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:


  1. Frank, your story is incredible.... the narrative around your messes in your home really resonated with me..... DON'T skip steps! Thank-you Frank, and my very best wishes to you and your wife..... It seems to me that in each small step you take, you feel that your life moves ahead in leaps and bounds.... very inspiring.

  2. Dear Frank,
    Your life and primal: I couldn’t read through without getting pulled into my own childhood... many similar incidents and feelings. At one point I felt disconnected from my left brain - I remained in the second line for the rest of the day. Only sleep helps me out of my childhood prison.
    What I would like to say is, you have achieved what I would like reach. However, I’m skeptical because I’m so damaged and wonder if there is a realistic chance for me.
    I’m so happy for you that you have reached the point where you realize when you are about to SKIP a STEP.
    It looks like life is worth living after all !!!!

    1. Sieglinde: If Frank can do it, so can you. That is the message here: the human spirit is so resilient. art

  3. Dr. Janov,

    I know about resilience, my reason why I am still alive.
    I heard also the cheer-leading "if I can do it so can you", many times before.
    Let's wait and see. No matter what, I'm ready.

    1. Sieglinde: I need to talk to you. call me office and they will give you my phone. 3103922003 art


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.