Thursday, May 31, 2012

Psychology and Ideology. How Could Anyone (Except the Rich) Vote for George Bush? By Peter Prontzos (4/6)

In this view, a person’s political and social norms derive to a large extent from the style of parenting which they experienced.  The “Strict Father” model is associated with a more rigid, individualistic, authoritarian, patriarchal, and conservative type of moral code.  The Strict Father model celebrates traditional family structures and authority, and the father has primary responsibility for supporting and protecting the family, setting strict rules for children, and enforcing those rules.

The “Nurturant Parent” model, on the other hand, tends to produce children who are less rigid, more socially-minded, and who do not base morality on obedience.  This model, although it has some aims in common with the Strict Father approach (such as self-discipline), has a different style and different priorities.

Love, empathy, and nurturance are primary, and children become responsible, self-disciplined and self-reliant through being cared for, respected, and caring for others, both in their family and in their community…The obedience of children comes out of their love and respect for their parents…not out of fear of punishment (ibid).

The literature of developmental psychology shows that there is no contest between the two paradigms: childrearing according to the Strict Father model harms children; a Nurturant Parent model is far superior.  The Strict Father model “does not make for a harmonious society or for social progress” whereas Nurturant Parent morality encourages “the largest number of citizens can work together productively and cooperatively” (ibid).
“Parenting styles” refers not only to the ways in which caregivers treat children directly, but also to the social modeling that children observe (e.g. treating other people with respect - or not).  Lakoff writes in Moral Politics, that people tend to view their society, government, and political issues through the unconscious conceptual lens of metaphors.  The most potent of these metaphors is that of society as a family; hence, people’s attitudes to politics and “common sense” often reflect their own particular family experiences.  But he cautions that
Nothing is “just” common sense.  Common sense has a conceptual structure that is usually unconscious…not unconscious in the Freudian sense of being repressed, but unconscious simply in that we are not aware of it (Lakoff, 1996).

General support for this position comes from the research of Jost, et al, who did a meta-analysis of 88 samples from 12 countries, and established, inter alia:

dogmatism correlates consistently with authoritarianism, political-economic conservatism, and the holding of right-wing opinions;
a strong connection between intolerance of ambiguity…and political conservatism;
in the United States and Australia, people who hold politically conservative attitudes are generally less open to new and stimulating experiences;
conservatives are more susceptible to fear;
right-wing parents are apparently less close to their children.

The study also quotes conservative U.S. pundit George F. Will who writes that: “Conservatives know the world is a dark and forbidding place, where most new knowledge is false, most improvements are for the worse” (op. cit.)  This attitude, which serves as an argument for the status quo, has been associated historically with conservatives, from the Pharisees to Edmund Burke to Mitt Romney.  It is an especially appealing to ruling elites, as its ideological hegemony (Gramsci) serves to support their continuing power.

For instance, in one study (cited above) which examined the connection between parenting styles and politics, Milburn found that  repression and denial correlate with childhood trauma; specifically, that the “higher level of punitiveness among political conservatives is very strongly associated with experiences, generally, of harsh punishment from childhood”.  More specifically, “High punishment males were also more conservative than low punishment males” (Milburn, 1995).

In other words, a child’s experiences “can be displaced onto adult political attitudes” (ibid).

This research builds on the insights of Wilhelm Reich (The Mass Psychology of Fascism), who was among the first to point out that repressed, unfulfilled, and angry people are more disposed to violence, authoritarianism, and even totalitarianism.  Eric Fromm, who, like Reich, escaped from Nazi Germany, viewed authoritarian childhoods as more likely to create adults who see obedience as the best way to win the approval of father figures in power.  This tendency is exacerbated by the authoritarian behaviour and ideology of national leaders:

Fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism have in common that they offered the atomized individual a new refuge and security.  These systems are the culmination of alienation.  The individual is made to feel powerless and insignificant, but taught to project all his human powers into the figure of the leader, the state, the fatherland, to whom he has to submit and whom he has to worship (Fromm, 1955).

Feelings of hurt, rage, fragmentation, and alienation provide a fertile soil for anti-social behaviour such as aggression and mindless obedience.  Indeed, both neglect as well as the harsh physical punishment of children are associated with increased levels of personal aggression (ScienceDaily, 7 April 2008; 14 Nov. 2005).

There have been many studies which have looked for consistent psychological differences between conservatives and liberals.  For instance, there is

consistent and converging evidence that personality differences between liberals and conservatives are robust, replicable, and behaviorally significant, especially with respect to social (vs. economic) dimensions of ideology (Carney, 2009).

Other researchers have concluded that:

In general, liberals are more open-minded, creative, curious, and novelty seeking, whereas conservatives are more orderly, conventional, and better organized (Carney, op. cit).

Conservatives are also less likely to accept new social, scientific or religious ideas than liberals are.  Studies on how the brain processes information found that “conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences.  These tendencies are not confined to ideology, but also “influence everyday decisions” (Gellene, 2007).

It appears, however, that both Democrats and Republicans are equally adept at ignoring “inconvenient truths” when making decisions (LiveScience, 2006), and that, in general, “Americans prefer to read political articles that agree with the opinions they already hold” (ScienceDaily, 29 May 2009).

In another study of children in nursery school:
future conservatives were described as easily victimized, indecisive, rigid, fearful and inhibited. The budding liberals were described as self-reliant, prone to developing close relationships, energetic and somewhat dominating (Seed, 2006).
Jack Block observed that such findings show that there is “an undeniable linkage between early childhood character structure and much later adult orientation toward political issues and political choices.”  Block argues that these characteristics tend, “to evolve into a worldview, a weltanschauung, on a wide variety of issues, many of them political” (ibid).  Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, these differences play out in a host of other aspects of life:
  Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books, and their books cover a greater variety of topics. And that's just a start. Multiple studies find that liberals are more optimistic. Conservatives are more likely to be religious. Liberals are more likely to like classical music and jazz, conservatives, country music. Liberals are more likely to enjoy abstract art. Conservative men are more likely than liberal men to prefer conventional forms of entertainment like TV and talk radio. Liberal men like romantic comedies more than conservative men. Liberal women are more likely than conservative women to enjoy books, poetry, writing in a diary, acting, and playing musical instruments (Dixit, 2007).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hijacking Sex Revisited

Although the term “imprint” has been used with a different meaning and context by students of animal behavior (to describe how ducks become imprinted to humans for example), it is uniquely descriptive of how pain is impressed in the nervous system. As I use the term, imprints are a special category of memory: experiences that are repressed because they are too painful to integrate, in a sense “put on hold” below the level of conscious awareness. They are put on hold in terms of our whole physiology and not just as a brain event. An imprint is a memory that unlike cerebral recall, which is a cortical event, can be “remembered” by every system of the organism because it is fixed in these systems exactly as the event was laid down originally—the same blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate. If there were a rapidly beating heart of 160 beats per minute during the experience when the memory or imprint was created, then when the memory of that event is provoked, there will again be the same heart rate. The imprint means that part of the traumatic event was experienced while another large part was not; it is yet to be felt. It is not an inert force but something continually active. Aspects of the imprint are, by definition, unconscious. They will become conscious when they are felt fully and connected to higher brain centers.

