Friday, June 26, 2015
More on Leaky Gates
I have described the gating system several times in my blogs. Basically there are chemicals, not the least of which is methyl (as in methylation) that helped signal danger and also help to suppress its pain. There is serotonin and a number of other biochemicals with a similar function: suppress the hurt. But when the first line pain derived from brainstem activity is loaded with pain and the follow-up life compounds the agony, we have gates that become leaky, less effective and allow some pain to escape.
So when I ask an applicant for therapy if he were loved and cared for, he often will say, “yes”. And If I ask how he sleeps he will tell me, “fitfully”. “Why is that?” I search. And he says, well I often suffer from bad dreams and nightmares. Oh, I say. And then I say to myself, “my god, he has leaky gates”. It means to me that he has terrible deep pain that has taxed his repressive system (and often his immune system) and the terror leaks out. It also tells me to go slow and not to approach deep pain for a long time.
So I say to him, what are your nightmares about? Mostly this and that. Oh I say, this and that…such as? Terror really, I am drowning or being suffocated, or held in a dark prison with no air. And then I think, “If I strip away the content of the nightmare I would have the content of the Primal”. And months later in therapy it leaks out into the session and he is suffocating in the dark and cannot move. There is something that wants to kill him but he does not know what. It signals death approaching, as it did originally but it is still a mystery for the patient. We approach it slowly and over time, not in a single session. It is terror that can be terrible. And it informs us accurately that he is carrying around immense pain that needs to come out and be relived eventually. But in French it is a "compte a rebours", counting backwards. We always begin therapy in the present and get to the beginning at the end of therapy or of a session. Evolution brooks no deviation. Sadly, there are some deviations when the terror/pain is overwhelming, but that is another matter. We want to know what is in the unconscious that Freud said was so dangerous? There it is, right in front of us. We can see it and feel its intensity. Oh my God, what is it! It is the PRIMAL. You mean that is the unconscious, nothing else mysterious and unknowable?
In the nightmare the top level neo-cortex concocts a scenario to explain the upsurging content. It is a content that closely represents the nature of the trauma itself. Now if we look at the recent mass killer we see possibly the same thing; massive pain on the upswing crumbling gates, merging with the current zeitgeist of white supremacy which rationalizes the feeling for him and gives it destination and a raison d’ etre. It is a living nightmare. The difference is that it can no longer be constrained in any way, and has to be acted-out. They need therapy while there is still time. In neither case do we analyze the ideas; we always go for the feeling, the terror and anger. Those deep-lying terrible feelings are the problem both for the therapy patient and for the killer. You cannot say to either, look no one is trying to hurt you, so relax. Something is gaining on him and it is deep sensations/feelings. The killer misplaces the feelings and he has a cultural ideology to merge into. The patient has a state of anxiety that we deal with by attacking the feeling.
In the case of the killer we can call it a psychotic episode, psychotic breakthrough. It is result of the imprint that does make people crazy; and it is the kind of thing Freud warned against when he alerted us to staying away from the unconscious. Does anyone really think that there is a full-blown psychosis lying deep in the brain? One that even has bizarre ideation, which is neurologically impossible? Ideation develops much later in life and then gives form to the crazy feelings flowing up from below.
I have treated a killer. I was reluctant to take him but once he felt deep feelings he was a pussy cat and no danger to anyone.
This reminds me of those who are diagnosed as chronic schizophrenics. I want to alert those in the diagnostic field that schizophrenia is apparent when the cortical gates give way and feelings intrude into the neocortex to produce strange irrational ideas and beliefs. But what happens when there is no intrusion yet and the gates hold on for a while to block intrusion? Where did the psychosis go? Now we get close to what psychosis means. The problem lies down deep in the brain, within the brainstem and lower limbic ares where a total tumult is raging from damage that occurred early in life, gestation or birth. That is what constantly threatening the top level brain. So can we be psychotic down deeper in the brain? Of course, but since it has not yet recruited ideation to handle and cover the rampant feelings we have to give it a different name: cancer, the psychosis of the cells. The cells’ boundaries cannot hold and there is an over-spill. Or the “psychosis" can take on a different form, usually catastrophic in different kinds of diseases. So as the pain mounts we develop new serious diseases, and we give it all new diagnoses. But what is it after all? Pain, a pain so immense as to be ineffable. But that is what it is. It lives on different brain levels, but we need to know what it is so we treat the right thing. What is the treatment of psychosis? Pain killers. And childhood Anxiety and ADD? Pain killers. And difficulty in learning and severe asthma? You guessed it. There is the notion that Schizophrenia only appears in late adolescence as it did not exist until then. But maybe it doesn’t start until we enter adulthood because we now have the language to talk schizophrenia. Now we know about words like “cosmos” and we can imagine we merge with it. We have perfected a new language which is far-out… because it is far in. We are trying to make sense out of an input that has no sense; it is just a massive first-line, brainstem input. We dress it in words even though it has no words; it is pure agonizing pain. The neocortex is scrambling to give it a rationale, that seems so bizarre because it has no rationale.
Over the years of Primal, now almost 50 years of practice, we have gone very deep, and that is what we find: our life experience lying in wait for its time to be free of its biologic constraints. That is the key danger: us. We are afraid of ourselves and what we have undergone, and that means exactly when and where every psychotherapy avoids… first line. Is it dangerous? Yes. Only if we mess with evolution and reach it prematurely. It is dangerous if we are in a hurry, do not understand how dangerous it can be and have no idea about how the brain works. And once there we have no idea how to turn it off. So what happens? Emergency clinics and heavy tranquilizers. Push back the demons is what they understand without ever knowing what the demons are. How could they since they have never seen the unconscious in its full regalia.
And what are those tranquilizers that the emergency clinic offers the freaking-out patient? Some of the same chemicals he depleted in his original attempt to shut down the terror/pain, such as serotonin. It is part of the drugs, Prozac and Zoloft. They are only replacing what was depleted at the start. Because unlike alligators, who are built to handle immediate and brief threats, we cannot deal with prolonged danger without deregulating our whole system.
And now we come to methylation. It is an accurate index of our early, painful imprints. A study by the Society for Research in Child Development, (Sept. 8, 21014), found that children who were abused or neglected early in life are at risk for both emotional ill health and physical afflictions.(See: http://srcd.org/sites/default/files/spr_28_1_newfinal.pdf). “The researchers found an association between the kind of parenting children had and crucial aspects of ……health.” One culprit is DNA methylation. They took two groups of children; one abused and the other not. Abused or neglected kids were likely to suffer mood changes, poor school performance and tendencies toward serious diseases. They also had increased methylation, in particular on several sites of the glucocorticoid gene. Not the fact with normally reared children.
We see aspects of this in our levels of cortisol, an anti-inflammatory. The neglected kids could not handle emotional stress well. Sound familiar? It does to me.
Most important, the methylation process affected nerve-growth factor which augurs badly for brain development.
Our research job will be to point out how and where this methylation takes place and why? We believe, but we want to measure, if indeed our therapy will help undo some of the prolonged effects of methylation; i.e., de-methylation. Above all, is emotional abuse ultimately physical abuse? Of course, and when we see chronically sick kids, we need not only to exam the details of the symptom but also the details of his previous emotional life. There lies the real culprit. The answers lie not in the minute cells of the brain which are reluctant to reveal the truth and often cannot, but in the complications of the person’s life going way, way back. Let us all decide to delve deeper from now on and the surprises will be never-ending.
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.