Thursday, May 30, 2013
I have written about anxiety many times. But I want add a couple of things that may round out the picture. As we know now anxiety comes from deep in the brain where primal terror is organized. No matter what we call it, it is always basic terror; it happens early in life either at birth or during gestation when the brainstem is dominant and where breathing is organized. Some of us are chronic shallow breathers, others suffer sleep apnea where the whole system stops functioning for seconds at a time. In both cases it is an attempt to conserve oxygen due to diminished oxygen both at birth through anesthesia given to the mother (and therefore the baby), or during womb-life when the mother smokes heavily. In this case there is oxygen deprivation and the automatic tendency to hold one’s breath. We see this when a person is shocked at something and puts her hand over her mouth; this is a survival reflex to hold down breathing.
The point is that from the very start there is a survival response which means conserving oxygen and it becomes a template for any later threatening situations. By the time we are born the agitation, galvanizing response is in action; therefore there is this constant input from within. The imprint of threat becomes imprinted and is a constant menace. Holding one’s breath even for a few seconds is the automatic response, Terror has now become anxiety, only becomes we cannot peer down into the medulla of the brainstem to see how it all got started. We cannot see the terror for what it is so we give it a label—anxiety.
So we have constant activation from within that fights for space from whatever is coming in—a homework assignment, instructions for how to put together a table, etc. The internal input usually wins sense it is primordial, is survival driven and is incredibly strong. Later in life when there is a gathering of many people there is far too much possibility for input and so the anxiety person can be overwhelmed. She may avoid any large gathering. Or if she attends the party, for example, she suffers and cannot wait to leave. The whole idea is to reduce or eliminate input. She wants everyone to do anything complicated for her. She will feign helplessness or not understanding when all it is that too much information/activation is forcing its way toward conscious/awareness. The information is in the form of nerve impulses that travel at great speed throughout the system trying to “tell” the whole system to get ready for danger. And the danger is……..reduced oxygen. Those impulses tell the chemistry to pour in more cortisol (stress hormone) or inform the immune system to lower its functioning. No words in those transmissions; just key information warning of danger. That takes precedence over all other input; so trying to figure out geometry while anxious is far too much. Anxious means life-threatening input and that cannot be ignored.
This person often has breathing and lung problems. She goes to doctor after doctor to no avail because he has no idea what is wrong. But looks into her lungs deeply and can only see the alveolas, not able to see those life and death memories at work in them. He cannot see deep-lying terror sequestered far below the comprehending cortex. He cannot see its causes. He is, in effect, blind. And so she rushes to a psychiatrist, and he too cannot see what lies deep in the brain so he focuses on her behavior: she has to learn to focus and not pay attention to other input. She must learn patience, and blah blah. He too is blind. They cannot believe what does not seem to be there but, in fact, it is there if we look. None so blind who refuse to believe what is there and continue to believe in what isn’t there.
Monday, May 27, 2013
The BBC News published a paper on the work of the Institute of Cancer Research (BBC News, Health 8 April 2013. “Scientists Track Leukemia’s origins back to the womb, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22062616”) What they say is what we have understood for years, the deleterious effects of trauma during womb life. They report that Leukemia is the most common cancer in children but I maintain it tells us much more about adult cancers, as well. The basis of all this is that something goes wrong in the womb while the mother is carrying. It can be external forces such as war or more personal events such as a husband who leaves home. It can also be because the mother drinks or smokes or is chronically anxious or depressed; the permutations are myriad. The result is often a change in genetic expression called epigenetics. The result of this, what I call “the imprint” is a deviation and ramification of many functions, from brain circuitry to vital organ function. And when we change the imprint we would expect to see changes throughout the system. This assumes we change the imprint. One of the ways we might do this is reverse the elements of the imprint such as methylation. Methylation helps in repressing expression, through enhancing repression. Bit by bit we should see changes in this as we go back and relive parts of the imprint on every level of conscious, all along the chain of pain. Reliving through connection to the source means undoing methylation, in my opinion. This is the goal of our future research.
