Saturday, March 31, 2012

On Being Non-Functional

We can easily understand when all kinds of things are happening around us and we get confused and don’t know what to do first. But suppose all kinds of thing are happening not around us but inside us, things we cannot see or even imagine? And we get all confused, cannot concentrate or focus and stop functioning. Too much input, but from where!? Let’s see, hummm, maybe from inside? From all those imprints down low in the neuraxis that are constantly sending messages to the top cortical level, trying to inform us about danger down below. So many strong messages from preverbal imprints, messages with no special content but simply high-level electrical charges to try to enter our conscious-awareness, only to be rebuffed by the gating system.

So now imagine when there is all this current tumult going on that sets off the internal tumult and begins to overwhelm us; we can no longer focus and get immediately overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks to be done. It is all too much. We imagine it is because we are being pressured by domineering bosses but in reality we are being pressured first and foremost from inside, by importuning painful memories hidden away seeking exit and surcease. They are groping for priority, for access to top level processes that will allow for some peace. But they are competing with other external priorities that must be done…! Who wins? No one; nothing gets done as we break down and become non-functional.

Primal memories don’t just go away; they are as yet not connected, held back by the gates and so are unresolved and non-integrated. And the biologic system “knows” that connection means liberation. So they continually send their message higher up for connection. Alas, it is not to be. But those inchoate messages enter the cortical arena and create chaos because of their inability to connect. They have no specific content to allow them to be relived and be done with. They are preverbal, by and large, and can only be relived and resolved after many higher level imprints are integrated. And then, as we relive lower level, earlier imprints there is a resonance effect, a kind of dredge which raises up the earlier imprints. They now merge with imprints from infancy and earlier childhood providing the energy component to the feeling and making the reaction all the more powerful. Making a rather banal feeling incredibly strong. We may not understand what is going on because we have neglected the resonance factor that makes similar feelings connection or bind with each other, remained stored in memory and tend to rise together when the time is appropriate. So we feel disappointed at age seven but that triggers off the preverbal sensation of deeper aspect of the feeling, which can be many things but often is simple hopelessness. They now rise together and, as the reliving goes on there is a simultaneous reliving of the preverbal, energy part of the feeling, as well.

That same resonance goes on all of the time, higher level deception can trigger off deeper feelings but those feelings do not get resolved and simply create burgeoning chaos and tumult. They do not get resolved because not enough of the less powerful feelings have been integrated as yet. The system is simply not ready yet. And that sometimes can mean pockets of insanity as the system struggles to hold back feelings or perhaps tries to make sense of them, but to no avail. Enough premature breakthroughs and we have frank psychosis, which is when painkillers are necessary. And those same painkillers can, paradoxically, make us functional, as the painful imprints are held down below, out of harm’s way. It is when the pain is so strong, so many imprints that tranquilizers can no longer do their job. So we have to titrate the dose to make sure the patient gets enough to hold back the input from inside. After more pain is felt the person will need less and less painkillers.

Those early pains broke open the gating system initially because serotonin supplies could not keep up with the demand. So what is in those tranqs? Serotonin. All the pills are doing is doing what the system could not do at the beginning because it ran out of supplies. And it ran out because those early life endangering events demanded too much of the gating system. Don’t be afraid of offering chemical help because the system is demanding—non verbal therapy for non verbal pains. We just need to understand and comply, and above all, to tell our patients what is going on inside them. We are only boosting repression for a time until their system can take over.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On the Difference Between Help and Cure

Most of my readers know about my notion of the three levels of consciousness. That what happens to us in the womb, at birth and infancy is registered low down in the neuraxis and constitutes what I call the”first line.” As we grow up we may suffer neglect, trauma and/or lack of love; that will take place on what I call the “second line.” And what happens to us in adulthood and in the present is called the “third line.” It is possible to relive events that happened on any of those lines, but they have to be in order; feeling the third line first, second on the second and first line last. What is clear is that so long as we leave one level untouched we can get relief from reliving on the various levels but not cure; because the traumas on the first line have not been addressed. Final resolution means reliving on ALL levels, otherwise we have only skimmed the upper levels, leaving the powerhouse first line untouched. That is, to be clear, we can feel real feelings with their real force from the second line, in the first months of therapy but if there has been first line trauma it must be experienced. If it has only been minimal it may not ever have to be addressed. That is rare, indeed. All in all, it is the difference between relief and cure. Lots of relief from second line primals but not cure.

After 45 years of primal therapy we know that what is often behind later strokes, schizophrenia, epilepsy, severe addiction and heart attacks are first line traumas. They are nearly always packed with force and are also most often life-endangering. So one can spend months in therapy and still be prone to a stroke or heart attack because the basic primal imprint, the generating source upon which later traumas are added or compounded is first line. Yes, we can get increasing relief as we go on in our therapy but if we are to discuss cure there must be obligatorily reliving of first line. That has the strongest valence and remains the most dangerous imprint lodged in our system.

The first line left unfelt will always be a danger in later life. We may have take out fifty percent of the emotional force in primals about childhood but gestation trauma can still kill us. That is why it is not a good idea to do this therapy half way. You can say, “I got what I wanted out of the therapy.” But the system is insisting, “Not enough! You’re life is still in danger.” None of us want to say to patients, “You know you must go on with the therapy.” It makes us look avaricious, wanting to keep the patient with us. That is not the case. We want to save lives through the integration of feelings, and that cannot happen in a few weeks or several months of therapy. It is indeed dangerous to allow patients to go to first line when starting therapy. That can upset everything and only insure major symptoms from migraines to epilepsy. That means first line events are pressing at the repressive gates; if allowed to erupt too soon, the system cannot integrate it all and the result are symptoms. When a medical patient is given medication that is much too strong the system cannot integrate it and its excess force is flushed out through, perhaps, diarrhea. Nearly all key symptoms are the result of overload. We take pains to make sure it does not happen. The aim is integration and resolution, not feeling as a thing in itself such as crying or screaming out or pounding the walls. That feeling has to become part of us. Until it does it remains alien, an external force treated is an enemy of the system; and when those feelings are strong the person can run a high fever; the system feels it is under attack—danger is imminent. The feeling is pushed away; not accepted as part of us, and of course, not integrated. The feeling must become part of the “family.” Not an outsider that has to be shunted aside. Once it is part of us we can grow; we no longer have massive blockages impending our progress. Expressing our feelings can only have meaning after we have been in the feeling; otherwise neurology and evolution is backwards; using the third line intellect to get us to feelings, when it is the third line that must recede in order to permit access to full feelings. If the notion and the decision about where we need to go comes before feeling, the evolution is reversed and we will fail in therapy. Even while we think we are doing marvelously in a so-called feeling therapy. We cannot abrogate evolution and do well in therapy because evolution is how nature acts. It is an iron law of human behavior.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Bit More on Depression

