Tuesday, June 30, 2015
I often write that the simple truth is revolutionary but it is also true of love, and just maybe they are twin sides of the same coin. What is true for us humans is the need for love. I have spent my whole therapeutic life explaining in every way possible the effects of love and no love. The ultimate revolutionary truth is love; hence the twain can meet.
Why can’t my colleagues in psychology find the truth of love/feelings? What is so difficult about it. Why in every psychologic theory extant is it missing? It is like some mystery hidden in a closet that we all ignore, something we must not touch. And why is it so closely tied to truth? Maybe it is because the truth is so revolutionary that it means re-creating a whole new approach to psychotherapy reflecting the lack of love. It means overturning every Behavior/Cognitive therapy that is strewn about everywhere in our field. And when we lift the covers from this abstract theoretical blanket we find deep lacks of love wallowing in a cesspool of pain. There are groans and moans and we pay no attention to them because we cannot understand their language.
Maybe it is all avoided because we do not fully understand its importance in the psychologic scheme of things. If a parent pushes his child to succeed and neglects holding him, kissing him and nuzzling him, then of course it will be missing from his life, and above all, from his intellectual theories. How can an unloved child grow up to value it if he has never felt what was missing all of his life? Until this pain is felt it will be covered over and fancy theories will supplant his ideas about therapy. This is how a recent Scientific American explains in a recent title piece how (Too Much Praise Promotes Narcissism: June 17, 2015) We learn how too much praise can make a child self-centered, narcissistic and arrogant. This is what is called in Yiddish, a bubbminsa (spelling), an old wives tale brought down through history to “educate” our offspring. It is not that Scientific American endorsed it; but they gave it a prominent place in the discourse. This is shocking from a scientific journal but not surprising because it all comes from the same paradigm the intellect: uber alles. Or how about nursing a baby too long makes him addicted to sucking? Or how about holding a child too long spoils him? What is missing here? Clinical experience, but much more personal loving experience, being and giving love, which would dissuade anyone from believing this nonsense. What they cite are statistical truths which must take a back seat to biologic truths.
Let me cite one axiom: It has to do with need. If we allow nursing to go on until the baby no longer needs to, there is no problem. If we nurse him due to our need to appear hip and progressive, a great deal is lost and there is addiction in the making. He is no longer fulfilling his need, he is filling theirs. Since their need may be a deep pit, the converse of fulfillment of need takes place. It is too much and produces the same kind of pathology as fulfilling too little. The real need to both cases is ignored. We have abrogated the rule of need. If we hug him every time he cries and never let me cry over a fall, we abort his need to shout out his pain. Of course, he needs solace but he also needs to express himself. I have seen this in neophyte therapists who are far too quick to hug and give solace to a person who needs to feel his pain. It is aborted. We pay attention to his need and not ours things will usually go right; first, we need to have felt our need: to be bright and understanding, to be empathic and blah blah. Choose your unfelt need and you will know. If you need to be famous the child will be pushed to achieve, and love will be nowhere in sight. He will unconsciously be filling the need that you as a parent lacked when you were a child. You need to feel important he will do his damndest to be famous for you. He will be the best athlete in school or the highest level scholar. And you will praise him for exactly what you needed praise for and never got.
Luckily, I had parents who never cared for a moment, not even to know where I went to school. They had no ambitions for me, and there was nothing I could do to feel loved and approved. So I never became anything they wanted because they had no ideas or ambitions for me. I was a pure anxiety case, as a result because there is nothing I could try or be that would make them look at me or talk to me, not the least to say what I never heard --- that was good what you did. After all they were Russian peasants who knew nothing of child-rearing or love except that they should be working in the fields very young. And to quote this august scientific journal cited above, never praise them or else you will spoil them. I can’t believe this kind of thinking still exists but psychologic science seems to be in process of dumbing down, reflecting the zeitgeist. And why is that? For one key reason---FEELING. It went missing and not only cannot be found but no one knows it is missing. Wait a minute, I know where it is.
