Sunday, July 27, 2008

On Curing a Symptom

Let us start out by saying that no all symptoms are caused by repressed emotions but a good deal of them are. The question then poses itself, “What does it take to cure the symptom?” Can counseling do it? Yes, but with reservations. You see each level of consciousness--brainstem, limbic system and neo-cortex, contribute its specific kind of pain to the system. And they contribute the most when survival is at stake. That is why the most pain lies deep in the neuraxis where insult can affect whether we live or die. Now let us suppose that a migraine takes a level of 10 for it to be manifest. And we take away current stress that brings the pain level to eight. Have we cured it? No, we have taken away just that valence that originally put the system over the top and into a symptom. But we still have deeper levels of pain. We can only say we have “cured” it when we arrive at the very heavy valence pain that was at the origin of it all. In depression there are levels of hopelessness that finally result in overt depression. But until we arrive at the intrauterine trauma of a heavily drugged mother, for example, we cannot be said to have cured the problem.

What too much of current psychotherapy does is manipulate the current burden, leaving the heavy-duty pains untouched. But that manipulation may have been enough to keep the symptom from manifesting itself (biofeedback, hypnosis, cognitive therapy, etc.). That might lead to the false notion that this method of manipulation is curative of such and such symptom. It is the same as in alcoholism. Enough support and warmth in the present can take just enough of the pain load away to snuff the habit. The reason that there is always a tendency toward the illness is that the underlying pain waits in its cage. When the system is weak and vulnerable again the symptom may spring forth. Cure is always tied to original causes. When the symptom is matched through feeling to its advent we have succeeded.

The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics: Epigenetics

In the early nineteenth century a French scientist named Jean Baptiste Lamarck decided that we acquired characteristics from experiences that our parents underwent. Russian communists applied this to agriculture but, no matter, it was a widely discredited theory…..until recently. Now this avowed Marxist position may have been resurrected a bit. There is a new field called epigenetics that states pretty much what Lamarck believed. So what is the evidence? And what exactly is it? What Lamarck said was that individuals acquire characteristics as a result of their environment, and now, these characteristics can be passed on to the offspring.

Much of the work in epigenetics has to do with diet; a mother’s diet influences the offspring’s physiology. Epigenetics has to do with how genes are regulated and influenced by the experience of the baby. I believe it has more to do with the fetus who resides in the womb; that his experience is influenced forevermore by the mother’s diet but also by her moods, her anxiety and depression. Has the genetic switch been delayed or was it premature? This can happen without making a radical change in the gene itself but rather in how it is expressed, whether it is shut off or on. What we are discussing is how a mother’s interaction with her environment can pass this on to her offspring. I think we need to understand that a fetus in the womb is always trying to adapt to his environment and that how genes will evolve and be expressed depends on that adaptation. For example, a mother who is anxious and who has depleted much of her serotonin supplies cannot fulfill the young fetal need for his own serotonin supplies. He may well grow up deficient in inhibitory or repressive capacity and be an anxiety case forevermore; this evolves into attention deficit in his youth and his continued inability to have a cohesive cognitive ability. I think it is extremely important that all this occurs while the fetal brain is rapidly developing and needs proper input to evolve normally. An anxious mother is so agitated that the neuronal input into the baby she is carrying is so extreme that he cannot adapt and integrate this input. Thereafter, this is the kind of person who cannot accept too much stimulation because the internal input is so great that anything from the outside, just two terms papers, can be overwhelming.

