Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why Are We Anxious? (Part 3/6)

A reliving of pre-birth and birth imprint will evoke the exact same reactions as at the time of the original trauma. But 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. There will be a racing mind; racing because it is being mobilized by deep level imprints. There will also be the inability to think clealy; confusion. We are dealing with imprints before we had organized thoughts, so not thinking clearly is understandable. There will be difficulty sleeping, especially falling asleep.

When we relive a complete early pre-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. If we medicate blood pressure and keep the high level reaction under wraps the complete reliving is not possible. That is one danger of taking tranquilizers. We feel better but in generally we will live a shorter life.

Any deep symptoms such as a constant low-grade fever or chronically elevated body temperature all point the way to the brainstem and some parts of the limbic brain. That is, they point to perhaps a pre-birth experience; pointing out the route the patient ultimately will have to travel. We may not see the problem for decades and therefore cannot imagine how early someone’s heart problem began. The way out for the anxiety case is usually stroke or heart attack. Realistically, the real way out needs to be the way in; feeling the anxiety untrammeled, naked and bare for what it is and was—pure terror; it is panic in the face of the threat of death—at birth.

Most of the current problems in neurosis can be traced to anxiety which is the most primitive reaction we have in common with many primitive animals such as the lizard. We need terror to alert us to danger. Strange to say that we need terror but it is true; and a nation of pill takers are voiding any chance at real health by suppressing the warning signs. It would be like suppressing the forerunners of a heart attack (angina) just to feel comfortable. I know how necessary this can be; it is not a moral position but one of survival.

Take obsessions. Patients will be openly anxious if they cannot carry out their rituals, the same if we are not allowed to act-out any of our neuroses. Sexual rituals are another example. The rituals, in short, attempt to bind the anxiety. The content of the ritual may have little to do with the base but is a channel for first-line reactions. As are many phobias, as well.

So again, what is it, this anxiety, and where does it come from? The way I found out is simply going to work every day and observing patients. In a session, as a patient is near the deep feeling of hopelessness or helplessness she often runs an anxiety attack. She has shortness of breath, butterflies in the stomach, pressure on the chest, high agitation and a feeling of near-death. She feels totally agitated and wound up and has no idea how to stop it. And it goes on until those feelings are connected and resolved. The person has no idea what is going on, it is incomprehensible, which aggravates the anxiety state.

This is not an idiosyncratic happenstance. Anxiety appears in nearly all of our patients at one point in a session as they approach the first-line. These feelings were so shattering when the baby was an infant that it was immediately repressed in the interest of survival and also in the interest of maintaining a functioning neo-cortex. It is an automatic process that keeps us from being overwhelmed. It allows us to survive in the most drastic circumstances. Can we imagine how the fetus or baby feels in the face of this terror? That fragility is still there inside. Overwhelmed can mean non-functioning, yet most of us have children, have to go to work, do the shopping etc. There is no time for dysfunction. Enter tranquilizers.

The reason it is called anxiety and not terror, even though it is the very same feeling, is that sufferer never knows where anxiety comes from and don’t know what it really is. We therefore treat them as separate entities. Anxiety began its life so early that it can seem totally unrelated to what is going on twenty years later. Because of the disconnection, anxiety seems to hang in space with no specific antecedent. Once the patient feels a trauma at birth gasping for oxygen the anxiety becomes the terror and the fight for life that it is and was. It now has a home—and an owner.

So again, where does it come from? A high level of anxiety in the mother will contribute to stress (and later anxiety) for the fetus. There have been many studies bearing this out (cited in later chapters). An anxious, pregnant mother, responding to her outer world—is stirring up the metabolism of her fetus, who is also responding to his environment. If mother’s anxiety goes on long enough, it will become a permanent state in the fetus, and change him for life. It so looks like genetics that we easily mistake it for heredity; after all, the baby seems to be born unable to sit still or learn in school.

The mother’s anxiety will over-stimulate the fetus and impair her nervous system, creating a child with an imprint of a high level of stimulation; she may feel overwhelmed by every little thing that happens throughout life. As an adult she might respond to her husband asking her to bring the salt to the table. He is met with an angry, “Do you really expect me to do everything? Get it yourself.” Everything becomes too much because it was during womb-life. Everything that was too much, then, is laid down as a substrate, and all new demands work against that substrate. So one little new request made of her as an adult has a magnified impact. And if by chance she made an error on something she would immediately turn it around to make the accuser wrong. She cannot be wrong and immediately transfers terrible feelings of having made a mistake so that the other person feels wrong. He ends up defending himself. Again, it is not so much that she has done something wrong, but that small error has resonated with something very important in her that may mean I am not loved.

If now this person suffers panic attacks it means that the basic terror is close to the surface; hence the chronic feeling of being overwhelmed (overwhelmed by feelings). We see an example of this in the monkey study discussed in a later chapter. Mothers were given cocaine which stirred up and agitated them, not unlike a maternal anxiety attack, and we saw the result; impulsive offspring more likely to take drugs as adults. Anxious monkeys take to alcohol as do we. And what makes them anxious? Sporadic and unpredictable separation from the mother; lack of steady love.

Let us suppose those fears were channeled into elevators, a fear of being enclosed as the object of terror. The terror is deep brain; the focus is higher brain. Psychotherapy cannot cure a deep brain terror by a discussion with the higher brain; it is not where the wound lies. There can be circumstances in life that could create such a phobia, such as being stuck in an elevator or another enclosed space as a young child, but real terror—a life-and death event, only rarely derives from happenings in late childhood. The imprint is the origin, terror becomes the reaction, and phobia becomes the focus. We need to separate each so we understand the problem, and then address the imprint with its reaction. The imprint generates all of the rest.

For a fetus, the mother’s womb is the external world. A womb environment that keeps the fetus in an alert state eventually becomes part of the baby who will be a more aggressive, hyperactive child who cannot focus or concentrate in class. He will grow up hyper-vigilant. This may be useful if he becomes an undercover cop but is bad for his longevity. Conversely, if the carrying mother is depressed for a lengthy period of time, her baby may go into “down” mode, perhaps for life as a personality characteristic. He may love cocaine later in life. Or even better, methamphetamine, which puts the body in an “up” position.

Anxiety is often manifested by choking or smothering sensations, dizziness and a feeling of impending doom. And quite soon the patient will cough and choke in a session that is a harbinger of a birth pain that is breaking through. During a reliving of the birth trauma later on, when immersed in the experience there will often be coughing and bringing up sputum in large amounts. There is now the context.

Actually, doing that (coughing and choking) in exaggerated fashion while anxious will help a person feel better. And we recommend it to our patients when they do not have deeper access for the moment. It is simply the discharge of the some of the energy of the feeling. None of these need a cortex or higher level brain function. That is one very important reason that words cannot cure it. It is basically visceral and sub-cortical. These manifestations are (coughing, suffocating, drowning) telling us that they emanate from a very primitive brain organization and from a time when there was only an inchoate cerebral structure (lacking a fully developed neo-cortex) to handle trauma. There is no insight that can treat it because it began its life long before we had words. First-line knows no words or screams (patients never scream when in the birth sequence), there are only grunts and moans. If there are childhood cries or words or screams it indicates higher brain levels are involved and therefore not a true reliving. We simply cannot fool the lower brain. The higher one? Yes. Otherwise, how on earth would we elect psychopaths to office? When we do not have lower level access we are not anchored into feelings so we cannot judge the veracity of what others are saying. We fail to see nuance or subtleties (because we cannot feel it). We just don’t get it. We should get it because otherwise we can be fooled or tricked.
Terror is what we see in lower animals who are frightened by another animal. Their reactions seem like pure panic. We see this in some individuals who undergo MRIs. The minute they are enclosed in a steel and cement sheath panic surges forth. It is approximating what happened originally. It takes the confines of such a machine to reawaken the primitive feeling. The patient may believe it is the machine that is producing anxiety, but it is the primal panic from the confined, enclosed space; the womb in which he tried to exit for life. What the MRI does is stimulate a resonating memory; not a memory in the way we usually think of it, but it sets off a bodily reaction. If we do have this kind of anxiety having an MRI exam, we can be fairly sure that we endured a difficult birth or pre-birth. It is, in short, a differential diagnostic tool to separate out those with healthy births from those with traumatic births. We can teach the technicians who perform MRIs to tap the leg or foot of the person at irregular intervals so that one cannot organize a full-fledged anxiety reaction. Or offer an eye mask so that the person stays unaware of his surroundings. When this distraction fails there might be an anxiety attack.
So now we have one good reason not to use words when treating those with many first-line symptoms. We are dealing with a non-verbal animal rummaging around in the lower reaches of our nervous system. It is basically visceral as our insides feel as though they are exploding. The hysteric is a good example; someone with barely any control, unable to concentrate, scattered, all over the place, explosive, overreacting, seemingly overcome with feelings at all times. This is someone with first-line (lower brain) damage, deprivation during womb-life, at birth or just after. Words are not going to slow this person down who seems like she is in a rush all of the time, including a rush to get the session over with. She wants to get better now! She needs to be allowed to go to those remote places that drive her; driven by very early deprivation of need. This is far below the verbal level. Or if the person is not able to access the deep brain we can give painkillers that will suppress its force for a time until she can feel her feelings.
Too often, the therapist or physician sees their job as eliminating the symptom, because it is considered a sort of a mystery that is unfathomable. And of course the symptom is uncomfortable and could be life-endangering. And when we just attack the symptom there is the tacit assumption that it is there for no good reason; otherwise why not attack the source? Battling symptoms is usually a vain exercise. There is no end to it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On Tiger Woods and Sex anonymous

There is a rumor that Tiger Woods will check into a sex addiction center in Arizona.  Now what exactly are they going to do there?  Whatever it is, it is not going to stop his sex compulsions, which seem to have dominated his life.  If it is the usual psychotherapy it will miss the driving force which happens to be low in the brain; in brain structures which are far below the thinking structures where most current therapies work.    Why is that?  Because the force behind inordinate sex is mostly lodged in the impulse/pain areas; specifically in the brainstem and limbic/feeling areas.  It isn’t just a matter of addressing the sexual behavior as addressing the imprinted pain force that drives such behavior.

