Monday, July 19, 2010

On Avoiding Murder (final version) (Sorry!)

There is a story in the press today about Raoul Moat. He just killed himself after a police chase for over a week. Before this final confrontation he managed to wound his ex-girlfriend and a policeman, and to kill her boyfriend. Just before he killed himself, as the police were closing in, he said, “I had no dad and nobody cares about me.” To me that is the beginning of a primal. He was sure it was “their” fault that he suffered. Maybe if the police could have said, “We care about you, Raoul,” it would have helped, and maybe not. But instead of shooting him there are options if we only we consider them. One option is to let the family talk to him and express their caring, which the police seemed not to allow. While the dialogue was going on Raoul was holding a shotgun to his chin. His brother told the police that Raoul was having a nervous breakdown. That is an old notion to explain that his defenses were breaking down; in a way, there was a breakdown, and it involved nerves but it was the defense system that was crashing. Let me explain.

When we hurt early on, and that means in infancy, at birth and even before we have a defense system that hurries to contain the pain. For every major trauma there seems to be an equal and opposite defensive force to contain the pain. I call this defense system the gating system. Those familiar with my writing understands that defenses are abetted by biochemical means where neurotransmitters are secreted by the brain into the gap between cells so that the message of pain cannot travel to high centers, enabling us to remain unconscious. We humans usually manage to hold down our most painful feelings by a neurologic system that was built for it. The greater the pain the earlier in evolution (ontogeny=personal evolution) it occurred because it is in the first weeks of life in the womb that life-threatening events occur; mother is depressed or anxious, takes drugs or drinks alcohol and is not careful with her diet. As life goes on there is a compounding of pain due to parental neglect, indifference and not caring. The gates again shut to hold down the feelings/pain. But sometimes life deals such harsh blows that the gates crack or weaken; the result is that there aren’t enough repressive chemicals such as serotonin in the synapse to keep repression going.

In Raoul’s case there was the lack of a loving father, and love is love, when it is missing there is a “hole” in the person and a constant need for fulfillment. Raoul was only speaking the truth when he said he was not loved. But that alone would not lead him to murder unless, unless, there was an old pain/need below the current situation; something that might have been overwhelming even while living in the womb of mother. The current rejection, then, can activate earlier pre-verbal pains so that the combined traumas weaken the gating system. The boyfriend had to die because he symbolized the hopelessness of Raoul ever being loved again. He took away the only person with whom there was hope for love.

There is nearly always a compounded feeling and need behind violence. Otherwise, there is disappointment, terrible hurt; hurting a lot, but not murder. Rage is organized deep in the brain and it is that rage which is galvanized and incorporated into the anger in the present. What is compounded is a feeling of abandonment, of great neglect and indifference and, in general, a lack of touch, caress and hugs; in short, a lack of love. Some lose love, go into despair and then find God. They have been saved, saved by the idea of God, unless we really think he comes out of wherever he is and literally lends a hand. But the reaching out for God is hope again to be loved, even this time only in fantasy. Others start to feel the pain and reach for the bottle. Still others may reach for the neck of the departing lover and strangle her. But what they all have in common that makes the act-out obligatory is the reawakening of early deprivation by a current situation. Rejection gives it power. Raoul killed the only person who could, he imagined, make him feel loved again. Someone who could bandage the wound. Someone who could stop his suffering. But his violence ensured that would never happen. The act-out is always a symbol of the real feeling. The fact that Raoul was a bouncer in a club gives us an idea that he might choose a violent way of acting-out.

It is rare to get such a precise indication of the problem. Raoul felt unloved. When his girlfriend left it set off the feeling; and when she went with someone else, the “crime” was complete. It was clear that he had lost her. There was no more hope. Without help, he could not know that he was in a feeling of hopelessness, nor could he know that he was acting out a feeling. So long as his ex was single there was hope. Once she went with someone else hopelessness set in. The needs and feelings have to go somewhere. His faulty gates allowed an upsurge of a lifetime of emotional deprivation. It saturated his perceptions so that he was lost and enmeshed in feelings. His feelings were explosive; he tried to deal with them in the only way possible; directing them outward, projecting the source of his pain toward others. Had he been able to repress, had his internal repressive system been adequate to the task, he might have later develop cancer because of the massive shutdown required for such overwhelming pain. The system will always pays the price for no love. He was acting out in deadly fashion. My guess is that had he been able to feel at that moment about the hurt inside him he might not have started his rampage. But it was all too overwhelming. It is one thing to feel unloved in our childhood; it is quite another to be totally rejected as an adult, compounding one’s latent feeling. Someone like Raoul has no idea what that current situation had triggered off.