We need to understand the imprint—and memory itself—in order to understand how unconscious memory affects our behavior later in life, and what happens to our sex life.

Pioneering research by neurologist Wilder Penfield showed that memories are physiologically imprinted in the brain (the temporal lobe) and leave traces that can be elicited (by using an electronic probe) exactly as they occurred, capturing the sensory inputs (sight, hearing, smell, etc.) and feelings of the original event intact. Brain research by E. Roy John, a pioneer in the field of memory, showed that when someone recalls an experience, their brain waves are identical to what they were in the original experience. More recently, a team of American and Israeli researchers showed that the firing activity of individual neurons was the same in recall as in the original experience (Gelbard-Sagiv et al., 2008). In short, the brain acts as though it is reliving the old experience once again. And if we simply observed the brainwaves, we would not be able to tell the difference between the present situation and the past one. The system acts as though that past were present. We then believe that our current reactions are rational and in accord with reality when indeed, they are responses to the past. Here is the essence of neurosis: treating the present as if it were the past. Not being able to distinguish the two, and thus being driven by history.

Because the past is infused into the present, we have no objectivity about this reality and our responses. So the neurotic, when someone says to him, “Can I help you?’ may overreact and respond, “Do I look helpless?!” The present event triggers the memory of parents who would not tolerate any weakness in their child, and ridiculed him for his seeming helplessness even as a young boy. His past became present. It warps perception and our interpretation of events in life.

Others have discussed the biological mechanisms involved in imprints and the continuing existence of traumatic memories from early in life and their impact on the body. Daniel Alkon of the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. (Alkon, 1992), notes that memories in childhood are doubly imprinted in the brain. They not only are stored in networks already present in the child, they are actually stored in the network designs they help to create and structure. Thus, early memory can change the patterns of brain circuits. The memory lies in those changes as well as throughout the physical system. Imprints can change not only the function but also the structure of the brain. The new structure is memory made solid. There are changes in the synapses (the connecting gaps between nerve cells), in the dendrites (the receiving end of information between neurons), and in the epigenome (the biochemical modifications that change the way our genes behave—see Levenson and Sweatt, 2005). In sexual abuse cases, it has been found that the hippocampus of the limbic system, important in forming memory, is smaller and functionally deficit (Bremner, et al., 2003). It has also been found in other kinds of emotional abuse, as well. The different brain structure is evidence of past trauma. Fewer frontal cortex neurons are also evidence of the imprint. Allan Schore cites a number of studies demonstrating how very early trauma impairs the development of frontal brain neurons (Schore, 1994). It is much broader than the way we usually think about memory.

The brain not only remembers, but also is a form of memory itself. Bruises that arise during a reliving can be memories of the doctor’s hands during delivery. These events have been photographed and reported in my other books. Memory is not confined to the brain. An attack of heart palpitations, for example, is a brain/body memory, a fragment of an old event that lingers on due to the imprint. We need to reorient our thinking so that we see the body as participating in memory. Then when we see palpitations we don’t take it as some isolated symptom. When the penis droops and cannot get hard, it is speaking a language, eloquent and precise. We need to understand that language and not consider the problem as some isolated mechanical event that needs readjusting.

The imprint is a memory held on all levels of consciousness, each aspect recalled by each level of the brain in its own way. It is in the end a single system inextricably bound together. We recall by words, by feelings and by sensations. A limp penis is a memory, the lower brain’s way of expressing it. If we can get at the memory, we can often solve the problem because it is but a manifestation of an historical event or events. It says, “I was crushed and defeated at birth, and then crushed and rendered impotent by my mother.” It may have all happened so early that it is not to be recalled in words. Indeed, words are the enemy. We need to descend down the right side of the brain to key imprinted feelings that may have no words but do their dirty work nevertheless. The inability to get erect is no different from palpitations, a fragment of a total memory. We are too tempted to treat the fragments without regard to the whole person. The deep level of memory only gives up its history in its own language. The more we use words in our search the less effective we will be, and the more the patient will suffer. We cannot solve a sex problem on the level of insights; it is not neurologically possible.

Imprints can be lodged in the lower brain (brainstem), controlling vital functions such as feeling. Still further, the cerebral cortex gives it awareness, making it a conscious memory. We see this in our therapy when patients cry. First, they cry as an adult “about their childhood,” then slip back in history and cry like a child. Finally, they return to infancy where the cry is distinctly different; they may do all of this in the same two-hour session. Three different brain systems are involved; three different representations of the same memory. After a session they will not be able to willfully duplicate that early cry which emanated from a different brain system. It is asking the cortex to do the work of the brainstem and limbic system. It is another way we know that different levels of consciousness are active, and that different memories lay on these distinct levels.

Imprints can be created even while we are in the womb, engraved into our neurophysiologic system by some trauma that happens at that time. Imprint implies an overload, something that could not be integrated at the time because of the force of pain. It is repressed or inhibited by our inhibitory hormones, coded, put aside and held in storage. It must be felt. By “felt,” I mean experienced exactly in the way the memory originally occurred. Again, memory is laid down as total biologic experience. To recall that memory it must again be experienced as a total event. Otherwise, it is not the experience of the imprint; it is the experience only of the mental aspect of it. We can never become conscious in that way. We become aware, and that will never solve a deep sex problem. So long as the imprint is not experienced in its entirety, there is no cure. There is palliation but no more than that.

Others have charted the biochemical mechanisms involved in imprints. For example: James McGaugh of the University of California, Irvine, describes how “intense feelings triggered by a stressful or emotional event help preserve memories of that experience, in large part by activating stress hormones responsible for storing emotionally charged information.” (Bower, 1994).

McGaugh further states that the stronger the emotional experience, the more reliable the memory. This is important when we want to understand incest and the recovered memory syndrome. Actually, the stronger the emotional component of the original trauma, such as early neglect, the more deeply embedded it will be in the nervous system.

Brain research is now confirming the point I am making about the provoking of old memories (Kensinger, 2007; Mather, 2007; McGaugh, 2003). McGaugh and his colleagues have what is called a “mind-congruity” model that indicates that memories are more easily retrieved when the emotional state at the time of the memory’s formation matches that of the state at the time of the retrieval, which is precisely what we have observed over the decades in our therapy. The more emotional the event, the more alerting hormones are secreted, which then more deeply seals the imprint. The memory then becomes fixed. If we access it, it will never lie. That is the wonderful thing about the imprint—it is a fountain of truth. Which is exactly why we can count on its veracity when we see a patient with access reliving incest. We can believe it when we see loss of erection. It is telling the truth despite our willpower, which is why we cannot will an orgasm, man or woman, without good deep access. The inability to become erect in a man speaks the truth of the system. We too often are trying to correct this so-called problem, when it is actually in accord with internal reality; we are trying to tear it away from reality with our newly found psychological techniques and pharmacological tools. We can also count on its truth through measurement: when the body temperature rises or drops some three degrees during a session, we know the patient is re-experiencing a major trauma, either a major second-line (limbic system) trauma, or a significant first-line. Or more likely, both.

