Sunday, December 25, 2011

On Going Crazy

In the psychologic literature they often equate having delusions with schizophrenia or psychosis. But I believe that there are many ways to go crazy not just delusions; in fact, delusions are the mind’s way of going off track. But what about how the body goes crazy? Remember there are levels of brain function, of levels of consciousness and each of those can go crazy in their own way. I submit that cancer may be the insanity of the cells and those cells may be crazy long before we have the capacity to think crazy. We know now that the DNA of cells on the lookout for developing cancer cells, our cellular guardians, are heavily methylated. Methylation usually means trauma earlier on. It is how the cells are tagged for trauma. That is, as the cells encounter adversity they are marked thereafter and they change through a process known as epigenetics. Those cells are now aberrant. And they can go crazy, spilling over their natural boundaries and continuing on a rampage for years; cancer can be considered psychosis of the cells, but as we evolve the message of damage moves higher up and transmutes, perhaps, into what we usually think of as insanity. It is still the cell DNA going crazy. The point of all this is that we should not only consider current damage, (pollution, bad diet, etc., all valid) but also we need to go back to generating sources to ultimate causes.

There is a good evidence now of how external toxins affect the DNA of the fetus and result in serious disease, whether cancer of psychosis. But the mother is also a spillway of toxic chemicals as her disturbed condition can result in overproduction of stress hormones (cortisol) which ultimately affect the baby she is carrying. Again epigenetics is the study of how the environment affects the DNA of the offspring, how it changes genes and their expression. Thus, the genes are the notes but the epigenes play the music. And they can play discordant music that adversely affects the system into developing cancer and/or later psychosis. There are several studies out now that indicate epigenetic dysfunction and the development of psychosis. Imprints take the notes and twist them according to adverse early experience. The early experience I call the imprint and it means that related DNA has been methylated and marked as traumatic. This methylation may be the culprit in all sorts of diseases later on, including Alzheimers disease. If we find a way through reliving to de-methylate key cells and that reverses Alzheimers we are our way to an important therapy.

(See the work of B.P Rutten on Epigenetic Mediation of Environmental Influences; and also F. Perera and Julie Herbstman on Prenatal environmental effects on disease. Also the work of Mill and Petronis on psychotic disorders) .

But now consider this: suppose we could treat all forms of cancer in the same way. Remember that trauma is inscribed in the cell DNA from the time soon after conception. The earlier the trauma and damage the more severe the response. It is why, in my opinion, mental psychosis begins its life in the first months of gestation where a smoking and drinking mother, a mother who is mentally unstable, can imprint great damage to the fetus. It is where the brain cells are being organized, but the damage is there long before we have the capacity for a false thought or delusion—a false belief. On its way upward as we evolve, the cells are already reacting to the damage in their own way. And heavy methylation affects both the cancer control cells and the cell DNA that produce mental illness. It is, in short, the same cause, different targets. Those targets may also be “chosen” due to genetics (inheritance), lifestyle, and many other factors.

The task, it seems to me, would be to try to reverse the damage, go back and undo the trauma. That sounds impossible, but there are chemical ways to reverse methylation, and I am proposing psychological ways—reliving the early trauma, even without words or scenes and return the cells to the original form, given that there is not too much damage already. Just because I call it psychological ways, it is still neurochemical at its base. It is just a more natural process without introducing chemicals into the system; rather, allowing the entire organism to normalize and see if the methylated cells return to normal.

I have written about resonance in my new Life Before Birth. It means that feelings that are related, hopelessness, for example, all levels of our personal evolution, bundle together so that when we set off one feeling in the present, hopeless over getting into college, it can dredge up related earlier feelings and sensations, deep hopelessness, futility and depression. This means that very early trauma--sensations in the first months of gestation before there are feeling structures in place are also part of the resonance. The primordial imprint and methylation becomes elaborated as we mature so that each new higher level of brain organization adds to the generating source; adding first, emotions and feelings, and secondly, thoughts and beliefs. It is still the same neural circuit. And each level is damaged, as well. Hopelessness is experienced in different ways but at the very bottom of it all is damage that has no words and no scenes. It is cellular damage done in the first months of life; it is a damage that has no words, a damage the predates words by millions of years in antiquity.

