Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Absent Mother

There is an article today about stressed out babies who get anxious even when mother is absent for two minutes.( Their effects last until the next day. Levels of stress hormones soar. Conclusion: babies need their mothers. Oh wait! Maybe it is more than that. Yes, we need mother and father love but what happens when the absenteeism goes on and on?

There is just so much stress we can take and then what happens? Primal Pain. That is, the system has reached its asymptote and shuts down. Repression begins its life. So what? We now have a secret life; that is, there are pains and all of their concomitants, stress hormones, less or more thyroid, less natural killer cells; go on agitating and aggravating the physical system. And when pain gets compounded time after time, neglect, abandonment, violence, the underground life begins to wear the system down, attacking the most vulnerable organs. It is not one pain but pain piled on top of more pain, the daily threats, ignoring, left alone, and you can add your own life here. What is bad is that we do not often know we are in pain but the body knows. It speaks volumes, screaming through higher brain amplitude, faster brain frequency, higher cortisol, and so on. That is why we not only take the word of patients but measure them every day before and after sessions. The patient does not necessarily lie but she is often contradicted by her measurements.

I never knew that my frenetic and constant movements as a kid, the going and going, was the result of pain; I never felt it. I acted it out. But if one had looked at cortisol levels we would have understood. I doubt in my day we could have even measured cortisol. I just got my high-school records for my biography. Note after note says about me, “nervous.”

Isn’t it wonderful that the human system has a governor that shuts down many functions so we can survive? We become unconscious to survive. That is the miracle. So we have a hyperactive brain; is that so terrible.? Only if you don’t mind dying of Alzheimers or a stroke. That hyperactive brain is not normal. It is a reaction, a survival tactic to keep us unconscious so we can navigate in the world. It is super active due to repression. How do we know? There are major changes in the brain when patients have done this therapy. We have done four different brain studies (UCLA, Copenhagen, Rutgers, and in-house). The results are consistent. Moreover, we see great changes just after a session when the body temp, blood pressure and brain activity diminish. The body and brain are all of a piece. They are related, so when we measure just one aspect, say, blood pressure, we are missing out on the relationships to other aspects.

What is important about the above is that we mistake the deviations occasioned by the imprinted pain as bad and unhealthy. So then we have the biofeedbackers trying to correct the person’s brainwaves when they should be what they are. Or we do other measures to break down blood pressure, or we do EMDR to change anxiety states without once asking why are they deviated? Why is that heart racing? It is trying to survive against the onslaught of pain. It should race.

I was being slight facetious about dying of a brain disease but not entirely. When you see, as I have, month after month, year after year, patients reliving enormous early pains, you realize how the brain has to cave in eventually. No organ can withstand that pressure forever. Reliving and feeling is life saving.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More on Addiction

So many of us are addicted that I want to write a bit more on it. First of all, we are addicted to need; the lack of fulfillment of need. The depth of the neglect of the need determines how seriously addicted one is. We choose our addiction due to many reasons. But basically, how early the trauma or lack of love there is may be one factor. Then the compounding of the very early neglect, say, the lack of touch dating back to right after birth and on into infancy, is another component. So the continual lack of fulfillment exacerbates the pain. Never been touched, held or soothed makes matters worse. It all wraps around need. If there were a grandma who caressed the child a bit then the need is less severe.

Those needs start in the womb, which is a massive kick-start to addiction. If the mother drank to ease her pain then perhaps the offspring will sense physiologically that alcohol can soothe pain; the beginnings of addiction. If the pain goes on due to constant neglect by the parents, becoming severely debilitating, a devastating addiction is on its way. If the mother takes drugs during pregnancy then a pill taker is coming soon. And usually, the pills will be the opposite of what mother took. If she was on cokes, cocaine, speed, coffee, hyping up the baby in her womb, then we may have an adult who is addicted to tranquilizers and painkillers in order to calm his hyped-up system. The needs are at first life-saving so that lack of fulfillment generates great pain. As we mature the needs are important but not as life-saving. Needs before birth are much stronger than later on. They deal with survival. Once we survive well physiologically we can move on to social needs: to be listened to be looked at, understood, helped, guided, etc.

