Thursday, August 14, 2014
More on the Act-Out: Goodbye Robin Williams
There are some common act-outs that dominate so many of our lives. I was thinking of having to work under pressure; that is, waiting until the last minute and there is pressure on, and then we start to work.
So what does the act-out mean? It means neurosis: acting in the present as if it were the past. Symbolizing the feeling from the past in the present. So it is waiting for pressure to start going. Needing pressure to get moving. And how does that start? Often, but not always, the pressure of trying to get out and the need to activate oneself to move. Thus, one exerts great effort in order not to fall into a failure syndrome of utter hopelessness, and the depression that it engenders later on. There is the need to live together with the impending death surging forth. One cannot get going on one’s own; one needs some “help,” some outside push to move us along. It becomes a lifelong event; needing pressure to do or to go or to start. One is no longer a self-starter; the impetus must come from the outside.
Why do I say that the impetus must come from outside? Because the pattern usually starts so early in life, established by imprints in our earliest days of life, long before we could be self-starters, depending on mother’s impetus for motivation. We then need someone to say, "OK, let’s get going. Put on your jacket." The motivation must be originated outside, not inside. Or someone has to get ready, keys in hand, before the person decides to get ready. Things need to "pile up" before we can be activated.
One sure way to start this off is to pile up anesthetics into the mother during the birth process. It knocks out most of self motivation and produces a whole system that veers toward para-sympathetic dominance. This person is passive, has a low, languorous voice and has movements that are labored. His vital signs are on the low side, with low blood pressure and body temperature. In short, it is all of a piece. The whole system accommodates to the imprint. And what does he learn from his womb-life? Patience. He can wait, because he had to, but then desperation sets in and waiting becomes life endangering, in his mind. Then he can wait no more and needs to move.
When we examine the vital signs we can pretty well describe the personality type: when the blood pressure, body temp and heart rate are together rather high, then we know the person is a sympath, controlled or skewed toward sympathetic nervous system dominance. It is those days in the womb that form the crucible for personality type; they all accommodate life circumstance. They fare around the imprint; and when we take patients down deep we find the little nugget, the key imprints that forced all that accommodation. And when those early imprints are relived and all the vital signs move as an ensemble down lower, we know we have struck gold. We have found the core of the pain.
Why are those imprints so critical? Because almost every key adverse event in the womb can be life-endangering: low oxygen, inadequate nutrition, too much agitation, flooding by drugs or alcohol, etc. They all affect vital organs and change the system of the baby accordingly. There is a beginning to personality development and we must not immediately ascribe it to genetics. Epigenetics is possibly more important. Life circumstances wrap themselves around the gene and alter who we are and what we become.
This is pertinent to the death of Robin Williams this week. He had just finished yet another round of rehab. It should inform us of the ineffectiveness of rehab but it doesn’t. Rehab is big business and it goes on uninformed by strict science so that anything goes. It is surrounded by great food and exercise programs with a bit of booga booga therapy to round it all out. And when I hear Dr Drew pontificate on addiction’s causes it makes me worry. Every TV specialist, and they are often pretty young shrinks, tell us how it is a brain disease for which we need to get help, and what kind of therapy is there for brain disease? God knows. They never say. They are forced into the “brain disease” notion because with no understanding of the imprints they have no other place to go.
Clearly Mr. Williams had deep-lying imprints that could overwhelm any later imposed ideas such as “see or focus on the positive.” Who can believe that events in the womb are the forerunner of later depression and/or addiction? I mean where is the science in the rehab centers that speak of methylation and epigenetics? Where do they speak of the necessity of demethylation; of undoing the imprint and measuring it so that we know what we are doing in addiction treatment? And who is there in those centers that could help him understand deep and remote memories that have changed his brain? So he could have some small handle on his malady? No one, it seems; for first they would need to understand it themselves. And I see no evidence for it. If only a professional could speak with him of his deep hopelessness, and get off that nonsensical “brain disease” mantra.
It is as if he had no life before the age of six, no experience to explain changes in the brain. In other words, when they avoid basic need, they then have nothing to fall back on to explain embedded early pain. And then they have no means to explain the now ample research to shows how imprinted pain detours basic nerve roots and nerve tracks. So they fall back on empty lectures, calling in "experts" to explain addiction and/or depression with no reference to very early experience. And so they go on searching and searching for areas of the brain to explain what can only be explained, not by those key areas, which only accompany experience, but by how early experience impacts the whole biologic and neurologic systems. How does hopelessness change brain function? Where does that hopeless/depression come from? Is it really deep in the brain? Yes it is down there but it does not start there; it begins with experience and what it does to our thinking apparatus years later. Experience does change us; so we need to get out of our solipsism and see the world and how it affects us. The answer lies not in the brain which is most often normal when early experience is normal, but in what a carrying mother’s anxiety and depression does to us. And it turns out that we end up duplicating the mother’s internal life almost exactly after birth. If she is depressed we may end up depressed, as well. We adopt her nervous system and we do effortlessly and without any reflective thought intervening. We merge with her inner life and continue where she left off after our birth. We become a "downer" too. And if she produced all the chemicals involved in depression then so do we. She provides the template and we act on it. We have become her neuro-physiologic slave. Our fate is sealed.
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.