Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why Are We Anxious? (Part 3/6)

A reliving of pre-birth and birth imprint will evoke the exact same reactions as at the time of the original trauma. But in the absence of a reliving, the reactions or fragments of the memory will persist, such as a fast heart rate or high blood pressure. There will be a racing mind; racing because it is being mobilized by deep level imprints. There will also be the inability to think clealy; confusion. We are dealing with imprints before we had organized thoughts, so not thinking clearly is understandable. There will be difficulty sleeping, especially falling asleep.

When we relive a complete early pre-birth memory of which a high blood pressure was a part, then in the total reliving that fragment of the memory will also be included, and the patient should consequently see relief from the intrusive symptoms. If aspects of the original reaction are missing, the reliving is not complete and therefore not curative. If we medicate blood pressure and keep the high level reaction under wraps the complete reliving is not possible. That is one danger of taking tranquilizers. We feel better but in generally we will live a shorter life.

Any deep symptoms such as a constant low-grade fever or chronically elevated body temperature all point the way to the brainstem and some parts of the limbic brain. That is, they point to perhaps a pre-birth experience; pointing out the route the patient ultimately will have to travel. We may not see the problem for decades and therefore cannot imagine how early someone’s heart problem began. The way out for the anxiety case is usually stroke or heart attack. Realistically, the real way out needs to be the way in; feeling the anxiety untrammeled, naked and bare for what it is and was—pure terror; it is panic in the face of the threat of death—at birth.

Most of the current problems in neurosis can be traced to anxiety which is the most primitive reaction we have in common with many primitive animals such as the lizard. We need terror to alert us to danger. Strange to say that we need terror but it is true; and a nation of pill takers are voiding any chance at real health by suppressing the warning signs. It would be like suppressing the forerunners of a heart attack (angina) just to feel comfortable. I know how necessary this can be; it is not a moral position but one of survival.

Take obsessions. Patients will be openly anxious if they cannot carry out their rituals, the same if we are not allowed to act-out any of our neuroses. Sexual rituals are another example. The rituals, in short, attempt to bind the anxiety. The content of the ritual may have little to do with the base but is a channel for first-line reactions. As are many phobias, as well.

So again, what is it, this anxiety, and where does it come from? The way I found out is simply going to work every day and observing patients. In a session, as a patient is near the deep feeling of hopelessness or helplessness she often runs an anxiety attack. She has shortness of breath, butterflies in the stomach, pressure on the chest, high agitation and a feeling of near-death. She feels totally agitated and wound up and has no idea how to stop it. And it goes on until those feelings are connected and resolved. The person has no idea what is going on, it is incomprehensible, which aggravates the anxiety state.

This is not an idiosyncratic happenstance. Anxiety appears in nearly all of our patients at one point in a session as they approach the first-line. These feelings were so shattering when the baby was an infant that it was immediately repressed in the interest of survival and also in the interest of maintaining a functioning neo-cortex. It is an automatic process that keeps us from being overwhelmed. It allows us to survive in the most drastic circumstances. Can we imagine how the fetus or baby feels in the face of this terror? That fragility is still there inside. Overwhelmed can mean non-functioning, yet most of us have children, have to go to work, do the shopping etc. There is no time for dysfunction. Enter tranquilizers.

The reason it is called anxiety and not terror, even though it is the very same feeling, is that sufferer never knows where anxiety comes from and don’t know what it really is. We therefore treat them as separate entities. Anxiety began its life so early that it can seem totally unrelated to what is going on twenty years later. Because of the disconnection, anxiety seems to hang in space with no specific antecedent. Once the patient feels a trauma at birth gasping for oxygen the anxiety becomes the terror and the fight for life that it is and was. It now has a home—and an owner.

So again, where does it come from? A high level of anxiety in the mother will contribute to stress (and later anxiety) for the fetus. There have been many studies bearing this out (cited in later chapters). An anxious, pregnant mother, responding to her outer world—is stirring up the metabolism of her fetus, who is also responding to his environment. If mother’s anxiety goes on long enough, it will become a permanent state in the fetus, and change him for life. It so looks like genetics that we easily mistake it for heredity; after all, the baby seems to be born unable to sit still or learn in school.

