Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why I Am Right Brain

I discussed right and left brain in my “Primal Healing”. But I will take it a step further and make it more personal. I grew up a mess, anxious and in unrelenting pain. I was dominated by my right brain. I could not learn, focus or concentrate. I can now. But as I got into feeling and connection, my left brain began to take over its proper function. And I think there is a balance now. That is also what our research shows. Since I believe that the right, feeling brain is charged with an overall perspective, a coordination of disparate event, I was good at that and poor in point by point research. The details eluded me. Too anxious for that.

The good part of this is that it allowed me to see the grand picture and to place separate aspects of human behavior and feeling in a more holistic frame of reference. Thus, the right brain dominance allowed me a broad frame of reference, the connotative approach. I could pay attention to nuance and implications rather than the denotive process of each and every fact being examined separately. And it led me to an overall therapy that did not focus on this fact or that, like cognitive therapy or EMDR. It allowed me to deal with the whole human being. So there is a good part of being dominated by one’s emotions. Now as my left brain develops, and I think it developed very late in my life, I can add the intellectual dimension to what I am researching and put two and two together. Our research into our patients who had one year or more of our therapy found that there was this shift from right to left, forming a more balanced brain. Finally, we can find relief and harmony; no small matter.

Now why was I right brain? Judging by my birth primals I had a horrific, extended birth with a mother who became psychotic after my birth, and who gave me immediately to my grandmother who eventually killed herself, forcing my mother into an asylum. I was then given away to a strange family for some long period of time. The pain was building from the start and there was nothing I could do, no behavioral option that could get me love, or at least approval. There were no options to get out of my predicament. So I suffered. I never knew it was suffering; it was just ADD plus. (plus constant anxiety and nightmares) So generally when there is ADD, look for the suffering and treat it, not just the lack of focus or concentration. And when there are nightmares look carefully at gestation and birth; you will no doubt find many answers there. There is hope. The more we become integrated it will show in our brain scans and in our general feeling of relaxation. You cannot relax with an uneven, unbalanced brain; a brain that is skewed to one side or the other. Being normal means being balanced and harmonious; that is the best of feeling. You will never get there in one blow. It takes many, many relivings but the direction is always right. And slowly integration takes place and the imbalance becomes balance.

Generally of the scientists I have treated there is a common denominator. They got what passed for love by being smart and getting good grades. All they had to do was eschew feelings. So they grew up left brain dominant. Even when they understand the research and the importance of feeling, they cannot make the trip from left to right. They remain unbalanced. It is not an intellectual difference; it is a matter of a whole upbringing. You cannot by any force of will make that transition. The only way is to open up the right brain to feeling and then build on that.

Feelings come first, not the new ideas. That is why fourteen-year-old students I have spoken to get it right away. That is why my patients in pain and feeling also get it. Those who don’t, see feelings as some foreign land. It is strange and incomprehensible to them. A place never to tread. Feelings will eventually sway the intellect; never the reverse where one can understand it all with the left brain and then make the transition. Feelings change ideas; ideas rarely change feelings.

Oxytocin (Part 3/5)

Bonding is the most positive aspect of human relationships. We learn how to bond emotionally in adulthood through early bonding in childhood, as simplistic as that sounds. It cannot be taught! And it certainly cannot be taught in later life. Attachment is pretty well set in our childhood. It is not something we learn; it is something we feel. It is also something biochemical. Those who did not bond very early on with their parents may well be condemned to a lifetime of broken, fragile, tenuous relationships. It may be in large part due to deficits in the hormonal wherewithal such as oxytocin. Oxytocin researcher and National Institute of Mental Health scientist, Thomas Insel has remarked that, "Many of the affectional ties to the mother observed post-natally (after birth) could be laid down by pre-natal experience." Life in the womb may determine life outside the womb for decades to come. It is a continuum, not two separate unrelated events. If the early relationship with one’s parents was distant, alienated and glacial, it may be a harbinger of the love relationships we have or don't have later in life. The earlier the alienation from one's parents, the more trouble there may be in relationships later on. I have seen it in hundreds of my patients. It approaches a biologic law – if my sampling of our patients is any index.