Now about the study: the researchers delved deeper into the disease process and through twin studies found that womb-life was a culprit. They studied the DNA inherited from both parents (having done a complete genome study), Leukemia, also known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), is a cancer of the white blood cells. There are faulty genes linked to the disease but epigenetics are key. They believe that the mutations accounting for it must have come from the womb. Other mutations may have come after birth. Here is the conclusion: “Studies like this could reveal new ways to target the roots of cancer; there is still more to do to make treatments better with fewer side-effects.”
Now I must ask the question, “ How about finding out what happened in the womb that forced these mutations?” That seems to be overlooked as mission impossible. But it is not; we can find fairly closely what happened during womb-life to produce mutations. They are looking to alter those mutations by examining the mutation itself. I have written about how trauma reduces the efficacy of the tumor suppression function which has the job of stopping cancer growth; and I have also written about natural killer cells which are part of the immune system which look out for newly developing cancer cells and kill them. I have also noted that our therapy was studied independently and discover a significant rise in NK cells after one year of therapy. I will hypothesize that primal therapy can be a preventative of cancer if we have the time to go deep enough. I am not stating that in every case but we have little cancer among our patients and we believe that primal therapy can be a factor. In short, I think cancer originates deep in the brain often in womb-life and that is exactly what we treat.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Believe it or not there is a statement from the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (Thomas Insel) (see for ex: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/index.shtml) who seems to think that everything is wrong with psychiatry. He thinks there is no science of psychotherapy and little validity to the new DSM, diagnostic manual which he says, is not a bible of psychiatry but a dictionary; listing symptoms and not getting below them. He’s right. I wrote him a letter about our work and its validity but I doubt if I will get an answer. At least I wrote to the previous directors and never had the courtesy of a reply. So we’ll see. He is right about what’s wrong but I am not sure he knows what to do about it. I think he wants to get into brain function and genetics; and those will never get him there. As I said in my last article, the brain cannot feel pain but the mind does. If we go on reducing it all to brain function we will never succeed. If we delve into the works of the mind and its relationship to the brain, then we will succeed. The mind has to relate to how the brain functions so we don’t erect theories that fly in the face of brain science.
It cannot be either or; when it is you get theories of therapy by brain scientists, and I could mention several well known neurologists, who miss the mark completely.They have never done a day of psychotherapy and they extrapolate from the brain about how therapy should be practiced. I have written to them with no answer and that includes Antonio Damasio. They are too busy lecturing to see how therapy can work. You know what an expert is? Someone from out of town. I would change that to someone out in space because they are not grounded and do not see daily, anxious and depressed patients. It is not that something is wrong with their brains; they grew up neglected, abandoned and unloved. We won’t find that in the brain………ever. We will find it in their history. Neurons contain history but we cannot see it, and they won’t give up their secrets freely. I have an idea. How about talking to the patient? How about not drugging him but delving into his or her past? How about listening? That is hard to do when you take 8 patients a day. We don’t.
Insel admits that there is no science here and no proper theory to guide therapy for addiction, for example. Rates of mental illness are mounting rapidly. Let us hope they hear but why am I so pessimistic? Because I have sent at least 50 letters to the powers that be without response. It seems that many scientists are putting their hopes into president Obama’s new initiative, pouring millions into mapping the brain. Yes that is wonderful but it won’t solve the problem of mental illness; unless we think it really lies in brain dysfunction or in genetics. And now there is so much focus on the brain that we have missed out on the mind which speaks for the brain.
Let me tell you a story. When I was young and naïve I asked the NIMH to come investigate and see our work. Three men in ties came and watched a session. The patient, a woman, was screaming in agony; her ass was in the air. One of the men turned to me and without commenting on her pain said,” Why is her ass in the air? Is she being provocative?” Right then I knew the jig was up. There was no chance. Here was a horny guy who saw no pain. He had no empathic reaction. My heart sank.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Last night, sitting at my desk like I always do, a surprising and unfamiliar sense of relief suddenly washed over me. It wasn’t like a thunderbolt, but like the slow lifting of a veil. This pall of pain that hangs over me like a cloud all the time was vanishing into thin air. I felt an exhilarating sense of release, of relaxation. A calm invaded my body and I wasn’t quite sure why. It was so different from the chronic aches and pains I live with much of the time. In contrast to the routine, relentless misery, this welcome calm felt like euphoria.