  In fact, any compulsive behavior depends on two things: the first is gestational trauma, birth problems, lack of early love, and other factors which sets the accelerator on “high.  The second is life experience that channels the compulsion.  The reason the compulsive is out of control is because it is first and foremost an impulse driven by deep brain forces.  And those forces are not necessarily sex.  The second is that the behavior has an explosive and relieving ending.  One can end the impulse temporarily through orgasm.  Explosive pain and explosive release.

  But where does the pain come from?  We don’t know him well enough to say but we do know that since the time he was a toddler he was being channeled into golf; acting-out the quest for perfection and fame for his father.  He was living out his father’s needs not his own, and that spells pain even though none of the participants were aware of it.  Any time any need is extraordinary, all else being equal, it is driven by extraordinary pain/feelings.  If normal we all have sexual needs.  They get out of control when pain enters the equation.  That pain can radically alter the sex hormone levels just as it can change the thyroid levels.  And the behavior that follows is a dynamic where high levels change behavior and then that agitated behavior that keeps the hormones elevated.  In the case of thyroid, there can be chronic fatigue and lack of energy which keeps the person from accomplishing much—down regulation.  That didn’t happen to Tiger, who accomplished a lot because his trauma produced an upregulation, that carried over into his sex life which drove him in the same way that the golf compulsion did.  You do not become great without an enormous drive, witness Andre Agassi and his life.

    In conventional psychotherapy if the lower driving forces are not addressed, expressed and resolved, there will be no success.  Yes, he can be taught through cognitive methods to try to control his impulses but that is usually a vain effort.  Impulses nearly always win out because they are biologically stronger than ideas.  They are designed for survival and therefore must be strong.  In any case, there is no convincing or exhortation in the world that will change a compulsion, which I think is what happens in these so-called treatment centers.  They usually try to put an ideational/belief cap on impulses and feelings so as to reduce the sexual act-outs but then where does all that energy go?  We can be sure that later there will be even more severe symptoms.

Do those centers ever publish what they do?  Based on what science?  On what theory?  Are they aware of the unconscious forces at work?  If so, how do they square addressing the top level cortex without understanding the neurologic underpinnings of brainstem forces.  These are memories laid down while we live in the womb and during birth and infancy.    Are the therapists satisfied with controlling the problem rather than resolving it?  That need for constant control doesn’t mean that the underlying forces are not continually gnawing away adversely affecting the body and ensuring an early demise.    Being unconscious is not a solution; it is denial in a major way.  But one cannot deny the churning physiology that will wrack the person without cease.  And one day inflict a grave symptom in the body.

Why Are We Anxious? (Part 2/6)

Those internal events, sensations such as being crushed or suffocated are engraved onto that salamander brain. They may seem to the system as menacing as a virus or as that threatening snake; the only difference is that the snake is inside encasing deep terror. In fact, when those feelings are menacing, the system reacts just as if there were an attack by a virus. The immune system is compromised, basic repressive chemicals are diminished and we may well run a fever. When a patient of ours gets close to those feelings he can run a fever of several degrees even when he has done no exercise at all. Or even more strangely, body temperature can drop several degrees in minutes during a session. This is due to a dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system (more on this in a moment).
Anxiety is the avatar of feelings. What does it feel like? It feels horrible. It seems like it cannot be shut off. “Nothing I can do will stop it.” Why? Because it is so remote in origin, so seemingly inaccessible as to be considered a “given,” something that is inherent in us, something we can only hope to barricade ourselves against. It is just about always from gestational life or at birth. Before we can hope to eradicate it we need to be sure about what “it” is. Anxiety is not like a current fear; there is always the element of terror about it. There may be a current justifiable fear which some call anxiety; the impending death or severe illness of a relative, for example. There may be great fears for their safety and health. It can be a terrible threat but I prefer to reserve the term anxiety for something that resonates with very early trauma; it is easier to understand. And anxiety should automatically direct us to origins.
Anxiety starts its life as pure terror, a visceral reaction, which during womb-life is the highest level of brain function operating. It gets transformed later on to phobias or to free-floating fear. We are able to dampen it with a variety of defenses but it is never less forceful than originally. Let me state that again. Pure primal terror never changes; it is defended against, filtered and softened by higher brain processes but it never changes its internal effects. It is biologic. It is that reptile again doing its thing. And because its origin is so early and so remote and deep, and because the various psycho-therapies remain on the surface, we had to wait for medication that worked on those lower brain centers where the pain originates in order to calm ourselves. Doesn’t it make sense for a therapy to try to go deeper, as deep as where those medications work?
Early in gestation the fetal brainstem will respond to external noises, even the sound of the mother’s voice, with head turning, reflective body movements, and heart rate changes. If there is a serious accident to the mother while she is carrying, it will undoubtedly affect the brainstem/limbic systems of the fetus, and with possible effects on its heart function, as well. The baby may be born fragile and delicate, plagued by a constant underlying fear and quick to startle. It is an anxious baby. There may be colic involved which may signify the presence of anxiety which is expressed in the skin and biologic system; but it is telling us something crucial. Later on, there may be the adoption of booga booga ideas (it is what it sounds like) to contain the feeling that was barely contained by the skin earlier on after birth. It is erupting again.

What does a fetus do in the face of trauma? It reacts viscerally. If we’ve had this kind of trauma, we will have a predisposition to go on acting viscerally for the rest of our life. We then develop stomach problems, palpitations, colitis, ulcers, cramping, breathing problems, and do not know why. It is why we often don’t know the origin of a problem when a patient presents us with colitis, for example. If a problem is solely and seriously visceral, chances are its origins date back to birth, or before. Look to the brainstem, and we’ll find the source. It creates the need to keep busy and have plans. It is a constant state of agitation.

When there is an anxiety attack we can be sure that its origin is very early when the brainstem (and parts of the limbic system) was the most evolved nervous system available. Midline structures and organs is where we most often see ailments that have an early start in our lives. Digestive and breathing problems are therefore often of first-line origins. Clearly, bedwetting and later sexual compulsions are of first-line origin. Colitis, as well. So when we try to treat sex problems with a constrained focus on the sex organs we may be making a mistake; the focus is far too narrow. It is not the penis or vagina; it is the brain, the lower brain; the sex organs just follow orders. Anxiety is often projected onto or attached to something in the present to justify its existence, but that is often just a rationale.

The brainstem imprints the deepest levels of pain because it is developed during gestation and handles life-and-death matters before we see the light of day. Almost every trauma experienced during womb-life is a life-and-death matter. The brainstem doesn’t speak English or any other language. Imagine trying to communicate with it about its pain with words when there aren’t any. We develop problems such as high blood pressure or insomnia or ulcers. The brainstem is carrying an imprinted memory of a trauma and expresses itself through the avenues already selected previously in the viscera. There may be a vulnerability in the stomach so that the anxiety load is discharged there, and the appearance of constant cramps.

Later in life when the lower level imprint tries to inform the frontal cortex about its near-death experience the blood pressure goes up as does the heart rate; it is a warning about stored terror. The brainstem is screaming at the neo-cortex, the thinking mind: “Listen to me! I need to tell you about something, you’ve got to hear this. I’ve got a connection to make. Let me through.” It is screaming by way of high levels of bio-chemicals, such as noradrenaline, glutamate, and cortisol, the language of its biology. And the cortex is talking back with increased output of serotonin, saying in effect, “Sorry, you’ve got information I don’t want to know about. Try later!” “Yes but if you don’t let me out, my blood pressure is going to rise dramatically.” Sorry. I have to protect my “mind.” “After all, I don’t want to go crazy.”

