Tuesday, January 20, 2015
On the Beliefs that Kill
Yes, beliefs do kill. They create a zeitgeist for murder. If there were no zeitgeist for murder in the Middle East it may well be that the murder rate would be far less. How else to explain how 150 militants decide together to penetrate a children’s school and slaughter over 100 innocent children? What was in their minds but pure unadulterated murder. What were they thinking? They weren’t. What were they feeling? Killing, mayhem, massacre. Why? Because those children were offspring of military people. And, as the killers said, “They grow up to be adults who kill us.” This is exactly what the Nazis said when they killed children. They kill now for possible crimes twenty years hence.
First the zeitgeist that it is OK to kill women who do not wear veils, cartoonists who do not defer to Allah, those who do not dress according to their standards, and on and on. The point is to kill; to release all that hate. And where does that hate come from? Now the facile answer; lack of love. No loved child could possibly travel miles to slaughter young children. Why? Because when you are loved you feel with and for others. When you are shut down and your feelings are revenge, it permeates all thinking as deeper brain levels overtake higher levels and replace any semblance of humanity. What is the revenge about? Ostensibly for blasphemy against Allah. In reality for a total lack of love and an atmosphere of death for the infidels. That is why civilized societies all over the world are eschewing the death penalty. They do not want to lose their humanity.
As we see from Al-Qaeda and ISIS we can always find reasons to kill. But to think about what we are doing and to reject murder because it is murder is the step toward humanness.
I am not an expert on the Middle East, nor their politics or religions but I have treated killers, not mass killers, but those filled with rage and I know where it comes from and how it gets its start. For mass killing we need the words of social psychologists who specialize in such matters. But I have experience with individual development into murder and can write on that.
But in my practice I have seen patients rip up pillows and smash the walls until there are deep holes in them. I have seen pure fury. How could that be? I let it happen under controlled circumstances. And for almost 50 years of our therapy I have never seen an untoward incident. On the contrary, expressing rage releases that urge and softens our patients. But to let it happen means going against the whole background of psychiatry and psychology: we were warned in our studies about letting feelings get out of control. And so we suppressed them rather than do what is logical; which is to let feelings out.
I see the progression of feelings daily in my work with patients. First they come in mad at this and mad at that. Then get into deep feelings after weeks or months of therapy and are furious with their parents for their indifference and lack of feelings; and then the hard part—begging them for love. It doesn’t matter that they cannot give it; it is their need for it that counts, their need that removes the pain and becomes liberating, and above all, removes the fury. This is not a theory I concocted. It is the progression of feelings in so many patients. Lacking this primal context there can be pure rage; a sensation that lives down in the brainstem that has no words and no feelings. As it comes up, and given the right context, those deep feelings can channel his rage against those who blaspheme Allah. He now has a target far from the real source; his lack of love. And worse, that target is accepted by those around him. They now have congealed feelings and a target. They will kill, not for Allah, but for lack of love under the sobriquet of Allah. Meanwhile, the killers in Paris shouted as they killed, “To avenge the Prophet Muhammad.” Unless they had some word from Muhammad, who told them to do that?
But in the case of a mass zeitgeist there is a contagion effect, as the feeling gains acceptance and solidifies. It becomes shameful not to kill those who are not respectful of a specific higher being. All that rage lives on the deepest and most level of the brain. It becomes socially institutionalized psychosis. There is a delusionnary target; certainly no sane person can imagine that children are a menace and a danger. And then the rage arises to prompt the killing. I write “psychosis” advisedly, as it is a phantom enemy joined with murderous impulses with no higher level control.
Where is the sane zeitgeist? The same place it was during the Holocaust when Marlene Dietrich’s sister could live across from a death camp. That zeitgeist rationalizes and makes acceptable the killing of another human being. Jews, infidels, it is all the same as long as they can release their pent-up rage. Or if someone can offer a rationale for killing, as we do when we recommend the death penalty. The first step in the zeitgeist is to dehumanize the ”enemy.” It is easier to kill a subhuman than a feeling human; that is why we can hunt and kill animals, not understanding that their feeling base is as large as ours. We don’t believe that they can feel.
