Monday, August 22, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 18/20)

Where is Reality?

It is certain that the serotonin/endorphin system will not turn out to be the sole mechanism by which hypnotic dissociation occurs. There is a key central brain inhibitor known as glutamate. But we do know that hypnotic suggestion can catalyze inhibitory or repressive chemical production. The suggestion (or idea) given by the hypnotist is transformed into electrochemical activity that somehow blocks pain. More specifically, the suggestion takes on a meaning on the third or cognitive level of consciousness and is then transformed into electrochemical processes which inhibit perception of physical experience. Think of it! A bit of air in the form of certain sounds (words) breathed out to another produces biochemical changes in her which alter her perceptions and block pain.

The subject in Hilgard's ice water experiment was no longer responding to the reality of the ice water. Instead, she was responding to ideas about it, even when those ideas were in complete contradiction to events actually taking place. This transformation of meaning that occurs in hypnosis is not unlike the transformation of meaning that makes neurosis possible. In both, the perception or meaning of the event is altered on one level of consciousness while its intrinsic meaning is registered accurately on the other levels. This leads to the sixty-four dollar question: WHERE IS REALITY?

If I say to a hypnotic subject, "I'm going to put a hot piece of metal on the back of your hand," and then put a cold quarter on it, and the hand then blisters as if a hot metal were placed there (an effect that has been demonstrated in hypnosis), what is real? The metal, the response, the idea, the suggestion? Is there no objective reality? Objective reality dictates that the psychophysiology responds to a cold quarter. Yet the idea in the mind is that it is a hot one and the physiology follows that idea. Clearly, reality is in the perception; that is, intellectual reality. That reality dictates bodily reactions. This is the true meaning of “psychosomatic.” Here the mind innervates and alters bodily reactions; so if we wonder how it is that a child who obeys his parents absolutely has allergies or asthma we see it encapsulated in the hypnosis experiments. The parental dictates change the immune system of the child, for example.

If I perceive an elevator to be terrifying, even though it clearly isn't, and I'm dizzy, fainting, etc., in plain terror, it is my perception that is real for me. But that perception is based on a history. The newly-perceived reality has an historical basis. There are levels of reality that lay on different levels of consciousness. The hypnotist who pricks you states that you will not hurt, and there is no perception of hurt; yet the blood pressure and heart rate mount. The lower level knows reality on its level. That is why when you are in touch with the lower levels of consciousness you are not so easily fooled, lulled or hypnotized. The physiological processes inform the cortex of what is reality.

What Hitler did in Germany was an effective job of hypnosis. He suggested with emotional force, "You are superior to all other races! You need liebensraum!" (more space and freedom). For those who felt inferior and downtrodden, it was a perfect message. And Hitler got the German people to do almost anything, including killing millions of "inferior" individuals. Even those who realistically did not need any more living space responded to his message. What was inserted into their minds supplanted reality. And they acted exactly as if they had been hypnotized. They could kill without feeling anything because any appreciation of the meaning of their acts had been wiped away. Meanwhile, those who wanted and needed peace, an obvious choice, were known as "defeatists" and were punished. Hitler's control became absolute; the "mesmerized" (dissociated) populace went on fighting and dying for a dying cause that had nothing to do with their everyday lives. Not so different today in Iraq where any talk of a peaceful solution is considered by the administration as defeatest and sending the wrong message to our troops. Jingoism then becomes the only topic admissible.

How did Hitler do it? He tapped into the people's basic needs and into their split consciousness. He capitalized on their already existing dissociation and on the ideas that duty was all, and that how you felt was unimportant. He used their feeling of being a defeated nation to suggest that they were conquerors. He turned reality upside down. In short, he suppressed their Pain just as a hypnotist does, and he infused and inculcated another reality – his. Hitler was so skilled (and his subjects so prepared) that he could do it on a mass level.

This whole notion of the nature of reality is critical to an understanding of psychotherapy, for if we assume that reality is what the patient tells us it us (“I feel wonderful. Therapy has been a great success”)we will be led astray. We have neglected an important internal reality, something that can only be achieved by “talking” to the body; that is, measuring it to see what secrets it holds. It may tell a very different story. So then were is reality? Is it what the patients says it is. In short, the nature of reality splits the field of psychotherapy into those who think it is cognitive and those who think it is cognitive-somatic.

When there is dissociation, either in neurosis or hypnosis, the information takes a detour and the person is unconscious of certain facts or states. One of the structures to help in this detour is the thalamus.


  1. I have felt for years that I am living in a world of people who are "living the dream". They have an IDEA of what life is and is all about, an idea of what is good and bad and right and wrong, and an idea what you should and should not want to do etc, etc.

    And yet there is this feeling of pure bulls*t underneath it they never seriously ask themselves: "what do I want" on a direct level. They are living the dream. Believing in a reality that they have been taught to believe in; a reality never to be tested by their own direct perception of their own direct nature.

