Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Hypnosis (7/20)

Inducing Unconsciousness

It is indeed remarkable that a few words traveling through the air, penetrating the ear as sounds, even monotonous gibberish, can cause a person to effectively lose consciousness and fall into a trance. These sounds apparently pick up a meaning in the brain which radically reduces the highest (cortical) functions of the nervous system. Once these sounds acquire meaning, they begin to exert a biochemical and neuroelectric force to shut down transmission among many nerve cells. Consciousness is severely restricted and the person pays attention to a very narrow range of stimuli. This is no different from what happens to a young child who is being admonished by a parent and told to behave differently. Those words can cause the child to alter her feelings about herself and to change how she behaves, all unconsciously.

In other words, ideas can shut off, distort, and alter aspects of consciousness. This happens, however, only if the person giving the ideas has authority in the eyes of the person accepting them and is the dealer of love and the remover of possible Pain. It is what occurs when a charismatic individual convinces someone to believe in outlandish ideas. Thus, there may be little difference between a cult leader talking to a disciple, a parent talking to a four-year-old child, and a hypnotist talking to her subject. In each of these situations it is possible to render the person unconscious in a selective way. One sure way is to manipulate need—unfulfilled need—for love, safety, protection, direction and guidance, warmth and against whatever the future may hold. Someone who has imprinted terror needs to find someone who will stave off the “demons” whoever they may be. Someone who will pave the way and make our journey in life safe.

The Neurology of Unconsciousness

Key structures in the limbic-emotional system, or the second-line consciousness, mediate in what occurs in both hypnosis and in the neurotic trance. The amygdala and the hippocampus are involved in making feelings conscious and in making feelings repressed and unconscious – dissociating feelings from acknowledgment. The hippocampus can retrieve emotions and with the help of the thalamus, can keep them out of consciousness. It is what accomplishes entrance into the hypnotic state; Peter Brown notes that the limbic hippocampus is heavily responsible for the disconnection from conscious awareness. The amygdala can activate emotions and can keep current input from triggering off those emotions. The thalamus and basal ganglia, Brown writes, help by refusing to relay certain information from below to higher levels. In that way, too, we remain dissociated.

There is yet another system that keeps us alert and consciously vigilant, and that is the reticular activating system of the brain stem. If that system is blocked we are less alert and critical. Some sleeping pills work directly here. In the lulled, parasympathetic state of a beginning trance, it is that alerting system that goes off service.

But it is primarily the limbic system, where the emotional level of consciousness is organized, that "decides" whether to make a feeling fully conscious. It is here that dissociation can take place. It is here that the rhythms of the brain can be slowed down into the theta (slow) rhythms indicating the predominance of a lower or second line level of consciousness at work. Here is where the input from the hypnotist enters and is accepted unquestioningly. As the brain rhythms slow even more into the delta range, down to 2 or 3 cycles per second, the person can enter a deep trance where even suggestion no longer enters. She is "out," no longer in this world; she is rigid and unyielding. She is operating on the first-line only, where survival functions dominate. The left hemisphere of the brain, with its severely diminished activity, is now practically useless. There is no critical capacity whatsoever. Attention is narrowed only to the voice of the hypnotist and what he is suggesting, and even that is at a minimal level.

All of this is no different from discussing the various levels of consciousness operating in neurosis, and how imprints of trauma can occur on the two lower levels of consciousness which for a lifetime thereafter drive our behavior and symptoms. No hypnotist in the world can overcome or erase a first-line or second-line imprint because early trauma is impressed into the neurophysiologic system as a permanent memory. Those imprints which alter our brains and our physiology must be addressed in any psychotherapy. Therefore, there is no hypnotist who can "cure" any neurosis. A hypnotist can, perhaps, attenuate symptoms, by combatting the imprint with suggestion after suggestion day after day. That can have some effect, but it is not permanent. Manipulating the first or second-line is not the same as imprinting an event. Hypnosis can have short-term effects which endure because of other factors such as reward, external motivation, punishment, etc. Nonetheless, one cannot imprint suggestion. It takes a very high valence or force of an event, something that threatens our life or our integrity to be imprinted. Imprints occur during the critical period when need must be fulfilled. When we are not loved or held in the first months of our life on earth that will be imprinted, together with the changes in certain hormones of love such as oxytocin and vasopressin. There will alerations in the hormones of stress and they will reman as permanent souvenirs until we go back and redo and undo the imprint that caused so many deviations in various of our systems.

All of this is not meant as any exhaustive discussion of the neurology of hypnosis, which is well beyond my purview. It is only to show that the same mechanisms involved in neurosis are the mechanisms involved in hypnosis. Hypnosis, in short, is a condensed and circumscribed, temporary neurosis. It involves dissociation as a sine qua non. It involves disconnection and blind obedience. It involves uncritical behavior as if one were on automatic. And in neurosis one is on automatic, automatically running off the program laid down by one's caretakers in childhood. If we were never close during the formative months of infancy it will be imprinted so that later we will be unable to form permanent emotional attachments to others.