In certain mountain rodents such as the mountain vole, a species that lives an isolated life (as differentiated from the prairie vole, which is more social), a shot of oxytocin proved to encourage bonding and pairing between voles. After repeated injections there was a long-acting anti-stress effect, which calmed overall behavior and gave rise to a strong tendency to bond. This again indicates that early love supports calmness and serenity. Those humans who are able to bond with others have high levels of oxytocin. Love seems to be the ultimate painkiller and a permanent one. It prepares us for the challenges of life and is the ultimate survival tool.

All of our hormones are sensitive to the environment; when it is hostile and dangerous the system “ withdraws” or retracts, and that includes the levels of oxytocin. A mother giving birth who is under stress and great pain will have less oxytocin; (one reason why when it is injected it aids in childbirth). We have to assume that a mother who is chronically stressed while carrying will result in less oxytocin in her offspring. It seems to work in see-saw fashion, more adrenaline (stress—provoking the flight or fight response) less oxytocin.

That means that during childhood when love is offered by our parents, and still later by lovers, we cannot feel it. Repression has blocked our ability to receive input, even if that input is love. Repression, in short, has predated later love by a parent and blocked its input. Repression, therefore, can set up before birth when a chronically anxious mother has induced her fear into the baby and adversely affected oxytocin. And then we wonder why our baby is so fidgety and cannot be hugged.

There is enough evidence to show that a newborn's heart rate, body temperature, and respiration rate are governed by the mother; when she is loving and nurturing towards the baby she carries, there is a positive affect on the baby and the set-points of heart rate and blood pressure become normal. Any neglect she inflicts changes the biochemistry of the baby, perhaps permanently. Her anxiety and depression during pregnancy may very well alter the offspring's sex hormone levels. We know, for example, that anxiety in the mother can and does alter the sex hormone level of the fetus and can feminize infant males. So what we see is that once a male is feminized he is vulnerable, more vulnerable to a lack of love during infancy and childhood. He may become homosexual as a result of a cold, distant father, while the one who is not vulnerable will remain heterosexual. We need to understand that at certain levels of vulnerability, stress, trauma or pain can produce an overload and channel them into a symptom. In this sense, homosexuality could be considered a symptom, in the sense that there is a latent tendency, a feminizing, which only becomes overt homosexual behavior due to trauma; i.e., the lack of a father’s love. If the father’s love is there, it may remain a latent tendency.

The female prairie vole, when treated soon after birth with steroid/stress hormones, showed an increase in masculine behavior, such as mounting. Most of us don't have to be injected with stress hormones; stress in the womb and just after birth accomplish the same thing, and may indeed masculinize females. It seems like whatever happens in the womb has a lifetime of consequences; whereas events after birth seem to provoke compensating mechanisms that vitiate its effects. Thus drugs given to a pregnant mother has an enduring effect on the offspring, while drugs given to an infant may not reset the set-points. The earlier this happens the more enduring the imprint and its physiologic effects.

Although we may think that an injection is something special, the same chemical process takes place naturally. We can inject oxytocin, or we can massage the animal, and increase oxytocin levels that way. We can create stress for a pregnant woman, or inject her with steroids – the psychological effect is precisely the same as from a needle. A mother can be kind and loving and raise the serotonin levels in her offspring so that he can better handle adversity or a doctor can inject serotonin into the offspring and produce a temporary calming effect that is no different than that created by a loving look from the mother. A mother can "inject" oxytocin into her baby through her milk, which contains high levels of the hormone. Love, or what looks like it, can be injected. When "injected" naturally and at the proper time it will produce a loving human being.

A therapist can ask us, "Were you loved?," and we may insist, "Absolutely," yet we are betrayed by our oxytocin levels, which are far too low, and by our stress hormone levels, which are far too high, and also by our hormone levels which may be quite deviated. They speak too. The body and its physiology do not lie. Indeed, we may have been loved after birth, but suffered severe traumas in the womb of which we remain completely unaware.

