Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Marriage

You really have to work at marriage… No you don’t!

We have to work at marriage when we are needy neurotics who act out on our partner. We become demanding, critical and importuning, all because our early needs with our parents were never met. A normal, feeling person cares about others, sees to their comfort and wants to help make them content and happy. Someone in old childhood pain cannot do that. She needs and she wants — a daddy who will guide, protect, support and offer unconditional love. He wants a momma who is warm, uncritical and totally weak and dependent. In short, they both want someone who is not threatening. Can marriage counseling help that? No. It can ameliorate for a time, but neurosis is stronger than that. It predominates eventually.

Counseling never touches basic need, and it is need that drives us — old unfulfilled need that is engraved in our system, implacable, fascistic and unrelenting.

Marital counseling helps marriage… No it doesn’t

If you have to go to counseling early in the marriage, all is lost. It means it is just a matter of time until it ends definitively. Counseling is a delaying tactic. You are not going to heal a needy, dependent drunk with counseling. You won’t solve frigidity (I hate that word) in a woman who is so repressed that she has no feelings or passion left. You won’t change a man who desperately needs his wife to be his mother because he never had one. Those basic characteristics are set down by the age of three, believe it or not, and do not change much after that. You are not going to tame an angry person with counseling, someone who has pent up rage since childhood at parents who were repressive, cold and unaffectionate.

After we’re married I will change him…No you won’t

Marriage is a piece of paper. You are not going to change someone who grew up with a narcissistic, depressive mother who had not one second for her child; a partner who takes drugs and alcohol in order to feel normal. That piece of paper is no match for a lifetime of deprivation. He has been trying to find something that did not exist — love! He is still living in the past with those past needs, and you are never going to change those needs unless you have found a way to change your partner’s neurophysiology. You are not marrying a future illusion — or are you?

Ay ay ay! Is there no help? Yes. It is called reality. When you marry a woman who wants to return to work right away instead of having children, you are fighting her physiology — namely, her low oxytocin (the love hormone). Better get a blood sample at the start and see whether your partner is capable of love. Too much deprivation in the first weeks of life can lower oxytocin levels permanently.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

On Resonance and Pain

There is an experiment where a subject in pain was given suggestions that he was no longer in pain, and he wasn't. But when given naloxone, which chemically undoes repression, the pain returned. There is no mind over matter. It is more likely matter over mind. It all makes sense since there is the factor of resonance I have been discussing in all my work. That thoughts resonate down to lower physiologic levels and set off commensurate biologic processes that quell the pain that the person is suffering from. To think otherwise is to imagine that thoughts exist in space with no physiologic counterparts, not the facts. Isn't it incredible that we have pain and pain sets up the very thoughts that then trigger off pain killers in our brain? Then we can think different thoughts: oh boy! This therapy works. Don’t forget, resonance is a two way street; if only the cognitive/insight therapists understood that and stopped treating thoughts as viable, discrete independent entities that can be changed willy-nilly.

Thoughts and beliefs are the final station of a process that can begin deep in the brain, very remote in history (personal and ancient), wending its way upward and forward until feelings meet with their counterpart. In a way, then, we do every day what we do in sleep: we revisit our ancient phylogenetic past and also our ontogenetic past and then move forward in time to the present. We are clearly evolutionary creatures; creatures of needs, especially those that were not fulfilled. In our therapy when we have a very disturbed patient we may use tranquilizers for a time to block the deepest aspect of an imprint, thereby allowing the person to focus on the present and perhaps childhood. The medicine is not in lieu of therapy; it is to treat memory, a memory that cannot remain in its proper setting in storage.

When a person’s defenses are weak due to compounded lack of love throughout childhood, the past inserts itself prematurely into the present; there we find serious mental illness. That past can warp how we think and perceive, not because we have adopted “unwholesome ideas,” but because those thoughts are the result of a lifetime of experience. So it isn’t that two people just politely disagree; it is that two people see the world in very different terms. And they are very different individuals.

So how do we block the pain? In many ways; we block the thoughts about it, we block the feelings and also the force of it. We drug different aspects of brain function. When I took an MRI I taught the technician to bang on my feet at irregular intervals so that I could not organize a coherent thought about my fear/anxiety. It worked. I was so focused on anticipating the bang that I could not concentrate on fear. The fear was still there; only it never became a coherent force.

