Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Suicide is Painless: Repression, Despair and the Relief of Reliving Near-Death Feelings
A recent federal government study shows that suicide in the United States has become epidemic, hitting an alarming 30-year high. More and more people, both men and women in almost every age group, are killing themselves, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics. And experts are struggling to adequately explain the troubling trend.
“The question of what has driven the increases is unresolved, leaving experts to muse on the reasons,” states the New York Times in an article about the suicide data.(1)
And so they speculate. Maybe it’s the rising divorce rate, or the lower rates of marriage. Maybe it’s the worsening economy or the new limits on social mobility. Or maybe it’s the country’s weak suicide prevention network.
They can’t find the answers, I believe, because external factors are not the cause; they are just the trigger. After all, many people get divorced and lose their jobs and their homes, or worse, but don’t decide to end their lives. The explanation is elusive because the causes are hidden. They lie deep inside the desperate individuals who see no way out but death, and who may not even know what is driving their desire to take their own lives.
The best way to illuminate the problem is to look at it from the other side. Set aside for a moment those poor souls who are suffering obvious misfortunes. Consider instead those apparently lucky people who have it all, but still choose to end it all. Why do so many celebrities commit suicide?
Suicide and Success
Celebrity suicides always strike us as a mystery. These are successful, wealthy people we admire and emulate. We even try to be like them. So when the rich and famous find their lives too much to bear – as did L’Wren Scott, the high-end fashion designer and girlfriend of Mick Jagger – we inevitably wonder why. Scott hanged herself in the multi-million apartment she had shared with Jagger in New York. She didn’t leave a note. Her friends, who described her as kind and considerate, were shocked. Jagger, who was on tour with the Rolling Stones in Australia, issued a statement claiming he was "still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way."
Everyone was asking the same question.
There have been a number of people who have committed suicide who seemed at the pinnacle of success. And most of us thought that once we choose a profession and follow it and succeed at it, becoming an expert and well known, that would be fulfilling. We would feel like a success. Wrong. When we have deep-rooted lack of love, rejection, indifference and lack of touch early in our lives we cannot feel like a success. We can only feel what was left embedded in us as an imprint: the feeling of being unloved, empty, isolated, unwanted. That is always primary. All else and all later feelings lie on top of the imprint. We need to keep in mind that the imprint is embedded very early in life when the struggle has a life-or-death quality. It takes precedence over any later adversity. The memory is of a life-endangering event. It is not an imaginary time; survival is at stake (lack of oxygen at birth). And later, even the slightest threat takes on the original force of the reaction. Through resonance (the linkage between high nerve pathways and lower ones) terror is again elicited. What is set off? The feeling tone, for feelings are primary very early in life, long before we develop an overall sense of the total context. But the feeling tone will be an augury of a trauma gone by, and also a pathway to the past where the tone originated, engendered by perhaps an overdose of anesthetic to the mother for her pain but is far, far too much for a six-pound baby. That tone (hopelessness) may well underlie later depression, which seems such a mystery. But we are immersed in a sense of “what’s the use?” There is no reason to try or to go on; we are trapped in that imprinted memory where it was hopeless. This imprint may well be the template for building even stronger hopelessness when other needs are not fulfilled such as being held and soothed. And what do we do when we are bereft of that knowledge of the lingering tone? A tone due to its immense impact remains unconscious, repressed by the forces that are elicited to keep us from feeling devastating agony. We seek to submerge it further with drugs. We do the opposite of what is required, which is to release that memory from its neurobiologic cage. But when we observe it with all its power it seems overwhelming. This is why we are working with some medications to ameliorate the impact of that pain so it does not have to be experienced with all its fury.
There is only one way to stop the suffering, and that is to revisit the imprint and relive the pain. Until then, we cannot know the real lack and what it is. That is why the system insists on reliving later in life. Our own system is pushing for real integration and liberation, because it seeks to become whole again. That imprint has only one goal in life; to be relived exactly as it was laid down. To finish the unfinished job of integrating what was repressed and put aide at its origin. Its message is a constant warning of unfinished business. The pain from very early on has to be felt and dealt with in all its agony and terror. The imprint knows no mercy. It wants conscious awareness somewhere inside even while the top cortical level does what it can to imprison it. Conscious awareness means delving into deep feeling plus ultimate awareness of what it is. The imprint will never leave until it is lived again, fully, in its original context. Enough rearranging of the chairs on the Titanic. We must join feelings with their thoughts and make ourselves whole. Fame won’t do that; I have treated enough stars to know that, and my patients also know it. There is no substitute for extirpating the imprint. None. Avoiding the imprint and we are leaving misery in place. Reliving it finally stops the terrible drive to feel like a success; to run from the feeling. That is different from being authentically successful, which is the drive to do things right. A little more relaxing.
