Sunday, September 6, 2009

On Connection (Part 5/6)

Recall is processed by the frontal cerebral cortex. It recounts but cannot relive. Thus, there can be a recounting of an abuse by an adult when we were four, which may not be true—a confabulation. Contrarily, reliving is systemic and all encompassing. In reliving there can be bruises from birth that reappear (the doctor’s finger marks on the newborn’s skin), or one begins to gag and choke as one relives oxygen deprivation at birth. That is a sure event not to be confused with a recounting. Reliving includes how the lungs reacted, how much mucous was secreted during birth—because during a reliving of birth it is again secreted. Recounting has nothing to do with it.

When I discuss right brain control, it is the orbito-frontal right cortex that has direct connections to the amygdala of the limbic system. With a well-functioning right brain, there will be the ability to modulate our emotional output. But we also need right-left connections. There must be right bottom to right top connection, and right top to left top connection, and right bottom to left top for total integration. This may sound complicated, but for the healthy brain it is a “no brainer.” The inhibitory neurotransmitters also work to prevent information from traveling over the corpus callosum to the left pre-frontal area. So we may have an awareness of an early trauma such as, “My mother gave my dolls away,” or “She sent me to boarding school,” but the part that hurts is repressed: “I need my mommy!”. It is the suffering component that remains unconscious in the right brain; it is that part that wants to inform the left frontal area, but to no avail. We have a paradoxical need: to feel the hurt, and not to feel the hurt; to be protected from shattering pain, and at the same time, to connect to it and have it over with.

The encoded imprint is registered throughout the system. Recall treats an encapsulated left frontal brain as an entity in itself—confusing that brain with the whole individual, so when the person understands we believe he is getting well. Only her left brain is getting well. The rest remains sick. The left-brain, expert in strange concoctions, can really believe all is well while the dissociated aspect of memory, the suffering component, is writhing with its silent scream. It is the right that gives us an overview of our lives and how we manage in it. The left dissects, is analytical but cannot see the grand picture. It can criticize but not create. Now we know where critics go. And those in conventional insight therapy are talking to a brain that has no words and wondering why therapy cannot cure anyone. It is a dialogue of the deaf from those who cannot see.
When the critical period is long gone, and we are able to tolerate serious pain we can begin the connection process. In order to change, we need to go back to the critical period when fulfillment was absolutely necessary for life. Recall can never do that. As adults we have a stable environment, are no longer dependent on neurotic parents, perhaps have love in the present, elements that allow us now to face our childhood. Meanwhile, the brain has done its best to block the feeling, providing detours from the right-limbic information highway heading upwards and leftwards. The blockage is not complete, however, because the feeling drives act-outs. “No one wants me,” becomes trying to get everyone to want her—being helpful, kind, unobtrusive, etc. The feeling becomes transmuted into physical behavior. The energy, which needs connection, has gone to our stomach and created colitis, to our cardiac and vascular system with palpitations or migraines, and to our muscles, making us tense. It may make us act meek and diffident as if no one wants us around. It causes an inability for males to become erect. What we try to do in our therapy is to allow feelings to go straight up the feeling highway to the right OBFC and then to make a left turn to reach their destination.

Connection is always the brain’s prime destination. If we only turn left and never go right, we will never make the connection. I believe the system is always trying for connection, but it gets blocked by gating. Because of the constant push to connect, feelings tend to intrude and disrupt our thinking—hence, the inability to concentrate or focus. Once connected, those diversions will no longer be necessary to drain the energy. The energy always spreads to the weakest link. “Weakest” means a vulnerable area or organ either due to heredity or to damage done earlier in life; a blow to the head in infancy may end up as epilepsy. A history of allergies in the family may result in asthma later on.

Our therapy is chosen by those who hurt, who often have too much access (access from below is not the same as access from above. The former means flooding), and not enough control. The therapist needs right brain access so that she can empathize with the patient, sense what she is feeling, and know when pain should be avoided for the moment. A therapist will earn the patient’s trust when the patient senses that the therapist knows what is going on inside of her, does not make inappropriate moves, and allows for the free flow of feelings. A therapist who interrupts feelings, who cannot sense the readiness of a patient to feel certain levels of pain, cannot be trusted. That distrust is inherent in the situation. No therapist who is left-brain contained, who is circumscribed by ideas and insights, can be trusted. None of that sensitivity can be taught. We cannot “teach” feeling. We cannot teach connection to the right brain; we can only allow it.


  1. Dr Janov,

    Relating to "contained" left-brainers:

    What I have long noticed is how people of our "left-brain" oriented world always seem to want to find 'the solution' as a system i.e. looking for "the formula". And I think that exaggerated belief in "the system" makes them tend to reduce everything to a system, even when they should not. I'm speculating again, but maybe that's what happens with a lot of those supposed "mock" therapies - that is, they keep making conceptually off-the-mark left-brain versions of primal therapy(?).

    I have seen this effect in the music world too. Countless musicians look for a kind of false security in reducing things to over-simplistic "left brain" formulas and final-statement type conclusions. They end up applying principles and ideas out of context, because they can't see or sense when and where those ideas do and do not apply - because they are not listening first and foremost from an open "what is" position. Or to put it another way, their open and direct right-brain perception is not holding their left-brain ideations to account.

  2. To those who this may concern.
    I do not know how many... or who are taking part of your blog Arthur... but I understand that there should be alot more who made themselves heard... so the "dialogue" would have a greater impact... maybe they are behind the scenes and follows... do not dare... unable or afraid?
    To appear here for his/her fear... would may be useful for anyone else who doesn’t... not least for others with the same problem... it's like… invite up to Dana's... first there is no one who dare… then it is someone who takes "courage" to itself… then follow the rest…
    So you who do not dare... or is supported by previous "lessons" and gets stuck there... take the chance... the answers here… on this blog… may fill the uncertainty that makes it possible to move forward... do not be fooled by intellectual explanations here that "no one" understands... invite up to dance ... first there is no one who dare then it is someone who takes "courage" to itself and then follow the rest… there are no issues that do not lead to the goals for its purpose.
    This was not a criticism of your brilliant way to explain the physiological process of feelings physical existence Art.
    Frank Larsson

  3. Hi Arthur, when I first read in Primal Healing about the distinction between recall and reliving, it led to the realization that most of what I've been doing over the years was of little benefit. I have excellent recall, very little connection. I posted last month that I sent in an application, this week I will doing the interview session. I am hopeful, but also concerned I'll be one of those cases, you just can't "crack". For me, just accessing tears has been difficult. The load of pain is very very high. I've worked with several therapist before, including Primal Therapy, at a place that really didn't even attempt to deal with the 1st line. If you think it would be helpful, I could post from time to time about my progress or lack of it. I feel if you can help me, where all else has failed, it would work with just about everyone.


  4. Paul: If you wish, by all means. art janov

  5. Two minutes ago I read the above. The 2nd last para really stopped me in my tracks. I have asked a doctor (MD) and a therapist whether the epilepsy I have, could have been caused by a bad fall backwards, onto my head (off a garden swing), when a small child. A brain tumour with "Symptomatic epilepsy" is what they call it, at 60 years old. Both said "No". But I have always wondered and never felt convinced by their answers. Not at all. It was one of 2 things that happened in my life. I wish I knew for sure.


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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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