Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The Psychology of a Great Actor
I have often thought about what makes a great actor, not a good one, but a great one. Marlon Brando is one, Gerard Depardieu (France) is another. I think what it involves is those with leaky gates and therefore great access to feelings. They can portray emotions to their depths because they are already awash in them. It makes them great and already out of control. They are impulsive, aggressive, narcissistic, having never enough love and attention, and above all, self referent: that is, everything they say or do is related to them. You say something and they immediately retort, “I remember when I..,……” blah blah. They are always story tellers , and the story is usually about them.
Their whole world is acting and that is where they are real. They can blend into any character and become that character. Reality is not their thing except inside a fantasy character. They have no self-consciousness because the self is in the character; they are not examining the character, they are living it. They are it. One of my actresses put it this way: “I’ll be anything you want me to be, mommy, if you will only love me.” Alas, that is not to be because because too often the parent is also self-centered and has no time or space for anyone else. They cannot give anything to anyone. The minute an actor steps back to look at the role he is playing he is no longer great; he is as they say in French, quelconque. He is everyman, a wanna-be. Let’s be clear; when an actor thinks too much about what he is doing he is back in his head and apart from the role. He has to be in it totally to be great.
So why is their lives such a mess; and it nearly always is. Because they cannot love anyone. The unloved children go to a therapist who claims: you have to love yourself. What nonsense. How can you when there is nothing inside to do that? That is a double mind-fuck. Now the children have to wonder, “What’s wrong with me” Why can’t I love myself? And if they imagine that they can love themselves then all is lost because they have bought the fantasy without the essence. If they knew anything about neurophysiology they would know that you cannot love yourself unless you totally distort the meaning of love, and neurologically there is a critical period when you can be loved and only during that period. If you try to “love yourself” at age forty, good luck. You need to be loved when the critical period for love is relevant and that is during gestation and infancy. That sets your life.
I am trying to figure out how you love yourself? You tell yourself “I love you?” You hug yourself? Buy nice things for yourself? What?? There is no good answer because it is nonsense. This is doubly true if a great actor goes to therapy; he will incorporate the therapy and therapist into his narcissism and not change one scintilla. He can’t. He is driven for love and manages to find a profession where he can think he can get it: Applause, “they just loved you tonight, “ blah blah. That is what he gets for love but he keeps on perfecting his craft to get more and more. I have treated some near-greats but the dynamic is the same. Love me, love me.
I have treated young actresses who run the minute there is an interview for a role. There is a desperation about it as there is so much at stake for them: a chance for love, approval, appreciation, attention; everything that was missing in their home-life. They will settle at age twenty for hundreds “loving them” for what they missed early on. And what they missed early on is gone and will never be retrieved. What they can retrieve is reality; feeling unloved. And dialectically, that will finally enable them to feel loved again. The repressive barriers have been penetrated and there is again access to real feelings and the ability to feel real love. A major actor wrote a book about that after his therapy. The point is that when you are loved you feel it and act it; you don’t go around saying, “I love myself.” You don’t think about it because whatever you do is natural; the way things need to be. You don’t run around thinking , I am tall. That is simply the nature of things. So is feeling loved. And if acting and getting love from thousands were satisfying then the actor would not be so driven to do it again and again. But it is like a tranquilizer; it only lasts for a moment. It is not truly fulfilling because the actor often cannot truly let love in. Yes of course, there is the true artistry of acting and the actor wants to do it over and over, but I am discussing the inner drive, the ultimate motivation.
So why are actors and directors so depressed when not on stage? Because they feel what they really feel, profoundly unloved; they are bereft of their defense. When they work they can struggle for love, and there is hope again. They see the applause, the approval and appreciation. It allows their defenses to work again. And all is well in life. They will undergo years of rejection, as they did in their early life, for that crumb of love. They expect rejection; it was their mode of life early on; they know it well.
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.