Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 19/20)

More and more evidence indicates that the thalamus plays a key role in human awareness.[1] The thalamus has a relay function to the cortex, but it also serves as a switching station which handles most sensory input and delivers it to the cortex. When it is overwhelmed it cannot do that; the message gets blocked and rerouted. Those in a coma often have damage to the thalamus; what happens is that messages never arrive to consciousness. It would seem that in hypnosis, as in coma, there is a functional "lobotomy" between cortex and thalamus, so that the higher level (cortex), doesn't know what the lower level (thalamus) does or feels.

I often call a Primal a "conscious coma" because the patient is (re)living on a lower level of consciousness during the session but "knows" what is going on as well. That is, the patient has retrieved a memory stored on a lower level and is feeling it on that level while bringing it to consciousness. Whereas hypnosis depends on the split and guards it, in Primal Therapy we mend it. That is why you cannot get cured with hypnosis. The split is the source of the problem, not the solution.

Pain Control and the Neurotic Split in Consciousness

Let's take another look at the statements made by Hilgard's subjects (HS) in the hidden observer experiments, followed by rephrasing of what the subject is describing from a Primal viewpoint (PV):

HS: It's as though two things were happening simultaneously. I have two separate memories as if two things could have happened to two different people.
PV: In neurosis the adult recalls the Pain of the child as if he and that child were two separate people. He can talk about it in a detached way, dissociated from its suffering component. This is precisely the neurotic split in consciousness: the Pain is merely repressed and concealed, not eliminated.
HS: Both parts (of me) were concentrating on what you said – not to feel pain. The water bothered the hidden part a little because it felt a little but the hypnotized part was not thinking of my arm at all.
PV: In neurosis the child is told "not to feel pain" in some direct and many indirect ways. "Why such a sad face today?" "What have you got to feel bad about?" "Stop whining and sniveling or I'll give you something to cry about." "It can't hurt that much." etc. As a consequence, he grows into an adult who is well able to not think of the Pain he is in. It may "bother the hidden part a little," but the "hypnotized part" – the part that is neurotically split off – does not think of the Pain at all. It thinks of telephone calls, things to do, places to go, projects....all to keep from feeling the emptiness and solitude inside.
HS: The hidden part knew that my hand was in the water and it hurt just as much as it did the other day (in the waking control session). The hypnotized part would vaguely be aware of feeling pain – that's why I would have to concentrate really hard. 
PV: The hidden part of the neurotic feels how much Pain he is in so that he also has "to concentrate really hard" to ignore it: "I can take it like a man."
HS: The hidden part knows the pain is there but can't feel it. The hypnotized part doesn't feel it but may know it's there.
PV: It is possible to observe this process of dissociation taking place in the hypnotic subject. If we could photograph a neurotic with time-lapse photography over years, we could probably see a similar (neurotic) process taking place. The main difference is that neurosis is a long-term, lifetime event. The important similarity in hypnosis and neurosis is that while a false reality is imposed upon the system via ideas and suggestions, the ideas and suggestions cannot remove the pain actually experienced in childhood.

In both hypnotic pain control and childhood trauma, the lower levels of consciousness continue to register the pain. Recall the hypnotic subject's description that "the hypnotized part
really makes an effort." Why does it have to make such an effort? Because the truth of reality is just beneath the surface. In hypnosis the hypnotist simply repeats the suggestions whenever the person starts to feel pain – when the "effort" of the hypnotized part begins to lag. In neurosis the lower levels of consciousness produce manic activity, for example, a constant effort to distract oneself from the Pain. In either case, we see the reality of pain pushing toward the surface, necessitating efforts to push it back down. One can either take a cigarette (in neurosis) or take a suggestion (in hypnosis) to push it down.

Pain of any kind is an affront to the system and, as one of Hilgard's experiments suggests, denial of that pain may constitute a kind of double-barrelled assault. Attempting to differentiate between pain and anxiety in hypnotic analgesia, Hilgard found that hypnotic pain reduction techniques may actually increase the amount of anxiety felt by the person while he is in the process of supposedly reducing his pain. Hilgard wrote:

Maintaining hypnotic analgesia requires some effort by the subject, even though he knows he is going to be successful in reducing pain. This effort is accompanied by physiological signs of anticipatory excitement when the subject knows he must soon fight off painful stimulation. These signs may be interpreted as a form of anxiety, perhaps deriving from a latent fear that this time control may be lacking. In any case...both heart rate and blood pressure increase more when pain is to be reduced by hypnotic analgesia than when it is to be felt normally at full value.[2] [Italics added]

In neurosis, of course, it is typical to see both blood pressure and high heart rate chronically high. Hilgard's description illustrates the conflict between Pain and repression continually waged in every neurotic, a conflict which often results in anxiety. Anxiety is the global symptom which arises when Primal Pain threatens to overwhelm inhibition and make itself fully conscious. Every pre-Primal state, where patients are about to enter into an old feeling, can be considered an anxiety state.

