Saturday, January 12, 2013
How to Deny Your Feelings and Die Early?
I swear I try to avoid nonsense, but when it stares me in the face, and when it appears in a scientific journal, I feel I must reply. Scientific American published a piece on anger and anxiety by cognitive people where there is not one word about what anxiety is or how to treat it except … except through changing your mind and thinking your way to health. (Sci. American 1-4-13).
What the article states is that we cannot always avoid what upsets us, so we need to reframe the experience; that is, look at it differently and deny our feelings. In short, use our prefrontal cortex to suppress our feelings. But of course suppression does nothing to eliminate the causes of anxiety. And therein lies the rub; the imprint lying below still continues to do its damage to our organs and behavior. No denial can change that.
It all depends here on their experiment; (by Dominik Mischkowski and others), where they had a group of volunteers (students), led them to believe they were waiting to start, kept them waiting, were curt with them, and later asking them to reimagine the situation. There is more but that is essentially it. What that has to do with real anxiety, I do not know. It seems more like annoyance. Their conclusion: the next time a car zips in front of you don’t focus on the anger. Imagine yourself looking at if from a distance, and “KEEP YOUR EMOTIONS AT ARMS LENGTH.” Some advice. Keep feelings at a distance…..and become robots? Or what? Is this science?
What they say is that it is not hard to dwell on the bad but focusing on the good could be the difference between health and sickness. It is quite the opposite; denying feelings makes you sick and hurries along a premature death. I have quoted study after study to this effect in my books. But look at the logic of it: keeping down and suppressing feelings is healthy? I suppose you could come to that conclusion if you deny history, deny imprints and neurological science and focus only on the present, which the cognitive people do ad nauseam. Feelings are the essence of life; why would we want to deny them? But scientists who live in their heads can do this because they do. So when a loved one dies we are supposed to think, how can I think about this differently? Crying is so essential that those who cannot cry fully need to go to grieving therapy to learn to cry so as to get some relief.
Can we really think our way to health? When over-thinking is the way to sickness. Those who come to us who live in their head have to learn to recapture their feelings again and become human.
And if all else fails in their approach, they say it helps to write a journal about it; another way of keeping it intellectual. Why not feel those feelings; they are a natural response, not an aberration to be hidden and forgotten. There is a reason that feelings exist, otherwise, evolution would have denied and eliminated them. They are a survival mechanism and as important as hunger and thirst. Feelings inform us who is good for us and who isn’t. Especially who is not is good for us and wo will not be dangerous. Feelings predate thoughts and long before we think they inform us about life. They are life, in essence….ecstasy, beauty and love. When you lose your feelings, you are dying.
What I think happens is that advanced university graduates apotheosize the intellect and denial is their way of life which they then elevate to the level of a theory. And then they find a therapy that accommodates this concoction (sorry, but it is a concoction out of their life style). They help patients get sicker in the name of psychological health. After all, they made it through life with their intellect, why not the rest of us?
They use phrases such as “moving past unwanted, negative feelings.” And they dress it up with a “scientific” phrase called self’-distancing. All that means is how to run away from feelings. Do I sound angry? I am, because people read science to find out how they can feel better not die earlier. They note that denying feeling is healthy coping while suffering and feelings is unhealthy coping.
So it is a turn on the old idea of thinking your way to health. Why are our feelings unwanted? They are natural reactions, not aliens. The researchers recommend being distant from feelings. Is that mental health or is that denial in the name of mental health? And denial is not just an idea; it means repressing feelings and most often that is not healthy, unless you want cancer and heart disease.
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.