What exactly brings on the overwhelming feeling of depression, which lasts anywhere from hours to days, I don’t know. It seems to be part of the theme of my depression that I can’t control when it comes on. It then feels like a big black feeling-less hole I fall into and can not get out of. I feel completely empty, hopeless, and helpless. I feel it is my fault I am in this place and can’t get out of it. I blame myself for being there. It’s a place that almost seems unreal when I’m not in it, like I am making it up, like I’m lying about it. It’s a place that feels very gloomy and doomed. It’s a place where I feel suicidal, where I dream a suicidal dream. There used to be times when I couldn’t move when got in this place. I feel very different from everybody else, apart, disconnected and removed. My face turns into a mask, the corners of my mouth droop and smiling seems as foreign to me as laughing at a funeral.

Feeling alone and isolated is a big part of my depression. I currently have dropped so deeply into this place that it’s hard to write about it. I am pregnant with my first child, who is due to be born in three months, and I am overwhelmed by fear how my depression, loneliness and isolation is going to affect his life. A lot of my pain is rooted in early infancy (separation from mother for 5 weeks after birth) and I am worried about how this early pain is going to affect my mothering abilities. I am very concerned about postpartum depression, because I know that holding my own child in my arms when he is born and welcoming him into this world is going to trigger my pain of not having been held and not having been welcomed into this world. The pain in this is so huge that I can only touch on it in little pieces. I always thought I would have one gigantic Primal that would just magically clear everything away, but this therapy a slow process in my case. The books I read that made me start this therapy talk a lot about feeling “the pain”. I think I forgot that feeling pain does hurt and even now thirty years later I can only take so much of it.

Why feel then if it does hurt? I feel closer to myself when I feel the pain. I am hidden in my pain and the only way to uncover me is to uncover my pain.

How has therapy helped me with my depression? First of all, it helped me identify that I am/get depressed. Before, I was walking around not knowing what was going on with me. There is a certain comfort in knowing. The most important thing I discovered for me is that if I can cry the depression lifts, sooner or later depending on how deep I have dropped into it. The way to the tears, though, is not always straightforward and until I can cry there is suffering.

Feeling my pain has made room for new, good feelings, which are as rewarding as the road to them is difficult. An example of that is my thirtieth birthday, which occurred not too long ago. Months before I started to agonize over what to do with that day, feeling more and more alone as the day approached. I ended up not doing anything, being too overwhelmed by the feeling and spent a good deal of my birthday crying in that loneliness. My husband and I agreed that we would go out to dinner, just the two of us. He ended up surprising me with a very, very special evening. The joy, happiness and completeness I felt that evening was nothing I had ever experienced before and I told him that every tear I cried was worth the happiness of evening. His gift to me was a feeling that I had never felt before and I treasure that feeling more than anything. Depression has robbed me of the good things life has to offer. Feeling pain is a way to make room for them.

The other big thing is that I can still feel suicidal but it’s not something I would want to act on. The thought of suicide is at the bottom of my depression and used to be a fantasy that would allow me to fill its emptiness. It used to be my dream of a way out. I now know that my way out is through feelings however twisted and difficult they can get sometimes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Chemistry of Depression (How Memory Is Inscribed)

The concept of the imprint is being confirmed by new research which demonstrates that extreme, early emotional trauma is inscribed in and locked into our system as a physiological event, with continuing later psycho-physiological effects. It is for this reason that preverbal trauma that occurs before the frontal, thinking area of the brain is mature is critical to our development, and continues to affect our personality, behavior, and health for a lifetime.

James McGaugh, of the University of California, Irvine, points out how under heavy emotion catecholamines (alerting chemicals--the neurojuices of vigilance) are secreted, which tend to seal-in the memory – in effect, inscribe it in the brain. It becomes, in my terms, the imprint. It means that extreme emotional trauma is locked-into our systems as a psycho-physiological event. It is not just psychological or physical, but rather both at once, and it can last a lifetime. So the feeling essence of a trauma, such as "no one wants me,” endures because it was too much to feel and integrate at the time of trauma; to do would have killed the living body. The imprint, then, changes our brain and drives our behavior. What Primal Therapy sets out to do is reestablish normal, healthy biologic set points and brain circuits. By experiencing fully the deviated circuits of the brain, we can now normalize neuronal networks.

Researchers have identified both the location of these traumatic imprints in the brain and the mechanisms by which they are stamped in permanently. Imprints during the critical period are engraved in the brain’s right hemisphere, particularly in the right limbic system, the “feeling” brain. The right brain develops earlier than the left. At birth, the right amygdala which is one of the key structures of the brain and which is responsible for appraising crude information, is active among the brain’s limbic structures, along with the brainstem, which goes on developing from early gestation until the first six months of life. The rest of the limbic system becomes active soon after and the right limbic system is in a period of accelerated growth until the baby’s second year. The hippocampus, another limbic structure, which registers what happens to us very early as fact, is mature by age two.

When there is traumatic experience during the critical early years, various brain structures that deal with vigilance such as the locus ceruleus of the brainstem help organize the chemical secretions for the imprinting. The hippocampus helps consolidate the imprinted memory, while the guts of the feeling are supplied by the amygdala. For example, it is the right amygdala and brainstem that will engrave whatever upset state the mother is in. (footnote: Incidentally, this idea of the "guts of the feeling" is my conclusion based on an ensemble of various research studies. It is inductive logic, not an established fact. ) The role of the amygdala may be simply a metaphor but there doesn’t seem to be any other structure that could fill the bill. Certainly, feelings are the property of the limbic area, and the amygdala becomes engorged when there is preverbal trauma. It bears the brunt of the trauma and seems to be bursting at the seams.