There is no anxiety without repression; anxiety is a sign of faltering repression. Without repression, one simply gets terror in context. When my patients feel their terror in the ancient context there is no more anxiety. Thus it is both a symptom and a signal.

Anxiety indicates that the defenses are under maximum strain and signals for the extra production of repressive chemistry. The system revs up to quell the Pain before control is completely lost. Anxiety is taxing enough but its suppression even more so, and the anxious person usually uses self-hypnotic techniques in order to control himself (though he may never identify them as such): "It'll be alright," "Don't worry, it'll turn out fine," "Take it easy," "Calm down," "Think positive." These are all hypnotic style suggestions. Very often they have to be repeated over and over to produce any effect, which gives us some idea of the energy needed to suppress and contain the anxiety.

Hilgard's discovery regarding the link between pain and anxiety parallels what we have learned about the effort involved in maintaining dissociation: feeling the Pain in its entirety is "easier" on the system than going through the labor of dissociating from it. In fact, it is not Pain alone that produces symptoms, but Pain together with its counteracting repression. Repression is responsible for the pressure the system is under leading to symptoms. It takes great physiological effort to keep Pain out of awareness, an ongoing internal struggle which is measurable through one's vital signs. Indeed, heart rate and blood pressure tend to decrease permanently after a period of releasing Primal Pain.

The fact that emotional pain registers as a physical entity, one which is imprinted throughout the system (indicated by the physiologic changes which occur as a result of its removal), is vital to our understanding of neurosis and hypnosis. This knowledge wrests neurosis from the abstract and even metaphysical realm created for it by its definition as a mental illness, from the realm of mechanics created for it by the behaviorist viewpoint, and at last, places it where it belongs in the very real and physical organismic processes.

Pain is not often thought of as anything other than the localized sensations caused by physical injury. When it is viewed on another level it is seen as an idea: as something that can be thought away, forgotten, or in some way mentally altered by psychological gymnastics (hypnosis, biofeedback, directive daydreaming). More recently we have coined the term "problem" to describe the affliction of neurosis. It then becomes a matter of unbalanced equations, malfunctioning machinery, and unsorted puzzles. Mental solutions are sought for mental problems and behavioral solutions are sought for behavioral problems.

Pain creates problems for those who suffer from it, but to become caught up in the treatment of each problem is to lose sight of the central issue: that only by dealing with the physical reality of repressed Pain does the nature and depth of the organismic disease known as neurosis become fully treatable.

As mentioned earlier, psychological mechanisms by which hypnotic states are induced are based on the innate defensive capabilities of the brain. Even more importantly, they are based on a pre-existing pattern of behavior that has been in constant and active use throughout the subject's life. Neurosis is the ongoing post-hypnotic state which is already operating when the hypnotist goes to work. The neurotic lives in a state of permanent dissociation from his pain. Hypnotic techniques take advantage of this situation without it being recognized. The already existing defense of dissociation gets an added boost from hypnosis. When translated back into neurological terms, this means that extra endorphins pour into the system. In other words, hypnosis helps the system function even more neurotically than usual.
"Pain," writes hypnotherapist Yapko, "is a warning sign that something is wrong. The various hypnotic approaches are essentially 'band-aids,' for while they may assist the client in being more comfortable, their healing abilities remain uncertain."[3]

[1]See Science News, July 2, 1994, pp. 10-11.
[2]Hilgard, Hypnosis in the Relief of Pain, p. 78.
[3]Yapko, Trancework, p. 276.


  1. Art - Regarding your comment that you'd given up trying (to persuade medical professionals), a few weeks ago I read your JPPPH article, that I thought was fantastically clear, and ended up lending it to a retired nurse friend of mine, very bright woman, along with Leboyer's book. 10 years ago when I showed it to her, she'd doubted some of his claims regarding L/R handedness. She gave them back to me today and we talked. She felt a there was a lack of information re. impramine binding, but had realised that much of Leboyer's and your opinion was now standard practice in the UK NHS in just those 10 yrs. Also, Last night on Ch 4 here there was a good quality documentary on life in the womb referring to much of the same research as yourself. She left with your Imprints and Primal Healing! So don't give up mate, your work is having an effect. I plan to work on my wife's doctor next, who says there is no real evidence that what happens earlier in life is related to later illness!

    I also had an idea. I've found it good to paint my feelings and memories (scenes). For me they can get under intellect/words and lead to other things (resonate I guess), and I wondered if contributors could send them to your blog along with general comment, i.e. not just about me?

