Friday, October 31, 2008

The Critical Window in Psychotherapy

In many of my books I have discussed the critical window, the time in which certain needs require fulfillment. After that, there can be no real fulfillment because the critical time has passed. The need and its pain are sealed away never again to be experienced until someone finds a way to access the deep reaches of the unconscious. Thereafter, those needs can only be fulfilled symbolically. That is, if we need touch, cuddling and warmth immediately after birth and for the first few months of life, fulfillment must occur then. If we are touched after the critical period it will do nothing to alter the basic imprint of being “unloved.” If a mother drinks during pregnancy, no amount of abstinence will do any good later on; even later on during the pregnancy. Once the imprint is in force it endures for a lifetime. Nothing will change it except going back to relive the need and its pain due to a lack of fulfillment.

The same biologic law applies to psychotherapy. There is a critical window during a session when the patient brings in a certain feeling, say, helplessness. If the therapist does not act to help the person delve in the feeling it will be too late, later on in the session. When the therapist does not strike at the critical moment, the specific feeling/frequency she came in with is now gone, and what the patient will be left with is abreaction. The discharge of a secondary feeling, not the key one she brought in.

What I think may happen, and this is only hypothesis, is that when the feeling and its frequency are left unaddressed the patient slips into a secondary feeling with a different brain pattern and frequency. Even though she may look like she connected and resolved the feeling there is a good chance that it is abreaction. It is simply the discharge of the energy of the feeling without connection.

Let me make this clear because so many so-called primal therapists make this fundamental error. There is a time in the session when that feeling is very near conscious/awareness. Without professional help the feeling slides away and the patient, now floundering, manages to get into a different feeling, one that may belong to the therapist’s agenda, not the patient’s. That is because the therapist did not pick up on the entering feeling and then projects his own needs and feelings onto the patient. The patient then goes where the therapist decides, which has nothing to do with attacking the basic need and resolving it. Too often, the patient goes where the therapist tacitly is interested. The patient senses that and becomes a “good girl.’ The unconscious of the therapist implicitly directs the patient.

The pain of lack of fulfillment is always an adjunct to a specific need. To address the wrong need is to forego proper connection and resolution; it is feeling the wrong pain at the wrong time. A depressed patient comes in feeling hopeless and helpless. The therapist may perceive latent anger and urges the patient to hit the wall. The release does offer some relief and they both may think there was resolution. But it was only temporary. The real feeling will return again and again only to be waylaid. Or the therapist may say, “tell your mother!” It may have nothing to do with mother; indeed, the feeling may date back to a time before words. So expressing the feeling is a false route. It is tricky business. A sound knowledge of the evolution of consciousness will help here.

We found that in abreaction the vital signs rise and descend in sporadic fashion, indicating an unconnected unresolved feeling. Too often it looks like a feeling but it is not the central important one. Neurologic connection is the be-all and end-all of the reliving process.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Prenatal Life and its Later Effects

When I first wrote about how the birth trauma and prenatal experience affect adult behavior it was considered “New Agey.” Now, there are literally hundreds of studies verifying this proposition. There seems to be little question now that the carrying mother’s mood and physiology can produce long-term effects on the offspring. That means us.

Let’s start with a simple bit of research; Dr. Daniel Schacter, psychologist of Harvard University has reported on a study where subjects watched bits of a TV series and then had their brainwaves measured. (see: Science, Sept. 2008).

They found when the subject remembered the event, the single brain cell signature was the same as in the first viewing. They reported that it seemed like a reliving; which of course, has been my position. What do you call it when a memory brings up one’s exact history with its precise early physiology. This happens to our patients every day. When there are certain triggers the brain conjures up its history, intact. That is why our behavior is so compulsive and unwavering; our history motivates us all of the time. We are largely victims of our deep unconscious brain.

In Schacter’s research on epileptic surgery patients, they threaded fine electrodes down in the brain of the subject. These electrodes could pin-point small brain storms at their origins. And they could make minute measurements during recall. The lesson? We can relive past events in their entirety, precisely as they occurred. What is very new in all of this is how early an experience can be to affect our later life. Think of the implications: that old memories reside in the same neurons (nerve cells) as were involved originally. That is why the neurotic cannot distinguish between past and present and sees reality through the prism of the past.