The good part of this is that as we begin a reliving, starting with a disappointment and despair in the present, the circuit will open up to deeper feelings until finally the reliving incorporates damage long before we had words. We may not be aware of is the added trauma from the past but it is there as part of the feeling, incorporated into the feeling circuit. And it is in this way that we may undo severe very early damage that may have caused cancer, in the first place. It is all part of a gestalt, of an overall imprint that has its antennae higher in the nervous system; related together, perhaps, by chemical similarities and by similar electrical frequencies.

This is not entirely theoretical since we see this taking place every day. As patients begin reliving they dig deeper in their nervous system as the therapy goes on., which allows for deeper more comprehensive access to the deepest imprints in the system, imprints that share a commonality—specific, shared feelings. It may be one reason that we rarely see cancer among our advanced patients. This, of course, needs to be tested. It is not that the patient tries to go deeper; it is that the system opens up all on its own permitting deeper access. If we hurry it by forcing the patient or giving him drugs it can only damage the process. It can produce mental psychosis as things are being brought up prematurely. Evolution needs to take place, and that means that we need to learn from evolution, seeing how our present structure has evolved over many years, but adding on each time new structures. Thus there is a base, a primitive reptile, that becomes a chimp and finally a human, in the same way in our personal evolution that we are humans in the present reliving, descending to our mammalian era and finally down to the basic reptilian epoch. All levels are part of our humanity. The point is that they are all related, still in our systems. Evolution has not discarded them; it has incorporated them. I see our personal evolution, ontogeny, in the same way. Each trauma leaves a trace, a tag, that is related to other similar kinds of trauma later on. There are representations of the original imprint on higher levels; thus, each new level adds its contribution to the memory--the imprint. They all add up to what makes us human both in phylogeny (in human history) and ontogeny (our personal history). It is those markers or tags that identify and inform the specific feelings to each other. Combined, they compound the feeling and its pain; adding to the force that one day will cause serious disease. Cancer, then, is the end result of evolution just as deep early imprints result in mental psychosis later on. They are part of the distortion and dislocation of the function of cells. The imprints change the neural circuits resulting first, in the psychosis of the cell—cancer, and secondly, psychosis of the mind—schizophrenia; deformation and distortion of the neural cells. The system can only take so much before there is a breakdown. We call that cancer and psychosis but it is all part of the same evolutionary process. It is an ineluctable result of our history; how then can we properly understand it without a return to that history? If history and historic imprints are the cause, and if we ignore them, then we can only beat back the symptom and never eliminate the cause. That is why there is an inevitable fall back into cancer and psychosis; the generating source is still alive. That is why we need to wait years to see if the sufferer is “clear,” if she has escaped history.

So to resume, since this is a rather complicated subject; the tag or marker on the primitive gene DNA, the epigenetic imprint is methylated; then as we mature those markers are rerepresented higher up so that first we get cancer and then later we become psychotic all from the very same imprint and distortion of the cell DNA. It is the antennae of the imprint that creates the havoc; the re-representation on higher levels the culprit. Here is one reason we can go crazy in life when there is adversity. It is not just that event, a family member dying, but what those cells contain as information that puts us over the top.


  1. Art,

    First let me say... this additional a text for the world to listen to.
    “So to resume, since this is a rather complicated subject”
    It is no more complicated than it is for each of us to recognize suffering. Crying baby tears of suffering ... suffering we are relegated to for the meaning of life ... far from the warmth we needed… to get to know mom's and dad's denial of us… what their love for us would have meant. It's that simple… about the meaning for what the depth of DNA contains… it can seem very complicated ... but even then ... when the issue is brought up ... when tears have flowed for the need for mom and dad and the question about the complication of DNA is brought up... is more of a consequence for not being in touch with the need (the feeling for life) than a question if suffering is registered in our DNA... it is obvious… it has to be somewhere. We will much easier be looking for the right goal… if we feel.


  2. And in that way how diseases such as cancer, disposition to mental illness can be thought of as 'genetic' (I never thought they were), in that genes are changed thru epigenetics then served on the next generation.

