Sunday, March 6, 2016

Epigenetics and Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis (Part 18/20)

Years ago, we did research showing that after one year of Primal Therapy our patients had enhanced production of natural killer cells (NK cells). These immune cells look out for developing cancer cells, then attack and devour them. I assume this means better control of cancer among our patients. But why would reliving those early imprints increase production of NK cells?
Here I have to make an assumption: when we have traumas during womb- life there is a deregulation of many bio-chemicals, hormones and neurotransmitters. The whole system, in short, changes to accommodate the input; and what that does is alter set points. How do we know that? Because in all of our studies we have found that set points seem to change after therapy and “normalize.” thus, for example, NK cells seem to change set points and come back to normal after one year of our therapy, as do levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
There are many existing studies that correlate parental abuse with later cancer. One study from Purdue University found that adults who were emotionally and physically abused as children had a much greater likelihood of cancer as adults (Morton, Schafer, & Ferraro, 2012). The more intense the abuse, the more likely the cancer. Imagine now if we have left out of the mix one of the greatest risks of all: constant abuse while in the womb – a drugged or depressed mother, or one who is chronically anxious or tense and angry. Add that to it all and you have one of the great causes of later cancer.

So once we go back to those generating sources, those early imprints, the system appears to re-regulate itself back to what it should have been before the trauma intruded itself. Our therapy seems to “erase” the input and allow the cells to normalize. It is as if the trauma never happened; which is why I maintain that we can go back and undo and redo our early lives. The mechanism for this may well be the pattern of methylation that “seals in” the trauma – cancer is characterized by “methylation imbalance” (Baylln, Herman, Graff, Vertino & Issa, 1997). For example, depressives who relive deep and remote imprints will find their normal body temperature go from 96 degrees to 98 degrees. They normalize, which means that they do not go from 96 to 101; that is abnormal. That has no part in normalizing. The body system seeks out its own limits. Here again we see that there is no need to work on body temp, as such. We work on central factors and the system adjusts all on its own. There are other factors, as well, which are being sussed out anew each and every day by biochemists and other specialists. We will leave that to those experts. But it seems as though we are reversing those early changes that caused a detour of biochemical set points. Along with this was a rerouting of brain circuits as well. The neurotic system changed.

So what happens when the NK cells are increased? We have a stronger army to fight cancer, an army that was weakened by trauma occurring during our womb-life (and also possibly during the birth process). The system has a normal amount now and can amass a greater force to fight cellular anomaly. The cells seem to know when something is amiss and rush to correct it in the same way that repair cells rush in to stem the flow of blood and help in healing when we cut ourselves. We are a naturally healing system when given the chance; and what is wonderful is that we always have the chance in our lives to go back and re- stabilize the system. That is why when NK cells are extracted from tumor cells, processed and reintroduced to the system there is an increase in cancer fighting ability.

Here is the good news: when the NK army is bolstered there is less cancer, and when there are even metastasized cells the NK cells can fight each and every appearance of abnormal cells, no matter where they are, and stop them in their tracks. It is not like chemotherapy, a poison that destroys the malignant cells and also healthy cells along with them. Here, it is but a matter of increasing the health of the cells in order to combat the intruders: a much healthier way to go; in other words, the system now has a normal amount of NK cells, which it should have had early on but did not. And the same trauma that may have lowered the set points of NK cells could have also increased the likelihood of cancer. What may well happen is epigenetic changes can affect the tumor- suppression genes, leaving the system open to later cancer. The problem is that the distance between the early trauma and the appearance of cancer at forty is so vast as to be incomprehensible. It is only when we allow patients to go back and relive early trauma that we see the connection. And for now, it still has to be an assumption. But what we do see is how completely systemic are the effects early imprinted pain; when terror and pains are relived, the healing effects are widespread.


  1. Wilson and Wilson (2015) examine the nature of emotions and feelings in their book,"Understanding Emotional Development", in which they state that, " the unstoppable nature that is so defining of emotion is there precisely because it is a quality of feeling" and that, "This unstoppable uncontrollable quality is also true of other feelings...such as fatigue, heat, cold, pain and sexual desire. All conscious emotions and moods have this quality". Well in my experience that is simply not accurate and therefore not true.
    Stopping feeling is precisely the way that we survive an unfeeling environment. The whole problem is that we do stop feeling .'s pretty alarming seen as these are the research findings of a senior lecturer in psychology at Sydney University.

    If people who are doing research about emotional development are not feeling, then how are they going to investigate the development and experience of feeling emotions? They don't even know that they don't know, because they've stopped feeling. Their psychological measuring tools are blunt and out of date to say the least! Katherina

    1. Gotcha Katerina, we all need to learn. art

    2. Hi Katherina,

      I wonder if this is another good example of people confusing 'passion' for feeling? And by proxy confusing abreaction for reliving? Thus remaining firmly in the territory of the repressed.

      But until they have this explained to them, they will continue to have a fuzzy boundary about all of it, no matter how hard they 'try to understand' emotions instead of actually having them. Perhaps it's our responsibility to find ways, a new social kind of access if you like, to get people who don't know they don't know, to begin to see a new possibility.

      I feel that Epigenetics & Primal are so fundamental that the dialectic can and should be applied in many new ways. People already do. However, the specific facts (& idea) of the critical window with 'up / down / up access' further refines the dialectic. You could even write a new kind of law. . .

      Part of the problem is the relationship that people have to 'reformation' which is merely an institutional pastime, a kind of game which only requires bureaucrats. Primal is really 'revolutionary'. People can't see that both are needed. Revolution has a bad image (!) Maybe some can see that both are needed and that's a potential hook. But we don't have to tear down the old institutions either. . . Most of all it's important with revolutionary matters not to give up.

      Don't give up.

      Paul G.


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.