Friday, June 26, 2015
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.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
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.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
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.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
In the field of shrinks we usually mean his emotional makeup is askew; his views and perceptions are off, and he can’t be counted on for stability and reliability. He is damaged.
But do we also mean that he is physically damaged? Do we take into account the physical aspects of the damage? Or does it find itself limited to the emotional? In Shrinkdom never the twain shall meet; it is all rather ephemeral. But we usually confine ourselves to the emotional. But what about when the “emotional has physical effects? And physical origins? Usually it is a long leap from the emotional damage to the physical. That is why doctors spend their lives studying diabetes, high blood pressure, migraines and asthma, and it still eludes them. It is as if the symptoms spring de novo apart from their roots and are taken as complete entities by themselves. So we go on studying the minutia of the symptoms separated from their origins. The result of all this study is to try to control the symptom not cure it. Big Pharma is not so interested in cure when crushing symptoms is so powerful a choice; an incentive which can go in into infinity. And sadly, patients who suffer so much are willing to accept the control of the symptom as the main goal of treatment.
There are many new studies on the physical and physiologic components of the emotional as to make them inseparable, which they are. Oh wait minute, are they twins? Conjoined at the head with no chance of separation? Not until we see them as a whole, can we see them as separate. Oh My. Now we are getting complicated. Not until we see the key feelings with both their physical and emotional components can we see them as two parts of the same damage. Meanwhile we go on misplacing treatment onto the wrong damage. That is, it is not that we are not treating the damage; it is that we are not treating the real damage and that is why the symptoms continue without cease. We treat collateral damage and evade the real target. The target, well hidden, is the fount like a suppurating wound that constantly oozes its discharge, which we see as symptoms, and call it THE disease. It is the result of the disease; terrible pain inflicted when we had no words to signal damage. But there were physical effects on the immune system. Thus, being drugged while in the womb has lifelong effects that trail us for a lifetime.
The real disease is so well sequestered that we cannot imagine that it even exists. Nor can we imagine the pain involved from imprints down deep in the brain. It is ineffable in the true sense of the word. Physical symptoms are more obvious; we can see an asthma attack or high blood pressure. Tougher to see a carrying mother smoking or drinking. She takes a cigarette and the damage begins. The baby/fetus begins his life of misery. It is all so mysterious and worse, the damage may not show up for decades: i.e, cancer or Alzheimers. So, to make the link between two events forty or fifty years apart is asking a lot. Meanwhile the grownup baby finds drugs that ease his pain and he is addicted. It is tough to treat because we treat only the addiction to drugs. We make it a criminal offense and we find ways to make it difficult to obtain. And we think we have solved the problem. We applaud those who stay off drugs and are “clean.” They may pay for this kind of success with serious disease later on; the pain below the addiction still remains and continues its damage. That damage is both physical and emotional; they are one. We go on to treat the obvious.
Research is closing in on early trauma and later disease. A study at King’s College, London found long-term changes in the immune system as a result of: childhood trauma, sexual and emotional abuse, separation early from caregivers and general neglect. All this proliferated in a myriad of illnesses. Through a study of biomarkers they found enhanced inflammation, far above the normal range. (Valerie Mondelli. Molecular Psychiatry, June, 2015). Looking back at certain markers they could postdict trauma earlier on. Here we note that early physical damage, a smoking, carrying mother, can turn into all kinds of symptoms both physical ,arthritis, or emotional, addiction. These can be different effects from the same pain. Some will search out strange ideas and beliefs, others will find drugs, some will find gambling and others overwork , still others overeat. It is all ways to deal with the same early damage which no one sees. We see the effects of the damage but not what cures: the damage itself. Too often the pain is so well hidden is that all we see is someone so shut down as to seem without feeling. They are emotionally dead.
