Monday, August 31, 2009

On Connection (Part 4/6)

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

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

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

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

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


  1. To all of you
    We're talking therapy her... no harm in it... I listen and will do… I know that our personal problems are crucial to how we live our life... so again… it’s a question of life and dead… I know that Janovs blog leads to a more general awareness of what primal therapy is and can do... I see another perhaps equally important task for this blog... we need more... not to mention a countless number of primal therapists all over the world... who bring with them the knowledge Janov presents... we must spread through contact with established institutions as work with psychology welfare in society ... a greater distribution to the public as this blog represents a great opportunity to? ... Ideas can be presented here on the blog? None are better than other... we just let Janov determine what might be a good idea or not... you who not dare to stand up for your sense of what primal therapy is… what do you got to lose? You… as might established in the field of psychology ... there are many who look forward to your participation... why not let Janov legitimize you for such a safe establishment as possible... it cannot be easy to stand alone with a patient without all the knowledge available today... Janov shows and claims that the awareness of primal therapy is safe today... we can leave it there... we need an institution that links to a research which proved and show results... it is difficult to assimilate to such a clear and unambiguous text… that Janov books reports don’t exhibit a different reaction in such an otherwise… total intellectually dominant world.
    Frank Larsson

  2. You make a good point, Frank, in a world that values evidence-based practice, and yet there's more to the story.

    it's not as easy as it might seem to get the kind of rigorous research done on a model of therapy. First, it's a catch 22 when you need the resources of a university (large clinics with trained clinicians or students, methods wizards, statisticians, and funding) but the funding sources, like tax payers prefer the most traditional methods of therapy.

    Second, I work for the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, PhD/MA degrees in prenatal and perinatal (birth) psychology that incorporates the primal literatures in the curriculum. The school has been in existence 10 years but prior to the start, the president went to any number of universities with this cutting edge work, and they all said, "No thank you." But little by little the school is gaining traction, but a long way yet from being able to do a large scale-random assigned study. That's a glimpse of how it is.

    But there's more. In all of psychology there is currently a reevaluation of how to serve clients better. I was at the American Psychological Association annual meeting in 2007 and the leaders were very interested in finding something that worked the best, a unified model of psychotherapy they called it. And yet they were a long way from bringing the stakeholders together on that idea.

    What is fabulous about the current state of psychology in my view is that there is room for all number of individuals to say, "Wait, I think I know what might improve things here." For me, Art Janov and his life's work falls in that category. Not yet the theory taught in every university? Well, okay, but I took the risk to go to Primal Therapy in the early 70s and now I'm in my sixties and have had a real life vs. the one I would have had. In short, it's still a work in progress, that's okay. I count myself lucky to have been part of it to this point. B.J. Lyman, Santa Barbara, CA

  3. Dr. Lyman, what are your views on 'mock' primal therapy?

  4. Dr. Lyman, last night I recieved a letter from a Primal Therapist in Melbourne, Australia. He says I am projecting on to you and my question to you was "a bit below the belt huh?". I just want to make it clear that my intentions were not below the belt. I was not sure whether you believe or support Janov's therapy which is obviously different to other primal therapies, or if you believe there is such thing as 'mock' primal therapy or just 'mock' therapy. I asked this question because I wanted to counter your positive attitude towards everybody dabbling and experimenting in the field of psychotherapy. When I say 'mock' I am referring to Janov's description - not mine. I suppose I could've worded the question better. I have absolutely no ill feelings towards you (I don't even know you).
    The Melbourne therapist also says I have projected onto Dr. Janov and put him on a pedestal. I have not. I have his THEORY on a pedestal because it's the only one that makes sense to me. I call him "Art" because that's what I would call him face to face. I don't blindly worship him or blindly dismiss you or the Melbourne therapist or anyone. But I have concluded that I will do Janov's therapy rather than a 'mock' therapy. I think mock is likely to be a fair word for many therapies. From my experience, Cognitive is mock. Maybe I will decide that Janov's therapy is mock. I seriously doubt it - because my dreams and limited feelings tell me otherwise.

    If my question to you seemed rude or manipulative, please reconsider it in a different light. I think this blog can benefit from more professional input and debate.


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.