To be loved early on, that is what sets the stage for your life. It means fulfilling basic needs as they evolve; it makes us feel confident and productive, but not driven. It offers daring and enthusiasm and a joie de vivre. It allows us to try but never in desperation. Symbolic love – the kind we get from fame and celebrity – has to be repeated over and over exactly because it cannot fulfill. Why not? Precisely because it is symbolic, a substitute for the true love we never got from our parents. When there is a basic lack of fulfillment early in life, especially during gestation, birth and infancy, an imprint is created that stamps in that deprivation, through the partially open sensory window. That imprint is embedded deep in the brain and stays there, almost inaccessible. We are aware only of a gnawing emptiness, feeling unfulfilled. Empty like a shell, as one patient put it. And that need, now un-anchored from its source, drags us into the race for symbolic fulfillment. But it’s a race that never ends because it does nothing to alter the motor that’s driving it, which is the painful, buried imprint of getting no love when it really mattered. No hugs, no attention, no sympathy, no understanding, nada. No love. And that compounds and builds into a massive forceful load of unconsciousness. For most us, given a bit of hope for love we are galvanized. But those with deep implacable hopelessness it seems to be a signal to give up; the original reaction that was life saving. Again, the basic survival imprint. Once the pain is embedded and out of reach, we will seek out substitutes, so as to stop feeling empty and unloved. The agony from that deep, deep pain becomes a primordial part of us. It now confuses us, distracts us, and above all, stops our concentration. Oh yes; it depresses us because we live with an enemy in the house that we cannot escape. It lives with us and in us; it claws for its liberation; it wants freedom to live the pain, believe it or not. Yet we do what we can to stop it. No wonder most psychotherapy is aimed at repression and rationales, and understanding but never deep feeling. Patients get a bit of relief, which the he settles for; but no cure. So what does the successful person feel? Very little: Down, unhappy and unfulfilled. He has no other choice because those feelings will not leave even for mercy’s sake. Mercy has no part in the lexicon of the unconscious; it follows the road to what seemed to work originally. Freud called it The Repetition Compulsion. Let us never forget the enormous pull of that embedded hopelessness low in the nervous system. It drags us down toward the non-integrated feeling that might have occurred when the newborn was heavily dosed with anesthetics; or earlier there might a smoking mother or one who drank all of the time. Or worse, a carrying mother who took constant painkillers, which diminished oxygen supplies. This, inter alia, also, drugged the baby and affected his breathing and energy levels. The drugs infused into the baby again drains him of effort and will power. He may be born passive, inactive and unresponsive. His whole being has given up against insuperable odds. And that erupts the minute he must make any strenuous effort. All this keeps him from feeling like a success; “I can do and succeed”.
Success is not a real feeling; being loved is. Fame is other people’s idea of our achievements; it is in a way their feeling… Admiration, humble, important, etc. And why does even the most accomplished person never feel satisfied nor fulfilled? Because all of his fulfillment and all of his admiration is symbolic; it is not the love he needed early on. It covers
it over the lack of love, sits on top of the real need. The feeling window is now closed, and leaves an emotional vacuum in its place. It is the imprinted pain that cannot be erased no matter what kind of success is there. And it drives him for more and more – more money, more applause, more awards.
Finally at the top of his fame he feels still unfulfilled and a failure; there is nothing more to gain, nothing more to try for. He looks at all his billboards and feels empty. What does it mean? “I don’t know what else to do to feel good, to feel successful.” It seems that life is empty. There is no point; suicidal thoughts thrust their way in, as he feels the real deep feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that he has been escaping from in his work. The pain that drove it all is still alive and gnawing inside. It says, sotto voce, you are not loved and that is all that matters. Something is missing and you have no idea what that is. You have failed at what matters most; to be adored, admired, encouraged, held and caressed. That is the constant malaise that speaks of something missing. “All your drive was to try to escape the imprinted feeling and feel loved, and you believe you are, but not by the people who really matter, and not at the time when love was a life-or-death affair. There is a critical window for love to happen and a special time when the system is at its asymptote of need. When the critical time has passed repression takes over; it is too late now for fulfillment so there is no choice; symbolic fulfillment takes place; the ever-present audience who adores.
