Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stress in the Womb and How it Lasts Forever

There is current research so important that all I can do is bow down and genuflect before it. It is research that supports my theories developed over forty years ago; but there is more. There are two studies , one from Germany (Hans Berger, Clinic for Neurology at the University Hospital), and the other is from the Netherlands, (Tiburg University).

In the Berger study; it was done on sheep because their pregnancy development is very close to humans. The parent animals were injected with a stress hormone, an analogue of cortisol. In premature fetuses it offers a better chance at life, helping the development of the lungs. This also increased the development of the brain, as well. One offshoot of this research was the finding that this alone, stress, alters sleep patterns perhaps for a lifetime. So if we want to know why we cannot sleep we need to look to the gestation period, but let us not look to shots of cortisol given to the mother; let’s look to the stress the carrying mother undergoes that operates just as if she were given a shot of cortisol. So if we have trouble sleeping now because the mother was stressed while pregnant. And by the way, if she drank many cokes, or coffee, or if she injected or snorted cocaine we have the same result; her system acts if stressed.

The researchers called this fragmentation of sleep patterns which also occurs in depression; and no surprise, there are serious sleep disturbances in depression. In other words, during gestation the mother may stamp in tendencies to depression in the offspring. This can last a lifetime.

In an unpublished but reported study it was found that in research on 40 eight year old children who were given cortisol-like medication during womb-life, they did much worse on key indices of behavior than normals. Their IQ was lower and so was their concentration and attention span. Again, when we look at ADD in children we must look at this research. Attention Deficit is above all, a distraction in brain processes that may come from major input very early in life. That input from a hyper, revved up mother, is far too much for the baby who is over-activated. The hyper-activation is impressed in the brain of the offspring, and so keeps the baby’s brain over-stimulated. He can no longer easily focus on one thing when so much is going on in his brain. Those early experiences form an indelible imprint for life. That imprint is never inert. It activates and re-activates and keeps us unable to relax, which was the case with the children. Investigators say they were programmed in the womb to release more stress hormones throughout their lives.

In the Tilburg Study they found that maternal stress between the 12th and 22nd week affected the later emotional and cognitive functions for twenty years later. So to reiterate, as if it needed reiterating, womb-life is critical for all later life, not the least of which is the advent of depression. They go on to say, “increased levels of stress hormones in the baby in the womb …play a larger role in the (later) development of disease than previously thought.”

It is not only about obvious physical afflictions but also about serious emotional problems, depression and anxiety. This again adds support to what I have written about. These scientists found the residue of stress hormones in the brains of the unborn. These means: 1. They could be under stress during womb-life, and 2. That the stress endures for a very long time. 3. This stress foretells of impaired functioning later on and possibly the beginnings of mental illness. 4. The damage can be permanent so that high blood pressure, heart disease, and in my opinion, Alzheimer’s disease can result.

It took a while for this research to appear, but how nice to see it.


  1. Thanks Art. It helps to know that such basic research is being done that confirms Primal Theory. I have plenty of confirmations in my body and mind but it is nice to see that people not in Primal, who need it, may eventually get the message.

    As you may remember, I had a "mock primal therapy" in Canada some ten years before going to the Primal Institute a few years after you left there. The therapy in Canada brought up all kinds of things out of sequence which confirmed your theory to me which gave me the necessary motivation to eventually get to the Primal Institute. But there was a down side to it - increased leaky neural gates. And no resolution whatsoever.

    What prompted me to write this is that I've been noticing a series of spots on my left forearm. I suppose they might be related to a birth injury but I'm pretty sure they're from the surgical procedure for setting my broken wrist (when I was about 28) and placing the forearm and elbow in a cast. This occurred about a year before I started the mock primal therapy. I'm not reliving the pains of that injury currently but on some level my body is still reacting and trying to heal the more minor injury of the surgical procedure. In cold weather the broken wrist pains have been easily triggered by a cold draft. I was born at the beginning of winter and there is nothing like a cold draft to trigger things.