Let’s go back to the notion I discussed earlier of epigenetics. One genotype, a single genetic predisposition, can give rise to many phenotypes depending on what happens to those genes during gestation. So what we might imagine is genetic is genetic-plus what happens to us in the womb. So much happens to us in the womb; so much as been ignored in terms of the their long-term effects that many diseases remain a mystery because we are looking at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong tools.

What I am learning is that events in the womb explain so much about later life. If you bend an emerging twig you are bound to get a distorted tree. The question has always been, “how’/ early is early?”

An example: someone is born with all kinds of allergies from birth on. A history of emergency clinic visits for all kinds of infections, asthma, breathing problems due to allergies, and in general, a very deficient immune system. Here is where we need to push back the envelope and direct our attention to those early months in the womb. When we do, we often find out that the mother was quite anxious and/or depressed. Or often, the marriage is falling apart. Or in one case, as her belly got big the husband was turned off and sought out an affair. The mother was crestfallen, fell into a depression, and we had a baby that was impacted by all this and was born with a diminished immune system, something that got its start early on in the pregnancy. Don’t forget that the immune system, in some respects, is our first inchoate nervous system, sussing out dangers and menaces and organizing defenses against them. This includes secreting some of the pain-killing neurotransmitters we know about today. What starts out to defend us ends up hurting us. If the immune system is comprised there is a good chance that natural killers cells will be diminished and weakened.

Because the baby can be born with higher than normal stress hormone levels, and because the immune system works in see-saw fashion with cortisol (high stress—low immune function) the fetus has possibly set the stage for a lifetime of immune problems. Here is where genetics plays a role; high stress in the fetus will affect those areas with genetic vulnerabilities. After all, what is the meaning of high levels of stress hormone during fetal life? It means an input that agitates the system to be chronically alert. And when the system can longer shut off that input we have the makings of an enduring primal imprint. That input is maternally induced. So we have a newborn with a high level of agitation already set in place many weeks earlier. Here is ADDHD (attenton deficity disorder) waiting to happen. Over time the deleterious results can range from impulsive tendencies to migraine and high blood pressure (to hold down the imprinted input). It is then no mystery when the child cannot concentrate or sit still. It is not enough to know that there are high levels of stress hormones in the baby, but what causes it, in the first place.

We change natural killer cells after one year of our therapy into normal levels. These cells have as a key function, watching out for cancer developing cells and pouncing on them in an effort to contain them. So a mother’s distress while pregnant can spell life-endangering effects on her baby, not the least of which is later cancer. The earlier the trauma during womb life the more disastrous the effects. That is our important secret life.

What can be done about this? Treating it first and foremost, then make sure it will not come back? How do we do the latter? Reliving the earliest womb-life events. How do we do that? Well, luckily, each new harmful or adverse experience that remains unintegrated is re-represented later on a higher level of the nervous system and is noted as the outsider or enemy. It is indeed a threat to the organism. I believe that there are specific frequencies that tie these events together. When we explore these ramified events and begin to relive them we are also reliving deeper and earlier aspects of the feeling and/or pain. And that is how we relive pure physiologic brain-stem responses without ever acknowledging it.

When there are certain kinds of triggers, the brain conjures up its related history, intact. That is why our behavior is so compulsive and unwavering; our history motivates us all of the time. We are largely victims of our deep unconscious brain. We can only reach deeper into the remote past as we gain more and more access to deeper levels of brain activity. We need to have real good access to our feelings first; then very early brainstem events. That takes time but it can be done.

And what about cancer? The beginning deformity of cells can well begin in the womb with mother’s anxiety due to her own history or due to her marital circumstances. In any case, the fetal system needs to gather its resources to shut down excessive input. Here is where many cells are evolving and gathering their identity, but instead there is massive repression and, ultimately, physiologic deviation, even at the cellular level.

One patient had three siblings all “messed up” and depressed. It remained a mystery why all of them were so disturbed, her parents were indeed loving; until she had very early primals (a systematic reliving of early trauma). She learned that in South America, for many years, there was a civil war. The father left to fight, coming home occasionally to make babies. The mother was in desperate straights, had no money and no one to turn to, fearful of the constant raids into her village. The children, even in fetal life, suffered. She was a loving mother whom the children adored, but neglect womb-life, which should not be ignored. It had far-reaching effects. It therefore is an indicator of what went on during fetal life. Can we imagine a doctor learning about a stroke with her patient and then examining his fetal life?