I cannot emphasize this enough: We are addicted to need. The earlier the need the more powerful its neglect. That is why Hollywood doesn’t destroy people; they are already destroyed by events that may antedate birth. The neglect may drive one to Hollywood because it is basically the land of the seriously damaged. It is the goal for those who are underappreciated and never paid attention to. The size of the pain leads to neurotic solutions commensurate with that force; now we need the whole world’s approval. How better than in the cinema.?

We don’t want to ignore genetics but in my opinion genetics is minimal; but life in the womb is critical. And so what is the addict doing? Fulfilling the need from that time; that is, trying to equalize or normalize the chemistry that was warped from very early on. He takes more serotonin (Prozac) to calm him. He would have had enough all through his life if his levels were not dislocated by trauma in the womb or at birth. He is trying to get himself back; get the parts that were missing from the start. That is why drugs make us feel like “ourselves” again. They make up for the deficit.

The choice of drug may be any number of things; food for Jewish families who put such importance on it. Wine for the French; you get the idea. But the force and strength of the addiction is not cultural. It is biologic, much the same the world over. If we just think, the need for (drugs, food alcohol) is first of all and most importantly, the need”. Period. If we make the mistake of treating the “need for” as the problem instead of the need itself we will never cure anyone of anything. That is, if we neglect history and address only the apparent problems we are bound to fail. Those few words, “Need for,” and “need,” must be clearly differentiated. One is the need direct; (pain/history/primal therapy) the other is “need for” (calming agent/kill pain/cognitive therapy).

The latter is what the cerebral therapies address, believing that is the problem. No. the problem is real need which drives the “need for” How deprived the real need is how overpowering the addiction. So many parents wonder what they did wrong because their child was and is addicted. Maybe they did nothing wrong because the root of heavy addiction goes back to long before they had a chance to mistreat the child. Never forget life in the womb. My book on this will be out in five months.

The reason that both addiction and psychosis have been so hard to treat in conventional therapy is that the origins lay back before we set foot on earth. Damage during this period is most often the origin of later addiction/psychosis; but there is no therapy extant, other than primal that can go so deep.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Pollyanna Effect of Looking for the Positive

Inner tranquilizers have a Pollyanna effect. They permit us to "look on the bright side" of belief rather than the "dark side" of ourselves. The Reagan years were characterized by someone who always did look on the bright side. That optimism was infectious even though it may have been unreal. It was adopted by those who did not want to explore the past and feelings. He was perfect for that— a man with little access to feelings who constructed a weltanschauung of denial and joy. If we ask people whether they would vote for pain and liberation or joy, the answer is a foregone conclusion. The man who took a bullet in the head for him during the assassination attempt was almost never visited by him in the hospital. Could he feel for this crippled human being? Reagan continued to vote against gun control. Ideas took precedence over feelings. After all, he was shot, as well, by a maniac who should have never have had a gun. Logic cannot dictate when buried feelings, transformed into an ironclad political belief system, trump reason. When your insides are turned inside out you can easily view the world from a warped perspective. Sometimes you get so “positive” that you slip into Pollyanna and that is where you stay: banal, cliché, unreal.

A belief system or other symptoms is often where the pain goes. Let us not treat the symptom — let us treat the cause. A simple example: A patient could not be alone without a terrible feeling welling up in her. She was left alone for weeks after birth and then again at six months of age when her mother had to return to the hospital for cancer treatment. Aloneness and bad feelings were imprinted. Any approach that ignores the profound feeling lodged in her brain was bound to fail. She had gone to psychoanalysis previously and learned that she was left alone with babysitters throughout her childhood. This was true, but was only the top level of a nerve network that spun down to the brainstem.
Beliefs, in this sense, are like ulcers or migraines. There are levels of causes on the various levels of consciousness.
As I said, it is not the content of a belief system that matters, but what draws us toward ideas and beliefs, and what makes beliefs so important to us, so enduring and how the nerve cells in the brain relate to each other. In short, why do we believe?

All belief systems have something in common. They are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively. And belief systems all respond to an almost universal, hard-wired need. It is not that we need to believe; we believe because we need. And the pollyannas do not think; they rely on slogans. Those run her life. That is why slogans are so important in an election. It is what hang onto instead of thinking through matters.