I have discussed the work of Michael Meaney of McGill University who has worked with mice and found that very early neglect by the mother results in lifelong alterations. In thirteen men who had committed suicide, all of whom suffered from child abuse, there were epigenetic effects. Abuse has many forms but to me those most deleterious is the abuse of a mother who smokes, drinks or takes drugs during pregnancy. Abuse means adversely affect a child’s development. Meaney found the same changes in thirty five people who suffered from schizophrenia. Here, several of the genes involved with the unfurling of key neurotransmitters (which ordinarily help to repress pain or noxious stimuli) where affected. New work has related epigenetics to the occurrence of cancer. What has been called the effects on epigenetic settings I call changing the set-points of many biologic states; this includes the set-points of the neurotransmitters that w
Ill later make us chronically comfortable or uncomfortable. Not feeling good in our skin is one way to state it. What is very new is that experiences of the mother affects the sperm of the offspring, and that may affect how the grandchildren develop. It may be that smoking or drug taking in while the embryo is just forming can later affect sperm production. The meaning of all this is that what happens in the womb while the organism is getting organized can affect the baby for a lifetime. It is so important that we not neglect this period when we attempt to understand and treat those with emotional problems. The more remote the imprint the more widespread the later effects, in my opinion. When a carrying mother is under stress her stress hormone level is high. When the levels remain high for a long time the immune system is compromised, and that might well affect the immune status of the offspring. And as I note elsewhere, a strong immune system (natural killer cells) is needed to stay on the lookout for newly developing cancer cells. It is not that a deficient immune system can lead to cancer, it is that a weak maternal immune system does not impart a strong immune capability to the baby; and the same dislocated physiology of the mother can also affect the fetus, setting the stage for later catastrophic disease. Womb-life has largely been neglected in the psychological literature. It is time to reorient ourselves.


Are small feet and small breasts desireable? Is it good or bad? It’s more serious than that. It is neither good nor bad but whether that size has arrived at its genetic destination. That is, due to heredity has the size fulfilled the genetic intention? If not, there can be serious repercussions. What it means to me, and now we leave the arena of strict science, is that repression has interceded to slow down or inhibit growth. How do I know? Some of my patients have reported foot growth, chest growth, breast growth and other kinds of growth after about a year of therapy. (We have a letter of a former patient who reported foot growth of several sizes after therapy). All that has happened in my therapy is lifting repression and liberating pain. If we reason backward we might say that repression probibited proper growth from taking place. That means to me constant pressure in key sites against growth; against genetic destinations. And that again can mean the possibility of serious illness, possibly cancer. Pressure on the cells to stop this unfolding can be enormous. Until one has seen the liberation of pain it is difficult to comprehend.

So we can only say that one’s breasts are too small when we see if they grow as a result of this liberation. And I believe that will only happen when the patient arrives at deeply implanted pain, at birth and before, when so many hormones are affected; where so many set-points are dislocated and fixed. I think that, in this sense, the therapy may have an anti-cancer effect. Can you imagine the pressure our biology exerts to fulfill its genetic promise? That pressure continues against a constant pressure to hold it back. The result too often can be disease as the cells become deformed and dislocated. It is not only the obvious breasts and feet, which are, after all, measureable, but there my be so effects we cannot measure; for example, the kidneys, heart or liver. We see that wherever we have looked, (serotonin/impramine: natural killer cells) there are significant changes. We would expect the same with key organ systems. In other words, pain and repression are laid down as total experience, which means that just about every system is involved in the imprint of the memory. So we would expect that all key organ systems would be affected. That remains to be studied. But we would also expect that those systems, which are inherently weak and vulnerable, would be seriously affected by that repression. The answer? Have a good gestation and birth and infancy. Failing that, relive the key pains set down and undo the massive repression.

There are effects we cannot measure; for example, the kidneys, heart or liver. We see that wherever we have looked, (serotonin/impramine: natural killer cells) there are significant changes. We would expect the same with key organ systems. In other words, pain and repression are laid down as total experience, which means that just about every system is involved in the imprint of the memory. So we would expect that all key organ systems would be affected. That remains to be studied. But we would also expect that those systems, which are inherently weak and vulnerable, would be seriously affected by that repression. The answer? Have a good gestation and birth and infancy. Failing that, relive the key pains set down and undo the massive repression.