This is all on the personal, individual level; how people can go crazy together and do horrendous things. Are they thinking? No, they are feeling from deep down in the brain where the shark brain lies in wait. It doesn’t differentiate among targets so long as they look like food. What are the sharks and the shark brain thinking? They are not. They act on untrammeled instinct.
So, as to make my point real, I wrote this at the same time as a group of terrorists in France attacked the offices of a magazine that makes fun of all the great religions and ideologies and killed 12 writers/cartoonists. Their shouts were “Praise Allah.” Their pal who also was radicalized in prison with them, went on another killing spree nearby and killed another four people.
How come he traveled to a Jewish delicatessen to kill? Because in certain zeitgeists the Jews were already considered sub-human. We need to be very careful about joining in on the maladaptive zeitgeist which overall makes it easier to discriminate and ultimately to kill. That is the danger of even the most minuscule insult to any race or belief. It adds to the background noise of hate. And the hate accumulates till violence shows its ugly head. The person; Jew, homosexual, Arab, are the targets to discharge the hate. And where should that hate go if anywhere? Toward their early life, parents who never loved and a family life filled with chaos and violence. That is what built the hate and need to release; rather, to find a target where they can release. They killed those who answered back against idolatry; who refused to praise and serve a higher authority. They killed those who would not share their beliefs. Was it just beliefs? No. Beliefs without the urging of feelings never take on that violent aspect.
After the terrorists were killed by the police, 3 million Frenchmen took to the streets to protest. The terrorists seemed to know they were on a death march and did not care. They did their job; releasing rage and rationalizing under the authority of Allah. And above all, they felt they belonged. They shared the hate with others. Let us not minimize this since those followers of a leader in Waco, Texas when faced with fleeing and escaping, went back into the building which was on fire. They chose death instead of feeling there was nowhere for them. If there is no close family, the need to belong is primordial.
I have seen it in treating Mexican gang members. They come here not knowing the language, the fathers are struggling to make a living, neglecting the kids and they join a gang to be able to talk to others, to feel that they belong and are wanted. The price of entry is sometimes killing someone else; often someone from the block down the street. These kids are family to each other; they need a family and someone who cares about them. And they fabricate enemies; across the tracks, a different neighborhood. It doesn’t matter as they need a target, someone they can blame and pin their woes on. And they do find them. It is a common enemy that provides cohesion for the group. That enemy makes the gang or group closer and more bonded. When there is no enemy they provide them; manufacture an enemy who is the danger, even those who live 2 blocks away. What do they have in common? The enemy. Take away the enemy and there is less cohesion. In these situations you are not safe if you are different.
I have seen several articles on the French massacre and some claim they are not psychotic. I am not sure what is psychotic if you go to kill a hundred children who have done nothing at all to harm anyone. These are psychologists writing. The claim of the terrorists is that they perceive they are victims of injustice. Maybe true, but one does not slaughter someone who has nothing to do with that injustice. OK, so they think that there has to be delusions for psychosis to exist. Isn’t what those killers believed? Pure delusions? That their God was insulted and that he is the last word for truth? That one has to kill if others disagree with their delusions? That it is all done in the name of a God or deity. And that the deity approves of this slaughter and actually insists on it: the Fatwa. So “God” does not ask them to love and honor others; it wants them to be murdered. Ayayay! They do not celebrate life; they celebrate death and often ask to be killed. They give up their life happily to be known as a “martyr.” For that word they are willing to die. Imagine, the most precious gift anyone of us have is life. To throw that away for a word is indeed psychotic.
So who gets killed? Those who deviate from the zeitgeist. And who makes the zeitgeist? All of us. But first those who profit from it. Capitalists who can make money if we acquiesce. Or those in power who are willing to kill us to remain in power.
In Cambodia they killed those who wore glasses because they thought it was that only the Vietnamese who wear glasses so they can read and have thoughts. They were the danger. In fascist societies, the college people are the danger because they might think. Intellectuals often become the target, even those who read French; hence freedom fries, rather than French fries.