The mother’s anxiety will over-stimulate the fetus and impair her nervous system, creating a child with an imprint of a high level of stimulation; she may feel overwhelmed by every little thing that happens throughout life. As an adult she might respond to her husband asking her to bring the salt to the table. He is met with an angry, “Do you really expect me to do everything? Get it yourself.” Everything becomes too much because it was during womb-life. Everything that was too much, then, is laid down as a substrate, and all new demands work against that substrate. So one little new request made of her as an adult has a magnified impact. And if by chance she made an error on something she would immediately turn it around to make the accuser wrong. She cannot be wrong and immediately transfers terrible feelings of having made a mistake so that the other person feels wrong. He ends up defending himself. Again, it is not so much that she has done something wrong, but that small error has resonated with something very important in her that may mean I am not loved.

If now this person suffers panic attacks it means that the basic terror is close to the surface; hence the chronic feeling of being overwhelmed (overwhelmed by feelings). We see an example of this in the monkey study discussed in a later chapter. Mothers were given cocaine which stirred up and agitated them, not unlike a maternal anxiety attack, and we saw the result; impulsive offspring more likely to take drugs as adults. Anxious monkeys take to alcohol as do we. And what makes them anxious? Sporadic and unpredictable separation from the mother; lack of steady love.

Let us suppose those fears were channeled into elevators, a fear of being enclosed as the object of terror. The terror is deep brain; the focus is higher brain. Psychotherapy cannot cure a deep brain terror by a discussion with the higher brain; it is not where the wound lies. There can be circumstances in life that could create such a phobia, such as being stuck in an elevator or another enclosed space as a young child, but real terror—a life-and death event, only rarely derives from happenings in late childhood. The imprint is the origin, terror becomes the reaction, and phobia becomes the focus. We need to separate each so we understand the problem, and then address the imprint with its reaction. The imprint generates all of the rest.

For a fetus, the mother’s womb is the external world. A womb environment that keeps the fetus in an alert state eventually becomes part of the baby who will be a more aggressive, hyperactive child who cannot focus or concentrate in class. He will grow up hyper-vigilant. This may be useful if he becomes an undercover cop but is bad for his longevity. Conversely, if the carrying mother is depressed for a lengthy period of time, her baby may go into “down” mode, perhaps for life as a personality characteristic. He may love cocaine later in life. Or even better, methamphetamine, which puts the body in an “up” position.

Anxiety is often manifested by choking or smothering sensations, dizziness and a feeling of impending doom. And quite soon the patient will cough and choke in a session that is a harbinger of a birth pain that is breaking through. During a reliving of the birth trauma later on, when immersed in the experience there will often be coughing and bringing up sputum in large amounts. There is now the context.