I treated one film director who became seriously depressed when he was no longer on stage. He felt useless, unneeded and unwanted; he started to feel his old feelings once again, only before therapy he drugged his hopelessness and now in therapy he is feeling it for what is really is. He began to feel the childhood part of the pain with parents who did not want him around; he was convinced there was something seriously wrong with him. This lay on top of the earlier pains of a sense of dying, of suffocating and losing consciousness. But not being needed on set began the whole process all over again. The first part was the feeling of “I will die if I am not loved,” and then much later, “I am dying and there is nothing I can do to escape.” This was the ultimate helplessness and hopelessness, the key elements of depression. Resonance always involves the chain of pain; the neuronal linkage from one set of neural processes to another. It is why something innocuous can set off catastrophic feelings.
As I have written à maintes reprises, many times over, we respond primarily and firstly to apparent problems in the present, and later to inner links that are awakened by those current problems, such as job losses or divorce. Those repressed traumas are ready to fire and when those links fire together they become wired together, solidified. That is the process I call resonance. The body and brain are busy reacting to what happened decades earlier during womb-life and birth. Those are the events we continually react to because of their remoteness, something that occurred when we were vulnerable and easily and heavily impacted. This is not only my hypothesis. Within the past 20 years, there have been literally hundreds of studies verifying the importance of early imprints, how they last a lifetime and alter our systems. Imprints lay down engraved memories that show themselves when we are alone, in a weakened state or otherwise too open to events.
That is what I believe may have happened to L’Wren Scott in those moments alone before she took her life. She must have had an inkling, a deep down unease and hopeless feeling that would have warned her. It was all hidden inside her, pushing through her weakened defense layers and making her feel so hopeless and “down,” despite her current surroundings. Being alone for a short time can set off being left and abandoned as a child; this is only surmise for now since I have not idea about this but I have seen in my patients. It can first set off, “I am all alone and no one to hold and comfort me.” Just a few hours alone with no one nearby can do it. Remember, small things can set off huge feelings. If she were left alone and neglected by her parents very early on, the connection to despair of the past it becomes clear.She probably had no idea about imprints or deep-lying trauma/memory. That is the reason our theory is so important, so that people who are suffering can be aware of what is going on inside and understand where their despair and suicidal thoughts come from. This may avoid needless deaths. How tragic and unnecessary all this. And now you understand our mission: not money nor fame, but the lives of us humans. We all have a basic right to a full-length life.
The Way In Is The Way Out
You may wonder why a privileged and wealthy celebrity can’t find distractions for her despair. Why doesn’t she run away or go to parties and “take her mind off of it?” She cannot; the imprint constrains her. She lives within that primordial memory and cannot imagine or think about other solutions. There were no alternatives originally, thus there are none now while awash in the imprint. And the imprint forces her to remain on the same route all over again. Her hopelessness (depression) is all-consuming. She cannot stray outside its bounds. The stabs of depression she suffers are reminders of the mounting memory that periodically surges upwardly toward awareness.
There is no way to know now exactly why she killed herself. But a clue to her motive can be found post-mortem, in the manner in which she chose to kill herself. Scott had just about everything in life; although she was in debt, she lived well and lived high with Jagger. Yet she took the trouble to go through the machinations of hanging. Why not take the simpler “way out,” with pills? Though some will find this hard to believe, the answer goes back to the very beginning of life: the way in is often the way out. The same imprint that produced deep hopelessness at birth – the root of depression – is also what likely led to her to choose hanging. I am not familiar with the circumstances of Scott’s death, but I am not limiting my discussion only to her. This applies to all of us.
The fact of the deep imprint also can lead to hanging for if she were strangling on the cord she is most likely to repeat the act. It was the closest she came to death and the trauma and its consequences remain. Fifty years ago, I wrote about methods of suicide and I noted that they followed the deep imprint. Being strangled on the cord would lead to hanging. Being suffocated in the womb might lead to gassing oneself. Being mangled at birth might end in jumping off a building or in front of a train. A mother drugging herself might be duplicated in suicide by an overdose of pain-killers in the offspring. Thus, the imprint, now embedded, searches out its duplicate, like most act-outs. And act-outs follow the imprint closely because there is a sense of approaching death early on, and it follows by approaching death now, where death is the final relief from this catastrophic imprint. That is also an imprinted memory – final relief. It is the final denouement of the imprint.