Low birth weight is associated with slow fetal growth and lack of development of various physical systems. If the newborn is abnormal in any respect, even birth weight, we may assume that something abnormal may have happened during gestation. Babies of depressed mothers are more often of low birth weight. At least, let’s consider it. Babies with low birth rate lack muscle, something that follows her into adulthood. Here is a quote from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study: (we) have shown that the risk for coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance is further increased in 60-to 70-year-olds who were small at birth, thin or short in infancy, but put on weight rapidly between 2 and 11 years ofage.2, (55) A similar growth trajectory has been shown to predispose to type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. “

People who suffer stroke tend to be thin or short at 2 years. There is evidence that these early events can lead to hypertension later on, which is an important risk factor for both coronary heart disease and stroke. A number of mechanisms have been suggested to explain these links.

We need to study Alzheimer’s disease as it relates to gestational trauma as well as birth difficulties.

Certain height and weight problems at 2 years of age is a well accepted indicator of childhood emotional problems. Why is this so? There are a number of answers. Growth of the fetus relies heavily on adequate oxygen supplies. Because of the large brain, which uses a good deal of oxygen, there is a physiologic demand from more and more. If these supplies become limited for any number of reasons the body growth will slow down so that the brain can be left intact. Hence, lower fetal weight. Let us keep in mind that cancer can develop and live without oxygen, and maybe that adapting to lower levels of oxygen in the womb is part of an explanation for later cancer. Deprive a cell of a majority of what oxygen it requires and you have one key element in the origin of some cancers. This an only be a hypothesis.

In experimental animals it was found that anything that increased fetal stress hormone levels could result later on in elevated blood pressure, anxiety and hyperglycemia. And when we fiddle with stress hormone levels we increase the likelihood of later cardiac crises. And cortisol level is also heavily implicated in signaling the birth process to begin.

Cortisol is a stress hormone because it sets in motion the alarm signals to combat too much and too strong an input. When it goes on for a long time it accelerates again, the possibility of dementia and a whole host of other diseases. Primal imprints do exactly that; maintain a high level of cortisol for a lifetime.

In nearly every study of prenatal life there is the implication that high stress hormone levels in the carrying mother can result in hypertension and cardiac problems later on in the offspring. Infants of mothers who were diagnosed as anxious before pregnancy had significantly higher stress hormone levels. What neuro-psychologist Paula Thompson has explained: “prenatal stress responses are dependent on mother’s stress level. But how babies show it is through a limited physiologic vocabulary.” She believes that the fetal stress response is already skewed and, given later stress, the earlier stress response does not change. It can be blocked, diverted, covered over, but it remains pristine clear.

She believes that stress states in the pre-nate and neonate can be recognized by elevated heart rate, greater activity levels (gross body, single and multiple limb-higher reflex activation (Field et al. 2006). The pre-nate and neonate may show mistimed diffuse movement and overt grimacing. Will be rather clumsy and has a lack coordination. All this can be a predictor of later heart disease. That is only if we look at the problem in a gestalt overview.
Thompson: “One overarching goal of this article is to help clinicians understand the potential deleterious effects of prenatal stress. (See Thompson. “Down Will Come Baby.” Journal of Trauma and Dissociation. Vol. 8(3) 2007) She adds: it is hoped that increased knowledge of prenatal stress will inform psychotherapeutic treatment protocols, especially when treating severely traumatized and dissociative patients who may themselves have suffered early prenate stress. Further, when these patients become pregnant, appropriate treatment for the mother may benefit the offspring. When clinicians provide therapeutic intervention to a pregnant woman the pre-nate may also be affected”(Field, 2001; Ponirakis, Susman & Stifer, 1998. (My emphasis)

Let us not forget that (Thompson): one of the most dramatic changes occurs in the first moment of conception. The primitive cell carries the blueprint for an individual who has never existed before and will never exist again. While in the womb he is having the most important experiences in his life, because nearly all of it is of life-and-death significance. This is what Freud should have meant when he was developing his theory of psychoanalysis. Here lies the deep unconscious; a dark place with no exit and no words. Biologic responses dominate. In order to relive we have to include all of our physiologic processes, not just cerebral memory. The first step is to acknowledge these facts; a much more difficult step is to fashion a therapy for them. I think we have done that.