One also has to ask why the alerting neurochemicals aid in the imprint. Clearly, because great danger needs to be remembered as a guide to the future, of what must be avoided. And when we are in danger later on, the brain scans its history for the key early imprints to use as guideposts.

Jules used to intellectualize and beat around the subject endlessly never getting to any point. In our last group I said to Jules one sentence: “The bottom line, Jules.” He hesitated a split second, fell into my arms and shouted, “Help me – I hurt!” And so he took the first step toward health.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Truth: Where is it?

The simple truth is progressive, and that pertains to psychotherapy. The question is whose truth? Simple. The patient’s. Always. You won’t find it in the theories of the therapist nor in her techniques. As obvious as it seems, the truth always lies in the patient; that is why he comes to us, because the painful truth is there but he usually doesn’t know it and even when he does he does not know where it is or why. But if we never get to his truth there is no progress (progressive) in therapy. We are there to treat him and not our theories. We are not after cleverly designed statistical outcomes but biologic ones. Each treated patient is a kind of test and ultimate support of what we do. We learn from patients; not them from us. We are not the fountains of wisdom but students of the human mind, and we learn at the source. We don’t delve into books to find answers to our questions; we observe our patients. All we need to know they hold within. So long as they come to us for answers they force us to look into the wrong places; and the answer remains elusive. It is a mutual delusion. They trust us to have the answer, and we take it as a sacred trust that must be pursued. We are both wrong, deluded by the history of psychotherapy and by the zeitgeist.

Deluded by the pedestal we have been put on, deluded by the desperate need and pain of the patient, deluded by socially institutionalized consensus that we professionals are the holders of secret truths about the unconscious. When I see patients each day I feel like I am going to school, getting my maturity degree in humility, eager to learn what lies in her unconscious. She is the holder of sacred truths; we have only found the way to access them. If our delusions had not fooled us into a false role we all would have found ways for access. How about talking to the patient? Not pontificating which is so seductive. How about following the trail of feeling, probing because we are interested in her, not in our theory. We can’t teach interest. Neophytes often make mistakes because they are not truly interested, nor empathic. They want to get ahead—ambition is the enemy of feeling. Remember again, the simple truth is progressive, and it is the secret for progress in psychotherapy. It is a simple thing; the minute we try to get complex and brilliant we fail. The patient is not interested in our discourse; she wants to get well and so does he. And she holds the secret of her cure; and that is what patients have to understand. When they claim, “I am not getting anywhere,” and if we answer defensively--yes you are-- all is lost because that is also a feeling……not getting anywhere at birth could have been fatal. Patients need to know that we both go at the speed she can tolerate and no faster. We cannot hurry feelings; besides she dictates the pace, not us.

What a relief not to have to have the answers; what a relief not to be brilliant all of the time. I always ask my patients (not beginners) if I made a mistake because they now know themselves better than I. They sense the mistakes and we must leave the way open to be corrected; that is how we learn. No more the professorial pose, the measured speech and the implied brilliance in our insights. No more acting out being the protective father. Patients need to learn about their needs, not have them fulfilled in the office by the shrink. It is so tiring to be the all knowing, omniscient soul. We all can relax and the therapy will go swimmingly.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why We Must Relive to Get Well (Part 2/2)

Why can’t any therapy help patients with their feelings? One good reason is that they are talking to the wrong brain—the brain that thinks rather than the one that feelings. Unfortunately, the correct brain, the right brain doesn’t talk much, doesn’t understand English and, as a matter of fact, doesn’t understand words. It doesn’t understand in the way we think of understanding. The correct brain is one that contains our history, our pain and our feelings; the lower brain that processes our deep feelings that can finally liberate us. It does understand feelings; we need to speak that language—one without words. We have to convince the brain that spouts words and ideas that it is necessary to go back to early life and a world devoid of intellectuality, (kids are not intellectual as yet), and relive—that lack of love—feelings that were too much to feel at the time. We have to convince that thinking brain to let go, let the lower brain systems emerge and breathe the air of freedom. It can be done; cure can be accomplished. But only by stealth not by deliberation. Feelings have to creep up on us, not sought out. It has to be a therapy of nuance, of subtleties, of flexibilities and lack of domination; that is, it cannot be a therapy of experts because the only expert is the patient. The doctor has to let go of any notion of superiority. Even keeping the patient waiting for a session is a sign of superiority, which I do not tolerate in our therapy; it means: “I am more important than you and my time is more valuable”. And while you are trying to get back some self-esteem, I the doctor, lowers it by keeping you waiting. It is subtle but there. And above all, we need to get rid of any time constraints that force a crying patient to leave in the midst of her feelings until the next session.
We do not touch the patient when he needs to feel unloved; we touch her when the pain is so excruciating that we need to lower its force so it to be experienced and integrated. It is one means of keeping the patient in the primal/feeling zone. If the therapist cannot feel he cannot distinguish the difference and will touch at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Patients can sense when they are being touched out of the needs of the therapist and not our their own needs. So the therapy can go wrong when the therapist has not resolved a good piece of his own pain. And none of that can be taught; when students take notes all of the time it usually means that they cannot feel what is right and need intellectual signs of what to do. This is a therapy that cannot be done by the numbers. It is a matter of sensing, intuition and instinct… a soupcon of training….a lot of training. When a therapist cannot tolerate the patient's suffering she may touch to ease the pain, and thereby ruin the session because it kept the patient from feeling all of his pain. The therapist may be acting out her own need for touch and caress in her own early life. Watching the patient writhing may bring up great pain in herself, setting off her own feelings, forcing her to stop the patient from feeling.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why We Must Relive to Get Well (Part 1/2)

So again, why do we have to relive our early lives in order to get well? What is the magic about reliving that cures anything?" Or how does reliving rewire nerve circuits?"
It means that we go back in time to enter pains that were too much at the time to feel. Repression sealed them off. And deep down they were imprinted and kept doing their damage. Once we lift the repressive lid (done in orderly fashion) there is no longer unconscious forces driving behavior and symptoms.
How do we go back in time? Good question and the answer is simple. We don’t deliberately decide to go back and visit our early lives; that is a recipe for abreaction. We cannot engage the higher level cortex; we must disengage from it. Cede to feelings; and that is our scientific mission: to provide access to feelings and let the whole organism proceed in an ordered, slow descent into the deep unconscious. As odd as that seems, feelings are the vehicle that take us where we need to go. There is a biologic sensor that knows not only where we have to go in the past by how far.

