Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stop The World I Want to Get Off!

When will the madness stop? Above all, the madness in the name of science and medicine. In the N.Y. Times today (Nov. 26-09) is a story about places like Harvard, of all things, doing surgery for obsessive disorders, depression and other psychological maladies. Here is what they do: In cases of obsessive rituals and thoughts which have been intractable to psychotherapy, they have decided to cut out those pesky afflictions with brain surgery, cutting out pieces of the emotional brain to ease the problem.

This surgery, they warn, is only for those obdurate psychological problems that do not respond to any sort of psychotherapy. It involves drilling four holes in the brain and inserting wires deep down. From there the procedures differ but in one key surgery, cingulotomy, they pinpoint the anterior cingulate for partial destruction. The rationale: they want to destroy some of the brain tissue that forwards emotional messages to the thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex from the feeling areas such as the cingulate. The claim is that this area is overly active in cases such as obsession in inputting emotional messages to the thinking, intellectual centers. There are variations to this theme but in nearly all cases the attempt is to suppress emotional pain from its apprehension higher up.

The claim is that standard therapy cannot touch the problems such as deep depression . This is brain surgery, remember. The result, according to the surgeons, is about sixty percent satisfactory, although we do not know the long-term consequences of brain surgery. There is one follow-up study which indicated that these patients seem apathetic and lose some self-control for years afterward. It is no wonder since we have cut out the person’s passion.

But what if we could do exactly what the surgery does? What if we could avoid a very serious surgery? I believe we can because primal is the only therapy to be able to go deep in the brain purely by psychological means. Because other conventional therapies do not have this possibility in their theories or in their therapy, they think that the only other solution is surgery. And of course deep depression sometimes is being helped by this surgery. Deep depression means just that; origins deep in the brain. So again, a therapy that probes the depths, the antipodes of conscious/awareness should work as well or better than to have one’s brain cut into.

I have not kept our therapy a secret but it is up to those who do this surgery to investigate what is out there before burning out brain tissue. What is sad is that this kind of “way-out” procedure can have positive stories on it in the New York Times and many other respected journals, while a “far-out” psychotherapy such as ours, cannot get a line printed in any newspapers. It is not “safe.” But here is a surgery that is decidedly dangerous and obtains cache in our country. So someone who compulsively washes her hands needs brain surgery? This, it seems, is recommended because, I think, the pain imprinted down low was too much for the usual tranquilizers. So, ergo, we cut out the relay mechanism that sends terrible emotions to the understanding cortex. So, no relay, no pain and no symptoms. If anything about this procedure is enlightening is that we see how compulsions and obsessive develop out of pain surging up from lower brain centers, and how ordinarily, the gating system keeps symptoms from showing. The pain is still doing its damage, however; only we are no longer aware of it. Certainly, the surgeons did not cut out the origin, the emotional imprint, they cut out the circuit that forwards the message to our awareness. That imprint is all over the brain and body. So a piece is cut out and the imprint is still there doing its continual damage. It will certainly find other outlets. What we will do then? Cut out more? The imprint is the conductor; it won’t help to kill the violinist.

In this highly respected scientific atmosphere the most outrageous modes of therapy are taking place.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pain-Killers and Overdose

There is an article in today’s paper about a DJ who overdosed and died. Many different kinds of painkillers were found in his system. It seems like a repetitious story; everyday brings another article about painkillers and overdose. This is to say nothing about Michael Jackson. So what is it? Why so much drugs? Let’s first ask, “Why so much pain?” No one takes painkillers who is not in pain. It may be done unconsciously but pain is there, nevertheless. So who or what put it there? And what can we do about it?

Having treated any number of addicts to all kinds of drugs let me state at the outset that the heaviest load of pain behind addiction is set down during what I call “first-line.” That is, during gestation, birth and the first weeks afterwards. These are largely irreversible pains that are often a matter of life and death. But that is not the whole story. Then comes a childhood without being touched, the number one index of “unloved.” Added to that neglect, indifference, not listening and not caring. Those are the ingredients of pain. Not show business, not agents and producers, not “the business.” The question is, “What drives individuals with such ferocity and determination to show business; to be well-known and famous? The pain. Why else the need to be applauded, appreciated by thousands? It should be enough to be loved by a partner, not a thousand of them. But that need is deadly, early and unfulfilled. The rest is an act-out. But even that is not enough; hence the pills and painkillers. That does not mean that acting is a neurotic endeavor. It does mean that those who seek it out are often the unloved and uncared for. It is such a tough business full of constant rejection; it requires the drive to succeed. And those “driven” are often driven to feel loved. One actor I treated would become depressed when not on scene. And deeply depressed when not at work. He came alive on set, when he was someone else; “I will be anything or anyone I have to be in order to feel loved,” he found.