To be continued next week...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oxytocin (Part 2/5)

Oxytocin is found only in mammals. When it is high, one experiences a sense of relaxation, rest, and growth, repair and healing, loving behavior and emotional-attachment. Love and nurturing early in our lives are necessary for optimum health, and healthy brain development cannot take place without it. It isn’t just that low oxytocin levels are an indicator of early neglect and lack of touching, it also indicates a dysfunction of the entire system, and serves as a prognosticator of our later mental and physical health. Its presence says, "I was loved and could develop normally,” its lack says, “I was unloved and my system is skewed.” That is what I mean by “marker.”

In the same way that we may increase sexual drive in males with testosterone injections, it may well be that we can "inject love" into people, or at least inject a hormone that encourages it – give people a shot of love, so to speak. This shot may help us attach to others and bond with partners, allows us to feel close to someone else, to feel and empathize with their feelings and pain. Bonding is a strong emotional attachment that helps us want to be with one another, to help and protect one another, and to touch and become sexual with one another. High levels of oxytocin encourage and strengthen bonding. Because early trauma and lack of love affect the output of this hormone, the ability to relate and have good sex later is determined even before birth and just after.

Someone can swear she is full of love, only to find herself very low in the essential hormone of love – oxytocin. It is actually good news that "less love" has a physical base, for there may be something we can do chemically to alter that state, and there is certainly something we can do psychologically to change it, as well. At sometime in the future we may be able to determine what proper love from a parent to a child is through the measurements of various hormones.

It has been proven that early parental love is a permanent painkiller. Rats who were able to self-administer painkillers by pressing a lever did not do so when given oxytocin. Oxytocin (OT) inhibits the development of a tolerance to drugs such as morphine, and also decreases the painful withdrawal symptoms that occur when one is taken off these drugs. The degree of addiction can be measured by the severity of one’s withdrawal, yet oxytocin reduces the severity of these symptoms. Love will do the same thing, but early love calibrates the system for life. A current shot of love, such as someone hugging and kissing us, may well change the levels temporarily. If we rub the belly of an animal the oxytocin levels will rise immediately, but once the initial critical period of the system’s development has passed, every change we can effect will be transient. Once we arrive at adulthood, oxytocin levels are fairly set. One can be given a shot of it, but it will not have a permanent effect, for once low levels of oxytocin or high levels of stress hormones are registered early in life, it is difficult to re-establish normal set points. After the critical period to receive love is over, the only way to normalize the system is to neuro-chemically relive the early events that dislocated the set points. We must feel again "unloved" in all its agony if we are to ever have any chance at normalization; and that agony has numerous biochemical components, which are measurable. Remember again, the effect of resonance. Feeling pain in the present can trigger off related pain going all the way back to the womb. That early pain can join the current feeling and become absorbed into the system, eventually leading to connection and resolution. What that does is lift the repressive gates and allow feeling to flow throughout the system.

Another key neuro-hormone, dopamine, helps maintain an optimum level of brain stimulation. Like oxytocin, very early experience can alter this hormone’s set-points. For example, a pregnant woman who takes tranquilizers can block dopamine output in her fetus. Later in life, the need for a stimulant such as cocaine occurs when dopamine levels are chronically exhausted; cocaine artificially increases dopamine in the synapses between brain nerve cells. One may get hooked on cocaine in order to feel more aggressive and outgoing, to experience more pleasure and fun in life; it can transiently produce greater self-confidence and an ability to confront others.