The moment reminded me of that night 40 years ago when I was just as suddenly plunged into a crater of panic and anxiety, without knowing why. One moment, I’m sitting in my Berkeley apartment calmly reading a book, a sophomore without a care in the world. The next, a pit opens in my stomach and I’m being engulfed by a fear and dread that came out of nowhere. I got up, went to the bathroom, splashed water on my face. I went to the kitchen and manically did the dishes. But it wouldn’t stop. I thought if I went to sleep it would finally go away, so I clutched the pillow and shut my eyes tight, praying for this inner monster to disappear, but when I woke up it was still there. I’ve been trying to find the cause and the cure ever since. Only Primal Therapy ever gave me any answers and any respite.
But Primal Therapy only works if you stay with it. I’ve had big breakthroughs over the years. Clouds part, angels sing and you really feel reborn. But the pain comes back and you have to keep muddling through. My problem is that I’m a big avoider. If my terror is kept under wraps and my pain at an endurable, dull constant, that’s good enough. I focused on my work, my family, my whatever. So literally years would go by without therapy, without feeling. Eventually, it caught up with me, slowly dragged me into a mental and physical morass. I could no longer brush it off saying I’m fine for now. I was feeling horrible.
There were times when my whole being felt anguished. I’d be just sitting in my house and feel this pain in every pore. Like a wretch, I wanted to be put out of my misery. How could I be feeling so miserable when my life was going relatively well?
My body carries all my pain. The tension grabs my stomach like a vice, penetrates to my bones. There are times when I’m just one big aching organism. I even feel at times like there's acid in my veins. Maybe that’s why I was so transfixed by the images of Christ on the cross as a kid. I was not aware then that I was hurting, but I was mesmerized by the symbols of suffering, of pure agony, of despair in the face of so much pain. I now see that was me.
For a year, I’ve been getting regular sessions again at the Primal Center in Santa Monica. It’s the fourth time I’ve been back for therapy since I started in 1974. Every two weeks, chipping away at the things that hurt me, in the present and the past. Luckily, I cry easily. And almost from the first deep Primal, I started feeling that little bit of relief, enough to keep me going.
But then came last night. This was a feeling of total well-being that swelled up in me. Oh my God, there was no aching muscles, no throbbing forehead, no clenched abdomen. I didn’t feel any of those symptoms of suffering I’ve learned to live with.
Instead, I felt…I felt… good!
There was almost a pleasant buzz in the pit of my stomach where that old panic used to be. That acid in my veins turned into a rush of warmth flowing through me. I didn’t just feel relieved. I felt free. Hallelujah. There is an end to this misery at last.
The sliding door to my office was open. Outside, a warm Santa Ana wind was rustling the tall palm tree overhead. It felt like a caress from nature, like a good wind blowing down the canyon. I was at the computer and I had to stop what I was doing, the chore of paying monthly bills. As it happens, I was on the phone with my bank, trying to resolve a problem with their website. The agent had put me on hold and I had put down the phone with the loudspeaker on, and they had classical music playing during the wait. That piano sounded so soothing, so completely attuned to my mood at the moment. It reminded me of the music my Mom played at night as she fell asleep, the radio always on her nightstand. And I just closed my eyes and listened and floated away on that reverie. The breeze, the piano, the inner peace. I felt serene, liberated. For that moment, I was just there.
What is strange is that the payoff came today. I had gone for a session earlier that morning, but nothing big had happened. The feelings were not so strong, not so deep. It was more like wrapping up lose ends from two weeks ago, when I had plunged into big feelings about being molested by a relative at age 10, the age my son is now. The uncle who did this had been very nice to me, showing all the interest, praise and affection that I had never received from my dad. He let me put shaving cream on his face and I still remember his stubble bristling on my hand because I had never touched a man’s beard before. He let me sit at the head of the table and asked me all about myself and what I wanted for dinner and made me feel special, like no other man ever had. He held me in his arms as we fell asleep, and I was in heaven because I had never been held by a man like that before. So when he twisted our closeness into something bad, something so selfish, I felt crushed. Not back then, mind you. Back then, it was never discussed. It was a secret that I buried down deep. I always knew it was there. What I didn’t know was how deeply it hurt. That pain was buried too. But now, in reliving it, I understood the meaning of that abuse for me. It meant the little love I had found was a fraud. It meant I would never find pure love. I would never be loved just for me.