  2. Tony: I think you are continuing the good work. great! art

  3. Art there have been many times when i have slipped into a state of paralysis, when i was very close to falling asleep, and during the paralysis i would feel a creepy kind of anxiety but i wouldn't call it outright terror, and in this state i would hear rumbling in my ears and a feeling like my body was moving very quickly. i don't think this experience has ever lasted more than about a couple of minutes.
    i always dismissed those experiences as just some kind of rogue piece of 1st line information which was not being processed properly - something like psychosis. i assumed it couldn't be a primal because it didn't feel bad enough. but i have no idea how bad it should feel.
    if those experiences are not primals, are they at least a sign that i might be able to get into 1st line primals early in therapy? or is it quite common for people to have 1st line-ish experiences which are not primals and are no indication of a person's readiness to go that far?
    btw, i am starting to get a persistent dull ache in my heart which seems to linger for much longer than it did about a year ago. it's got me worried a bit. it's very faint - not really painful. could this be a sign of heart damage? i forgot to mention it in my intake interview. i wasn't really concerned about it back then. one of your old posts mentions cold hands and a hurting heart, so i thought it must be quite common.

  4. It's amazing how something as feelings can be subordinate for further life “only” a mother neglects her child. But perhaps it is not so… but only so that we are unable to listen to the signals ... tones that would make us aware of the signals saying.
    The symptoms ... the confusion that occurs because of the emotions are just tied to the intensity of pain as we were a child and it is the one we have to listen to. The intensity keeps feeling we can cope with… but if we let ignorance continue to be our escort… we will remain in our infancy of suffering and with symptoms as a “professor” of the content.


  5. Hi

    -"but if we let ignorance continue be our escort. . . we will remain in infancy of suffering with symptoms as a "professor" of the content"-

    Yes indeed, so we need a 'self reflection', an inner view of our pain that doesn't generate another layer of defence (intellectual).

    With an inner view of how we function and why, we may be able to make links with the natural involving process that allows coded trauma to unwind, thus the re-living process can start. With this inner 'compass' we could become better navigators in the 'Territory of our Psyche'.

    Still this 'aspect' of self reflection/ knowledge will not do more than make us well educated (about ourselves) unless we link with the natural process. In a way, therefore, I feel this is what Jack might be warning us about mere thinking.

    So, how to see inwardly without the distortions caused by our own pain?

    I am not a Primal Therapist but Art is.

    Paul G.

  6. Richard -- What you experienced is almost certainly "Sleep Paralysis". It's a disorder of REM sleep. It's very common to have episodes a couple of times in one's lifetime. Some people, like me, get sleep paralysis often.

    Sleep paralysis is, in my opinion, a very "primal" pathology, with strong 1st-line connections. There's also hereditary influence at work. I suspect that the causes of a lot of major problems will turn out to be some mix of primal + genetic + infectious + related to toxic exposure.

    A common trick us sleep paralysis experiencers have is to struggle to blink our eyes. The cranial nerves are not usually as badly affected, and the sensation of blinking can rouse the dreamer. And here's a big Primal clue: the very struggle to wake up is also helpful.

    For those with sleep paralysis that interferes with their lives, REM suppressing drugs can be prescribed, which means pretty much any sedative or antidepressant.

    I'm not sure how proper Primal Therapy handles this, but its cause is probably not the kind of pain you're going to jump right into. If you're in therapy, ask your therapist, or Art himself, for guidance, though I know he doesn't do diagnoses in this (blog) environment.

  7. Paul

    A professor of own goals overshadows science. A professor of psychology should today be knowledgeable about primal therapy's existence and therefore willing to attend to what primal therapy science shows. Science should be the basis for a professor... not a title for his own goals.
    We sign in at the Primal Center becaus of Our Own Pain.


  8. Hi,

    Y'know Frank, 'prof' was a nick name I had at boarding school because I became 'intellectualised' as part of my personality defences.
    Everything is different now.

    Paul G.

  9. David: EVOLUTION!! Something happened to interrupt REM sleep; not the reverse. Careful do not get the cart before the poor overused horse. Think about the person first and then his life, not the molecule and its life. art

  10. Hello,

    Although this subject is old, I am posting here as my question is related to sleep paralysis.
    I experience sleep paralysis with intermittent pressures on my body that make me feel like I am dying (the first time this happened to me 3 years ago, it made me feel like a heavy body is lying on me wanting to smother me, and then nothing, and then again the pressure on me, and this for about 3 ou 4 times)

    I am reading the work on primal theray by Dr Janov and then connected to sleep paralysis:
    could it be the uterine contraction during birth (work delivery) that I felt during such sleep paralysis? Thank you for your answer (English is not a native language for me, so I apologize for any error).



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.