Dopamine also kills pain, in the sense that it is a feel-good hormone. This is all what would have happened if one had a healthy gestation and a warm loving early childhood – then it would be unthinkable for anyone to get hooked on cocaine. Cocaine can temporarily make up for the lack of love, but it cannot last. Cocaine has an effect only when early love is missing; it takes some of the fear out of the system and produces a "can do" attitude. Ah, but that’s exactly what mother’s love would have done! Why does one develop an addiction, then? Because one has to go back to the drug again and again in order to produce the good feeling. We are addicted to need, and then addicted to drugs that fill that need even symbolically. We have transformed the originally unfulfilled need into the “need for.” And when we seek fulfillment in the symbolic need (sex or drugs or gambling) guess what happens—dopamine increases.

There are many kinds of hormones that play into love and sex; I am extracting these for discussion and to show how early experience affects adult behavior. Many years ago we studied testosterone in our male patients. We also classified those who were low on testosterone as parasympaths – those dominated by the passive, reflective, healing nervous system. Those, who were high in testosterone, tended to be sympaths, meaning they were more aggressive, goal seeking, optimistic and ambitious (looking ahead, an analogue of the birth process). After one year of Primal Therapy, those who were low on testosterone tended to rise, while those who were very high tended to come down a bit; in brief, their systems would normalize.

When it comes to love, however, oxytocin is by far the most important hormone. The question we now face is what came first: lowered oxytocin and then the inability to love and to bond, or the lack of early love, which lowered the set points of oxytocin? I would choose the latter. Because hormones are so sensitive to early trauma, we must take care not to blame high or low levels to genetic factors. We must never forget the critical nine months of life in the womb.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Oxytocin (Part 1/5)

Feeling is the central organizing principle of human behavior. You can measure feeling in the brain, in the body’s biochemistry, in mother's milk, in saliva and in spinal taps. We can measure it in brain chemicals such as serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, and dopamine. Feelings are all encompassing, and love is the key feeling in human intercourse. It can be found everywhere in the system because feeling is everywhere. Except—except where it is blocked and hidden away. Then we have an index of pain and repression. So something like oxytocin can be a marker for love. Speaking broadly, it can indicate where and when fear and pain took the place of love very early on. Love is defined broadly as having one’s need fulfilled in a timely manner; that means even in the womb, during gestation, there are needs that require fulfillment. When they are not, there can be effects on all sorts of biologic processes, including oxytocin. When I state that a baby needs a calm environment, it includes gestational life. A depressed/anxious mother is not providing a calm environment; the fetus is all neurochemically sensitive to her levels of stress and responses.

Love is important because it ensures survival of the species; it is a kind of assurance that the offspring will be healthy and sexual, again to carry on a species that will be strong against adversity. Love also translates into mental and physical health, and provides the best chance for survival of offspring. It is not an ephemeral, mystical notion that floats above us in some never-never land. It can be measured; the processes of love can be quantified. Love makes us feel good. It also is an effective pain-killer, not for a short time, but for a life-time. Thus, when there is ample love even in the womb, it is reflected in an imprint of oxytocin levels that follow us throughout life. When those levels are high, we have a lifetime of adequate pain-killers in our system. When they are low, we can be anxious and in pain for most of our lives, and never know why. We may overreact to events because our resting levels are so high that almost anything can set it off. And we no longer have the wherewithal to block the pain.

Oxytocin means "quick birth." A synthetic oxytocin known as Pitocin, is given to mothers who need stimulation for contractions. I surmise that some mothers who need oxytocin to expedite the birth process may have had a history of pain that lowered their levels so as to make giving birth difficult. Statistics indicate those mothers who give birth by cesarean have lower levels of oxytocin. Additionally, when oxytocin is given to mothers to facilitate the birth process, it also enhances the love they feel for their child; they nurse better and are more relaxed with the baby. Conversely, a chronically anxious mother may leave her offspring with low oxytocin levels, which will contribute to the child having trouble later in life with bonding and forming attachments, as well as harboring a latent tendency to addiction. Thus, lack of early love translates into inadequate chemicals with which to bond, creating a vicious cycle of misery – unhappy relationships, poor sexual function, and failed marriages with suffering, abandoned children who bear the brunt of something that had its root causes in the infancy of the mother.

