Friday, July 31, 2015
A Syndrome of Failure
When abreaction becomes an embedded groove, it’s like a hellish path to nowhere. It is a defense disguised as a feeling, so it creates no insights and produces no resolution. Instead, abreaction promotes recurrent act-outs that can get reinforced by repetition. When powerful first line is present it doesn't generate genuine insights. In fact it can give birth to fake or far-out "insights." That is the danger of so-called rebirthing therapy, which deliberately plunges patients into first-line pain out of sequence, when they are not ready for it. The technique overwhelms the integrating capacity of the brain and the patient is flooded with strange ideas and bizarre notions. Suddenly, he is “at one with the Universe,” or perhaps “merged with the Almighty.” And if the therapist is mystical, he may not find all this so strange. I have seen people who have gone to rebirthing centers and come to us pre-psychotic. (More on the dangers of rebirthing therapy in a moment.) In these cases, the sequence or order of feeling has been interrupted. The result is serious; we simply cannot order evolution around but rather, we must obey its dictates. Clinically, that means knowing how to identify the right feeling track for the patient and keeping the session on that track, a skill that is trickier than it sounds.
Since abreaction is not curative, patients are trapped in a forever need “to feel.” Nothing is ever resolved so the pain is never felt or emptied out. Thus, in a very sinister way, abreaction can induce a recurrent neurotic behavior that mimics primalling. The pain is forever present, so people are more likely to be triggered. In fact, it is more present than before the abreactive process set in, because all these triggered feelings are called up into consciousness without ever being resolved. They are 'there" all the time, ready to be triggered again with very little provocation.
Abreaction creates a closed circuit of pain, an endless loop travelled over and over whenever part of it is triggered. And every trigger – however different it might be – will bring up the same abreactive feeling: "I want to die. I am in too much pain. I want to die." It will not be attached to anything specific at any time and will remain a litany, or a series of sensations repeated forever. Like a starved monster, abreaction will swallow all these different triggers and feelings to incorporate them into the same loop of physical sensations and/or disconnected feelings. They are all processed by the same defense system. It is truly amazing to contemplate the brilliance of a defense system that can reroute painful feelings into abreaction in order for them – the feelings – to remain unconscious.
Patients who abreact become very entrenched in their "primal” style and very resistant to admitting that what they are doing isn’t "the right way." And of course, they aren't open to change it. Why? First, because it means to them that they aren't doing their therapy right, a reaction associated with feelings of "I am wrong/bad." Secondly, it is hard for them to accept that all the time, effort and money spent for "feeling" was actually a waste. It is hard to accept that what they were doing was not good therapy and, in fact, might have harmed them.
Another element that also makes the patients resistant to change is that abreaction can make them feel better temporarily. Indeed they have released some tension. However, they could run a few miles and have the same result, a false sense of relief. If the abreaction goes on for years, like in the case of people who self- primal for a long time, it may not be reversible: the grooves are too strong as they have become a neurological defense in and of themselves. Most of the time, this abreactive groove is powerful, persistent and deeply entrenched.
I remember the case of a woman who had been self-primalling for about 20 years somewhere deep in a very remote part of the world. Her style was a persistent screaming. That is what she thought the therapy – "The Primal Scream" – was all about. She could go on screaming for hours in a very piercing voice, at the top of her lungs. It was, of course, devoid of all real feeling, content, context, and resolution. She didn't know why or about what she was screaming; she had no memories attached to it. She did "feel" like screaming because "she was in so much pain." It was very hard to listen to, and totally unmoving. As we might expect, she never had any insights and wasn't getting better. Reversing that groove proved to be very difficult.
Trying to stop a patient from abreacting and switch to a whole new way of "really feeling" the pain is usually a long and difficult conversion. That is because the defenses have been reinforced by the abreaction. So trying to get to these real feelings, with all their pent-up force, immediately summons the abreactive defenses created precisely to keep them at bay. The patient is pulled into the abreactive neurological groove, where they feel comfortable. Trying to reverse the pattern can be even more painful than in the regular process of tearing down defenses in therapy. Some patients have never been able to finally annihilate the abreactive trend, so sadly they never get better.