We have found that such memories are quite accessible through the use of proper techniques. Without those techniques, memories seem inaccessible. Nature is a good protector—such memories shouldn’t be easily accessed, as the lower centers of the brain hold survival functions and adaptation strategies that must not be tampered with.

Though a trauma may be long past, it remains within the body, imbued with the full force of the original event. It continually creates havoc. So long as the body is young and strong, there may be an absence of symptoms. But as it ages and weakens, symptoms will manifest.

Once the imprint is blocked away from conscious-awareness, it is always a danger, a “foreign element” to be reckoned with. The danger is that it will intrude upon awareness and send the vital signs skyrocketing. The alien intrusion, such as being abused or abandoned by one's father, for example, makes the child feel unwanted, unloved, and unsafe. Under the experience created during the child's early years, the child becomes terrorized and repressed. Trauma then creates a splitting of the self—it drives a wedge between the real pained self and the unreal, or unfeeling, repressed self, the self presented to the public. Because of the split or disconnection, we can no longer will our bodies to do our bidding. In sex, that means the body is out of our control. Our “will” remains on the top cortical level and cannot reach down to tell the penis what it should do, so it cannot stop it from ejaculating too quickly, for example. Very early trauma has compromised the development of the controlling orbitofrontal cortex, which could slow ejaculation. Being disconnected means losing a bond with many of the processes that are mediated by lower levels. Thus, we have no way to control heart palpitations or lower our blood pressure, or deliberately will an orgasm. No willpower on our part can make a difference. We are trying to harness forces with which we have lost contact years ago. They are sending out orders in their peculiar silent language, shifting resources from one place to another and trying to warn us of danger. To illustrate, the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, may be raised to a high level, but all we will feel is the vague sense of impending doom, and we do not know from what. “Doom” was in the offing during perhaps a birth experience with too little oxygen. Or worse, we do not feel anything at all. This is a problem, and the essence of what I call the “Janovian Gap”. The wider the distance or disconnection between a deep imprint and the conscious/awareness of it, the more susceptible we will become to illness. The space between feeling/sensation and the cortical “thinking” acknowledgment of it is a precise measure, and in my opinion a gauge of our longevity. One can say, “Yes, but the man developed lung cancer because he smoked 2 packs a day.” I would say that the man smoked because of the gap between what he was experiencing physiologically and his conscious awareness of it; that gap compromised his system and his health.

Because of this disconnection between feeling/sensation and the thinking mind, the penis has a mind of its own, a sense of urgency to release pent-up tension. We need to experience the imprint, the level of consciousness where the disconnection took place, which may have nothing to do with sex. To feel the disconnect is to reconnect. To suddenly feel what we previously couldn’t ends the disconnection and our vital signs return to normal—not only our vital signs, but also our vital functions, of which sex is most certainly one.

Without connection, we are victims rather than masters of our emotions and sensations. Without connection we can will an erection, but the body won't respond because it is already responding to a feeling of impotence, or of helplessness and powerlessness lodged in the primitive, reptilian brain.

Profound impotence or helplessness can occur to a newborn when he is trying to be born, only to have his whole system shut down by a massive anesthetic given to the mother. The anesthetic enters the newborn’s system and renders him helpless. It is an unalterable and enduring systemic experience! It will be represented on all levels of consciousness throughout his life. When it is represented on the cortical level and the person is filled with obsessions, we imagine that the problem is obsessive thoughts. The problem is the imprint lower down that is represented higher up and is driving thoughts. It also can be represented or manifest on the very deep levels of the nervous system and affect sex. If because of the nature of the birth trauma the child was rendered helpless and passive, the system will be skewed to parasympathetic nervous system dominance and it will affect sex by diminishing libido. If, on the other hand, the child was able to struggle and succeed in his birth, the system may be skewed to sympathetic nervous system dominance and libido will be enhanced. To be more precise, the system will be overactivated and when the child becomes sexual, he also will be sexually overactivated.

The feeling or sensation of powerlessness/impotence is registered physiologically. It will only be given a name later on, usually in adolescence, when we have the capacity to develop concepts to describe our feelings, and when impotence becomes a literal physiologic event, something we can finally point to as the problem. Alas, we are pointing to the ostensible problem, not the real one. We are pointing to how the real problem becomes manifest.

The idea of impotence must not be confused with the feeling or sensation itself. The traumatic imprint that gives rise to it lives on a different level of the brain, reverberating in loops below the level of conscious awareness. These feelings do their damage whether they have words to name them or not. They liberate free radicals, for example, which may damage neurons. And they will go on doing their damage even after a therapist proffers a name for it. That name on the third-line will not touch its force on the first-line. That is why using words or insights to understand the feelings do practically nothing at all to change them or improve them. A person can say to themselves a thousand times, “I am strong. I am capable. I have power,” and it will have no affect on the sex problem. Those words live on a high level of brain function.

Different levels of the brain speak different languages. If we want to speak “sex”, we have to communicate in its own language. We must allow awareness to arise out of lower-level feeling, rather than reaching down from the top of the brain. If we want to understand a sex problem, we need to plunge into the murky depths of the unconscious and speak in a language that is bereft of words. That is the meaning of conscious-awareness—integrating that which has been blocked and repressed. It means visiting the areas and times when the imprint occurred, reliving it literally with the brain operating as it did at the time, and connecting it. Now the body and brain are integrated and can function properly. In terms of human evolution, concepts such as impotence or helplessness developed millions of years later in the evolution of our species. This notion of the brain functioning at the time of the imprint is critical to our understanding of memory. A memory may be set in the brainstem, which was the highest level of neurologic organization at the time. A pre-birth imprint, such as that which comes from a mother who smokes or suffers from severe depression, is imprinted largely in the brainstem and ancient parts of the limbic system. This very early memory is going to impact instinctual processes, not the least of which is sex. They will form a mĂ©lange, intertwined so tightly that it will be difficult later to disentangle them. Luckily, we don’t have to; reliving first line imprints separates the pain from sex automatically.

Now about hijacking sex. Remember that the early imprints are set down with a force, a force the equal of the trauma inflicted on the system. When a current level of excitement or stimulation is high enough, it will set off through resonance related feelings and sensations going all the way back to womb-life. Sexual stimulation fills that bill. And when the level of sexual excitement reaches a critical level it triggers off both the birth trauma and gestational life (where equal levels of excitation occurred); moreover, it triggers off the exact reaction that occurred with those earlier traumas. At this point the imprint, the primordial imprint, takes over and runs the show; that is, sex will be run off in terms of the imprint, how it was run off and how it ended. If the original event ended in defeat, the baby could not exit the womb due to massive anesthesia to the mother (and therefore to the baby), it could be that the male loses his erection and “fails.” This sequence is preordained; it ended that way originally and directs the sequence now, once the original imprint has been set off. It looks like sex but it is not. And, I might add, sex often looks like sex but it is something else; look at Tiger Woods. It is excruciating early force made manifest through sex…run off through sex. And it was never satisfying nor relieving for him, so he was forced to do it over and over again. Was he a sex addict? He was in the grips of a constant pain that until felt would drive him inexorably, and until connection it will always drive him. The penis becomes simply the relief valve; first it begins with bedwetting, and then sex as we become sexual. Woods was running off a sequence, first of very early imprints and then compounded with being driven night and day to succeed in golf. He had the beginning of a primal without connection, and it became obsessive and compulsive, like most unconnected behaviors.