Let me put this together again: There is a resonance factor where all aspects of a memory are involved. I assume that it may be due to the same frequency oscillations, and perhaps not. Aside from that assumption the resonance is absolute; having seen it several thousand times in many hundreds of patient over many decades. We see it in veteran patients who have deep access; when a patient comes in complaining that he is not getting anywhere in therapy and she wants to quit. We only discuss this cursorily, helping her into feelings where she feels so stuck in her early home life, and then perhaps months later, she begins a birth sequence where we can see that she is indeed stuck and not getting anywhere. We see her writhing and squirming and grunting (never expressing verbally) that she cannot make it out into life. It has a powerful valence. As we dip into her history the tail of the feeling grapples with an earlier counterpart to the feeling. And then she relives being stuck, over and over again. It was a life-and-death feeling that she gets born and breathes. It is again life-and-death when she has a problem in her life because the force of that memory rises radically to disturb her functioning. Something in the present resonates with her history, and then she becomes a prisoner of that history; a prisoner of pain.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cold Feet, Cold Hands and a Hurting Heart

Most of us know someone who has chronically cold feet and hands (the extremities), and who are forever cold. We think, “That’s just their nature.” But what if it’s not? What if it is “nurture?” What if those cold hands and feet went with a certain kind of personality that got its start a few months after conception? Moreover, suppose we could change all of those tendencies at once.
Well that is a tall order and will need some explanation. My general philosophy is that most of us are normal, born normal and adapt normally. So when there is a deviation leading to changed anatomy or physiology early in life it means something went wrong. It is not normal for there to be serious illness or emotional problems after birth if something did not go wrong some time before.
I shall address this problem and try to explore what can go wrong that produces radical deviations in the first few years of our lives. (Some of the following information is taken in part from the work of D. Singer, Germany)
One of the constants I see in my practice is the reliving of oxygen deprivation at and before birth (Hypoxia/depleted oxygen or anoxia/reduced). It turns out that the literature is now filled with studies that indicate that a majority of babies are born with limited oxygen. This is often due to painkillers and anesthetics which reduce oxygen input. The baby then has to adapt to this situation. It does this in many ways but one is to revert to the animal “diving reflex.” It redistributes oxygen to where it is most needed, namely, the key vital organs, lungs and heart. It deprives the extremities of oxygen so that there is set up a tendency to have cold hands and feet, not just for the moment of plus two days, but for life/plus 80 years. Not only that, but there is a reshaping of the personality, at the same time, that also can last for those eighty years. Reduced oxygen (don’t forget the smoking mother or one who takes suppressive tranquilizers) also happens when a mother takes serious pain killers and/or tranquilizers during pregnancy. Involved in this is a long-terms adaptation syndrome. The body needs to slow its metabolism (how fast it uses up nutrients), not for then only, but again for a lifetime. This adaptation I have called the parasympathetic one.
A structure in the brain is called the hypothalamus. It controls many hormone secretions. It also controls two different nervous systems—the sympathetic, managing our aggressive, active tendencies; and the parasympathetic, managing the more reposeful, healing ones. A trauma such as low oxygen at birth can produce a dominant parasympathetic predilection that encompasses many biologic parameters and also psychological ones, as well. In short, we have the makings of a phlegmatic, passive, unassuming, held back personality; someone who is always reacting to the imprint of low oxygen input. Thus, everything becomes a problem, everything is too much, and there is a tendency to give up easily because there is a not a prolonged and continued aggressive, assertive response. These are the shallow, slow breathers, cold in the extremities, reluctant of personality, not a self-starter. We think we can change these individuals. Remember that the ensemble of all these biologic/psychological responses are involved in survival strategies; not things picked at random because they were simply convenient.

Reconfiguring our oxygen reduction response is one key way to prevent oxygen damage to the brain. The system does it for us and sends more oxygen to the heart and lungs than to the feet. It also means less possible damage to the heart. If there is a trauma that affects the heart it may not show up for fifty years until the first heart attack. Of course, one way to avoid all that is to provide sufficient oxygen at birth. Failing that, the fetus/newborn will reduce its oxygen demands. But that can mean inadequate cerebral oxygen supplies, lower cerebral metabolism rate, which later can mean learning problems. You know when we say, “He’s got cold feet.” It is true. The person is reacting based on fear and terror, the same fear accompanying oxygen lack early on.

As I have written in my Musings book, it is not unexpected that there may be an early oxygen deprivation involved in later Alzheimer’s disease. That is, the brain is in constant adaptation to imprinted reduced brain oxygen. The brain is saying, “I am lacking supplies,” and originally adapted to that lack in various ways, including a change in the amount and strength of certain synapses, which are the gaps between nerve cells that are filled with chemicals that either enhance or slow the neuronal message from one cell to the other. In brief, that earlier adaptation becomes permanent and almost immutable. All of this underlies much of the deep depression I have seen constant hopelessness and helplessness accompany the personality (see my book “The Janov Solution”, for a more elaborate discussion of this). And of course, a drop in core body temperature. As patients get close to these deep early feelings of womb-life and birth, the temperature can fall three degrees in minutes as it is being relived. Or, patients deeply depressed can come into a session with a 96-degree reading. The parasympath has generally a one to two degree lower reading than the sympath. He seems to be in a permanent “dive” state of the polar bear. He too is ready for oxygen reduction.