All of us are programmed to some extent to reject and deny the voice of our feelings. That is the function of belief systems: to quiet the feeling that there is no one to care for us, to protect us, to love us, that the "meaning of life" is endless pain. The drug of belief anesthetizes. It is why one can give up drugs and alcohol and fall into a belief system. They both inject painkillers into the system.

Just as someone lacking sugar or iron automatically seeks out what he needs in foods, a person carrying around imprinted pain may automatically lock into belief systems. Instead of trying to feel the void that lurks inside the hidden crevices of the unconscious, the believer rises above hopelessness and helplessness into "salvation." Sometimes he goes so far as to adopt a new name, a new identity. Susan becomes Saraswati, Robert becomes Rama, as if to say, "I
am not even me anymore" (the pained me) "I am someone else." What is he saved from? Himself. One patient came to us from a cult, which she entered because of chronic anorexia. She relived a feeling in our therapy: "What’s the use of eating if no one loves me or wants me alive?" The leader reassured her that he did. All she had to do was give him her car and the money she had in the bank. She did. Because he said he wanted her to get well. He told her that he wanted her. It was irresistible. And women will give up their bodies easily when someone combats their feeling of being unwanted by telling her how badly she is wanted.


Sometimes people only respond to feelings and vote for political candidates who reflect them. But often they vote for an idea that reflects their underlying needs and feelings: e.g., "This man will make our country safe." We can ignore the reality of what he does because his rhetoric soothes apprehensions and salves fear. But of course, the leader has to first install fear — the enemy is planning secret attacks. Then, I will protect you by arming heavily.
"Yes, yes I will vote for more and more arms so I can feel safe." Too often individuals vote their feelings in the guise of an idea. The more neurotic (heavily repressed) a person is, the greater the distance between his ideas and feelings — what I call the Janovian gap — the more symbolic her ideas. By neurotic I mean someone with a high degree of imprinted, blocked pain that distorts the whole system physically and psychologically. It is not just that someone has far- out ideas. They are linked into a major system. They have anchors into a personality. There are certain traumas imprinted in the system that require repression, and the interplay between them is the hub of neurosis. The outcome of that interaction, the resulting symptoms, is what we generally call neurosis.

Belief systems are just another form of symptoms. They do not spring full blown out of the air. There are historical causes. Once we understand this, we can see how one can give up drugs and booze in favor of being born-again; ideas smother the pains just as well as, if not better than, drugs. That is why those who are unwell will tend to fall ill prematurely, stricken by an internal reality of which they are not aware. The more warped the ideas, the more likely the person will have a warped physiology, and vice versa. It isn’t just ideas we are dealing with; it is a whole human being whose ideas reflect his buried needs and feelings.

Twisted ideas and beliefs, in my view, presage a shorter lifespan. The system is neurotic not just one’s beliefs. In psychoanalysis and cognitive therapy they tend to help change ideas without realizing that they part and parcel of a human, and a human with a history. And of course, there are the various tests for progress in therapy usually of the verbal variety so that if one says one is better, one is considered better. Or on certain questions, "Are you more comfortable with yourself now after therapy?" We see that the more one is defended and thereby feels more comfortable, the more progress we consider the patient has made. Trick is get people to focus on the positive, on the external while those little political devils are manipulating our insides with their slogans.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Traumatized Brain

The orbital frontal cortex, which is the cortex just behind the eye sockets, reaches maturity between eighteen to twenty-four months of age. The right OBFC receives feeling information on the right side of the brain, and helps code it; it also helps control feelings and, above all, is involved in retrieving feeling information and integrating it with the left OBFC. This is a big job. Thanks to the right OBFC, we can know what we feel, and feel what we know; if only it will inform the left prefrontal cortex about what it knows and feels.

The right OBFC receives feeling information from below, from preverbal memories, and then provides a high level coding system that labels the feeling. What is important about the OBFC is that it has representations from the depths of the brain. In this way, we can make a connection between the awareness, and what happened to us even before birth. That is consciousness/awareness.