In writing about the imprint, I will note again that one way we know that very early imprinted pain endures is that many entering patients have high stress hormone levels which normalize after one year of the therapy. What this may mean is that the imprint endures, is a constant danger, and must be fought against. That danger is signaled by the high cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Why is it, then, that the levels come down to normal after a time? Because the imprint is no longer a force; It is now simply a memory. The force of the pain has been felt and integrated. It is not as though there is a reliving of the memory and then we find changes in the imprint; it is that the way the memory is held and engraved is through these various changes such as in stress hormone levels. The danger is no longer in evidence; the system can relax. The battle is over. As all systems normalize it means that there is no longer an irrevocable memory to deal with. The imprint as a total physiologic event no longer exists. Can we become neurotic again? Not in the same way because the harmful memory is gone. What we often cannot change are the secondary changes already in evidence due to the damage inflicted beforehand.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Reliving

Primal therapy involves a careful procedure – paced by the patient – toward bringing sensations and feelings from trauma in one's early history safely into a conscious experience. The apex of this procedure is total reliving of a traumatic experience. Primal therapy avoids distracting or interrupting the patient in this process. We seek to draw attention to sensations and feelings, and allow the patient, when he and his body is ready, to go into the pain, and fully relive it. This time, in contrast to the time of the original trauma, the patient can finally experience the feelings, and finally be relieved of their neurotogenic energy.

The reliving that occurs in primal therapy may be hard to imagine by those who have not seen it. In reliving incest, for example, not only are the vital signs exceptionally high, often into near-lethal levels, but the physical posture reflects what happened in the original event, the wrists bound together behind the back, for example. Why, one would question, do we allow these dangerous levels to exist in therapy? The patient, on the lip of feeling a great trauma, runs a fever. One hundred three degrees is not unusual. We don’t desire it except that without it there is no healing. Secondly, these elevated levels were the reason for the repression, in the first place. Sustained blood pressure in hypertensive regions would have killed the newborn. What the neuroinhibitors such as serotonin/endorphin do is keep reactivity within survival bounds and thereby save one’s life; a key function of repression. Now as an adult the individual is stronger, and may begin to relive the trauma, if only in small titrated doses.

Post session vital signs indicate some degree of integration and resolution after a reliving episode (known as a “primal”). They usually drop below baseline after the session. If they move either up or down sporadically we are dealing with abreaction—the discharge of the energy of a trauma without proper connection. This is never curative.

Reliving yields insights and cognitive changes automatically. Reliving never being touched as a child makes immediately clear the reason for one’s nymphomania. It puts the need for touch in the past so that it is no longer acted-out in the present. The patient does not need to be told how to appreciate the trauma; everything is understood within the feeling, provided it is a full reliving.

Discussing the past trauma is, by and large, a cortical operation that remains in the area of thought. It is the inordinate pain portion that is stored in the brain's limbic system and brainstem that is the culprit to be relived. And that is what constitutes the unconscious. It is that portion of pain that must be relived. If one could see the amount of pain engendered in a primal she would understand right away how important reliving is to the therapeutic process.

Primal Therapy differs from most other therapies extant in approach of reliving past traumas rather than discussing them. The patient seems to be in the grip of an ancient brain during the reliving which results in an integration of the feeling. In the reliving, the whole system will be engaged as it was when the memory was registered. This is why in our research we found an average 24-point drop in systolic readings in our high blood pressure (hypertensive) patients after six months of therapy. It is why in a parasympathetic dominant patient (often, a depressive) who enters a session with a radically lowered body temperature, we will see rises of two or three degrees after the session, as feelings normalize the system. Normalizing blood pressure is very important if we want to avoid cerebral strokes later on. We can “normalize” with medication but the force is still inside doing its damage elsewhere. There is a major difference between normalizing the symptom and normalizing the system. The latter has great import for longevity. If we normalize one aspect of the system, the rest of the body must compensate, and that is the danger with medication. It achieves apparent results, but not profound effects. So long as the generating source of the problem stays active it is forever a threat...a stroke is not the least of the consequences. Again, if we try to “cure” high blood pressure with pills we are depriving the patient of one aspect of the memory; and she needs the totality of response to the memory in order to fully relive and get better. That is, if we suppress part of the memory there can never be a full reliving because the whole memory is not completed.