Ultimately, the clinical outcome of abreaction is a syndrome of failure. No insights, no resolution, no getting better. Same act outs, same symptoms, sometimes getting worse. Mostly the tragedy in abreaction is that the patient is going through all this agony forever and with no pay off.
In contrast, real feelings don't need to be felt forever, there is an end to them. In Primal, beyond a certain amount of feelings that had to be experienced over and over for a while – depending on how much pain was attached to them – the need to feel decreases with each felt feeling until, at some point, we hardly ever have to "feel" the old pain again.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
I feel that I have to bang on about the sensory window because it has only a brief lifespan. That is why Marilyn Monroe was always headed for disaster. All the adoration in the world was not enough; the expanse of her deprivation equaled her massive need for so-called love. And it could never be fulfilled because the sensory window had close years before. So without knowing it she settled for applause, adoration, interest in her by world leaders and publicity without end. And still she took painkillers by the truckload. You can never love neurosis away. And all those substitutes for what looks like love are just that: substitutes. They are symbolic and never fulfilling except for the moment, which is why there needs to be more and more. And it can never be enough because the exigencies of the need, its asymptote, have faded away, buried with gates shut.
What we can do is offer enough caring and support to keep the pain at bay and well hidden.
So what does this mean in human terms? That the open sensory window when need can be fulfilled has a brief short-life. That once it closes, the symptoms will go on and on. For example, high blood pressure or migraines. When they are of first-line brainstem origin, once the gates are locked we cannot cure the affliction; we can only ameliorate the expression of the symptoms. There is no cure because nothing can penetrate to make a difference. That is why addiction to heavy drugs is so unyielding and obdurate. Once the imprint is locked-in there can be be no change; the gating system makes no exceptions and has no mercy. It is indifferent to other than its key task: to keep pain subdued. Here biology dictates. It keeps pain down so we can go on living and producing. It makes life bearable. And this is why all of the so-called rehab centers fail. They dance around the expression of the pain without ever delving deep down into it. They make the patient feel safe and protected for the moment, but that is the problem. It is momentary.
Until we recognize and accept the powerful force of the gating system we go on trying to do the impossible. Marilyn had the adulation of tens of thousands but when she came off stage she swallowed dozens of painkillers. Clearly symbolic love was and is evanescent. There was the perfect example that we cannot touch emotional deprivation once the gates are closed. She could say a thousand times, “I want to get off painkillers” but ideas and desires are cerebral and are no match for deep imprints. This is assuming that she knew that she was in pain and that she knew where the pain came from. It is never so obvious. And even a therapy such as Primal is no match against the imprint unless the therapy takes place in-house where the patient can be watched and controlled.
That is why an addict needs a nonverbal approach, pills, and sadly, electroshock therapy. We somehow need to get below the top verbal level into the strictly biologic. I am not sure the exact length of the open sensory window but it matches the time when the need is at its height. A mother who falls ill during the birth process cannot come back six months later and love the child daily and expect everything to be fine. There will be a residue of pain. And to make clear, the deprivation of basic need produces unimaginable pain. Of course her love will make an important difference but it may not eliminate the residue of suffering left inside the baby while the mother was away at a hospital. And this is what is diabolic about the human condition. Parents can be loving but due to no fault of their own they have left a grain of pain that lingers.
The mother cannot nurse due to a whole host of reasons or she cannot be attentive because, alone, she has to go to work to help feed her baby. The reasons are infinite but they still spell pure pain. And that pain is a warning that there is unfinished business to be dealt with. And wonderfully, it gives us the means to undo aspects of the imprint and allows us to have the means toward normalcy. It says, “deal with this and maybe you can be normal again and get rid of your addictions and compulsions.” It is not a false promise; it is the promise kept alive by our biology.
