Thursday, June 11, 2015
Does Being Poor Make You Neurotic?
The title is "What Poverty Does to the Young Brain" by M. Ostranger.(see http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/what-poverty-does-to-the-young-brain) And it does seem to prove the point: poverty hurts us.
I am really not sure. I grew up in a ghetto but never knew it. I always thought that living in overcrowded, noisy conditions, sharing beds and closets, was the way everyone lived. That the same old cheap food was the way everyone ate. If there is no other frame of reference how can we judge and how can it have an impact? We lived apart from mainstream culture, never went to a restaurant to see how others ate, etc. In other words I had nothing in my life to compare anything to.
That was also true of my parents. When I was sixteen, one of my dad’s friends turned to me and said, “Your dad is so cheap he squeaks.” I never knew that. Then I started to put the pieces together: when we bought anything we traveled to the East side to where everything was cheap. It slowly began to sink in. It was not his poverty that was the problem; it was that in his mind he still lived in the ghetto, and never ever got out of it.
When I asked for music lessons they sent me downtown where the lesson was fifty cents. I never thought it should be any different. When the kids on the block took tennis lessons I was the only one who couldn’t because I believed my father could not afford it. In my teens it was no longer true but I was impregnated with this belief and I believed that lessons were too expensive. He had me living in the ghetto most of my early life, afraid to spend (no longer true today). It was only later, by accident, that I learned that he never spent a cent and had money when we were teen-agers. Meanwhile when I could begin to make comparisons it affected me because I felt that I was not as good or as important as other kids. This was compounded by never being hugged or talked to. It was not just poverty; it was a state of mind inculcated into us. That state of mind was made clear to me when I was seventeen, when in an interview a interviewer ask a woman why she wore such outlandish hats? She said, and I remember every word decades later, “for the best reason on earth; I like them.” Her feelings choose them, and for the first time in my life I learned about the important of feelings. I always believed we had to explain and justify everything we did. It carried over into how I did psychotherapy early in my career. The patient had to explain his behavior and justify it. It was never enough to simply feel; it needed to be justified at every minute. So insights/explaining feelings was the sine qua non of my therapy: it was Jewish through and through. It began with that other Jewish guy, what was his name? And spread its intellectual tentacles everywhere in life.
Feelings never counted; ideas about feelings is what counted. And the more brilliant the insights the more we believed the patient was getting better. And he was: only in his head. This was the apotheosis of it all; producing a brilliant mind who could spin out insights on and on and sound like the best therapist on earth. And it goes on with Cognitive/Behavior therapy, to this day; still a Jewish disease which we mistakenly call therapy. Ayayay (BTW: AYAYAY is also a Jewish howl). I guess my point is, Do you have to be aware of lack to be hurt? No. I was hurt by lack of touch even though I never knew kids should be held and hugged. I felt the pain. I was not hiding it from others. I was never aware of it. Being aware is not and never will be the same as feeling it because feeling is where the need/pain lies; where our humanity is sequestered. I felt the pain in Primal Therapy. And to achieve that I had to literally go back in time. So to live in the Now, we must return to the scene of the crime. This was hidden from me my whole life. Worse, I hid it from me. And I dare say, that this is the case with most of us today. And we go to a therapist for help and we get more sickness in its hallowed name. We avoid the one thing that could cure … feelings. And the smarter we get about ourselves the dumber we become. Not because of secret pride; because it lies in the cultural zeitgeist that militates against feeling in almost every therapy extant.
I learned something from this: that feelings will direct you to the pain and make you consciously aware; all by themselves. No instructions needed.
What this disease does, (does this sound anti-Semitic?), no; I describe it is a cultural trait not a jeremiad. The effect is to drive people in their head. “Head” is the reference point; is it logical and fit in with our theory? Then we know it is right. You guessed it. I am anti-head because therein lies so much of the “bad” in treatment. Feelings have become an afterthought. And without feelings we live in the "anti-chambre de la mort". What do I mean, “we will live in this anti-chamber of death?” Because without feelings, the most natural of expressions, we block life.
We block the essence of our humanness. They are meant to be felt and fully experienced. Otherwise they are suppressed and begin their life of damage; they find no way out of their emotional prison, Eventually, the blocking of life leads to early disease and early death; not always and not with everyone but I have seen it so much. Staying alienated from feelings is a DISEASE, not a cure! Psychotherapy as we know it is fatal. It is the ultimate affliction. It reinforces the cleavage between ideas and feelings. Being aware is not life saving; it is the opposite. Being conscious is life saving; it means a cohesion of all parts of us. It means that we are not engaged in the unconscious effort of repressing feelings.
And above all, being consciousness means treating people and our children humanely so that they grow up enhancing the culture, not destroying it.
And now in therapy we get more of the same: Behavior Therapy where feelings take a back seat, if any seat at all, and everything lies in the narrow reaches of the thinking mind. In French there are two words that are close to each other. One is “évènement": an event. The other is ‘Avènement,” an event resting on the highest reaches of achievement. The beginning that heralds a new king or new period or the arrival of a grand new therapy ... a new reign. Behavior/Cognitive therapy seems to be that reign but it is still the old Freudian psychotherapy dressed up on the king’s new robes. All of it, all of it, means saying goodbye to our humanness. Is that what we want?
But aback to my point: day when I was fifteen I was next door at the neighbor’s house, the Winters, their real name. We were talking and joking, when all of a sudden the mother, Mrs Winter came into the kitchen, her back against the chopping block and she rapped and joked and had the best time. She stayed for an hour. I was so shocked that I ran home and said, “Guess what? Mrs Winters stayed with us and talked to us for an hour. It was so wonderful; I wish I had mother like that” Where up My Dad got angry and told me never to talk like that again. In his mind I had committed a crime. In my mind I was expressing a feeling, an innocent one. But I learned something: that mothers are supposed to spend time with you and joke and talk to you. Now, I never know that was a basic need but my body suffered from it without my knowing it. I needed some emotional companionship and I hurt because I never had it. The hurt occurred even though I could not name it nor even know that something like love was missing. I never forgot that day. Being aware of it is a first step and yet a far cry from feeling the pain that is gnawing away at our systems without stop. “Aware” means detached, looking at feeling from far away. Feeling means being in it and being done with it. Awareness means a burden and a sentence for a lifetime. Intellectuals usually prefer intellectual therapy and it is what they get. They have been comfortable with their style of life, their neurosis. Too often we choose a therapy that allows a bit of tweaking and not basic change. It is not either or; we can be consciously aware, and that is the summun bonum.
It is our choice.
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.