Saturday, March 27, 2010

On Emotional Resonance

In my forthcoming book, Life Before Birth, I write about resonance; that is, how current events and feelings resonate with earlier imprinted memories to merge and consolidate, giving the memory an inordinate force. This drives behavior, often out of our control, and produces symptoms that seem intransigent. I have surmised that the connection of present and past is arranged through similar or same frequencies or oscillations. It is that which bundles feelings into a single category.

Now there is more evidence for resonance. (“How Brain Gives Special Resonance to Emotional Memories.” Florin Dolcos, Kevin LaBar, Roberto Cabeza. Neuron. June 10, 2004) “The study provides clear evidence from humans that the brain's emotional center, called the amygdala, interacts with memory-related brain regions during the formation of emotional memories, perhaps to give such memories their indelible emotional resonance.”

In their experiments the researchers were seeking evidence for the "modulation hypothesis," which holds that the brain's emotional and memory centers interact during the formation of emotional memories.” (Also see Science Daily, April, 2009)

"The basic idea was simple: to find evidence supporting the notion that the brain's emotional region modulates activity in the memory regions to form an emotional memory,"

My point is: an event is registered at the highest level of brain function possible. So at four months of gestation, trauma will be registered at the brainstem level. There will be a neural highway of this event with various detours sending this information upward and forward informing higher levels about what is happening lower down; each level making a contribution in its own idiosyncratic language to the entire feeling. So here we have resonance; information traveling upward and forward, and later information traveling downward to resonate with the original event.

A short technical note: According to a study by C.L. Lowery, et al., sensory fibers proliferate at 20 weeks of gestation. Thalamo-cortical projections mature at about 29 weeks, although the thalamus seems to be operational at around 20 weeks. The thalamus is the switchboard that relays information to the inchoate neocortex which is just getting organized and also delivers information down to the feeling centers such as the amygdala. Lowery and his team point out that “Evidence for the subconscious incorporation of pain into neurological development and plasticity is incontrovertible.” [1] That important statement supports a position I have held for many decades; the unconscious is not a dark, evil place but rather, something that is inhabited by imprinted events very early in our lives that endure. We never really knew how early.

I am positing the assumption that low level imprints have a distinct signature in terms of frequency. It may be that each level recognizes a relationship with one another in terms of a similar frequency. So that something we endured doing womb-life, a mother heavily depressed and perhaps taking antidepressants, sends up through her nerve tracks nonverbal memories which then merge into what we undergo currently. That combined force then makes any reaction inappropriate. The problem thus far is that we have neglected deep brain imprints, focusing on knowable events and believing that the current situation is the one to concentrate on, when in reality it is but a fraction of the problem. I emphasize that my assumption is not fact. However, Mirecea Steriade has been researching this point for years. I would like to quote Steriade extensively but the work and explanation are so complicated that it would be meaningless to the lay reader, and often to me, as a matter of fact. He was from Bucharest and died in 2006. But he wrote about reciprocal connections between separate brain sites that seem to oscillate in terms of the same rhythms. Specifically, he traced the thalamus and the neocortex, and found “excitability changes consisting of depolarizing responses and decreased inhibitory responses.”[2] One can read many of his articles on oscillations. The point is that many brain structures are linked by reciprocal connections. And it may be that frequency oscillations is one aspect. What I believe may happen is that through this there is a consolidation of the various brain sites. And in terms of resonance it would be mean that later feelings are automatically joined with earlier but similar feelings. They are, in short, “consolidated.”

[1] “Neuro-developmental Changes of Fetal Pain.” Semin. Perinatol. Oct. 31, 2007, Pgs. 275-82.