A memory imprinted in the brainstem may have serious consequences for many survival functions. Thus, a chronically rapid heart rate and high blood pressure can presage cardiac problems decades after the imprint settles in. Through a feeling session it can be traced back to womb-life. Why the chronic rapid heart beat? It is part of the imprint. It is a reaction to the engraved memory; it is held in place so long as the origin is not addressed or relived. The danger is therefore omnipresent. That’s all it means, at the end of the day: danger. Do we really want to eliminate our warning signs?

When a patient relives early terror, then ceases to compulsively check the locks on his doors twenty times a day, he has solved an important 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 continue. 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” is the unconscious formula. “I’ll be safe if no one can penetrate me.” If we were to prevent the obsession, we would see panic and helplessness again, which is what happens in our therapy. But it must be done in a safe, controlled atmosphere. To feel deeply unsafe one has to feel totally safe in the present. That safety, dialectically, turns into its opposite.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why Are We Anxious? (Part 1/6)

Why are we anxious? What is it? Where does it come from? How do we make it go away? We don’t. But I am getting ahead of myself. First, we need to know what it is and what it feels like.

The symptoms of anxiety are basically controlled by the brainstem and some ancient parts of the feeling/limbic system—primitive survival functions: shortness of breath, (“I can’t catch my breath.”), needing to urinate, feeling crushed, pressure on the chest, butterflies in the stomach, cramps, palpitations, the inability to sit still, problems with digestion, a feeling of being scattered and unfocused, loss of concentration and, above all, feelings of doom and gloom—death is approaching. Associated with that feeling is a deep sense of being helpless and hopeless. In addition, there is the constant feeling, “am I going to make it?” That is the precise fear felt physiologically during the birth process where the successful ending was not at all sure. The substrate may be, “I won’t make it,” which shows up at the end of semester final exam in the body of the person as a pure anxiety state. It is anxiety because resonance from the final exam has set off the early terror where making it was problematic. And what it set off is clearly deeply unconscious and so defies conscious/awareness. It set off the real feeling of desperation and hopelessness because not making it meant death; never articulated but felt from experience. The articulation is in the anxiety. And the body now expresses precisely.

We might include in this is the horrible fear of failure. Because taking a final exam set off the anxiety over failing when failing meant possible death. Again, no one has articulated this but the body in its great wisdom has in its own way. Anxiety is a survival mechanism that alerts us, galvanizes us into action to avoid death. The problem is the inability to come off this vigilant state. I want to reiterate this point: anxiety is not just a pesky feeling that needs to be eliminated; it needs to be embraced as a warning signal to save our lives.

This is what I call “first-line.” The inability to concentrate comes from massive pain input from below. It disrupts the normal functioning of the neo-cortex. And all this is logical since death was approaching in the original event. It could be a carrying mother terribly anxious and agitated, a mother who takes drugs, who does not eat enough or properly, and who is just miserable, for any number of reasons. The brain researcher J.K.S Anand, found that when a needle was inserted into the mother’s abdomen (amniocentesis) the fetus attempted to escape it; grimacing, turning his head, while the secretions of in-built anti-pain chemicals skyrocketed. The fetus was not anxious, he was terrified. When he grows up and is far from the memory it will be called anxiety. Still the same terror that the salamander in us is carrying around.

Why the feelings of doom and gloom? Because it was a logical reaction to menacing events. Doom was in the offing, in the same way that a massive dose of anesthesia given to the mother during birth, largely shuts down the baby’s system and is experienced as doom. In the memory the menace is still active and present; we cannot shake it loose because it is now imprinted into the neurophysiology. Once we get to that memory and experience the entire circumstances and feelings involved we can finally relax and feel comfortable.

Take for example the feeling of anxiety suffered by one of my patients at the Department of Motor Vehicles. She went to get a new license. As soon as she arrived the obstacles began; long lines where she had to wait; she needed to fill out this form, needed proof of this or that. It was interminable. It all piled up and she became anxious and feeling agitated with no way to stop the feeling. In the afternoon session she felt the helplessness behind it all, and relived that helpless feeling at birth when no matter what she did she could not get out. She could not be in anyone else’s hands and could not trust anyone with her feelings. For her death was menacing, and anxiety began. Any serious helpless feeling dipped into the original one where it was a matter of life-and-death. This patient was far enough along in her therapy to have deep access; not always the case. Waiting (to get out) bothers many of my patients because of the resonance factor where that primordial waiting could have spelled doom.

One of my pre-psychotics was in the waiting room bar waiting for his restaurant table. He kept being put off by the concierge. He exploded and started to break the dishes hung on the wall. His pain was right up to the surface (which made him pre-psychotic). It wasn’t like he was waiting to get born back then; it (the feeling/sensation) was absolutely here and now. He was desperate and he never knew why—until he felt. And needless to say, no one put any ideas about all this into his head. But we watched during the reliving as he gagged and turned red, obviously losing breath rapidly.

Those early reactions were not irrational or neurotic. Who gets anxious when they have to fill out long forms? They were proper at the time but continued on because the sensations and feelings associated with the early event are now imprinted and dog us forever. It is only the context that has changed; once we plug into the imprinted memory it all makes sense. When we do not consider the imprint it seems terribly neurotic. We don’t just have those feelings mentioned above as a sort of caprice; we don’t manufacture them out of some whim. They should be there. It is our job to find out why. The feeling when about to take a test is explained by a patient, “I am not prepared to present a paper. I know I won’t make it.” He said he felt like a “wreck.” His wife called him a mess.
Anxiety means that the lower brain is at work, the brain we have in common with the salamander; and indeed, the salamander brain is almost intact in the lower reaches of our brain. We do have a reptile inside our head that does what reptiles do. It still reacts like it use to when it was inside the animal brain. That brain has remained largely unchanged through millions of years. It reacts immediately, often without reflection, and prepares us for the onslaught of incoming events (both external, and more importantly, internal). Those internal events are feelings that seem alien to us and which we attempt to repress at all times. When we cannot, we become anxious; the harbinger of strange feelings approaching consciousness. The reptilian brain is largely tamed or mollified by the later developing brains. But once we remove the newly evolved brain caps (as we do in the psychologic sense) we see it largely intact as it once was. We can see the reptile inside. We observe as they make the primordial “S” movements during a reliving of birth, something the patient cannot duplicate once out of the feeling.

Why does that sound strange, the salamander rummaging around in our heads? No more strange than the fact that ancient flippers became our hands and arms. We carry around vestiges of our ancient past in most of our organs. Rats have brains and kidneys too; and it turns out that their genes are not that different from ours and are almost as plentiful.

The impulsive neurotics, rapist, killers, acting-out impulsives, usually have a great deal of what I call first-line trauma and pain. (Discussed in a moment). Their neo-cortex was never properly developed and there is a great deal of damage (impairment) to the lower brain; that damage leaves a residue of impulses that are barely contained. So are they human? They are basically primitive animals, deficient in neural tissue for control; lizards with an add-on. Others may have impairment to their feeling brain; this would occur after the first few months of life on earth and will determine how they relate to others, or whether a person can relate to others. I would call this, limbically impaired. I often think of it as a “missing feeling band.”
But it is rarely one or the other. Damage in the womb will later affect so many of our functions: the brain, the visceral system, organ systems and vital functions. The goal is to have our human brain meet up first with the chimp brain and then the lizard brain so that they can be intimate, know each other and communicate well among them. When they do we are normal. And we are conscious because all three levels interact fluidly. That is what consciousness means.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Surprise, Surprise. Killers Kill Again.

There is a story in today’s paper about an alleged killer who murdered four police officers in Seattle. Here is someone who is a career criminal and who should have been in jail for the rest of his life. I’ll skip the details, which can be found in all major newspapers. This is a criminal with violent tendencies given freedom time after time, including being released by governor Mike Huckabee. Why did that happen? Ah, that is the question. Mostly because Baptist preachers often demand clemency for those who say that they see the light and have gone straight; and who have found God. You cannot get out of jail if you haven’t found that imaginary guy who sees all. Huckabee, who is so religious he doesn’t believe in evolution, listens to those preachers.

So what is it about them? Well, first of all, they all believe in forgiveness and redemption. And then they believe in what people say. And worse, they don’t believe in science; I mean, after all, if you don’t believe in one of the greatest scientific discoveries in history what are you doing on this planet? Recently scientists voted that evolution was one of the greatest discoveries in all of science. But the governor doesn’t listen to science; he listens to the forgivers, which is nice if you are talking about your mother but not about a killer. Lacking access to good sense and feeling they believe the words of psychopaths who use those words to deceive. And they deceive those self-deceivers because it is easy. And to be good Christians they want to forgive and believe that psychopaths turn good, which they don’t.

If you don’t see how people evolve what do you see? A static, unchanging world that is very predictable except when it isn’t. If you want to eschew forgiveness I have an idea. I do not forgive governor Huckabee for being gullible, stupid and in effect, criminal because he let loose a dangerous maniac onto us. Being forgiving makes us feel that we are so good but the result, as we see, is immoral.