It does not give us a potpourri of choices, however. It says we must return to the sender; the sender of pain by the imprint. It is a narrow promise but one of great hope for our stability in life. It says, pay attention, there is real hope. And one day as our research into deep imprints continues we may find that this is true of serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes, of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The reason these diseases have been so recalcitrant is that we have focused on the wrong thing; the symptoms the diseases gives out, and ignoring solidified imprint.
Why? Until now we could not see it. Now we can and as a therapist who has been there, I can deliver the key notes from the underground the accompanying maps, that may pave the way for cures.
There is someone who is doing heroic work in the shadows, who does not get paid but who works many hours a day. She supervises all clinical work, and teaches the basics of the therapy, runs the administrative side of the Center and deals with all outside inquiries. In short, the pivot around which the clinic revolves.
She is the engine, the motor for the advancement in the practice of Primal Therapy. She is there to help therapists work with patients. Who could do any more? She is our resident savant……Dr. France Janov.
It is hard to realize, even for me, how much work goes into directing even a small clinic, a clinic that has patients from 38 countries, and requires communications among people from many countries of the world. And oh yes, she is my wife of 42 years.
What does it mean to run a psychiatric clinic? It means knowing the latest science so as to help therapists know how our therapy fits in with science. It means knowing the various afflictions people suffer and why. It involves knowing about people from different countries and how they differ as a population; for ex., what is the most repressed country and what is the least? It is a wide-ranging job that requires clinical skills, financial ability, relevant science and how to help our therapists relate to foreign patients some who only have minimal skills in English. Needless to say, it is a job well done, too often done in the shadows by someone who manages to keep it all going well. She has done this for years without pay. It is a labor of love or her and also because Primal Therapy saved her life. She teaches not out of academic persuasion, but because she learned out of her own feelings for a very long time.
Our thanks to France.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Taking the Wrong Track into Abreaction
To understand more about how abreaction works, let’s see what happens when a session goes off track.
As we now know, there is a critical window during a session when the patient brings in a certain feeling, say, helplessness. If the therapist does not act to help the person delve into the feeling it very well may be too late, later on in the session. When the therapist does not strike at the critical moment, the specific feeling/frequency the patient came in with is now gone. What the patient will be left with is abreaction, the discharge of a secondary feeling, not the key one she brought in. That means no resolution and integration of feeling because the feeling has not been felt. When we measure vital functions after the session, the signs move in sporadic fashion. They do not move in coordinated ways but as though each function moves at a different pace. They seem to have lost their cohesion, which tells us that no primal has occurred.
What I think may happen, and this is only hypothesis, is that when the feeling and its frequency are left unaddressed the patient slips into a secondary feeling with a different brain pattern and frequency. Even though she may look like she connected and resolved the feeling there is a good chance that it is abreaction. It is simply the discharge of the energy of the feeling without connection.
Let me make this clear because so many so-called primal therapists make this fundamental error. There is a time in the session when that feeling is very near conscious-awareness. Without professional help the feeling slides away and the patient, now floundering, manages to get into a different feeling, one that may belong to the therapist’s agenda, not the patient’s. That is because the therapist did not pick up on the entering feeling and then projects his own needs and feelings onto the patient. The patient then goes where the therapist decides, which has nothing to do with attacking the basic need and resolving it. Too often, the patient goes where the therapist tacitly is interested. The patient senses that and becomes a “good girl.’ The unconscious of the therapist implicitly directs the patient.