It is the deeply disturbed that enter therapy, and because of severely damaged gating system, slide immediately down to some kind of birth trauma, way off a proper evolutionary voyage. They usually need help in gating, and we may recommend medication of some kind that temporarily enchances gating so that a proper descent is now possible. Without that there is no integration and therefore no getting well.

A well ordered therapy begins in the present, anchoring feelings in the present which eventually will lead to deeper levels along that same feeling path. Feelings, their chemistry and frequencies bind or bundle similar feelings together and lead the neuro-biologic system by the hand to go deeper; it cannot be forced or decided in advance. If it is decided by a therapist about where the patient has to go there is danger and no integration. We must trust the feelings totally; but first we must recognize them and be able to differentiate them from abreaction—the discharge of the energy of feeling without connection. Our job is providing access and to follow evolution every step of the way. Reliving birth in the first weeks of therapy is defying evolution and leads to disaster. It is arriving at deep levels of consciousness prematurely, skipping evolutionary steps and going through the motions of feelings without feeling. I have seen people who have gone to rebirthing centers and come to us prepsychotic.

Whenever a therapist tells the patient what to feel we know he is already on the wrong path. We must sense feelings and follow the patient, not lead him. We take him by the hand and follow where he leads, not vice versa. We doctors must avoid the temptation to act smart. We spent years in college learning to be smart, and now we must elude it. How ironic; yet the history of psychotherapy was intellectual and provided a therapy of the intellect, exactly what we don’t need. We don’t let the patient act “smart” we allow her to act intelligent, to recognize her feelings and how they drive her and cause her to act out. When she tries to act smart we help her get to the feeling; of how to please momma or father. Finally it is a great relief just to be yourself and not have to act this way or that to get love.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Bit About the Stalker

I hope in this piece to save you all a lot of angst and danger. So many of you get involved with a certain kind of person and then are surprised when a little while later he turns out to be a stalker, someone who won’t let go, someone who lives only for the day when you come back to him, someone who calls incessantly, and finally someone who makes threats and becomes dangerous. Let’s see how he got into this mess and how you got into it too.

This is now a scenario among dozens of possibilities, so I will recount only one. The young boy grew up with no love in his house; his father was cold and distant and is mother slightly warm but he had to struggle for her love. Then one day when he was six she ran off with someone else and he was left with his severe father. It could have been that she was only having an affair or was killed in an auto accident; you name the permutations. The point is that his lifeline and only chance for some love was gone, suddenly without warning. He was truly along, left with this pain and urgent need that lay there as a permanent strata, une couche in French.

Now he meets a young naïve girl and dates her and finally marries her. He is wonderful for the first few weeks and the the couche sets in and gets triggered off because in marriage unconsciously she becomes momma. This happens so often, where the girlfriend becomes mother as soon as she puts on the ring, and everything changes. So what does he do? He becomes possessive (of mother…”Don’t leave me), and he is controlling, “Where were you? Who did you see? What did you say?” and on and on. This never gets better, only worse, because the pain/need is imprinted and won’t just go away. This got so bad with one of the stars whom I treated that when they went to parties he watched his wife constantly and would not allow her to raise her head to look at anyone. The submissive girl, who grew up submissive to a controlling father, did not see anything wrong with this. It was just her life. She just went on living as she always had, giving in to controlling people so she lived their lives not hers. She paid the price for this because she imagined there was a chance for love.

But one day she meets someone and tries to leave. He says to her, “No one leaves me……and lives to tell about it.” He becomes suspicious, paranoid and he will make sure she cannot get away. She is terrified because he can be violent, the violence he felt when his mother left. He will follow his wife in a continuing effort for control. He will sneak into her house and listen to her phone messages. He is completely wound up in this because when mother left that was his last chance at life, and that feeling is still inside of him. He can kill because life alone has no more meaning for him; it means his life is over, there is nothing to live for. That is the pull of love and why love can turn to hatred so easily. First love and then the rejection; and what stops love is his desperate need for it and his overbearing control to make sure he is loved.. This produces the opposite—no love. She needs freedom and he cannot let her have it because to him it means rejection. He will first plead to ask her to come back but when rejection is certain there is danger and it needs to be reported. I had one man I treated who was clearly paranoid and thought his wife was cheating on him. She wasn’t but did want to get away; too frightened to try. I called the police because he was an immediate danger. They told me they do not act on “maybe” only acts. So he went home and pumped five bullets into her……and she lived, and he was put away, finally.

The paranoid is unchangeable and intractable in his beliefs because of the imprinted feeling down below that keeps him in its grip; as long as the imprint remains his ideas remain fixed, and they worsen. So when you get involved with a controlling partner who wants to know incessantly where you went and what you did; stay away. It will become dangerous.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Addendum to "Skipping Steps"

This is an addendum to Frank's story.

Since writing Skipping Steps, the insights keep coming. The meds slow me down so I can be more conscious of what’s going on around me. Of course, by that I mean that I feel more as well as become more aware. My first insight was patience, I don’t have to get this over with as fast as I can. I’m more grounded in the present and I’m not quite so controlled by the panic and terror of the past. I can let other people be where they are at and join them there. And then the big (to me) insight of Don’t Skip Steps.
Since then I recently had another big insight: Softer. I admit that you’ve really got to be inside my skin to understand what that means to me, but I’ll try to explain. When I hold a pencil, or mouse, or almost anything, I grip it like someone is trying to take it away from me, or that my life depends on not letting it go, or that I’ll lose control if I relax my grip. When I type, I strike the keys hard to make sure they do their job, and harder after mistakes. When I write, I feel like I’m holding on to a plow being pulled by a wild horse, dragging me all over the place while I’ve got to keep the rows straight. This leaves my writing with a hard, coarse, jerky somewhat illegible appearance. When I talk, I’m desperate to make sure I’m heard, making my voice louder and sharper than it needs to be.
Oddly enough (to me) I’ve been somewhat aware of this for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve been able to feel how unpleasant it is to me in the doing, not just the result. And this leads me to another insight. I’m always careful. But it is a carefulness born of fear rather than love. It arises from wombs eye fear that something terrible is going to happen to me if I don’t watch out. I want to remain careful, but in a positive way born of love for myself, and for what I’m doing, along with love for those with whom my life transpires. It’s a carefulness that comes from within rather than from the outside.
I also have to add that this change doesn’t happen cleanly, and instantly. It is a slow process of being more conscious and noticing those things that sabotage my daily life, and applying conscious effort to change. Because the truth of the matter is that I’ve had over 72 years practice reinforcing these imprints, and my only advantage is that I feel what they do to me, and also feel what it’s like to relax and go slower, softer, and consciously careful.