And so why didn’t Huckabee listen to scientists and specialists in the field? Simple. He doesn’t believe in science. He believes in religion, and how many crimes are committed in the name of religion. Besides psychologic science, as I see it, is a failure.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stop The World I Want to Get Off!

When will the madness stop? Above all, the madness in the name of science and medicine. In the N.Y. Times today (Nov. 26-09) is a story about places like Harvard, of all things, doing surgery for obsessive disorders, depression and other psychological maladies. Here is what they do: In cases of obsessive rituals and thoughts which have been intractable to psychotherapy, they have decided to cut out those pesky afflictions with brain surgery, cutting out pieces of the emotional brain to ease the problem.

This surgery, they warn, is only for those obdurate psychological problems that do not respond to any sort of psychotherapy. It involves drilling four holes in the brain and inserting wires deep down. From there the procedures differ but in one key surgery, cingulotomy, they pinpoint the anterior cingulate for partial destruction. The rationale: they want to destroy some of the brain tissue that forwards emotional messages to the thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex from the feeling areas such as the cingulate. The claim is that this area is overly active in cases such as obsession in inputting emotional messages to the thinking, intellectual centers. There are variations to this theme but in nearly all cases the attempt is to suppress emotional pain from its apprehension higher up.

The claim is that standard therapy cannot touch the problems such as deep depression . This is brain surgery, remember. The result, according to the surgeons, is about sixty percent satisfactory, although we do not know the long-term consequences of brain surgery. There is one follow-up study which indicated that these patients seem apathetic and lose some self-control for years afterward. It is no wonder since we have cut out the person’s passion.

But what if we could do exactly what the surgery does? What if we could avoid a very serious surgery? I believe we can because primal is the only therapy to be able to go deep in the brain purely by psychological means. Because other conventional therapies do not have this possibility in their theories or in their therapy, they think that the only other solution is surgery. And of course deep depression sometimes is being helped by this surgery. Deep depression means just that; origins deep in the brain. So again, a therapy that probes the depths, the antipodes of conscious/awareness should work as well or better than to have one’s brain cut into.

I have not kept our therapy a secret but it is up to those who do this surgery to investigate what is out there before burning out brain tissue. What is sad is that this kind of “way-out” procedure can have positive stories on it in the New York Times and many other respected journals, while a “far-out” psychotherapy such as ours, cannot get a line printed in any newspapers. It is not “safe.” But here is a surgery that is decidedly dangerous and obtains cache in our country. So someone who compulsively washes her hands needs brain surgery? This, it seems, is recommended because, I think, the pain imprinted down low was too much for the usual tranquilizers. So, ergo, we cut out the relay mechanism that sends terrible emotions to the understanding cortex. So, no relay, no pain and no symptoms. If anything about this procedure is enlightening is that we see how compulsions and obsessive develop out of pain surging up from lower brain centers, and how ordinarily, the gating system keeps symptoms from showing. The pain is still doing its damage, however; only we are no longer aware of it. Certainly, the surgeons did not cut out the origin, the emotional imprint, they cut out the circuit that forwards the message to our awareness. That imprint is all over the brain and body. So a piece is cut out and the imprint is still there doing its continual damage. It will certainly find other outlets. What we will do then? Cut out more? The imprint is the conductor; it won’t help to kill the violinist.

In this highly respected scientific atmosphere the most outrageous modes of therapy are taking place.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pain-Killers and Overdose

There is an article in today’s paper about a DJ who overdosed and died. Many different kinds of painkillers were found in his system. It seems like a repetitious story; everyday brings another article about painkillers and overdose. This is to say nothing about Michael Jackson. So what is it? Why so much drugs? Let’s first ask, “Why so much pain?” No one takes painkillers who is not in pain. It may be done unconsciously but pain is there, nevertheless. So who or what put it there? And what can we do about it?

Having treated any number of addicts to all kinds of drugs let me state at the outset that the heaviest load of pain behind addiction is set down during what I call “first-line.” That is, during gestation, birth and the first weeks afterwards. These are largely irreversible pains that are often a matter of life and death. But that is not the whole story. Then comes a childhood without being touched, the number one index of “unloved.” Added to that neglect, indifference, not listening and not caring. Those are the ingredients of pain. Not show business, not agents and producers, not “the business.” The question is, “What drives individuals with such ferocity and determination to show business; to be well-known and famous? The pain. Why else the need to be applauded, appreciated by thousands? It should be enough to be loved by a partner, not a thousand of them. But that need is deadly, early and unfulfilled. The rest is an act-out. But even that is not enough; hence the pills and painkillers. That does not mean that acting is a neurotic endeavor. It does mean that those who seek it out are often the unloved and uncared for. It is such a tough business full of constant rejection; it requires the drive to succeed. And those “driven” are often driven to feel loved. One actor I treated would become depressed when not on scene. And deeply depressed when not at work. He came alive on set, when he was someone else; “I will be anything or anyone I have to be in order to feel loved,” he found.

Having treated a number of actors I can attest to the fact of their pain. But again I may be treating a special group of the unloved. The common thread of many of them is narcissism; everything is related to them and what happened to them. Any story eventually redounds to their lives. They cannot give because they are too busy getting. They cannot relate to other’s needs and pain because they are too busy trying to ease their own. Even with all the success there is the need for drugs. All in the service of the cover-up.

There is a saying that politicians are ugly actors. What is true is that they are also in show business. They too act out their needs. They rarely come to therapy because they are in the struggle, to feel loved. They do not put themselves and their lives in question. Whatever goes wrong is “their” fault.

When we do measurements of pain we find that the very early pains are always high on the measurements of brainwaves, vital functions and biochemistry. It is therefore not a guess as to what causes problems later on. Yes, later circumstances do exacerbate matters but rarely cause them. When in a business where almost everyone is desperately trying to get their needs fulfilled, there is bound to be cheating and deception. The exception is the exception. It is my experience that no one who was loved early on is desperate for fame. They want success, often as a result of effort. It is not other’s opinion that is primary. It is their own, because they count.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On Vital Signs in Primal Therapy

For many years we have measured the vital signs of patients before and after each session and over the long term. Our results show a normalization after one year of the therapy (when we took the final measurements). Of course, when we measure vital signs we are measuring vital functions; those functions that keep us alive and allow us to survive. When any of them exceed normal limits we are in trouble. Whether too low a blood pressure or too high a heart rate or a continual body temp far over normal range, the minute we are dislocated one way (high) or the other (low) the body is telling us that something is wrong. And it tells us in what way is something wrong, and sometimes even why, if we know how to read the signs. Over the years when these signs are excessive we can almost be sure that disease will occur early in life, followed by life threatening illness later in life. It is ineluctable.

These vital signs mean vitality. And they reflect our imprints quite accurately. They also reflect what nervous system is in charge and is dominant. We know, for example, that many vital functions are either controlled by one of two nervous systems mediated by the hypothalamus. I thought for some time that the parasympathetic, that of rest, repair and repose, controlled body temp. But it may be that the direction of the dislocation depends on two different nervous systems. Thus, high is controlled by the sympathetic, the galvanizing, mobilizing, alerting system, while a swing to the low end is controlled by the parasympathetic. (This may also be true of the systolic and diastolic blood pressure). Thus, the direction tells us the kind of imprint we are dealing with. Today I heard from an epileptic, a breech birth, suffocating and strangling on the cord who had to conserve oxygen and energy to survive. His modus operandi was to hold back, not use energy. His imprint was parasympathetic, something that will dog him for a lifetime and determine his interests (writing), his non-interests (exercising), whom he marries (the aggressive one) and how he will treat his children (passively or with indifference). And that is not the half of it.

Now why all this? Because the very first life-saving effort becomes imprinted and remains as a guide for future behavior; what saved her life at the start will go on being utilized despite any reality to the contrary. Personality is formed out of this matrix and a certain biologic state. Of course, later experience helps shape it all, as well. But that first imprint is vital, in every sense of the word.

When patients come in for a session and we do measurements, we already have an idea of where we have to go. One of my depressives came in consistently with a very low body temp of 96 to 96.5. She was mired in hopelessness. As our session went on (almost 3 hours each time), she started to normalize. That was important because a whole lifetime was wrapped around the vital functions. It wasn’t just the body temp that normalized but a whole host of biologic responses and personality features. Later on, she smiled, had energy and felt “up.” She could go seek a job, something she could not do previously. And of course, she never had enough money to buy proper food because she could not hold a job. A previous therapy informed her that hers was a “loser trip”. That didn’t help much except to put a label on her behavior. As she went on reliving the prebirth and birth traumas, a mother smoking and taking tranquilizers, suppressing her whole system, which was also imprinted, her body temp came up and stayed up to 98 degrees.