Why We Must Relive As A Total Experience

A reliving of preverbal imprints will evoke the exact same reactions as at the time of the original trauma. In the absence of a reliving, the reactions or fragments of the memory will persist, such as a fast heart rate or high blood pressure. When we relive a complete early birth memory of which a high blood pressure was a part, then in the total reliving, that fragment of the memory will also be included, and the patient should consequently see relief from the intrusive symptoms. If aspects of the original reaction are missing the reliving is not complete and therefore not curative. When patients relive enough of their painful history, they no longer need alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or painkillers. Less pain, less pain-killers

When a patient relives early terror, then ceases to compulsively check the locks on his doors twenty times a day, he has solved a key mystery. This, without any prolonged discussion of the obsession. He felt unsafe, profoundly unsafe early on; the obsessions controlled the terror that he didn’t even know he had. The left frontal cortex was saying, “I’d better check the locks. It makes me feel more comfortable.” Since the terror is there he never can feel safe for long, the obsessions go on. The feeling of being unsafe was seeping up in small increments from the right brain. It was immediately staved off by the obsession on the left. “I’ll be safe if the house is locked.” If we were to prevent the obsession we would see terror, which is what we do in our therapy. But it must be done in a safe, controlled atmosphere. In order to feel deeply unsafe one has to feel totally safe in the present. That safety, dialectically, turns into its opposite.

Reliving means to be in the grip of the child’s or infant’s brain; it is different from discussing childhood pain with the adult brain. It means to be immersed totally in an old traumatic memory; it also involves connection of lower forces to top level brain tissue, as well as right brain feeling information to the left prefrontal cortex. There should be brain changes as a result of connection, which is what we want to discover.

Birth Trauma and Psychosis

A report about the relationship between prolonged labor and its complications to schizophrenia has been issued by Reuters Medical News and can be found on the internet. ("Obstetric Complications Correlate with Brain Differences in Schizophrenia." http// This is a report by Dr. T.F. McNeil of the Malmo University Hospital in Sweden. (American Journal of Psychiatry. 2000, 157:203-212.)

Using the magnetic resonance technique to study aspects of the limbic system (hippocampus) in 22 pairs of twins in which only one had diagnosed schizphrenia, they found that the mentally ill twin had smaller hippocampi. There was a significant correlation between labor complications and brain shrinking. Prolonged labor was one central culprit. The authors write, "Trauma at the time of labor and delivery and especially prolonged labor appear to be of importance for brain structure anomalies associated with schizophrenia." (Reuters. 2/22/2000)

What the authors contend, something I have described for decades, is that the birth trauma has something to do with later mental illness. Further, that the feeling system is grossly affected by this trauma. This means that birth trauma affects all manner of feeling states later on, whether of suicidal tendencies or criminal proclivities. So the central questions: "Why does one twin become mentally ill and not the other?", can be partially answered by reference to the birth trauma. Not only the birth trauma, but most importantly, what happened in the womb. We must consider the background, historical effects that made the neonate vulnerable to the birth trauma.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Womblife and Serotonin. The Origins of Mental Illness

Let’s begin with the poor lonely mouse. Regarding its womb-life: it is only after several months of gestation that the fetus produces adequate amounts of inhibitory/repressive chemicals such as serotonin. A mouse fetus does not make its own serotonin until close to the third trimester. It seems like the mother supplies what is needed until the baby can take over. But when the mother is low on supplies, she cannot fulfill what the developing baby lacks. Now if we extrapolate a bit to human mothers. But first a caveat: it seems to me that the principles or laws of biology apply pretty much across many species so that what is true in the physiologic evolution of mice might also be true in our own biologic evolution, as well, and as the following discussion indicates, it is true; the lag between the ability to experience pain and the ability to repress it can be considerable.

Whereas the beginnings of serotonin production in mice are sometime in the third trimester, in humans it seems to begin slightly earlier. Research on a fetus seems to indicate that it can experience pain after thirteen weeks from conception but that it really fully experiences pain after 20-24 weeks of gestation--bout five months of life in utero. It is fully sensitive to adverse events at this time. (see Paul Ranalli, “The Emerging Reality of Fetal Pain in Late Abortion.” My guess is that it begins even earlier. What is critical here is there is a time during gestation when the fetus can not produce repressive/ inhibitory chemicals and must “ask” for help physiologically from his mother. When the fetus does begin manufacturing is own neuro- chemicals it sends some of it to the mother. It says, “I can soothe myself now. Thanks for the help.” Above all, serotonin is a soother.