You see, the imprint is not just a cerebral memory but a systemic one. And that system encompasses the basic system set in place at the time, passive or active, defeatist or successful. The hormones and neurotransmitters accommodate to this reality. Are we going to find out about this addiction, as the head of NIMH’s drug addiction section recently exclaimed, by examining the molecules of the brain deeper and deeper? They know dopamine is involved so now their task is to get even more miniscule at the molecular level to discover something about addiction that seems to have nothing to do with humans and their interactions, nor history and its impact. The Emperor….

Biologic law dictates that history rules, that imprinted memory governs. The memory of what we had to do to survive during the original trauma dictates now. It is all about evolution and survival. Think about it: the current level of excitation sets off the same or similar event with the same emotional force and that must be run off because survival is (and was originally) involved.

Basically there are two ways we respond to original life-threatening events; either we give up, parasympathetically dominant, or we fight on, sympathetically dominant. We fight on if there is the slightest possibility of us succeeding. Otherwise, say with massive anesthesia, we are forced to succumb and give up. That becomes the dominant leitmotif of our lives and forms the matrix of our personality. We feel weak and helpless in the original sequence, and in sex that translates into defeat and giving up, reinforcing the basic feeling—loss of erection. If this unfortunate man had a tyrannical father who beat him down, the feeling is heavily reinforced, compounded.

For women the family configuration can be different; if there were a seductive father, she becomes afraid of sex and avoids it. There are literally dozens of different permutations of this in sex. But the parasympathetic nervous system, the one dominated by conservation of energy, lies within the imprint. (As does the sympathetic nervous system with its “drive to get ahead”, its ambition and the inability to recognize obstacles when they exist.) But let me add this: during the critical period when there is a desperate need for love and it goes missing from the hopelessly non-nurturing mother, that need becomes an imprint; the need goes into latency, remains sequestered until the whole system becomes sexual and is then thrown into turmoil. Choice is now driven by the early imprint, the need for a woman and her love, something deprived when it was essential during the critical period. It may become overt lesbianism if there were a mother who never gave love during the girl’s childhood, never touched her or cuddled her. The need is compounded and becomes desperate. Now at eighteen years of age, she meets a girl who is interested in her; the old sequence is again run off and she finally gets female love, now in sex and in love. It becomes locked in, usually never felt or understood. The imprint dominates.

Memory is always the overriding factor in these situations and runs our lives. It has to because it is the first major threats to survival that dictate how we react to adversity later on. It is not just a memory to be recalled; it is a system that is (or has to be) reawakened. Once there is a certain level of inner stimulation, the body does not distinguish what exactly it is; it is run off with its sister memory, and they run along together. It looks like sex or eating or drug addiction but it is history showing its face. It is circumstance that “chooses” the target but once in place becomes ineluctable; a denouement as predictable as the sunrise. And what do we do? We rush in to treat the selection instead of the cause; and that is why it is infinite…the origin is, until connection is made. There is no way to avoid this. So long as history lies in waiting, rummaging around the nervous system, we are its victim. It is like a latent virus, enough impact against the immune system and there it is.  Understanding it, or the sex compulsion, changes nothing…except we can say, “Oh yes, I understand it now perfectly.” The task before us, ladies and gentlemen, is to change it.

Alkon, D.L. (1992). Memory's Voice: Deciphering the Brain-Mind Code. Harper Collins, New York.

Bower, B. (1994). Stress hormones hike emotional memories - beta-adrenergic stress hormones enhance memories of stressful events. Science News Oct 22 1994.

Bremner, J.D., Vythilingam, M., Vermetten, E., Southwick, S.M., McGlashan, T., Nazeer, A., Khan, S., Vaccarino, L.V., Soufer, R., Garg, P.K., Ng, C.K., Staib, L.H., Duncan, J.S., and Charney, D.S. (2003). MRI and PET Study of Deficits in Hippocampal Structure and Function in Women With Childhood Sexual Abuse and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Am J Psychiatry 160(5):924-932.

Gelbard-Sagiv, H., Mukamel, R., Harel, M., Malach, R., and Fried, I. (2008). Internally Generated Reactivation of Single Neurons in Human Hippocampus During Free Recall. Science 322(5898):96-101.

Kensinger, E.A. (2007). Negative Emotion Enhances Memory Accuracy: Behavioral and Neuroimaging Evidence. Current Directions in Psychological Science 16:213-218.

Levenson, J.M. and Sweatt, J.D. (2005). Epigenetic Mechanisms in Memory Formation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6:108:118.

Mather, M. (2007). Emotional Arousal and Memory Binding. Perspectives in Psychological Science 2(1):33-52.

McGaugh, J.L. (2003). Memory and Emotion: The Making of Lasting Memories. Columbia University Press, New York.

Schore, A.N. (1994). Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. Psychology Press, East Sussex.

On the DSK (Head of IMF) case (initially published on this blog on May 22, 2011)

So the head of the IMF is alleged to have sexually attacked a maid. His friend, the philosopher Bernard Henry Levi wrote a piece in France saying, “I am a close friend of Strauss Kahn for 25 years and I know he would not do anything like that. He is not that kind of man.” So you say. But does he really think he knows anyone? Does he know what goes on in private in a man’s home? Can he tell a man’s sexual proclivity through a friendship? I doubt it. Why? Because nearly all of us have secrets and a secret life. It is the nature of neurosis that we hide part of us; that we have fantasies no one would even dream of. I treated a famous athlete who needed to wave his penis at women. He was at that moment out of control. Do you think his friends would know about that? How about another well known athlete who was addicted to porno magazines. And addicted to have to dress up in women’s clothes. Do you think his friends knew about that? We got to the basis of all that: his mother left him when he was five to go to work. He was left with a cold nanny who never touched him. The only way he could feel close to his mother was to hold her clothes and later rub them on while he masturbated; a way of getting relief from his terrible tension and unfulfilled need. He was close to his mother. It was his way of feeling loved; something we will need and something we nearly all act out in different ways to feel some warmth. It can be stuffing ourselves with food, to feel fulfilled, acting out sexually in order to feel held and touched; you name your poison.

So let us get back to Mr. Kahn. He comes out of the shower and he sees a maid. He is supposed to have jumped her. If I tell you that at that moment he was psychotic would you believe me? So let us define it. He gets sexually aroused; now on top of that there is triggered many other imprinted impulses lying deep in the brain/nervous system. And for that moment it is all bursting through his neocortical control apparatus.

