Sunday, June 8, 2014
A Past Without a Memory
If you have no memory, you have no past. Wait a minute, could that be true? No it is not. Many of us wander around this earth with little memory of the past, especially if that past was very painful, and very early—predating conscious-awareness. Predating our verbal capacities.
So what do we do in our therapy? Recapture our past; retrieve our history. And why do we do that? So we are no longer controlled and driven by it. We are historic beings and need again to be historic; complete and full. Why don’t we remember so much of our childhood and earlier? I assume it is due to pain which sets repression in motion so we do not remember; so we are not so troubled by it. But it is there, nevertheless and it directs our symptoms and behavior later on. So even if we don’t consciously remember we still have a past.
Why should we be whole and complete? Because being unconscious is life-endangering. We get involved with the wrong people, sometimes dangerous; we take chances we shouldn’t, gamble on things that are not possible for success, etc. And being unconscious means we have forces gnawing away at our system, making us sick and shortening our lives. Is that reason enough?
What we do is help patients retrieve key memories that open up the memory system and give us access to whom? To ourselves so we can be whole beings, not partial entities. And if we want to retrieve very early memories of gestation, birth and infancy we need to understand the memory system; for our very earliest memories are of smells; so early that they bypass the usual routes, and travel directly to the limbic/feeling system, directly to the memory centers. Memory of odors are idea, concept and situation free; they are pure and unadulterated. If we let the patient slip into them totally we often get remote pains that were hardly ever retrievable.
I visited a friend in a hospital recently and there was the scent of ether there. It brought me back immediately to my own time in a hospital which was horrendous. It was a pure, unadulterated memory that was attached to a specific time and place; it was a first-line memory from deep in the brain and from a primitive nervous system. That is, smell lives in the deep brain associated with deep and remote memories, the ones that are difficult to access in normal everyday life. It is one reason I think our patients might benefit for a trip to visit a hospital. In the same way that we encourage patients to bring in photos of their early lives, and to bring in music that evokes old feelings and their memories. Remember, there can be no effective psychotherapy without retrieval or our history. Unless we only rely on cognitive memory; then we make progress on in our top level and have neglected two-thirds of our brains and their memories. To access preverbal events we need non-verbal techniques. Words will never do it. We need to open up the memory bank to get rid of pain and put the system into a pain free state as much as possible.
So if I tell a patient, “tell me about your life in college,” it is a good idea but never ever deep enough to make a difference in what really drives our behavior. Yes, we deal with college and school life but not to the neglect of very early memories. The odors from infancy and before have an enduring quality; the reason? It often has to do with life and death. Those memories could be of life-endangering events even before we had ideas to remember them with. But they are there in full force all of the time. They recede but never disappear. What pain drugs do is make them recede for a while, which feels fine but we pay a price for making our memories that could be liberating into deeply hidden events. Drugs, obviously make them difficult to access and that means we cannot reach deep aspects of ourselves. Those memories become the “untouchables.” They will certainly shorten our lives, both directly, and indirectly through our smoking and drinking to keep them down and away. We become addicted without knowing it to those memories and their suppression. We are addicted to our unconscious memories; they hold us firmly in their grasp for a lifetime. They demand more and more of us to keep them at bay. And we think addiction centers will change that? Never.
I should add that some preliminary research points to loss of sharp memory as possibly indicative of beginning dementia, and also signs of depression. They do not necessarily cause them, but are compadres on the route. Depression means deep often first line repression and that suppresses memory, as well. Depressives are “down” in every sense of the word. I think that one thing it means is that first-line deep in the brain trauma has an effect on deep reactions; hence loss of smell and memory.
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.