Sunday, August 21, 2011

Another Hot New Gadget

We love new gadgets, especially when it has the word ‘”new” attached to it. Even if it is the same-old, same-old ad nauseum approach throughout history. These new-fangled therapies become viral very quickly and a whole new group of specialized therapist spring into action. This new one is called mindfulness or mindfulness meditation. So what is new about it? Nothing.

What does it claim to do? And how come it gets such huge space in scientific journals?

So here is a quote from a scientific journal (New Scientist): “Training allows us to transform the mind, to overcome destructive emotions and to dispel suffering.” (New Scientist, “Everybody say OM”. 8, Jan. 2011). Where have we heard that before? EST perhaps, Cognitive Behavioral, trans blah blah, EMDR and so on.

And so what is the basis for all this? Enthusiasm and perseverance, (their words). But they quickly add, “What does science say about all this?” Using MRI”s they measured the brain of experienced meditators. And they believe that the time you spend investigating the nature of your mind is well spent.

The researchers spent three months following the 60 acolytes at a retreat in Colorado. What the subjects did was concentrate on their breathing, tactile sensations and to the sensation of breathing itself. As time went on they became more skilled on judging a line that was shorter than the others; a measure of attention span and reaction time. The clicked a mouse when they noticed a shorter line. That’s it folks! You wanted something more substantial? Not here. You see, science is really about the criteria you use to measure you notion of progress. And so here you have a so-called “objective” measure. Here again we are faced with statistical truths. There are variations on this theme. Another study had subjects pick out different tones to see how well they perceive and have sustained concentration.

And how does focusing on your breath every day help focusing? They say it adds to working memory. Anyway let me repeat ad infinitum: we are historical beings. What happens to us, our dreams, symptoms, behavior and concentration is a result of OUR HISTORY. All of this doesn’t suddenly spring up to show itself in how badly we concentrate; nor does a real change suddenly spring up and show itself to the world. How can we ignore hjstory and make progress? When that history has to do with whether there is progress or not. We have found that early trauma can stimulate the system, overexcite it so that there is a continuous massive input from inside; from the early imprint, that overwhelms the ability to focus and concentrate. And when we take the force/pain out of the system there is enhanced concentration. How can we neglect these historical forces and help anyone? We can if we are satisfied with temporary help but no here-and-now therapy which treats in a non-historical way can produce permanent serious changes. If we believe they can then we cannot believe in the memory imprint that guides our behavior and helps produce symptoms, whether of migraine or high blood pressure. Or we believe that we can circumvent history and find a way around it. I have never found a way. Ahistoric therapies have found ways to make you feel better or ways to convince yourself that you feel good but that at best is a chimera. Tricks of the mind. Not only can we be deceived by others but more importantly we can be deceived by ourselves; and that is the greatest deception because we believe the self that is alienated from the real being, the feeling self. That self believes in lies because it has no feeling base to help it judge things. Mindfulness is another mindf----; an apotheosis of mental gyrations that is akin to evangelicals who do not believe in remote history. And if I say that ADD is partially caused by memories occasioned during birth and gestation, that remote, I will not be believed. Mindfulness is, in short, psychoevangelicalism. “We live in the near present and that is that.”

So here is where we get down to the nitty-gritty. “Meditation does not remove the sensation of pain so much as teach sufferers to control their emotional reaction to it, there reducing the stress response. In bried—denial. And it is the job of the prefrontal cortex to suppress emotions. Here there is a recognition that it cannot do its job properly without help. So a whole industry has grown up with no knowledge of the brain and how it works; an Industry of denial, suppression and ignorance of the truth. Of course this can help cognitive performance as they claim but can it improve emotional access? That is the key question. We are feeling beings, not just thinking animals. Only academics can see it backwards, apotheosizing mental cognition to the neglect of emotions. ayayay


  1. Hi,

    Well there we have the nub of the whole process:

    -" Not only can we be deceived by others but more importantly we can be deceived by ourselves; and that is the greatest deception because we believe the self that is alienated from the real being, the feeling self. That self believes in lies because it has no feeling base to help it judge things. Mindfulness is another mindf----";-

    Oh how I loved to evangelise my latest belief system. Not only did I believe fervently in the new belief but everyone else should have done as well. Why was I like that?

    I think I was an evangelist because my Dad never gave me enough approval and I suspect those who MUST evangelise are subconsciously trying to substitute lack of approval from Dad (or Mum) with attempting to "prove" something to some-one else (the existence of a kind and benevolent Mentor or even the absence of one in a 'cold & dispassionate universe; either/or).