When a patient comes in with a very rapid heart rate and a brainwave signature of beta (very fast) our first job is to bring him into the feeling/primal zone. If we do not do that he remains above the primal zone. He will not feel and certainly not integrate. When the patient is too low the same law operates. We can only feel in the primal zone. We need to adjust medications to allow that to happen. We cannot and must not cajole a patient into trying to feel (and often the fast ones are also the tryers).
I believe that the parasympath operates on the low end of all vital signs. We can go to different doctors and be treated for a heart rate that is unsteady, another doctor for high blood pressure, and yet another for lack of energy. But the leader who sets the tone is the imprint. Unless we recognize this we will be bifurcated in our efforts and miss the essential. One key thing we want to know after each session is was there integration? Sometimes there is, after weeks of feeling one key feeling. But often there is a dredge effect; the patient feeling one feeling which resonates with a connected deeper feeling (hoplessness and helplessness). We know here that there is more to come. It may be that the patient will need tranquilizers temporarily to get over the hump. We need not be afraid of this since it is not an end in our therapy but a means. It is not THE therapy, as is the case in so much psychiatry, but something to use for a bit of time. We want patients off drugs, not on them. While on them there is a superficial and artificial state. Drugs nearly always hold back feelings and aid defenses. That is not the business we are in; quite the opposite, we want feelings to come up but in ordered, measured ways. Primal Therapy will get you there if you let it. If you stay with it the direction is nearly always right. I often say, “It is not a miracle but it is miraculous.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Help! There is a Reptile In My Head.

Here is what I need help on. We know about the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain, etc. That means that the remnants of those animals still reside in our heads. Isn’t that strange? And in sleep and in Primals we go back and meet those animals. But why? Why in deep sleep and in first-line Primals do we have to visit our reptilian brain? And also, when we discuss whether man is basically this or that, good or bad, we need to find out which brain we are discussing. But the reptile still runs our energy, lightening fast responses, terror and impulsiveness. If we want to understand us humans we also have to understand that reptile. And then the reptile has to talk to the chimp brain which then has to communicate with that human brain, the neocortex. So complicated.

Primal Pain And Primal Therapy is a Matter of Life And Death

The question is, “Why I am writing all of this? What difference will it make? Am I drowning the fish? Without appearing too dramatic I think it can be a matter of life and death. And Primal Therapy a matter of life!
An article reported in Science Daily (Oct. 7, 2009) indicates that those who had trauma while being carried and after in childhood died on the average 20 years earlier than those who did not have those risk factors. The average age of death, according to the Center for Disease Control, (David W. Brown) was sixty; not long enough and not close to the age 79 of the non-risk group. What the study showed was that those children exposed to six or more risk factors were at “double the risk of premature death.” Lack of love, that is, lack of fulfillment of need very early on, can be fatal. (see also, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine. November, 2009)
The risk factors included: living in a household with subtance abuse, witnessing domestic violence, a battered mother and its effect on the fetus, verbal and physical abuse, mental illness in the home, parents who were separated or divorced. Any of one these is powerful enough to create life-long damage. This is data from over 17,000 adults.
Lifetime trauma exposure to the mother was very important. Was she, while carrying, under stress?
The two most popular ways out of this planet are heart attacks and cancer. It is fairly well established now how womb-life affects heart function later on. Now there is evidence how that same set of traumas while we live in the womb can lead to cancer. University of Toronto researchers have completed a study on physical abuse early on and the occurrence of cancer. What they did not study is the more subtle abuses originating during our time in the womb. It can only be inferred. But from our experience observing patients this kind of trauma is shattering. (see July 15, 2009. Neuron. Esme Fuller-Thomson). They controlled for the usual factors such as smoking, drinking and being inactive physically, and still the rates of cancer were very high. They hypothesize that there perhaps is a deregulation of cortisol production. This makes sense since our starting patients were quite high in the stress hormone and normalized after one year of the therapy, and have a low incidence of cancer after the therapy.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Anxious Mind

Look at this review in the Sunday N.Y. Times (Oct 18/09): “For millions of children with anxiety disorders, Jerome Kagan*’s groundbreaking research has relieved a burden of blame by identifying highly reactive responses as hard-wired and thus nobody’s fault. The other burden that can be relieved is anxiety itself — the most common mental disorder but, luckily, the most treatable. With empirically proven cognitive-behavior therapy, children can learn to reinterpret their overprotective brains and their unreliable first-reaction data and, in doing so, outsmart the worry and not let their amygdalas ruin their days. Although Robin Marantz Henig’s excellent article ended on a note of resignation, given the proper tools even the most anxious children in this age of neuroplasticity can override their neural presets and make a world of difference in their lives."

This is a professional’s view of Kagan’s work. If I interpret this right it is our job as therapists to ease the guilt of patients. Since most anxieties are hard-wired according to this, it is no one’s fault. And they say, very treatable. I think it is just the opposite: anxiety is the most difficult to treat because it starts its life almost when we do, at the very beginning with a newly developing nervous system that organizes the midline responses generated by the lower brain such as respiration, digestion, heart rate… blood pressure, body temperature, stress hormones, and so on. It is our most primitive system that alerts us to the presence of danger. It is basic to survival. Anything that profound is not trivial and certainly not so easily suppressed. Remember, this is a basic survival strategy not some esoteric bizarre reaction that comes out of nowhere. Kagan is a well-known name in our field, which is why I shall spend time on his ideas.

What happens is that very early trauma, in the womb or at birth causes great pain because of the danger, for example of lack of oxygen, and it is immediately repressed in the interest of survival. Constant pain and life-threatening reactions to it are a menace to the system. So what happens when early-on the pain is compounded by infancy, childhood neglect and lack of love there is an increasingly compacted agony so that alarm reactions (more cortisol secreted), are set in place. Those primitive reactions continue their life extracted from their painful roots. Thus, seemingly “out of the blue.” A mystery? Not if we access to the deep unconscious where we can observe raw terror as it is taking place. And we now see the context of it all, which in the reliving, is resolving. We don’t have to guess any more.

We see a situation where the patient is in full terror mode with no words or scenes to put to it. Afterwards, the patient will know exactly where the terror, now called anxiety, comes from. Absent this one must guess. In science we call it something else, (hypothesis) but it is still a guess. What if we did not have to guess? Isn’t that preferable. We guess because we don’t think we can access the deep unconscious, and we are not even sure it is there. I have not seen this level of consciousness/unconsciousness discussed. It is not in the lingua franca of the scientists in our field.

But it is not just observation that counts. We have done blind studies of our patients and found that cortisol levels (stress hormones, part of alarm system), high when entering therapy, normalize after one year of treatment. The only variable to account for this is primal therapy.

It is interesting that, by the by, they agree that there are neural pre-sets, that certain biologic functions are in place. They think they are genetic, that is, hard-wired. And the general effort, they believe, is to over-ride the genetic tendencies, to hold them back, suppress, and get on with life There is not much discussion of epigenetics; what happens to those genetic tendencies as a result of trauma in the womb and at birth. If scientists don’t pay attention to the latest in neuro-biologic research they are going to neglect an awful lot.

It looks like science, the fancy laboratories, men in white coats, all the accoutrements of science. But it lies within certain boundaries that bind the investigators; that the deepest levels of the brain are inaccessible, that they are fixed and unchangeable; that these basic hard-wired tendencies are not changeable and are genetic. There is no question as to why they are in place and their basic biologic function. They take it all as a given and go on from there. Kagan sees in children a way to outsmart their pain and fear and keep the amygdala from ruining their day. This is basic cognitive therapy given the patina of research, but the guess (hypothesis) already has a frame of reference lodged in cognitive therapy; that we can think our way to health, that we can overcome our biologic reactions, that thoughts, beliefs and ideas can hold down all difficult feelings. This is forgetting that feelings and sensations are survival modes and are not meant to be suppressed. I suppose for intellectuals, locked into their heads, it is a solution but a costly one.

Just because we can suppress anxiety doesn’t mean it isn't doing great damage on lower brain levels and their bodily counterparts. Eventually strokes and cardiac attacks are the result. The brain wasn’t meant to suppress its survival mode except to keep the thinking brain functioning. Hiding the truth, which is their basic proclivity, is not a healthy option. Since intellectuals do that as a matter of course, they think it valuable for all of us. This is a neurotic strategy raised to the level of a scientific principle.

*Jerome Kagan, Yale Child Study Center.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

On Being Touched

I saw a movie last night. The mother walked by her son and ruffled his hair and moved on. A seemingly innocuous event. But wait! So many of us never had that; so what does it mean? It means that someone acknowledges your existence. If parents walk by you, never smile, touch you or make you feel you exist, you come to believe you don’t. No one has to say you’re bad, I don’t love you. It is all in those very little events. Having hair ruffled day after day means you exist and are wanted, important and loved. When it does not happen day after day it means the opposite; and you come to believe it without ever realizing it. You begin to act as if you don’t exist for anyone. You shy away, never say the kind things you should because who you are and what you do does not matter.