The pain of lack of fulfillment is always an adjunct to a specific need. To address the wrong need is to forego proper connection and resolution; it is feeling the wrong pain at the wrong time. A depressed patient comes in feeling hopeless and helpless. The therapist may perceive latent anger and urges the patient to hit the wall. The release does offer some relief and they both may think there was resolution. But it was only temporary. The real feeling will return again and again only to be waylaid. Or the therapist may say, “Tell your mother!” But it may have nothing to do with mother, at least not the patient’s. What is coming up is the pain of the doctor; he needs to scream at his mother. Indeed, the patient’s core feeling may date back to a time before words. So expressing the feeling verbally is a false route. It is tricky business. A sound knowledge of the evolution of consciousness will help here.
Doctors are used to being active during therapy sessions so it is difficult for them to see how little there is to do. I speak on average about 50 words a session. My patient feels and then the insights follow. I do not need the majesty of bestowing insights on patients. It is wonderful that they make their own discoveries. And what discoveries they are, up-surging feelings accompanied with their notes from the underground. Telling the doctor what the feelings mean.
On the other hand, therapists have a lot to do when we sense abreaction entering in. At that point, the therapist must be vigilant and hyperactive to keep the patient on track. He must make sure not to reinforce the tributary feeling while steering the patient back to the main feeling. And how, you ask, does the therapist know the difference? By instinct and experience. The therapist has to sense that his patient has taken a detour and he has to know what the real feeling is. That skill you can only acquire by primal intuition. There is no law.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
The ability to distinguish between abreaction and a genuine feeling is an essential skill of good Primal Therapy. The difference between the two is stark, but in practice it still can be deceiving. Feeling is the key to cure, while with abreaction there is no chance of getting well. Yet, despite this crucial difference, the therapist is often unaware of what is going on, and certainly the patient is equally unaware. The insidious part is that abreaction feels like a primal, looks like a primal and smells like a primal, but is far from a genuine Primal. In clinical terms, abreaction is "the devil" because it doesn't allow patients to get better. They remain forever "prisoners of their pain" in an abominable, endless loop of hurt and hopelessness. Once abreaction sets in, it becomes a neurosis on top of another neurosis. And it is unshakeable. It takes months to even try to undo it. The danger cannot be overstated. We have now seen many patients who have gone to mock primal therapy and are stuck so badly in abreaction that it is almost impossible to extricate them from it. If left unchecked, abreaction can even lead to pre-psychosis and psychosis.
It is the job of the therapist to distinguish between abreaction and real feeling. To some extent, that is a skill based on the instincts of a trained clinician and acquired by experience. For some patients who are mired in abreaction, that skill can mean the difference between successful therapy and staying stuck in mock primals that lead nowhere. The good news is that there are also scientific ways to know the difference. We can often tell how if a real feeling has been resolved by changes in cortisol levels, vital signs and other biochemical indicators.
First, to avoid confusion, a definition is in order. Within Primal Therapy, the term “abreaction” means something quite different from its original meaning within Freudian psychoanalysis. In this psychoanalytic sense, abreaction is simply defined as the process of releasing repressed emotions by reliving an old traumatic experience. On the face of it, that classic definition is close to what we would call a Primal, although true “reliving” in our therapy is far beyond what Freud had imagined. In Primal terms, abreaction has nothing to do with any genuine reliving experience. On the contrary, for us abreaction is destructive to any feeling therapy because it becomes a defense against real feeling, as I shall explain in detail shortly.
I must emphasize that abreaction is a non-feeling event. It looks like feeling, often to both the patient and therapist, but there is a qualitative difference. It produces awareness without consciousness, a difference I shall explore in detail in a moment. To a well-trained therapist there is a hollow ring to abreaction. It doesn’t “smell” right. A patient may unconsciously use abreaction as a defense against feeling, slipping into crying the minute she lies down, or simulating a birth primal. The key difference between abreaction and a true Primal, of course, is connection, which takes place in a Primal but never in abreaction.
Before we delve into this, however, let me briefly review some of the basic principles of Primal Therapy. These theoretical cornerstones provide the framework needed to understand abreaction as a deviation from a successful coarse of treatment.
