Sunday, September 13, 2009

On Connection (Part 6/6)

The test of connection is an equilibrium of the nervous system with vital signs falling below baseline. We have done four separate brainwave studies of our patients. Our beginning patients have greater power (hemispheric amplitude) on the right side of the brain, but after one year of therapy, there is a shift of power to the left. This implies for us a more balanced brain. There was a strong correlation between patient’s feeling of well being and the shift in the brain. We have completed a two-year follow-up study of fourteen of our patients. Over time the power of the brain moves not only from right to left but also from back of the brain to the front (higher alpha frequencies) where there is more control. There are higher frequencies in the frontal area, which may mean better integration and control of feelings. An anxious patient, not well repressed, may come in with a higher brain voltage of 50–150 microvolts at 10–13 cycles per second. Just before a reliving (a primal), the alpha amplitudes can reach double or triple the normal resting rate (300 microvolts). This tells us how close to conscious-awareness the memory/feeling is. It gives us a diagnostic tool to measure access in the patient.

Connection means the liberation of the right feeling prefrontal cortex from control by the left. The left can now perform its important function of integration instead of suppression. And of course, the relaxation of the patient and her sense of ease is another key piece of evidence. Most important, once there is a lock-in of feelings, the insights become a geyser. After a feeling, one patient discovered why he could never dine in an indoor restaurant; he wanted nothing over his head (which turned out in a birth primal to be smashing into the pubic arch). He could never have anything above him, even symbolically, like a boss. Of course, his father was a tyrant; he avoided authority like the plague. Thus, there was the first- and second-line components of the feeling. Disconnection often means, “I am relaxed and calm,” while the right side is abuzz with pain.

We cannot be healthy and emotionally strong so long as there is disconnection; so long as there is a war going on between the two halves of the brain, mental health is not possible. Neurosis means there is a disconnection. It is not possible to get well through more of it, which is what happens in hypnosis and all cognitive therapies, where the left is driven further from its right counterpart.

Connection has neurologic roots. The Swedish neuroscientist, David Ingvar, using a CAT scan of the brain, found that a perception of pain involved both sides of the prefrontal area working in tandem. When emotional pain is repressed, I would assume the right side is more involved; the right amygdala picks up volume. There is information that the right amygdala tends to swell when there is feeling. Thus, disconnected pain is more active on the right side than the left.

It is as though there is a secret underground in the brain where messages are passed back and forth, but on the side that should be aware there is no recognition of them. So the right side “tells” the left side, sotto voce, “Look, I can’t take any more criticism. It means I am not loved.” And the left side says, “OK. I’ll defend you against having to feel so bad. Just don’t tell me too much. Anyway, I’ll twist the criticism by the other person, and make them wrong.” And the left side jumps in immediately and automatically as soon as there is a hint of criticism. “Don’t worry, my right-wing friend, I’ll keep those feelings of feeling unloved and criticized under control even though you haven’t told me what they are.” So the left side acts out the feeling; the act-out is unconscious because the right side feeling is not connected. The left is not yet consciously-aware.

Because brainstem and limbic structures on the right largely make up the unconscious the task is to bring the right brain into symmetry with the left. Remember, events are unconscious because early trauma impacts the right brain far more than the left, and that brain loses touch with conscious-awareness.

In order for the feeling to remain in storage the forces of repression must remain intact. That takes effort and chemicals such as cortisol, the alerting chemical for imminent danger. Once memory is stored as an imprint it is always an “imminent danger.” Hence nearly all of our starting patients are high in cortisol.

Any time a therapist orders a patient to do this or that, mistakes are being made. It is now the therapist’s timetable rather than the patient’s. The minute a patient is “done-to” we are in error. Feelings will come up in natural order when we let nature guide us, the patient’s nature and also our own.
There are many levels of connection: it means the right-left brains become coordinated (via the corpus callosum). And not only from right to left but also from bottom to top. This means that the feeling centers are connected to the areas of the neocortex, specifically the prefrontal brain. So that feeling is organically joined with knowledge, not by separate processes but as an integrated whole where feeling seeks out and links to understanding on higher levels. Earlier-on, heavy and painful feelings were too much to absorb and integrate so part of it was rerouted and kept apart from knowledge. It began an underground life, creating damage. The problem is that similar feelings are kindled into similar pain so that the compounding of all of it is too much to connect and integrate. It is like a storage locker; each new added pain builds until there is no more space for feelings.