Recent research has confirmed the link between the nature of trauma at birth and the manner of suicide chosen in adulthood. In a study published in the journal Biology of the Neonate, K. J. S. Anand and associates state that in a number of suicides by violent means “the significant risk factors were those perinatal events that were likely to cause pain in the newborn.” (Anand & Scalzo, 2000). (2) In other words, suicides will often choose a method that reflects the prototype of their birth experiences. Why? Because each prototype requires its own conclusion. For a neonate strangling on the cord, further strangling would have ended the agony. Those drowning in amniotic fluid at birth may opt for death by drowning. Those who received a massive dose of anesthetic at birth may take an overdose of barbiturates, or they might gas themselves in their garage. And so on. Not every rule can be followed slavishly, as it is here. People do commit suicide also depending on current circumstances; being on a tall building, for example. I offer this heuristically only as a frame of reference toward clarity.
I remember one patient who saved up dynamite; having experienced anoxia at birth, he was going to put a stick to his head and blow his head off so that he wouldn't have one second of pain and hopelessness. He laughs at that now, but at the time it spoke volumes of his desperation. Another patient was obsessed with jumping off a building. During her birth by Cesarean, this person had felt wrenched into space with nothing to hang onto. Another patient, battered and squeezed at birth, obsessed about jumping off a bridge, head first.
I found this was almost a universal law: we attempt to die in the way our birth was threatened. Those memories, that of trauma during gestation, last a lifetime and lead to same attempt years later to die in the way it might have happened at the beginning. In other words, as the memory of the early trauma rises, the memory of the early result mounts as well. Thus early strangulation may lead to the same course of action with the final denouement; death. The logic of the system. It is confirmation of the imprint and its lifelong effect on the system. It drives behavior ineluctably. So the imprint includes the probable outcome – death. We need to consider suicide as another form of act-out. It channels behavior despite exhortation and encouragement; the sense of approaching death. What is often articulated for those who have no idea about the imprint is, “I don’t want to live anymore.” And even that is not fully articulated; it is usually a vague thought or sense. It is often not, “I am in so much pain I don’t want to go on.” It is just a vague sense of hopelessness and helplessness that leads to an attempt. It all remains vague and aleatory, a constant rumination inside of a black cloud descending.
It is difficult, perhaps, to believe that birth problems can give rise to suicidal tendencies years later. This is because we are not used to thinking about physiologic memory. Nor are we used to thinking that the most powerful memories we have are those without words, memories of events which predated our ability to understand what was happening to us. It's not always the case that the suicide method mimics the birth trauma, of course, but it is often what we discover in talking to and observing our patients. If we want to get an idea about our birth, look at our imagined choice of suicide. Conversely, if we want to know the origins of depression, we might examine the birth epoch. Eventually, we may discover the secrets of our beginnings in life.
Suicidal or Self-Destructive
There are some acts of suicide that are a cry for help, taking a certain amount of sleeping pills, for example. And there are others that say, I really don’t want to live anymore; that is a jump off a bridge. That is final, no call for help. It all seems so helpless and hopeless; they want to die for relief. No more pain; that’s enough. Their pain is importuning and relentless. Because so is the imprint. No immediate escape, as there might not have been during the original trauma. The pain is so devastating and militating to higher levels that the person cannot contemplate other options. Those feelings are terrible, and they say to us, “Life is terrible.” No it’s not, a therapist may say in an attempt to steer the patient’s mind away from desperate thoughts. But if we try to argue the person out of those thoughts we are using the wrong brain. Our words can never reach the wordless pain they are in. Yet counseling can be a help, although not a cure. It offers help against feeling helpless and hope against hopelessness. It means someone cares and wants you to live. Crucial.
There are some cases where it was impossible to try; further trying might have been life-endangering. Here lies the “loser.” Everything is too much and he gives up automatically. The whole parasympathetic nervous system dominates and directs, and leads him to a passive lifestyle. Why doesn’t get up and get going? He cannot. He is blocked by a memory of action is dangerous. This is not a fantasy; it is real history he is fighting and he lost originally and he will lose again. His depression deepens as he seems stuck in life and can find no way out. He needs to be led, encouraged; to have life breathed into him.