[2] “Coherent oscillations and short-term plasticity in corticothalamic networks.” Research News. Vol. 22 No, 8. 1999 page 337.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Deep Hopelessness

In our research into serotonin we found that after a year of our therapy there are stable changes in serotonin output. Those who feel very deeply seem to normalize in predictable ways. What it shows is that early pains are involved in how much serotonin we produce. By experiencing preverbal feelings we can make serious hormonal alterations in our patients that endure. I do not think that these changes can occur solely by reliving later childhood events. We are obliged to return to the scene of the crime; the event that deregulated the hormones, in the first place. We do not normalize every dislocated hormone but we have enough success to indicate that the origins are far earlier than we thought. When we understand that very early feelings become compounded as we develop; this is an important notion because when we re-experience a later childhood pain we take some of the force off the feeling. But resolution only occurs when we feel the basic platform of the feeling, as for example, hopelessness. It is the primordial hopelessness that makes for suicidal thoughts. Then when we grow up and find ourselves in another hopeless situation the resonance factor kicks in, sets off the basic hopelessness at birth, for example, and the inevitable suicidal thoughts. It is not as though the thoughts have been hiding waiting to come out but that when the first-line is triggered and it sets off the feeling, (of hopelessness), which in turn sends signals to the cortex to produce terrible, despairing thoughts. Those thoughts are the result of feelings on the move; they cannot be changed by encouragement or exhortation, because the thoughts are not the problem, feelings are. And those feelings reflect specific experience. It is the experiences that we must address.

It is the first-line component of hopelessness that engenders self destructive behavior. This is because the trauma at birth, for example, when the newborn was heavily drugged was accompanied by the deep physiology of hopelessness. (of trying to get out; a matter of life-and death). So when all of the feelings of hopelessness throughout our lives are lined-up, we are in danger. One part may be feelable, but all together they are not. So we can feel hopeless at failing in school, but when that sits on top of hopelessness of ever being loved by a divorcing and departing parent, it becomes too much. Here we see the drive behind stalking, for example. Any more departing of a loved one cannot be tolerated. The current loss sets off the earlier one.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Dialectic

My therapy is based on the dialectic; that means that you need to reach into the past to really live in the present.  You need to feel terror so that you can be rid of it. You need to feel fearful in order to get rid of it and become courageous.  Things turn into their opposite:  too much pain turns into no pain as overload and gating/repression set in.    Above all, you need to feel unloved in order to feel love.  Let me explain:

  As kids we were not held, caressed, appreciated; in short, loved.  That pain for a child is devastating so it is repressed and takes its place in our storehouse of unfulfilled need.  Now we cannot let much love in because repression blocks it; we can no longer feel anything fully.   We need to feel that unlove to the maximum. That opens the gates in and lets feeling in and out.   Then we can let love in.  No exhortation, encouragement, praise can do anything.  Above all, to be hugged in the present by group therapy members is less than useless.   It can only go so deep as the gates are slammed shut.

   That is why if we bring mama into the therapy room and she hugs her son for the hour nothing will change.  But if he cries and begs her in that child’s voice to love him and hold him everything changes. He is now free; been liberated from his history.  And we can measure all this precisely.  How much cortisol stress hormones are there?   Vital signs going up or down?   If the vital signs after a session do not go down to or below baseline, the beginning values, then there is no progress.  Ours is the first science of psychotherapy; the art of science.

   Dialectics is the interpenetration of opposites, first espoused by Hegel then by Karl Marx.  They never applied it to psychology but we now can.  It is a law we cannot abrogate.  We cannot overcome fear by getting on the horse again.  We just bury it. But it stays and will shorten our lives. 

   Better to fall off the horse, stay on your back and scream out the hurt and fear. Then you are brave.

I think this dialectical law applies to many different things. For example, when blood pressure is over normal, or even under, something is wrong in history.  If the body temp is far over normal there is something pathologic going on.  And again, we must turn to history for answers, not simply thrusting pills on the hapless victim hoping to normalize the readings.   We cannot normalize from outside.  It has to come from inside; from the events and times when the original deregulation took place that made things exceed normal.   That is why when we do biofeedback and try to normalize the brainwave readings we cannot succeed.   Here we are just forcing the issue; we need a “softer” approach that slowly evolves. 

Let me reiterate: anything we therapists do to normalize patients cannot succeed, because action/pressure from outside must be continued ad infinitum.  We must continue to give Prozac for a lifetime, or we add thyroid to the regime to normalize it.  That is an endless program.  But if we normalize from inside it can endure for a lifetime.  The original causes of the deviation have been addressed and done with.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

More on Resonance

We may often wonder how do we know what level of consciousness the patient is on during a session? What kind of access to lower levels does she have? We do know that as we descend down the chain of pain with patients to levels of consciousness that are very early and remote the vital signs deviate from normal more and more. So when a patient is feeling depressed and helpless in the present and her vital signs drop to 90/50BP, and 96.5 body temperature we can begin to understand that through resonance the current feeling has dredged up possible gestational trauma that accounts for the excessive readings.