The true meaning of optimum mental health is harmony and balance. It is also the meaning of emotional-intelligence, which allows our feelings to guide us toward a sane, intelligent life, and not one filled with broken loves, drugs, tobacco, alcohol and esoteric intellectual pursuits. Harmony and balance enables us to lead not only an intellectual life, but a healthy and intelligent one, as well, one not driven by compulsions and the inability to relax. Connection will take care of all of that.


  1. "Because brainstem and limbic structures on the right largely make up the unconscious the task is to bring the right brain into symmetry with the left. Remember, events are unconscious because early trauma impacts the right brain far more than the left, and that brain loses touch with conscious-awareness."

    It sounds to me like you are saying the left brain is the conscious mind, and the right is the unconscious, and so the only way the right brain feelings can reach consciousness is by reaching the left.
    I'm not sure about that. Consciousness cannot be understood or located specifically, but it just 'happens' when certain parts of the brain light up. When the neocortex becomes less active it does not mean the patient has become less conscious. It means the patient has become less interactive with his surroundings, and has become more of a passenger and less of a driver in his conscious experience.
    I am probably getting into semantics.

    Art, would you be willing to publish your two-year follow-up study in this blog or somewhere on the net?

  2. Dear Dr. Janov,
    I am always fascinated by the clarity in your writing.

    You say: “Once memory is stored as an imprint it is always an imminent danger.” Hence nearly all of our starting patients are high in cortisol.”

    Question: What about people with early childhood and birth trauma who have low cortisol (fluctuating between 1.1 – 6.8)? The pituitary gland is normal, no tumor or other visible (MRI) impairing damage.

    Thank you

  3. What study are you referring to? art janov

  4. Art

    What is it that we don’t understand? Where are all those who oppose what primal therapy so clearly demonstrated? It can’t get much clearer than this... how is it possible to remain mute and inactive in the face of something as obvious... without the slightest comment? There is something exceptionally serious that invokes primal therapy! Is it hard to understand? Frightened maybe? I want to know... I am curious about why people involved in other forms of therapy don’t speak up?

    Could it be that the equation doesn’t add up because of lack of understanding… with consequences for millions of people who suffer in silence… victims of their own inability to understand that there is help… living their lives ashamed of their 'handicap' while the 'expert ice' talk about right or wrong… alcoholics… drug addicts… not to mention idealists… all with the same need but with all of their focus on their ideology having the same effect as psychotropic drugs… all of whom… with all certainty… would be helped by primal therapy which isn’t even allowed to prove it s effectiveness.

    I can’t see any other reason for this except that all other forms of therapy end up on the side of the accused and thus it s pushed aside with severe consequences for the needing. I have also witnessed how in public, primal therapy has been pictured as being a sect of some kind, also without being allowed to counter those arguments. Can it be that those feeling they are getting accused do everything in their power to silence new knowledge which might counter their own? I think history proves me right in saying that. Those most geniuses were harassed and threatened to their lives if they didn’t withdraw their knowledge

    Arthur… you are one amongst these people… your proof might be debated and acknowledged only after your passing... as the old establishment in psychology itself will die.

    Frank Larsson

  5. Sieglinde:
    Tell me again what you do.
    Yes of course there are parasympathetic traumas with parasympath reactions but most deviations are toward the sympathetic. art janov

  6. Dear Dr Janov,
    Thank you for your answer.

    Answering your question in short:
    In 1994 I founded the organization “Adults Abused as Children Worldwide” to encourage childhood victims to speak up and seek therapy (primal therapy if possible).

