Thursday, January 5, 2012

Womblife and the Rest of Your Life

In my book "Life Before Birth", I discuss how life inside the womb can affect us for a lifetime. There is new research on this every day. *

What is pretty clear now is that the carrying mother’s anxiety can often produce anxiety in her baby, not for the moment but for decades and decades. And what does this do? It produces ADD in school children who cannot concentrate nor focus enough to study properly. It produces hyperactive adults who have to keep going and going; making plans and projects without end. And what does that do? It makes it likely that they will die of a stroke or heart attack because the defensive gates are leaky and keep on driving the person unceasingly. This is different from those whose gates are solid and repression is massive; their death of choice will most likely be cancer. And what causes this differentiation? The kind of womblife and above all, the kind of birth; whether it is parasympaththetically dominant, where exit was most difficult, or sympathetically dominant where it took a herculean struggle to get out. The parasympath learns to hold back and not struggle to survive; while the sympath learns to struggle for survival. It is stamped in, embedded and engrave in nearly all systems; all are affected eventually, and in the reliving all are involved again, so that we see changes in most of those systems again.

What makes the difference early on is whether traumas early on are within the first 3 months of life or afterwards. There are times in the very early months when there can be free-floating anxiety with little ability to repress or gate the pain, as the gating chemicals are not yet organized and effective. Later on this may change so that repression does set in, and this may be the difference between anxiety and later depression. Anxiety a much earlier event, and depression a later one, depending heavily on gating. Anxiety, therefore, is much more a primitive response. And it is most difficult to eradicate; it never will happen without deep remote access to our low-lying brain processes. I am discussing embryonic and more likely post-embryonic life (assuming embryonic means up to 12 weeks post-conception). I mean roughly in the first trimester where the reaction is terror because adversity at that time is usually life threatening; a mother who takes drugs or smokes heavily or who is constant very anxious. And this is the time when serotonin and other repressive chemicals are not up to snuff. So we have pure terror that is embedded and imprinted. Later in life anything that evokes fear can immediately become terror as resonance reawakens the connected/related terror. These people are often known as hysterics who overreact all of the time to the slightest input; it is all “too much,” and even a slight request is overwhelming. Their anxiety level is near the top constantly. And all this because of first trimester trauma. It doesn’t have to be excessively overt. Not even perceptible. But it is there ready and waiting. And pure anxiety tells us how early the event occurred. If it is mixed with depression we know even more; perhaps there is a mixture of traumas occurring at different fetal periods. And the result of this may result in colitis fairly early life, and/or other midlife afflictions not excluding bed-wetting, a forerunner for runaway sexuality. To imagine trying to treat excessive sexual impulses without understanding prenatal events.

You see that this excessive reactivity can be a strong survival mechanism to handle early, primitive danger. The problem is that it was appropriate early on but not in adult life where it is excessive. We will never convince anyone about how wrong their reaction is because their physiology and its imprint is saying it is appropriate. The problem is that the body does not differentiate past from present. In the brain it is all the same. And in the reliving of those events the brain state in the reliving comes to exactly mimic the brain state at the time of the trauma. So no wonder the brain can be fooled. Being hyper-reactive was important early on but not normal now. And that is the problem. The only way to solve it is to go back over time and re-experience it fully and then the system and brain will know the difference and no longer over-react. We have seen this time and again as patients relive their past.

*(See the work of Vivette Glover. And also the work of the following between 2002 and 2010……O’connor, Heron and Glover. Also de Bruijn. And Williams and Taylor.)