Having treated a number of actors I can attest to the fact of their pain. But again I may be treating a special group of the unloved. The common thread of many of them is narcissism; everything is related to them and what happened to them. Any story eventually redounds to their lives. They cannot give because they are too busy getting. They cannot relate to other’s needs and pain because they are too busy trying to ease their own. Even with all the success there is the need for drugs. All in the service of the cover-up.

There is a saying that politicians are ugly actors. What is true is that they are also in show business. They too act out their needs. They rarely come to therapy because they are in the struggle, to feel loved. They do not put themselves and their lives in question. Whatever goes wrong is “their” fault.

When we do measurements of pain we find that the very early pains are always high on the measurements of brainwaves, vital functions and biochemistry. It is therefore not a guess as to what causes problems later on. Yes, later circumstances do exacerbate matters but rarely cause them. When in a business where almost everyone is desperately trying to get their needs fulfilled, there is bound to be cheating and deception. The exception is the exception. It is my experience that no one who was loved early on is desperate for fame. They want success, often as a result of effort. It is not other’s opinion that is primary. It is their own, because they count.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On Vital Signs in Primal Therapy

For many years we have measured the vital signs of patients before and after each session and over the long term. Our results show a normalization after one year of the therapy (when we took the final measurements). Of course, when we measure vital signs we are measuring vital functions; those functions that keep us alive and allow us to survive. When any of them exceed normal limits we are in trouble. Whether too low a blood pressure or too high a heart rate or a continual body temp far over normal range, the minute we are dislocated one way (high) or the other (low) the body is telling us that something is wrong. And it tells us in what way is something wrong, and sometimes even why, if we know how to read the signs. Over the years when these signs are excessive we can almost be sure that disease will occur early in life, followed by life threatening illness later in life. It is ineluctable.

These vital signs mean vitality. And they reflect our imprints quite accurately. They also reflect what nervous system is in charge and is dominant. We know, for example, that many vital functions are either controlled by one of two nervous systems mediated by the hypothalamus. I thought for some time that the parasympathetic, that of rest, repair and repose, controlled body temp. But it may be that the direction of the dislocation depends on two different nervous systems. Thus, high is controlled by the sympathetic, the galvanizing, mobilizing, alerting system, while a swing to the low end is controlled by the parasympathetic. (This may also be true of the systolic and diastolic blood pressure). Thus, the direction tells us the kind of imprint we are dealing with. Today I heard from an epileptic, a breech birth, suffocating and strangling on the cord who had to conserve oxygen and energy to survive. His modus operandi was to hold back, not use energy. His imprint was parasympathetic, something that will dog him for a lifetime and determine his interests (writing), his non-interests (exercising), whom he marries (the aggressive one) and how he will treat his children (passively or with indifference). And that is not the half of it.

Now why all this? Because the very first life-saving effort becomes imprinted and remains as a guide for future behavior; what saved her life at the start will go on being utilized despite any reality to the contrary. Personality is formed out of this matrix and a certain biologic state. Of course, later experience helps shape it all, as well. But that first imprint is vital, in every sense of the word.

When patients come in for a session and we do measurements, we already have an idea of where we have to go. One of my depressives came in consistently with a very low body temp of 96 to 96.5. She was mired in hopelessness. As our session went on (almost 3 hours each time), she started to normalize. That was important because a whole lifetime was wrapped around the vital functions. It wasn’t just the body temp that normalized but a whole host of biologic responses and personality features. Later on, she smiled, had energy and felt “up.” She could go seek a job, something she could not do previously. And of course, she never had enough money to buy proper food because she could not hold a job. A previous therapy informed her that hers was a “loser trip”. That didn’t help much except to put a label on her behavior. As she went on reliving the prebirth and birth traumas, a mother smoking and taking tranquilizers, suppressing her whole system, which was also imprinted, her body temp came up and stayed up to 98 degrees.

