Learn Primal theory and clinical practice: the Legacy Program is now available!
For more information Click Here!
Dr. Janov's new Book is out! (May 2016)Dr. Arthur Janov examines the power of beliefs and how they are used as a mechanism for dealing with early trauma that goes as far back as birth. Beliefs are a way to rationalize with pain rooted deep in the unconscious, and reveal that love is a biological need. Dr. Janov applies engrossing case studies and his many years of experience to bring the reader one step closer to understanding human behavior, and how pain can become converted into an idea.
Available on Amazon: amazon.com
Shrink Rap Radio
Check out Drs. Arthur and France Janov's interview (June 23, 2016) on Shrink Rap Radio
Sunday, January 29, 2012
A recent Time Magazine has its cover titled “Anxiety,” accompanied with a serious article about it. (Dec. 5, 2011. “The Two Faces of Anxiety.”). There are many circuitous byways in the piece but if we are to get a grasp on its treatment we need to be sure about what it is. I am not sure that they state what it is, only that in some cases it is good for you. It is never good for you, especially when it revs up the system to prepare for a danger that most often does not exist; that is, that does not exist outside. It does exist inside. It is called a memory, an imprinted memory of danger that dates back to the time we were living in our mother’s womb. The danger back then could have been a carrying mother who drank or smoked, who was depressed or anxious, who did not eat properly, who took tranquilizers and other pain killers or who was chronically upset with her marriage. These are dangers for the baby that menace his life. His system reacts with terror because that is the highest level of brain development, for the moment; and because those events are most often life-threatening. The fear reaction is not quite in place; for that we need a fully development limbic system which at the third month of gestation is yet to come. A heavy dose of anesthetics to the mother during the birth process can shut down his respiratory system and bring him near death. This is the time of rapid brain development where trauma can have long-lasting effects.
We need to understand that once there is terror installed in the evolving fetus the genetic cells change and become epigenetic. Those transformed cells are the carriers of terror. They drive neurotic behavior and all sorts of serious diseases including cancer (the cells that block cancer cells from developing are nearly always heavily methylated, indicating early trauma). The process of this imprinting is carried by methylating the cells; adding part of the methyl group of chemicals to the gene. The cells then carry the “brand,” perhaps for a lifetime. There is such a distance from the time of that imprint, to terror of exams at age twenty that the source is not even considered. What has been imprinted is terror; terror of suffocation, strangling, deprived of oxygen and of being blocked from getting out. All of these are life-threatening and they remain in pristine form throughout our lives ready to surge forth. Terror is later joined by fear, a higher-level event in the brain, a later evolution. They are combined by a process known as resonance so that anything that can set off fear later on may dredge up underlying terror with it. When it bursts through to conscious/awareness later in life we call it panic or an anxiety attack. It is not; it is the same pure terror that was imprinted perhaps decades earlier. It may arrive in disguised form, a phobia or compulsion, but at base it is still that terror, and it is never good for you. When the terror is felt and experienced the phobias fall away.
Thus, anxiety is terror emanating from the deep reaches of the neuraxis; more precisely, from the brainstem that controls digestion, breathing, elimination and other vital functions. Anxiety is not fear; fear is the portal of entrée to earlier and more potent times. It is deeper in the brain and earlier in our evolution. Terror is for radical and immediate action; a key survival function. It is part of our primitive brain and predates our emotional brain by millions of years. When a carrying mother is seriously agitated she is activating her baby, setting off terror response. When the mother’s emotional state goes on and on it marks the genetic cells of the fetus and alters them, imprinting the terror response as an enduring legacy. It is given a different name; it is no longer terror, it is now anxiety, still terror filtered and disguised but the feeling is exactly the same, unchanged. And when our patients relive those early imprints the wrapping comes off the anxiety and it becomes the terror it was at the start; we see it now for what it is and was. It now has a context, an origin. With this reliving there is a radical change in biochemistry of the patient as well as vital signs which tend to normalize. In the reliving of an anxiety attack the anxiety transforms into pure terror; it does not exactly “transform,” it “reveals” what it is. And at the end of the session key vital signs drop to below starting values. When reliving the terror the anxiety disappears because the patient has felt it in its entirety and its origin. They are, as I noted, identical. Once we understand that anxiety and panic are pure terror we understand how it cannot be good for you. Yes, it will get you going, but how do you stop it? And how do you keep it from blocking your ability to focus and concentrate? So long as we think it is anxiety and not terror we will not know how to eradicate it. So long as we think it should be embraced, as the article states, we will be misled in our treatment of it. It is true that this can “get our adrenaline pumping,” but at what cost? Prolonged anxiety will surely cause a premature death, and in addition will damage the cognitive brain and diminish its thinking/reflective capacity later in life. Since anxiety seems to work in reverse order with telomeres (those caps on the chromosomes that indicate how long we may live), I think anxiety is a dangerous thing.