Allthough the pain-killing aspects of serotonin are well known, less is known about its role in affecting appetite, gastric symptoms and heart function. In short, it has a role in normal development and evolution. In particular, new evidence points to its role in actually shaping some brain structures early in fetal life. (see Cote. F. et al. “Maternal Serotonin is Crucial for Murine Embryonic Development.” 2006 National Academy of Science.) Traumas very early on, before the secretion of serotonin is evident in the fetus, impact later serotonin output and can change who and what we are significantly. One reason we see serious mental illness arising during adolescence is that the hormonal turmoil going on and the weakening of defenses permits some of the fetal pain to rise and affect thought processes. Hence delusions and hallucinations.

Interestingly, in its early secretory life serotonin functions to control and shape anatomic structure. Later on, it carries on as a pain controller. It too evolves and changes. Thus, we as humans may have a significant delay in secreting serotonin during gestation. And we rely on our mother to pitch in before we start making our own. She needs to have an adequate supply for both herself and her baby. If she is chronically depressed she is apt to have low levels of serotonin, used up in the fight against her pain. In this way the mother cannot fulfill the fetal needs for a way to blunt the impact of adverse events; i.e,. of pain. Thus, the fetus has developed a residue of unblocked, free floating pain and terror early in his gestation. This makes him much more vulnerable to trauma at birth and in infancy. He is defective in coping mechanisms. Any later trauma can have double the impact on the relatively undefended system.

The low serotonin output is an imprint that remains pretty much the same throughout our life, making us not up the task of everyday living. That is why we so desperately need serotonin enhancing medication later in life. (Prozac. Zoloft) The medication is blocking pain that happened before we set foot on this planet.

We know from current research that an imprint during gestation remains pristine pure for all of our lives, whereas an imprint from after birth can produce compensating secretions that blunt the impact of trauma during infancy. My very notion of the imprint means events that they create irreversible dislocations of function in the neurobiologic sysems. The only way it can change is if we return to the origin of the dislocation and right the ship. It needs a push from below not a cry from above.

It seems to be another biologic law that whatever happens during gestation can alter basic physiologic set points, which is rarely the case after birth where there can be compensatory mechanisms to make up for the dislocation of function associated with the original trauma.

So we have a developing fetus who has no effective repressive mechanisms trying to borrow some of mother’s serotonin to help out, but to no avail. A completely naïve physical system has no frame of reference that tells it that basic physiologic processes are deviated. During gestation the system deviates and then considers that deviation as normal. So the baby is born with inadequate serotonin/gating capacity, and that deficiency follows him throughout life. But it is an already wounded organism, a wound that almost no one can see or even imagine. He will grow up chronically anxious, unable to concentrate or focus. He may well be ADD and be unable to sit still because the activation goes on incessantly. It shows itself in the panic attacks that happens when the system is vulnerable and gating weak; the imprint from gestation rises to the top and shouts out its message which almost no one can decipher. It is such a mystery because its origins are so arcane.

An example: a girl is born in wartime to a mother who is chronically anxious because her husband has been sent to war and left her all alone. The anxious mother transmits some of that to her baby who is then considerably weakened. He cannot fully repress to hold down pain. By the time infancy happens there is already a weak, vulnerable baby who is chronically agitated. This may be the beginnings of serious mental illness. It is not obvious to the human eye but the damage is done.

Too often this is ascribed to heredity because no one can imagine what has already happened in the womb. It is kind of a free- floating anxiety that seems to have no specific time of origin. Remember, this is a purely physiologic reaction originated at a time when there was no higher brain centers to process the event. To recapture it we must retreat to that primitive brain.

What we may see many decades later are panic and anxiety attacks, and then much later a cerebral stroke. This imprint would militate against cancer because for cancer to develop we often need massive repression; and for that we need massive secretions of neurojuices such as serotonin. What would exacerbate the risk of cancer is events later in infancy and childhood with unloving, stern parents. The result is a person who never had outlets for his pain. What further shuts down the person is growing up with a violent father or mother, a strict religious household, and no one to turn to. The force of the imprint may well affect the brain when the person is in his sixties. How on earth can we access such remote experiences, a time when there were no ideas to help out?

