Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sex Problems as a Form of Memory

That is the wonderful thing about imprints – they are a fountain of truth, which is exactly why we can count on its veracity when we see a patient with access who is reliving incest. We can believe it when we see loss of erection. It is telling the truth despite our will power, which is why we cannot will an orgasm, man or woman, without good deep access. The inability to become erect in a man speaks the truth of the system. We too often are trying to correct this so-called problem when it is in accord with internal reality; we are trying to tear it away from reality with our newly found psychological techniques. We can also count on its truth through measurement: when the body temperature rises or drops some three degrees during a session, we know the patient is re-experiencing a major trauma, either a major second-line (limbic system) trauma, or a significant first-line. Or more likely, both.
We have found that such memories are quite accessible through the use of proper techniques. Without those techniques, memories seem inaccessible. Nature is a good protector – such memories should not be easily accessed, as the lower centers of the brain hold survival functions and adaptation strategies that must not be tampered with.
Though a trauma may be long past, it remains within the body, imbued with the full force of the original event. It continually creates havoc. So long as the body is young and strong, there may be an absence of symptoms. But as it ages and weakens, symptoms will be manifest.
Once the imprint is blocked away from conscious-awareness, it is always a danger, a "foreign element" to be reckoned with. The danger is that it will intrude upon awareness and send the vital signs skyrocketing. The alien intrusion, such as being abused or abandoned by one's father, for example, makes the child feel unwanted, unloved, and unsafe. Under the experience created during the child's early years, the child becomes terrorized and repressed. Trauma then creates a splitting of the self – it drives a wedge between the real pained self and the unreal, or unfeeling, repressed self; the self presented to the public. Because of the split or disconnection we can no longer will our bodies to do our bidding. In sex, that means the body is out of our control. Our "will" remains on the top cortical level and cannot reach down to tell the penis what it should do, so it cannot stop it from ejaculating too quickly, for example. Very early trauma has compromised the development of the controlling orbitofrontal cortex, which could slow ejaculation.
Being disconnected means losing a bond with many of the processes that are mediated by lower levels. Thus, we have no way to control heart palpitations or lower our blood pressure, or will an orgasm. No willpower on our part can make a difference. We are trying to harness forces with which we have lost contact years ago. They are sending out orders in their peculiar silent language, shifting resources from one place to another and trying to warn us of danger. To illustrate, the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, may be raised to a high level, but all we will feel is the vague sense of impending doom, and we do not know from what. "Doom" was in the offing during perhaps a birth experience with too little oxygen. Or worse, we do not feel anything at all. This is a problem, and the essence of which I call the “Janovian Gap.” The wider the distance or disconnection between a deep imprint and the conscious/awareness of it, the more susceptible we will become to illness. The space between feeling/sensation and the cortical, "thinking" acknowledgment of it, is a precise measure, and in my opinion, a gauge of our longevity. One can say, "Yes, but the man developed lung cancer because he smoked 2 packs a day." I would say that the man smoked because of the gap between what he was experiencing physiologically and his conscious awareness of it; it is that gap that compromised his system, and his health.
Because of this disconnection between feeling/sensation and the thinking mind, the penis has a mind of its own, a sense of urgency to release pent-up tension. We need to experience the imprint, the level of consciousness where the disconnection took place, which may have nothing to do with sex. To feel the disconnect is to reconnect.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Brain Doesn't Care What You Believe So Long As You Believe

The brain doesn’t care what the content of a belief system is so long as it exists. It can be Zen, Allah, God or the Republican Party — the force is there to keep us hooked. Again, the brain doesn’t judge itself nor second-guess its content; it just produces the ideas that it needs — God is watching over me and will protect me. Does that mean all ideas are superficial and simply transposed feelings with little validity of their own? Not at all. But if we don’t understand that ideas are built out of a structure, from a lower level of the unconscious, we shall never learn how to combat or change them. To remain in the realm of ideas alone is to lie in the domain of philosophy. Ideas that are in accord with one’s feelings — the environment is being polluted — is not what I shall be discussing because then we would have to analyze the validity of the idea: Are hot-house gases increasing, for example? Indeed, we recently treated a woman at the Primal Center obsessed with pollution; she would throw fits if someone smoked near her, a seemingly logical response, but it came out of a feeling that I would never dare to interpret on my own — there were toxic drugs given to her mother at birth, and also the mother smoked and drank during her pregnancy. The newborn sensed that her world was "polluted". This remained unconscious until she relived her birth and felt all the toxins surrounding her. She knew immediately the cause of her overreaction in the present. That understanding, however, did not invalidate her beliefs. Again I do not want to validate or invalidate anyone’s beliefs; I simply want to show how they help us cope in the world. As I pointed out, the brain doesn't care about what idea we have so long as we have them, and that the idea brings relief — hope against hopelessness, courage against fear, life against death, having someone there who listens to us instead of feeling totally alone in an indifferent universe. When we feel hopeless — when we have lost our best friend and life seems so dreary — we can appeal to an idea of someone or something that will help out. The idea may even keep us from killing ourselves. We can imagine a help and a love from a deity that never existed in our early lives; that imagination will work for the brain. Neurons (brain cells) do not distinguish between a good idea, a real idea and a false one. With pain, nerve cells go to work immediately calming it; they manufacture painkilling chemicals such as serotonin, and allow the force of the pain to be diverted into higher left-brain areas that are in charge of beliefs. It is an automatic process commanded by and servile to one’s painful feelings. Serotonin is what Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft manage to preserve in adequate quantities to keep pain away. Either we take 10 milligrams of Prozac or we take 100 milligrams of a very strong and persuasive idea — both have the same effect. Both gate pain in the brain and keep it barricaded in the unconscious. One is injected from the outside and the other is injected from the inside.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