    Conversely when I'm trying to explain something to some-one else and they don't get it I start to feel like an evangelist! (Maybe they feel like a school kid)?

    It is possible to 'acquire' insights like this cognitively with a few tears thrown in about it all but when one really starts to re-live the feelings of abandonment and loss suppressed at those early times the desire to evangelise changes into the desire to get well.

    Current psychotherapeutic parlance would have us believe this is possible with insight therapy because of the way the transference is handled. . . ie: the therapist becomes the benign and helpful mentor. I feel this is a con because it only lasts as long as the therapeutic alliance, 50mins. Outside of this financial arrangement the client must (and I mean MUST) believe something is being achieved, after all they have paid for it. Even more so if the therapist is offering "free" therapy because that increases the mentor prestige in the minds of very dependent and poor people. Christ like benevolence is a powerful drug.

    Actually I am cautiously informing some people about Primal Theory but it is almost entirely pointless. Most people are trapped in a pain propelled delusion about their own feelings and worth and do not want to be reminded of "things they grew out of years ago". . .

    "Havn't you grown out of that yet Paul"? Combined with: "Well, you only have yourself to blame". . . And so on with glib rhetoric designed to dismiss and defer. Ah well.

    Take care and listen to your true feelings.

    Paul G.

  2. Dr. Janov,

    You said it loud and clear – but you will not make many friends in the psycho-neuro-academic world. :-)

    It is “psychoevangelicalism”, the most successful concept in how to make a good living while filling the brain, (of the one in pain) full of garbage and feelings of guilt.


  3. you yourself have said that not everyone can have primal therapy, so I don't know why you slam all other therapies.

    yeah, sure, these other therapies aren't gonna cure anyone, but they might enable some people to lead a more fulfilling life...can't you see that?

  4. Phantom: I don't slam other therapies. I write science about their shortcomings and what they can and cannot do. Nuance. Wouldn't you like to know how much cognitive therapy can help and what it cannot help with? Criticism within science is not slamming. It is elucidating. If you want to go to rehab for addiction wouldn't you want to know what it can really accomplish for your son? Or would like to pay thousands and then discover it cures nothing. Information is not slamming. Did someone tell you that criticism is bad? That if you cannot say something nice about someone don't say anything? Art Janov

  5. they should be put in the slammer. they are guilty of false advertising and gross negligence. lots of "kind-hearted" people are jailed because society requires certain standards to be maintained. the less harmful therapists should not be imprisoned but they should be forced to change their title to: Listening Buddy.

  6. Stella,

    I know exactly what you are saying.
    I have three horrible experiences. The first with Prozac, one with Wellutrin and the last with Effexor.

    I strongly believe the set-points (pre-birth) as well as the condition of the mother at birth, is the key indicator how we react to medication later.

    Also, the time my cortisol was 1.1, not even shots for headache/migraine could help me. Now with a cortisol level 8.0 a single 325 mg aspirin solves my headaches (too long in the sun).

    Today I would challenge the ring of experts by asking: how different is the reaction of a sympath compared to a para-sympath to the same dose of “brain” medication.

    I would bet, not many have any idea what I’m asking....


  7. ok, sorry, maybe it was the way I read it....I have found mindfulness helpful personally, and I read as far as "So what is new about it? Nothing." and I imagined it in an angry voice....
    Your other post(a while back) about forgiveness(in a Christian context) seemed angry too....maybe it is me that is angry..:P

    Anyway, I think mindfulness can be helpful, as any therapy, if it gives you some insight into your never know, maybe some will have the insight that primal therapy is the way to go....

  8. Hi Arthur & Phantom, (part 1).

    You have both here touched on my own speciality.

    To me with my social binoculars on (but all the time in one to one relations 'ongoing'). . . I have to act a role because the loyalty and will I devote to others in social situations has to be carefully guarded, (most people do this automatically without realising the complex set of defences needed). I can't just give myself away to any passer by or more to the point wave my criticisms under all passer bys' noses. Alternatively, in one to one relations my 'investment' is made in very different ways, I certainly can and do speak my mind with acute observations. That's a snapshot of my acquired version of these 'boundaries'.

    This conflict between what is socially acceptable and what is personally acceptable behind closed doors always makes boundaries that need fairly constant maintenance so that there is some clarity about who is in which camp. Even though we know our children need to be socialised we assume this role in an unexamined and therefore authoritarian way, IE: Pedagogically. We aught to consciously teach children about this (through active observation in real social situations). This rather obvious (but not easy to learn) "Etiquette" we just assume somehow that our children will naturally know the difference between a social and a one to one situation. But of course, really we parents are so wrapped up in the 'game' ourselves that we forget our children may see things we can't.