This article by Alice Park claims that anxiety is a “normal adaptive response.” But what is it adapting to? Surely not just taking school exams. Is it normal to be anxious before an exam? Sometimes yes; most often, no. But being apprehensive and suffering anxiety are not the same thing. They live on two different levels of the brain and should not be confused. Anxiety appears when fear has triggered off deeper levels of consciousness, of brain function. It is from the past, historic, not an adaptation to the present. That is why it seems so aberrant. We cannot see what causes it. For that we need to travel the person’s past and see for ourselves, and the person, himself, will see it, experience it, too. We see how in vain it is to deal solely with the apparent problem, exam anxiety, when it has very little to do with the exam, and very, very little to do with current life. It is just that the imprinted early terror is so at-the-ready, so close to conscious/awareness that it does not take much to set it off.
As I noted, the article states that not all anxiety should be battled, sometimes “it should be embraced.” Why would we want to embrace terror unless we really don’t know what it is? What they say is that just the right amount of agitation provides proper titrated motivation and is good for us. And so the article goes on, “the key isn’t not to feel anxious; it is to learn ways to manage that experience.” So no longer do we attempt to understand causes and origins, we just need to development management skills, as though feelings were a business to be managed. The trouble is that we use the top level neocortex to control and manage feelings but alas, all we can do is suppress and mask it. That is part of the function of the frontal neocortex. But feelings are not to be managed; they are to be felt and experienced. Animals know that instinctively. Animals don’t block their survival functions; they act on them. When we block them we are at the mercy of the outside world. And that blockage or repression means a great pressure internally acting on our organ systems, grawing away until serious disease appears.
One of the specialists on anxiety in the article states, “anxiety is neither helpful nor hurtful. It is your response that is helpful or hurtful.” In other words, it is all in your head. It is not whether your dad dies; it is how you respond to it. This is an old canard put forth by the booga booga therapies of the sixties and seventies. such as EST. It is pure solipsism; there is no outside world, just what goes on in your head. Reality is secondary to attitude. Belief trumps reality. So the result is that they treat attitude and ignore facts. The analogy to this is that if you change your mind you can change reality.; an offshoot of Cognitive/Behavior therapy. And they add, “our species would not be better off without it.” (Anxiety). I disagree. We do not need to terror to function except when a truck is bearing down on us; something that does not happen every day. Terror usually keeps us from functioning. I suppose that if you are on the outside looking in, (cognitive/insight therapy) you can come to no other conclusion. If you manage to get inside and look out (outsight) you get a different perspective.
I think it revolves around the idea of where is the danger? If we believe it is outside then treatment focuses on that (which is left brain), by the way, But what if that danger is inside, as it most often is, and it stays there no matter what we do (right brain). We cannot maneuver the inside from outside. We cannot make the left brain do the work of the right. What if anxiety has outlived its usefulness and continues to damage our brain and shorten our life? What do we do then? Mostly drugs and medication. Blocking it instead of expressing it. Once we know what “it” is we can then treat it and let it out and be done with it. It is far easier to try to change beliefs and attitudes instead of feelings because feelings are lower in the brain, in the subconscious and much more difficult to access. For those who live in their heads it is simpler to address the present, the superficial and get on with life. The confusion seems to be between motivation and terror. We never need terror unless a snake attacks. It is good to have that primitive animal, that same snake (and its primitive reactions) in our heads, just in case. We do need to be motivated but it should not be due to negative fear but to positive desire. Some actors state that they need anxiety to drive their acting and make them better. So they are never satisfied; they brag about this as something positive when it is not. They think that to be satisfied is to be smug and self assured—arrogant. They believe that if you are not anxious, and are satisfied with your work you will never improve. Isn’t there such a thing as wanting to make a good something without the anxiety? Can’t we have a sense of the good without terror? Too often the person has never had enough approval early in life and that is what drives him. The need for love and approval. It was never good enough for a critical father and thus never good enough for him. So he struggles; making a virtue out of missing love; thinking it is a good thing. But always anxious and never satisfied can never be a good thing.