His feelings were of lack of love; the fact that it was his father whom he needed was almost beside the point. He was feeling terribly unloved irrespective of who did it or did not. His gates were blown because we all have just so much gating capacity. His pain exceeded that capacity. So instead of feeling, “I am not loved. There is no more chance of love. Love me, please daddy!” He started shooting. He lost his hold on reality; that is, he was inundated by another (imprinted) reality. He began shooting because he had no access to what he was feeling. Yet the feelings had access to him; that is, they were surging up from the lower depths because his past and present coalesced so that he could no longer repress them. When pain mounts above our defensive structure we suffer. And Raoul suffered and wanted others to suffer too. His defenses were no match for years of neglect.

If we could have got to him earlier we would have him discuss his girlfriend leaving, the new boyfriend, and then once locked into the beginning of “I feel unloved. Dad never loved me. I need a daddy,” he could go back and beg for that love. Fervently begging for love is what would have allowed him to feel the deprivation. Raoul could not do that; he had no idea there was someplace to go. He was then faced with the hopelessness of it again. If the patient doesn’t beg with every fiber of his being he can never feel the depths of the rejection. I am rounding it out for simplicity’s sake but obviously, it is not that simple. What I have omitted to point out is that when terrible feelings are involved we need someone there to support us. We can only terribly alone when we have someone close to attenuate the pain and make it feelable. We can only feel alone when we are not alone. Raoul could not feel unloved in the past so long as he was rejected and unloved in the present. It was all too much.

The principle is that simple; to feel your pain and resolve it leads to the integration of feeling and the extirpation of the pain. Once Raoul killed he had no place to go. The difference in our therapy is that once the patient has pounded the walls and expressed her hate she does have somewhere to go: deeper into the feeling; the need below the rage. It is need that engenders the pain of deprivation. It was then on the eve of being captured that he confessed, “I was not loved.” He made his primal statement without being able to feel it. That was his major statement to the police, as if to say, that’s the reason I acted-out. They were about to shoot him when he did it himself. It is too bad he could not have felt that before he began his rampage. We have seen it many thousands of times so that we consider now a primal law. We have measured patients in many ways after having primals (a total reliving of an early trauma) from neurologic to the physiologic; from the immune response to the neurochemistry, and have consistently found resolution and a significant change in key indices of normalcy. For example, we have measured stress hormone (cortisol) levels in patients after one year of therapy and found a considerable drop in stress levels. It is a high level of stress hormones that also play a part in acting-out. It means that the memory/trauma is exerting a constant force against the defense system. And after one year of therapy there is considerably less acting-out of our patients; less exhibitionism, less overeating, less alcohol and drugs. Less pain.

How many times have we seen in a pre-primal session the patient pound the wall and cry in anger, “I hate you. I want to kill you!” This releases some of the pressure and can prevent killing. It can then lead the patient to the real need and feeling of not getting it. You cannot get there if you are not immersed inside the feeling. Feeling the need with all one’s body is the best antidote. Releasing rage in a benign way is obviously preferable to releasing it on the unsuspecting. The force of the rage may be childhood neglect. It is forceful because lack of love as an infant and young child is devastating. To compound the pain his girlfriend gave her love to someone else. If we put all this in its original context we could understand the problem better; we would see that it isn’t enough to cry and scream; it has to be done in context, the early context; going back to that early need. It means going back to origins, and only the embedded feeling knows where that is. No one else can possibly know. Raoul would have to go back in time to what went wrong. It sounds banal, a cliché, but he needed a loving parent. There is no real life without it.

If that kind of terrible force were ruminating inside Raoul’s system and he could effectively hold them down with his internal painkillers he might well have ended up with cancer; a death sentence decreed by a system that could not release the pressure of pent-up feelings. He would pay one way or the other. Catastrophic pain often leads to catastrophic symptoms. It is one way we know how deep the imprinted pain is.