    And what does the 'socialisation hypnotist' tap into? I think before anything it's that all-powerful threat of feeling inadequate. Not "having a life" etc. This, I think, is what drives most of us to live up to other peoples expectations, and to the point where we can hardly tell the difference between the need to conform to "the [their] dream" and our own direct will.

    Maybe it's all the same dynamics? If we can be hypnotised to kill then we can certainly be hypnotised to do 'other' today, whether we formally identify the process or not. At least we will do so until we stop ruining young children.

  2. Eye witness testimony is an essential part of law and justice, yet eye witness testimony can be problematic as well. But to say a person does not feel well when they know better, is a bit silly and appears to lack credibility. They do feel better and act and function better. There is no doubt in some cases. They just need to know that another type of pain is still resident inside them. They may be be functional now, but there is lots of room for yet far more improvement.

    Instead of denying that they feel good, which is absurd and you do it all the time, suggest that this is only half the battle. And Half is good. But the other half is vital and then unload PT on them. Let them know there are still “forces” inside them creating havoc and chaos and if those were fixed and resolved, far more improvement would take place. To say they are not well at all is playing word games and semantics. It is the tactic of a deceitful lawyer or scientist, a spin doctor. You are uncompromising in demanding the full total healing and not just half, as if seeking PT were nothing at all. No expense, not moving, no spending 3 to 7 years of feeling therapy, and so on. Do you realize what you ask of people, as if it was all their fault they were not coming to Cali tomorrow.

    Tell it for what it really is. Cleaning the head and adjusting reality is only half the battle. That’s fair and true. There is more that could be done. And leave it at that.

  3. Forgot to say (in the email) that in general I really found this post of yours to be a very satisfying exposé.

  4. Pbef: Usually I feel "I can't get no satisfaction" but at least you do. art

  5. Apollo: AYAYAY You means I have to invent a therapy and then figure out transportation? If someone in India could solve my throat problem I would sell my house and get there tomorrow. I give you the therapy and you need to find a way to get it. I do my job you need to do yours. art

  6. Art: can I ask what kind of pain your throat gives you? It sounds like a torment that you can't ever turn off!

  7. No, you got the therapy, but don't deny that some people do make some progress with mainstream therapists. once in a great while, a therapist does a reasonable job, given their lack of PT knowledge. Its not a failure, but simply leaves a lot more to go. Its a step in the right direction.

    We will see what the future holds. PT is not in the cards right now. My job? I'd do it but some do not like whistle blowers. Can you imagine? I cost the last SOB employee a good $50,000 at least by stiffing me for a $1000 vacation. but the company was delighted with the ruthlessness of my boss so that kept him, despite his poor math and people skills.

    Everyone needs a good criminal in their stalls, right? Its hard to be honest or fight for your rights when you don't really have any. I'll keep working at it.

  8. Andrew: Let me finish my stem cell therapy and then I will explain. It ain't good. art

  9. Hi Apollo,

    -"No, you got the therapy, but don't deny that some people do make some progress with mainstream therapists. once in a great while, a therapist does a reasonable job, given their lack of PT knowledge. Its not a failure, but simply leaves a lot more to go. Its a step in the right direction"-

    Actually I had a very good therapist who guided me along the way over 5 yrs.
    Then, I found he was in no way equipped / set up to take me any further.
    He appeared to know enough about the theory. . . (he has seen this blog and described it as "too many words", another on of those annoying half truths). Ultimately he seemed to me to be ill equipped in the sense of not having the right sort of long enough session, padded cell clinical conditions etc, nor did he apply the theory in a way that helped me learn about or understand myself, he often got trapped in my story, or rather let me stay in it without steering me with the theory as well. He therefore could not teach me to handle my own rising feelings. I mean I was and still am breaking down and unless I had found out about all this through the blog I would be in a bad situation indeed.

    Fortunately I now know what ab-reaction is in me and I know what my projections are and I know when the real tsunami is coming and I know all sorts of shit that supposedly "I shouldn't" because it's not good to self therapise is it?

    I do have Teddy. Y'know, the furry one who listens and doesn't have weird belief systems. Nor does he charge exorbitant fees and only be available by appointment somewhere inconvenient when you least need him.

    So, to conclude, the problem with your statement is that it is a bit generic and actually lacks the detail of any given individuals' own testimony about their living (I mean re-living) experience.

    Alice Miller was in the same difficult situation when she ran her blog and wrote her books because she could not actually recommend any 'good therapists' in Europe. . . All she could do was discuss her own case (and some startling other case studies and historical personalities). She described her process of disillusionment about her previous work as an analytical therapist and how she broke down and resolved her own issues. . . Much through her Art and painting.

    Ironically in one of Alice Millers' books she refers to Arthur Janov. . . . and that is how I came across this blog.

    You can be forgiven for thinking there is a conspiracy to deceive us because Arts' books do not make it onto Waterstones' psychology bookshelves and his science papers are not taken seriously. I believe that global repression and fear of pain is the cause, few people want to know the truth and are largely unaware of their own pain and repression; it's all "out there" isn't it?

    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.