One of the key factors in high levels of maternal cortisol is the increase in the chances of a lost baby; or at the least some kind of prematurity. Again, those levels descend into the fetal system and change the baby in ways we are still learning about. Babies born to depressed mothers have higher levels of cortisol than normal. Here was what Lauren Kaplan and colleagues have to say about this: “in utero environment sculpts the uniquely plastic fetal brain resulting in long-term maladaptive patterns of behavior and physiology.” (Lauren Kaplan, et al, “Effects of Mother’s Prenatal Psychiatric Status and Postnatal Caregiving on Infant Biobehavioral Regulation.” Early Human Dev. 2008 April; 84 (4) 249-256)

What researchers are now saying over and over again is that womb-life can inalterably affect the lifetime of the offspring. And, it is not only behavior that is altered but the physiology, as well. Does this mean a change in Primal Theory? Absolutely, it pushes the envelope much earlier for when imprints start and for their widespread enduring effects. It means that how the birth trauma is played out and reacted to depends on earlier life circumstances.

I want to reiterate my point about serotonin production in the fetus. For the first few months of gestation the fetus must “borrow” serotonin from momma; that is, if she (mother) has adequate levels. If she doesn’t, the fetus can’t go to the pharmacy bank and make a loan. She can be low in stock if she already has a chronic depression that depletes supplies. What is stamped in is a lack of adequate repression by the fetus and the beginning of a free-floating panic or anxiety, which only becomes evident years later as the defense system is under constant attack. This terror cannot be fully contained because of inadequate supplies of serotonin. Then we have panic attacks that are originated far earlier than we have ever imagined. But also these low levels of serotonin affect and retard development. It is as essential as food; it is food for the fetus.

We now know that a difficult birth can deplete the baby of adequate serotonin/inhibition levels. Later, all kinds of impulse neurotics—criminals—addicts, are low in serotonin, and obviously, low in inhibition. I don’t think we need to stop at birth for adverse effects on serotonin. It can happen as serotonin begins to function adequately, even in the last few months of pregnancy. Again, many of my patients are low in serotonin at the start of therapy but normalize after a year; therefore, it is a reversible phenomenon. (see a full discussion of this in my Primal Healing). It isn’t only serotonin; there is ample research now to show that the neocortical inhibitory prefrontal neurons are low in number due to a trauma at or before birth. These are poor inhibitors from the time of birth on. These individuals cannot wait, lose patience, have attention deficit disorder lash out with little provocation and want what they want NOW! They will interrupt because they cannot wait their turn to speak. All this means that we can be born with a tendency to Attention Deficit Disorder. It is not heredity but the experiences during womb-life that impacted that heredity. It seems like we are born with it but mostly we are not.

Now let’s push the envelope even further back. In a recent experiment, a scientist raised some rats after knocking out some of the building blocks for serotonin (the key element in Prozac), which is key for gating or repression. He then let the females mature, get pregnant and have babies. Of the 43 mouse embryos tested, 37 displayed abnormalities and brain malfunction. This indicates that the animal mother’s state affects the development of the baby’s brain. Her levels of serotonin can determine how her offspring mature. So, when a pregnant woman is chronically depressed, and hence low on serotonin, the baby’s entire life may be adversely affected. And the changes in her as a result of “heredity” will determine what kind of mother the offspring will be. Later childhood environment does count a lot but not as much as when the baby’s brain is rapidly evolving. In gestation, it is essential that the mother be normal in every way possible. Otherwise, she cannot fulfill the needs of her baby in the womb. And one definition of love is helping to fulfill the needs of the child. No fulfilling needs—no love.

