Sunday, June 21, 2015
On the Breakdown of Our Adaptive Capacity
Some time ago I wrote about how it is the unrelenting input of pain that taxes our ability to adjust and adapt, causing a breakdown of this capacity. The result is a scrambling of our brain cells and a collapse of our ability to cope. It can lead to early psychosis or mental insufficiency. What does this mean?
Not only must we look at our clinical experience but the latest in brain science. Rockefeller University, New York, and Cambridge University, England (E.Keverne, D. Pfaff and Inna Tabansky. “Epigenetic changes in the developing brain: Effects on behavior.”; See: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/22/6789.full). One conclusion of their work was about methylation, how aspects of the methyl group are recruited to stamp in painful memory and imprint it. When you block methylation you prevent the nerve cells from adapting to changes in their environment. It becomes maladaptive. New learning cannot take place without successful epigenetic programming. And this makes me wonder when so many orphan children cannot learn well, are dyslexic and are slow to form sentences. When there is day in-day out neglect, indifference and lack of love, the ability to adapt falters and damage occurs.
The researchers noted that there is adverse effects on the feeling/hippocampus areas. In short, chronic unrelenting pain overtaxes the native ability to adjust, and we see the results. On the feeling level the person claims, it is all too much. He gives up easily and cannot try hard to succeed. It is not explained verbally by the schizophrenic but he lives it. He needs help to navigate his daily life. He cannot adapt to new circumstances. This is the extreme breakdown of adaptation. This is because the adaptation mechanisms help us evolve and deal with different circumstances. They are crucial for our evolution. We can take minor setbacks, such as being left alone for a day or two, but being isolated for long periods damages our ability to adapt.
If we look for confirmation of all this in hard science, it is there. The Dana-Farber cancer Institute discusses cancer in terms of the epigenetic switching mechanism. (Dec. 8, 2014. “Disorder in gene-control system is a defining characteristic of cancer.” (see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141208145512.htm) (See also Cancer Cell). Here is what they say: “The genetic tumult with cancerous tumors is more than matched by the disorder in one of the mechanisms for switching cells’ genes on and off. The disarray in the on/off switches , known as methylation is one of the defining characteristics of cancer.” (Genes are recruiting methyl to help attach to the DNA—methylation). What I am positing is that Primal imprints are heavily responsible for this Epigenetic tumult and disarray as the entire adaptation process has broken down. Tumors can no longer adapt in any normal way and show highly disorganized methylation. In short, they cannot adapt nor repress effectively. Disordered methylation pervades the entire tumor.
The Dana-Farber group noted “the behavior of a cancer cell is dictated not only by genetics but also epigenetics,” and the derangement of the methylation process has a direct bearing on the effectiveness of cancer therapy. They partnered with Alexander Meissner (Ph.d) of the Broad Institute to find out how to measure this deregulation: “Using bisulfite sequencing , it allows the the scientists to track the presence or absence of methyl groups.” They the devised a simple measure, they call, PDR (percent discordant), to quantify deranged methylation. I consider this a major step in epigenetic research as soon, we may be able to quantify physical and emotional damage to a human being and the degree of damage; and finally the degree of resolution we achieve in a feeling therapy. We are rapidly getting the tools to achieve our aims.
What am I saying? That methylation is in the order of things; it is the key adaptive mechanism, and what I believe, is that in some ways it gets scrambled and can no longer do its job. It has lost its cohesion. Further, that the origin of so many catastrophic diseases begin their life in this disorganization, which is why it is so difficult to treat.
In my opinion, the dangerous time for unceasing pain which threatens the adaptation process is in the womb during gestation. Here the chronic smoker and drinker or pill taker, the continuous depression or anxiety states become inescapable for the fetus and he suffers. It is ultimately imprinted and endures throughout life. It is if he lived in a straight jacket for nine agonizing months, and could find no way to stop the input. He goes to a doctor, and the doctor asks, “Any stress lately? “ Yes ,stress, but decades before anyone, including the patient can even remember it. So he shakes his head and says, “everything has been OK for some time now.” Those imprints are shouting in the only way they can, through the physical system. Migraines, asthma, anxiety, depression, and on and on. He just cannot get comfortable in his skin, because just below that skin is a mountain of hurt and agitation that won’t let him relax. Why agitation? Because the pain is sending a message to awareness that there is serious trouble down below. Alas, there is no one to listen. And even if they could, they could not translate that message because, ALL IMPORTANT, it is not in English. It is in a wholly different brain language where words do not exist. We have to travel with the patient to the inner depths and see for ourselves. And there it is, the agony is right before our eyes. The suffocation, cannot catch one’s breath, the misery on the face, all answer the question, what trouble? And the patient in a session never says, I cannot catch my breath, but we see it before our eyes. When I am in that state my mouth closes and there is no force of will that can open it until the end of the session. Why? Because “force of will” is a higher brain function that has little effect on the deep brain. This begins to sound like some mystic spouting booga booga insights, but it s far from that.
Epigenetic science can help explain all this: it is the agent for repression and its failure to put away the pain and go on. Certain switches turn on and off to accommodate the painful intrusion; when it gets to a certain level there is a breakdown of its efforts and “normal” adaptation is no longer possible. The result: abnormality in physical development and psychological adjustment. The person can no longer be neurotically normal. There is now serious pathology which endures. I say “endures,” because the imprint lasts a lifetime and the person spends his life trying to get normal, seeing this doctor or that; mental hospitals and psychiatrists; all to no avail. They will not response to current treatment efforts because that is not where the damage lies. It is locked up with the epigenetic switches which were overwhelmed early on and no longer function properly. They almost don’t know what to turn on or off. They are as helpless as the patient because they are far out of reach of understanding. Alas, he is condemned.
But wait! There is a way out. If he can travel back in time with us toward the buried vestiges of the imprinted pain and connect with the Primal feeling we can stop the condemnation. Because then the epigenetic switches can be reversed and a salubrious state be achieved. What does this mean? That soon, we will be able to go back down the feeling chain from current to past imprints, observe how deep the pain is by its methyl traces and know where to go for the least dangerous pains first. That it has all to do with feeling feelings in sequential order from current to remote past so as to finally resettle the methylation process; that is, to normalize the biochemistry and allow the genetic switches to normalize so that they can do their job of adaptation.
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.