The powers who reign do not want us to think; they want us to believe, to be engaged in endless studies of the official scripts so as to be further inculcated and more easily led. It looks like thinking but it actually replaces thought. The spread of ideation has cast a large intellectual net over us so that the powers simply twist and turn the ideation and we follow. We continue to follow until it envelopes us and we do its bidding without any further reflection. Their control is now internal; we just follow its dictates. That is the ticket; impregnate ideas until they become part of us, and then we follow them without question. It is a true principle in advertising: “ Buy this truck and you will be strong.” It is not said, it is implied. We fill in the blanks with our deprived needs.
Let me explain. When we hurt early on — and that means in utero, in infancy and most importantly in early childhood— we have a defense system that hurries to contain the pain. For every major trauma there seems to be an equal and opposite defensive force to contain the pain. I call this defense system the gating system. Those familiar with my writing understand that defenses are abetted by biochemical means through which neurotransmitters are secreted by the brain into the gap between cells so that the message of pain cannot travel to high centers, enabling us to remain unconscious. We humans usually manage to hold down our most painful feelings by a neurologic system that was built for it, to keep our mental system functioning. It is in the first weeks of life in the womb that life-threatening events occur. The mother is depressed or anxious, takes drugs or drinks alcohol and is not careful with her diet. As her life goes on, there may be a compounding of pain for the developing infant due to her own parental neglect and indifference. Her gates do not function well and she goes on taking drugs to quell her pain. The chemicals that accompany these states spill into the placenta and affect the fetus.
Sometimes life deals such harsh blows that the gates crack or weaken; the result is that there aren’t enough repressive chemicals such as serotonin in the synapse to keep repression going, and we have a carrying mother in turmoil. Deep in that turmoil lies rage which is sucked up into various targets, rarely parents. But it can be Socialists, Unitarians, Vegetarians and so on. Or the unions which we rally against. Or Wall Street, as another target; choose your poison but the real poison is the deep-lying pain that drives so much of us. That does not negate the reality of the target but it helps to explain the violent reaction; as those who wear glasses.
Of course, not every unloved child grows up to be a killer. Some lose love, go into despair and then find God. They have been saved, saved by the idea of God, unless we really think He comes down from out of wherever He is and literally lends a hand. But the reaching out for God represents the hope of being loved, albeit this time only in fantasy. Others may start to feel the pain and reach for the bottle. Still others may reach for the neck of the departing lover and strangle her. But what they all have in common, what makes the act-out obligatory, is the reawakening of early deprivation by a current situation. Amorous rejection is the trigger; parental rejection gives it power.
Think about this. The terrorist feels he is loved once he does his terrible deed; life in reverse. He does it all in the name of God and since many of us have different Gods the permutations are enormous.
When we follow evolution as I see in my patients there are deep feelings, sometimes overwhelming that force their way up in the idea/belief area of the brain (neo-cortex), and the belief becomes as obdurate as the feeling itself. We need to address not only the beliefs but the underlying force behind them. And indeed, when we get patients to relive very deep feelings the beliefs seem to evaporate, especially the belief in the devil. With ISIS or Al-Qaeda the force pushing ideas is inordinate; we must not underestimate it. Those ideas do not make one kill; it is the rage that drive them.
One thing I fail to understand is that after the killing, the remaining journalist put out another massive issue, stating in effect, on the cover, all is forgiven. I don’t get it. Are the religious precepts so strong as to override rational feeling? What bothers me is the majesty of it all; “when I forgive I am above all that. I have the power to forgive those lesser beings.” “I am the great forgiver.”
Have you noticed? Terrorists always do their deeds for love. Mohammad loves me…….and wants me to blow myself up for the cause. Still the need for love dominates. The recipe is if I kill I will be loved. Still the same need, only taking a lethal turn.
When hundreds all believe the same thing there is danger. It becomes unassailable. The contagion factor gives it more power. What is the answer? Love.
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.