As time goes on and I learn more about the human condition, I have decided to share some of my thoughts on what we are all about. I will publish my reflections on this blog, hopefully to enlarge our understanding of what makes us human. Art Janov
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Thursday, January 2, 2014
The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics
Oh dear, that used to be such a dirty word. The idea of it was roundly rejected for a hundred years, and then, lo and behold it is now pure science. What happened? For one thing, the scientific method, slow as it is. For another, consciousness has developed, stripping us of old canards.
Anent this point, made in several journals and written about in New Scientist (7 Dec. 2013) (See http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029462.700-fear-of-a-smell-can-be-passed-down-several-generations.html#.UsVZg2RdVWI), there is mounting evidence that parental effects dip down into the newborn impregnating her with parental history. So when we ask, “Why is she that way?” We have a better idea. She is that way due to genetics and above all, what life experience has done to those genes. For example, “Why does she eat so much?” We know that it is not current culture that is the sole cause; it could also be because the mother was indulgent and ate compulsively. It turns out that babies learn some food preferences while living in the womb. And some of it is pretty well set before the age of two. While in the womb the baby is learning about his world and what to expect from it; hence lots of food is to be expected from a mother who indulges.
There is evidence now that diet can alter gene expression. If you love sweets and cannot resist, it could be due to womb-life. In other words, the mother’s compulsion becomes your destiny. This can explain a good percentage of obesity in children. Bad eating habits begin in the womb as do so many other compulsions. More evidence is piling up to show how this early start can predict the early onset of disease and a shortened lifespan. (See the work of Keith Godfrey, Univ. Of Southampton (See http://www.southampton.ac.uk/medicine/research/themes/epigenetics.page). And also New Scientist, 7 December, 2013). The fetus is not only aware of certain tastes and smells in the mother while she is carrying, but those memories can last a lifetime, and can affect so much of our interests later on. Mothers ingesting carrot juice during pregnancy had children who preferred it.
It is not just diet, that is the obvious one, but think about fear; it can be passed down, as well. So are we born fearful? Could be. We can be jumpy, nervous and erratic, all due to epigenetics. Mice who associated a certain smell with an electric jolt became fearful in the presence of that smell. It seems so early as to be genetic, but it is more likely to be epigenetic, the condition of the mother (and father) while carrying. This should teach us something about memory; for memories while being carried can last decades and drive and/or channel behavior. We do not simply “grow out of it.”
In fact, premature babies who were hugged and caressed a lot went home earlier than those babies not touched as much. Those early kisses count a lot and help shape personality, a loving and warm person versus a stand-offish one. A nervous mother leaves a predisposition to fear in the offspring, just as a depressed mother leaves a base of depression in her baby. Whether it becomes overt depends on later events and traumas. I personally believe that lots of love and healthy living in the very young child can abate these deleterious effects. This is especially true for those babies who were taken from institutions. They are greatly in need of love and reassurance early on. If they don’t get it, it can be somewhat irreversible; that is, there may be a point where love can no longer make a great difference. The damage is done and it is pretty well fixed. This is the research we will embark on in the near future. Is there a point in time when love cannot reverse previous damage? When is that point?
The evidence is becoming clear, ever since I posited early life trauma, even in the womb, almost fifty years ago. At that time, I had to be convinced of it through the experience of my patients. It became irrefutable. But I understood how hard it was to convince others of its importance, especially those in psychology and psychiatry.
I know that I had a tendency to be fearful since gestation and birth so that a harsh tone from my father just withered me and forced me to obey without question. I became obedient to demands, gave in so that the anger will stop. I had a “couche” of terror below due to a psychotic mother. It was all compounded into an unaggressive child. Add that to almost never having any needs filled and you get the picture of a child who knows nothing of his needs or his feelings, just drifting along in life, complaisant and undemanding. That is no way to be, believe me.
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.