In this kind of approach there is almost never a mention of history, of memory of imprints. Never a recognition of generating sources; of origins and causes. Until we deal with origins we can never consider cure because that is what cure is; a plunge into history, to those imprints that drive us.
Toward the end of the piece they acknowledge that anxiety may be related to fear but is “more prolonged and diffuse. “ They need to see that it is an emotion surging from different parts of the brain, and that the earlier the imprint usually the deeper in the brain it is, hence, the more terrifying. There is an hierarchy of feelings which get more powerful as we descend into the unconscious. As we descend fear becomes terror, organized deep in the brain, anger becomes rage, disappointment becomes hopelessness, and so on. There are levels of feelings. We often anticipate catastrophe because we are reacting to an event that has happened long before we have words to describe and understand it. That anticipation is called anxiety by the cognoscenti. We think we are seeing the future when we are only observing our history. That history predates ideas and beliefs. There was never any words for it. Now that we do have words we apply it mistakenly to the present when it is from our personal archives.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
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.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Clearly those who lack it need it, as trite as that may sound. How do we know who lacks it? That is the question, and here is the answer:
Children who grow up traumatized and unloved will need extra helpings later on to get over it. I define lack of love as not fulfilling specific needs of the child. And that child lived a previous life: life in the womb. And he could sense and feel unloved while being carried because he can sense when his needs are not met. He can sense hunger, terror, fear, hopeless, and so on. All this deprivation leaves a mark or tag on the DNA of the genes and changes the outcome and unravelling of that gene; it can keep the cell from traveling to its proper genetic destination; and choose another destination for us, from hopelessness to cancer or Alzheimers, for example. When there is heavy methylation on the genes in infancy it may indicate some kind of trauma or deprivation earlier on. Increased methylation is a sign of trouble in Denmark. So it may be that cancer later in life is the outcome of no love during womb-life. We plan to correlate difficult womb-life with serious disease. We want to see if our psychotherapy can reverse methylation.
Meanwhile, who needs more love? Those who did not get enough early on. They need an additional helping. I am not sure that will reverse methylation but it may keep it from getting worse. The point is that our biochemistry may speak volumes about our early deprivation even though we are convinced that we were always loved. It is why I am leery of paper and pencil questionnaires in research; taking the word of patients. Taking their "pulse" may be much more accurate.
So who needs love? What those who are deprived need even more than love is the feeling of no love; of going back and feeling the early deprivation; that is what is liberating. It is what lifts the lid of repression and allows the person to be open enough for love to get in and do its best.
A recent study reported by Hanne Johnson (Science News. Dec 5, 2011)looked into kids ages 7-10, took blood samples in those who were reared in orphanages versus those reared in a stable home. They profiled their genomes and found that those who grew up in institutions had a great number of epigenetic changes in cells that are involved with immune function and also those that regulated brain function. Early stress from separation from one's parents impacted later physical and mental health. And these children may be over sensitive to unhappy or harsh circumstances later on. They can take less adversity. To try to parent early deprived children is a double burden for the new parents. They have to make up for early deprivation, and I am not sure it can always be done. In other words, to try to undo methylation will take great effort if that methylation of the genome is to be reversed. Judging by some of our studies or reversing neurosis (vital signs, cortisol, imipramine binding, etc). it is possible to remove some of the imprinted pain, whether that means reversal of methylation we will have to see.
Friday, January 13, 2012
There is a story today about the film Mission Impossible……with Tom Cruz which has been shoved aside in sales by the new film, the horror film THE DEVIL INSIDE. So why is that? Wait a minute. The film is about exorcism; and that is about getting rid of your inner demons through shake, rock and roll and a little screaming. In my patois it is called abreaction. So what does the film do? It installs terror in you and then tells you how to get rid of it: exorcism. This is no different from what is happening world-wide to those who try to follow my therapy through getting patients to smack the wall, scream and get angry. All that is missing from their therapy and the film is context, the origin of the terror.
In the film they give you a context, a symbolic one that stands for the deep terror inside so many of us. It riles up the fear and then shows the ways to release it. And that is one major reason it is so popular. You can be terrorized safely in a warm environment and live through someone else’s catharsis. What a great formula. You can walk out of the theater relieved and calmer and the price was very paltry.
The difference in Primal Therapy is context, connecting with the generating source, the imprinted memory of that terror; therein lies true liberation. So the film goes through the motions of getting rid of the pain without really doing it; and that is what so many clinics do in the name of Primal. You don’t even have to hurt, and that is so attractive but such a chimera.