And what happens next? We open Gambling and Alcohol Anonymous Clinics, Diet Programs, Self Esteem centers, ad nauseam. And what do they treat? Effluvia of surging internal volcano of pain. We rush in to treat this or that; gambling or overeating with specialists in almost everything, who do what? Suppress behavior and suppress the pain. So they do the opposite of what is necessary: liberate the pain, once and for all. Stop shutting down what cures: feeling. To do that we need to travel back in time slowly to reach the deepest reaches of the unconscious to open the gates of repression and begin to feel the real damage. That is our target, the real damage. Then the collateral effects seem to disappear. How do we do that? It is what I write about in many books and hundreds of blogs. It is not simple and took decades to figure out. But now we understand the disease and what to do about it. Why? When we help patients relive traumas we see it in real time as the patient goes back to relive it exactly as it happened. He is not discussing it; he is living and feeling it. Elsewhere, I discussed a patient who moved out of town to avoid pollution until she finally felt the source of her pollution; her mother’s constant smoking while while pregnant. There was nothing she could do about it as a baby. Now she could keep on moving away from her perceived threats of pollution. Her reactions were real enough but her behavior was anxiety driven from a time long ago. She went to a cult to learn how to live in the present but she was still living in the past. Her Primals began with “Help, I am suffocating."
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
I have been going on about my therapy for years that it is the cure. So what does that mean?
I have always been warned not to use the word “prove,” cause nothing is proved in science; it is supported, confirmed, strengthened but never proved. So why do I go on with the word? Therein lies the rub because ……first, let me lay out what I mean.
I will use the example of psychosis to explain. Over decades as patients descend down into and back to their early past they begin to lose articulation and have trouble forming sentences; it means they are still on the emotional right level with twinges of left brain verbal skills which begin to diminish. As they go back more they lose their capacity for words and if they should use complicated words to describe their feelings it is a false primal. Why? Because the more remote the Primal trip the less capacity for words there is. A two year old does not have the capacity for sophisticated language. If it is a true reliving it would be impossible and usually is. Mind you, this is after a long time in therapy and after many lesser pains are experienced.
As the patient begins to drop into gestational life there is more pain than one can imagine, soon, it is a pain that does not hurt inside because it becomes a feeling that is being felt. It looks like pain but it is a manageable one, unless the patient is led or forced into the emotional depths where experience is premature and out of the question. Here, during this period where the brainstem reigns the pains are the most acute and they can be psychotic making. How do we know? Some patients who have come to us from rebirthing therapy plunge down deep too early and begin delusions and hallucinations. “I see the cosmos and shining angels,” etc. The pain has mounted into the neo-cortex and drove it to manufacture defenses, including false perceptions and bizarre ideas. It is a sure sign of overload and inundation of pain.
Down on this level, as the patient, over time, goes deeper into the past, the pain mounts, which is how we know where the deepest pain lies. We see it and measure it; no guesswork. And when we see it over and over in hundreds of patients over 50 years we begin to get a good idea of our observations. It is consistent and replicable. It is not longer a theory but a precise observation which I call cure. Why? Because when there are such deep experiences, always nonverbal, so much changes; the biology, the appearance, the feelings, the look and the sense of comfort, at last. To say nothing of possibly diverting serious imprints from exacerbating into serious illness later on. Gone are the migraines and high blood pressure and gone is a good deal of the compulsive acting-out, not the least of which is sex.
So here we see the dialectic interplay between memory, deep imprints, the pain and the symptoms it engenders. It avoids guesswork. They all converge into a feeling; it is a unified event. We are not working on this symptom or that; we are working on the whole system as it responds to the deepest and most devastating imprints. Feeling them then radiates everywhere in the system so that the effects are systemic-- effects throughout the system.
We are not looking to conform a private theory; we are developing a theory out of our observations. Experience first, deep brain observations first, then the theory and the hypotheses. The patients’ experiences do not confirm the theory or the hypothesis, it is the theory that goes or changes or modifies. I have no desire to hang onto some concocted theory that I adore. If it does not make the patient better then why hang onto it? This is largely what happened to all those therapists who wanted to improve on our theory. They added drugs to the mix, then hypnosis, then cognitive and so on ad nauseam. All because they never saw the central truth of feeling. And, I assume, because they never underwent their own feelings.
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.