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.


  1. An email comment (Part 1):"An Invaluable Primal Dialogue.

    The Primal Principle (Evolution in Reverse) and the process of re-living repressed pain are, unfortunately, still so unique, unknown and in some circles discredited that, basically, there is only one source, with whom to keep an undoubted dialogue; Art Janov. In the Reflection “Does Plenty of Infancy and Childhood Love Undo Early Trauma?”, Art mentions his own experiences from childhood and adolescence and the importance of loving experiences. This form av reflective dialogue lights up my world and associates emotions and memories that further enhance the image of the Primal Principle.

    Although both the traumas and their outcomes may vary, the principle behind is the same. Non-perceived pain, i.e. for a fetus unbearable pain, which has been encapsulated, distorts our reality in many respects. The pain lives on, repressed, a whole life and propeles us to neurotic, superficial successes and to over-taxing our organs leading to strokes, heart attacks, ulcers etc.

    My life has consisted of 73 years dependent on my birth trauma. The last 35 years have been an improvised “tango dance” in Evolution in Reverse to eliminate the accumulated pain and to dissolve the protective but at the same time degrading and backbreaking neuroses. Gradually I have understood my life-pattern, and eventually I could change my life and behavior better to suit my real needs.

    After a traumatic birth, both for me and for my mother, I had three years alone as my parents’ beloved prince until I was dethroned by my first sister. Parallel to that I developed a pain-driven hyperactivity my father became increasingly sensitive and nervous. He did not lack emotional traits but, he was eventually unable to demonstrate it. He was marked by a difficult childhood (his mother and two siblings died of the Spanish flu during the second decade of the last century). Our emotional relationship became with the years more and more disturbed; however, he was always on hand when I practically needed him. He could not cope with my hyperactivity, but he let me largely keep on with annoying pranks and constant absence from home. My mother was not very emotional, but, during a lifetime, I felt her unconditional sympathy and love.

  2. Part 2: "
    I was always fortunate, from a very early age, outside my home to meet people who liked me and helped me, which temporarily relieved / stunned my pain. The same thing happened up through my career. I formed teams / collaborated with executives of both male and female background until my life pattern pushed me on. (A company boss supported e.g. my years in LA). My relationships and marriages followed the same pattern.

    Unlimited love was not enough to eliminate my pain. I managed temporarily to keep it down and use it to propel energy for some time. For a project, a marriage, a new culture / language, etc. Looking back in my life, I have many scars of love that I had not managed to receive before the pain started to leak and I became epileptic suicidal. Neurotically engaging projects were together with Carbamazepine /Tegretol my main painkillers. I have been on a long term escape from my birth trauma, and solely love was not able to cure the pain that my mother’s religious idea, “to give birth in pain”, created.

    Slowly over 40 years, Art Janov and his psychotherapeutic, Primal Principles have, aided by Ida Rolf’s liberating physiotherapy principles, made me re-live my birth trauma and discharge the pain that my body and mind were trying to limit with neurotic filters and tricks in a seemingly unreasonable proportion.

    I am convinced of unconditional love from the moment of conception, but accidents, follies, etc. can create situations in which love becomes painful. The fact that I with natural methods have been able to take me out of such a trauma and understand my destiny, it is neither more nor less than a miracle. That I, moreover, after 53 years has been reunited with my childhood love will, eventually, be the subject of a separate documenting in the history of Primal Therapy.

    It has been an amazing journey through life, epilepsy and pain. I hope that those I left sad and confused along the way will understand and forgive me. I saw and had no choice if I wanted to survive.


  3. Art,

    You wrote "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." This is still true for me, though much less so, after 30 years since I started at the Primal Institute (August 1983, about five years after you left there).

    This blog entry makes me more than ever want to tell some of my story. But it is just too hard to do because I want to explain everything so I will be completely understood particularly how poor therapy compounded my pain and trashed my life. But that is all changing rapidly now.

    I guess what you wrote here makes me feel completely understood without writing much about anything.

    I have recently been getting high blood pressure readings (around 180/75). I think because of the stress of uprooting myself from a very unsatisfactory environment to come to LA to take up the training scholarship you offered me on the phone some years ago. Most of the uncertainties about that have been resolved - I could not have done it at the time if I had fully understood the governmental red-tape involved - all gone now.

    Still the high BP. I have been having tests done by a fairly enlightened GP. I'm taking 10,000IU of vitamin D3 per day which is definitely helping some of my symptoms. It probably needs some more time and there are lots more tests to have done before anything can be said about causes other than anxiety.

    Maybe you should know that my only accessible memories of love from my mother are sitting on her lap in the front seat of the car when going out and when I was very ill she would sit with me and squeeze my hand while I was throwing up. Needless to say I looked forward to going out and I got sick often!