There is any number of current studies indicating that our memories are imprinted dating back to just after conception. Those memories are imprinted low in the brain, beginning with the newly developing brain stem and limbic/feeling brain. They are imprinted into the reptilian/alligator brain. There is indeed a snake running around in our heads and it contains the memories engraved why back before birth that have a life-or-death urgency to them. Under current emotional/physiologic stimulation those memories/impulses are dredged up with the current situation through a process called resonance. They join together and become a dangerous ensemble threatening our control apparatus. In everyday life there is not enough stimulation to cause that dredging; but when sexually aroused it can be all triggered off. It can happen when we are extremely frustrated or furious about something. We really don’t know anyone until we see her or him under stress or some kind of excitement. So Mr. Levy you really don’t know. You are not going to see it at a dinner party. But you will see it in our therapy when we lift the lid of repression and a patient becomes immersed in all of those early memories. That is how we really get to know someone. Otherwise, in the absence of great emotional stimulation the shrink knows very little about his patient. He only sees the surface; so even the doctor cannot see what the patient is really like. We help put the patient under stress; not by threatening to hurt her, but by simply finding a way to allow emotions to rise; emotions that are a serious threat to the integrity of the organism. In one patient every time he got close to his deep-lying pain he had an erection. There we saw the connection…between emotional arousal and sexual behavior.

So at a certain moment deep-lying pain resonates with sexual arousal; critical judgment is gone and one is in control by unconscious pain. That is, his thought/judgment is waylaid by all of his impulses at once. In psychosis it is a permanent affair; all of one’s very early pain takes control of mental processes and the person is delusional and paranoid. He is psychotic. The difference is that in sexual assault it is momentary, set off by high level sexual arousal which then triggers off other deep-lying pain.

Sexual arousal raises the stakes, as it were. If she were an older person it may not have been a problem. But otherwise he was out of control; in control by deep forces. His possible lack of early love or trauma while being carried by a (just an example) highly depressed mother lowers the bar of acting-out. His gating system cannot hold back the tide. Others who do not have those early imprints can have a functioning repressive/gating system that can keep control. So it is the nature and strength of the gates that determines who will act out (out of control) and who won’t. And those gates depend on the nature and strength of early trauma for their strength. Gestational trauma, followed by an early lack of love in the home, plus traumas in school can all bind together to produce leaky gates and a subsequent act-out.

So who gets pushed over the boundary and who doesn’t?

We are meant to be controlled by our reptilian brain because it involves basic survival mechanisms. To get of the way fast, to hide when in danger, and to attack when necessary, etc. Some of us had traumatic gestation and some only had major traumas after birth. The earlier the trauma the more powerful it is. That last point: to attack when necessary gets mixed up with current sexual stimulation. His snake brain took control and he (allegedly) attacked. When the neocortex can safely put the snake back in his hold there is no more danger.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Psychology and Ideology. How Could Anyone (Except the Rich) Vote for George Bush? By Peter Prontzos (3/6)

Arthur Janov focuses on the specific psychological dynamics between children and parents, which is a major determinant of how one thinks about the world.  Janov contends that children who are raised in a loving and nurturing environment are more likely to develop in a healthy manner and that a truly ethical, caring society would prioritize the needs of children.

Janov’s Primal Theory starts from the premise that we are born with a few basic needs, such as for food, warmth, affection, safety, and, in general, an environment which allows a child to develop at its own pace.  Providing these necessities are concrete demonstrations of love.  When children get what they need, they naturally develop into caring and feeling human beings.  (In this context, Maslow’s concept of a “hierarchy of needs” is relevant.  He held that an individual’s most basic needs, such as food, shelter, and safety, naturally take priority over important and universal, but less vital needs).

When babies and children do not get their basic needs met and are sufficiently traumatized, for example, by emotional neglect, or physical abuse, or continuous criticism, (there is usually more than one problem), the attachment process is disrupted and the child cannot develop in an emotionally healthy fashion.

It turns out that, “our parents’ behaviour can change the way our genes function” (Tencer, 2006).  Studies done by McGill psychologist Michael Meaney found that intense childhood experience can turn genes on and off.  "Parental care does affect the activity of genes in the brain that regulate stress response, and it can create structural change in the DNA and affect its expression”, he writes.  These are known as "epigenetic effects", which can be caused parental behaviour, making changes in hormone and neurotransmitter production (Meaney, 2006).

In The Myth of Sanity, Martha Stout, a clinical psychologist at Harvard, writes about dissociation, which is the universal human reaction to extreme fear or pain.  In traumatic situations, dissociation mercifully allows us to disconnect emotional content – the feeling part of our “selves” - from our conscious awareness.  Disconnected from our feelings in this way, we stand a better chance of surviving the ordeal, of doing what we have to do, or getting through a critical moment in which our emotions would only be in the way (Stout, 2001).

Dissociation due to trauma is extremely adaptive because, if the hurt is too overwhelming to tolerate, the child may actually die from the pain.  Stanford neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky recounts a tragedy in U.S. orphanages in the last century, when infants would be fed, kept warm, and so on, but would not be talked to, or held when they cried, and so on.  An investigation of 10 institutions found that, in nine of the ten, every single child died before the age of two (Sapolsky, 2005).  The pain of the emotional deprivation (“loneliness”) weakened the immune system, which fatally lowered their resistance.

Children who manage to survive abuse and neglect are literally brain-damaged.  The integrative fibers of the brain may be affected the most; “that is, they're not able to grow well, and they can actually be destroyed” (Siegel, 2006B).  Such damage disrupts communication between differentiated parts of the brain and prevents the integration which is essential to healthy functioning.

Janov views the split between one’s awareness and one’s buried feelings as the essence of neurosis, self-alienation, and the inability to feel empathy.  If one is unaware of how one really feels, or the true source of one’s pain, then pathological emotions (such as anger, or an obsession with wealth or power), and unconscious feelings (like the need for love) can be manipulated by others (e.g. advertisers or political leaders).  Moreover, when a person is unaware of their own feelings, they often have less empathy.  As De Waal noted, losing access to one’s own feelings in childhood makes it difficult to empathize with others (CBC, October 2009).

The relationship between feeling and morality was discussed by of one of the most influential 20th century Anarchist thinkers, George Woodcock.  He wrote that morality is part of human nature, a natural law of life, which has only been perverted because men live in societies based on artificial standards and not on the internal nature of man (Woodcock, 1945).

The parallels between this essay and Janov’s On Morality are striking.  Janov writes that “morality” is an externally imposed concept, whereas one’s own feelings “are the only moral principles” for people who have access to them.  He believes, like Erjcb Fromm, that if “neurosis [emotional repression] prevents feeling” and one cannot know why one is frustrated or angry, then external “moral” codes are needed to control the resulting anti-social behaviour.

For Janov, these artificial codes of conduct have significant social and economic implications:

When you cannot offer people what they need you must give them morality…The whole notion of a future reward serves to keep people from fulfilling themselves in the present.  It keeps them working under exploitation, producing profits for others…Morality is truly the opiate of the people... (Janov, 1975).

A person who has not lost their natural empathy will not need an externally-imposed “morality” or threats of punishment to prevent them from hurting others.  Janov adds:

Morality is basically a totalitarian notion since it involves an outside power coercing people into certain modes of behavior.  It contravenes the principle of self-determination…
We refrain from cruelty to our children not because to hurt them is “wrong,” but because a feeling person cannot hurt anyone else (ibid 271).

As we have seen, when an infant or child is sufficiently traumatized, their only option is to repress the pain that is too overwhelming to feel.  It must “forget” its real emotions and construct a partially false self in order to cope.  Such children ( and adults) “live” in a state of semi-consciousness, driven by mostly unconscious pain that causes them to “act out” for reasons that they don’t understand.