The basis of Primal theory and practice is the concept of the three levels of consciousness, corresponding to an individual’s stages of development from gestation to adulthood. The first line is pre-verbal consciousness from the womb through birth and early infancy. The second line is laid down in childhood as the brain is still evolving. And the third line is current-day awareness, the top-level consciousness of adulthood. Those three levels of consciousness correspond to the structure of our triune brain – the primitive brainstem (first line), the limbic system (second line), and the neocortex, our thinking brain (third line). Pain is experienced and repressed at each stage, stamped into the brain as an imprint on the level where it occurs.
The essence of Primal Therapy is unveiling the old events so we can live in the present. Those embedded memories contain painful and frightful feelings that needed to be repressed and kept from consciousness due to their overwhelming valence. But they are never forgotten. They leave biochemical traces serving as markers that say there was damage here and a hurtful event there. Through therapy, we can retrace our lives and our embedded memories and revisit them in orderly fashion, undoing the traces and (hopefully) reversing history by obeying evolutionary dictates. So we go back into those evolutionary stages methodically, feeling a bit at a time; beginning with the lightest pain in the recent past moving down to the deepest brain levels. In proper Primal Therapy, pain must be relived and resolved in the same evolutionary way it was created on all three levels, but in reverse. If we neglect evolution and do not deal with lesser pains first, we will again make a serious biologic error and force a feeling on a patient that he is not ready for.
There is an adage in science: ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. The history of the species is run again in our personal evolution. We can see our ancient history in how we evolve from the embryo on (fish fins, wings, tails, etc.). Each evolving individual re-runs the archaic life of the species. We get rid of our tail and are left with a vestige, a “tail-bone.” Similarly, we have vestiges of our old "ancient" personal life, which I call the first line. That is, we have traces of our lives from a time when only the brainstem was our predominant brain structure. And we can visit that ineffable life we lived before birth, and then eschew those traces though Primal Therapy, which can also be called undoing the imprints (or on a molecular level, de-methylation). Imprints mean precisely an event that was so powerful and so painful that it could not be experienced and integrated at the time. However, we are older now and can more safely experience them. But it takes years to be able to relive the past fully and make it part of us instead of a constant alien force.
A well-ordered therapy begins in the present, anchoring feelings in the present-day life. Over time this will lead to deeper levels along that same feeling path through a process I call resonance. Once locked into the feeling, the neuro-biologic system will take charge enabling the patient to go deeper, traveling to more remote and archaic areas of the brain. Over months, as the patient follows that evolutionary path, different aspects of the feeling are gathered up at each level until reaching origins where very deep pain lies. This process cannot be forced or decided in advance by a therapist who dictates where the patient has to go. If feelings are forced out of sequence, no integration will take place.
I stress this methodical step-by-step voyage as a warning, because in no other therapy that I know of can interference into the primal sequence by untrained people cause such lasting damage. They are meddling with the deep unconscious. It took us many decades to understand what to avoid, which is as important as what to pursue. We take great care to make sure that the patient descends the feeling chain in proper sequence so as to avoid abreaction, sliding off into pseudo feelings as a defense against the real pain.
In essence, abreaction is the discharge of a feeling disconnected from its source, making it in fact a defense, or at least reinforcing an existing defense. It can be the release of a feeling from one level of consciousness into another level. For example, first line into third line. Or it can be first line disconnected from any other level, taking on a life of its own to the exclusion of any other levels. The defense system, in its crafty and brilliant way, can promote many forms of abreaction that may lead to strange ideations, crazy delusions and paranoia. Instead of leading to the undoing of neurosis, abreaction guarantees that neurosis will persist. This happens when the therapist allows the patient to skip evolutionary steps, going through the motions of feelings without feeling them.
