Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Want to be closer to others? Get closer to yourself

When someone’s entire being is permeated with the sense that "no one wants me," to the degree that he needs drugs to kill the pain, this is not just an idea we have to change; it is an organic part of that person. Ideas are not something we produce willy-nilly. We don’t just have differences in opinion; we have differences in total personality, which gives rise to opinions. Likewise, when a person’s “default” mode is to give up in the face of obstacles, he is responding to the sensation deep in his brain of “What’s the use of trying.” Because it lies so deep, it has a profound impact. The words to describe his state are a late evolutionary development. They are not to be confused with the biologic state; the physiology of defeat.

In the hierarchy of valence or strength, words are the weakest when compared to the force of these first-line non-verbal imprints. We must not believe that if we treat the patient with words, changing the labels, we can make a profound difference. We can plaster on new (false) ideas to old feelings, but the feeling changes not at all. All that happens in this case is that the further suppression of the real feeling creates more stress on the system. Imprints are not conquerable nor to be convinced. We may be able to convince someone out of her ideas, but never out of her physiology. Our job is to align the ideas with the feeling. I should say it is the patient’s job because her feelings when felt will do it all by itself.
No patient sitting up in a chair in a comfortable office can feel the kind of terror he can only feel in a darkened, padded room. Yet this sitting-up framework prevents the cognitive therapists from taking patients back in history. First, their theory does not account for it, and secondly, the very office set-up prevents it. The organization of an office follows from the theory. It is all designed to keep the focus in the present—often on the words of the therapist. Sadly, one of the greatest dangers we face is from our past and ourselves, a memory informing us that we are not loved by our parents, that we never will be, and that all is hopeless. This forces us into all sorts of behaviors to avoid feeling hopeless. The problems we have may be between people, but the solution is within. The closer one is to oneself, the closer one can be to others.

Friday, April 16, 2010

On Heredity and Epigenetics

There are some late findings that contrary to the notion that muscular dystrophy and other so-called genetic diseases are direct descendants from heredity, it may be that they are not. That is, nearly all of us have the mutated MD gene in our systems. What seems to make it manifest in us is what happens in the womb and at birth: epigenetics.

I am of the belief that nearly all of us are pretty normal and that it is adversity that changes us and deforms us. In the case of MD we all seem to have the capacity to be abnormal depending on experience. I think that may be true of many of the so-called genetic diseases from allergies to migraine and high blood pressure. And the bad experience happens so early, in the first three months of our lives in the womb, that we cannot distinguish it from pure genetics.

That is why it is so critical that we understand how gestational life can effect us for the rest of our lives; whether the carrying mother is anxious, depressed, takes drugs or drinks alcohol. Whether she sips cokes or drinks many cups of coffee, the baby’s life is being malleated during this period. And it will run the rest of our lives in a major way; whether we suffer multiple sclerosis, migraines or high blood pressure; whether we will have constant seizures or whether we have impulsive act-outs that makes us behave before we think.

This is of such magnitude that it must be taught in schools so that we begin to understand both behavioral and medical disease. It will help doctors understand some of the causes of the diseases in their patients; and it will redirect therapists to periods in our lives that are truly crucial. No more the useless focus in the here and now when so much can be explained way back when. No more the idea that by changing attitudes we can change emotional disease. No more guesswork. A bit more science.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hijacking the First Line

I have explained how the three levels of consciousness work. We now know how resonance operates. So let’s put them together and see what we get. You know how someone just talks and talks and dumps on us. They cannot seem to stop themselves. That is largely due to resonance, where the first line is close to consciousness and continually drives the release of a torrent of words. In short, in the same way that in sex, when it gets to a certain heated level, it is hijacked by pain on the first line and then it is driven to its denouement by that deep level.

So when there is an argument the other person who is screaming and railing cannot seem to stop himself because the energy behind it lies on the most primitive areas of our nervous system. The person is out of control because thoughts and desires do nothing to stop the onslaught from below. In other words, here again, the first line hijacks the verbal area and drives it incessantly. That torrent of emotions and words tells us about origins; something that cognitive approaches cannot touch. While we are encouraging control, the first-line is arguing very well against control.

The current heated dialogue has dredged up very early pure energy from the preverbal non-verbal brain that drives the interchange constantly. So we might say, “well that is pre-psychotic.” But it is just the deep level imprints waiting for their exit. When the current emotional level equals the deeper valences, there will be resonance, no matter how much we don’t want it to happen. And there will be hijacking in many areas. In sex, once there is hijacking the act will run off exactly in terms of the first line. It will take control and run the show. So when someone seems out of control, you can count on resonance to be the culprit.

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.