Our Toxic Inner Life

Most of us agree that toxic chemicals in the environment can affect a carrying mother and her baby. When they spray pesticides onto fruit and vegetables it can deform the growing fetus. But if I told you that the really harmful chemicals that deform the growing fetus are also those that are “sprayed” from inside. If the mother is anxious and her cortisol levels are high, those stress hormone levels will infuse the fetus and affect his growth and brain development. The baby has to adopt to new and abnormal levels of stress that he should not have to adapt to. His system has to rev up to handle the input; it has to overreact in order to meet the threat. It has to react inordinately, and that overreacting my dog him through life. He may become the hysteric who is tense and responds excessively to a normally neutral stimulus. He is operating near the top all of the time. He, too, is under stress, an imprint that is embedded into his system.

The input of cortisol and other hormones affects the evolving brain, and in the first months of gestation there is an effect on the primitive brainstem that governs all of our primordial reactions: digestion, elimination, urination, breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. Also, it affects the alimentary canal, so when years later under an anxiety attack there are “butterflies in the stomach” we know where and when their origin. It is one of many ways that we know the cause and origin of panic and anxiety attacks.

When there is what I call a first line imprint there is perforce, a first line reaction; that means one of the key functions of the primitive brainstem must be involved. So there is a churning of the stomach, a pressure in the chest, a generalized terror, a need to pee, inability to eat, a racing heart and an elevated blood pressure. And yep, the doctor who examines you says it does look like an anxiety attack. But who can guess where it comes from? The disconnection between our lives at minus eight and our lives at forty is very large and it would take a giant leap of faith and science to make that connection. But we do. But patients make that connection all of the time; they come in anxious and descend to very early imprints, only after months of therapy, and it is they who make the connection, not us. What a relief, we don’t have to figure out anything.

At the start of the third month of gestation we are beginning to have an intact nervous system. And traumatic events are still registered very low down. It is only months later that there is an inchoate feeling system where feelings are imprinted, primitive as they are. We now have the beginnings of the limbic area with the amygdala. Thus low level terror can move to join the limbic system where fear is organized. Later on in life when fear is stimulated it can trigger off related deep-lying terror, and we have a panic attack. This happens when there is a violent household where fear is commonplace. The infant is terrified all of the time and the gating system that should hold back terror becomes faulty. Too many assaults on it.

Let me make sure we understand this: a first line trauma engenders a first line reaction. When we see it, a racing heart, for example, we have an idea of what trauma caused it and when. It helps orient us to where we have to go in therapy. Yes, current events can trigger it but through the process of resonance it sets off a first line reaction. We need to begin well anchored in the current situation and feeling and then later descend when the patient is ready for it, which may be some time. We never want to defy our personal evolution and plunge into first line imprints and reactions before the patient is ready. From that we can get abreaction, and worse, psychosis and delusions.
But when someone is very sensitive to low oxygen levels in a room, we can bet that it stems from early on when oxygen was life saving. You have only to witness severe locomotive breathing when a patient is down there reliving oxygen deprivation to understand my point. It is a good bet that it is brainstem originated.

Now suppose the carrying mother drinks and smokes. Can you imagine the chemical pollution affecting the fetus? The child has no chance. It may not show right away, but I have been in this métier for 60 years and I can attest it will cut your life short. You can easily understand this if you live in a wine field where they spray every day with chemicals. But it is the same when you get sprayed from inside every day.

You know why children need to be born to two loving parents? Because the carrying mother needs love, protection and caring while pregnant, and it takes a partner to do that. And when there is an absent father the mother and baby suffer. The mother needs to know that her partner will stay around and be there for her.

And when the father is hostile and impatient they also suffer. She needs a kind, patient environment to rear and carry a healthy baby. I have written in my Life Before Birth, soon or now in bookstores, that arguing parents(when mother is pregnant) lead to babies that have serious allergies, and for males, a greater chance of homosexuality. This is not booga booga talking; there are research results. But it should be obvious that the mother is under stress and her stress hormone level is constantly high. The pregnant mother is spewing out stress into the baby and forty years later the adult now has some heart problems.

Here is what scientists have found when there is a high cortisol level in the carrying mother: the baby’s nervous system is slow to develop and he will have learning and studying problems; the muscles are not developing properly and there can be a lack of coordination later on, and constant fear. (“Prenatal Programming of Human Neurological Function.” C.A. Sandman, et al, International J. of Peptides. Vol 2011. For those interested in the science of it all, read this).

The time when a mother should be most calm is during pregnancy. A revolution or war in the surroundings can be catastrophic for the baby. But a war between the parents is a catastrophe.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Skipping Steps The Untoward Consequences of Cross-Dominance (Part 4/4)

(This is part 4 of Frank's story)