    What I'm thinking is that there must be all kinds of evidence that could be gathered that supports your theories. The prenatal imprints are the most important, I know, and you've published pictures of marks on patients from birth trauma. I wonder if this kind of study is using chemical evidence from the earliest times in development, when the organism is most vulnerable, because it is looking at a phenomenon that is much more potent and so can be more reliably measured. It is also repeatable by other researchers and doesn't involve human subjects and can be measured objectively. So it's down to cold hard facts.

    It's cold hard knocks early in life that numb us out. I guess it's only fitting that it should take cold hard facts to wake us up.


    1. Grahame: We will announce our research plans soon. art

  2. Art!

    Far too late if we look at how many people have lost their lives! It is still an haunt for prevailing madness as are crucial for what is to be or not!
    It's crazy or not... there is nothing in between. What is hopeful is that science will surpass itself-... which it need if we look at what Copernicus companion had to go through!

    We must BELIVE in science!


  3. Wow Art it must feel so good to be vindicated!

  4. What I find interesting is that I used to sleep like a log as a kid, teenager and young adult. It was only when I started work and got into a relationship that all that went out of the window. I suppose my gates were good enough to block that early experience until stress levels got too much for too long a period. Perhaps that is why so much research tends to ignore early events. Just look at the research Art mentions in his recent post about Altzeimers. This lists mid life trauma as a major contributing factors. Our gates get worn down. I understand that schizophrenia often develops in young men in the late teens and early 20's where as many women develop it in their mid to late twenties. This may be dated research now but perhaps young men develop it when they hit the stresses of work and young women get it when they become pregnant as they start to remember how they were treated as a baby so those and earlier events play havoc with their gates and sleep patterns go out of the window. My sister used to regularly become ill and then after the birth of her kids became very depressed. The illness seems to suggest much more heavily repressed pain which rose nearer the surface after her kids were born. She sadly hides the pain with a rather grandiose approach to others now. Art's best table in the restaurant theory.

    It is all so fascinating.

  5. Hi to everybody,
    maybe i kind of learned something:
    fetus in order to develop properly need some stimulation from environment, but as Andrew suggested some time ago; too much stimulation is keeping the fetus attention too far away from it's own development. fetus gets dangerously distracted!!
    so what to do??
    it's sensory window gets narrower... trying to neutralize the deafening noise...
    when the only goal is survival the price must be high. not only because the
    imprinted noise but loss of sensory capacity that could shape him differently,
    more rich and diverse. more sophisticate.
    the fetus was open. the little he or she trusted. trust is i guess necessary for survival.

    1. Vuko: This is an important point: that shutting down the system is a reaction of too much input, not necessarily to many inputs but also too heavy an input during gestation and birth that causes a shut down/repression to occur. It shuts down the sensory window and make us less open to the environment. Makes us less open to new ideas, for example. art

    2. Hi,

      -makes us less open to the 'idea' of expressing the feeling -.

      Thus the idea of crying or feeling gets sidelined into a belief; a defense against it. Perhaps with an appendage of distractions, of 'interests'. . .

      Paul G.

  6. The imprinting from a mother's stress-state does not happen for no reason (surely).

    The evolutionary meaning must be: "You are about to be born into a world of threats. I will hyper-activate your external attention/responsiveness so as to ensure that you are ready-primed to deal with threats. The cost of this will be a compromised ability to concentrate - you will not be able to immerse yourself, with ease, into a singular focus".

    1. i am not sure that the trauma is a preparation or adaptation to environment.
      it is an effort to move on, to save what can be saved and survive.

      the best adaptation is to be appropriate.

    2. Hi Andrew

      I wonder whether there are different circumstances within the womb that contribute to conditions like the development of the physcopath or Autism. If a Mother drinking a lot of coffee produces someone who may get addicted to downers later in life then what causes these conditions. What is it about the Mother that can cause these. If a child needs to be vigilant to deal with a stressed Mother perhaps an Autistic child develops due to a very unfeeling Mother? This perhaps reflects the "Refrigerator Mother" held up as the cause of this condition in the 1950's and 60's. She is not to blame but set the whole thing in motion unconciously within her womb.

