Friday, August 23, 2013
Why Is the Unconscious So Mysterious?
I know why. As one blogger put it: the body keeps fighting to tell me what happened in my life but my brain/cortex keeps fighting back and refuses to hear. It is not a willful refusal. The cortex just whips into action when pain levels get too high. And it reaches over and down into the limbic structures to keep them at bay, spritzing chemicals here and there to make sure feelings don’t get out of hand. Sometimes, that doesn’t work; feelings do get out of hand, and what do doctors do? They reach into their pharmacy for more of the very same chemicals (SSRI’s) that are lacking in the person, dosing him up so that feelings are again in control. Never seeing that those feelings, when under proper care, are liberating. All the person knows is that she is anxious; what the doctor and she do not know is that it comes from deep in the brain and needs exit in slow methodical ways. If they both only see anxiety then they are both lost. If they understand what it is, then they are on the track for proper resolution of the problem.
Generally, it is often the troublesome first line brainstem memories/ imprints that fight their way to the top, only to be put down again. And these memories rise with no words to them nor any scenes from childhood. They emerge from the dark depths where no words exist nor ever existed. They are pure forces, amorphous, no recognizable shape or sound, but they want out. They remain mysterious just because there are no verbal accompaniments with them. They need to connect to the prefrontal cortex. They “speak” of what happened to us at the start of our lives, impressions so vivid and strong, so menacing of death and so catastrophic and painful as to be overwhelming. A carrying mother drinking or smoking or going on crazy diets, all endangering the baby’s life.
That is why after a time in therapy when these sensations begin to rise up in therapy they can be severely disturbing to the whole system. And this is how we know how devastating they are, enough to cause serious ailments years later. We can see and measure their force; how it raises amplitude of the brain waves, how it speeds up the heart and raises blood pressure, and how when these sensations threaten to intrude into awareness, the person sometimes feel he is going crazy. And in cults, where they have no idea what is happening, they can go crazy. That terrible confusion is what the fetus feels— disoriented.
Now we have an idea why a person under constant stress can get very sick. The person imprinted with first line trauma can get sick because he has suffered chronic imprinted stress from the start of life that never leaves and never lets go. It is tenacious because it needs connection, to be integrated and be done with; the sensaton/ feelings needs connection so that it no longer stays an alien force. So in their infinite wisdom many shrinks help them stay unconscious by drugging them and repressing the early experiences. They do that because they have no idea that there are such deep forces hidden and barricaded by neuro-chemicals as strong as prison bars. This means that they think there are results with no ultimate cause; that symptoms just come out of the air. Why? Because they cannot see that mysterious deep unconscious.
And it is these aleatory, primal imprints that can cause massive drug addiction; and so we see the heavy use of painkillers to calm the symptom, but not what is driving it. Calm is not cure. And it takes a strong drug to hold down these pains because they are massive; they are nearly always life and death—a pregnant mother taking drugs or seriously depressed. These maternal habits are catastrophic for the baby and often result in equal and opposite catastrophic illnesses down the line. And sadly, they are a mystery in our field. The reason they remain a mystery is that the professionals have no idea of how to approach or get to these early imprints. Worse, they don’t know they exist. Even though the field of epigenetics should tell us something about it. So if I as the doctor spend a life-time repressing my pain, and it happens automatically, then I have no idea that anything is there.
Of course I don’t put anything in question, I believe that there are only childhood memories and that’s it. This is as if there is no 9 months of gestation and absolutely no experience that affects the fetus during that period. And yet, in our research in many articles in the last few years and in our therapy, those first line imprints are critical.
If we want to change the world we better be aware of gestation and how to manage it, we must be conscious of the first line. Above all, we must change the birth practices. Automatic cesarean by appointment is a no-no. So is cutting the cord prematurely, so is bad diet and drinking. In the NY Times Sunday in the Science Section, for Christ sakes, there is a shrink saying it is OK to drink while pregnant. This counters everything we know. And what if she is wrong? Imagine the damage that can happen. My guess she is exculpating her own drinking while pregnant. How on earth can a major newspaper cite such nonsense. It is one thing to be fair but quite another to run pieces that can be dangerous.
We cannot see first line unless we are in a therapy that aims for it. We do see the results. Do we go on ad nauseam beating down the symptoms to make them disappear and then pretend they do not exist? What does cure in these cases mean? Certainly not beating the symptoms down. It means getting at the generating sources—the imprints. It is that simple and that complicated. Otherwise, it is whack-a-mole all over again. The symptom pops up again, and we smash it again with drugs and surgery and shock. Or the weakest of all—talk it to death.
In our field the first order of business is to help professionals be aware of the deep unconscious. They need to learn how we get there. It can be a protracted trip but it is a sure one.
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.