Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Who Took My "NO" Away?
I am always amazed at how early our basic personalities begin their lives. I have been primaling lately about how from the very start of infancy a basic tendency set in……..I could not say no to anything my father demanded. This started before I could articulate why and how that happened. I was strictly obedient before I could speak. My father’s presence was enough to strike fear in me. I remember when I was fourteen he told me to sit still and finish my milk and not to budge until I did. I obeyed without question. It never occurred to me to refuse. Why? I was terrified. That terror began with an imprinted latent terror set down in gestation with a psychotic mother who feared everything and everyone. Laid on that was my first sense of my father who exuded anger and intolerance. When I say “exuded” it is what I mean; it poured out of his skin, the way he breathed and the look on his face. His actions were brusque and abrupt. I learned as a baby to steer clear of him. And then the inability to say “No” set in. His demands were touched by anger and expectations of immediate obeying. Before I could talk I could not refuse anything and go against any sharp demands. Mrs. Wardrop at my high school was the twin of him and I obeyed her to the letter. I simply had to obey and could not say “No.”
Now for confirmation: “What makes our brains so special?”.
Scientific American, Nov. 24, 2015, Diana Kwon (see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-makes-our-brains-special/). She discusses the remarkable ability for recognition and cognitive capacity in infants. After all, we are born with a large brain. The study cites the work of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. They compiled a huge spectrum of expression patterns in different species. They found abundant data to identify unique signatures within humans. We are very similar to other animals. Chimps and Bonobos. What is evident throughout is that wee infants pick up the signals from their environment before they speak, and they have no other reference but to follow the dictates of that milieu as a measure of survival. We learn very, very early before we can even imagine that learning has seriously begun. Because it is so early and because there is no other key countervailing influence, that behavior is sealed in, perhaps for lifetime. And without Primal Therapy it would have. I had to scream NO over and over again and set up scenes where he demanded things of me with his sharp, impatient tone and I could finally refuse and answer him back. It was not done in a day. It was deeply embedded behavior from the start of my life. My therapist demanded of me, and at first my immediate tendency was to comply. It took a long time until I separated my self from my father. That I was not him and vice versa. The terror of him was merged into the general terror that my gestation and above all, my birth trauma, almost dying of lack of oxygen, had inculcated into me. I had to re-experience both kinds of terror to bring the level down so I could function. For years up to college I did not function and could not learn. ADD up the whazoo. I had no way to focus and concentrate because terror was constantly sending its messages to my brain to agitate me; and get ready for a disaster that had already happened. Only I never knew it. I had embedded approaching death into my system and it would not leave.
I had panic attacks and unrelenting nightmares all through my early life. The terror was surging upward trying to escape but I never knew about it. I was just nervous all of the time.
I never considered college because I knew I could not concentrate and was too shaken to focus. I never even knew I was anxious because I grow up with it; it was my normal state. In the same way I never knew I was unloved until I got it later in life. My neurosis was ego-syntonic, a total part of me. It was “natural.” And being normal for a while felt a wee bit not natural.
I had to get used to using “no.” It was engraved into a brain that was dominated by instant impulses, like the shark. It was the reflex brain at work. Its prominent mode of operation was instincts and impulses. Those dominate our lives. It is what I call first-line. As we ascend the nervous system and approach the present, each developing nervous system adds its weight. Brainstem strongest and dominant. Then the feeling, limbic system and finally the neocortical level. Never imagine that the strongest is the neo-cortex processes. They have no chance against deep brain areas; and that is why anger management, addiction therapy and mental counseling all take a back seat for control of our learning and behavior. The immediate attack and act before thought is how the brain develops. It is evolution at work and we can never abrogate that biologic law. Luckily, we have found a way to give way to the brainstem and allow it to flourish and find its way in our living. We do not beat it back and imagine it is dangerous. It is only dangerous when repressed.
And one day I went on a speedboat ride with a bunch of kids. And they starting shouting with glee (I was the captain), Art, can I drive the boat, can I lift the anchor? Can I steer? I said listen kids. No matter what you ask I will always say “YES”. The parents looked at me and shook their heads. But those kids never asked to do anything that was dangerous or stupid. I trusted them completely. And they learned a lot about boats and sailing. Instead of a negative experience it was one of great joy. How can anyone beat that? YES!
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.