  1. Arthur J >> One sure way is to manipulate need—unfulfilled need—for love, safety, protection, direction and guidance, warmth and against whatever the future may hold.

    Me >> What we want, or more accurately need, will govern what the origin of our needs dictates, would it not? The origin is the 1st and 2nd line, no? So unfulfilled needs often cause distortion in perception and understanding. Nothing can screw up the function of the intellect better than unfulfilled needs. I go one further with that suggestion of fear of what the future may hold. It would seem possible if not likely, that a fear of the future could turn into avoiding the future or what the future is likely and logically apt to deliver. So what is not mentioned here is courage, but it is implied.

    Is it the 1st/2ns line that either makes us hide from ugly possibilities or causes the intellect to rationalize them away? I would think so. While the intellect does seem to have abilities to inhibit to avoid embarrassment or the like, it still remains the servant of our needs unmet. So it is always somewhat in handcuffs and leg irons.

    So can the intellect over power the forces below or it is that the forces below come to believe, somehow, that it might be to their advantage to fact very unpleasant truths if it will yield something much better after. If former behaviors are evaluated objectively, the forces below may decide that they will let the intellect hold up feelings till they have a chance to be evaluated objectively by the intellect.

    It just seems to me like it always comes back to the 1st/2nd line being in ultimate control since they were in control before the intellect even came along. But as we have seen the 3 levels broken down into functions, it would seem to me the intellect is a very important and valuable partner for the other 2 to have, rather than some evolutionary mistake or mishap that we would be better off without.

    We faced the truths about PT, did we not? So we realized that facing the “demons” of our imprints would actually make things better in the long run, though it would be painful in the immediate sense. So many have pursued PT over the years as a result. So we know it is possible to exercise courage, the act of facing fear to gain something beyond that fear braved.

    Is that courage the result of the intellect overpowering and taking over, or is it the function of the 1st 2 lines in letting the intellect do its job, unhindered by unmet needs? I’d like to hear discussions on the matter.

  2. What fascinates me most about this series on hypnosis is the very suggestion (and the 1st time I have heard of it) that the waking state and hypnotic state are no different. It opens up so many possibilities. For just as our parents can have a programming effect on our neurosis, it is also possible that other forces tap into those primal fears and unmet needs and also inhibit them. Governments speaking through teachers. Newspapers and TV speaking as an artificial reality which we perceive as real, due to a lack of critical thinking. Maybe its our peers in school and in play. Maybe it’s the people at church or the pastor. Maybe its our boss or fellow employees.

    All their subtle or not so subtle messages to stop rocking the boat, questioning, or whatever, might inhibit us or redirect us, perhaps with our hardly being aware of it and simply getting led around, running on autopilot rather than guided internally and independently by our own intellect and choices.

    But these considerations on hypnosis give us much to ponder about how much our world around us shapes us without our even being aware of it, since the world serves as a sort of hypnotist who causes our intellects to recede or disappear while the primitive forces move us along obediently and without question.

    The only other thing I ponder, is just how much our intellect can expand its horizons, in spite of primal pain. For instance, most people are good at seeing the problems of others and seeing their bad choices. But we do not see ourselves. So the intellect does seem to work as long as it does not concern ourselves. When it odes concern ourselves, then something seems to block and interfere. It would be those 2 little SOBs deep inside us, would it? I refer to the 1st/2nd lines, of course.

    But just as muscles are strengthened and made stronger with use and exercise, particularly use beyond what is usual and customary, so too, the cortex and intellect can also become stronger by its exercise so that emotions can be put on hold temporarily so that we can think about things before reacting, since reacting before evaluation may not be the most advantageous or correct reaction.

  3. Apollo: Look. You only have to wait two more weeks to get my new book online and then most of your questions will be answered. art

  4. 1. Quote: "It is what occurs when a charismatic individual convinces someone to believe in outlandish ideas."...And you say later it relates to need.

    I think this is very true - as you've said so often, it boils down to need. I myself have observed at work how I superficially play along (even with myself!) with what others believe and think about things (especially my bosses) ultimately because I don't want to risk losing my job. I allow myself to "go dumb" on certain levels, and ultimately this is a function of NEED. And this is part of the reason why I know I need time to be by myself (safe) to think FREELY and know what I "really think"*.

    Ramp-up the dynamics to the extreme and I would say you have people who can't tell the difference between their authority's / parents mind and their own, nor in any circumstance. We go dumb to our own minds because, again, we ultimately need to. Primal needs are law above all else - we are survival machines first, reality machines second.

    *And hey, what's the use of freedom of speech when you don't even have freedom of mind?