    In 2002 I extended the Website in German language under “Erwachsene Misshandelt als Kinder” with the same focus.

    Primarily we addressed the German Government in 2003 to erase the stigma of approx 600 000 severely abused innocent children in institutions between 1950 – 1980, and to start an investigation with the focus on human rights violation.
    Exactly this is happening right now. We “EMaK”, short for “Erwachsene Misshandelt als Kinder” provides the government with stories victims of childhood abuse sent to us. Our aim is that the government pays for therapy outside the usual cognitive therapy, besides a financial compensation.
    In addition we invited two Professors to speak on the subject “long term consequences of child abuse”: Prof. Kellner on “cortisol”
    and Prof Elbert will present its findings on brain damage
    We also contact physicians and encourage cortisol testing, and ask health insurance companies to pay for these tests.

    Now, historians are documenting the social effects of the post war violent era.

    Too many, (approx. 200 000) newborns were dumped in orphanages after 1945 in Germany who still live with the hospice symptom and consequently with other trauma. Other children ended in institutions because they were nuisance, - unwonted children. They experienced psychological und sexual abuse, neglect and were used as child slave laborers. Many of them were heavily medicated to make the more submissive.
    Post war Germany produced a whole generation of traumatized and physically ill people.

    In the 16 years of my work over 5000 victims of childhood abuse contacted me who have no financial means to pay for therapy, because their lives are in shambles, - of course they all live with an array of disabling trauma.
    All of them need “real” help. This was the reason I was asking you in an earlier posting for primal therapists in Germany.

  7. Frank, I guess all the psychotherapists out there fail to understand for the same reason why most laymen fail. Repression kills the emotional desire to find a better way, and hinders the mind's natural ability to smell bullshit...especially when we have the neurotic need to believe that everything is just fine.
    Therapists talk about finding a better way because that's all part of the job. It's just a game to them.

  8. Art, you can't find that study can you? :)

  9. Sieglinde. Sounds like you are doing wonderful work. Perhaps we can make a deal with the German government to do something since I think our therapy is no doubt the most effective in these cases. art janov

  10. Richard: I am writing so much with hundreds of pages next to my desk, I am lost. art janov

  11. Dear Janov,
    I appreciate your empathy.
    May I take you up on your offer and provide you with more insight.
    A round table was formed by the German Government last year in November, to address the abuse and human rights violation on all the institutionalized. Dr. Antje Vollmer is the chairperson of the round table.

    As you can imagine many counterparts, the one who would like to see this shameful subject disappear and others acting out believing these traumatized people don’t deserve anything, are heavily at work with political manipulation.

    I know your offer, to provide help, can only be beneficial for victims. For this reason I would ask you to address DR. Vollmer directly:
    Dr. Antje Vollmer
    Vorsitzende Runder Tisch Heimerziehung
    Deutscher Bundestag
    Platz der Republik 1
    11011 Berlin
    If you need more details, or have any questions on the subject, I’m glad to provide them by phone or via email.
    Thank you,

    P.S. Please don’t stop writing. The world need to hear what you have to say.

  12. Sieglinde.
    A very interesting question for the whole of Europe… I know that… what you mention is true even here in Sweden ... even if we pulled ourselves from the war... I am very interested in your contact with the German authorities... which I suppose could be helpful here in Sweden also... I guess if your country accepts primal therapy as a method… I think that it would facilitate for introduction in Sweden also. I look forward to a contact with you on this issue.
    Frank Larsson

  13. Sieglinde: thanks I will get on it. We already did treat two abused children from Germany, paid for by the German Government. art janov

  14. Dear Dr. Janov,
    I wish you much success.
    I am also in contact with many formal institutionalized children from Germany (adults today) who live in the USA. Maybe I have a chance too, to primal the leftovers I still care with me, - night fear and phobia.

    I know for sure, the German government is reading my Websites and your article (I have a Webalizer Statistic on both websites). Your name and PT should be known, because I mention PT in almost all articles since 2002.
    I appreciate your effort.


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.