Loving feelings are transmitted to the fetus through the biochemistry and oxytocin levels of the pregnant woman, and then later through physical contact, which again raises oxytocin levels. If we were not loved early on, looked at, touched, listened to, nuzzled and adored, those biological changes, subtle though they may be, follow us throughout our lives. Yet a mother who takes good care of herself, is not depressed or anxious, does not take drugs, and eats properly, will produce a loving child.

If the traumas of birth, pre-birth and early childhood are inundating the system, there will be an eventual overload and breakdown of the neuro-inhibiting, suppressing systems – serotonin, as well as oxytocin. There are many chemicals that live in the gaps between nerve cells, neurons; some push back and some facilitate the message of pain. They are either information blockers or enhancers. Supplies of neuro-inhibitors will be used up over time in the fight to keep pain down. These supplies are not inexhaustible. It is the very earliest pains that have the highest valence and require the greatest amount of inhibition. These biochemicals will be used in the battle against emotional deprivation. The system will eventually be less sexual as the hormones of love become transmuted into the job of holding down pain.

Oxytocin is critical in making a strong emotional rapport with others. Oxytocin is a key hormone of love. When the level of oxytocin is low, there is less emotional attachment, less interest in social engagement, less caring and bonding, and less touch ... in short, less love. "Less love" has a physical base. Less love early in our lives can be found in an imprint, which affects many systems. These effects are measurable. In some respects, love is a measurable entity. The imprint affects sexuality, particularly how key brain structures such as the amygdala and hippocampus translate pain into sexual behavior. Oxytocin is secreted by the pituitary gland, just below the hypothalamus. And it reflects how much love we have had and how much love we will have to give. And in fact, when we make love (men and women) levels radically increase. Sex and love meet here or at least should meet here.

To be continued next week…

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Birth and Sex: How They Are Related

The idea that what determines our sexual behavior occurs during our silent struggle to be born, which may last but a few minutes, may seem outlandish. Perhaps saying that most common "sex problems" are an outgrowth of the birth trauma understates the complexity of the issue. Yet birth trauma is often a significant factor in many difficulties in sex, and later childhood trauma may then complicate things further.

Why is the birth process itself so critical in determining our sexual health? Because it is a life-and-death struggle that happens when we are at our most vulnerable and possess only primitive brain structures, the very same brain structures that are involved in our sexual development. This is a primal event, and sets the stage for how we will react later on to any perceived threat. It is called one-trial learning, and lasts a lifetime. It establishes an imprint that gives shape to adult sexual behavior.

The body speaks a language that is not expressed in words. We all speak that language, but few of us understand it. We can capture that language through machines that measure blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, for example, as well as register the bio-chemicals that process our feelings. This language of the body speaks eloquently, and it is far more credible than anything we might ever say. Machines don’t lie: they measure physiologically our earliest imprinted memories, memories that are a product of early traumas we experienced while in the womb, or at birth. These primal memories get buried deep into our subconscious mind, and are characterized by an absence of words and images. The most advanced part of our brain, the cerebral cortex, will bury the memory of anything that is too painful to bear. The body needs something to avoid the feeling of pain, and the brain’s neocortex is well suited to that job.

The body also speaks in its own astute fashion through behavioral patterns, such as premature ejaculation or low libido. It tells of our history and our buried feelings. No matter how much we may deny our history, the body expresses the truth. Our biology is never arbitrary. It doesn’t create a symptom out of the blue. There are always reasons behind our problems; we need only to know how to find them. Migraines inform us, perhaps, of a lack of oxygen at birth. Colitis may tell us of memories imprinted before birth, pointing to events that happened while in the womb. Depression and the inability to be aroused sexually might indicate an overload of anesthetics at birth.

We must learn this language and communicate with the body in ways it understands. It is possible to do this. But if we remain on the level of words, explanations, instructions and insights, we shall never comprehend sex problems or how to solve them.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Anoxia, Reduced Oxygen at Birth and Adult Behavior

It stands to reason that pre-natal traumas are generally all encompassing; we should find damage almost everywhere we look. The problem is that without an all-encompassing theory that directs us where to look we would never put together heart attacks at fifty with a trauma at minus six weeks.