 As soon as you’re born
They make you feel small
By giving you no time
Instead of it all
Till the pain is so big
You feel nothing at all.

Keep you doped with religion, sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever
And classless
And free.
-  John Lennon (Working Class Hero)

One’s unconscious emotions may, for instance, be projected onto others (liberals, Muslims, foreigners).  This “attribution error” underlies much of the hostility to “the Other” and provides fertile ground for demagogues to manipulate repressed feelings of fear and anger.  It also serves to keep the focus of the person “out there”, thus serving as a defense against the true source of painful feelings.

This phenomenon is related to what Marx called “false consciousness” – ideologies that serve to perpetuate the rule of elites – and it partly overlaps with Janov’s concept of “bizarre ideation.”  Primal Theory holds that, in a world of pain, repression, and dehumanization, it is to be expected that people will believe all sorts of nonsense: religious charlatans, “greed is good”, and that the President is really the Anti-Christ.  Such beliefs are especially powerful if they seem to provide meaning and help to cope with daily life.  “God is a concept by which we measure our pain” is how John Lennon phrased it.  Indeed, after noting that, in time of economic distress, “people were more likely to turn to authoritarian churches”, Jost’s meta-analysis (op. cit.) adds that they view their research as generally supporting John Lennon’s (1970) famous observation…insofar as people embrace different religious conceptions as a function of the degree of adversity and threat they experience (ibid).

It’s hardly a novel idea that people often construct ideological and emotional defenses, including the futile search for some transcendent “meaning”, in order to endure the real pain in their lives.  Creating humane and nurturing societies would obviate the need for such illusory consolations.

To paraphrase Marx, the demand to abolish alienation is a demand to abolish the conditions that create alienation.
Lakoff has found that political socialization begins in the home: parents who are more nurturing have children who tend to be more liberal - empathetic and open-minded - than those parents who practice the traditional “strict father” method.  Children raised in the latter situation tend to be more conservative politically and see morality as based on obedience, whereas children raised in nurturing families tend to use empathy and responsibility as moral foundations.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Aim of Cognitive Therapy

What does a cognitive therapist do essentially? Bolster left hemisphere control in the patient by immersing him in ideas. In Primal Therapy, we work on the bottom end of the brain’s evolution, reducing the power of deep imprinted forces so that they no longer challenge the pre-frontal cortex to drive ideas. A number of studies have demonstrated the role of the pre-frontal cortex in repression (Anderson, et al., 2009; Depue, et al., 2007; Kikuchi, et al., 2009). One study (Anderson, et al., 2004) tested subjects who were asked to suppress unwanted memories and then had their brains scanned. The pre-frontal cortex dampened activity in the hippocampus of these subjects, thus interfering with memory retrieval. In brief, repression—gating—lessens access to oneself and one’s history.

Tranquilizers are indeed painkillers, and some tranquilizers can be given in higher doses to produce a surgical anesthesia. Here again we see an interchange between emotional and physical pain. For instance, when someone has a severely bad back and takes strong painkillers for months, and then continues to take them even after his back is healed, he’s considered addicted. But the same pill that calms his back pain also calms his history—his imprint—hence the continued need for the drug. The original "anti-psychotic" drug, Thorazine, was first used by a French surgeon who noticed that it made surgical patients indifferent or apathetic toward the pain they were undergoing. One author noted that scientific evidence supports a theory that most psychiatric drugs "work" by producing a kind of anesthesia of the mind, spirit, or feelings.

Work by R. Gaunt put rats under stress (tied to board), then gave them tranquilizers. They seemed indifferent to their problem. But their bodies weren’t. There were high readings in stress hormones. We need to keep this in mind when we take tranquilizers; for the wear and tear on the body goes on even if we are unaware of it.

Nearly all of us are prisoners of our prototype—our dominant mode of functioning. Cognitive therapy assumes we have an ample amount of free will. I am not so sure. We can make choices within the prototype, but it tends to offer a narrow range. What we are free to do is go back and find out how all that got started. That is what ultimately will widen our range of choices in life. It will free the parasympath to widen her vision and take more chances. It will allow the sympath to ease off the incessant struggle that never lets him relax. Finally, it puts our system back in balance so that our system can find an equilibrium so that we are no longer prisoners of medication after medication, drug after drug. A balanced system means the parasympathetic male’s chronically low level of testosterone is normalized—something we have found after one year of therapy. It means he is now more assertive and less depressed. A balanced system means not having to drink five cups of coffee a day or being hooked on Coke. It means not having to smoke, which ultimately will shorten our lives. It is the true meaning of being free.

Anderson, M.C., Ochsner, K.N., Kuhl, B., Cooper, J., Robertson, E., Gabrieli, S.W., Glover, G.H. and Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2004) Neural Systems Underlying the Suppression of Unwanted Memories. Science 303(5655):232-235.

Anderson, M.C. and Weaver, C. (2009) Inhibitory Control over Action and Memory. Encyclopedia of Neuroscience 5:153-163.

Depue, B.E., Curran, T. and Banich, M.T. (2007) Prefrontal Regions Orchestrate Suppression of Emotional Memories via a Two-Phase Process. Science 317(5835):215-219.

Kikuchi, H., Fujii, T., Abe, N., Suzuki, M., Takagi, M., Mugikura, S., Takahashi, S. and Mori, E. (2009) Memory Repression: Brain Mechanisms underlying Dissociative Amnesia. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 22(3):602–613.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Psychology and Ideology. How Could Anyone (Except the Rich) Vote for George Bush? By Peter Prontzos (2/6)

Pure reason does not exist because, as Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Eric Kandel has written, “a great deal of what we experience – what we perceive, think, dream, fantasize – cannot be directly accessed by conscious thought,” (Kandel, 1999).  Lakoff writes that 98% of our thoughts and emotions are unconscious (2008).  Daniel Goleman guesses that the figure is actually “over 99%” (2008).  Either way, there is not a lot of room for pure, dispassionate logic.

Moreover, our “cognitive unconscious…is reflexive – automatic, uncontrolled” (Lakoff, 2008).  A classic example is fear, which has long been used to manipulate people.  From Athens to Rome to Bush, the powerful have used fear to reinforce their power and to make people do what they would normally not do.  When told that their very lives are at stake, people are more likely to follow orders without much thought.  As Daniel Siegel described:

Deep in the brain lies the amygdala, an almond-sized region that generates fear…Before you are even consciously aware that you are afraid, your lizard brain responds by clicking into survival mode. No time to assess the situation, no time to look at the facts, just: fight, flight or freeze.
And when we are afraid, we are biologically programmed to pay less attention to left-brain signals - indeed, our logical mind actually shuts itself down. Fear paralyzes our reasoning and literally makes it impossible to think straight (Huffington, 2004).

This automatic reaction is reinforced by our instinct to look to parental authority figures to comfort us and keep us safe.  Siegel was discussing how the Bush regime inflated the fear of terrorism to win the 2004 election (with the deliberate help of Osama bin Laden).