    3. molestation doesn't promote life. but there always be those who think that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. the price is too big. what does it mean to be stronger? or more successful? at the cost of the "weak" ones probably!

      the only reason for imprinting is life threat! it is last resort!
      it deviates, not prepares!
      and... i am thinking... could be our ticket for the feeling vehicle.
      because if we kill the imprint we might lose the road back to ourselves???

    4. Vuko perhaps trauma is combination of both. Perhaps it is an adaption or preparation for the destined environment to save what can be saved and to survive in that environment.

      Sadly some children can never adapt under the onslaught.


    5. Vuko: The trauma is not an adaptation in itself, but the way we respond to it (imprint it) is. In my view trauma-imprinting is ultimately a crude emergency adaptive-response to a toxic environment. And crude is the word - it leads to all kind of inappropriate responses (over-reactions). And preparation and adaptation is basically the same thing.

      We need to integrate our pain, in part so our later responses are not so "dumb". Integration is the proper, normal-type learning from an event. We just couldn't do it at the time of the traumatic event because we were overloaded. In my view Primal therapy, at its core, really is just attending to unfinished business.

    6. no integration-no adaptation.
      under/over stimulation are counter evolution. counter life.

      i think it could be that evolution theory is over stimulating the intervention mode - the outside.
      we need the acceptance mode too! some trust that everything is perfect.
      as it is.
      this balance leads to life preservation. evolution if you want.
      we are not only shaped by our environment. we a r e.
      without the respect of who we are we can't deal with
      the environment. being shaped by those who don't
      know us is the source of all destruction.
      like a philosophy of free market; free exposure to whatever the
      input will lead to self regulation and adaptation.
      no it won't. not alone. soon there could be no one alive to be regulated.

    7. Hi,

      -so, hyper vigilance / awareness instead of natural feeling and consciousness.

      Bloody Marvelous !

      Paul G.

  7. what is trauma/imprint?
    it is a consequence of distraction that blocks normal developing of human. blocks survival.
    the earlier, stronger, longer lasting is the destruction input - the more devastating for human system.
    dis traction. loosing track of reality. loosing contact with reality.
    destruction of life.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi Grahame,
      -"What still has to play out are some of the social issues "-.

      So true, and that interests me so much because so much of my history is of being groomed to be some kind of high performance elite leader (in society). . . My descent is so dependent on unraveling all that classist bullshit which muddles up my loyalties and my feelings about love and attachment.

      Paul G.

  8. The difference between consciousness and being aware... is in the physiological process to be the flower or wish to pick it. To be a flower and feel the smell of others to pick... what an experience!

    Which brain are we talking to... in case of convincing anyone that primal therapy must be introduced if we are to achieve any change for the better... someone who can not admit neocortex to think differently... because he then experience a threat of confusion... confusion in allreddy being confused!?

    We are then talking to the limbic system... "behind his back" and neocortex reaction... by not experience what... says "no I dont want to listening to you... you're hurting me"... and he is right... we are still hurting him for what his experience is... but he just don't know that suffering is the symptoms of the pain he's looking for!

    That's what we 're dealing with when we're trying to convince some of the academics about something they impossibly can't admit because suffering is their only protection!

    He must get to the point where he can listening to his own suffering... where he can admit his inability to not understanding what he so stubbornly committed his life to... then he will be the flower and be able to pick more!


    1. Hi Frank,

      -for that the academic would need to notice his desire to feel.

      My greatest concern for man/womb mankind is the way (through technology) we have developed a way to avoid internal pain and divert our energies to external privileges of all kinds (including clever distractions & pain killers developed through technology).

      The academic is at a distinct advantage here because his 'locus of attention' is in and around his neocortex and so his identification is fundamentally through ideas and not through feelings.

      He may be a sportsman to 'stimulate' his body. He may be a 'craftsman' and stimulate his eye to hand co-ordination and he may even be a surgeon and author of great novels and text books.

      But is he truly human ? Has he found any more in life than a collection of memoirs ?

      Paul G.


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.