There are several studies that have looked into fetal hypoxia (reduced oxygen) and the results systematically seem to be severe emotional illness later in life. (see: Behavioral Alterations in Rats Following Neonatal Hypoxia and Effects of Clozapine.” Fendt.M., et al., Pharmacopsychiatry 2008 Jul; 41 (4) 138-45) (Also see: “Decreased Neurotrophic Response to Birth Hypoxia in the Etiology of Schizophrenia.” T.D. Cannon, et al., Biological Psychiatry. Vol 64, Issue 9 Nov. 2008. Pgs 797-802) There is more and more information about the later ill effects of traumas at birth and before. It behooves us to look into this as those entrusted to heal mentally ill patients. Without this understanding we will not know where to look in order to heal patients. The information is out there; it is up to us in the healing professions to seek it out.

The question is, “why hypoxia in schizophrenia?” There are several explanations. What I have witnessed over and again is that the fetus is in danger of dying from lack of oxygen and then does not have the wherewithal to combat the trauma (a mother smoking, for ex.). Lack of sufficient oxygen is a terrible stressor. If it continues death is in the offing. Further, it leaves the fetus and baby with insufficient resources to combat future stress. The danger remains as a substrate so that any later trauma can set it off; hence breathing problems. So anxiety reactions to seemingly non-toxic situation are inordinate and out of keeping with the gravity of the current situation. They have simply reawakened the almost dying while in the womb. It is never a matter of changing attitudes, as the cognitivists would have it; it is a matter of what shaped those attitudes, in the first place.

I have discussed the notion of the “critical window” in my other works; it simply is that time in life when needs must be fulfilled, and at no other time. We can hug a child all day at age ten but it will not erase the lack of touch for the first 4 months of life which seriously deregulated the whole system and left a legacy of internally imprinted pain; a pain for which one must constantly take pain-killers. And it remains a mystery to the loving adoptive parents who took the child from an orphanage at the age of twelve weeks.

There is no way to make up for that loss except when going back to relive the original trauma. There is no way to “make up for” this deficit as much as we might want to. It is set in altered biologic set-points. We can treat the damage this does (kidney disease) but not its causes. The whole nervous system must retreat to the time when the trauma occurred; it can never be a matter of “remembering.” It has to be organic and systemic memory. That is, part of the precise memory lies in those new set-points. And they are wedded to how they first developed, in the first place.

There is a critical window for healthy functioning kidneys. It is sometime in the last trimester of gestation that most kidney cells (nephrons) are developing (up to the 36th week). Nephron development begins just after the eighth week. Trauma here, however subtle, may result in later kidney disease, with no apparent immediate cause. Once that damage is done we can only treat its symptoms (unless and until we address origins).

Physiologic reactions are the base that feelings are constructed on. What distorts those physiologic responses will ultimately distort psychological reactions, as well. If the system is highly activated due to early trauma, chances are we will have a hyperactive individual who will search out projects to keep herself active and busy. If dopamine and other alerting chemicals are in short supply we may later have someone who is phlegmatic, concocts reasons for not doing anything, for not following through. It is not a one-to-one relationship, but we eventually direct our psychology. If we don’t have all of the mobilizing chemicals we need it stands to reason that the adult, in order to keep matters egosyntonic (comfortable to the person), will rationalize why he doesn’t try and doesn’t persist.

I will sum up once more: high stress hormones in the carrying mother usually means high levels in the fetus. The baby who is born with allergies or other problems is already imprinted with trauma. She is born with a higher than normal stress level, which means that new events that are even moderately stressful will engender inordinate reactions. All kinds of diseases later on will follow from this. So even mild allergens can produce a serious allergic reaction, or a migraine. It means there will be impulsive out-of-control behavior; out-of-control because the level of mobilization/vigilance is already high. It doesn’t take much to set it off.

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.