What is very important for us to realize was that a mouse fetus does not make her own serotonin until 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. Therefore, the baby carries around a load of pain. Now if we apply that to humans, there seems to be a time in gestation when pain or noxious stimuli impinge, but we are not yet able to produce enough of our own gating chemicals, leading to ungated pain. This residue will continue and may lead to bouts of anxiety later on in life. It becomes free-floating fear or terror. This is not due to heredity but rather to experience in the womb. This is why we should never neglect womb-life when addressing neurosis. Part of our in-utero life, therefore, takes on hurt at a time when our system can do nothing about it. Nevertheless, it affects all later development. At thirty we may suffer from panic attacks (as excessive agitation) that began its life in the very early months of our mother’s pregnancy. It is pristine and free-floating, ready to spring forth whenever we are vulnerable or our defenses are weak. No talk therapy can make a dent in it. It leaves us fragile for a lifetime so that any insult in infancy and childhood weakens us all the more. Demanding and/or aloof parents can easily compound an allergic tendency, for example.

Catherine Monk and her associates studied anxiety in pregnant mothers. (Monk, C. et al.“Effects of Women’s Stress-elicited Physiological Activity and Chronic anxiety on Fetal Heart Rate.” Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 2003. Lippincott publishers. Their conclusion was: “women’s emotion based physiological activity can affect the fetus and may be important to fetal development.” To think that there is a significant physiologic change but no later psychologic one would be to ignore the human brain.

Now as to the enduring effects of pre-birth and birth trauma. Alyx Taylor has shown that the baby’s stress response to an inoculation at eight weeks was largely determined by the “mode of delivery” of the newborn. Those who reacted the most were birthed by assisted delivery. Cesarean showed the least response. The central finding is that the stress response circuits (HPA circuit) in the brain help determine how a baby will response to future stress.

I am not going to cite any number of relevant studies but one such article is of a review if many related ones. Nicole Talge and her colleagues reviewed the data on what happens to the babies of stressed mothers. (“Antenatal Maternal Stress and Long-term effects on Child Neurodevelopment. How and Why.” J. of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 48:3/4 4 (2007) pp 245-261)

Nearly all studies claim an effect of the mother on the fetus. I suppose the real question is, “what can we do about it.” Years later it seems an impossible task, but it is not. Once there is an imprinted trauma during womb-life, the brain system closes down on the pain through inhibition/gating. Thereafter the effects are life-long. What we must do is go back to the originating source and undo the trauma. The way we do that is to relive the trauma and open the gates. It can be done, as I have explained elsewhere, is by reliving emotional trauma during childhood, which has at its roots the pre-birth event. When we fully relive the childhood event it incorporates the earlier trauma; each new related trauma is re-represented on higher levels. And when these later traumas are relived we see the disappearance (or reduction in the severity) of the symptom, as for example, high blood pressure. That is because the earlier trauma may only be expressed through specific physiologic reactions such as blood pressure or heart rate. To relive the physiologic responses can be enough given other variables. If we latch onto the related childhood feeling in our therapy it automatically (given deeper access) includes the earlier physiologic component of the feeling. I want to reiterate that there is a timetable of needs that must be fulfilled at that time and no other. Once the fetus has been impacted due to a high level of stress hormones that is it; the system gates it as best as it can, and no other mode of treatment except reliving can change it.

This is a change in our paradigm. It means that trauma that has life-long effects can occur during womb-life, and thereafter has profound effects on our later behavior and symptoms. How, therefore, can we possibly attack allergies, migraine and high blood pressure without an acknowledgment of the deep and remote origins of the problem? I have been writing about this for decades. The difference is that research has now caught up and begins to confirm our theory. And now we see why after one year of our therapy there is a normalization of natural killer cells; as I pointed out, these are cells on the lookout for newly forming cancer cells, and attack them. So we might say that one way to help forestall cancer is to make sure that our immune system is intact and strong.

One may rightly question how anyone can relive events in the womb with no scenes or words. Luckily, that part of the imprint is totally physiological. We don’t need verbal acknowledgment. That deep brainstem is also a very important part of our central nervous system and gives the oomph or push to a feeling. A single feeling will encompass all three levels of brain function. Again, there is no exit here except entering into the most profound of unconscious states as possible.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Language as Anesthesia