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. It 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; it forgets about evolution completely. That is why holotropic, deep breathing is dangerous; it again trumps evolution. It does not allow an orderly progression up the evolutionary ladder. Rather it stays stuck on the primitive nervous system level, (presumably the medulla of the brain stem) and does not climb the neuraxis to areas of awareness and integration. 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” is deficient and cannot lead to cure. Because all parts of the brain are involved not just brainwaves. And those different parts control different parts of the body. That is why psychotherapy cannot work. Yes, we can get well in our heads, in the realm of ideas but that is where it stays; we think we are better but the body may betray us.

As with dream sleep, Primal Therapy enters the deep unconscious, slowly in ordered progression. But like in sleep we do not plunge immediately from current awareness down into the deepest levels of consciousness. 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 just awful pains reside. 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.

Just a note to state that each new brain level in evolution helps out with survival. The brainstem and early limbic systems have everything to do with survival. Then full limbic structures continue the survival strategies, finishing up with the neocortex. 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 and we directed towards what feels good. The neocortex is also very important to survival but it is not as crucial as lower levels. This means that when we are in a coma without any cortex really working our survival functions (heart rate, blood pressure, etc), still are operational. Animals survive very well without a complex neocortex. 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. Could you 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 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.

When we descend to deep unconscious levels we become conscious on that level. The unconscious is transformed into conscious. We do not become aware on a verbal level but rather we are conscious in terms of that deep level and no other. We have access to our inner states. We thereafter will not suffer from such things as a bleeding ulcer without being aware of it. Chances are, however, that we won’t suffer from such afflictions.

I remember seeing a patient who had just started therapy who told me that since he forgave his parents he felt much better; proof that ideas can trump feeling. Yet when he was measured his stress hormone levels (cortisol) never changed. Thus the neorcortex can trump what we think are feelings without ever touching feelings, per se. The neocortex is most apt 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.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

On Anxiety

I just got a letter from Harvard Medical School. They want me to read one of their books, Coping with Anxiety and Phobias. Now why won’t I do that? Because there never is the phrase, “eliminating anxiety.” If all they can offer is coping I can do that on my own. And why can’t they offer “elimination?” Because they still don’t realize how deep and remote the origins of anxiety are. It is a pure vegetative state, mostly around the midline of the body.

Those who write about it could not imagine that sometime in the middle of gestation things happened that imprinted fear or terror. This imprint later becomes anxiety when the person’s gating system is weakened. It is imprinted at a time when the inhibitory forces of serotonin are getting organized but are not yet in full force.

If we do not understand the imprint we will never be led to origins and therefore will never get rid of this dread symptom. We see it in terms of butterflies in the stomach, cramps, pressure on the chest, breathing difficulties; all nonverbal elements that do not succumb to verbal therapies. It takes route when the lower brain centers and the brainstem are the highest level of brain function operating at the time. And, as I note, a brainstem imprint is a brainstem symptom—colitis, ulcers, breathing problems.

The answer to this is to go back in time to the brain that handled it, in the first place. Feel the terror piece by piece, and then we should not suffer any more. In my article and book on Life Before Birth, I cite a number of research studies that indicate that the physiologic status of the mother is usually paralleled by the fetus. High stress hormones in the mother will also be high in the fetus/baby. The baby gets a send-off with a predilection for anxiety just after birth. It may not show up for years as a consciously/aware symptom, but the groundwork is there from the start.

To eradicate anxiety we need a theory and therapy that understands remote origins, not the least of which is during gestation and birth, and then we need a therapeutic setting with no outside distractions so that the person can travel back in time through the vehicle of feelings. It is the factor of resonance that steers us to the right place and right time. Conventional therapists will not see nor understand it until they have a darkened silent therapy room where no great amount of verbiage can take place. In short, the patient needs to be inside herself, with the inhibitory neocortex receding so that access can be achieved.

If one does not believe in the remote past imprint then one would not devise a therapy to accommodate that goal. So much of current therapy involves verbosity ad nauseum that getting to feelings is impossible just in the structure of the therapy room.

And now the trend for anxiety cases is medication and more and different medication. And where do these medications work? Down low in the brain on the vigilance and feeling centers. That should tell us something. That anxiety results from very early trauma and is not something existential. Memory is medicine. Let us never abandon that truth.

A current situation, someone refuses to honor an application, sets off inordinate anxiety. Why? The situation resonated with very early terror, which is dredged up and inserts itself into the person’s current situation. Anxiety is the lower level aspect, the primal aspect, of the overall feeling of, “I can’t get through … to you.” It is current, resonates with parents whom could not be reached emotionally, and finally to the birth where the baby could not get through (was blocked). The radical part of this is, “I can’t get through.” That is the base, the first-line component. Later on, we add whatever circumstances compounds the feeling … to you. It gets to be anxiety when the gating system is inadequate to stem the access to lower brain levels. It is very much like need. At first there is pure need for love, for touching and holding, for caressing and warmth. When that is deprived very early on the need becomes the “need for.” It can be the need for drugs or food or gambling. But that is derivative of basic need; so when we treat these afflictions we must keep in mind that it is at bottom a real need we are dealing with.

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.