Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 8/20)

The Psychological Climate of Hypnosis

What psychological elements are involved in hypnosis? First of all, one could say that we have already been partially hypnotized through our preconceptions and expectations before we visit the hypnotist. We anticipate going through a process which the reputation of hypnosis has already preordained. When the hypnotist obliges us, these elements are immediately reinforced. Even more important than these anticipations is the desire to be hypnotized. What motivates this desire to surrender one's critical mind? To understand this motivation, I believe, is to understand how hypnosis works.

A person's desires are not only motivated by healthy drives but also by neurotic processes that result from unmet childhood needs. Barber says that a subject goes into a trance because of his desire to please the hypnotist, to make the hypnotist look good, to be thought special and be complimented, and so on. Barber might as well have described the everyday motivations of the common neurotic. The profound implication of Barber’s viewpoint is that hypnotic success is dependent upon pre-existing neurotic motivations. This is further support for the proposition that hypnosis and neurosis involve the same mechanisms.

To many people, hypnosis appears inexplicable or magical. In reality, what is called dissociation in hypnosis is really the everyday state of the neurotic. All the classic hypnotic phenomena – amnesia, time distortion, age regression, hallucinations, anesthesia, and catalepsy – depend on dissociations in consciousness. What trances of different depths have in common is a certain amount of dissociation, or disconnection within the self, such as when we repress traumatic emotional pain for years, or temporarily stop feeling a sore throat or headache.

I maintain that hypnosis is not an altered state in relation to the common neurotic condition, but it is altered in relation to what is healthy. The isolated consciousness of hypnosis is only a circumscribed demonstration of how neurosis works. The difference is that neurosis is set down during the critical period when the brain is forming and hormones are achieving their set points. It is then a permanent state. Hypnosis is a temporary one by redirecting one’s behavior through the manipulation of conscious/awareness. It is an unconscious input that attempts to stem the primal tide; to block the effects of the imprint. It does not change the imprint, ever. One can stop smoking with hypnosis but the need to do so never changes. The price we pay for lying to ourselves is a premature breakdown of the system sooner or later. Psychotherapy addresses the left frontal brain while the hypnotist bypasses it and seems to input the right frontal brain, the emotional, inwardly focused brain.

Neurosis as a Hypnotic or Post-Hypnotic State

I have maintained that hypnosis can be understood by looking at neurosis. In fact, neurosis is the sine qua non for hypnosis. Now let's see if we can just as easily understand neurosis by looking at hypnosis. Is there any fundamental difference between the two? Hypnosis is an intentional procedure, voluntarily submitted to for a distinct purpose. Neurosis is a global state, involuntary developed as an adaptive response to emotional trauma very early in life. It can be argued that neurosis is a post-hypnotic state, maintained by constant reinforcement of repression and dissociation. Hypnotic procedures can easily tap into that state to produce definite and recognizable post-hypnotic episodes.

What do I mean when I say that neurosis is a hypnotic or post-hypnotic state? It is apparent that in order to feel, the human brain requires the full use of its consciousness. Yet, as we have seen, the brain possesses the capacity to shut down part of itself to defend against the full conscious experience of Pain. The left brain can be disconnect ed from the right so that one side doesn’t know what the other is doing or feeling. This ability is brought into play when the naïve and vulnerable system of the developing child is faced with more Pain that it can handle – when for example the child is rejected, abused, or abandoned. The child's mind represses the Pain by functionally detaching much of conscious awareness from the lower brain functions (such as emotion and sensation) where the Pain is stored. We call this state a split, dissociation, or disconnection. The behaviors which arise to maintain it we call neurosis.

The dissociated person is left with a host of unresolved primal needs which, from their obscured position of repression, exert a continuous but unconscious force. This force directs a person into symbolic attempts to fulfill primal need. The person becomes an intellectual because that is what the parents' expected: a smart student who got good grades and whose main interest was books. Being an intellectual can be a symbolic route to feeling loved and to having one's other needs met. Yet this neurotic diversion plagues him with all manner of symptoms such as migraines and compels him to act in ways which maintain the disconnection, living in his head totally detached from his feelings. Only thoughts guide him. He therefore makes the wrong choices of partners in life because he is out of touch with himself and his real needs. An adult grows up around the unfulfilled child whose urgent needs remain the dominant preoccupation. He continuously seeks fulfillment while attempting to avoid experiencing the reality of deprivation.


  1. To me, not enough can be said about how neurosis and hypnosis are nearly the same. We are easily hypnotized by things around us. We are vulnerable. Knowing we are vulnerable can make us more alert to watch for it and overcome it to some degree.

    AJ pointed out >> The person becomes an intellectual because that is what the parents' expected: a smart student who got good grades and whose main interest was books. Being an intellectual can be a symbolic route to feeling loved and to having one's other needs met. Yet this neurotic diversion plagues him with all manner of symptoms such as migraines and compels him to act in ways which maintain the disconnection, living in his head totally detached from his feelings. Only thoughts guide him.

    Me >> This is all very true. But it can also mislead, since some could and likely do conclude that all intellectualism is from this and this alone. But being intellectual can be the result of different motivations or causes. Intellectualism can often be a means of survival and protection. It does not always have to be something that enables escape, delusion, or avoidance of pain. In fact, it can confront pain and bring on more pain.

    If I had a bone to pick or fault to find in Arthur’s writing, it would be the single consideration of just one aspect and not the full consideration of the whole spectrum of possibilities. This leads to some deploring the intellect in any and all spectrums.

    It is not Arthur’s fault if someone misconstrues what he writes. But since people can do this so easily, I think it important to wrote in a way, if it can be anticipated, that as much as possible, avoids being overly simplistic and possibly leading someone to a wrong conclusion.

    It is common, by my perception, that the intellect is sort of despised among many who follow PT. The intellect is only seen in its ability to help hinder feeling and provide neurotic pain relief. These are, indeed, possibilities the intellect is capable of. But these are not the only possibilities the intellect is capable of. Could it be that the whole spectrum of the intellect has been ignored because of its complications in therapy?

    I really do think that has happened. The intellect can overcome neurosis often to produce good sound results. It is often more likely it gets nowhere. But that it gets nowhere more often than not does not negate the successes, though they are far less in number.

    The problem with being an authority in or on a subject, or a celebrity, or a status symbol is that people can easily distort what is put forth by authorities and celebrities. Therefore, an authority has to be much more careful about what he puts forth. He must look carefully at how others react to his writings so that he does not produce a lop sided effect in his communication.

    Many authorities do not ask to be authorities. They are conferred that status, anyway, even though they may not wish to be conferred that way. But whether welcomed or not, like gravity, we can not repeal it and do not dare ignore it. If people treat us as an authority and celebrity, we have to accept it in stride and act more carefully, for the benefit of our message so that we do not stain or impede the progress of our message. So perhaps it is best for each of us to ask, “How am I or my message being perceived?”

  2. I understand hypnosis as a phenomenon that shows how language is a most typically ambiadvantageously naturally selected for (or AEVASIVE) mutations/adaptation - i.e. an AEVASIVE functionality that has enabled especially the 'human lineage' to keep on lenghtening by allowing its individuals to survive by controlling their own acute and conditioned-in pain as the result of adversely challenging environmental factors while at the same time also enabling individuals to mainly but not only cooperatively exploit environmental procreation promoting opportunities.


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.