We do know that each high level of brain function can incorporate the previous lower level. That is, early memories become elaborated on higher levels of brain function and are incorporated into those levels. So when we relive a non-verbal pain or trauma in infancy we are at the same time reliving the residue from earlier in womb-life. The events are united under a resonance factor that makes a higher level of brain function trigger off a deeper and more remote feeling. To put it differently, each early preverbal imprint is ramified on higher levels so that feeling fully on the higher level automatically has us feeling the earlier aspects of the feeling. Because of this we can over-react to events in adult life. As we see in our therapy, it may be one cause of erectile dysfunction—the feeling of being overwhelmed because of even slight pressure to function in the present. Or the inability to get going at work.

So to summarize: there seems to be a time in gestation when pain or noxious stimuli impinge, but we are not yet able to produce our own gating chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphin, resulting in un- gated pain. When I refer to gating, I refer to electrochemical process that blocks the transmission of the pain message across the synapse. This residue will continue and may lead to bouts of anxiety later on in life. It becomes free-floating, unbound fear or terror. It can then be focused on elevators and a phobia is born. This is not due to heredity but rather to experience in the womb. Part of our in-utero life, therefore, takes on hurt at a time when the system can do nothing about it; nevertheless, it affects all later development. At 30, we may suffer from panic attacks that began its life in the very early months of our mother’s pregnancy. It is pristine, ready to spring forth whenever we are vulnerable. No talk therapy can make a dent in it because it involves a vegetative primitive nervous system which was adequate to register pain and terror during womb-life. This is a nervous system impervious to words; it doesn’t understand them and does not respond to them. So insights leave it absolutely indifferent. The womb experience leaves us fragile for a lifetime so that any insult or lack of love in infancy and childhood weakens us all the more. That is why we need drugs that work on lower brain centers below the intellectual in order to suppress these imprints for a time.

So much severe mental illness has its causes so early in our lives; and then nature later provides us with useless intellectual tools to address them. When all we have to do is let the primitive nervous system take charge and lead the way. It knows the path to liberation.

Shocking the Brain: Electroshock Therapy

Last week a sixty-year-old woman came to us from a small town in England. She was severely depressed. What does depression feel like, Numb, Not getting anything out of life. Despair, She was depressed like that twenty years ago. She had no idea what brought it back.

As she started her three weeks of therapy we had the big Los Angeles earthquake (January 1994) and her bed and she shook uncontrollable. That event reawakened something that changed all the rules of the game. She stopped crying and reported the following relentless symptoms: a constant hissing sound in her ears, night and day; numbness in the face, a feeling of electricity all over her body (she shook and jerked all the time), a complete feeling of discomfort.

Her session changed complexion. She lost her motor control in her legs and in the session when she tried to stand up she started to collapse. There were no words to her agony, she felt disconnected and had no idea what was going on in her. She began flopping uncontrollably exactly like the triggering event of the earthquake. She was reliving electroshock therapy she had undergone twenty times some twenty years before.

When we pressed on her temples (where the original electrodes were placed) she arched back and flopped and jerked exactly as though she were again undergoing shock thereapy. She relived pieces of the experience each session for weeks, and had to do so before she could get to the feelings that had lay behind her depression; the very feelings that had led doctors to shock her in the first place. Sometimes when I put my fingers on her temples the right side of her face went numb, something that no doubt occurred originally. When a pencil was put in her mouth at the appropriate time she clamped down on it as hard as one could imagine, her face grimaced in agony, and she was back there in shock again reliving the time they put cotton or a rubber device in her mouth to keep her from biting her tongue or breaking her teeth during the experience.

So what's the first lesson about this?; a lesson very important since electroshock is making a comeback particularly with children, believe it or not---what goes in must come out. The electroshock is like any shock, a trauma, a trauma that must be relieved in its entirety. What does the shock do? It does what any shock does; raises the level of serotonin, the inhibitory brain chemical which enhances repression. It therefore does what any state of souped-up repression. It therefore does what any state of souped-up repression does; it renders the person ahistoric, bereft of emotional memory for days, weeks, and sometimes forever. Again we see that it is the overall charge value of an electrical impulse that produces an overload and shutdown.

