Monday, December 16, 2013
Does Plenty of Infancy and Childhood Love Undo Early Trauma?
I have written about the irreversibility of early trauma, gestation and birth. I stand by that but there are mitigating factors, namely plenty of early love. It never erases those traumatic imprints, but it does hold them at bay. They are never altered or diluted by later love, never mitigated by hugs and kisses, but they do not have the reach, the upper level access, they would have had without all that infancy love.
There is no way out of the biologic fact of the critical period, the time space where love must be received or forever more becomes an imprint. It has been found in many animal studies where rats not allowed to see for several weeks after birth can never see again. Damage to the kidneys during gestation will not be reversed by later love but it may not flower into serious symptoms. I was discussing this with a friend who is gay. We both had the same family configuration with a cold, tyrannical or absent father; both of us needed male love. I think that the difference was that my gay friend had a serious trauma while being carried, a trauma that I think changed his hormone balance and perhaps altered his sex hormones. This is an assumption, not a fact. But with the cold father it was enough to produce homosexual leanings in him. I did not have that. I had no love from either parent so I could “choose” when I got older not to be gay. Not really a choice but the sum of unconscious factors which led to unconscious behavior, and then a chance encounter with a loving girl at age fourteen that turned me into totally heterosexual.
We cannot change personality so long as the imprint remains to drive us; and the little love we get later on may not be enough to allow us to change direction. And more, the shutoff that occurs with gestation and birth trauma may be so great that we are helpless before it. We no longer can let love in; we first have to feel agonizingly unloved by our parents. We cannot purposefully open up because we are then open to great pain. They have to be out of the way first. Why do we have to feel unloved first? Because it is a memory sealed in and engraved thanks to the process of methylation. That chemical helps to make sure the memory lives on in our memory bank. Once we attack the imprinted memory and help to undo the methylation process, the system opens up all on its own. We need to undo repression so that we can feel again. When we "feel" unloved we begin to feel once again. If we open up first to any feeling we will be overwhelmed with pain. If we gain access slowly over time to lesser hurts we will not. We will be on the road to fully feeling.
I think that part of a good childhood can block the effects of first line early pain. But a bad childhood plus unloving later life creates insurmountable emotional problems. That compounding undoes us and creates damaged individuals. But having said that there is some hope. An article in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (July 27, 2010) has studied this problem in a research project studying over 400 people. It was a long-term study where at the age of eight months the interactions between mother and child was noted. And then decades later the children were studied again as adults. The early study classified the interactions as high or low loving interactions. The mothers who were judged most loving produced offspring who were low on anxiety, hostility and general distress.
There was more than a 7 point difference in anxiety scores between love and unloved children. And a three point differential in hostility scores. Unloved offspring are more hostile. In brief, the higher the mother’s warmth the lower the score in distress. Doesn't that tell us a great deal? And it means that very early love is so, so important. Without it we have a damaged soul, someone more likely to fall ill and who has poor social skills. That lack of love makes us unable to interact lovingly with other adults … decades later. Those imprints endure perhaps for a lifetime. Affection is all, even if we had first line pain. You cannot as a parent say, “My children know I love them. I just can’t show it.” Sorry, that is not good enough. It is like saying I know my child is hungry but I cannot feed him. There is that need for warmth that cannot be abrogated. Love is love and there is no compromise. You cannot be sort of pregnant; you either are or aren't’. There is no compromise for love. Either you love or you don’t and it will show up decades later in the feelings and behavior of the person. We can “smell” a loved person; they exude it in every pore, in every word and every movement.
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.