Why context? Because the origin of the terror, the imprinted memory, lies there and only there. Any other attempt to shake off the terror will fail.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
This is what the American Psychiatric and American Psychological Associations have decided in railing against the idea of Conversion Therapy where therapists try to convert homosexuals back to normal. The problem is that neither knows what normal is. Suppose we show that one year after starting therapy homosexuals have a “normal” level of cortisol—stress hormone. Or that their blood pressure normalizes. Then we begin to have an idea of what normal is and if there has been a deviation. If after we do all kinds of research biochemically and find a normalization of key factors such as natural killer cells and other cells we begin to see what is a deviation or not. So no, homosexuality is not a normal part of sexuality. Not because I say so out of some prejudice, but because science leads me there. And if we give into pressure and agree that it is not a deviation, as the American Psychological Association voted on some years ago, we do harm to those homosexuals who cannot understand the way they are. Imagine voting on sexuality as if it were a political issue to be for or against. Next we will vote on psychosis to see if it is a real deviation. If we ignore deep-lying causes we will never find out. If we ignore brain and biochemical research we will also never find out. We need to delve deep into the system to discover ultimate causes. If we never truly define normalcy, how can we decide what is not normal?
So if homosexuality is normal it cannot ever be treated and changed? I have found that not to be true. A few of my homosexual patients do change after many many months of therapy and very deep probing into the brain and the unconscious. And we never assume anything about it, only that after perhaps of in-depth feeling there is an automatic change in some patients. We never decide a priori that it is a malady that must be treated, but we also do not decide without evidence that it is normal, either. There is so little science in psychotherapy today; and the science that does exist, especially in brain science, never seems to make it into our practice. Even for those who do the brain research they cannot make the atavistic leap into the realm of psychotherapy; into deeply hidden secrets of the unconscious.
Why grace nonsense such as conversion with the sobriquet “therapy?” This is only done by those beknighted souls who think that homosexuality is evil and must be driven out of the human system. Prejudice always seems to supersede facts and science. It is easier, simplistic and doesn’t take much thought. If patients could be helped back into their remote history we would see the pain involved into homosexuality, and then we could add to it copious research extant that indicates that it may well begin with trauma in the womb and at birth. If we don’t look there how can we ever find out. Ah I know: replace it all with prejudice, or in the case of the scientific societies guess and bit and then take a liberal position that it is not “bad” after all but normal. We have just overlooked our decades of therapeutic experience and several hundred research studies. Why? Because we want to be loved and not be prejudiced, which is what it does make us. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Is that science espoused by august scientific societies? Or is the search for love and praise for being so “democratic.” Sometimes science is fascist; it doesn’t care about our feelings and where their findings lead. It cares about truth. So it should say that sometimes psychotherapy for homosexuality might be good; and that it might be a deviation, after all. Keep an open mind, and above all never vote on matters of science. That is truly ridiculous.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
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.
In my book "Life Before Birth", I discuss how life inside the womb can affect us for a lifetime. There is new research on this every day. *
What is pretty clear now is that the carrying mother’s anxiety can often produce anxiety in her baby, not for the moment but for decades and decades. And what does this do? It produces ADD in school children who cannot concentrate nor focus enough to study properly. It produces hyperactive adults who have to keep going and going; making plans and projects without end. And what does that do? It makes it likely that they will die of a stroke or heart attack because the defensive gates are leaky and keep on driving the person unceasingly. This is different from those whose gates are solid and repression is massive; their death of choice will most likely be cancer. And what causes this differentiation? The kind of womblife and above all, the kind of birth; whether it is parasympaththetically dominant, where exit was most difficult, or sympathetically dominant where it took a herculean struggle to get out. The parasympath learns to hold back and not struggle to survive; while the sympath learns to struggle for survival. It is stamped in, embedded and engrave in nearly all systems; all are affected eventually, and in the reliving all are involved again, so that we see changes in most of those systems again.