  3. While I get the whole issue of the tiny embryo/zygot being zapped with stress hormones etc I sometimes wonder whether the effect of huge parental pressures to be who they want us to be rather than who we were meant to be is skated over in these discussions. I would describe myself in the past as a bit Manic Depressive. I would argue that this was down to huge unconcious pressures from my Parents. My Mother said she chose my name because it would look good in Neon. The pressure to succeed and be famous so my Mother would love me was enormous. My Father who was very critical and wanted me to be a teacher like him caused great depression. In essense each Parent wanted me to be an extension of them rather than me. I was stuck in a double bind (Laing) with no way of escape. If Manic Depression is also called Bi-Polar could this not simply be a very suggestable person trying to be different people to each Parent and swinging between the two great efforts for love and being depressed because they cannot be themselves and be loved simply for that? Yes the depressive Mother would create problems for her child while in her body and this would be carried on during childhood (be famous and make me feel a success in something ie a good Mother). I am nervous that being able to "blame" damage to early cells is like blaming the Devil or humours or instincts or genes. It allows society and Parents to avoid responsibility for their actions and anxieties etc on their children.

  4. >" the circuit will open up to deeper feelings until finally the reliving incorporates damage long before we had words."

    As a marketing tool that seems, well, poisonous. It's like you're asking folks to go insane.

    In reality, you're not. How many can talk, or even think (much less see images) when crying? We may start out thinking about something sad, but once we begin to cry the crying process itself kicks in. The body convulses, tears flow (chemically changing), and so on. While the sobbing may be labored at times, like labor pains during childbirth, they also feel "natural."

    So Art, maybe you should modify your marketing. Stress, for example, that it relieves pain instead of being "A way to force folks to feel agonies so intense their poop will explode!"

    I'm not suggesting you lie or change the sales-pitch just to manipulate. You DO actually offer relief. So you need to say that "pre-word moments" are as natural as listening to instrumental songs, viewing paintings, or dancing.

    Words are just one tool in life. Like cooking is but one task. So how many folks are frightened to death when they're in the world but NOT cooking?

    I'm just suggesting that PT has enough hurdles to overcome (past association with near-insane screaming, etc.) that announcing it's a technique to allow patients to feel pain so intense they'll want to stab their eyes with ice-picks isn't helpful.

    Or true.

  5. > "Cancer, then, is the end result of evolution just as deep early imprints result in mental psychosis later on...We call that cancer and psychosis but it is all part of the same evolutionary process."

    Cui bono?

    Minor question, maybe: but who benefits from such a schema?

    After all, the "fittest" in evolution doesn't mean the best, just the "best-suited to survive the current environment." So when would having cancer be a benefit...and to whom?

    Theologically, what "gods" would make victims of early trauma suffer even MORE (or create victimizers in the first place)? Why not create Eden Everlasting instead of a few PT clinics trying to undo the damage done by millions of knuckleheads?

    I don't see how cancer wards filled with kids makes any evolutionary sense. Do they exist to teach us compassion?

    Also, shouldn't torturers go insane, not their victims?

    Stalin lived to 75, Mao to 83. Together they killed 80-100 MILLION humans. Meanwhile, Shelley died at 30 and Wilfred Owen at 25. Did the dictators evolve life on earth more than the poets?

    It's like being told the super-rich (who bilked "saps" out of life savings) are better humans than the trusting folks they shafted.

    That being said, I CAN see that going insane could be a humane thing, too. For example, I certainly would have wanted to be insane before I hit the ground after jumping off the WTC on 09-11-01.

    Maybe cancer is a way to cull the herd. If so, I think discovering morphine a higher evolutionary event. If gods created cancer, God bless the pain-relievers.

  6. Trevor: Who benefits? society. Cancer culls out the weak and feeble. It is kind of auto regulation as unfair as that seems.

  7. Hi,

    Trevor: Who benefits? society. Cancer culls out the weak and feeble. It is kind of auto regulation as unfair as that seems.

    That could only be true if cancer got the nutters before they committed their social crimes; surely?

    Paul G.

  8. An email comment:
    "I can hear that lonesome whistle blowing.
    I was down on the lower east side of manhattan today, christmas day, on a rooftop, photographing the views with my nikon camera.
    On January 5th I go in for rectal cancer surgery.
    I just did 11 cycles of chemotherapy, while all the while receiving and sometimes reading your reflections on the human condition.
    Imagine on top of neurosis I'm going to have a colostomy bag.
    It's bizarre.

  9. And my answer: Tom I am not sure but I think you included the piece on going crazy to point out how we can go crazy on different levels? Could you clarify for me and for other readers? art


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.