Thursday, July 30, 2009

On Being Emotionally Damaged

It seems like in psychology today the lingua franca in describing patients is “emotionally damaged.” So what is that? It means someone who is neurotic, full of pain, damaged by years of abuse, etc. So I got to thinking about it and tried to define it in a more precise way. There are two aspects to this. One: There is a timetable of needs beginning in the womb. How completely they are fulfilled or not determines one aspect of the pain. Secondly, needs that require fulfillment are the most painful the earlier they occur. And this is pretty much true for all of us. Early primal needs are nearly always a matter of life-and-death. Their lack of fulfillment can be catastrophic. This is imprinted and endures for nearly all of our lives. There are secondary, non-lethal needs that require fulfillment but when not fulfilled hurt but do not change our basic neuro-physiology. These needs come late in the evolutionary time-table.

So let us assume that of the many needs, to be touched, talked to and listened to, to have our needs acknowledged, to be understood and have our moods mirrored by parents, there are only one or two that are fulfilled. The rest means pain. There is hierarchy of needs; those that are involved in life and death—oxygen at birth, a calm environment while being carried, feeling safe in one’s surroundings and being protected. Above all, being touched and caressed and kissed right after birth. Parents need to show their love. Lesser needs such as being talked to are important but they do not alter the great pain of not being held and caressed as an infant. We can adumbrate the amount of pain by measuring the vitalness of the need and how much it was not fulfilled.

Those who are most damaged are those who have in my lingo, first line pain. The only damage equivalent is something that is commensurate with first line such as incest at age six or eight. But in addition to that there are other needs not fulfilled, then you have the makings of serious mental illness. When the parent who is supposed to protect you becomes the danger, damage is inevitable. When a child has no one to express her feelings to, damage is also evident. In my books where I write on the nature of love, I have discussed the various needs and their need for fulfillment. If you have been touched and held but not talked to the damage is much less. If you have not been held but have been talked to the damage is much more. So damage increases as deeper brain areas are touched. That is why Hollywood does not ordinarily ruin people. Those who are already wounded seek out Hollywood.

Monday, July 6, 2009

More on Beliefs (Part 3/3)

In the paper recently is a story about a female astronaut driving one thousand miles to do away with a perceived rival for the affections of another astronaut. All of her amazing education and brilliance could not stop her from doing something absolutely crazy. She could not think out this problem and decide on a different course of action; she was compelled to follow her deep feelings of past rejection into oblivion. Could there be a better example of rationality living side by side with irrationality in the brain? In cerebral terms, it is deep feelings of rejection in the right hemisphere and in the forward top brain (the orbito-frontal area) that sends the message over to the left prefrontal brain and says, "Stop the rejection by any means possible!" She could not do it as a child — helpless before parental neglect and indifference, but now she can do something about it. But ay any ay, what she did was nuts. So the left advanced brain tried to find symbolic solutions to an old imprinted problem that had only one solution — love by the parent — at that time and no other. So here we have the perennial dilemma: the left prefrontal brain always tries to find current solutions to old historical problems; and it therefore always fails.
This seeker gives up everything in exchange for the hope of receiving what was deprived her long ago. She becomes an extension of the leader's will. She and the other disciples will kill others or themselves at the leader’s behest, turn over their money to him, live by capricious rules he makes, think thoughts he inserts in their minds, eat what and when he allows them to. They act like devoted children, and his authoritarian bearing reinforces that childishness. Women will even give over their bodies to the leader, and their mates will allow it because they have learned obedience to authority. That obedience is one of the most dangerous facets of human life. All manner of crimes exist in its wake. Fascist dictators can easily get thugs to do their murderous bidding because those thugs are loyal and obedient to the leader. Those in war can kill because it is their job; they usually don’t kill out of anger. It is a job like any other, devoid of passion. In need of order in a world of chaos, hope and magic instead of confusion and pain, they swallow the ideology the leader dispenses hook, line and sinker. In the case of our homegrown cult leaders, women will even submit to the leader's sexual whims, will leave their husbands, and abandon children in order to please him. In the case of one cult leader, the wives’ mates bunked in a dormitory downstairs while they slept with the guru. Parents went along with their leader's penchant for their pubescent daughters. But the leader has to have the answer! And he must exert his ideas with certainty and force. Beliefs are medicine for the hopeless. They attenuate despair, vitiate parental substitute. He gives love and can take it away from those who are not obedient. For those who were rejected by family, to be again rejected and thrown out by the "new family" is intolerable. Some prefer death to this pain. loneliness and dissipate helplessness. Not a despair necessarily arising out of one's present circumstances, but one that is imprinted physiologically and emotionally in the individual — the despair of a baby in the crib who cries her heart out for days hoping someone will come to feed, cuddle, caress and soothe her. The despair of a child who sees his mother die in an auto accident or his father leave the family for good. A despair long ago forgotten by the mind but not by the body, consigned to the unconscious, covered over by layers of newly constructed hopes ... and best of all, the hope for a different and better life. Later on, it is no wonder that person becomes radicalized, looking for a better world, trying to destroy symbols of his current world, becoming a utopian who must find the perfect system or perfect place — all because his early life was such hell and so hopeless. We need hope more than we need truth. Hope feels good, but truth often hurts. The truth hurts because to feel that "my parents don’t like me, don’t want me around and they never will love me," is intolerable for a youngster. If the Bible is your bag, you can be born-again. The medicine of hope dispels the misery of our pre-born-again life. Hope's assurances shield our ears from the child screaming below the surface of consciousness. She is screaming yet even she cannot hear it — until, we take her back to her childhood and help her cry and scream, at last. Now she knows what has driven her.

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.