The point about reduced oxygen needs is that the whole personality seems to “shrivel up.” It is a constricting one rather than expansive. When she speaks she takes up much less space and air; her words hardly move out of her mouth, and there is an air of fatigue about her. Is it any wonder that she (or he) is less sexual? Again, the whole system slows to adapt to reduced oxygen; the system is doing its best to avoid a mismatch between supply and demand (see D.Singer, “Neonatal Tolerance to Hypoxia.” Comp. Biochem. And Physiology, part A 123 (1999 pages 221-234). And when there is imprinted low oxygen we might expect slower growth rate. One way we see this is in neonates born to smoking mothers who are often of smaller stature. That in itself assumes trauma somewhere during womb-life maturation. That can foretell of a premature heart attack or cancer later in life. I think it is more likely to lead to cancer than cardiac problems because of the massive repression or inhibition that goes along with this kind of personality. Repression of womb-life events are nearly always of life-and-death matters; the repression it engenders is massive, and the result may be serious distortion at a cellular level. Thus, in my scheme, heart disease is that of expression (sympath) and cancer of repression. This is clearly not a hard and fast rule, but is something to think about. So many other factors play a role in all this, not to exclude a whole childhood filled with experiences.

There are so many later effects of womb-life trauma. Namely, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). It has been shown that when a pregnant woman is given steroids (the stress hormones) the offspring tends to suffer from high blood pressure.
(J.Seckl and M.Meaney. “Glucorticoid Programming and PTSD Risk.” Annals of the N.Y. Academy of Science 1071 351-378 2008) In particular, babies born of these mothers show hypertension tendencies just after birth. They note a strong link between stress hormone intake of a mother animal and her baby’s long-term hypertension (sheep). It seems like the later in pregnancy this occurs, the more permanent the adult high blood pressure. It has to do with the sensory window when a stimulus is most apt to create alterations in functioning. And the reason why this is important is that an anxious mother is delivering stress hormones to her baby/fetus. And so the baby can be said to be born with a tendency to anxiety, as well. One way we know this, is that mothers who are anxious seem to raise the cortisol levels in the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. It may seem like heredity, but it is not.
More is getting known about high levels of stress hormones in the carrying mother. It is implicated in later diabetes, immune disease, allergies, hypertension and others. There is now a much stronger correlation between mother’s stress level and later dementia. What is most important in all this is that this stress in the mother/fetus compromises the repressive system so that later it will be difficult to hold down surging feelings. The importance of this is that low level imprints cannot be suppressed so that the person has difficulty in concentrating and focusing—attention deficit disorder. A key element of that repressive system is the prefrontal cortex, which is pressed into service to counteract feelings that are on the march into awareness. Hence, overt anxiety states.
We begin to understand a bit about later drug addiction, which always seems like such a mystery. We are slowly becoming aware that pain can be installed in the fetal system before she is born. It still needs quelling. It is generally of such high valence, (witness our patients reliving early trauma), that it is logical that one uses pain killers later on. Until we re-direct our focus earlier we shall never solve these human problems.
The University of California, Irvine is important in this research. Gary Lynch, a well-known neurobiologist there, found that with very early trauma there was a later likelihood of memory problems. After years and years of suppressing feelings, there seems to be a “caving in” of the externally oriented prefrontal area as neurons, under constant pressure from the imprint, begin to die. That is one reason why in early stress a memory structure in the brain, the hippocampus, tends to diminish in size. Mice who have their hippocampus surgically tampered with, are much more excitable and prone to anxiety states. They do not adapt well.
In short, one’s personal history, one’s neuro-biologic memory, is a significant factor in what happens to one’s brain.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Why Religion and Psychotherapy "work"

When I say “work” I mean that they can make us feel better. If they didn’t, they would surely fade away. There are many explanations for this. What we learn from placebo (medicine that is “sold” as a pain-killer but is inert) research helps this understanding. Aside from the merits or their lack in religion or psychotherapy, one reason they make us feel better is because we expect them to do so.

In placebo research the subject is put in pain and then told that the drug they are injecting will kill it; and it does in most cases. So expectations cause the very same neurojuice secretion as when the drug is really given. But there is more; the placebo stimulates the brain circuits in the same area where the real drug works. The brain does not know the difference. The dentist can go on drilling to his heart’s content because belief is producing pain-killing chemicals in the same circuits where painkillers work. The brain has deceived itself; the result is no pain. If you can produce the very same chemicals that exist in a tranquilizing pill how can you ever tell the difference? That is why thinking you are getting well is not the same as feeling it. Thinking is malleable; feeling is not.

I treated a man who was getting to very deep and painful feelings. We suspected for some time that he was a victim of incest. As he got close to this memory he sat upright and told me that he just saw God and was saved by him; he didn’t have to get to the feeling. He felt much better. What he saw was relief; his brain manufactured something that wasn’t there and eased his pain. Something that was there was his brain’s ability to manufacture symbols. That was a reality that he conjured up, and it became real to him. So on the verge of horrific emotional pain he produced painkillers, and they produced images and thoughts and killed the pain.

What comes first? Pain, then images and thoughts, then relief. So belief is one excellent way of blocking pain. That is why the alcoholic can give up booze when he finds “God.” He simply has found another convenient way to inject chemicals into himself from the inside.

If I believe in psychotherapy and go to a warm concerned therapist I am likely to think the therapy works. Because if you “think” a psychotherapy works, it often will. You think you are getting better because you think you are getting better. The belief is all. Diabolic, but true.

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.