The neocortex or top level of the brain deals with ideas and beliefs. Specifically, the left-brain deals with ideas and beliefs. The right side is more feeling oriented.
The left works in see-saw fashion with the feelings/limbic brain. As the lower right side of this brain becomes active the top-level intellectual brain gives way and accedes to the limbic area. In this way feelings come to the fore and make us aware of our emotions. We are able to feel. When the neocortex is hyperactive the limbic area cedes and we become enmeshed in ideas and beliefs. We feel much less. In other words, we can use language to narcotize our feelings and our pain. To feel, we must slow our thoughts and cede control to the right brain. When feelings come to the fore, we slow and become reflective and aware of our emotions. When our left-brain is overactive, we become enmeshed in ideas and beliefs and feel much less. If we are constantly in this state, we may be over-intellectual. In other words, we can use language to narcotize our feelings and our pain.
It is no accident that we use language in hypnosis to shut off feelings and to sometimes allow new surgery to take place. Here language is literally a painkiller, anesthetizing the feel of the knife as it penetrates the skin. We need to understand this thoroughly because in those therapies that use language as the preeminent tool it is basically anti-feeling. It allows patients to feel better because of this anti-pain, anti-feeling effect; shutting down our humanity. Once we know that there are basically three brains inside or cerebrum, there would be no way to ignore those lower brains that mediate or handle emotions, sensations and instincts.
When we have a painful experience the cortex registers the awareness of it, while the limbic area registers its feeling. Most current therapies rearrange awareness of feelings, not their physiologic experience. Thus we develop a new perspective on the same old feeling, not changing the pain one iota. We can rationalize our need without altering its force, and it is old unfulfilled need that makes us act-out symbolically. All this, then, can anesthetize experience and we walk through life semi-unconscious. One example: a patient is addicted to porno magazines where women look at a man’s penis with great joy. The feeling: a woman takes joy in the sight of a man. Translated, the young boy had a dour mother who never showed any emotion and was never happy to see her son whom she did not like. In symbols, pictures of women showing ecstasy, he found fulfillment of need. It is symbolic because obviously there was no fulfillment in his act. It was an imagined fulfillment. It is the basis of religion and belief systems, in religion we find a protector who watches out for us and loves us completely.
What is the basis of most cognitive and insight therapy? To supplant the patient’s ideas and perceptions with a different more “wholesome” one. The flood of ideas to drown feelings. That is why the Jungian and Freudian therapies have their adepts. For Freud there was the Id, that immutable force that drives us; while in Jung there are shadow forces that do the same. It seems like there are serious philosophic differences. But no, in the brain there are no differences; just more symbols. The brain does not distinguish between Freud and Jung; for its machinery it just needs and intellectual input to put down feelings and create pseudo happiness. And now we see one reason for the development of the new cortex: to shut off egregious pain. To distanciate oneself from another part of the self. To make life bearable. To dissociate and repress so that life can go on, which allows one to function. All we pay is the price of our humanity; and in most current therapies it is a steep price to pay. Those clear insights muddle our thoughts and internal perceptions. We lose sight of who we are. Thus, insight is to lose sight. Because it is the brain of the outer, externally-oriented sight (the “outside-the left prefrontal area) that we use to comprehend insights in therapy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Will We Die Of and When?

Don’t take this as gospel but I want to share my observations.  What I see of death and dying is that different personalities die of different diseases or for different reasons. Those who were always hyperactive, who never stopped, who worked around the clock and could not sit still will die of a stroke.  The imprint here is first line, that is, either during gestation, around birth or just after.  It affects the brainstem terror, dealing with life-and-death, and constantly galvanizes the system into activity. That never stops; so long as the imprint is unchanged it goes on for a lifetime.  The brainstem sends impulses up to the top cortex; the brain then manufactures all kinds of projects and plans to rationalize the imprint. And, it nearly always dictates hypersexuality.  If we want to know about infidelity, look here too.  The terror center of the brainstem, the locus ceruleus, is no doubt one of the culprits here.  It is busy because traumas during gestation and around birth are nearly always a matter of survival.  That memory endures.  
    Why don’t they die of cancer?  Because repression is faulty.  Those who die of cancer are also first-line blockers whose repression is effective even in the womb.  The inhibitory serotonin/endorphin systems work well, too well!  These people don’t have as many outlets as they should.  Also, the nature of the birth trauma usually enhances repression; massive anesthesia given to the mother which intrudes into the baby’s system. Then we have the compounding, very repressive parents, disciplinarians who smother the child and her feelings.  Prescription cancer.  Look around and see who dies and of what.  Now, those who squelch their feelings put enormous pressure on the right hemisphere  and a right side stroke can be the result.  Those who live in their heads, intellectuals and very religious individuals, have a good deal of right side feelings whose energy travels to the left ideational side; the result, a left side stroke.  As I said, this is not gospel.  

