Saturday, September 4, 2010

Yet More on Depression

The depressive is, by and large, a parasympath — someone whose whole system is skewed to that part of the nervous system (the parasympathetic). This subsection of the nervous system is controlled by the hypothalamus. It is a system of rest, relaxation and repair, a system that usually produces undersecretions. It is the system that has evolved out of the "freeze" response in animals, which evolved over time to inhibit the ability to make an immediate and aggressive response to danger. There are times when the best defense is to do nothing or at least think and reflect a moment before reacting. One key marker for this is body temperature that is almost always universally low in these patients and is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system. It speaks of a birth or pre-birth trauma that skewed the system into passivity, despair, defeat and an inability to react. It thereafter controls our behavior and our symptoms. Migraine, for example, is often part of this system’s response: a shutting down of (constricting) the vascular-blood circulation, followed by massive dilation.

If one ignores deep feelings, encased and remote imprints, then it is easy to overlook them in treating depression. One, then, has no choice but to offer prescriptions. One can only then attempt to push back the surging forces of pain, as repression of early pain leads to no other alternative. "Looking on the bright side" is a religious idea transported into the realm of psychotherapy. The "power of positive thinking" is best left to the church because, as much as we want to look on the bright side, our internal system is "looking" on the dark side. Why? Because the imprinted memory is dark and painful. However, it can be reached and extirpated. I have taken my patients as deep and as remote into their past as possible and I have never found a demon or dark, evil force. All I have ever seen is sequestered pain. All that is there is a pure need left over from infancy when those needs should have been fulfilled.


  1. When you (basically) said that our imprint make us see things from "the dark aside"[and of course that's very agreeable], I immediately thought of modern music. It has this constant underlying deadness in it - like "meaningful misery" but 'misery' it's telling us that life is shit but nevermind because we can polarise the nucleus of that grievous feeling with a kind of "feeling our souls" through the storm.

    Maybe commercial music has evolved in this direction because that is where the market is really at? We don't want "good" music - we want music that's in tune with our imprints, and as we know the mass-market has generally had a nasty time at those critical early times.

    Do you ask patients what kind of music they listen to, Dr Janov? I would bet that it can in some ways be indicative of history?

  2. Andrew: Not only ask but we often play music in sessions.

  3. Even more on depression. Depression signifies 'holding down'. what we are holding down when we are depressed is old feelings; from childhood, infancy and womb experiences. To just simply let those feeling rise is so daunting that our natural reaction is to 'depress' it (hold it down) It is this holding down that is the hardest work and the most daunting because of the fear that if we didn't ....... we know not what would happen. It is the fear of what might happen that is our greatest reluctance to just allow it to take it's 'natural' course. I say all this because I have been there; to both places; holding it down, and now finally allowing myself to sink into that abyss ... which turns out to be not quite as awful as I anticipated. It's still awful: but not impossible to feel ... if we let our nature take care of it.

    To the uninitiated depressive I suggest; little by little, you sit back in your depression and feel what's there, and maybe, as in my case, just cry about your state of being. We each of us have our own way, however, just trust your feelings, (not your thoughts and intellect) and little by little become more conscious of your state of being. It is natural, as nature is for ever attempting to heal itself, even though we fear to let it happen. It worked for me and I feel it could well work for you.

  4. Dr. Janov,

    A parasympath, that’s me.
    Low blood pressure, cold hands and feet all my life and the urgent need to keep the body warm by layering cloth.
    Migraines, twice a week, since the age of 10 and, a low immune system (cortisol 1.1). In addition, I had psoriasis since the age of 13.

    Womb memories, of being unwonted.
    My existence was a manipulation.
    My mother became pregnant to blackmail my father to stay with her.
    Having a womb-felling being glad for my brother, who was in the same womb one year before me and died, that he has saved himself from a life with lots of pain.
    Being a 72 hours birth with forceps.
    Remembering feeling very cold, right after birth.
    Few days after birth isolation from my mother – I was taken to my grandmother.

    Psychological effects:
    Passive reactive, never acting out (low adrenalin).
    Highly aware in dangerous situation, reading facial expression since early childhood.

    Physical effects:
    Low metabolism.
    No “normal” childhood illnesses.
    At age 52 I had for the first time Chicken pox.
    Life long ear and navel infections.
    I had only 3 time high fever in my life.
    Cancer at age 29 and Chiari malformation (congenital) discovered at age 59.

    There was (as a child) and still is today no way that I’m being manipulated.
    My sensors against everything unreal, untrue, unnatural and fake, are very sharp.

    There is much more that confirms that I am parasympathetic.

  5. The therapist must follow a scientific direction so that the feeling leads the patient to the source instead of a defence.

    People can remain well-defended even while they are crying a river of tears...or even while they are screaming and breaking things.