Another significant factor is the practice of seeing the world in terms of “us” versus “them”.  While group bonding and cooperation was necessary for the survival of our hominid ancestors (as it is for us today), it also reduces those outside of one’s group to the “Other”, shutting down our natural empathy, thereby dehumanizing them as outsiders and making it easier to treat them badly, even to kill them.

Paul Slovic developed the concept of the “affect heuristic”: people tend to make judgments and decisions “in which the answer to an easy question (How do I feel about it?) serves as an answer to a much harder question (What do I think about it?)” (Kahneman, 139).
When it comes to politics, for example,

voters seem to be heavily influenced by a candidate’s appearance, and in particular the kinds of personality traits that a politician’s face projects (Olivola and Todorov, 2009).

“Elections”, in the view of Drew Westen, “are decided in the marketplace of emotions, a marketplace filled with values, images, analogies, moral sentiments, and moving oratory, in which logic plays only a supporting role” (2007).  These are only a few of the potential pathways for unconscious and/or irrational ideas to distort one’s thinking, and one’s worldview, political and otherwise.

II – The Politics of Childhood

We rarely perceive just how much of our personal world, even our sense of “self”, is determined by our culture and our experiences.  One reason for this blindness is that so many of the influences that shape us occur when we are too young to understand what is happening.  In addition, most of the events that impact us are below the level of consciousness.  Einstein observed that person’s identity depends

so much upon society – in his physical, intellectual and emotional existence – that it is impossible to think of him, outside the framework of society.  It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of his thought (Einstein, 1998, emphasis added).

“Neuroplasticity” refers to the finding that the structure and functions of our brain are physically shaped by our interactions with other people and our environment throughout one’s life.

The results of such shaping can be profound for a child; that maternal stress during pregnancy may have consequences for the child such as slower development, learning and attention difficulties, anxiety, depression, and possibly autism “has long been observed by behavioral and biological researchers” (ScienceDaily, Oct. 29, 2008).

Babies and children are obviously at greater risk during earlier stages of development, and their vulnerability to toxic environments illustrates the principle of “outside/inside”.  We tend to absorb what is around us and then to internalize it, both physically and emotionally.  Our brains and bodies are dynamic, open systems in relation to whatever is near.  As Louis Cozolino explains in The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: the brain is an “organ of adaptation”:

built and sculpted, neuron by neuron, through the interaction of our genetic programming and environmental influences…
The brain continuously changes to reflect aspects of its environment (Cozolino, 2002).

Our brains are affected, not only by toxic chemicals or inadequate diets, but also by our social experiences throughout our lives.  Daniel Goleman puts it this way in Social Intelligence:

Our key relationships can gradually mold certain neural circuitry.  In effect, being chronically hurt or angered, or being emotionally nourished, by someone we spend time with daily over the course of years can refashion the brain (Goleman, 2006).

Both “nature” and “nurture” determine what we become.  They interact in a complex and dialectical manner so that neither can be ignored.  While some parenting styles can contribute in a positive way to a child’s healthy emotional development, harsh practices may cause enough emotional trauma to seriously damage a child, sometimes to the point of making its brain and central nervous system dysfunctional.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rats to Humans, the Importance of Animal Studies

Michael Meaney set out to test whether baby rats who are licked more turn out differently from those who are licked and groomed less and if so, why. (Meaney is at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and is a leading researcher in maternal care, stress gene expression and epigenetics: These studies on the origins of adult disease rigorously tested whether it really is the mother's behavior that makes the difference and showed what happens in the brain of the offspring to produce the adult characteristics. Meaney and his research team found that baby rats who were licked by their mothers a lot turned out to be less anxious and fearful as adults and produced lower levels of stress hormones than those who were groomed less. “All the mothers nurture their pups, provide ample milk, and the pups grow perfectly well,” Meaney said, “But there is one behavior, called licking and grooming, that some mothers do much more than others—four or five times as much. The pups who are licked more are less fearful, they produce less stress hormones when provoked, and their heart rate doesn't go up as much, so they have a more modest stress response than the pups who are licked much less”.

The scientists even took the mothers out of the picture altogether and stroked the baby rats with paintbrushes. Meaney maintains, “It does the same thing that maternal licking does.” The change in the production of the brain receptors was apparent by the second week of life.

“This is a very important study,” said Peter Blackman, a professor of pediatric and prenatal biology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, who was not involved in the research. He pointed out that the expression of genes in mammals can be permanently changed by how mothers and infants interact and how that can have long-term effects on behavior and psychiatric health. If those baby rats were licked just as much weeks later, the critical period would have passed and the lifelong effects would not be evident.

I am going to quote from a book called “Monkeyluv” by Stanford University biologist and neuroscientist, Robert M. Sapolsky (Scribner, N.Y. 2005). We see in his reported research on mice how early the critical period can be. Not only are early childhood events important for later life but even more important is fetal life. Sapolsky was commenting on how genetic influences are not the be-all-and-end-all that we sometimes believe; not only are life circumstances important but pre-birth influences can be critical.

“Relaxed-strain mice that were raised from birth by timid-strain moms grew up to be just as relaxed as any other member of their strain (strains are genetically uniform groups of animals). With the same kind of technology used by clinics performing in vitro fertilization, the investigators cross-fostered mice as embryos (cross-fostering is letting one strain of mice raise a genetically different strain of mice). They implanted relaxed-strain eggs into timid-strain females who carried them to term. Some relaxed-strain pups were raised by timid-strain moms, and others by relaxed-strain ones. The result? When the supposedly genetically hard-wired relaxed mice went through both fetal development and early puphood with timid-strain moms, they grew up to be just as timid as any other timid-strain (inherited) mice. Same genes, different environment, different outcome.” (page 52) Sapolsky then goes on to comment: “Environmental influences don’t begin at birth. Some factors in the environment of a timid-strain mouse mother during her pregnancy—her level of stress…are affecting the anxiety levels and learning abilities of her offspring, even as adults.” He emphasizes that “relaxed-strain mice aren’t relaxed only because of their genes; their fetal and neonatal (around birth) environments are crucial factors.” (page 53) There is a growing body of research with animals, and more recently with humans, that corroborate my point: birth and pre-birth events can help determine our behavior as adults; and if we neglect these influences we shall not fully understand who and why we are what we are. Moreover, we shall not know how to treat and reverse all manner of problems we have as adults. From conception on we are building a superstructure. We need a solid foundation for that superstructure so that we can be integrated adults who can withstand the impact of the elements. Conclusion: genetics is important but life experience, even in the womb, can be equally if not more important. Whether we manifest high blood pressure, asthma or migraine not only depends on genetics but what happened to us very early on. If we ignore life in the womb we are leaving out life experience that can affect us for a lifetime.

One wonders, “can we really go back and reexperience fetal events?” Let me put it this way: in evolution each new level of brain development incorporates lower, earlier levels. The thinking neocortex is a sort of an add-on from previous animal brain forms. So at birth there are already sensations from pre-birth that play a part in how the newborn reacts to that birth trauma. When a patient relives a birth trauma (if there were one), she is in fact also experiencing sensations (the base of feelings) that occurred previously. This is how we can relive pre-birth events without being aware that they come from experience in perhaps the fifth or sixth month of gestation.