So in that follow-up session, I cried more about that. About how sad it was to come to the end of my emotionally empty and lonesome childhood to have my hopes raised, then betrayed. I cried thinking about my dad, seeing him at his usual place at the kitchen table, wanting to go to him with my secret but not actually having to tell him. I just wanted him to understand, to see my need and my hurt. I wanted to ask him to hold me, like a son. Just put his arm around me and protect me. If I didn’t need him so much, maybe this would not have happened.
I left feeling almost as sad as I came in. So eight hours later, when that veil of pain lifted, it was like a delayed pay-off. I see it as the cumulative benefit of consistently dipping into my personal “hurt locker.” I was just so backed up and overloaded, I needed to drain it down.
The next morning I had to get up early to take my son to chorus practice at 7:30. I didn’t sleep much, but I didn’t feel as lousy as I usually do in the morning, especially when I’m sleep-deprived. In fact, I was cheerful, laughing with my son over some jokes on the TV and moving more quickly without coffee. After dropping him off, I went for a walk, salsa music playing on my earphones. I felt so different, physically, than I usually do. Before, every step was a burden. My muscles hurt by just stepping up on a curb. I felt like I was loaded down, heavy, always pushing against some force. But this day, my step was light. I walked briskly for three miles and didn't feel all that inner sludge weighing me down. I actually skipped up onto curbs.
When I mentioned this milestone of progress in an email to Art Janov, he suggested I write something for the blog. Patients get discouraged, he said, and this could help them stay motivated. That’s the key. Primal Therapy requires stick-to-it-iveness, but it’s easy to get bogged down and give up. That was even part of my feeling: “This won't stop. Nothing works to make it better. Art is wrong. His critics are right. Primal is dangerous. I need a doctor to give me painkillers and get it over with. It’s all too much, too scary.”
When the relief finally came, Dr. Janov looked like a genius.
Coincidentally, when I got home and checked Facebook, the following quote from the philosopher Rainer Maria Rilke came across my newsfeed. Wow, I hadn’t thought of him for a long, long while. But when I was in college, at the depths of my breakdown and the peak of my insanity, I somehow found comfort reading him. Back then, it was just his lyrical prose, his uplifting spirituality that lulled my freaked-out nerves, plus a kindness and wisdom I perceived in him.
Now that Primal has released my potential for enjoying life, his words have a real meaning.
“I confess that I consider life to be a thing of the most untouchable deliciousness, and that even the confluence of so many disasters and deprivations, the exposure of countless fates, everything that insurmountably increased for us over the past few years to become a still rising terror, cannot distract me from the fullness and goodness of existence that is inclined toward us.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Life: New Prose Translations
Friday, May 10, 2013
Why do I Mistrust The Intuition By Cognitive Therapists?
Because I sometimes get asked how I dare to be so sure of my judgmental attitude to Cognitive psychology, I have tried to identify my basic reasons, guided by the Primal Theory and critical thoughts from Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.
Having been involved in Primal therapy during four decades and having worked in various positions with human resources and recruitment experts in my career, I have met and gotten to know (even privately) a number of psychologists. Most of them have been ambitious and genuine professionals, whether they have worked in the therapy context, or if they worked as selection or test psychologists. I had, according to a female friend, since my teens a psychological aptitude (whatever that is?), and I can say that I have mostly had a positive relationship to this profession.
However, my attitude to the psychologic corps has over the years become increasingly split as my knowledge of the brain and the feelings has deepened when I experienced a fascinating demystification of my problems caused by an epileptic stigma which was caused by a painful and horrific birthing process. During the years, it took to be cured, Primal Therapy and the understanding of the evolutionary process played a crucial role.
