Thursday, April 25, 2013
The Critical, Critical Period
I have written many times about critical period; the time when key needs must be met, and at no other time. In other words you cannot make up for that loss no matter how much you may want to. This was brought home to me in a study about food deprivation, (March 12, J. of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. J. Galler and P. Costa) (see http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/349102/description/Early_malnutrition_bodes_ill_for_adult_personality). What they found was that malnutrition in the first year of life, even when followed by an adequate diet, predisposes those to troubled personality even at the age of forty. Compared with those who had a normal diet they showed chronic stress, mistrust, anger and depression. Notice, the food deprivation was not limited later on to food problems; it created a complete problem in personality development. In short, key deprivation of need even during our life in the womb, has global consequences. So if you ask someone why are they so nervous?, they will unlikely answer, “because of my food deprivation at six months of womb-life.” This all occurred long before the person had a comprehending neo-cortex and its effect may last for a lifetime.
This early food deprivation also resulted in lack of curiosity and risk taking, as well as diminished emotional warmth. All that because the baby could not eat properly?
Let’s transfer this now to lack of love and touch right after birth. It has to be then and at no time later on. The critical period is measured in brief spurts, not long continuous time periods. When the baby comes onto earth all alone, in a strange environment and is left alone even for several minutes there can be deprivation. And it will last.
The point about the research on food is that it underlines the critical period. One has to ask why a very good eating regime soon after does not change things? It is because fulfillment has a timeframe, usually a short one. So when daddy leaves home for a few months to go on tour and comes home and loves and hugs his child, it is helpful but not reversing of the damage already done. That is why when a mother’s love is missing early on, if she is seriously ill, for example, there is a need gap. And what does this do? It can remain hidden for years and suddenly in adolescence there are homosexual tendencies. No knows where it came from. But there was deprivation very early in life that could not have been seen. This is a form of act out; we always try to fulfill those deprivations, even years later, depending on the circumstances. If food in the home was prized perhaps eating will take the form of an obsession. But the need for love is still waiting its turn. All of us who were deprived seek out one kind of fulfillment or another. Fulfillment is primordial and not to be denied no matter what the criticism or exhortations by others. It is so subtle because the parent can be a good person seriously concerned about the welfare the child but never touched her. That need will force fulfillment elsewhere. It will force the act-out. And it will be called “neurotic” because it is symbolic of what was missing. Getting approval from someone can never fulfill the person as the mother’s kindness and approval would have done. It is symbolic, never really fulfilling and becomes obsessional just because it is symbolic and only skin deep.
And diabolically, if we bring back the mother and ask her to be kind and approving to the young lady now adult, it would change nothing. It is still symbolic because the critical period is over. The pain can be softened through current love but the gap remains. We cannot be fully fulfilled now no matter how hard we try and no matter how others may want to make up for a bad childhood. That is the sad truth.
The article goes on to say that early bad nutrition leads to delinquency and suspiciousness in the child. How could that be? It means very early deprivation as overall systemic effects, not confined to food. To be loved we need fulfillment of all of our needs not just a few of them; to be hugged and touched, to be listened to and approved, to be adored and praised, etc. Our needs are biologic and are human, if we want to be complete human beings. Take the overeater; he is eating for now and then. Eating for then is symbolic and therefore never-ending. It becomes the stuff of obsessions and compulsions. He is wary because literally, he never knows where his next meal is coming from.
Above all, those who were deprived were most often in the anxious category. Lack of fulfillment stamped in fear and insecurity, feelings that endure for a lifetime.
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.