When a patient comes in with a very rapid heart rate and a brainwave signature of beta (very fast) our first job is to bring him into the feeling/primal zone. If we do not do that he remains above the primal zone. He will not feel and certainly not integrate. When the patient is too low the same law operates. We can only feel in the primal zone. We need to adjust medications to allow that to happen. We cannot and must not cajole a patient into trying to feel (and often the fast ones are also the tryers).
I believe that the parasympath operates on the low end of all vital signs. We can go to different doctors and be treated for a heart rate that is unsteady, another doctor for high blood pressure, and yet another for lack of energy. But the leader who sets the tone is the imprint. Unless we recognize this we will be bifurcated in our efforts and miss the essential. One key thing we want to know after each session is was there integration? Sometimes there is, after weeks of feeling one key feeling. But often there is a dredge effect; the patient feeling one feeling which resonates with a connected deeper feeling (hoplessness and helplessness). We know here that there is more to come. It may be that the patient will need tranquilizers temporarily to get over the hump. We need not be afraid of this since it is not an end in our therapy but a means. It is not THE therapy, as is the case in so much psychiatry, but something to use for a bit of time. We want patients off drugs, not on them. While on them there is a superficial and artificial state. Drugs nearly always hold back feelings and aid defenses. That is not the business we are in; quite the opposite, we want feelings to come up but in ordered, measured ways. Primal Therapy will get you there if you let it. If you stay with it the direction is nearly always right. I often say, “It is not a miracle but it is miraculous.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Help! There is a Reptile In My Head.

Here is what I need help on. We know about the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain, etc. That means that the remnants of those animals still reside in our heads. Isn’t that strange? And in sleep and in Primals we go back and meet those animals. But why? Why in deep sleep and in first-line Primals do we have to visit our reptilian brain? And also, when we discuss whether man is basically this or that, good or bad, we need to find out which brain we are discussing. But the reptile still runs our energy, lightening fast responses, terror and impulsiveness. If we want to understand us humans we also have to understand that reptile. And then the reptile has to talk to the chimp brain which then has to communicate with that human brain, the neocortex. So complicated.

Primal Pain And Primal Therapy is a Matter of Life And Death

The question is, “Why I am writing all of this? What difference will it make? Am I drowning the fish? Without appearing too dramatic I think it can be a matter of life and death. And Primal Therapy a matter of life!
An article reported in Science Daily (Oct. 7, 2009) indicates that those who had trauma while being carried and after in childhood died on the average 20 years earlier than those who did not have those risk factors. The average age of death, according to the Center for Disease Control, (David W. Brown) was sixty; not long enough and not close to the age 79 of the non-risk group. What the study showed was that those children exposed to six or more risk factors were at “double the risk of premature death.” Lack of love, that is, lack of fulfillment of need very early on, can be fatal. (see also, The American Journal of Preventive Medicine. November, 2009)
The risk factors included: living in a household with subtance abuse, witnessing domestic violence, a battered mother and its effect on the fetus, verbal and physical abuse, mental illness in the home, parents who were separated or divorced. Any of one these is powerful enough to create life-long damage. This is data from over 17,000 adults.
Lifetime trauma exposure to the mother was very important. Was she, while carrying, under stress?
The two most popular ways out of this planet are heart attacks and cancer. It is fairly well established now how womb-life affects heart function later on. Now there is evidence how that same set of traumas while we live in the womb can lead to cancer. University of Toronto researchers have completed a study on physical abuse early on and the occurrence of cancer. What they did not study is the more subtle abuses originating during our time in the womb. It can only be inferred. But from our experience observing patients this kind of trauma is shattering. (see July 15, 2009. Neuron. Esme Fuller-Thomson). They controlled for the usual factors such as smoking, drinking and being inactive physically, and still the rates of cancer were very high. They hypothesize that there perhaps is a deregulation of cortisol production. This makes sense since our starting patients were quite high in the stress hormone and normalized after one year of the therapy, and have a low incidence of cancer after the therapy.

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.