This is because the closer we get to gestational life the more life-and-death events we are dealing with; and that in turn radically alters vital signs. Often, we cannot account for a serious drug addiction in a patient who seemed to be loved by parents throughout his childhood. Yet when we look at the gestational period and birth event we have a different view of how traumatized the patient was and is. If we ignore this period we will remain at a loss to explain symptoms and, above all, to treat them successfully.

Checking vital signs gives us more information as to where the patient is in terms of levels of consciousness (or unconsciousness). If she feels in the present, someone took advantage of her and didn’t let her into a class, her vitals are not going to be as extreme as when she dredges up very early first-line events. If, during the session, she has deeper access we will see a serious change in vital sign readings. It is one control we have of connection and integration. For if the vitals do not come down after the session it means either there is much more of the this feeling still left to feel, or the therapist made a mistake and did not help the patient to integrate.

We have measured vital signs for many years and have found that if the vitals descend in sporadic fashion after a session it usually means a lack of connection, and hence, abreaction; the discharge of a feeling without proper connection. It means a lack of cohesion in the patient’s brain which can lead to an abreactive style that keeps the person sick and neurotic.

The readings we get tell us unmistakeably what kind of trauma the patient underwent and when. If she is depressed and a depressive, chances are the mother might have taken painkillers or tranquilizers during the time she was carrying; and at birth there was a possibility that she was heavily anesthetized so that the baby was totally drugged and unable to struggle to get out. She was stuck in the “trough’ where the birth process had begun but for a number of reasons the baby could not complete the birth cycle. She was stuck in the helpless/hopeless feeling; vital signs toward the low end. She has been “born” with a passive, energy conserving mode (so as not to use up too much oxygen) and that is reflected in the vital signs, which are characteristically on the low side.

If the baby could struggle and get out she will more likely be in the sympathetic nervous system, aggressive and go-getting. Again, her vital signs will be on the high side, and when she descends down the chain of pain in a session they will rise dramatically as she approaches reliving birth and the trauma where struggle meant life. In the parasympath mode struggle could have meant death. This becomes an imprinted prototype and governs our lives forevermore.

If the carrying mother is addicted to cokes or coffee then chances are the newborn will tend to be hyperactive. And, moreover, if she is the anxious, can’t sit still kind of person there is a good chance that her baby will tend to be that way, as well. She will be the kind of person who is not daunted by a project no matter how tough; but she will not recognize obstacles that one must be aware of to react realistically.

We can’t win.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On the Rape of Lucretia

There are some lines in Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucretia that goes like this: “This earthly saint adored by this devil, little suspecteth the false worshipper; for unstain’d thoughts do seldom dream on evil. “

I was curious about why it is that so many of us fall prey to politicians underhanded schemes and false promises. So much so that systematically many of us go to the polls and vote against ourselves. I think it is because the average woman and man is not deceptive nor full of guile and so believes what others say; their unstain’d thoughts cannot imagine the chicanery of psychopaths who deceive and manipulate. Theirs is a kind of naivete. The bottom line is that they do want to do good. It is just that leaders dictate to them what that “good” is. And so they vote against health care. It is “socialist,” they insist. They learn that socialist is bad and they don’t want to do bad. That phrase obfuscates the reality and they go on lacking medical care. It is the same as in a research study the doctor gives a placebo ( a neutral medication) to a patient , saying it is a powerful painkiller, and she no longer feels the pain of the dental drill. Words become more powerful that experience.

Let me say that again: words and beliefs supplant reality and force us to live in a parallel universe, one that has no feelings. The domain of the cynic is a stained mind who does see evil lurking everywhere. And who, it is presumed, has the kind of mind that can also concoct evil. You know “it takes one to know one.” The honest person has learned obedience and not to challenge authority—the good child. It turns out that politicians do know best; for what is in their interest. Not for us. But their placebo, offering nothing in return, is adopted and guides our lives. Because we do not want to be “bad.”

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.