart attack or stroke we need to look for answers in the right places. How is it possible to understand any of this and at the same time ignore its existence? It means not only ignoring months and years of personal development but millions of years in the development of mankind. We musn’t forget that our brain neurons migrate and how and where they go depends on early experience. And it is early experience that ultimately determines brain growth.
This reminds me of the giant painting of a nude and there is a little old lady looking only at the flowers around her. We cannot afford to look away and still help people. Cannot afford to not examine the critical period and not to understand the importance of that period for our development. How love at fifteen cannot ever, ever make up for its lack at age minus eight months. And while I am at it, there is a significant meeting going on by august mental health professionals who are renewing the diagnostic psychiatric manual. And guess what? They are completely ignoring those key lower levels of our existence.
When we examine animal life and see how important the critical period is, how those not licked or nuzzled suffer forever, we know how critical the critical period is. How the brain shrinks when love is missing and reduces in size. How the brain is denser with early love. Untouched newborn animals (and humans too) die much earlier. There is a premature atrophy of the brain. It is becoming clear that early lack of love affects attachment and impacts the right brain that deals with attachment. So what is it all about Alphie? Love Love Love.
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.