The more I hear about Cognitive Therapy treatment from different contexts, the more skeptical I have been. The lack of cure causes an intellectual, short term attitude to reason and to medicate depressions away, instead of feeling / reliving the cause of the underlying anxiety and pain. My frustration is all the greater that the alternative to Cognitive Therapy, for example, Primal Therapy, for various reasons do not seem practically capable of filling the endless need to be met.
Add to that the fact that many sufferers / patients choose Cognitive therapy / medication as a delusion and a quick fix. By repressing their anxiety / pain, they think they have found a rapid solution, but in most cases, they may soon find another quick solution, etc., etc., an eternal recurrence. All this, of course, plays into the hands of the Pharmaceutical industry that develops and markets painkillers, by the name of science, that patients in the absence of natural solutions are forced to eat at an accelerating extent to enable society to function.
An experienced psychotherapist is skilled in working out what is going on in her/his patients mind and has good intuition what the patient will say next. Why? Because the shrink and the patient are having a left brain oriented intellectual / verbal communication. As a consequence it is tempting to the shrink to conclude how the patient will do in the next near future. However, this conclusion is not equally justified. Why? Because the medium / long term forecasting is a different task dominated by deep lying (2nd and 1st line) feelings which the shrink has not had the opportunity to learn. This is the main reason why psychologists in spite of certain skills in their tasks, mainly fail.
They have not learned to identify the unpredictable situations in which intuition will betray them. These situations are due to unique 2nd and 1st line experiences / imprints, from early childhood and from life before birth, in their patients. This shortcoming to identify the patients history is further confused / enhanced by the shrink's own, unidentified, unique and unresolved imprints. The shrink and the patient can share and draw conclusions from intellectual reasoning and agree on short-term solutions. However, prediction of long term cures, based on intuitions about not relived feelings / imprints, both on the shrink’s and the patients’s side, always ends in a betrayal. To claim correct intuitions in an unpredictable situation are self-delusional at best, often worse.
In the absence of valid hints, intuitive “hits” are either due to luck or lies. If you find this conclusion surprising, you have a stubborn belief that intuition is magic. Remember the rule that intuition cannot be trusted in the absence of stable regularities in the environment. For example, in Primal Therapy a number of hints, to follow your development in the therapeutical process, are being used. The most important of these hints are the vital signs (pulse, blood pressure and body temperature), which can be measured regularly before and after sessions. The more repressed, imprinted 1st line pain the patient can relive the more normal and stable the vital sign. Mainly a cured Primal patient has healthy vital signs which is one of the prerequisites for a long and full life. How often can that be said of patients undergoing Cognitive therapy?
I’m not looking for one right general truth of existence. What I am looking for is the individual human right to our own inner truth, which, if it becomes clouded by the repressed pain due to lack of love or neglect, leads to a distorted and neurotic personality. Moreover, if people with these shortcomings under the cover of psychiatric expertise treat other people according to standard manuals, how can we ever get a healthy society?
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Many of you know that there are two brain hemispheres, the left and right; each has its own functions which differ seriously in the psychic economy. But what is well less known is that these two hemispheres are connected mainly by a group of 200 million neurons called the corpus callosum. Eighty five percent of our emotions traverse this structure. There are lesser connections, as well, but none as important as the corpus callosum.
Sometimes there are those who are born without it, and others due to serious epilepsy have it severed so that information no longer travels along this route. The surgery stops the epilepsy but also cause brain impairment.
The corpus callosum begins its life just about the time the two hemispheres are differentiating—11 weeks of gestation. When there is trauma in the womb this structure thins out and it is not as strong. Also early in life adverse circumstances can weaken it. Thus trauma can interrupt the connection among feelings from right to left and back. When pain is inordinate early on, the feelings can be blocked by repression along this structure. So no proper connection can be made. Connection, remember, can be vertical, from deep in the brain to higher areas, and also from right to left brains, horizontal connection.
The corpus callosum, about the length/width of my four fingers goes on developing even through adolescence. These cells seem to be guided toward each other by key cells known as pioneer axons. They lead the way and then hundreds of millions of nerve cells follow, and the connection is complete. But repression can be enhanced against pain and block this connection. Those who live in their head have a failure of this horizontal connection. They cannot feel. This is not the case with most of our patients who feel too much. That is, too much pain information is getting through and flooding the other (left) side. The right left barricade does not function well and the brain cannot hold back information.