    Jack, do you know what it's like when you start to remember something horrific, but then your automatic panic reaction stops you from remembering? (stops you from fully experiencing a trauma from the past)
    It happens to people when they are tired and they seem to jump with fright for no reason.
    How on earth can you override that type of reaction? The humane use of SCIENCE can help us to bypass the unfavourable aspects of nature. Nature is can be corrupted and repaired.

    If your body is too weak to primal, then I wish you the best in your remaining years. Neurotics can still get some pleasure from life.

    Please excuse my 'pontification''s for a good cause

  6. Jack,

    How shall we know that there is fear that holding back pain? When to hold back show a different guise than the fear who led us to hold back. Yes... it is true that "sit back and let the feeling take over" but all these mad ones working in the field of psychology that do not trust the feeling ... who advocate defense at any cost ... is too dangerous for us. The sensitivity of holding back saved the child and saves lives even for adults who do not know what this is about.
    Jack what you write is very good ... really good ... it shows that there are those who know that there are opportunities and fear more is about ignorance in these diabolical experiences that haunts us through life.

  7. I know this is off-topic, but have you ever given your interpretation of the Milgram experiment? Here is part one of a video:

  8. price: I think that for those who do not know about it, it is a good lesson. Too bad the nazis didn't see it. They practiced it. art janov

  9. Sieglinde: This is self explanatory. classic syndrome of parasympath. art janov

  10. Richard

    It’s painful to hold painful memory back but it’s not painful when we are on the way to the source of it. The therapist's task is to balance his client to the door of what caused the pain. But then... as Art says…“we are left on our own journey”. It’s no longer in time with the therapist... we are then in memory of our own. The pain exists only in the force we put against it. When we are where we ware… then it’s not a memory any longer… it’s the pain in itself… and there… we have no reference such as memory. The unknowing memory causes pain.


  11. Frank I mostly agree with you, but let's not pretend that a primal doesn't hurt. If you fully experience the loss of a loved one, it's going to hurt like hell...but at least it can finally be resolved. I think it is worst when the pain is very very close but can't be accessed.

  12. price:

    I just watched that interesting link you provided. As Art said it is an important lesson.

    I have read about it before and apparently the essence of the process is the *displacement of responsibility* (onto authority). I think we do this all the time on so many different levels*. But then how can we encourage a society to fight against this dynamic when the military's chain-of-command is so completely dependant on it? Ah...a somewhat embarrassing experimental finding!

    Oh, and curiously woman are more prone to 'go all the way' with the shocks; apparently because they are more conditioned to respond to authority in our society.

    *Art: My guess is that your therapy has developed with strict conscientiousness in part because you don't have any perceived authorities to lean on (and displace responsibility to) in this new territory--dictating a kind of intense responsibility for what you're doing that others who come after may not have(?). I say this because I think I can relate to that kind of pressure.

  13. Because most of us were slapped/beaten, by the people that were supposed to love and protect us (right from the start), we learned that we'd be hurt again, whenever we disobeyed.

    Our parents/caregivers are our first authority figures. When we're beaten by them, it conditions us to fear any authority figure that remind us of them. (the people who were beaten the most, make the best soldiers... they also made the best Nazis)

    Because we were beaten before, we simply learned to anticipate the next beating. To avoid the next blow, we learned to do as we were told (self preservation... flick the switch).

    How bad can our first slaps/beatings have been?

    9 out of 12 of those people on the (Milgram experiment) tape, used enough electricity to kill the person that they had just met. 3 of the 12 didn't go all the way... but they still were knowingly shocking the other person. (How far did these 3 go? How much pain did they cause? They never said)

    A child who wasn't threatened, humiliated, and beaten in childhood, would never throw the first switch. Because they didn't fear their parents, they wouldn't be afraid to ask as many questions as they needed to... regardless of a stern authority figure.

  14. Part 1 of 2
    Art: Here's my thoughts on Alzheimer’s Disease, and it's possible number 1 cause, incest. (I've been thinking about this for a while now... this site has sped up the thinking process).

    They say that the first part of the brain that atrophies in Alzheimer's patients is the hippocampus.

    In an article from Saturday, October 4, 2008, How Long Will I Live? You say, "As I discuss elsewhere, long-term high stress levels actually diminish the size of the hippocampus—the seat of memory—and thus adversely affect memory."

    Here's another quote from Wednesday, September 8, 2010, More on Psychosis (from yesterday), "There is in my opinion nothing more psychotic-making than incest. I have rarely seen an incest victim who was not pre-psychotic. It depends on how early it started but when the person who is supposed to protect you becomes the danger it is crazy-making."

    Here's my theory: They say, if you don't use it, you loose it, i.e., muscles mass, the body's rang of motion, the mind... synapses of the brain.