The right OBFC provides a map of our internal environment. Most early abuse and lack of love can be found coded there. If we want to regain conscious-awareness – full consciousness – we need to use the OBFC map to scan the non-verbal brain, the right limbic area and brainstem, to retrieve the most remote, ancient memories. Notice that I did not say “awareness,” which is left brain. Conscious-awareness is right-left brain working in harmony. We can be very aware and completely unconscious. We can be experts in politics or even psychology, and still not know what is inside of us. In fact, our hyper-alert awareness on the left can be motivated by the need to stay unconscious of the right. We can use he left prefrontal area awareness to dampen the amygdala/limbic areas and keep ourselves unconscious. I have cited earlier how in meditation the left OBFC becomes more active as the amygdala is less active. In some respects this is what happens in cognitive therapy; the left frontal area is stripped away from the right and treated as an independent entity. Thus, their efforts involve readjusting the left frontal brain to the neglect of other cerebral areas. Luckily or not, it is eminently adjustable and malleable. Ideas can be twisted and turned in so many ways; they can be “adjusted” so that we are convinced that we are feeling good when we are not. Thinking we feel good and really feeling good, involving the feeling centers of
the brain are two different things.

The right OBFC contains a model of what happened to us early in life. If we did not have a very strong emotional relationships with our parents early in life, the right hemisphere imprints will become a template for adult life that may cause constant broken relationships in adult life. We are victims of that template and then wonder what’s wrong with us when we cannot sustain an emotional rapport with someone. In that sense, it is more than a model; it is a fixed frame within which we operate. That frame is encased in biochemical chains, every bit as strong as links of steel. I have called this frame, the prototype (discussed elsewhere). The meaning is the same: lifelong patterns of behavior are organized very early in life, in pre-birth, birth and infancy experiences. The meaning is available to the right OBFC but not to the left. The patterns set up early in life become a guide for how we act in the future; for our adult compulsions and phobias as well as physical symptoms. That is why when we retrieve those early experiences with the right OBFC we can make immediate connections between our current symptom-- migraine, high blood pressure--and those early imprints. With the reliving the symptoms disappear, and we understand why. We carry around “broken relationships” inside of us all of our lives. We then develop a friendship with someone that soon breaks off, and it becomes a mystery as to why: the template. The template, as I have stated, involves all manner of biochemical processes. Thus, we may carry around very low oxytocin levels which helps determine how warm and close we can be to others. The brain’s neurochemistry, the levels of stress hormones and other activating chemicals, are all under right brain control. When these are altered they influence how we relate to others and to ourselves. In brief, we are rendered a different personality.

The traumatized brain has different cognitive capacities. It is not so much that one trauma compromises the brain; rather, it is an accumulated lack of love that does it. And lack of love means not fulfilling needs. When we consider that the right emotional/limbic brain is in a growth spurt in the first years when touch and love are absolutely crucial, it is clear that a lack of it will have lifelong consequences on our emotions. This is particularly true as the right brain relates to, and informs, the left intellectual side. Toward the end of the second year of life there is a leap in growth on the left side of the brain.

It is the right amygdala that forms a sensory gateway from feelings and sensations in the lower realm of the brain all the way up to the OBFC. This is where conscious-awareness lies. Connection means there is a flow between feelings that originate in the lower brain, and the higher-level frontal cortex, where thoughts occur. The amygdala also provides emotional information to the OBFC, which takes over some of the memory and codes it. When the amount of information is overwhelming the message does not travel all the way to the OBFC for connection. It can be blocked at the level of the thalamus and sent back down, retaining the disconnection. We then have a headless monster rummaging around the lower depths of the nervous system without guidance.

People who feel uncomfortable in their skin, sense that rummaging monster but don’t know what it is. They just feel that they want to jump out of their bodies. It is not difficult to understand someone who has an “out-of-body” experience. Those with terrible first line pain do sometimes have “out-of-body” experiences where they leave their corpus behind and travel to another dimension. It is another way the defense system works; it is the flight from the pain on the right to the left brain with its imaginary powers. The person has made the leap out of himself—out of the feeling self--to an imagined state.