    Hoping I will be there by the beginning of March though maybe only for 6 months of each year.


  4. Hi,

    My parents blew 'hot & cold'. They could both be incredibly loving and attentive at times and then at other times they would throw the tyrannical book at me (or my brother) and I became crushed. Then they sent me off to boarding school to experience the vindictive machinations of a sociopathic headmaster who was addicted to beating children and bullying them around in a heirarchy of prefects and sub-prefects.

    He minced around the school wafting the smell of expensive after shave and swishing silk shirts with gold cuff links. Once, without knocking, he barged into a Latin lesson with a 2.2 rifle, swung open the ancient cast iron window of the oak paneled classroom, took aim and shot two rabbits on the lawn outside. He commanded one of the sub-prefects to collect the bloodied corpses. . .

    No please or thank you even to the teacher. . .

    So I have an 'up / down' act out. Push / pull mood swings and a foul temper when pissed about.

    I find other people's indecision unbearable and have become a recluse to avoid it.

    I often wonder what it would have been like to have parents who are consistently neglectful / unloving rather than intermittently neglectful / unloving.

    If I imagine what it would have been like to have consistently loving parents I just fall apart. . .

    I am infuriatingly bizarre to myself, I seem to have two mes inside. . . one really loving , attentive, listening and sensitive and one just like an amalgam of all those boarding school right wing patriarchs. . .

    No wonder I was so influenced by the writings of Carl Jung who theorised that we have archetypes driving us.

    Knowing Primal, now I realise these archetypes are learned defenses against pain. In society we form (unconsciously) generalised rules (morals if you like) to cope with our repressed traumas 'in relation' with each other. Pseudo community develops and consequently demands these archetypes. They are socially acceptable (or not so acceptable) forms of expression re-enforced by centuries / millennia of repressed personal / social pain.

    You can tell (if you're awake) when an archetype is operating in your relations with others, or theirs with you, or both (more likely). Each person falls into a script. The impartial observer (!) may look on as if watching a Kafka play. . . and, of-course because it is all pseudo community / defense against internal pain / resonance no-one really wants to 'say' or 'do' anything of any real consequence, anything with weight; for fear of activating a real feeling. . .

    I am convinced this is where our tremendous waste and inefficiency comes from in society. £20 million on duff software here; £40 million on overstaffing civil servants there etc etc. (And one must remember that most of the senior civil servants all come from 'privileged' backgrounds run clandestinely by unaccountable sociopaths like the one I described above).

    All jobs for the boys and the cost passed on down the chain of pseudo intent and pseudo life.

    What I talk about here has very little smell of love, does it ?


    Paul G.

  5. Yes,me spend great part of my jung age in great pain that was present with no reason,had strong pain in my head(migrens).Very passiv personality,asocial,suicidal.But something happened in end of my elementary school,me was on the class,and something clicked inside of my head and me felted my arms my legs my body.Me was alive!!Started to jump around,other kids looked me strange,me was never like this before.From then my journey begin,and after many years of asking the same question to my self,WHY am I so pasiv,so desperate,so with no life in me,it was a struggle during my teen age,me had so much wish to be alive,to have friends,to live life,had so strong imagination,but nothing real was coming out of this.Had great ideas but never had courage to do it.Big wake up for me was having a child with women that is also demaged big time by her parents and my struggle to be father to my son.In this time me read for the first time Primal scream,and me can not describe my inner state,this feelings,this comfirmation of all what me allready knew about me trough my feelings.Me did lot of research before your book about my fucked uo familly,it is really hard core this,and after,and today me understand my brain thanks to you.And me know my brain is autistic,my hemispheres are not good conected because of my mother state before and during pregnancy,even before me read the book,reading it just make it have sense,but it is amazing for me,that this click happened and make me move.My intelectual capabilities are below "normal",if me can say this,but it make me also not suitable for mass brain washing trought school and society.It does not meam me am not inteligent,me think me am very much.But hard intelectual work make my "computer" blocking and working slow!!Even today my intelect have no full time job,me do not use it so much.People me atract are simular to me but did not have this click,and me can recognize this.Me feel people,see them and me am reall dinosaur thet feels and using intelect as a tool,how it should be!But it left me with desparation,because parallel to learning my self,going to the source of my problems,me learned also about society and it's deseases.And me am now like with big question mark in my head what to do next??Me did not reconect my self,did not remember my early trauma,did have some of represed feelings coming out but not solved,me am just tired and with lot of scars on my emotional body,standing on my legs that became so strong till now,but this fear is still inside and desparation about world sickness.It is like you woke up one day and see all this zombies around you and get really scared.Asking for your mammy and a worm bottle of milk while others eat one another.Nebojsa Bobic


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.