    2. We are so crazy in our dreams because while we dream we believe the dream is real - obviously, and you've said Art, an expression of the critical brain being put off-line.
    So put a person mostly to sleep and therefore shut down their critical mind, introduce a parent-symbol to tell them what to dream up, and voila! You have have the hypnotised person, acting-out their externally directed dream. (And curiously, Hitlers' propoganda apparently worked best late at night when people were tired, which is why he performed late-night speeches.)

    Also to say, I think when people "lose themselves to the crowd" we may be looking at the same hypnotic dynamics - substitute 'crowd' with 'authority fugure' and you've got the same thing(?).

  5. i gave Primal Healing to my cousin months ago. she hasn't read a single page. she's been taking more than the max dose of SSRI's allowed for a human being. she lied to ANOTHER shrink (psychiatrist) to get some other type of meds in addition to the SSRI's. those new drugs really knock her out every night. she gets drunk EVERY NIGHT on top of the SSRI's and the new drugs. i did some research on the effects of SSRI's mixed with alcohol and showed her how things could improve if she gave the SSRI's a chance to work properly. she says she is happy to die early. she also says she already understands primal theory and doesn't need to read the book. she has it somewhere in her bedroom.

    she still manages to hold down her job in a bank!!! she has worked there for most of her life and now she is earning a good income.

    she says she knows she has repressed feelings that need to come out. she says she believes in primal therapy. she has the money to do it. she said she was waiting for me to do it first. i told her i was going as fast as i can. i asked her for a small loan. she said no. now she says she probably won't ever do primal therapy because she is happy to die early. her drug addicted boyfriend keeps telling her that death is the right choice. he has convinced her that she is already living past her natural age. she is 38 (my age). he occasionally gives her hard drugs. she says she doesn't like to do hard drugs too often because they are bad for her brain and they mess her up the next day. she is not suicidal.

    Art, i talk to her all the time. she says she loves me and my brother. she knows how to get better but she won't. do you or anyone else have any advice? how can i help her? she is deteriorating fast. she is looking ill and i notice her head and hands are trembling every time she comes over for a coffee. she used to get very anxious in certain situations, but not any more...not with all the drugs. she says she feels love but i can see she doesn't care about anything any more. the drugs have definitely repressed her feelings and i can see her feelings boiling just below the surface (trembling and stuff). she IS dying. i'll be very sad if she dies.

    if you don't publish or reply to this letter, i will understand. i know you are not in a position to give advice. i'm just looking for ideas.

  6. I recently became friends with a lady who told me on our first date about a “wonderful” new product that is now available in SA, that is 100% “all-natural” , and is touted as being able to cure everything from in-grown toenails to cancer. She is so very convinced of the magic of this product that she cannot stop talking about it.
    It only costs a small fortune, in US dollars, about $250.00 per small tub. Members of this “friendly” and “warm” group have all been told not to peruse the internet about this product, because “there are all sorts of negative things” on the internet. They were told that Doctors are ignorant and do not know anything, (the us-and-them divide and control technique).

    I surfed the internet for information about this product, and not surprising, found that the entire operation is bogus. A big lie. Of course, the folks running the show have used all the powerful cues and command-words,
    exactly like a skilled entertainer hypnotist would do: “At the count of three, you will stand up and......”

    I marvelled at how shrewdly and cleverly the victims of this scam had been, and are being hypnotised. Art, you spoke a lot about hope, and how powerful it is. In group you used to say: “Remember, there is no magic. Just you and your pain” These victims are all hoping for some magic cure. They now also “belong” to a nice and caring group, provided they pay by buying the product.

    Cue words and actions are what parents and any controlling person or persons use to keep others hypnotised.
    It can be a look, a frown, a grunt, a hand that is lifted as if to strike, a reprimand, almost anything. the hypnotised child/wife/employee immediately reacts to the cue, and suppresses any further attempts to express anything, whether it is a thought, an opinion or some action of sorts. Pastors, ministers and evangelists of religions do the same. Cue words are “saved...loved...died for you... burn in hell...etc, There are many. My mother used to start a sentence with a hysterical “OOEEE” scream. It carried a severe threat of more punishment, and so I froze. I froze my thinking, my perceptions of life, my feelings, my actions, everything.

    Thank heavens I was able to un-hypnotise myself with Prmal Therapy.

  7. Richard: Alas, it is a sad story told over and again. She needs to be in a half way house where she can be watched over and treated. My guess she will never do that voluntarily. she has given up on life. She cannot see a better one anywhere. You have done what you can do. art janov

  8. I am aware that Freud and the psychological profession use the word "UNCONSCIOUS" to talk of the other other part of consciousness. I would prefer that we use 'SUBCONSCIOUS", first because "SUBCONSCIOUS' conotates below the level of consciousness, which I feel more accurately explains 'that, that is not conscious, but is within us. "Unconscious" suggests also that other use of unconscious 'being totally knocked out.'