It slowed me down. Just that let me see a lot that had I’d been rushing past in my desperate hurry. The akinesia subsided considerably. I started feeling more comfortable in my skin. For me that was a novelty. I started noticing that the people around me, for the most part, were sitting still. I realized that when I sit in a chair, I am in constant motion searching for a comfortable position that I never quite succeed in finding. I stopped chewing my tongue. I’ve been doing that ever since I can remember. Now if I start to chew my tongue, I notice it and don’t feel compelled to chew it.
Patience. I’ve always been impatient, both with myself and with other people. This is an emergency, and I’ve got to get this over with! This includes my every conversation with other people. I need to get this over with before they have a chance to hurt me. Then I can go off by myself and fantasy how I wanted the conversation to go. A few weeks ago, I walked up to the glass table at the Center, and I let out a big breath. David asked me, “Why do you do that?” I asked why, and he said, “You do it quite often, and I was just curious.” I had no idea then, but now I do. It is because I’m always waiting with bated breath for things to get over with. Once the Minnie crisis passes, I let out a big sigh of relief.
Now I can ask, “Why? What’s the rush?” In my sessions that followed I could easily see the answer to that question. It’s fear of my father and mother. With them it was real. I had to get my interaction with them over with and get away because I knew things would go from bad to worse. This, in my act out, is transferred to any person in a position to tell me what to do. And it goes deeper. I’ve got to get out of here, right now or I’m done for! Of course that is seeing it from a wombs-eye point of view.
I feared these medications might keep me from feeling in my sessions, but that fear dissipated with my first session. However, it was different. I have in the past been a straight 3-2-1-2-3 patient. I always feel great after a session. I feel a lot and as I’ve previously stated, have great connections and insights. But this time my session wasn’t so clean cut. It took a little longer to let myself open up, but then it proceeded as my sessions usually do. That was until I went through a very painful birth sequence. At the end I started to cry.
At first I thought it was a defense and tried to drop back into first line. But this kept happening until I finally let go of my image of how a session should go, and simply let the feeling take me. My body took over and started going in every which way. My arms and legs flailed, while my whole body writhed and turned and jerked and jumped. My head was banging on the mat as I shrieked and cried. And then it culminated in a complete body tremble. This sequence came in waves and repeated itself over and over until my body was spent.
Then the connections: My God, that’s what I’ve been trying to do my whole life, and my whole life has been a struggle not to do that. I’ve been struggling to look normal, to be normal, to feel normal, and I finally got a taste of what MY normal feels like. And the more I feel that in sessions the less I’m driven to it in daily life – which means I struggle less and less to control that urge as it diminishes. It is diminishing because it is what I had to do then, not now. That whole feeling is terror, which followed me from womb to cradle and beyond.
My life right now is in a whirlwind of change, but got interrupted by a really, really, really rotten bout with pneumonia. I thought this was my last Christmas, and didn’t really care if it was. I wanted to get it over with so bad. But then I remembered how Primal that feeling was, so I decided to hang in there. Now I’m pretty much on the mend.
I started this little quest in order to be able to do better therapy. But what I didn’t know is how much it would affect my whole life. Before I started on my meds as an adjunct to my therapy, I would have described my world like this: I am a very messy packrat; I’m disorganized; If I lay something down (such as a tool), I’ve lost it. I spend hours every day looking for things I’ve misplaced. And it gets worse and worse because I let things pile up. If I have something in my hand, while in my office, and want to set it down, I have no place to put it. I never know where anything is. Every surface in my office is piled high with books, papers, bills, toys, electronic parts, boxes, tapes, DVDs, and everything else you could think of. Look around my house and you will see thousands of books, video tapes, CDs that I’ll never watch or read or listen to. But getting rid of them is worse than an amputation. I open a package and I don’t have time to properly dispose of the wrapping. I leave it where it lays and I’ll take care of it later. I never do. So I live my life in clutter that is too overwhelming to even address. And I suffer. I feel helpless, hopeless, and ashamed. What is the matter with me? But I’m too busy to bother with this. I never stop working and never seem to get anything done.
Patience. Going slower now, finding my pace, and something new: Letting other people have their own pace. Be with them, not manipulate them to be with me. I don’t need to impose my images on anyone else. I don’t need to finish other people’s sentences for them. Let them find their own words. That is not really helping them. I only think I know what they are trying to say, but I really don’t know. The scary thing about that is that I didn’t know that’s what I was doing until the meds slowed me down to where I could see. In subtle ways it makes everything feel different.
I notice more. I look around my house and realize I don’t want to live in this clutter. All of that brings its own boatload of distress. My priorities are shifting. First up is to turn this place into one that makes me feel good. I don’t have to do it all at once. Just one small thing at a time, and take my time. I look at all my stuff that I can’t bear to part with and now I’m wondering what the hell I ever wanted with it. Most of it is an Albatross around my neck. My wife rented 2 big dumpsters. In no time they were full and my house is looking better and better. We replaced some curtains we’ve been going to replace for years. The office is clutter free, as well as our bedroom. The bed gets made in the morning. Our dressing room sinks are no longer covered with clothes and papers and receipts and old prescription bottles. I want that sink clear and clean and now it is.
Once the clutter is gone and I’m moving slow enough to put the things I use back in their proper place, I’m not spending so much time looking for things. I’m selling all my books worth anything and dumping the rest. All the books I have kept are on bookshelves with spines facing outward so I’m not forever looking for the book I need. It’s now easy to keep the house clean and neat – especially the kitchen. Dishes don’t stack up simply because I don’t want them to.
I’ve been too busy for three years to get over to my ophthalmologist for a check-up on my good eye, and to the ocularist and get my other eye polished. Now I’ve taken care of that as well as getting a new eye made.
Finally, my life is no longer like living in a funhouse filled with distortion and imbalance where perspective and priority are pure guess work. When I started to sell my books on Amazon, I thought the whole process was so complicated, and required so much work, keeping track of orders and not mixing them up, assessing them, wrapping them, getting postage and shipping them, that I almost didn’t. It just made me feel weak, helpless, and overwhelmed. But then I decided not to let it get to me. I’ll try just one and if that’s okay, I’ll try another. Pretty soon I had a hundred books up for sale and had sold 25. The process still seemed confusing, however. The man at the post office suggested I buy myself a scale and purchase postage on line instead of waiting in line at the post office. He showed me that it was cheaper as well.
But it was while I was trying to process about 15 orders one night that I had my biggest insight so far. I had just gotten a couple of orders mixed up. I slowed down, retraced what I had done, and WOW! I had skipped a step and it put everything in disarrangement. I couldn’t remember what I’d done or not done, I start to get anxious, unsettled, unsure…. Then the light went on. DON’T SKIP STEPS! It is one of the first Primal Principles we learn. We know that if you skip steps in a session, it is ruined. But I’m going so fast, I have to skip steps. I’ve gotta get out of here. In the meantime, I’m cross-dominant and my brain is mixing things up to begin with. As I look over my life in detail, I can see that most of my foibles as well as really big calamities have been caused by skipping steps.
An older Primal Revelation has taken on new meaning as well. As a child I had to have the right answer, and I had to do things right or there was hell to pay. This leaves me focusing on how I’m doing instead of what I’m doing. Nowadays, just like then, as soon as I do that, I stop being fully conscious of what is going on. In training we can be watching a tape of a session and I’m trying to pay close attention. Suddenly the tape stops and France asks, “Was that the right move, or would you have done something else? Equally as sudden I realize that I don’t remember what I just watched. I had experienced just a subtle shift of attention from what was happening to how I was doing. It was only for a few seconds and now I’m in a head spin trying to get my mind to recapture what just transpired. My mouth stops working right, and my mind goes blank, and my impulsivity takes over and I say something that is off the wall, immediately realize it and then struggle to repair the damage, making things worse. This while my desperate 1st line need to get out of here comes shooting up, leaving me in a mess, pretending I’m not.
Now I’m catching myself more as the process starts to happen. I can stop it if I just stop, relax, and let the tension flow out of my body. At times that can be like waking up.
Patience. I need to have patience with myself, first of all. I need to go slow enough that I can remember left from right, and remember to help that left eye and right hand stay in tune with each other. I have spent my life in a state of panic, running for my life. I didn’t have the time or capacity to make sure I wasn’t missing steps. Now my life is moving a little slower, and I not only skip fewer steps, when I do, I notice. That gives me something tangible to work with. Don’t skip steps is not just a Primal Principle. For me it is an axiom for life:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Another Look at the Critical Window