Electroshock is a neutral electrical stimulus but it has the same effect as a ten year old seeing his mother killed in a car crash. They both add up to an overload, increased serotonin to meet the overwhelming input and finally, shutdown. The memory is blotted out and unconsciousness sets in. In electroshock it is global unconsciousness. In the accident it is the same; the situation is blotted out, and above all, the meaning of the situation is hidden away, I'll never have a mommy again in my life. There will be no one to protect and take care of me. What matters in both cases is the level of electrical charge of the stimulus. The content is simply the vehicle for the power of the incident. As we see in electroshock, there need be no content whatsoever.

After a time of reliving the shock we will be able to get to the traumas below. So long as that event is superimposed on childhood pain it will take precedence in the primal reliving sequence. It's charge value is such as to blot out almost anything else. Interestingly, as she relived more and more of the shock therapy she began covering her head and hearing the bombs over London during the blitz in World War II. After that, we expect her to begin to relive traumas even earlier, finally arriving down deep to the imprints that caused the depression that originally precipitated the necessity for ECT.

We systematically measure the vital functions, heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure, before and after each session. This woman came in with consistently high vital signs, body temp of over one hundred every day. They would drop only moderately, which is as it should be since the event could only be felt a small piece at a time; therefore, we would not expect major drops after any single session. We would expect major drops toward the end of the feeling, some weeks or months later when the full charge value of the twenty shocks had been experienced and integrated. Along with this moderate drop was the picture of a disconnected, fragmented human being. She had no idea what she was undergoing, had no idea why her body was shaking or why her face went numb, had no insights and seemed blank. In short, the whole shock experience was still on its way to consciousness, disrupting it, blotting out memory and preventing deep access; after all, that was the point of the shock, in the first place; to prevent deep internal access to one's pain. It would seem that her face went numb in the original experience because during the Primal when I tapped strongly on her right cheek she reported feeling only pressure but no pain.

Again, we are not going to expect a connected lucidity until a major portion of the electroshock therapy is relived. Then automatically, it will all fall into place and no one will have to offer her any understanding or insights. It is no different than a child reliving losing her mother early on. The catastrophic meaning of it will be lost until months into Primal Therapy when the whole event with its painful meaning will finally be fully experienced. The original event blasted third-line coherence just so the whole meaning would no longer be apparent. It fragmented through patterns, cut short attention span and ruined the ability to concentrate. The shock was doing what it was supposed to do; reducing the coherence of the third-line. If a shocking trauma did not do this and the person were to feel the shock in a focused way in its entirety the level or reactivity such as blood pressure and heart rate could be lethal. Thus, a fragmented response is necessary, and that has implications for things such as poor physical coordination. To be fragmented means not to have your body, not to be connected.

The original doctors, either through belief, lack of time or technique did not bother to talk to her about the possible causes of her depression. All they knew was that she was crying all of time. They did not seem to understand that childhood pain lay below the surface, and they did not make an effort, therefore, to penetrate deep down to see what was bothering her. When that happens there seems to be no alternative but to shock someone's brains. The problem is that afterward she carried around that shock inside her just as if she had the shock at ten of watching her mother die in an auto accident.

The need for shock often happens when ordinary pills aren't adequate. That is, when the underlying pain is so great that simple medication won't suppress it. Then the big guns of electroshock are called in to blast the pain and memory and history out of existence. In a society where results are paramount, shock offers a quick fix. One can see it, the patient attests to its benefits and everyone seems happy. Meanwhile, churning below the surface is that very shock, doing its damage by stealth. The aim in conventional therapy is to get people productive again; back to the factory, the office and the computer. Part of the person is back at work; she has the emotional her back at the shock room in the hospital. So she is now a productive member of society, a robot in the service of results; eviscerated, devitalized, desensitized, hollow and dehumanized at work churning out product while her real feelings grind away in the deep unconscious. She can work but she can't love.

The effects of electroshock therapy are monstrous and unnecessary. We must talk to the patient, allow her to feel. Be concerned and realize that there is a history in human beings that must be addressed.