In many suicide cases, it turns out victims had suffered some sort of oxygen deficit early on, caused perhaps by a heavy dose of anesthesia to the mother or by being strangled on the cord at birth. And after an agonizing attempt to get born, death approaches and there is a sense of impending doom and then relief. That memory of possible relief is sealed in so that later in the face of utter hopelessness – triggered by an impending divorce, for instance – death becomes the answer. So an attempt at suicide follows. It is a memory of possible relief, stamped in, engraved that endures for a lifetime. It is the end of the chain of pain, as it were, the logical denouement when current hopelessness can set off the primordial hopelessness where death lurks.
How is it that hopelessness today sets off the same feeling during birth? It is again the chain of pain, the links between levels of consciousness. One way we see that link is through resonance; the current feeling sets off the same deeper feelings until the whole system is engulfed in utter hopeless feelings. And worse, there is no scene attached to it as it is pure feeling, naked and unadorned, the exact same feeling rising again to smother the person and make her suicidal. It is the most profound hopelessness. The current feeling, in short, has triggered off its progenitor with sensations of approaching death becoming paramount.
That early hopelessness is later expanded and ramified as the whole system and brain mature. As each new brain system comes on line, it adds its emotional weight to the feeling. But it is the same feeling with increased maturity and neuronal development. It is the system’s effort to suppress the feeling that produces depression. So depression is not a feeling; it is what happens as that feeling is blocked from higher level access. And when we unravel depression that is what we find: utter, unarticulated hopelessness. We get confirmation by drops in body temperature and blood pressure, a sign of giving up. That foretells a suicidal attempt. However, it can be felt and relived with all of its pain, which provides the ultimate relief as the depression begins to leave, at last. This is not done in a day because it is very deep, the end point of the birth agony, a cord around the neck, for example. This means that we must not trump evolution and feel it soon in therapy. And if we do not take care to go slowly we will touch the embed too early and abreaction results. Why? Because the patient is not ready for that much pain. We can only feel it as the body and brain allow, current hopeless feelings first, then the childhood compounding and finally, the first line, brainstem component where the deepest feelings always lie. I use the word “compounding,” because these are not different feelings; they are the same feelings laid down and layered at different stages of development, and connected through resonance. The child just seems unhappy and sullen and no one knows why. And certainly the child has no idea at all, nor do his teachers. He is in the grasp of that early devastating feeling that no one can say its name. It is literally “ineffable.” The feeling cannot respond to encouraging words because discouraging feelings take priority.
Suddenly, one day in therapy while the patient is feeling deeply about childhood events where he was blocked for whatever he wanted to do, he shifts into choking and suffocation; the precursor is on its way. It says, “I am strangling on the cord.” Only it does not say it for the moment. The patient is in the grips of first-line, brainstem imprints which only later can he give it a name and context. For the moment the patient only senses the physical sensations. As the body experience enters resonance again and moves higher in the nervous system, where words and thoughts become available, then he knows it is the cord that is stopping me from breathing. That cord has imprinted the trauma, and with the sensation of suffocation together with hopelessness and helplessness.
How does he know? The inevitable concomitant of this is during the Primal he again sinks into deep hopelessness, and with it a lowering of core body temperature. It can go down several degrees, and, happily, after the feeling it can normalize and rise to higher levels again. But the body nearly always follows suit in these situations; not just the mind at work. And they never say, “I feel depressed.” It is evident in all of their demeanor. Even how they breathe; it gets more and more shallow as conservation of oxygen takes over during the session as the patients goes deeper, approaching the primal imprint.
What has this to do with self-destruction, as some therapies describe the suicide attempt? I was discussing the difference between self-destructive behavior and suicide with a colleague. They are quite different, although you would think that suicide is destruction of the self, but it is not at all like that. Let’s take literal destruction, cutting oneself. This is a later ploy, making hurt obvious. It is a plea for help; “Please see my hurt. See that I hurt.” This in lieu of screaming out that hurt. And the cutter is not often aware of what she is doing or why. It was never acknowledged by anyone because perhaps the parents had no idea of that hurt or even that such emotional hurt existed. There are many aspects of this. Her feeling was, “I’m trying to let the hurt escape,” even when she had no idea what it was. She just knew it was inside and it had to come out.