Actually, doing that (coughing and choking) in exaggerated fashion while anxious will help a person feel better. And we recommend it to our patients when they do not have deeper access for the moment. It is simply the discharge of the some of the energy of the feeling. None of these need a cortex or higher level brain function. That is one very important reason that words cannot cure it. It is basically visceral and sub-cortical. These manifestations are (coughing, suffocating, drowning) telling us that they emanate from a very primitive brain organization and from a time when there was only an inchoate cerebral structure (lacking a fully developed neo-cortex) to handle trauma. There is no insight that can treat it because it began its life long before we had words. First-line knows no words or screams (patients never scream when in the birth sequence), there are only grunts and moans. If there are childhood cries or words or screams it indicates higher brain levels are involved and therefore not a true reliving. We simply cannot fool the lower brain. The higher one? Yes. Otherwise, how on earth would we elect psychopaths to office? When we do not have lower level access we are not anchored into feelings so we cannot judge the veracity of what others are saying. We fail to see nuance or subtleties (because we cannot feel it). We just don’t get it. We should get it because otherwise we can be fooled or tricked.
Terror is what we see in lower animals who are frightened by another animal. Their reactions seem like pure panic. We see this in some individuals who undergo MRIs. The minute they are enclosed in a steel and cement sheath panic surges forth. It is approximating what happened originally. It takes the confines of such a machine to reawaken the primitive feeling. The patient may believe it is the machine that is producing anxiety, but it is the primal panic from the confined, enclosed space; the womb in which he tried to exit for life. What the MRI does is stimulate a resonating memory; not a memory in the way we usually think of it, but it sets off a bodily reaction. If we do have this kind of anxiety having an MRI exam, we can be fairly sure that we endured a difficult birth or pre-birth. It is, in short, a differential diagnostic tool to separate out those with healthy births from those with traumatic births. We can teach the technicians who perform MRIs to tap the leg or foot of the person at irregular intervals so that one cannot organize a full-fledged anxiety reaction. Or offer an eye mask so that the person stays unaware of his surroundings. When this distraction fails there might be an anxiety attack.
So now we have one good reason not to use words when treating those with many first-line symptoms. We are dealing with a non-verbal animal rummaging around in the lower reaches of our nervous system. It is basically visceral as our insides feel as though they are exploding. The hysteric is a good example; someone with barely any control, unable to concentrate, scattered, all over the place, explosive, overreacting, seemingly overcome with feelings at all times. This is someone with first-line (lower brain) damage, deprivation during womb-life, at birth or just after. Words are not going to slow this person down who seems like she is in a rush all of the time, including a rush to get the session over with. She wants to get better now! She needs to be allowed to go to those remote places that drive her; driven by very early deprivation of need. This is far below the verbal level. Or if the person is not able to access the deep brain we can give painkillers that will suppress its force for a time until she can feel her feelings.
Too often, the therapist or physician sees their job as eliminating the symptom, because it is considered a sort of a mystery that is unfathomable. And of course the symptom is uncomfortable and could be life-endangering. And when we just attack the symptom there is the tacit assumption that it is there for no good reason; otherwise why not attack the source? Battling symptoms is usually a vain exercise. There is no end to it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On Tiger Woods and Sex anonymous

There is a rumor that Tiger Woods will check into a sex addiction center in Arizona.  Now what exactly are they going to do there?  Whatever it is, it is not going to stop his sex compulsions, which seem to have dominated his life.  If it is the usual psychotherapy it will miss the driving force which happens to be low in the brain; in brain structures which are far below the thinking structures where most current therapies work.    Why is that?  Because the force behind inordinate sex is mostly lodged in the impulse/pain areas; specifically in the brainstem and limbic/feeling areas.  It isn’t just a matter of addressing the sexual behavior as addressing the imprinted pain force that drives such behavior.

  In fact, any compulsive behavior depends on two things: the first is gestational trauma, birth problems, lack of early love, and other factors which sets the accelerator on “high.  The second is life experience that channels the compulsion.  The reason the compulsive is out of control is because it is first and foremost an impulse driven by deep brain forces.  And those forces are not necessarily sex.  The second is that the behavior has an explosive and relieving ending.  One can end the impulse temporarily through orgasm.  Explosive pain and explosive release.

  But where does the pain come from?  We don’t know him well enough to say but we do know that since the time he was a toddler he was being channeled into golf; acting-out the quest for perfection and fame for his father.  He was living out his father’s needs not his own, and that spells pain even though none of the participants were aware of it.  Any time any need is extraordinary, all else being equal, it is driven by extraordinary pain/feelings.  If normal we all have sexual needs.  They get out of control when pain enters the equation.  That pain can radically alter the sex hormone levels just as it can change the thyroid levels.  And the behavior that follows is a dynamic where high levels change behavior and then that agitated behavior that keeps the hormones elevated.  In the case of thyroid, there can be chronic fatigue and lack of energy which keeps the person from accomplishing much—down regulation.  That didn’t happen to Tiger, who accomplished a lot because his trauma produced an upregulation, that carried over into his sex life which drove him in the same way that the golf compulsion did.  You do not become great without an enormous drive, witness Andre Agassi and his life.