We must trust the feelings totally. But first we must recognize them and be able to differentiate them from abreaction, which is the discharge of the energy of a feeling without connection. Our job is to provide access to feelings, following evolution every step of the way, from the most recent aspect traveling down to the very origin of the pain in the most distant past. In this way, we go from an awareness of the feeling to its emotional content and then onto its preverbal base. We also go from the lowest valence of pain to the most devastating. It increases as we descend down the chain of pain in our ontology.
When we touch on our beginnings – gestation, birth and infancy – we see the deepest pain and the most danger to the system, which I call the first line. If we do not know brain evolution we can be easily fooled and will rush in to prod a patient’s nervous system to perform in ways it cannot; hence, abreaction. We will make the patient scream or pound the walls when the real feeling is elsewhere. Once a patient is channeled into abreaction it is almost impossible to pull him back. It forms a groove defense that becomes encased, allowing no other feeling in. It becomes a neurosis inside another neurosis. It is the patient who loses, though he may convince himself he is really feeling; or worse, he may be convinced by a therapist that he is feeling when he really isn’t. Sometimes, this may all seem like some kind of plot, but it is simply unconscious reactions to avoid deep pain. Remember, it takes great skill to produce a connected feeling and no skill to permit abreaction.
 Gordon Marshall. "abreaction." A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Encyclopedia.com. (July 2, 2015).http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O88-abreaction.html
Sunday, July 12, 2015
I have been in a good position to know about nightmares, having had them all of my childhood, and also because I have hundreds of patients who have had them, relived them and understood them. Let me disclose what should not be a secret but is.
Nightmares are either first line memories (brainstem or lower limbic system) or terrible memory/imprints from childhood that have the punch of first line. That is, basically life endangering. The latter would be the loss of both parents during an auto crash at a young age.
I had a patient like that and it was devastating. In brief, his life became a literal nightmare. He lived it every day: depressions every day, agony, loss of drive, no ambition, giving up, feeling he could not go on. He felt his life was over.
Ordinarily it is the lowest level of brain function, the brainstem with its memories of pain; a mother smoking or drinking, poor nutrition, chronically anxious and fearful, unable to relax, constantly worried and totally confused. Taking drugs at the beginning of the pregnancy. All of this and more, leave an imprint of severe damage. That imprint impacts almost everything. This far we understand, but how do these imprints become nightmares? Because they were! I will use me as an example since I know me best. My mother was always hyper-anxious, a refugee from the Cossacks in Russia, had no parents and was actually a four year old. Illiterate all of her life. She had me by accident but was nowhere near strong enough for such a task, so she handed me over to my grandmother. From the start there was no one and from the very start there was a frantic mother who could not be a mother. I was born afraid. And as life went on with two empty parents I had no support and no care. That exacerbated the problem and it was compounded by terror and pain.
Where did it all go? The pain evolved like the rest of me: terror got partially suppressed but I was a fitful sleeper and never could concentrate. All my marks in school read “nervous”.
As I grew it got worse in school and I did badly. As I became an adolescent I could not learn nor focus, and above all, became plagued by nightmares; not only because of my gestation but because of the total lack of love and support for my terrors. Every night I was terrified by having to go to sleep, knowing that I would wake up terrified in the middle of the night. When I said to my parents I was afraid, they said if it got bad to go sleep with my sister, which I did. That became a nightly affair and lasted years. So how did it happen that my pain from way back and down deep rose to the occasion, so to speak, and pump out nightmares? Aah, here is where it gets complicated.