Saturday, October 4, 2008

How Long Will I Live?

Good question. Answer: It all depends on your Janovian gap. Proper diet. Check. Exercise. Check. Stress free environment. Check. What are we forgetting? The gap between sensations and feelings in our neurologic system and the conscious/awareness of them. This gap, I believe, is the central internal dynamic that determines what kind of serious disease befalls us, and how long we can expect to live. Another way to put it is that longevity depends on full consciousness. Anything less can shorten your life because it means that there is a measureable amount of repression that is holding feelings down, draining energy and using up previous life resources. It means that various organ systems are required to take up the slack when feelings reverberate in lower brain structures and are unable to connect and be integrated.

I believe that this gap is one of the most important factors in determining how long we stay on earth. The only progress in psychotherapy is to become whole again, to retrieve a self that was lost long ago and to recapture feelings that we disconnected from at the start of our lives. Only a therapy based on the experiential, on the development of the individual’s brain, can succeed. The patient’s whole system must be considered in such therapies so that the whole system can get well, not just a part of it. If we “get well” only intellectually the body remains in pain and this pain will wear down vulnerable organ systems. That vulnerability may depend on genetic factors; a family history of high blood pressure or migraine tendencies.

The real killer, then, is repression; many diseases lie above that bedrock. When there is a force holding down pain, the system does what it can to fight back. (Psychiatrist John Diamond, way back in the 70s, wrote about how the body doesn’t lie). The energy of the pain has to go somewhere, and it travels to the kidneys, liver, heart, or blood circulating system. One way we know this is that after a patient has relived major early traumas, including the lack of love, symptoms disappear; blood pressure normalizes as does heart rate.

Most of our entering patients have high levels of stress hormones; we know that long-term elevated stress hormone levels can lead to a number of diseases, not the least of which may be Alzheimer’s. Let’s be clear: if the actual imprinted pain traveled upward and forward and made a connection, the energy would not travel to various organs. But when there is a disconnection only the energy portion of the feeling is liberated to meander here and there in the system. The pain has an energy source that has to be dealt with somehow. It drives us; very much like a motor that constantly accelerates. As I discuss elsewhere, long-term high stress levels actually diminish the size of the hippocampus—the seat of memory—and thus adversely affect memory. So with disconnection you have a foot on the accelerator and have no idea how to take it off; no way to slow down the terrible pressure one is under. You may simply die due to overwork, the inability to rest. Or of a heart attack from a constantly overworked cardiac system that is in a constant state of vigilance.

Drugs deepen the disconnection between deep pain and the conscious mind. That is not a way to dissolve neurosis and improve longevity. On the contrary, they enhance it, and the so-called improvement is artificial. We think we feel better, but the body knows the truth. And problems continue and life gets shorter.

Symptoms are the expression of imprinted memory or memories of experiences we had in our earliest moments that have been laid down neuro-chemically within our brain and nervous system. That is what lies in the primal universe—monumental emotions of imprinted memories that have been sequestered in the far reaches of the brain. We are now learning how early, and that is while we are being carried in the mother’s womb. These are life-and-death events that impact the system forevermore, affecting heart and kidney function, blood pressure, digestion and breathing; key biologic functions. For a patient to get well, it is necessary to access those memories in a safe way, bring them to conscious-awareness and finally to integrate them. When that happens the individual’s entire system is harmonized, key hormones are normalized, and the system is finally righted. After a connection is made between feeling-sensations and the thinking mind, perceptions are more accurate and a sense of calm and relaxation never before known is finally experienced. As the janovian gap closes the system gets more and more in balance; take for example, the various vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure. They have a lot to do with how long we live. They tend to normalize after one year of our feeling therapy. Or more importantly, there is an average of just under one degree of body temperature lower after one year of the therapy. All research points to greater longevity as body temperature is lowered. All this means, for one thing, slower metabolism, the less burning up of fuel and the better utilization of oxygen.

Because so many of our patients resolved so many different ailments from colitis to migraines; from hypertension to fewer epileptic seizures, it seems logical that with less wear and tear on the organs they will, and we will, last longer.

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.