    In conventional psychotherapy if the lower driving forces are not addressed, expressed and resolved, there will be no success.  Yes, he can be taught through cognitive methods to try to control his impulses but that is usually a vain effort.  Impulses nearly always win out because they are biologically stronger than ideas.  They are designed for survival and therefore must be strong.  In any case, there is no convincing or exhortation in the world that will change a compulsion, which I think is what happens in these so-called treatment centers.  They usually try to put an ideational/belief cap on impulses and feelings so as to reduce the sexual act-outs but then where does all that energy go?  We can be sure that later there will be even more severe symptoms.

Do those centers ever publish what they do?  Based on what science?  On what theory?  Are they aware of the unconscious forces at work?  If so, how do they square addressing the top level cortex without understanding the neurologic underpinnings of brainstem forces.  These are memories laid down while we live in the womb and during birth and infancy.    Are the therapists satisfied with controlling the problem rather than resolving it?  That need for constant control doesn’t mean that the underlying forces are not continually gnawing away adversely affecting the body and ensuring an early demise.    Being unconscious is not a solution; it is denial in a major way.  But one cannot deny the churning physiology that will wrack the person without cease.  And one day inflict a grave symptom in the body.

Why Are We Anxious? (Part 2/6)

Those internal events, sensations such as being crushed or suffocated are engraved onto that salamander brain. They may seem to the system as menacing as a virus or as that threatening snake; the only difference is that the snake is inside encasing deep terror. In fact, when those feelings are menacing, the system reacts just as if there were an attack by a virus. The immune system is compromised, basic repressive chemicals are diminished and we may well run a fever. When a patient of ours gets close to those feelings he can run a fever of several degrees even when he has done no exercise at all. Or even more strangely, body temperature can drop several degrees in minutes during a session. This is due to a dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system (more on this in a moment).
Anxiety is the avatar of feelings. What does it feel like? It feels horrible. It seems like it cannot be shut off. “Nothing I can do will stop it.” Why? Because it is so remote in origin, so seemingly inaccessible as to be considered a “given,” something that is inherent in us, something we can only hope to barricade ourselves against. It is just about always from gestational life or at birth. Before we can hope to eradicate it we need to be sure about what “it” is. Anxiety is not like a current fear; there is always the element of terror about it. There may be a current justifiable fear which some call anxiety; the impending death or severe illness of a relative, for example. There may be great fears for their safety and health. It can be a terrible threat but I prefer to reserve the term anxiety for something that resonates with very early trauma; it is easier to understand. And anxiety should automatically direct us to origins.
Anxiety starts its life as pure terror, a visceral reaction, which during womb-life is the highest level of brain function operating. It gets transformed later on to phobias or to free-floating fear. We are able to dampen it with a variety of defenses but it is never less forceful than originally. Let me state that again. Pure primal terror never changes; it is defended against, filtered and softened by higher brain processes but it never changes its internal effects. It is biologic. It is that reptile again doing its thing. And because its origin is so early and so remote and deep, and because the various psycho-therapies remain on the surface, we had to wait for medication that worked on those lower brain centers where the pain originates in order to calm ourselves. Doesn’t it make sense for a therapy to try to go deeper, as deep as where those medications work?
Early in gestation the fetal brainstem will respond to external noises, even the sound of the mother’s voice, with head turning, reflective body movements, and heart rate changes. If there is a serious accident to the mother while she is carrying, it will undoubtedly affect the brainstem/limbic systems of the fetus, and with possible effects on its heart function, as well. The baby may be born fragile and delicate, plagued by a constant underlying fear and quick to startle. It is an anxious baby. There may be colic involved which may signify the presence of anxiety which is expressed in the skin and biologic system; but it is telling us something crucial. Later on, there may be the adoption of booga booga ideas (it is what it sounds like) to contain the feeling that was barely contained by the skin earlier on after birth. It is erupting again.