The Importance of Good Care on Child Development

From New Scientist 23 Sept 2000 page 18, You Are What You Eat. by Claire Ainsworth: "A mother's diet in the first few days after conception could determine the health of her unborn child for life". An embryo sets its growth rate according to its environment. If a mother is malnourished the growth rate is slower as part of the adaptation for survival. This leads to low birth weight. Babies that are born small are subject to high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes in later life. This is the work of Tom Fleming of the University of Southampton England. This is an extrapolation from rat research. Source: Development (vol 127, page 4195)

Excerpt from "New Scientist" 16 December 2000 by Meredith F. Small, professor of anthropology at Cornell University. Her book, Kids: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Raise Our Children, will be published in April 2001 by Doubleday.

Human young are dependant on their carers to help them navigate through their crucial early years. So to get the emotional and physical help they need, they must be highly sensitive to the behaviour of their carers-and that makes them particularly vulnerable to family strife. Several studies have shown that it is unpredictability that really stresses kids. British researchers found, for example, that the cortisol levels of some children are lower at school, where life is predictable and stable, and higher at home, where they believe anything can happen.

Normally, their reaction to stress helps kids cope by directing energy to parts of the body that need it most, but if stressful situations are not resolved, the damage can be far-reaching. Megan Gunnar, an expert on stress in children at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, points to a growing awareness that stress in childhood is a major mental and physical health risk.

"One reason to worry about stress in childhood is that this is the time when we learn how to manage stress-patterns that we will carry forward into our adult lives," says Gunnar. "And we don't take the hit on some of the health consequences until we are older. Increasingly, we are finding that many of those adult diseases that knock us down when we are 40 or 50- heart disease, high blood pressure and so on-are detectable in childhood, when the patterns are set."

Gunnar and others have shown that when very young children are abused, neglected or bond poorly with their carers, their cortisol levels are high even in mildly stressful situations such as play and they are unable to cope. And several recent studies of women who had been abused as children show that they are biologically vulnerable to depression and anxiety as adults because early experience permanently altered their hormonal responses, making them hypersensitive to stress.

Flinn has uncovered two abnormal patterns of cortisol production in children under continued stress from family trauma. Usually, kids have a constant low background level of cortisol, which peaks when they are under stress. But some highly stressed children have chronically high levels of cortisol. They are also shy and anxious. Another group of children has abnormally low basal cortisol levels interspersed with spikes of unnaturally high levels. They also show what Flinn calls blunted cortisol responses-their levels don't rise as they should during physical activity. Just as worrying, they are less sociable and more aggressive than kids with normal profiles.

Some of these kids have been stressed since they were conceived and they probably missed certain sensitive periods for obtaining normal cortisol profiles, though how exactly the response develops is still unknown. These children also have weakened immune responses, fall ill more frequently, are easily fatigued and don't sleep well. Looking at his record of children who are now adults, Flinn is finding that some of them seem to be permanently affected by stressful events that happened while they were in the womb, in infancy or during early childhood.

Attention Deficit Disorder

There is a new book out by a specialist in ADD which claims that there are at least five different kinds of ADD, each diagnosis peculiar to certain kinds of individuals. I often wonder what do these specialists believe is actually in the brain. Are there five different disease forms of ADD? Perhaps some genetic and some not? Are there five different areas involved in different kinds of ADD? I don't think so. The brain is complicated but it is not mystical, holding five different aspects of the same disease in its reservoir. ADD is first and foremost a failure of repression. There are not many different kinds of repression. There is one mediated by various kinds of neuroinhibitors. It is pain that overwhelms frontal cortical function and fragments its abilities to contain impulses from below. Certainly, there are differences in personality so that some manifest ADD in one fashion while others manifest it in another. But it is still ADD at its base. And it all can be treated in the same way: diminish the power of deep-lying imprinted pain by reliving early traumas, allowing the frontal cortex to develop and control because it is no longer bombarded by lower level shattering input. It all depends on how severe the early trauma was that compromised the development of the frontal cortex, and how much cortical tissue was implicated. As I discussed elsewhere, very early severe trauma can leave a cortex so impaired that the person is awash in impulses which cannot be controlled so that he is violent and can kill. In any case, the deficit is not just "psychological." It is a deficiency in frontal tissue. When someone like this is described as not "having all his marbles," now we know what that means. It should read, "not having all his frontal marble."

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.