When a parent massages you head it says volumes; I like you, I love you, you are very important, my attention is totally on you, I want to make you happy. That is all absorbed unconsciously and sometimes consciously. “Sometimes consciously” because if you never have had it you then realize something, but if you always had it, it is in the nature of things; nothing exceptional. You deserve just by who you are; and it means you can be who you are without anyone saying anything like that because it is implied and absorbed. You don’t think it matters? It matters.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On Revolution

I have discussed the importance of evolution in primal therapy. Now I want to address revolution, the overturning of the basic structure of psychotherapy as it has been for about one hundred years.

It is my belief that profound change cannot take please within a reformist attitude, making the system work better. The problem is the system. Just take the 50 minute hour. It is based on the comfort and profit of the therapist, not the healing of the patient. Our patients stay as long as necessary. No time constraints. Or take the fine furniture and well appointed drapes. It is designed to not getting at the deep unconscious. Our patients are in a therapy room with mattresses, relatively sound proof and somewhat darkened; all to encourage the descent into the unconscious. You cannot get there in a well lighted therapy room with a sit-up chair, ashtray and fine paintings on the wall. Early on, I tried that with primal and soon I had holes in the walls and broken furniture. I learned.

The theory and the therapy have to be revolutionary and not egocentric. In cognitive/insight therapy the doctor is the last word. He/she knows more than the patient and they even know what is in the patient’s deep unconscious; which is nonsense, but we all hope there is some godlike human out there who really knows us and will direct us properly, like a good daddy. The theory has to put the patient first and foremost. She knows best and she knows when to come for a session and when not to. She knows when she has had enough therapy, period. No one has to tell her that she needs three times a week therapy when that is a profit decision not usually a therapeutic one. And no one has to tell her that her time is up for the day. Can you imagine a patient crying deeply and then ushered out of the room? What magic is there in coming twice a week instead of three times?

Remember in every domain including the political, reform will never get us there. We can tinker and tweak all day long and still be dealing with a flawed system that turns out bad techniques and faulty logic; just like in neurosis where almost every bit of behavior is neurosis-generated. So we go on changing behavior and change not at all the basic problem.

Yes, overthrow by force and violence is disturbing and unsettling but necessary, and neurosis will not yield its arms easily. After all, it is there to protect us and keep us from feeling. But we are feeling human beings and need our feelings to guide us. We do not appeal to the patient’s good sense to help us overthrow the neurotic structure. We appeal to her feelings to her unconscious, to the subtext to surplant that devilish prefrontal neocortex. That is the revolution; feelings over thoughts and beliefs; insights will never get us well; they just help us rationalize how we behave. Our problem is not the lack of insights; it is the lack of feelings. A therapy of feelings will humanize us; what more could we ask for?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On Evolution and Revolution (Part 3/3)

A patient who never wants to discuss her life but sinks immediately into her past will abreact and not get well. And when we observe a person’s history we are also witnessing ancient history at the same time. A patient who cries like a newborn can never duplicate that sound after a primal. One way we know this is in observing a patient make motions during reliving birth, and cannot duplicate that movement later on, no matter how hard she tries. Too often we see abreaction in patients who start in the present, begin a feeling and then immediately skip steps and goes to some kind of birth trauma. That kind of reliving becomes a defense. It interrupts and does not enhance connection.

In dialectical fashion we descend to deep unconscious levels and immediately become conscious on that level. The unconscious is transformed into consciousness. This means that we will no longer be driven by those specific unconscious forces. We have access to our inner states. We thereafter will not suffer from such things as a bleeding ulcer or colitis without being aware of it. Chances are, however, that we won’t suffer from such afflictions.

Each lower level of brain function is designed to keep us alive. We can use lower levels to modify higher ones but it does not work in reverse. Imagine if that were possible; the higher level neocortex could permanently modify brainstem functions?
But we survive because it cannot. Thus feelings can certainly sway ideas but ideas can only suppress feelings, not eradicate them. We see in our therapy how physiology and limbic feelings directly affect ideas and beliefs. A very rapid heart rate can push someone to go and do, yet no matter how hard we try we often cannot alter the heart rate, especially the rate that is accompanied by anxiety. That is why we cannot “will” a slower heart rate over time or consciously drive away anxiety. Ideas are hundreds of millions years away from physiological and emotional functions.

I remember seeing a patient who had just started therapy who told me that since he forgave his parents he feels much better; proof that ideas can trump feeling. Yet when he was measured his stress hormone levels (cortisol) never changed. Thus the neo-cortex can trump what we think are feelings without ever touching feelings, per se. The neo-cortex is most adept at deceiving itself. It can produce the thought of being well without really being well. Ideas here function as anesthetics. In therapy we certainly don’t want to being anesthetized in order to get well.

The brain is a complex proposition and to stay on any one level in therapy to the exclusion of the others means that any progress made in therapy is partial. To do reprogramming of the brain to achieve so-called “normal brainwaves” (biofeedback) is deficient and cannot lead to cure.

When we wonder if we should call a therapy scientific we have only to ask, “does it elucidate and clarify the properties of nature?” We do not ask if it works because that is subjective and not always accurate. It is the difference between asking a scientific question and one that requires a moral perspective alone. Do we know more about humanity in this therapy or are we only after some sort of pragmatic, mechanical solution? Are we doing deep breathing or matching brainwaves to some ideal? Here the focus is on the technique, not the patient nor evolution; a major difference. When we focus on how the patient evolves we learn; when we decide on how we treat her beforehand we don’t. In short, can we learn from this therapy how to treat other human beings in psychotherapy? It is not a matter of defying evolution, but of harnessing it for the good of mankind. That is Darwin’s legacy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On Evolution and Revolution (Part 2/3)

The Brain's Evolution and Therapy

Do you ever wonder why it is that we fall asleep in reverse order of evolution? And why we come out of it in correct order. In means, first of all, that we are prisoners of the brain’s evolution; and when we start to become consciously/aware we move to the highest level of the brain. We come out of antiquity into modern life as though we have gone through the centuries or the millennia in proper order each day in order to achieve consciousness. We do the same thing in Primal Therapy; and in doing so we must strictly obey evolutionary edicts. We can no more change that order than do so in our sleep. And when we trump that order in sleep, psychosis lurks. If we do not have enough dream (second-line limbic consciousness) sleep we suffer. And we develop physical and mental symptoms. Now what is crucial here is if we trump that order in Primal Therapy we suffer from those very same symptoms. That is why re-birthing is so dangerous; it trumps evolution. That is why cognitive therapy cannot work; it trumps the feeling areas of the brain and ignores evolution.

As with dream sleep, Primal Therapy enters the deep unconscious, slowly in ordered progression. Down on that deep level lies so many of our remote and life-and-death pains. It shows itself in our nightmares which are associated with terrible terror/anxiety states, and it is demonstrated in deep Primals where heavy pains reside. Until we have access to those imprints we can never know about life-endangering memories, nor include them in a therapeutic process. What this tells us is that we are evolutionary beings who biologically must adhere to the history of mankind; there is an order to the universe of which we are part. I cannot stress this enough. We do not take patients into birth traumas in the first weeks of therapy anymore than in dream sleep we go directly into deep sleep. Evolution is an ordered affair. We must not superimpose our ideas, our theory or our techniques on patients. The rule is that it is not up to us to decide for the patient, as for example, that she needs dream analysis, or neuro-feedback or rebirthing. It is always the patient and her readiness that dictates our approach.

Each new brain level in evolution helps out with survival, otherwise it would not be there. The brainstem and early limbic system have everything to do with survival—breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. Evolution continues with its survival strategies finishing up with the neocortex. What this structure can do is detect enemies not only without but within—our feelings. And when it does it helps us survive by disconnecting us from the source of the pain; a self we will never meet again until we have access to deep brain structures. That may be never; and that may kill us prematurely.
As we travel through evolutionary time to the neocortex each adds its physiologic contribution. The reason that ideas cannot trump feelings is that feelings are integral to survival. They are a survival system. The neo-cortex is also very important to survival but in a different way. When we are in a coma without any neo-cortex really working our survival functions (heart rate, blood pressure, etc), are still operational. Animals survive very well without a complex neo-cortex. They won’t survive if the brainstem is damaged. We have to breathe no matter what.

Each lower level of brain function is designed to keep us alive. We can use lower levels to modify higher ones but it does not work in reverse. Imagine if the higher level neocortex could permanently modify brainstem functions? We survive because it cannot. Thus feelings can certainly sway ideas but ideas can only suppress feelings, not eradicate them. We see in our therapy how physiology and limbic feelings directly affect ideas and beliefs. A very rapid heart rate can push someone to go and do, yet no matter how hard we try we often cannot permanently alter the heart rate, especially the rate that is accompanied by anxiety. That is why we cannot “will” a slower heart rate over time. Ideas are hundreds of millions years away from physiological and emotional functions.