The corpus callosum is most malleable; those who learned a musical instrument very early have larger corpus callosums. And I believe that those babies who were deal with in a feeling way also may have a more efficient structure. So they can think and know what they feel and feel what they know. They are integrated. They have themselves.
Neglected children on average have a smaller corpus callosum. There is not a broad capacity for feeling. When feelings methodically reach the other side there is the beginning of a whole human being. I believe that one way repression exerts its force is through disconnecting left and right brains. The left is saying, “there is more information coming in than I can accept.” It then pushes more information away. It is then that other structures take over and deliver feelings—the anterior commissure. But these other structures are not as good as delivery of feelings as the corpus callosum. Now we see how those intellectual beings can figure out so much yet not know about feelings. Those who are very intellectual never learn how to do our therapy. They cannot sense or feel what is the right move to make, and when making a move is not appropriate.
What I think we do in our therapy is produce over time, bit by bit, a connection in both directions top/bottom and right/left. It, to me, is normalizing the individual, making her and him integrated souls. They can care because that emotion is not blocked. With an intact limbic system they know instinctively how to rear a child; not having to read how-to books. The goal of therapy has to be feeling because it was feeling that either went astray early on or was blocked from proper access. We can sense when someone is feeling and when he is not. Feeling beings exude feeling and it is palpable.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
So, is pain just a matter of our imagination, and can we imagine it not to hurt?
It is all part of the study of placeboes where they convince the subject that pain won’t hurt, pretend to inject him with pain killing drugs but give him neutral saline, put his hand in very hot water, and he doesn’t hurt. His beliefs, and a whole groups of subjects went along with this, dominated the physical reality. What we think takes precedence over what is actually happening to us.
So how does that happen? Well, it seems that part of the network of the convinced is the anterior cingulate cortex, rich in opioid receptors, and what it does is influence to suppress the pain suppressing function of the brainstem. So beliefs travel key neuronal pathways, the same as pills might do, to shut down and diminish pain. What this also does is increase the activity of parts of the prefrontal cortex, which can also work to control pain. Beliefs can stimulate pain suppression. Should I say that again? Beliefs supplant pain in many cases; hence the fervor of religion. What is also important is that these beliefs also enhance the effectiveness of pain killers taken by subjects. It is not that pain is only in our minds, where else would it be, but that the mind can stop processing it, detouring it and burying it under strong ideas and beliefs. And all this shows in brain scans (MRI).
The problem is that those who are shut off to their own pain, being reared in a non-feeling atmosphere, cannot feel the hurt in others. Their whole system is blunted. We see this in politicians who seem heartless. They are responding not to logic or feelings but to votes; that is their raison d’etre. They cannot feel the suffering of others because that suffering cannot combat the power and money of those who get him elected and help him stay elected. I sometimes think the world is divided into two camps; those who feel and those who don’t. And the feelers are derided by those who are shut down as “bleeding heart liberals.” Because they feel for others and their suffering. First, one needs to be contact with one’s own feelings before one can feel for others and that is not easily done. It means opening up the system to let pain in, and not many will let that happen.
I have seen this directly when patients touch on brainstem, first-line pains, and come up with, “I have been saved. He won’t let me hurt.” They manufacture a phantom in their heads that stops the pain. Those beliefs are meant to stop suffering; one of the great reasons for the evolution of the neo-cortex, to block too much hurt.
What they have been finding of late is that it is mostly when the report of no pain is delivered by the subject and not measured objectively that there is success. And this is the problem we have with those who have spent months or years with mock-primal therapists, because they are convinced that they have made progress while in reality they are wrecks. It takes us many months just to undo the damage before their therapy can commence. This is especially true when the patient believes he went to us, since they often advertise as primal specialists in their paper work and catalogues. How can the average non-therapist know any better? So unless I have not made my point, let me state again that those who suffer gravitate to the healers who pretend some training with primal and they are then hypnotized into believing them and in them. Then the damage begins. It is the placebo effect; they believe they are getting better. They are discharging tension and that feels good, but that is not getting better. Too often it means getting worse.
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.