The heavier and earlier the pain the more deviation from normal there is in all domains, the blood vessel system, the neurologic/psychologic and physiologic. Some of us choose act-outs that are not so deadly. We stalk the exiting lover. We call her all of the time and plead. Then after she says, “no” enough the threats begin. It follows the primal sequence, without the act-out. We are desperate and plead, then furious that they did not love us, then hopeless again as we feel the utter pain of it all. And most important, afterward, relief.

If we could have learned in school about how to gain access to our feelings some of us would not be so helpless before rising feelings. There would not be an endless depression as a result of losing a lover. At least we would know what feelings were and how they force us to do crazy things. If we just took the act-outs of kids in class and used them as a platform for discussing feelings and how they drive us, we would be so much better off.

Raoul had to die because he could not feel, “there is no more hope. It is the end of the line.” He had acted-out his rage and there was nothing more he could do. He was reared by a stepfather with plenty of problems between them. A stepfather is never what a father means to a child. The reality is how he really felt. Feelings rarely lie. No one is going to love him. He kills and then kills himself; such a classic denouement. We hate parents for not loving us and treating us so badly, and then we sense all is hopeless. Somehow, rage keeps the hope alive: “Why don’t you love me!” Once he kills that is the end of it. Raoul’s mother, not surprisingly, said he would be better off dead. How about, he would be better off being loved. Raoul needed to get help early on. And what that means is not soporifics and rationales about his feelings. Not pills to push down his feelings. Not cognitive ideas to explain and change his feelings. He needed to feel all of his terrible deprivation; he needed to experience and feel his feelings; that is getting help.


  1. Is it possible to delete the previous two editions of this post and then amalgamate all the comments together underneath this one?

    It's a pity you can't simply edit a post you've already made instead. The website administrator should be able to sort it out.

  2. Ben I think it is very important to leave the posts on Avoiding Murder as they are as they clearly show the progression of the deepening of Dr. Arthur Janov's insights on the matter. I particularily appreciate these blog entries as they tie together remarkably well Primal Theory and Primal Therapy in all it's many facets, with the very deeply tragic situation of Raoul Moat's life, of how it came to be that way and how if he had had the opportunity to have an enlightened witness, as Alice Miller calls it, where he could have been encouraged to fully articulate and express his present day anguish, despair, anger, rage and hatred over his girl friend leaving him and eventually connect these very deeply powerful, explosive and overwhelming feelings to their deeper roots in his infancy and childhood, the whole tragedy could have been averted. Dr, Janov was absolutely correct to so clearly state that these powerful, explosive and overwhelming feelings that were triggered off in this present day loss could not be contained within his defense system (which were no match for them) and that they blasted it apart and culuminated in murder and suicide. Obviously Raoul Moat, as so many others like him, are completely at the mercy of Primal Forces far beyond their conscious control and in a state of "possession," as a result of it for which they can assume no responsibility. There is no free choice or free will here and the sooner that society at large realizes just how true this is the better, as without this fundamental truth recognized (and the proper intervention resulting from it), then we can expect to see tragedies like this continue and in this regard there are many hands on the trigger of the gun that is pulled, and not only Raoul Moat's by any means. So who murdered who seen in the light of this truth? Alice Miller sums this up very simply in her flyer The Roots of Violence in the following points below:

    excerpt from the flyer The Roots of Violence by Alice Miller:

    9. For some years now, it has been possible to prove, through new therapeutic methods, that repressed traumatic experiences of childhood are stored up in the body and, though unconscious, exert an influence even in adulthood. In addition, electronic testing of the fetus has revealed a fact previously unknown to most adults-that a child responds to and learns both tenderness and cruelty from the very beginning.
    10. In the light of this new knowledge, even the most absurd behavior reveals its formerly hidden logic once the traumatic experiences of childhood need no longer remain shrouded in darkness.
    11. Our sensitization to the cruelty with which children are treated, until now commonly denied, and to the consequences of such treatment will as a matter of course bring to an end the perpetuation of violence from generation to generation.

    The Roots of Violence by Alice Miller


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.