What does a fetus do in the face of trauma? It reacts viscerally. If we’ve had this kind of trauma, we will have a predisposition to go on acting viscerally for the rest of our life. We then develop stomach problems, palpitations, colitis, ulcers, cramping, breathing problems, and do not know why. It is why we often don’t know the origin of a problem when a patient presents us with colitis, for example. If a problem is solely and seriously visceral, chances are its origins date back to birth, or before. Look to the brainstem, and we’ll find the source. It creates the need to keep busy and have plans. It is a constant state of agitation.

When there is an anxiety attack we can be sure that its origin is very early when the brainstem (and parts of the limbic system) was the most evolved nervous system available. Midline structures and organs is where we most often see ailments that have an early start in our lives. Digestive and breathing problems are therefore often of first-line origins. Clearly, bedwetting and later sexual compulsions are of first-line origin. Colitis, as well. So when we try to treat sex problems with a constrained focus on the sex organs we may be making a mistake; the focus is far too narrow. It is not the penis or vagina; it is the brain, the lower brain; the sex organs just follow orders. Anxiety is often projected onto or attached to something in the present to justify its existence, but that is often just a rationale.

The brainstem imprints the deepest levels of pain because it is developed during gestation and handles life-and-death matters before we see the light of day. Almost every trauma experienced during womb-life is a life-and-death matter. The brainstem doesn’t speak English or any other language. Imagine trying to communicate with it about its pain with words when there aren’t any. We develop problems such as high blood pressure or insomnia or ulcers. The brainstem is carrying an imprinted memory of a trauma and expresses itself through the avenues already selected previously in the viscera. There may be a vulnerability in the stomach so that the anxiety load is discharged there, and the appearance of constant cramps.

Later in life when the lower level imprint tries to inform the frontal cortex about its near-death experience the blood pressure goes up as does the heart rate; it is a warning about stored terror. The brainstem is screaming at the neo-cortex, the thinking mind: “Listen to me! I need to tell you about something, you’ve got to hear this. I’ve got a connection to make. Let me through.” It is screaming by way of high levels of bio-chemicals, such as noradrenaline, glutamate, and cortisol, the language of its biology. And the cortex is talking back with increased output of serotonin, saying in effect, “Sorry, you’ve got information I don’t want to know about. Try later!” “Yes but if you don’t let me out, my blood pressure is going to rise dramatically.” Sorry. I have to protect my “mind.” “After all, I don’t want to go crazy.”

A memory imprinted in the brainstem may have serious consequences for many survival functions. Thus, a chronically rapid heart rate and high blood pressure can presage cardiac problems decades after the imprint settles in. Through a feeling session it can be traced back to womb-life. Why the chronic rapid heart beat? It is part of the imprint. It is a reaction to the engraved memory; it is held in place so long as the origin is not addressed or relived. The danger is therefore omnipresent. That’s all it means, at the end of the day: danger. Do we really want to eliminate our warning signs?

When a patient relives early terror, then ceases to compulsively check the locks on his doors twenty times a day, he has solved an important mystery. This, without any prolonged discussion of the obsession. He felt unsafe, profoundly unsafe early on; the obsessions controlled the terror that he didn’t even know he had. The left frontal cortex was saying, “I’d better check the locks. It makes me feel more comfortable.” Since the terror is there, he never can feel safe for long; the obsessions continue. The feeling of being unsafe was seeping up in small increments from the right brain. It was immediately staved off by the obsession on the left. “I’ll be safe if the house is locked” is the unconscious formula. “I’ll be safe if no one can penetrate me.” If we were to prevent the obsession, we would see panic and helplessness again, which is what happens in our therapy. But it must be done in a safe, controlled atmosphere. To feel deeply unsafe one has to feel totally safe in the present. That safety, dialectically, turns into its opposite.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why Are We Anxious? (Part 1/6)

Why are we anxious? What is it? Where does it come from? How do we make it go away? We don’t. But I am getting ahead of myself. First, we need to know what it is and what it feels like.