We see intrusion of this “monster”, literally, in our sessions when a patient will be reliving something from early childhood and suddenly be seized by a coughing jag, her feet and arms changing to fetal position. Here we have tapped into a childhood pain that has roots deeper in the brain. Sometimes the intrusion continues, such as a loss of breath, and interferes with a full reliving of a childhood event. If the patient is not ready for the deeper experience, we may recommend first line blockers such as Clonidine or Xanax. If the patient is ready for the first line experience, we may go there. This is rarely done in the first months of therapy.

The weakness or damage to the OBFC is often seen in our disturbed patients who relive first line events in the first days of therapy. We know from this that there was very likely pre-birth and birth trauma. We know, too, that there is infancy/chilhood compounded pain which has compromised the gating system. Institutional children and those placed in foster homes early in life, relive these traumas very soon in therapy.

There are reciprocal nerve fiber connections that run from the OBFC down to the brainstem. Terror that’s imprinted down low in the brainstem, in the locus ceruleus, for example, can send out noradrenaline to activate us; we become hypervigilant.

The locus ceruleus can activate us due to pain but it also contains a good number of opiate receptors to help suppress it. Traumas while we are being carried may redo the set-points of noradrenaline so that we are more hyped up from the start of life. And hyper-secretion of noradrenaline over years can and does adversely affect the heart. In other words, the seeds of later heart disease may have their beginnings even before birth. Is it any wonder that later disease seems to occur without any obvious current reason? Since noradrenaline is related to fear and terror, it will ultimately mount to the frontal area and affect our thinking processes.

Scientists have found locus ceruleus/noradrenaline fibers in the thalamus; in this way low level activation reaches the relay station to be sent to higher centers, finally interfering with our concentration. Not surprisingly, morphine and valium can suppress this activation and calm the pain. External morphine can help when we cannot produce enough of our own—endorphin. The result is the same, repression and calm. Left brain ideas can help stimulate the endorphin output to put down pain. Herein lies the reason for belief systems that embody hope. And herein lies the problem and so-=called success with cognitive therapy: using the wrong brain to do the work of another. The left can never do the right brain’s work. It can smother it for a time, however, with ideas and beliefs.

Friday, August 13, 2010

40 Years in Psychoanalysis

This from a gal who spent 40 years in psychoanalysis:

(My Shrunk Life by Daphne Merkin, NY Times, Aug. 8, 2010m Magazine Section
( )

“To this day, I’m not sure that I am in possession of substantially greater self-knowledge than someone who has never been inside a therapist’s office. What I do know, aside from the fact that the unconscious plays strange tricks and that the past stalks the present in ways we can’t begin to imagine, is a certain language, a certain style of thinking that, in its capacity for reframing your life story, becomes — how should I put this? — addictive. Projection. Repression. Acting out. Defenses. Secondary compensation. Transference. Even in these quick-fix, medicated times, when people are more likely to look to Wellbutrin and life coaches than to the mystique-surrounded, intangible promise of psychoanalysis, these words speak to me with all the charged power of poetry, scattering light into opaque depths, interpreting that which lies beneath awareness. Whether they do so rightly or wrongly is almost beside the point."

You know why it is beside the point? Because all that is beside the point; the point being I need a mommy and a loving daddy and I will pay money every week to get one, even a faux one. Learning a new way to see your life story is not therapy; it is reorientation toward the same neurosis. Jungians do it, Freudians do it, Cognitivists do it, “Let’s fall in love.” Does anyone else see the insanity of forty years of therapy? I see it often when parents who do not want to be bothered loving their child send her out to be repaired like a broken vacuum cleaner. “If you want love, go there; only don’t bother me.” And the repairman says, "let’s look at your life through my eyes.” Oh yes, let’s not feel the pain of it all; just look at it differently. "And don’t you do the interpreting; come to me for decades and let me do it." Such narcissism. Such arrogance. "I know best". "And I even know best what lies in your unconscious". "I know what feelings your hiding even at the age of two".

The first lesson I give students is to never think you know what the patient is feeling; you will be wrong. Only he knows and only he will give up from his unconscious when the time is right. It is the patient’s symptom, his behavior and his feelings. They belong to him and no one else. They are buried in the unconscious for a good reason; they are not ready to be felt. The patient knows when, and it is precisely when he can fully experience it and not before. It is his timetable, not ours because it is his life, not ours. So where do we therapists get off telling him or her what the problem is, where the lack of love is and how it all happened.