What makes the difference early on is whether traumas early on are within the first 3 months of life or afterwards. There are times in the very early months when there can be free-floating anxiety with little ability to repress or gate the pain, as the gating chemicals are not yet organized and effective. Later on this may change so that repression does set in, and this may be the difference between anxiety and later depression. Anxiety a much earlier event, and depression a later one, depending heavily on gating. Anxiety, therefore, is much more a primitive response. And it is most difficult to eradicate; it never will happen without deep remote access to our low-lying brain processes. I am discussing embryonic and more likely post-embryonic life (assuming embryonic means up to 12 weeks post-conception). I mean roughly in the first trimester where the reaction is terror because adversity at that time is usually life threatening; a mother who takes drugs or smokes heavily or who is constant very anxious. And this is the time when serotonin and other repressive chemicals are not up to snuff. So we have pure terror that is embedded and imprinted. Later in life anything that evokes fear can immediately become terror as resonance reawakens the connected/related terror. These people are often known as hysterics who overreact all of the time to the slightest input; it is all “too much,” and even a slight request is overwhelming. Their anxiety level is near the top constantly. And all this because of first trimester trauma. It doesn’t have to be excessively overt. Not even perceptible. But it is there ready and waiting. And pure anxiety tells us how early the event occurred. If it is mixed with depression we know even more; perhaps there is a mixture of traumas occurring at different fetal periods. And the result of this may result in colitis fairly early life, and/or other midlife afflictions not excluding bed-wetting, a forerunner for runaway sexuality. To imagine trying to treat excessive sexual impulses without understanding prenatal events.
You see that this excessive reactivity can be a strong survival mechanism to handle early, primitive danger. The problem is that it was appropriate early on but not in adult life where it is excessive. We will never convince anyone about how wrong their reaction is because their physiology and its imprint is saying it is appropriate. The problem is that the body does not differentiate past from present. In the brain it is all the same. And in the reliving of those events the brain state in the reliving comes to exactly mimic the brain state at the time of the trauma. So no wonder the brain can be fooled. Being hyper-reactive was important early on but not normal now. And that is the problem. The only way to solve it is to go back over time and re-experience it fully and then the system and brain will know the difference and no longer over-react. We have seen this time and again as patients relive their past.
*(See the work of Vivette Glover. And also the work of the following between 2002 and 2010……O’connor, Heron and Glover. Also de Bruijn. And Williams and Taylor.)
Monday, January 2, 2012
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.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
In the news today is a photo of two congressmen going out hunting with their orange uniforms and very large guns. I thought: is this fun? What fun could there possibly be to deliberately go out and kill an animal. Either killing a baby that will put his parents into a deep depression; yes they do get depressed; or kill a mama so that the baby will die soon from the same depressive malady that becomes deadly as it affects the heart and liver. Are they aware that they are killing members of a family, beings that have feelings, whose feeling brains are massive? What joy is there in the killing? Oh I forgot, those very big guns. I leave you to figure out the meaning.
There must be something atavistic about this ritual; perhaps it harkens back to the days when the best hunter was the hero who made sure of our survival. And maybe now they consider themselves heroes, macho, like Hemmingway, who measured his shark kills on a scale, in keeping with his loving bull fights, something so ineffably cruel that defies imagination. So again, what is it about killing, mostly a male occupation, that makes a leader of one country visit another, and the first thing they do is go hunting? It is all so Freudian and obvious. Is there any thought to whom they are killing and why? Nope. Just a habit. The quarterback Brett Favre loves to hunt deer with a bow and arrow. Putting an arrow through the head of a helpless deer that is fun for him. But wait, he also placed a photo of his penis on the internet. “I am a man, a tough man, at that.” Is there some relationship? Of course. I kill therefore I am a man. Ayayay. A play on the, I think therefore I exist. His motto is, I don’t think therefore I exist.
Anyone in touch with their feelings could not hunt. They would feel and understand about animals and their feelings and needs. It is a real feeling being; therefore, I would first teach all school children the veneration of all life. They would be in touch with their feelings so that before the impulse to hunt, they would say to themselves why I am I doing this? And the answer would come quickly. I feel insecure. I feel unimportant. I have hate inside me from own parental neglect. And on and on. Mostly hunting is a proof, of sorts, that I am a real person, a real man. And then what? They have to do it most of the time because it is an addiction that comes out of feelings and needs.
Of course there are strong cultural forces at work where hunting is part of the zeitgeist. And from the time the child can speak his head is filled with the glorification of killing. But there comes a time in life when we need to ask ourselves questions about ourselves; what am I doing and why am I doing it? Unhappily, that day never comes to a lot of us. We go through life dragging this body around and never demand who we are and why we act like we do.
I have watched baby chimps go into a deep depression and die after their parents were killed by hunters, and I think, how could anyone do that? I am sure there is always a good rationale but even paranoids have a seemingly good rationale for their murder—so and so didn’t pay up on his drug debts, or she left me for this other guy. But just for fun and for no other reason to call up a friend and dress up in those orange jump suits and go kill, that is way beyond me.
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.