The symptoms of anxiety are basically controlled by the brainstem and some ancient parts of the feeling/limbic system—primitive survival functions: shortness of breath, (“I can’t catch my breath.”), needing to urinate, feeling crushed, pressure on the chest, butterflies in the stomach, cramps, palpitations, the inability to sit still, problems with digestion, a feeling of being scattered and unfocused, loss of concentration and, above all, feelings of doom and gloom—death is approaching. Associated with that feeling is a deep sense of being helpless and hopeless. In addition, there is the constant feeling, “am I going to make it?” That is the precise fear felt physiologically during the birth process where the successful ending was not at all sure. The substrate may be, “I won’t make it,” which shows up at the end of semester final exam in the body of the person as a pure anxiety state. It is anxiety because resonance from the final exam has set off the early terror where making it was problematic. And what it set off is clearly deeply unconscious and so defies conscious/awareness. It set off the real feeling of desperation and hopelessness because not making it meant death; never articulated but felt from experience. The articulation is in the anxiety. And the body now expresses precisely.

We might include in this is the horrible fear of failure. Because taking a final exam set off the anxiety over failing when failing meant possible death. Again, no one has articulated this but the body in its great wisdom has in its own way. Anxiety is a survival mechanism that alerts us, galvanizes us into action to avoid death. The problem is the inability to come off this vigilant state. I want to reiterate this point: anxiety is not just a pesky feeling that needs to be eliminated; it needs to be embraced as a warning signal to save our lives.

This is what I call “first-line.” The inability to concentrate comes from massive pain input from below. It disrupts the normal functioning of the neo-cortex. And all this is logical since death was approaching in the original event. It could be a carrying mother terribly anxious and agitated, a mother who takes drugs, who does not eat enough or properly, and who is just miserable, for any number of reasons. The brain researcher J.K.S Anand, found that when a needle was inserted into the mother’s abdomen (amniocentesis) the fetus attempted to escape it; grimacing, turning his head, while the secretions of in-built anti-pain chemicals skyrocketed. The fetus was not anxious, he was terrified. When he grows up and is far from the memory it will be called anxiety. Still the same terror that the salamander in us is carrying around.

Why the feelings of doom and gloom? Because it was a logical reaction to menacing events. Doom was in the offing, in the same way that a massive dose of anesthesia given to the mother during birth, largely shuts down the baby’s system and is experienced as doom. In the memory the menace is still active and present; we cannot shake it loose because it is now imprinted into the neurophysiology. Once we get to that memory and experience the entire circumstances and feelings involved we can finally relax and feel comfortable.

Take for example the feeling of anxiety suffered by one of my patients at the Department of Motor Vehicles. She went to get a new license. As soon as she arrived the obstacles began; long lines where she had to wait; she needed to fill out this form, needed proof of this or that. It was interminable. It all piled up and she became anxious and feeling agitated with no way to stop the feeling. In the afternoon session she felt the helplessness behind it all, and relived that helpless feeling at birth when no matter what she did she could not get out. She could not be in anyone else’s hands and could not trust anyone with her feelings. For her death was menacing, and anxiety began. Any serious helpless feeling dipped into the original one where it was a matter of life-and-death. This patient was far enough along in her therapy to have deep access; not always the case. Waiting (to get out) bothers many of my patients because of the resonance factor where that primordial waiting could have spelled doom.

One of my pre-psychotics was in the waiting room bar waiting for his restaurant table. He kept being put off by the concierge. He exploded and started to break the dishes hung on the wall. His pain was right up to the surface (which made him pre-psychotic). It wasn’t like he was waiting to get born back then; it (the feeling/sensation) was absolutely here and now. He was desperate and he never knew why—until he felt. And needless to say, no one put any ideas about all this into his head. But we watched during the reliving as he gagged and turned red, obviously losing breath rapidly.

