Saturday, January 10, 2015
So What is the Meaning of Life?
Stop asking the question and you will be better for it. I have written before, there is no meaning to life, only to the meaning we give it; to experience. Someone in a coma is alive but there is no meaning to it. We don’t have to ask what’s it all about; it’s about nothing. Imagine two chimps asking each other what’s it all about? That represents our feeling selves and down inside we react but don’t ask intellectual questions. Down deep we are chimps. Now that we are humans we ask the question when the answer lies on the feeling level where there are no intellectual questions. If we deny our chimp selves we will be loaded with questions about meaning. And when we are disconnected from our chimp selves we manufacture questions that never need to be asked, in the first place. What am I saying? That we make our own meaning and no one else can. Oh wait, Janov can. What? What does Janov do? He puts us in touch with the chimp inside, that once and for all eliminates those questions about meaning. Because now we are in touch with our chimps running around inside and they have no questions like that. Once they are into deep feelings I have never seen a patient in a Primal ask about meaning; they are too busy feeling, not thinking.
And what could a meaning be? What do I want to get out of life? To be famous, successful, appreciated? Or it can be any left over need from childhood? What it is not and can never be is the answer to meaning of your life. There is only meaning to experience; it gives me joy, it gives me pain, it makes me happy, successful, etc.
We abdicate our personal meaning the minute we think that someone can supply us with it. The trouble is many of the questions and search for answers become an endless affair since there are no answers. The minute we think we found one it seems to pale until we go onto the next one; a certain vitamin or therapy or guru become interchangeable as what we search for does not exist—the meaning of our lives. But if we are needy, a strong guru will have us genuflect before him, lose all critical faculties and believe in him devoutly. The guru needs devotees and we supply the unquestioned devotion. Once anyone else locks into our unfulfilled need we are hooked, literally. Our need is the hook; once a psychopath figures that out, he has got us. He can make us believe in the most outrageous ideas because we are hooked, addicted to his message of promised fulfillment. We are hooked by need and that is pre-potent over everything else. It is unfulfilled need that is addicting. The addiction (propensity for) is already there inside of us. We need to go deep inside of us, not dancing around the surface finding safer, less addicting pain killers; or blaming how easy it is to get drugs at pharmacies. If he have to blame we should blame the Janovian Gap; the gap between our deep imprints and our conscious/awareness.
And that is what differentiates us in Primal from all other modes of treatment! It is not the pills or the needles; it is us! We are the addicts, not the oxycodone or heroin. Let’s not address what lies in the corner pharmacy; let’s address what is sequestered in the deep antipodes of the brain. There is where the addict hangs out needing an endless supply of painkillers.
Of course, many of us never ask the question about meaning. There are two sorts; those who feel fully and do not need to ask the question about meaning; and then those who never fully feel and have unlimited questions to pose about meaning. And then, alas, there is the third route; those who do not feel and never ask any questions of life. These are the ones who exist but are not living, the problem of too many of us. Or whole culture militates against reflection. “Get going. Get it done. Success is all,” etc.
So here we have a dilemma; those who fully feel are propelled to search for meaning; and whose do not ask themselves about meaning,, and those who do not feel and also never ask them selves what is it all about; they feel something is missing but what?. They just live and never reflect about their lives. They find a groove and stay in it and never put their lives in question. Is that good? It seems good for them to live the unreflective and unexamined life. They do not wonder where their lives could be or what else they can do with it. They are low in imagination and vision and do not seem to care; just as so many individuals in their seventies and eighties seem to give up on life and ascribe no further meaning to it. They have lost their ambition, their drive, their desires and the notion of what could be—what could they do--with their lives. They gave up on meaning because doing and thinking and feeling comprise the life of meaning. Especially feeling; for that seems to be the essence. I do not plan to join those who give up on life; my writing saves me and I hope, many others. By the way, I have a book, Beyond Belief, coming out at the end of the year, which discusses all this in detail.
Those who don’t feel spend their lives seeking what life means. They travel to see the priest, the swami or guru; someone to help them find the meaning of life. And if someone has to give it to you, it means you have already lost it. Why would you look for something that you never had and therefore never lost? Why spend thousands dreaming about someone who has all the answers when no one but you has it; and you don’t have to go to India to find it; just drop a few millimeters down in the brain and there lies meaning; the pool of feeling/meaning ready to add to your experience. There lies joy, enthusiasm, dreams, exuberance. Oh oh. There lies that chimp playing down below. He will help us enjoy life; we have been asking the wrong person.