I have written about the critical window for several decades. I want to reiterate why it is such an important idea. It has to do with the imprint. Let us suppose you have been totally unloved from birth on, no touching, no care, only neglect. That “unloved” reality is engraved and remains for a lifetime. Now you marry a carrying, loving person but because you feel unloved you require superhuman caring which no one can fulfill. And sooner or later you will divorce because you imagine he does not love you and you believe her demands are over the top. You see your mate through the prism of your childhood and cannot escape it. All because you were not loved during the critical window: the time when a biologic need must be fulfilled according to evolutionary development. That evolution dictates what needs have to be fulfilled, when and how they should be fulfilled. An example. The child is never touched but the parent says “You know I love you, only I can’t show it.” Well, the need to be held and caressed is paramount in biology from birth on. After that the basic evolutionary need is closed for business and another need may take its place later on; to be talked and listened to.

The notion of the critical window means “your time is up,” and that need can never be filled after that. You can be touched by your adult partner all day long but it can never replace the need and fulfillment when you were five years old. That deprivation is now an imprint and the only way we can open it up is to feel that need again as that child! Everything in the present is symbolic fulfillment. It is not real even though it looks real. I have treated dozens of actresses; ask them if they still need the audience to “love them.” And if one night there is not great applause they sink into the funk they are always in; feeling the old feeling of being unloved. Once the pain is imprinted, it is there for life. Because it is now covered over now by repression we must lift the lid of repression in order to let love in. And oddly enough, the only way to do that is feel unloved..... back then. Thus, to feel loved now we must feel unloved in our past.

Now we come to psychotherapy and the therapist; we are hooked on therapy because we get what we lacked in every session: someone who cares, who is warm and understanding and focuses only on you. That is unbeatable……… and unreal. And you have to go back for more, because it is an addiction, something that calms and assures us. Therapy as a pain killer. It can only be symbolic because the critical period is long gone there cannot be genuine fulfillment. We now need to feel unloved……back then. For symbolic love the minute we don’t get it we fall into pain. But fulfillment that happened during the critical window lasts forever; and that is a major difference. It all revolves around the notion of the imprint and the critical window. Remember, we cannot love neurosis away no matter how much we would like to.

Let’s look at the critical window in animals; it exists in nearly every animal form. This is not some theoretical concoction I manufactured to prove a point; it is purely biologic and has all the constraints of our biology.

The critical window in the first 10 days of a mouse’s life is equal to six months of our lives; and I leave it to you to extrapolate the implications, but there is a critical window for mice to feel loved; otherwise they are doomed for life. In order to stave off anxiety, for example, the mouse needs a nurturing mother. And she must be “loving” (nuzzling, licking, etc), during those 10 days in order to turn on the genes that will stop anxiety. But if the mother is unloving and indifferent to her baby in that period, the genes never gets turned on and the baby will be anxious thereafter; afraid of new situations, not curious, and hesitant. For this baby, painkilling drugs do help, which shows that lack of love produces pain. Now the offspring becomes addiction prone. There was a study of mice who were not loved early on, and they took to alcohol quicker and longer than their loved pals. If we do not understand the concept of the imprint and critical window we cannot understand what mental and emotional illness is all about. Yes, we need a kind warm environment but that is limited. It eases our pain and helps us function but does nothing at all to change the imprint that drives us; the imprint that may kill us prematurely.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Skipping Steps The Untoward Consequences of Cross-Dominance (Part 3/4)

(This is part 3 of Frank's story)


Some of my worst traumas occurred after I left home to be on my own. Some may have occurred because of my cross-dominance and ADD, and it’s for certain that they all exacerbated them. Just turned 21, and just out of the Navy, working as an operating room technician, I woke up on a nice spring morning to discover that I could barely walk. My balls were swollen up as big as baseballs and feeling like they were going to explode. I got a friend to drive me to the hospital where I worked, and I cornered a urologist I worked with. He diagnosed me with bilateral epididymal orchitis, etiology unknown. He put me on Erythromycin and sent me home. I ran a temp of 104 and was in bed for 3 weeks. When it finally let up, my balls collapsed and atrophied, leaving them tender as boils at the poles. I was also left sterile. This was to me like NOT reaching puberty all over again. I felt humiliated, and have had to be very careful not to bump into things like the corner of a table, or get bumped or hit in the crotch area ever since.
The following March the police came to my house, tossed it and arrested me for all kinds of crimes: I was accused of being the Barstow Abortionist, the Cinderella Bandit, possession of illegal lethal weapons, dope peddling, statutory rape, leader of a teenage mafia, and just about anything else you can think of. I made headlines in the paper, lost my job, and thought I was going to prison (another worst nightmare. One that my parents had been threatening me with throughout my childhood – and my brother was already in prison at the time.) The sergeant who arrested me finally realized that I not only wasn’t his criminal and also that I was just a dumb kid that fell off the turnip truck, so he acted as my lawyer at my arraignment, negotiated my bail down from $50,000. To $500., helped me get a bail bondsman, and then in court got the D.A. to stand up and say to the judge, “We demand in the interest of justice that the charges be dropped.” And the judge said, “Okay, kid, get out of here.”
The following March (no longer an operating room technician, but a hod carrier) I got hit by a cement truck that crippled me for a year. It was my fault, and I got the ticket. I jumped out of a company truck and ran around the front of it to cross the street to my truck, when along came a big ready-mix concrete truck to meet me half way. I turned, looked, and knew I couldn’t make it either way. This was really because of my ADD and cross-dominance. It occurred because: As my foreman and I left the Yard to go to a job, I remembered that I forgot my cigarettes. My foreman said, “You ain’t gonna be bumming cigarettes from me all day, you little bastard, so we’ll stop at your place so you can get some out of your truck, but by God you’d better make it snappy, ‘cause we’re on company time.” Well, I run around like a chicken with its head cut off anyway, so naturally, I didn’t see the cement truck coming until it was too late.
Then when I was 25, the worst one of all: I got trapped in my brother-in-law’s attic, while helping him install a cooler, and suffered severe electric shock. I woke up in the hospital emergency room with the doctor pinching my eyes to see if I could react. I sat straight up, and he pushed me back down, saying, “Whoa, lay down, your heart’s not beating.” The after effects were terrible. I couldn’t move my jaw for 2 weeks afterward. And that’s how long the diarrhea and vomiting lasted. After that, I had a permanent case of the whips and jingles. I couldn’t touch a light switch without a big thick towel in my hand. All anyone had to do is say hello to me and I’d damn near jump over the moon. That one still dogs me. Those electric shock Primals are every bit as painful as any of my Birth Primals. But it was those Primals that normalized my startle response.
Probably of equal importance is the fact that I had 3 LSD trips and smoked grass regularly for a number of years. I’m sure it could not do less than aggravate my leaky gates, and further incuse the lack of coordination between my right hand and left eye.
It’s harder to get by with money and no drugs than it is to get by with drugs and no money (Old hippie saying)