Those early reactions were not irrational or neurotic. Who gets anxious when they have to fill out long forms? They were proper at the time but continued on because the sensations and feelings associated with the early event are now imprinted and dog us forever. It is only the context that has changed; once we plug into the imprinted memory it all makes sense. When we do not consider the imprint it seems terribly neurotic. We don’t just have those feelings mentioned above as a sort of caprice; we don’t manufacture them out of some whim. They should be there. It is our job to find out why. The feeling when about to take a test is explained by a patient, “I am not prepared to present a paper. I know I won’t make it.” He said he felt like a “wreck.” His wife called him a mess.
Anxiety means that the lower brain is at work, the brain we have in common with the salamander; and indeed, the salamander brain is almost intact in the lower reaches of our brain. We do have a reptile inside our head that does what reptiles do. It still reacts like it use to when it was inside the animal brain. That brain has remained largely unchanged through millions of years. It reacts immediately, often without reflection, and prepares us for the onslaught of incoming events (both external, and more importantly, internal). Those internal events are feelings that seem alien to us and which we attempt to repress at all times. When we cannot, we become anxious; the harbinger of strange feelings approaching consciousness. The reptilian brain is largely tamed or mollified by the later developing brains. But once we remove the newly evolved brain caps (as we do in the psychologic sense) we see it largely intact as it once was. We can see the reptile inside. We observe as they make the primordial “S” movements during a reliving of birth, something the patient cannot duplicate once out of the feeling.

Why does that sound strange, the salamander rummaging around in our heads? No more strange than the fact that ancient flippers became our hands and arms. We carry around vestiges of our ancient past in most of our organs. Rats have brains and kidneys too; and it turns out that their genes are not that different from ours and are almost as plentiful.

The impulsive neurotics, rapist, killers, acting-out impulsives, usually have a great deal of what I call first-line trauma and pain. (Discussed in a moment). Their neo-cortex was never properly developed and there is a great deal of damage (impairment) to the lower brain; that damage leaves a residue of impulses that are barely contained. So are they human? They are basically primitive animals, deficient in neural tissue for control; lizards with an add-on. Others may have impairment to their feeling brain; this would occur after the first few months of life on earth and will determine how they relate to others, or whether a person can relate to others. I would call this, limbically impaired. I often think of it as a “missing feeling band.”
But it is rarely one or the other. Damage in the womb will later affect so many of our functions: the brain, the visceral system, organ systems and vital functions. The goal is to have our human brain meet up first with the chimp brain and then the lizard brain so that they can be intimate, know each other and communicate well among them. When they do we are normal. And we are conscious because all three levels interact fluidly. That is what consciousness means.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Surprise, Surprise. Killers Kill Again.

There is a story in today’s paper about an alleged killer who murdered four police officers in Seattle. Here is someone who is a career criminal and who should have been in jail for the rest of his life. I’ll skip the details, which can be found in all major newspapers. This is a criminal with violent tendencies given freedom time after time, including being released by governor Mike Huckabee. Why did that happen? Ah, that is the question. Mostly because Baptist preachers often demand clemency for those who say that they see the light and have gone straight; and who have found God. You cannot get out of jail if you haven’t found that imaginary guy who sees all. Huckabee, who is so religious he doesn’t believe in evolution, listens to those preachers.

So what is it about them? Well, first of all, they all believe in forgiveness and redemption. And then they believe in what people say. And worse, they don’t believe in science; I mean, after all, if you don’t believe in one of the greatest scientific discoveries in history what are you doing on this planet? Recently scientists voted that evolution was one of the greatest discoveries in all of science. But the governor doesn’t listen to science; he listens to the forgivers, which is nice if you are talking about your mother but not about a killer. Lacking access to good sense and feeling they believe the words of psychopaths who use those words to deceive. And they deceive those self-deceivers because it is easy. And to be good Christians they want to forgive and believe that psychopaths turn good, which they don’t.

If you don’t see how people evolve what do you see? A static, unchanging world that is very predictable except when it isn’t. If you want to eschew forgiveness I have an idea. I do not forgive governor Huckabee for being gullible, stupid and in effect, criminal because he let loose a dangerous maniac onto us. Being forgiving makes us feel that we are so good but the result, as we see, is immoral.

And so why didn’t Huckabee listen to scientists and specialists in the field? Simple. He doesn’t believe in science. He believes in religion, and how many crimes are committed in the name of religion. Besides psychologic science, as I see it, is a failure.

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.