We know that the amygdala is pretty well mature at the time of birth so that we can code and register inchoate feelings. But the hippocampus is not yet fully developed for several years so that precision regarding the time and place and scene or origin is beyond its capacity. So we can dredge up feeling on the experiential level but not on the verbal one. So for those who claim to practice rebirthing we have to ask if there are any words to go along with the event. If there are, it is not a true event. We cannot overlook brain evolution in our therapy and perform what amounts to magic.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On Evolution and Revolution (Part 1/3)

When scientists were polled recently about the greatest discovery in science, the majority chose Darwin’s Evolution. It explained so much in so many fields of scientific endeavor. That includes psychotherapy. In my opinion evolution is essential in the treatment of emotional problems. To put it differently, no one can make significant progress in psychotherapy when evolution is not central to its process. The brain developed in three major cycles, first described by Paul MacLean. I describe them as instinct/energy, feeling and then thinking. Each evolved and has many connections to higher levels. If we do a therapy with only the last evolved; that is, cognitive/insight therapy, we have neglected a great deal of our evolution. It is tantamount to neglecting most of our ancient history and, of course, most of our early personal history. When we ignore two thirds of our brain how can we possibly get well? I think that the thinkers (the cognitive/insight therapists) “cure” their patients so that they think they are better. This leaves out physiology and feeling.
Therefore, we need to systematically measure physiologic changes in our psychotherapy. Otherwise, we can have great new attitudes but our bodies may be degenerating.
I have often called my therapy, “evolution in reverse.” It includes evolution as its kernel. And it is that sense of evolution that makes it revolutionary. Because it overturns most current thinking about the value of thinking, particularly in terms of measuring progress in psychotherapy. What we feel is what we feel no matter what exhortations take place. And those often buried feelings determine our actions. Feelings can be deviated but there is always a home for them in the brain. They cannot be changed; though we can change our thinking about them, denying or projecting them.
Thoughts, bereft of feelings are, in essence, homeless; they have no roots. So any proper psychotherapy must adhere to the laws of biology and evolution; we need to find our roots, the basis of some many of our thoughts and beliefs. The history of mankind is found in us today, and the history of man/us is found in us, as well. When we follow our history in reverse it again must adhere to the natural order of things. In therapy if we do rebirthing it defies evolutionary principles by attacking the most remote and early imprints first. We must start in the present, give ourselves a good foundation in regard to our current lives and associated feelings and then finally arrive at the reptilian/instinctive brain a long time later. These are biologic laws that cannot be disregarded. Thus it is clear that rebirthing cannot ever work; indeed it most likely creates damage; and I have seen and treated the damage it does.
Any ploy or mechanism by a therapist that defies evolution will end in failure because evolution is merciless and unrelenting; it is how we survived. It will not allow us to cheat on its principles. If evolution is neglected it will perforce end in abreaction; the release of feeling without connection and resolution. Bioenergetics, focusing the body and muscles violates that law. Focusing on bodily release (the Gestalt Therapy, “act like an ape!” is inadequate). LSD and hallucinogens completely disregard the neurologic order of the nervous system, and spray feelings everywhere with no possible connection. A primal will teach us evolution because it will follow the neuraxis precisely and tell us where and how evolution took place.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On the Nature of Science

There are critiques of primal therapy as not having enough science behind it. Apart from the fact that we have done four brainwave studies, neurochemistry and physiologic studies, having done several double blind studies (discussed in Primal Healing), there is yet another aspect to all this apotheosis of science. Before the observations of Jane Goodall and her seminal work on chimps in the field there were hundreds of statistical studies of chimps and apes. But until she had living experience there was not much progress. Her work involved clinical observation and inductive logic. And her impact on the field was revolutionary. I think our situation is similar to Goodall’s. We have done the usual statistical work but watching how it all works out inside human beings is critical. Further, seeing how we can reverse early traumas is of major importance. We can see what causes migraines over and over again in our clinical setting. Patients come in all “down” and migrained and relive oxygen deprivation, leaving without the symptom. We never suggested the correlation, we only observed and wrote about it. We worked in the “field,” as it were. This is not to deride science; on the contrary, it is to state that science has many shapes and forms.

Or in the case of high blood pressure, we watched it rise and fall with the reliving of early pain; in particular, reliving anoxia or hypoxia. And that the deeper we go in primals the more migraine and high blood pressure can be eliminated. These are biologic truths, something beyond facts that clarify the overarching truths. There are layers of truths. It is possible to explore and relive more recent hurts but the migraine will not disappear until the prototype is addressed. Migraine, then, will stop occurring when the original reason for it has been experienced; that is, during birth when oxygen was insufficient, engendering the massive constriction and then dilation of some of the brain’s blood vessels. This is the reason why it is so important not to have a personal agenda for our patient. If we do, the patient will go to where we decide instead of where her biology dictates. Because once there is a migraine the system knows that we must address oxygen impairment. They are tied together. We will start reliving only related pains and finally descend to remote causes. We don’t have to decide anything; her biology will decide for us. But if we don’t pay attention to this basic biologic law the patient will suffer. That is, symptoms are related to specific causes; not immediately apparent.

We are a therapy of nature, of following basic biologic laws, not an intellectual theory to be superimposed on patients. We need to trust biology, not defy it. We need to know that human need is the kernel of civilization and the jewel of any psychotherapy. When we find need we will find deprivation; and when we find deprivation we will find neurosis. And when we relive need and its deprivation we will resolve neurosis.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On Connection (Part 6/6)

The test of connection is an equilibrium of the nervous system with vital signs falling below baseline. We have done four separate brainwave studies of our patients. Our beginning patients have greater power (hemispheric amplitude) on the right side of the brain, but after one year of therapy, there is a shift of power to the left. This implies for us a more balanced brain. There was a strong correlation between patient’s feeling of well being and the shift in the brain. We have completed a two-year follow-up study of fourteen of our patients. Over time the power of the brain moves not only from right to left but also from back of the brain to the front (higher alpha frequencies) where there is more control. There are higher frequencies in the frontal area, which may mean better integration and control of feelings. An anxious patient, not well repressed, may come in with a higher brain voltage of 50–150 microvolts at 10–13 cycles per second. Just before a reliving (a primal), the alpha amplitudes can reach double or triple the normal resting rate (300 microvolts). This tells us how close to conscious-awareness the memory/feeling is. It gives us a diagnostic tool to measure access in the patient.

Connection means the liberation of the right feeling prefrontal cortex from control by the left. The left can now perform its important function of integration instead of suppression. And of course, the relaxation of the patient and her sense of ease is another key piece of evidence. Most important, once there is a lock-in of feelings, the insights become a geyser. After a feeling, one patient discovered why he could never dine in an indoor restaurant; he wanted nothing over his head (which turned out in a birth primal to be smashing into the pubic arch). He could never have anything above him, even symbolically, like a boss. Of course, his father was a tyrant; he avoided authority like the plague. Thus, there was the first- and second-line components of the feeling. Disconnection often means, “I am relaxed and calm,” while the right side is abuzz with pain.

We cannot be healthy and emotionally strong so long as there is disconnection; so long as there is a war going on between the two halves of the brain, mental health is not possible. Neurosis means there is a disconnection. It is not possible to get well through more of it, which is what happens in hypnosis and all cognitive therapies, where the left is driven further from its right counterpart.

Connection has neurologic roots. The Swedish neuroscientist, David Ingvar, using a CAT scan of the brain, found that a perception of pain involved both sides of the prefrontal area working in tandem. When emotional pain is repressed, I would assume the right side is more involved; the right amygdala picks up volume. There is information that the right amygdala tends to swell when there is feeling. Thus, disconnected pain is more active on the right side than the left.

It is as though there is a secret underground in the brain where messages are passed back and forth, but on the side that should be aware there is no recognition of them. So the right side “tells” the left side, sotto voce, “Look, I can’t take any more criticism. It means I am not loved.” And the left side says, “OK. I’ll defend you against having to feel so bad. Just don’t tell me too much. Anyway, I’ll twist the criticism by the other person, and make them wrong.” And the left side jumps in immediately and automatically as soon as there is a hint of criticism. “Don’t worry, my right-wing friend, I’ll keep those feelings of feeling unloved and criticized under control even though you haven’t told me what they are.” So the left side acts out the feeling; the act-out is unconscious because the right side feeling is not connected. The left is not yet consciously-aware.

Because brainstem and limbic structures on the right largely make up the unconscious the task is to bring the right brain into symmetry with the left. Remember, events are unconscious because early trauma impacts the right brain far more than the left, and that brain loses touch with conscious-awareness.

In order for the feeling to remain in storage the forces of repression must remain intact. That takes effort and chemicals such as cortisol, the alerting chemical for imminent danger. Once memory is stored as an imprint it is always an “imminent danger.” Hence nearly all of our starting patients are high in cortisol.