Well, unlike Mom and Gramma, Art didn’t just leave me hanging with all this. He was also doing his own research, looking for other kinds of treatment.
One treatment that could hold promise is called transcranial direct current electrical stimulation. The military is using it to amp up learning in order to teach Air Force pilots who guide unmanned attack drones. It helps the recipient to be alert, focused, and more able to find anomalies on the computer screen. It also cuts learning time in half. I have ambivalent feelings about it, because of my experience of severe electric shock. I’ve relived a lot of it but much of it is still there and vulnerable to restimulation. I fear that it might nullify the positive effects. I was almost relieved to find out that it is prohibitively expensive.
There is also a similar treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation and another that is chiropractic called BioCranial Technique designed to adjust the bones in the skull to allow better distribution of spinal fluid pressure.
But then Art suggested pharmaceuticals. He thought we should try a neocortical stimulant given along with something to quiet the brainstem. Along with a psychiatrist, we settled on Adderal extended release and a low dose of Inderal as an adjunct to my Primal Therapy.
This was at first a bit of a problem to me. Early in therapy my therapist suggested something along those lines, but the very thought of speed struck a nasty chord. I also feared it would interfere with my therapy. Instead I took Strattura, and outside of a placebo effect at first, it did nothing for me so I quit.
Now I had used speed before. Back in the early 60s my favorite self medication was one of my wife’s diet pills (Dexamyl Spansules) along with a whole lot of beer. The problem, when you are young, desperate, and ignorant, is that titration is replaced with saturation. So what might have been helpful and useful went undiscovered. I also had a restaurant in the early 70s, and in order to work 20 hours a day, I took whites (these little pills were the first street manifestation of methamphetamine). By the time my restaurant collapsed, I was in the middle of the blind staggers and a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t even say a compound sentence without getting lost. In fact, that is what got me into therapy in 1973.
Nonetheless, Art’s suggestion was the most promising. Of course in treating all this we want to get to the origin of the symptom in order to feel the pain the symptom is defending me from. Drugs don’t do that. But wait. Drugs used as an adjunct to Primal Therapy might open some doors. So I agreed, even though I was still apprehensive about the possibility that it would prevent me from getting to my feelings. What I had not considered was titration of dose, starting with a 5mg extended release capsule and 20mg Inderal (a sympatholytic non-selective beta blocker). The Inderal dose was fine and I titrated the Adderal up to 15mg, i.e. to a point of alertness without the whips and jingles that can come with speed. Then WOW!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hearing Voices

They arrested a killer a while ago. His uncle said he came back from Iraq hearing voices that told him to kill. So let’s look at this. It would help again if we understand the three levels of consciousness. Here was a troubled kid who went to Iraq and got overwhelmed. Without the war he may have made it but the war was the last straw. It was too much. His early pain was rising; a lot of his anger and fury from early on in his life which already made him unstable. That pain and anger began to rise after Iraq which filled him with rage;; but he did not feel the rage instead he heard voices telling him to kill. Those were the upper level translations of his deep-lying rage. And it turns out that when one hears voices there is actually electrical activity in his brain as if he actually were hearing voices. He was listening to his feelings given voice and he obeyed what they told him. He obeyed because his feelings were commanding him as they do most of us. The difference with us is that we don’t hear voices, we just act. In psychotic killers there is an intervening variable.
The voices are subconscious emanating from deep rage that is out of control. In neurosis we feel on the verge of something but we contain it because our defense system is working partially. And we lose our temper but we do not kill. There is enough defense and gating and also there may be less first line rageful imprints at work.
The problem is that this man was required to kill in Iraq. He was given permission and it must have felt a relief. But it provided a channel for murder. The whole experience was too much for an already damaged individual. But now he had a socially institutionalized approval for a monstrous deed, so he needed not see it as monstrous. And indeed most soldiers simply say about killing, “I have a job to do and I do it.” It is not killing in anger, which would be logical; rather,, it is murder as a job. Killing is a job description just like any other job. So today there is an uproar in the media about our solders urinating on killed Taliban troops. It is not the killing that outrages the media but the urination. When put on a moral scale it seems to me that murder might be a tiny bit more monstrous than urinating. But you see society has sanctioned killing not urination. So will these 3 dead bodies make us safer? You decide. Don’t forget that our soldiers were put in harm’s way so that foreigners were trying to kill them. Of course, they are angry and act-out.

When you hear voices it is not you who are killing; you are just following orders, like the Nazis. And you are not guilty. This poor killer had no idea where those voices came from. But he had to obey. Feelings told him what to do just like with us so-called normals.

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.