  1. Until 2007 I used to cycle everywhere. I was this person who was doing something all the time. Because of a breakdown in 2005 and my re-traumatisation by an idiotic GP I was not very aware of my surroundings and wrapped up in much anger so got knocked off my bike twice and broke both collarbones. This caused me to walk to work which is a very pleasant one along the Thames for about 3 miles each way. This gave me time to think and be with myself so to speak. Thus I would argue that in some ways I am a reformed "doer". However I also found doing a job of work difficult so this perhaps backs up my view that I was a confused attachment. I now beleive I was sexually abused by my Father from a very early age (confirmed by things my Mother said to me as well as much evidence) and I began wetting the bed in my teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics state that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been sexually abused by the time they are 18. Bed wetting is a classic result of sexual abuse and also of controlling domineering Parents in younger children. I totally get the fact that our womb life will have a huge effect on our later life. So does sexual abuse.

    I am sure part of my anxiety is to do with my time in the womb and also to do with great terror as a small child at the hands of a physcotic/Hysterical Mother (who may well have sexually abused me too) and a sexually abusing Father. I had no-one to turn too. The world was always frightening.

    My sister since having her children has become a hysteric (I gather this is another word for PTSD) and her oldest Daughter is still wearing night nappies at 11 with her Mother saying she will grow out of it. My sister is a dreadfully bullying Mother who screams at her children (probably beat them badly when they were younger) and then expects them to love her.

    If someone has for very real survival needs forgotten via Amnesia that they have been physically/sexually abused by important authority figures then is not some anxiety also non contextual fear. My experience is that it is because my anxiety levels have dropped dramatically since I worked out what my life was actually like. I could put some of that terror into context. I am sure that the kinds of families where sexual abuse is rife are also the kinds of families with anxious Mothers who pass this on in the womb. PTSD and trauma is cumulative I understand.

  2. An email comment:
    "Hi Art,

    Spontaneous feelings. A real life authentic Primal story.

    53-60 years ago, before I developed epilepsy, and lived in a beautiful park that belonged to an agricultural university, there was a girl, Eva, who I liked and respected very much. I have earlier written about how she made lasting impacts on my life. The first memory which turned out very positive (giving me a lifelong subjective well being), was how Eva told me, at age 17, that I had a psychological ability. The other memory which turned into a neurosis was caused by my interpretation of a comment from Eva, regarding how I had mismatched the color of my shoes to my dress. Add to that the fact that, before I moved to Denmark, Eva sent me a photo of herself, dedicated to “the love of her teens”, which I have guarded until this day in my Pandoras’s Box.

    A few months ago, through my sister in Sweden, I got contact with Eva and we have since maintained an extensive correspondence by e-mail. However, after my suggestion to developing our relationship to include calls via Skype, yesterday, we finally got it all together and for the first time in 53 years, there she was, Eva, the girl from my youth. I, made a trip back in time, became 17 years and went on as if we had met last week... Eva was more moved and could not believe how this was now possible... (she spent her life as an award-winning university lecturer in Physical Chemistry). When we thought we’d talked for 10-15 minutes, so had, in reality 70 minutes gone according to Skype’s timing.

    An infinite number of memories, which certainly had not expected to be activated any more time, must, head over heals, leave their hiding places. To slow down after the call, I spent a couple of hours reading “The significance of a revolution in genetics and molecular biology”. Then I went to bed, pleasantly relaxed, and fell asleep quickly. After a couple of hours, I woke up in the middle a dream about having a hallucination / feeling of releasing “locked-in-tensions”. Being awake nothing happened first, but after a short while, I knew that a seizure was on the verge to happen. However, no aura, no confusion just a deep experience telling me that these were the ruins, the remains of a former grand mal seizure.

    The muscles around my cranium pulled themselves together, contracted, and to avoid biting my tongue; I pressed my jaws together with both my hands. The cramp developed painfully but nicely around and into my skull, and I stopped breathing. When a few minutes had passed, it was as highly concentrated air wheezed out of my nose, mouth, eyes and ears (followed by a very short and heavy hyperventilation) and then the contracted muscles relaxed. I was left with a convincing sense, which I’ve had before, that I, during the birth process, was exposed to oxygen treatment.

    I went quickly out of bed. In the mirror, I could see that I was OK, and I was feeling great.


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.