Any time a therapist orders a patient to do this or that, mistakes are being made. It is now the therapist’s timetable rather than the patient’s. The minute a patient is “done-to” we are in error. Feelings will come up in natural order when we let nature guide us, the patient’s nature and also our own.
There are many levels of connection: it means the right-left brains become coordinated (via the corpus callosum). And not only from right to left but also from bottom to top. This means that the feeling centers are connected to the areas of the neocortex, specifically the prefrontal brain. So that feeling is organically joined with knowledge, not by separate processes but as an integrated whole where feeling seeks out and links to understanding on higher levels. Earlier-on, heavy and painful feelings were too much to absorb and integrate so part of it was rerouted and kept apart from knowledge. It began an underground life, creating damage. The problem is that similar feelings are kindled into similar pain so that the compounding of all of it is too much to connect and integrate. It is like a storage locker; each new added pain builds until there is no more space for feelings.

The true meaning of optimum mental health is harmony and balance. It is also the meaning of emotional-intelligence, which allows our feelings to guide us toward a sane, intelligent life, and not one filled with broken loves, drugs, tobacco, alcohol and esoteric intellectual pursuits. Harmony and balance enables us to lead not only an intellectual life, but a healthy and intelligent one, as well, one not driven by compulsions and the inability to relax. Connection will take care of all of that.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

On Connection (Part 5/6)

Recall is processed by the frontal cerebral cortex. It recounts but cannot relive. Thus, there can be a recounting of an abuse by an adult when we were four, which may not be true—a confabulation. Contrarily, reliving is systemic and all encompassing. In reliving there can be bruises from birth that reappear (the doctor’s finger marks on the newborn’s skin), or one begins to gag and choke as one relives oxygen deprivation at birth. That is a sure event not to be confused with a recounting. Reliving includes how the lungs reacted, how much mucous was secreted during birth—because during a reliving of birth it is again secreted. Recounting has nothing to do with it.

When I discuss right brain control, it is the orbito-frontal right cortex that has direct connections to the amygdala of the limbic system. With a well-functioning right brain, there will be the ability to modulate our emotional output. But we also need right-left connections. There must be right bottom to right top connection, and right top to left top connection, and right bottom to left top for total integration. This may sound complicated, but for the healthy brain it is a “no brainer.” The inhibitory neurotransmitters also work to prevent information from traveling over the corpus callosum to the left pre-frontal area. So we may have an awareness of an early trauma such as, “My mother gave my dolls away,” or “She sent me to boarding school,” but the part that hurts is repressed: “I need my mommy!”. It is the suffering component that remains unconscious in the right brain; it is that part that wants to inform the left frontal area, but to no avail. We have a paradoxical need: to feel the hurt, and not to feel the hurt; to be protected from shattering pain, and at the same time, to connect to it and have it over with.

The encoded imprint is registered throughout the system. Recall treats an encapsulated left frontal brain as an entity in itself—confusing that brain with the whole individual, so when the person understands we believe he is getting well. Only her left brain is getting well. The rest remains sick. The left-brain, expert in strange concoctions, can really believe all is well while the dissociated aspect of memory, the suffering component, is writhing with its silent scream. It is the right that gives us an overview of our lives and how we manage in it. The left dissects, is analytical but cannot see the grand picture. It can criticize but not create. Now we know where critics go. And those in conventional insight therapy are talking to a brain that has no words and wondering why therapy cannot cure anyone. It is a dialogue of the deaf from those who cannot see.
When the critical period is long gone, and we are able to tolerate serious pain we can begin the connection process. In order to change, we need to go back to the critical period when fulfillment was absolutely necessary for life. Recall can never do that. As adults we have a stable environment, are no longer dependent on neurotic parents, perhaps have love in the present, elements that allow us now to face our childhood. Meanwhile, the brain has done its best to block the feeling, providing detours from the right-limbic information highway heading upwards and leftwards. The blockage is not complete, however, because the feeling drives act-outs. “No one wants me,” becomes trying to get everyone to want her—being helpful, kind, unobtrusive, etc. The feeling becomes transmuted into physical behavior. The energy, which needs connection, has gone to our stomach and created colitis, to our cardiac and vascular system with palpitations or migraines, and to our muscles, making us tense. It may make us act meek and diffident as if no one wants us around. It causes an inability for males to become erect. What we try to do in our therapy is to allow feelings to go straight up the feeling highway to the right OBFC and then to make a left turn to reach their destination.

Connection is always the brain’s prime destination. If we only turn left and never go right, we will never make the connection. I believe the system is always trying for connection, but it gets blocked by gating. Because of the constant push to connect, feelings tend to intrude and disrupt our thinking—hence, the inability to concentrate or focus. Once connected, those diversions will no longer be necessary to drain the energy. The energy always spreads to the weakest link. “Weakest” means a vulnerable area or organ either due to heredity or to damage done earlier in life; a blow to the head in infancy may end up as epilepsy. A history of allergies in the family may result in asthma later on.

Our therapy is chosen by those who hurt, who often have too much access (access from below is not the same as access from above. The former means flooding), and not enough control. The therapist needs right brain access so that she can empathize with the patient, sense what she is feeling, and know when pain should be avoided for the moment. A therapist will earn the patient’s trust when the patient senses that the therapist knows what is going on inside of her, does not make inappropriate moves, and allows for the free flow of feelings. A therapist who interrupts feelings, who cannot sense the readiness of a patient to feel certain levels of pain, cannot be trusted. That distrust is inherent in the situation. No therapist who is left-brain contained, who is circumscribed by ideas and insights, can be trusted. None of that sensitivity can be taught. We cannot “teach” feeling. We cannot teach connection to the right brain; we can only allow it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

On Connection (Part 4/6)

In neurosis there is a loss of integration among brain sites so that memory cannot be conflated with inner sensations and external reality. We lose our wholeness so that past and present cannot be differentiated. Remember again that when animals are traumatized and then put again in a similar situation without the trauma, the brainwaves are practically identical. The brain cannot tell the difference between past and present, and forces us to react as we did in the past even when that reaction is not called for. In neurosis we live in the past without being aware of it. We are shy with others because an angry father forced us to give in and submit unquestioningly. This kind of father takes the child’s “no” away so that later on she cedes to other’s wishes all of the time. Thus, she reacts in the present as if it were the past.

Without lower level connection to higher levels, we are only considering the late developing cortical brain and not the brain as a whole. Sadly and happily, no one can make a connection (insight) for us; it must come out of a feeling, and it must do so in slow orderly fashion. When the patient has the connection, we know it is time. When the insight is forced by a therapist, it usually is not the time—organically; it defies evolution—ideas after feelings, not before. Neurosis manages to fragment that reality (disconnection). Feeling therapy reestablishes that total reality. There is a unity of nature that happens only with connection. Connection, therefore, is the merging together of related neural networks on all levels of consciousness.

It should be clear that dissociation restricts consciousness, not awareness, and we need consciousness, not awareness, for control. I can make this same impatient individual aware (left frontal area) in therapy that he is terribly impulsive and cannot stand waiting, but that does not produce the bottom to top connection that allows for control—the connection between deep right brain and left pre-frontal brain. Even with full awareness, the right lower brain sends impulses throughout the body that gnaws away at various organs. The result may be colitis (often first line originated) or bleeding ulcers, which cannot be stopped without first-line access. The aware person can be totally unconscious of all of this. The unconscious has no way to become conscious in the neurotic. Neurosis means an altered state of consciousness. That includes defective or impaired bottom-to-top brain circuitry. In brief, the brain is rewired. In the adult, instead of feeling the need for love and caress, one may feel immediate sexual impulses or the drive to eat. The more that those circuits are deviated and continue to fire in a specific way, the more the rewiring becomes reinforced.
We need to go back and relive the times of first deviation if we are to make headway to resolving it. We go back to reset the set-points toward normal. That is why in our therapy, the naturally produced inhibitor or repressor—serotonin—is enhanced after one year of sessions. Its set-points have been reestablished. It is sometimes possible to get relief by delving only into later childhood traumas, leaving the prototype in place. If the threshold for symptoms is raised by this approach, all the better. There will be no overt symptoms but the tendency is still there. Thus, an alcoholic may not be forced to drink when some of the pain is relived, but he will always be in danger thereafter. If we are looking for total personality change, it will not be possible without addressing the imprint. If one is happy with having no symptoms, then so be it. It is the patient’s life, not ours.

Early trauma, birth, and pre-birth, will generally interfere with the proper evolution of the right brain and its connections to the left. It remains so excited that even neutral events can set it off. Do we need a therapist to help us see outside reality? No. We need a therapist to help us find the internal one; the rest takes care of itself. To be specific: We need to access the right brain because that brain (specifically the orbito-frontal cortex. And the lower brain, as well) contains a map of our emotional history and our internal state. With access we don’t have to figure out what happened to us at age two, we can re-experience and know it. And we will immediately know how that experience drove us. That is why recall is so different from reliving.

(Let me hasten to add that there are any number of limbic structures and adjacent ones that are involved, including the ventral anterior cingulate which seems to “straighten out our perceptions”. It is beyond my competence and intent to discuss them).

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.