Monday, March 14, 2011

Learning to Forgive

There is a study from the Mayo clinic that seems to conclude that forgiveness is good for you. They say that holding a grudge can adversely affect your heart and your nervous system. This ought to give great comfort to the religious among us because the bible states the same thing.
And, not so oddly, many psychotherapeutic systems believe in forgiveness, as well. The research shows that if you hold a grudge it raises yourblood pressure and heart rate. When subjects imagined forgiving the person they felt more relaxed. But of course the first step for them is to acknowledge the pain. Step number 2, is to find a new way to think about it. Finally, begin to experience emotional relief. It all sounds pretty straightforward. Except! This is no different from cognitive therapy, which also asks patients to think in new ways about the hurt. What it is actually doing is rerouting the hurt from the right frontal area to the left prefrontal; and guess what? The left, when busy concocting ideas and rationales, actually suppresses the structures in the limbic/feeling area so that the person feels more comfortable. But it never really touches the pain. And, as many animal experiments show, when you tranquilize with a pill or shot the animal seems relaxed. But when you measure the deep physiology there is a raging inferno going on. There is no magic to all this. If we don’t address history there can never be a real cure.


  1. Well, taking another look at things is not a bad idea. Giving thought to anything is bound to have a beneficial effect. Acting without thinking is far more dangerous. It does seem to follow that sometimes it is better to let something go than to hold on to it and let it eat us up inside. but I also think typical Christian rhetoric is a bit lacking in solid thought.

    Forgiveness, to me, makes most sense when the person needing forgiveness is truly sorry. If not, then you don’t have to hold on to it, but you might want to move on away from that person, too. As well, I note some churches who are good at forgiving real SOBs like rapists but then hold a teen in serious repute for something much less. There is lots that could be said but It always pays to be able to reflect and give thought. I believe this is how I came to accept Primal Theory (PT) also Primal Therapy (PT).

    I appreciate a nod to religions. Even philosophy at times. Good ideas can be found in many different places. They are all things that can be misused or abused and usually are but they are sort of neutral by themselves. I like to search for what I might have in common with others rather than alienate, if possible, finding Common ground. I have been reading more of chapter 8 in “Primal Healing.” It is far more interesting than some of the earlier chapters. I have to take time to digest it.

    But it pointed out a lot of good stuff. I am liking it. It showed a lot of interesting things about my father, confirming many long held ideas. You sort of get into things about self-delusion, ego defense, self-deception, megalomania and related stuff. Really, mainstream psychology has been terrible at addressing many of those issues. It might implicate too many politicians and businessmen.

    My parting thought is that while using one’s head will not address the underlying pain, it can help us to avoid doing really stupid things. It would be great if PT was more available but there is still something to accomplish in giving anything some forethought.

  2. Art,

    I think the difference can be described as the difference between relaxation and sedation. True relaxation doesn't come with the knocked-out look in the eyes.

    For us neurotics, true relaxation is an event sorrowfully too rare.

  3. Hi,

    Conversely being ready to accept the anger and frustration of those whom we have hurt and betrayed, then to sincerely apologise for the harm caused if they are ready to confront us with it, is tremendously freeing.
    This can lead to the original source of our transgressions and even the transgressions of others on us.

    It is a hard road to travel. So many dilemmas, some seemingly irreconcilable, often lined with vultures who may once have professed friendship, be careful who you seek reconciliation with, I would say, ones' own children are the first to start with.

    In the end we are on our own (in a cold and dispassionate universe).
    Paul G.


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.