    Don't know if it's possible to use this word; "SUBCONSCIOUS" and perhaps make a clearer distinction


  9. Art,

    My assumption is that people are only accepted into your clinic if they take the therapy seriously and want it for real reasons (not 'victim game' reasons, or anything like).

    I would image that's the main thing your people want to see? Accurate assumption?

  10. Andrew,

    your observations and reasoning were right on. Hypnotists hate the intellect. Get rid of it and you can do as you please.


    My brother died in Apr 2006 at age 46. Drunk as a skunk most of the time. He just could not get out of it. No one could reach him. He lost all his friends and family. Some people can not be helped. We all knew he was going to die. He would not let it be otherwise. Life is full of such tragedies. that is why you and I value PT and know it is the solution. But prevention is not likely unless first there is a cure. You might reach others with PT, so carry on yourself.

  11. Andrew: There is never anyone that enters for frivolous reasons. Art.

  12. Art:

    Hey I just had an idea to maybe help promote Primal.

    A new form of more natural and easy-to-recieve interview:

    "A Primal Conversation"....

    Get You plus France Janov plus an engaged interviewer to sit in a triangle circle on separate big couchy chairs. Put a coffee table in the middle with some food and drinks on it, and also have 3 personalised and small digital camera's for each of the three individual's faces - simultaneously recording.

    Let the interview flow as an essentially undirected conversation (but not totally undirected), so it's unusually relaxed and natural.

    Once you have had and recorded the conversation, string the digital recordings together so that you get 3 separate faces on the screen that can be seen at all times for the viewer. It would be like the viewer can sit in on the conversation - no one is controlling who they can look at and when.

    This is probably the most natural way for people to recivieve information - an "open conversation", not [so much] an "open interview". Conventional interviews are intrinsically interagative in style, and they are hard work to recieve by comparison, I believe.

    3 is the perfect number because no-one is under pressure to perform in the interview, as people can cut in and out as they feel. 4 is too many because the conversation can become a competitive mess.

    The internet is of course the perfect medium to support the distribution this style of interview.

    Just an idea!


  13. i before e except after c. art Wait til after my stem cell therapy and then we can do it.

  14. too early to tell if the stem cells are working?

  15. Hi,

    "In other words, ideas can shut off, distort, and alter aspects of consciousness. This happens, however, only if the person giving the ideas has authority in the eyes of the person accepting them and is the dealer of love and the remover of possible Pain. It is what occurs when a charismatic individual convinces someone to believe in outlandish ideas. Thus, there may be little difference between a cult leader talking to a disciple, a parent talking to a four-year-old child, and a hypnotist talking to her subject"-.

    Or a psychosynthesis therapist, or a budhist feminist therapist talking to a co-dependent female client. Or a misoginist CBT / NLP therapist, facilitator etc. The ideas don't have to be outlandish either, they could be "common sense, with a twist", added by the therapists' careful non -reference, ie: what they don't say as well as what they do say.

    Omission or commission.

    We have heard of "transference and counter-transference" and of -course the idea alone suggests that the "problem" (of transference from the client to the therapist) can be "neutralised" (?) Almost as if it must be the clients' problem alone. This is such an authoritarian assumption.

    I feel it's common for repressed trauma in a patient to be synthesised into a modified projection by the therapist (often onto a third party outside of the therapeutic alliance). This will involve a small amount of 're-living uncomfortable emotions' combined with a large amount of (client lead) free- association.
    Another way of putting this is to simply say that a lot of therapists take money by letting their clients believe in their own newly self modified defences/projections.

    Reminds me of that Bob Marley song "it's just another version".

    It's tempting to give a few personal examples in detail but the mere thought alone makes me feel sick.

    I will say that there are many, many people getting psychotherapy who also are in the midst of that family tragedy called "Separation & Divorce".

    I would seriously advise people in this situation to stop getting psychotherapy because the therapists may be making the situation worse. Even more so if the therapy is actually de-integrating defences and allowing true feelings to surface.

    This can (and does) really facilitate one spouse the target of the other spouses' projections.

    To suffer unnecessarily with the projections from other people involved in the family tragedy.

    I can only skirt over what is happening to the children whilst one parent is (un-consciously) using their "therapeutic alliance" to anhialate the validity of the other parent.

    There is at least one redemption for this: being able to receive real knowledge from Art Janov about the true facts of our neurobiology. Also to read the testimonials of other people struggling with their problems in the light of this true knowledge.

    That is a potent vaccination against denial and limits the worst excesses on the children.

    It may be true that "talking about Primal Therapy is not the same as getting Primal" but knowing this truth about psychotherapy is very very useful in daily life if, like me, you're in a tight situation.

    Paul G.

  16. Richard: I don't go in until October. art janov


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.