    Then we have prisons full of of teenagers.

    I digress.

  9. Hi, (part 2)

    Most of what I hear the psychotherapy industry say (and that includes most of the alternatives I have come across and tried)is that it is possible to palliate, heal or cure through many different ways including 'self help'. You just got to find the right one for you. . . This is obviously socially true. What more could you say (even as a specialist) when giving a message to a large group?

    As soon as the situation (transaction) goes 'one to one' the rules change radically. Once you are inside the therapy room (or in your lovers' arms) your entire repertoire is re-arranged to 'meet' this entirely different situation.

    Art is not slamming other therapies, it looks like it if you make the social assumption that he's caught up in a competition with competitors of one variety or another. It looks like he has 'something to sell'.

    I am slamming other therapies though because I have been deceived. It's quite simple and I can prove it; though I have utterly no interest in that other than when passing, so to speak.

    And in passing now I am compelled to slam the industry for colluding in a fudge between this very different modus operandi: the difference between the believable but generalised rules of society and the highly specialised and exacting relationship in one to one transaction.

    I make another analogy: You are short sighted and want some glasses, arriving at the opticians' clinic you are given some eye pads and a white stick and sent on your way. On the inside of your eye pads are written the words "I can see" stamped in small writing on the white stick is "adapted" latest version, 24/08/11.

    In my industry we have standards based on scientific research. Timber frame house parts tested till destruction. In the entire global construction industry you will find a very high degree of technical and scientific information widely shared and adhered to. Yes there are differences and nit picks (and boundary disputes)! Nevertheless the market place for construction is dominated by the social situation. Housing and structures are 99% for groups to share and therefore occupy the arena of consensus.

    I slam the psychotherapeutic industry because it makes a fudge and offers its' wares like a sweet shop of architectural vernaculars across the ages. The psychotherapeutic industry has made a fashion accessory out of mental and emotional "HELP".

    Consequently I for one am bloody angry because all I see around me coming out of 'therapy' (and I am in the thick it where I live) are so called individuals with modified personalities presenting the same but modified symptoms which they of course have a new (scientifically worded) and therefore glib (social) explanation for.

    I was even almost one of these 'adaptees' myself. Some of the more obnoxious adaptees who know me take pity on me because they know "I still have problems". . . (These are mostly the ones who have themselves 'moved on' to become practising therapists).

    I conclude by saying that a good well trained counsellor is worth a thousand therapists. Just get some-one to listen to you. If you need a massage but are frightened of the intimacy or exposing your feelings, find a masseur who can counsel you too; they do exist.

    Paul G.

  10. Sieglinde: Should those with migraine have their cortisol checked? I think so. AJ.

  11. Dr. Janov,

    You are right.

    I encourage everyone with childhood trauma to have there cortisol checked.

    Reason: many display not only psychological also similar physical symptoms (extreme weight gain, just to mention one). The problem is, if it is not an Endocrinologist most of the physicians don’t know how to read or interpret the results in relation to (for instance) migraine.

    In one case the physician put the patient with low cortisol on prednisone.


  12. For what it's worth, mindfulness meditation has been around for a very long time; it's at the core of Buddhist practice; therapists of today may have picked up on it, but it certainly isn't new.

  13. Psychoanalysis is also old. Does that make it right? AJ

  14. A facebook comment:
    "Neurosis in essence is a Lie. 100% agree that concentration is enhanced by removing pain, mindfulness can be viewed as some for of escapism that it is. Like Gestalt "be here now" fallacy, but how can you BE HERE NOW if your shadow i.e. disowned aspects, pain in the body etc. is constantly lurking and moving you OUT of the present? You can't. Unless you empty yourself of pain. There is however a "high-tech" approach to meditation that may change the whole game about "meditation" per se, it's called binaural beats -- ( <- my product) Now, I don't say this is cure all in itself, but is just a tool - can this bring our very early 1-st line pains? Probably only in those who have leaky gates to begin with. What I know this does, through time of usage of course, is to make unconscious/conscious, unlike "mindf--- meditations", this "high-tech" meditation actually FORCES you to own your demons, your hidden pain, your stuff in general. By listening to this is is HARD to stay in the present moment and be conscious as the stuff comes up, and you are forced to look at it, integrating the layer by layer at a time. That's why I believe this will change the game, mind resists the changes created by these deep brainwaves but not for long, sooner than later the pain comes up and so this high-tech wins, and then you win. You have less and less repression as you go, more and more healing, less and less stress and etc."


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.