Wednesday, February 20, 2013
How I Know About Psychosis
I never smoked dope, did cocaine or drank alcohol. But what happened one day was that someone put hash in my cake, unbeknownst to me. Nothing happened right away so they put a lot more. One hour later I awoke with a start saying that Bob Dylan was playing inside my body, which of course he was. When we listen to music it is also a physiologic process going on inside of us. The hash wiped away all filters so I experienced something with no defenses left. But that was not the end of the story at all.
I went insane for 20 hours. I could not stand any input and guided those around me not to input anything; no conversation whatsoever. Too many trees became overwhelming. I showed friends how to keep me grounded; still I was nuts. It came out in poetry. I spoke only in poetry for hours. And I had strange ideas. The hash might have been innocuous to anyone else but with me and my lack of defenses everything below came to the top; and I sprouted poems that I wrote in my head which was bubbling with feelings. It was a benign psychosis but psychosis it was.
Aside from the drug helping me discover and write about the three levels of consciousness, it also gave me insight into psychosis. And we go crazy in line with what lies below. You know the old saying about mean drunks and nice drunks? Well, we go crazy in the same way. Someone filled with rage is going to be a mean nutcase. In other words when defenses crumble either due to life’s misfortunes or from the use of drugs like hash, the unconscious surges forward. And it often takes over. It continuously nudges the top level neo-cortex into action. The result is often paranoid ideation, someone is trying to hurt me, or they are talking behind my back. Once it fully takes charge there is very little awareness of what we are thinking or doing.
In my case, I absolutely had no room from any input at all. Nothing could penetrate, which is why we can never talk someone out of his psychosis. We are not talking to the rational mind; we are addressing a brain that is flooded with symbols of his life. It is not a matter of what ideas the psychotic is using; they are in the service of defenses. They are an attempt to rationalize the potpourri of feelings rising to the top. These ideas are essential and are not to be tampered with; surely not to be talked out of. We need to see strange ideas in the context of the gestalt, of the overall function of the brain.
We see all this when someone takes an hallucinogen which does pretty much the same thing, unleashing feelings. Once out of the flooding state we are rational again and can become aware of how we reacted. It is also true when someone has a transitory psychosis due to drugs; they suddenly get rational when the drug wears off. But in true psychosis there is nothing to wear off. The gates have been shattered and cannot close up easily. That is the danger of most drugs including marijuana. The chronic use of marijuana produces a paranoid personality. Not only have I seen it over and over but there are many studies out there that come to the same conclusion. Marijuana over time becomes dangerous. It makes sense since any continuous alteration in the brain’s chemistry and routing will eventually produce damage and/or impairment.
The brain is a most delicate structure, never to be fooled with. We often don’t see psychosis here because this kind of psychosis is not so blatant. Let me give an example. We have friends in Europe who insist that someone (a movie star) was murdered. Every bit of information pointed to a suicide. But they would not accept it. They smoked pot every day of their lives. The result was manufacturing notions that had no basis in reality……a benign psychosis. In real psychosis the paranoid ideation is much more bizarre because it is driven by imprints very deep down in the neuraxis. When an imprint evolves from deep in the brain it is heavy; because of its whopping valence the ideas it drives must perforce be far out and strange. So we can be strange and slightly nuts or be a florid type of psychosis. Choose your poison but be careful of marijuana; it is not innocuous in any way at all. Believe me I am not a moralist. But I want to save mental health. Marijuana is not the way. I know that it temporarily eases repression in those who are intellectual and deeply repressed. It makes you feel at ease … normal … for a time. Much better to get to your feelings in a systematic way and not need drugs at all.
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.