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.


  1. How very brave of you to stay with it and to realize that feeling pain frees you to be.... such important words... Regarding parenting your baby, consider Bergman's Kangaroo Mother Care writings/vids... It will make you weep (as I did too, knowing the love I missed out on) but it will confirm your natural ability to love your baby fully and to have joy in giving through that bond with the little one. Thank-you for writing this....

  2. Wow what a great piece of writing.

    You described my feelings when I get depressed. I have found that my depression is part of the road to discovering something about my past or mourning something that has passed. It's almost as though one has to go down into the depths of depression to get to the depths of one's unconscious side. It's a way marker perhaps for how one felt when tiny.

    I always look at it like the Labrynth in Jason and the Minotaur. This story seems like an allegory about confronting demons in one's subconscious and how the labyrinth is a metaphor for the twists and turns and dead ends on the journey to healing in the subconscious. My little self was trapped asleep in the dark recesses and I had to go into the dark to confront the Minotaur i.e. the trauma I experienced before I could find little me.

    Dr Janov describes being a therapist as learning from the patient. Simply being there for that person. A bit like Ariadni in the tale. She gave Jason a ball string and she held onto the end. She was helpless as he went in but gave him a lifeline to the outside world. Like Alice Miller's enlightened witness. She was just there.

    We all need an Ariadni whether it is your husband or my wife or a damn decent therapist.

  3. It seems to me that in spite of all evidence to the contrary that people still tend to see depression as a disease and not a symptom as a consequence of repressed unresolved emotions. These emotions are usually focused on repressed anger but can be
    associated with grief, unreturned love or continual lack of recognition as a person.
    The trick of treatment is to connect the cause/effect relationship in the individual.
    If one considers that some people have a threshold over which depression is triggered
    one begins to understand the nature of depression. The physiology of the body can be instrumental in providing this trigger. Pregnancy can be such a trigger in the above case. The writer is in a dilemna of uncertainty arising in a change of role. In people depending on ego strength from feedback from the society in which they belong this situation can be traumatic. Therapy designed to replace ego with self respect and confidence is a good start. When I was in practice I experience a great deal of successful outcomes by following this protocol
    Bryan Perry.
    Psychotherapist (Retired)

  4. Thanks Art, and thanks to who wrote this; I love case studies, they put you right at the person's experience. I am glad you have a great partner, from the sounds of it. Don't worry, you will be a great Mum, you are bringing your awareness.
    I've read and seen so much depression, and relate to these symptoms myself. Sometimes it's so bad there's what psychiatrists refer to as depression w/psychotic symptoms, so sad, and sounds like you have some dissociation. Cut off from self.. However, what felt new to me was you blaming yourself. I guess that may be the only way the infant can reason why they are being left alone.
    All best x

  5. Hi Jacquie,

    -"Cut off from self. . . However, what felt new to me was you blaming yourself. I guess that may be the only way the infant can reason why they are being left alone"-.

    From my own experience 'reason & blaming the self or others' is 3rd line. These 3rd line symptoms are a distorted outgrowth of the terror of loss, abandonment and betrayal.

    Sometimes self blame does not appear until long after the traumatic events; maybe decades. There may be 'false selves & entities' that blockade the real trauma so that the person never knew how much he/she was in pain. This was certainly the case for me and I try not to pass judgement on others I know and love all too well.

    This to me is a never ending source of surprise. Once the connections are restored, only then do the true 'needs' reveal themselves (Frank made this point and we have to feel the unmet need in it's full form before moving on). This can emerge in relationships and it feels like the other person is 'doing' or 'not doing' something. . . You can know by how strong the 'valence' is (Arts' words). If the valence of your feelings is out of proportion to the current situation that's triggering them off then you can generally be sure it's your traumas resonating.

    If on the other hand your life becomes equally terrifying as an adult as it was then as a child it is possible that you have become a slave to factors (& personalities) beyond your ability to withstand but without knowing it. This can result in a genuine conviction of original sin in oneself (although it's the 1st line trauma driving it anyway). I have been there, recently and many people who are not in touch with their own true feelings can stand and stare and point the finger. This feels like a public stoning without the stones.

    The cognitive factor in this is that if one person feels himself to be utterly to blame and utterly worthless then the rest of the group can breath a sigh of relief. They are let off the hook, it's not a very conscious situation though. Thus the thought/feeling of self blame is also proof of blame.
    But as I think Frank was pointing out this is all symptoms, we have to get right to the feeling of the unmet need. Then the tendency to blame really vanishes. Other bitter pills may emerge to be swallowed though, for example realising how much false hope and regard (idealization) of others you were putting out. Alice Miller summed this up perfectly with her remarks about us "waiting", eternally waiting for love. . . but does it ever come? If we are stuck in an idealization of some-one or something then no, it never will. Not until one touches true feelings do those false aims and goalposts fall away.

    Paul G.

  6. if i was a primal therapist i wouldn't treat pregnant women. a primal can push vital signs to near lethal levels. assuming the mother has either primalled many times before, or can be expected to primal in the very early stages of therapy, one must ask; how much will her body normalize during that brief period of fetal development? one must ask the fetus: "is mommy's therapy helping you?" the fetus may or may not provide the answers. if there isn't enough scientific evidence, we should not be treating pregnant women. wait until the baby is born.

    1. Richard: We only took one pregnant woman because it was urgent. There seemed to be no harmful effects on he baby. art Still, we don't usually do it. art

  7. Insight fullness of Kafka? I submit this if you may find it of interest

    Letter to My Father
    by Franz Kafka

    He writes about it as though it had happened a few minutes, not decades, before.

    1. Alice Miller wrote extensively about Kafka and how he fought against both his Parents control and attempt to free himself of thier attempts to make him who they wished.

      I find this article full of the poisonous pedagogy that Miller wrote about. He had just as many issues with his Mother and this is not mentioned. His writing is considered the writings of a prisoner when in actual fact it was the veiled writing of a tortured child and the fact was that he seems to be still in that childhood state which is why his experiences seem to be only yesterday rather than in the past.

      Lastly this writer has to see the Parents side and the whole issue of "For your own good" ie the punishment of the child is good for them is skated over. To quote the last sentence:

      "Then again, we have only the son's side of the story. Once when Franz Kafka was strolling with his younger friend Gustav Janouch in Prague, they ran into Hermann Kafka leaving his shop. As they drew near, Hermann boomed, "Franz. Go home. The air is damp." In a whisper, Kafka explained, "My father. He's worried about me," adding, "Love often wears the face of violence.""

      The writer has to find a quote from Kafka that suggests that Kafka has to love his Father really just like many Hollywood films always show family break-ups followed by family reconciliation an example being "The Kids are Alright" where both children recognise the errors of their ways and get in line with the Parents dictats. The Prodical Son in essense.

      Love does not wear the face of violence. Violence is violence and Love is Love. Such hypocrasy is something which Kafka seemed to try and deal with for most of his life. His short story the "The Penal Colony" would seem to be a veiled vision of how a child has to take whatever punishment is meted out without any questioning of the reasons for it. Even the guards don't know why they are punishing the prisoner which suggests that Parents are often driven to hurt, humiliate and beat their children because they were but don't remember it.

      Is it any wonder that Kafka remembers things as though they were yesterday. He probably spent his whole life wrapped up in the pain of his childhood without really understanding it as that. By not seeing it and feeling it he cannot move on with his life.


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.