Saturday, November 22, 2014
The Pain Inside Need
Why does need hurt? Well, it does not until we feel it. Then it hurts a lot, which is why most of us act it out. We show our needs every day and every minute, which is how we know they’re there. When we engage our therapist and show him how smart we are, how terribly insightful, we get a nodding approval. Our act-out works and we don’t have to feel our need, even though that need is liberating when felt. When the narcissist cannot be the center of attention he starts to hurt until he can gain that center again. Indeed, all of us hurt when our needs are not fulfilled even though we have no awareness of that need. And in fact, neurosis is designed to keep us unaware. So we act out being helpless so we can get someone else to do it for us or to help us. When there is no help we hurt.
But why the act-out? Because it is a straight line from the need, except that the gates which diminish feeling access blunt the hurt and keep us unaware. When we are unaware we do not hurt as much. Unconsciousness is our savior. That straight line from need also works in reverse; when we go back to it over time in therapy we start to hurt—hold me, touch me, say I’m good, hear me, talk to me—all of the needs essential for normal survival; to survive as a normal human being become alive again. We hurt because those needs represent survival; we need to be normal and need to grow normally. When we can’t the system says something is missing and provides pain to signal it. Pain keeps the need alive. Pain is essential to our survival and our normality.
I have treated film directors whose pathology rivals that of actors. When they are not on scene they hurt. Yes they can even produce feeling scenes but it remains an act-out not a felt feeling. They don’t really hurt enough to feel their need, but they hurt enough to feel depressed, alone and neglected. Even when those needs are not articulated. In other words, needs become shrouded by the gating system whose function is to keep us unaware and unconscious. All this is particularly true of the earliest imprints where pain is at the maximum. It is the most powerful, the most driving, and the least accessible. Because it is least accessible, we usually ascribe our act-outs to arcane reasons or we most often deny them.
We see it in the deep trenches of the psyche; in sex which emanates from deep in the brain. We go to therapy to solve our “sex” problem and we use the top level that has no access to deep levels where the imprints lie. Because the therapist nor the patient knows about those deep levels that are obliged to roam in a different terrain from where the problem lies. So if the patient needs to be spanked to have orgasm, words won’t touch. I already wrote about a girl whose only touch from her father was when he lifted her skirt and spanked her bare bottom. That touch fulfilled an unacknowledged need; it felt good and become a sexual need. Or the need to see a partner’s face when she orgasmed. My patient never saw his mother smile or seem happy. Here he could see unalloyed joy. It fulfilled a basic need for a normal, happy mother. That is why I state that the act-out is often a straight line from the need. That need never dies. We have two choices; either we feel it or we act it out into infinity.
So when we believe we are normal and are bereft of any deep need, look at the act-outs. They are often subtle. And they are also compulsive; we do it over and over again. Leaving dirty dishes in the sink? The need, “Don’t make me do all the chores all of the time.” Forced not to ask for help? “I want to be good and not be a bother."
This to parents who really don’t want to be bothered. The child fulfilled their needs in order to be loved, which never happened. Or the compulsive gambler who cannot stop … he wants “lady luck” to help him and make him rich without him having to struggle for it.
Basic need, then, becomes symbolic need. That is the essence of neurosis. We act on symbols. The “love” of an audience instead of the need for it from parents: “I will be anything you want me to be if you can love me.”
So here is the dilemma: we need to feel need to overcome neurosis, and we need to act it out because we cannot feel it. Solution? A slow trip to the depths, to the antipodes of the brain where all those needs await us. Take one more step and you are there; but alas, the last step is filled with primal demons which keeps diverting us. That is why we need help in therapy; to help us bypass the demons for the moment and to step gingerly into the primal pool of pain. Aah, the pool is a lot warmer than I expected and not nearly so dangerous. After all, it is only me who I will find. How dangerous could that be?
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.