Monday, September 21, 2015
Ken Rose on "Life Before Birth". Part 5/6
KR: Right, the fetus constantly adapts to the womb environment and pays the price for it. The first order is survive at all costs. Then if we’re fortunate later, possibly the opportunity exists to go back and take care of unfinished business, and also it’s the last thing we want to do. Nobody wants to feel their pain, nobody wants to feel terror or anything unpleasant really. That’s what our whole lives are about, distracting ourselves in a thousand ways from all this pain we’re carrying around, which keeps relentlessly surging to be made conscious.
Dr. Janov writes, “those who experience trauma while being carried and in childhood die in average twenty years earlier than those who did not have those risk factors.” So here this is a good argument, for understanding and reliving and feeling our pain, and possibly even healing big sections of our hearts and souls that are… there was an old book that he wrote called “Prisoners of Pain.” That we’re all kind of hugged tied by our pain and the repression that we use to keep it away from consciousness and the price we pay for it.
JL: Right, and I think this can have all sorts of affects too in terms of how we repress or how we try to deal with it, but many of them are just as bad if we are constantly trying to dig past the pain or repress it that creates enormous strain on the system, which can then show up in other ways. There hasn’t been a lot of definitive research on this, but Dr. Janov really believes that this also may be behind what eventually causes cancer, this sort of massive repression on the cellular level that prevents natural growth and then overtime creates catastrophic consequences.
KR: I’d like to read another short section here, Dr. Janov writes, “What most of medicine and psychotherapy involves today is the treatment of fragments of the human being. We then go about treating the varied offshoots from a central imprint, rather than the imprint itself. Treatment becomes interminable, what we get is a fragment of progress, a change in aspects of an early experience, rather than a holistic recalibration or neuro and physiologic mechanisms connected with the experience.”
JL: Right. I think that’s really… to kind of take that and kind of go tied in with what he was saying… comparisons he draws in the book to somebody like Freud, the relationship he has with some of the earlier schools of psychoanalysis and some of the work that preceded him is complicated. Freud he had this notion that hysteria was rooted in repressed sexual desire and he often charted it in dreams and sort of this symbolic notion of dreams. I think what Janov really does is he takes, much like those I think, thinkers who dwelled in big ideas and sort of profound conclusions, he sort of notes that while Freud was working on the symbolic labels and missed a lot, he was right about the symptoms. Individuals that show this hysteria would constantly be unreflective and prone to overreaction, and Janov would say that yes these traits exist, but instead of looking for symbols in dreams, he’ll look for the signs of what’s actually happening when we’re having nightmares. What’s happening to us biologically when we have a nightmare, or what do we feel during that time, and why is that terror coming up. He’ll look to the limbic system to find where the terror is actually rooted. He’s not trying to find something that’s going to calm down a patient who has ADD or depression for the day or the next couple of hours. Even something that maintains the status quo, he’s really looking to something that can eventually promote a cure.
KR: I’m going to read one more paragraph OK? On my end… Dr. Janov writes, “The brain we need to address doesn’t talk, doesn’t understand English, and as a matter of fact doesn’t understand words. In fact, the term ‘understand’ is a bit of a misnomer, we are not after understanding in the intellectual sense of the term, we are after integration that can happen without cerebral understanding. Yes, understanding helps, but it must not be confused with resolving, connecting and integrating. When a therapist tries to get a patient to report on his feelings all may be lost, for those feelings may be wordless. Trying to express them verbally distances us from the origins of our pain in the lower brain, and since one layer of brain tissue cannot do the work of another we have effectively trumped or efforts, once we get away from words we can focus on what is curative. Understanding came last in human evolution, long after feeling, and it will not lead us to the long term healing we are after. None of this requires abstract or esoteric methods, we can make major changes in society just by paying attention to gestation and changing our birth practices.”
JL: Right, and I mean I think that’s one of the book’s key conclusions, is that we have to look back at birth practices and look at a mother’s emotional state as not just… not at all incidental. I think the idea that feeling is connected to our biology and has these sort of biologic implications, we can see it in our biology is a pretty drastically different way of looking at the field. A field that has been historically characterized by Talk Therapy and by approaches really focused on analysis, not on the right side of the brain. That’s where I think Dr. Janov is really looking to go.
KR: Well, it excites me because I think it opens a huge door. I think it opens an enormous door of understanding and of suggesting very fundamental, none esoteric, as he says, simple birth practices, practices of pregnancy and child birthing that can have the most dramatic and far reaching implications for our human future. It can probably do more good than all the billable hours in the history of the profession.
JL: Yes, I think there was a chapter in this book that came about later specifically dealing with pregnancy, and I had a really great time working with Dr. Janov in this whole process and just kind of being exposed to the constant influx of new ideas and research he was exposing me to and all the work that was being done, in the field of epigenetics and in the field of gestational health and new studies he was showing me about memory and anxiety and all these other topics, but one of the things that I think really stuck was this idea about what to do during pregnancy. And he ended up sort of writing a chapter on pregnancy and just offering some almost concrete pieces of advice for women that can have some really lasting implications. As he writes at the beginning of the chapter, “I know it sounds like an oxymoron for me to give advice since I am not by profession nor intention an aficionado of advice. But let us not minimize what a carrying mother can do for the good or bad of her child.” It is with a little bit of caution that he approaches the subject, because he is male and because obviously this has a big impact if you’re sort of providing some guidelines for how it behaved. But things like watching your stress; if I can read just a couple parts of this chapter I think it’s really important. “There is no way to eliminate stress entirely, but there are certainly ways to manage it. Don’t plan a new business or start a series of complicated projects that put you under stress while pregnant. The baby will feel this anxiety and suffer. Try to work out problems with your spouse before you get pregnant. Once you are pregnant, it is largely too late. That doesn’t mean you should never argue or fight again; but try to resolve the more serious difficulties before you introduce a new life on this planet. The baby deserves his or her best chance at life, and what you do during pregnancy to manage your stress is important, in that regard.”
He talks about eating right and getting protein, calcium, folic acid, fiber. He talks about being very cautious about going about tranquilizers and painkillers to relive anxiety. New studies are coming out all the time on this but there have been new studies on the use of antidepressants, the use of tranquilizers during pregnancy, and we’re still kind of figuring out what all this does, ultimately it may be good for the mother to keep her emotions balanced but we really have to see what other effects this could have during gestation.
I think the main thing he focuses on all of this is love. To touch your baby early on, to breastfeed if you can, he says, "Read French obstetrician Frederic Leboyer, who popularized the practice of immersing the newborn in a warm water bath, without drugs and without bright lights. Leboyer recommends that the baby be held right away and for a long time. He advises against cutting the umbilical cord too soon as the child's attachment with his mother is vital at the start of life." "There is no greater advice I can give than this: be open, expressive, and feeling with your children. A caring mother gives her baby the best chance for long-term well-being. Yes, even if you don't eat those carrots and tomatoes when you should, love will help. Your child is part of you and feels what you feel, even though he doesn't have words to express it. All I ask is awareness. The research is there; we don't have to guess anymore." He's putting it out there, we have research into this field, we can't turn a blind eye to it, we have to look at it and start to think about what it might mean.
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.