Thursday, September 17, 2015
Ken Rose on "Life Before Birth". Part 3/6
Ken Rose: This is in the last chapter of the book, which is entitled, “Feeling emotional pain: can it be a matter of life and death.” And this is Dr. Janov commenting on the psychological professions and practices, and he writes; “so what should a therapy be and do? First of all it needs to focus on history, any therapy without a “why” in it cannot work on a deep level. Any time a therapy ushers patients through a mechanical process, requiring them to pray, meditate, think new thoughts, undergo biofeedback and so forth, it cannot succeed. We are the results of our histories, yet almost every therapy extant ignores those histories and takes the symptom for the problem: crushes it with words and ideas, drugs it with medication, punishes it with exhortations or the invocation of deity, pleads with it to be more wholesome, or analyzes it to death with some kind of guess about its causes. Let me be clear: No therapist can ever know what is in your unconscious; the unconscious contains a record of events long before we had words, and linguistic approaches, offer little hope for ascertaining what is going on in those lower regions of the brain.”
Thank you for letting me read that.
Jeff Link: Yes, it’s a wonderful passage.
KR: It is. It is difficult material, it is very difficult material, but if it’s the case, if it’s reality then not confronting this material is far more devastating. This understanding as difficult as it is, it opens up a horizon for a healthy future for the human family. It suggests a much greater understanding of the crucial importance of high quality pregnancies and childbirths, and how we all need to support mothers who are carrying our new family members into this world. And how important it is for husbands to support their wives, etcetera etcetera…
JL: Right, right. I think you make a good point that even though it is difficult, if it’s true, we can’t sort of avoid the truth, that’s sort of what we have to face. And I think Dr. Janov alludes to some earlier work and very important work by people like Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin, and I think one of the interesting things about the book is the way we see resonances of these earlier theories kind of recurring. I think most of us are familiar with Charles Darwin and “survival of the fittest” and how that applied to animals, but I think what Dr. Janov does that’s interesting is he takes these evolutionary theories and applies them to the brain, and when we see that and we see how the Primal approach really looks at how we can heal by targeting those areas of the brain that developed first in very early human evolution and that are, unfortunately largely ignored, those areas; the brainstem and the limbic system, that’s really I think how we can arrive at cures. If you don’t mind I can say a few words on epigenetics, which I think it’s really at the heart of the book.
JL: One of the things I think Dr. Janov goes back to again and again is the notion of the imprint. By the imprint he’s talking about a distinct physiologic signature that is passed from the mother to the child, and this is I think what is closely tied with a lot of new research being done in the field of epigenetics. Which Dr. Janov points out didn’t really exist when he was coming up in the field, but will probably be what more and more scientist are looking at in the years to come. The idea is that through DNA we have, we all have DNA passed through our genes, but what epigenetics is, is other chemical groups; methyl and other chemicals groups can attach to the DNA and change how our genes are expressed, and this is what’s happening during pregnancy, so the genes aren’t changing, but the way they express themselves is, and that changes how we behave, it changes our resistance to diseases, it changes how active or how inactive we become later on. It has all sorts of effects and this is, really I think, one of the most fascinating fields. He talks about its role in memory problems, in mental illness, in resistance to disease, and it’s interesting that, really what it boils down to is our cells can remember their history. So what was originally intended as an adaptive measure has all sorts of implications. It kind of goes back to a biologist, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck who Janov spent some time talking about in the book, who was well known for his work with invertebrates, he worked with worms and spiders and mosques, and he also developed an important evolutionary theory, which was kind of overshadowed by the work Darwin was doing and eventually wasn’t accepted like Darwin’s. It wasn’t the most possible, but one of the interesting things Lamarck showed was, for example; you have a giraffe, and the giraffe stretches out its neck to try and bite some leafs on a tree, overtime because there is this sort of environmental need to reach those leafs, there’ll be changes to the organism, the giraffe would grow a longer neck, and that can really play out historically, but now these ideas are coming back again as Janov notes, because of what’s going on in the womb, and how that sort of affect of the environment shaping how our genes behave really is true in the womb and specifically in the relationship with the mother and the child with the womb being sort of the environment, and the child learning to come to know what to expect when they get out into the world. One important study that Vivette Glover and her colleagues at Imperial College in London show that transmission of high levels of cortisol from the mother to the child could have all sorts of effects; lower I.Q., anxiety, ADD, depression and this is really groundbreaking research that I think it’s going to have, when if understood more, when people do dozens and hundreds of follow up studies to kind of fully understand what’s going on, I think it’s really going to change the way people think about how we develop, how we’ve evolved and how we become who we are.
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.