It is the same old neurologic mistake, believing that words and beliefs can change feelings, when all of evolution and the structure of the brain dictates otherwise. It is feelings that are the more powerful, that give rise to beliefs that may indeed counter those feelings, and the person then believes those beliefs and defends them because they defend him.

Daphne mentions transference. The Freudians are still analyzing transference when it should be obvious that instead of explaining how the patient is transferring feelings from daddy onto him, that she needs to express those needs to daddy; to cry, scream and beg for love where it belongs; then we do not have to analyze any transference. Analyzing changes nothing; it explains. If you had a virus we could analyze it and explain why you have it, but much better to treat it and the cause. “I know you’re hungry but I cannot give you any food,” is the same as I know you need love but I cannot give you any. Offering food (love) to a starving patient is better than not doing it; and there we have the "raison d’etre" for analysis; I know. I did it for 17 years and was trained at the Freudian center of the west. We give love but we don’t call it that. But we listen endlessly to your travails, are concerned, helpful, encouraging, and concentrate only on you. That is why all of the studies on therapy insist on the warmth and kindliness of the therapist—because that is what they are selling. I’ve got a hard sell; I am selling pain. But at the end of that pain lies liberation.

(From Bruce Wilson, science writer: Ferenczi and Freud would eventually break over their different therapeutic stances but not before Ferenczi noted in his clinical diary that Freud shared with him the harsh sentiment “that neurotics are a rabble, good only to support us financially and to allow us to learn from their cases: psychoanalysis as a therapy may be worthless.”)

I want therapy to be honest. Let’s tell the patient what we are selling. It is fair to her to know what she is buying and not to think she is buying cure while she is buying a daddy. (For those of you who are interested look on our website and see Grand Delusion. There lies many pages on Freud.) Some, like Woody Allen are buying something a bit more sophisticated. Someone to talk to, a daddy who will respond and not be indifferent to his gems. There are all kinds of reasons to stay in Analysis but the bottom line is the need we are acting out there. And believe me going to cognitive/insight therapy is an act out. Going through the motions of getting well without the pain, which is an oxymoron.

Let me tell you about one experience I had not long ago. I was watching French television, which I do mostly, and on Saturday night they have a concert. One singer was wonderful, mesmurizing and they showed a lady in the audience transfixed and full of emotion, just feeling. I turned off the television and felt, “My God, that’s the reaction I have waiting for all my life. To have my parents just once listen to me and be interested.” I then had a primal where I begged them to listen and felt the pain of their not being able to. Much better than rushing to an analyst, waiting a week for him to see me, to have the need/feeling analyzed to death. We give patients the tools to go on feeling and getting better on their own. I also teach all of my patients my techniques and why I employ them. No secrets, no special lingo and above all, nothing to learn about my theory. They don’t have to speak my language—transference—I speak theirs. And that language is feeling.

Of course her therapy felt like a good conversation with a friend. It was. You bought a friend, what else did you want? She could not leave her shrinks because she could not leave her needs. They were never dealt with, so they remained pristine pure until old age. You are a client because you are buying a service. You are a patient when science and medicine enters the picture and you are being treated and cured; that is, addressing the originating causes of the problem.

Daphne is an addict, getting her fix of love every week for years. Much better for all kinds of addicts to feel their pain so that they no longer need a fix, a fix to kill or soften the hurt. My wife was in psychoanalysis in New York. Every time she cried the hour was up and she had to go. It is inhuman. In primal therapy there is no time limit. You leave when you feel like it. That is human. Feelings dictate the length of the session and the content of the session. Make sense?

Monday, August 9, 2010

On Pain Killers

Some time ago I had back surgery. I wanted pain killers afterward for a lot of pain. Sorry, they said, the medical committee had come in and shut down heavy pain killers because of the possibility of abuse. So we all suffered. We suffered because men from the state capitol, who obviously managed to cover their pain, decided we didn’t need it. Today in the N.Y. Times is a story about the same thing. Washington State has pretty much decided the same thing. The abuse they say is too widespread, and it may be, but what about those who need it and are not abusing it? How can they tell the difference? Did they know how much pain killers I need? No they don’t. Only I do and I do. They doctor from that state who shall remain nameless, decided that we have to cut down on drugs. There is a picture of him in the paper; he is very very fat. So he manages to cut down on pain by stuffing his face with food, while he doesn’t like us to take pills to do the same thing. Shame.