What more could we ask for? And no one can give us that; only our own personal feelings can do it. And it is free and not far away. The trouble is that when we look for it we feel we have to find that special someone who has the right pulpit for us to believe in. And he promises so much; if we can only divest ourselves of critical thinking and go along. And when he preaches and touches us we fill in the blanks and believe we have found it. What? Salvation, help, guidance, warmth, leadership and all of the things we missed as children. We join with other believers and voila, we are saved and have a direction. Oh yes, that direction, with its patina of white robes, does not come free; we need to pay a lot for it but we think it is a small price to pay to resurrect our hope in and for life. That is what we are buying, hope, born of early desperate hopelessness, someone to show us the way and to take an interest in us and our health and direction ... a parent. We buy that in our all knowing, omniscient therapists; while all we in Primal have to offer is hopelessness; that dreaded feeling that will finally pull us out of the search for a greater life. Yet that painful feeling is what liberates us; hope born from hopelessness. It stops the act-out in its tracks, avoids the unrelenting search for an all-knowing “God” who will not let anything bad happen to us.
Why is addiction so hard to treat? Because painful need is what addiction is about; it lasts and lasts until it is finally felt in its entirety. So addiction is just about all the same, whether food, drugs, work, drink, etc. It is the same pained need. What is it they have in common? They all ease pain; the pain of unfulfilled need, starting from the beginning of life. There are many studies about this; one demonstrates that nutritional deficiency very early in gestation is the basis for later overeating. The over-eater usually has no idea about this lack so early on. So we automatically chose our poison; and what we choose is often related to that deprived need. It is one way we know what was missing. Also, the addict usually chooses something available all of the time, like her mother’s love was not. So booze, cigarettes, whores, drugs, and so on. Why continuously go after what is not available when drugs are? That is what the addict learns early on; until the doctors enter the scene and try to take it all alway.
Addiction depends on the early need and what you find early on to quell its pain. One patient found his mother’s wine when he was eight years old. Later on, he drank; a lot. Robin Williams used to joke how well he felt and how sure he is well off drugs and booze, until during shooting a film he stopped into a bar in Alaska and saw a bottle of whisky. He was hooked again. He was still needing to quell his pain and find surcease. But the truly only way anyone can do that without excess residual tension and a shorter life is to feel the need ... fully at its source! Robin saw hope and help again.
And what does the depressive feel most of the time; “I have no meaning to my life.” And why? Because he has no energy or “life force’ to get out of bed and produce a meaning to his life. His repression has sucked the life out of him so he cannot feel any of the elements of meaning. His feelings seem to be buried deep down under the ceiling of repression. And why? Because his pain has evoked the chemicals of repression into action; a pain he does not feel, only its after-affects. He feels down and cannot get up to do anything. His gates seem to be closed against him. They have shut-away his meaning. He is now susceptible to a guru, therapist, a life coach, and advisor, etc. He needs to be drawn out, he needs someone to literally "breathe life into him". So many of them, by the way, do have serious oxygen deficit during the birth process which is imprinted and channels us. The cultist needs to be told what to do and how to act because he has lost his bearings, his feelings.
I have not mentioned religion that provides so many answers for those are lost, and they tell us what the meaning of life is, ad nauseam. The more we believe the less we follow our own feelings. We obey and imagine we find salvation in that.
Here is one of my bloggers and friends just wrote to me: “To select Evolution in Reverse as a treatment method is deeply linked to a conviction “that we are the evolutionary result of all history, personal and ancient.” I would never trust a religious believer, who lives by the Bible’s creation story / Genesis and the commandments, at the same time, to be a reliable Primal Therapist. Possibly, he / she can be an interesting PT patient seeking a cure for his / her pain propelled religiosity. My heart rate flew up into the 70’s when Art expressed his surprise that the Catholic Church has priests / specialists who recognize / root out the devil. It takes One (a pain propelled Catholic priest) to know One (the devil). Their roles /specialties are both pain propelled products of the same evolution. (The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, was appointed Person of the Year 2013 by the US news magazine Time. Without making other comparisons, the same magazine appointed Adolf Hitler, Person of the Year, in 1938.)
More than 100 years ago one of Sweden’s most talented personalities, the skilled biologist, scientist and Darwinist Bengt Lindforss got his career seriously disturbed by the bishop, acting university chancellor and devil worshiper Gottfrid Billing. In his book, “Why Evolution is True”, Jerry A. Coyne tells us that anti-evolutionism, still today is very strong in the US and on the rise in England and Germany!
In 2006 only 40% of Americans (down 5% from 1985!!) believed that humans developed from earlier species of animals. We descend from a primate lineage that split off from our common ancestor with the chimpanzees roughly seven million years ago. (In France and Scandinavia 80% of people see evolution as true). According to Jerry A. Coyne, evolution gets bumped down even further in the US when it comes to deciding whether it should be taught in the public schools. Two-thirds of Americans feel that if evolution is taught in the science classroom, creationism should be as well. In the US only 12 percent - one in eight people - think that evolution should be taught without mentioning a creationist alternative…
Seen from the bright side, 12% of the US population means 38 million people…
I think that says a lot. I hope this provides another perspective on meaning. Addicts do what they can to live a meaningful life but pain always gets in the way and blunts it. This is my message.
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.