Another woman, a self-cutter. told me that she cut because it took away some of the emotional hurt which was more painful. It had a beginning and an end. It was controllable whereas the emotional hurt just kept going on. She found out that it was exactly what we do; letting pain out: but in methodical ways so she no longer had to cut herself. The feeling has to be felt deeply to match the force of the pain involved. The patient is trying to let the pain out in the only way she can; make it visible and palpable. If you can at least see it there is something you can do about it.
When there are later circumstances of neglect and lack of love, the deep imprints become compounded and cemented in. Those later traumas (lack of love) increase the repression and force unconscious acting out, such as cutting oneself, to try to get at the source, hopefully, yet unconsciously. But suicide is still a long way off. It is amazing how so often people cut themselves, unwittingly digging out the source of their suffering without even knowing what they are doing.
Suicide, then, is a deeper, earlier sensation/feeling with no behavioral possibilities. They are, indeed, two different things. Even though suicide attempts to destroy the self it is not, oddly, self-destructive. And of course, self-destructiveness
it ramifies so that the destructive behavior takes on many forms, such as sabotaging one’s own success or always picking toxic partners. But it is not as direct as suicide. Suicide means one final act. It is not anything in the present that causes it; it is the result of a deep memory.
There are myriad examples of self-destructive behavior, but all the manifestations come from subdued feelings. There are people who set themselves up for certain failure, who always make sure things turn out bad, who drink themselves into oblivion or who repeatedly get involved with a low-lives they know are bad for them. Here the driving forces are nearly always deep-seeded pain. These are secondary effects of imprinted hurt. Driving with drunk drivers is a good example. Another is the case of a graduate student who could not get feedback from his professors for a paper he had turned in. After weeks of “trying to get through” he sent a most nasty letter to the instructor. For that, he was delayed in getting his degree. So he shot himself in the foot because he could never get through to his father and also because he literally couldn’t get through in being born. Being blocked from getting what he wanted and needed had set off a rage in him, and as we know rage is first line, brainstem originated. It is the seat of the most atavistic anger possible. He was helpless before this surge of fury. Resonance reached down and dredged it all up, surging upwards beyond control. He knew when he sent the letter it was wrong; this is what used to be called “emotional.” His emotions got the best of him. They weren’t irrational; they were real but buried deeply.
The Relief of Reliving
In Primal Therapy, we seek access to those deep recesses of the brain, where ultimate healing lies. First-line is always more powerful than later imprints; and they are the most healing, offering up many insights that previous behavior was based on. The insights that flow from first-line feelings are widely encompassing because they are the basis for so much later behavior. Reliving on the brainstem level means complete connection as the driving force of impulses are experienced at last. We connect, in short, on the level of the trauma and in that context only. Here we are dealing with the shark brain: no shouts, no wild movements; evolution has taken over. It means the patient has gone back in time and is living again what went on decades before. Then it was too overwhelming for a naïve and fragile infant brain to integrate. Now, perhaps, he is ready for it.
That is the true meaning of facing yourself and accepting yourself; not in the booga-booga, new-age sense but in the biologic evolutionary meaning of it, where the feeling is now integrated into the physical system. It becomes ego syntonic. That is the real meaning of becoming oneself. As the reliving goes on, the feeling is fully integrated and there is a continued drop in vital signs and body temperature lowers to real normal, rather than “average” normal. In this sense, “integration” is a new biologic state where the whole system can re-regulate itself. Normalization has set in and depression bids adieu. And no one has done anything outside the body. It all originated from inside. That is why I say that everything the patient has to learn is already inside, waiting.
In Primal Therapy, we get patients gradually down to those deep feelings that are so disturbing. And once those feelings are resolved and brought to consciousness, there are no more thoughts of suicide. Why? Because there are no more buried feelings driving the suicidal thoughts. It takes time, but when they get there, they discover real relief, the kind that lasts and lets them live.
I am not writing as the shoemaker who sees only shoes in the world but as a therapist who has seen patients relive birth hundreds of times and know what an impact it has. Let us not shy away from a key reality of our lives and adopt a rebirthing therapy that is ineffective and sometimes quite dangerous.
(2) Anand, K. J. S., & Scalzo F.M. (2000) Can adverse neonatal experiences alter brain development and subsequent behavior? Biology of The Neonate, 77(2), 69-82. Print.
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.