Is it possible that more and more of us are in pain? Is it possible we need it? Do people who are not in pain compulsively take pain killers? I doubt it. Why on earth would they? Why do people stuff food down? Do they need it? They seem to. If we stopped them they would be in plenty of pain; then they would need pills; then they would know what pain was about. Alas, they can eat and never find out.

Making a Nightmare into a Nightmare

You know, when I run the schools of psychology, which ought to be never, I would insist that students learn a minimum of neurology so that they do not concoct theories that fly in the face of how the brain works. It is not that neurology will offer up psychological insights, but that it will dictate what you must not invent. A case in point: the NY Times just ran a piece entitled, Therapy Takes the Terror Out Of Nightmares (also in Intn’l Herald Tribune July 27/10). It is the brainchild of Dr. Krakow of the Sleep Clinic at Maimonide’s Sleep Arts Center. What he has decided to do to take the force out of nightmares is give the person a new script. So what does he do? He offers a script that is more “normal” and less frightening. So the dangerous enemy becomes a friendly ghost. “We call that a new dream,” he says. It is known as dream mastery. But wait a minute, is the dream just the symbol or is it also the terrible feeling? When you master a dream it should be all of it, unless you are once again skimming the surface.

OK, so where is that dream coming from? Is it just a whim by the person? Something that can be change so easily? Or does it come from the depths of our consciousness, or unconsciousness? I have written enough now to indicate that deep sleep where much of the terror lies is on what I call the first-line. It has to do with sensations of terror, rage and murder, being crushed, suffocated, chased, etc. These are imprints from traumas that happened while we lived life in the womb, or at birth and just after. They are registered low in the neuraxis and later form the feeling/sensation stuff of nightmares. They tell us that there are dark matter down there that must be dealt with. The nightmare is the topmost element, the verbal and image we put on it. It is not the nightmare per se. It is the effluvia of the feeling, the intellectual part we ascribe to it. The feelings are imprinted which accounts for the obsessive, compulsive and repetitive nature of the nightmare. They are part of our nature, our biology and must be understood as such.

This mastery theory is another nonsense by the cognitive school, sold by intellectuals who do not understand about feelings and their nature in our biologic economy. So when they concoct a new scenario, and it is exactly the cognitive therapy applied to dream sleep, where we provide a new more wholesome scenario for your bad and naughty thoughts. Do they think our dreams and nightmares are just capriciousness? Do we make them out of whole cloth or do they fill an important function in our neurologic functioning? What they do is help patients adopt a new outlet for the very same sensations/feelings. And what happens to those feelings? Do they go away? No. Imprints never go away until resolved. Their pressure then leads to high blood pressure, headaches and all sorts of maladies perhaps leading to serious ailments such as cancer. They pressure always remains and drives us. Yes we can choose a nice thought but that is literally icing on the cake. It has no effect on the lower level feelings. But those feelings have a lot of effect on images on thoughts provided by higher nerve centers. We could provide endless new scenarios that would change nothing. Worse, it is being used on combat fatigue and trauma of war. They are simply providing a better defense. And that is what cognitive therapy is: better defenses provided by those who have better defenses and who apotheosizes defenses as the "nec plus ultra". These professionals have the imprimatur and cachet of major research centers and are more likely to be believed. That makes them all the more dangerous. What are they doing? Trying to influence and dissuade biologic processes. First, we need to understand what those are and what role they play in our physiology. Maybe they are normal, necessary and absolutely essential. They should not be summarily altered at our whim. Certainly not by someone who skims along the top and ignores what our bodies are doing and what they need. They are using it for rape victims. I have treated many rape victims; their pain is beyond belief and has to be relived over months and months. There is no shortcut for that. None. Here we are again, rearranging the furniture on the Titanic while there are big holes in the hull. Jesus! Wake up!

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.