    I think if a person denies/doesn't remember being a victim of incest, for their whole lives, then essentially, they're telling their brain to stop wasting it's time on anything and everything that it can associate with the original sexual abuse. That message, plus the high level of anxiety associated with those memories, I feel causes the brain to give up on itself.

    I don't have the means to prove this, but I'd like to look further into this possibility.

    Question: How close in the hippocampus is the memory of our family, and the memory of early incest? Could they be in the same place? If so, is that why Alzheimer's patients forget their closest family members as their brain deteriorates?

    There are so many terrible things that can happen to a person. I think incest is the worst.

    Background info: I was sexually abused by my mother's brother from around 22 months, till I turned 5 (I would later remember him telling his wife, that I wouldn't remember anything that happened to me, before I turned 5). I had forgotten I was abused, but then I remembered when I was 32 (1997). But I always remember being scared, driving to his house, when the abuse was going on.

    My mother was sexually abused by him too. She remembers one time, when she was about 5, and he was 15. She had completely forgotten she was abused, until she was 52 (I had started asking her questions about my past, at that time... I was 26). She later did a lot of therapy, because what she remembered, turned her life upside down.

    My aunt, my mother's sister (2 years younger than my mother) denies ever being sexually abused by their brother. She's been riddled with psoriasis for over 30 years. Their aunt had died of Alzheimer's, in the mid 1970's (with rumors of other relatives loosing their memory in old age).

    If this is a family case study here, I believe I won't die of Alzheimer's because I'm dealing with the pain and the panic attacks of knowing what was done to me (I believe I remember 1/4 of what happened to me... just a gut feeling though). I'm also a type 1 diabetic (I got it when I turned 10), and when my blood sugar drops, 95% of the time, I get a terrible panic attack... the gating system doesn't have the glucose to function properly, I would imagine. (I get 1 to 3 panic/anxiety attacks a day, on average)

  15. Part 2 of 2
    My mother lives her life, like she and I were never abused. She's blind to the questionable people out there. She's still blind to any child's scared expression. Because of this, I believe, if she lives long enough, she too will die of Alzheimer's (she's 69). Her sister (67) is in total denial (I imagine she'll die even sooner than my mother)... I say denial, because of her reaction to her sister, and myself, when she learned we had been abused by her brother. She was born, and lived in the house with a child molester, and she swears that he never touched her (with psoriasis and all). Also, her son (he's 43, I'm 45) has problems with his rectum. My first memory of my abuse was in his (my uncle's) bathroom, he had me over the cold sink (I could hardly breath), and he was behind me. On the 4th or 5th bump from behind, he rammed my head into the left medal nob next to the faucet. I was frightened and quiet, then I let out an enormous scream when I hit my head. My parents, who were in the living room, talking to my aunt, rushed to find out what was going on. There was some lie told, and we left quickly. It was never safe to tell them what happened. And unfortunately, they took me back there (skinny/quiet Larry).

    Poland's chief export in 1874... shit! I have to stop here.

    To sum this all up (somehow)... Obviously, because of my history, I believe unremembered incest is the most powerful, and dangerous experience a person can have. Not to invalidate so many of the other horrific things that happen to people, but with incest, when your life depends on a child molester for it's safety, or the parents who continually tell their child that god looks out for those who are good (I was a good child), and then takes the child to be raped by an uncle... it just messes with the person's sanity.

    I had night terrors until I briefly came to in my father's arms (for 2 or 3 seconds, I can remember being in his arms... he never hugged me) when I was in my early 20's. There were no pictures to go along with the night terror, until I turned 10 or so. Then, little by little, the image became clearer (it was the same scene).

    The scene: I'm on top of a high plateau. Just like in the Road Runner cartoons. Except there was grass up there. I'm standing in front of an enormous bolder (it has to be 30 feet high). There are 2 murky figures (they turn out to be my parents) about 50 yards away. They're just looking at me. Without saying a word, I know what they want me to do. They want me to push this boulder across a canyon, on a tightrope, that vanishes into the murky distance. The realization of what they want me to do, becomes a maddening feeling of terror. I can't imagine being any more afraid than what I felt at those times.

    That was a metaphor for them taking me to get abused. They supposedly had no idea what was going on.

    It's so odd to think that those were the feeling I couldn't feel when I was being hurt.

    Somehow, someday, I'll connect that terror, with the real abuse.

    ... I need to get back to California...

    I believe I just wrote a year's supply of comments in this one sitting. This is probably way too long to post... I'll cut and save this, and maybe I'll show up with it, before I start my second round of PT.


    Larry Jankowski

    PS. We've all been through our own hell. My hell is no more important than anyone else's. I wish we all had better childhoods... I hope this long post makes sense.


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.