My pain was compounded daily by a psychotic mother and tyrannical, loveless father. No one to turn to and so the pain just built and built. It reached a critical point where my gating system could no longer hold back the force of the early imprints. The terror seeped through and there was nothing I could do to stop it. No one had any idea what they were, including my doctors. So I suffered due to a mystery that I now understand. Oh. Wait a minute. It is clear to me know that my symptoms evolved with me. I was terrified during gestation with colic and many other symptoms, then I had bad dreams all of the time as my childhood pain broke through, and then finally, when all my defenses crumbled the nightmares began. First line was evident because in my therapy they were the avant garde or forerunner of nightmares to follow. I would come in anxious and could not relax. I also could not concentrate. I was already far along in my therapy, and soon my nightmares rose. And what did they turn into? First-line birth trauma, beginning with severe anxiety and then terror and then suffocating and feeling stuck and unable to move. Wow, that was the content of my nightmares and my early life. They were one. Interchangeable. And the nightmares led me directly to my gestation and birth traumas, which I began to relive. As I did, my concentration improved and my anxiety lessened. I could sink into my skin. The feelings were finally fully experienced, as they were meant to be at the start, only it was too overwhelming to integrate.
So we must always keep evolution in mind when trying to understand all this. All my nightmares were terror filled, and since terror is organized very deep in the brain, that it should be obvious that nightmares derived from there and not later. Just as very fearful dreams may be limbic/feeling brain, but a bit of brainstem to give them power. The content of my nightmares (which have been gone for years) was of being in a dark hole with someone coming to kill me. I could not breathe. Someone coming to kill me was the inchoate realization that death was approaching. I made that terror into a phantom, which is why so many kids love horror films. They can feel that terror for a moment. They think it is the masked guy on the screen but we know better.
And what we also know is that as we evolve and have ideas and words we can be driven crazy by these forces and imagine that the guy in the ice cream booth “wants to kill me”. Our poor victim too sees death approaching and for the very same reason: death is approaching from way down deep. He too, gives it a content: the guy in the booth. I mean he cannot say, “Oh yes, my mother is taking speed or many cups of coffee and that is speeding me up. And also she is drinking whiskey all throughout her pregnancy. “ He has no idea where the danger comes from and that is the real danger because it can be acted out randomly. He will act on anyone in his presence.
One thing I have left out is the evolution epileptic symptoms. They often begin in childhood as petit mal and grow to grand mal major seizures. We have had good luck with seizures, often changing them from grand mal to petit mal, or from grand mal to no seizures as they relive convulsive pain from early on. We change the seizure from a major symptom to a major Primal. Not always but often. We lower the pain/terror threshold. We lower terror/pain to below the level where symptoms begin. They then are not cured but can be symptom free. I make no claims for cure; only that we have had some success with this problem. In the more severe cases what we see is a lessening of the symptoms. It the case of convulsions we see how the imprint impacts the whole system and causes seizures. In the case of nightmares, the terror is still contained within the limbic/feeling system and does not escape out to massively produce serious psychosis.
What stops psychotic symptoms is the same thing the blocks nightmares and panic attacks: first line blockers; heavy duty tranquilizers that put a cap on the brainstem imprint for a short time. Could it be that all three are related? No doubt at all. Do they come from the same area and same epoch of our lives? From my clinical experience, the answer is a “YES.” How so? Because the symptoms either diminish or go away as the terror is relived and brought to the surface. So then we can treat ADD, panic attacks, nightmares and many other symptoms with the same thing? You think I mean drugs? I mean Primal Therapy, which permits patients to travel down deep to reach those terrors that underlie so many divergent afflictions and relive them to be done with them. Oh yes, they also can be dulled for a moment with drugs which help repression. These drugs are called “anti-psychotics.” Why is that? Because they reach deep in the brain where psychosis emanates.
And that is the way with nearly every current therapy, alas. Psychiatry has become synonymous with drugs. Only because they have not observed the imprint which would give them the key answer to all their unasked questions. So they drug what they can’t see and then write theories about the mystery of it all.
A person doesn’t just suddenly become psychotic. He was already disturbed; only we did not call it psychosis. He has gastric problems or asthma or incipient cancer. He was highly disturbed but neither he nor us had any words for it. His system was going awry. Epigenetics was kicking in and methylation of cells was beginning. The whole system was becoming deranged. And compounding of no love and pain was taking its toll. And now we have to rewind the biologic clock and revisit our lives in a real way.
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.