As a general rule, the earlier in life a need goes unmet, the more devastating the later effects of deprivation will be. The closer to the “critical period” a trauma occurs, the more harmful it is. One way we can define critical period is the irreversible quality of its effects. The more time that has elapsed after a critical period has passed, the greater the force required to create an imprint. It takes a tremendous trauma after the critical period to have a profound and lifelong effect. Why do needs go unmet? For a passel of reasons, but it is often true that parents are so immersed in their own unmet needs (with the resulting narcissism) and pain that they simply cannot attend to their child.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Dialogue About "Science"

This is a dialogue between me and my scientific colleagues

Think of it, in one hundred years of psychotherapy, and with thousands of scientific studies on psychoanalysis, hundreds of studies on EMDR, many on mindfulness, thousands on hypnosis… blah blah they have never come close to a real cure and a real theory. Why not? Because point by point studies will never get us there. It is a failure of imagination, the missing link in therapy. …Feelings. They are the missing link, and you can never get there through statistical studies, intellectual pursuits and philosophies. It is the antithesis of finding a cure. Yes I know about science and its importance, but I was discussing all this with a friend and I added up the hundreds of thousands of so-called scientific studies and it all came to zero. Think about it. How come?

I was just thinking about this.
 You see, the problem with mainstream science is not the science but the people doing it. It's not statistics, per se, but the analytical approach. Statistics are only a tool, which is why I don't like your concept of "statistical truth." I know what you mean, but statistics aren't to blame -- it's the unimaginative and UNFEELING people doing the statistics with their paltry theories of mental health. Someday, statistics can and will be used by FEELING people to demonstrate that primal works. Not that it's needed for patients.

But is it worth it? That's what I'm asking these days. Unless people feel, they'll never believe it, even with the numbers. Dr. Jaak Panksepp got part way there but who else in science recognizes your work? No one that I know. They're all in cognitive la-la land.

So maybe primal will always remain small, suitable only for those who recognize it. And smart people who feel will see the connections in biology and early life and the meaning of the imprint.

But I'm with you. It is stunning that no one sees this. They circle around and around it but never get it so I can only conclude that being non-feeling is its own form of blindness. You wrote about that in Primal Man and it's still true. Feeling people are like a different species.

Art: Wouldn’t you think by accident someone might come close?  It is like there is a cure for cancer but no one is interested.  Some years ago I got a letter from the Cancer Society asking for money for research.   I wrote back saying I had no money but I could offer them a lot of help in finding a cure since I know a lot about it.   No answer.
No one was even curious. After all, I am a Ph.D and an Academic Hall of Fame, blah blah.
 So objectivity is limited by the personality of the scientist. Does that make it objective?  In other words, there is this subjective side of science that can lead scientists astray.  So there is no pure objectivity.

Bruce: You see, science is still a left brain activity, and for primal theory and therapy we desperately need the right brain.  And to become a professional we first and foremost need our left brain. So what do we do?  We ignore feelings and get on with our studies, using our left brain to get ahead and to get a diploma.  We are like compulsive mice, we search here and there but never come up with the right answer. We never reach our goal because we never define what our goal is in the field of science and therapy; we don't know what that goal is. We know how to study this approach or that but we don't see it all in the macro sphere.  If I say, "the goal must be feeling," the researchers suddenly go deaf.

Page: I agree with Bruce that it is the people. It's not the statistics per se, it's not even the analytical approach, it's the analytical approach without feeling that's the problem. No feeling, no whole, no truth. As scientific evidence of what trauma and lack of love do to us continues to grow and it becomes increasingly difficult not to put it together, theories will continue to get closer and closer to primal theory (and I think your writings provide a scaffolding that help that, whether acknowledged or not in our lifetimes), but at some point it gets personal and then it just boils down to access and feeling. I think "scientific" evidence of the effects of feeling, healing, that primal therapy works, is of value--I'd love for someone to put up the money for your research proposal--to increase the cognitive dissonance of the mainstreamers and help point the way for those who feel enough to sense the truth. But I wonder where it goes. The theory will be there but the feeling won't be; will it just help make people crazier, like my old friends? Add in power relations, economics, etc., I'm not optimistic that primal therapy ever gets broad acceptance, at least in our lifetimes. But I don't know, maybe way down the road, long after we're gone. Every little nudge we make might help.

I was talking with a work colleague recently, a top Wall Street attorney, hard as nails and intellectual as they come. His last name is a Swedish one (I'm half-Swedish) so I asked him if he was Swedish--turns out he's Irish, his dad died while his mom was just a few months pregnant with him and later remarried. We got to talking about the anguish his mother must have felt and how that must have affected him in the womb. He proceeds to tell me he's convinced that's the origin of his vision problems, all the stress hormones, must have been a critical period in optic nerve growth, etc. He goes on to talk about how his stepdad took years to adopt him and give him his last name and how he's always resented that and now wishes he didn't have it. No problem accepting the "development" side of Primal Theory, but if we had ventured into talking about laying down to cry and feel to unwind the past would have been a non-starter. Theory never gets you to feeling.

Bruce: Art, it always comes back to one major truth: what you can't feel, you can't understand, and to understand primal, you really have to feel the truth of it.

I often ask why there is no one who has gone through your therapy who has gone on to research it seriously. Perhaps it's because of the massive amounts of bullshit you must consume to get a PhD in psychology.  Or perhaps it's because you must shut down your feelings to get through school. Or perhaps it's the fight you must wage against the cognitive paradigm that still poisons psychology after half a century.

There is no funding for unpopular topics so people give up. You can get a $ billion a year for studying brain mechanisms of addiction but ZERO for studying the real cause of addiction.

So in the face of all this struggle, it's not surprising no one has stepped forward.

Psychology and Ideology. How Could Anyone (Except the Rich) Vote for George Bush? By Peter Prontzos

This is the first of a serie of 6 articles by Peter Prontzos

Peter G. Prontzos
Department of Political Science
Langara College  Vancouver, B.C.

[Note: my scientific associate Bruce Wilson ( contributed valuable research for this essay]. 


Even though Al Gore won the presidential election in 2000, tens of millions of Americans voted for George W. Bush.  Tens of millions voted for Bush again in 2004, despite the lies, the wars, and his obvious incompetence, ignorance, and arrogance.  Such a high level of support was not rational, except perhaps from those who Bush once described as “the haves and have-mores”…“the elite”…”my base” (Fahrenheit 9/11).  It’s hardly surprising that the wealthy and powerful would vote for someone who would make them even wealthier and more powerful.  But what about all those, especially working people, who voted for a candidate committed to an agenda (e.g. increasing inequality, environmental destruction) which was against their own rational self-interest?  Why were they fooled in such great numbers?

Some of the answers are obvious, such as the way that most of the media framed the issues and the greater corporate funding for Republicans.  The power of such influential actors should not be “misunderestimated” (sic).  These factors were more salient in 2004, following the terrorist attacks on September 11.  In that election, Bush benefited from the “turn to authoritarian leaders and institutions for security” that fear often produces (Jost, 2003).

There are, however, other factors which account for much of the irrationality of those who “have-less” voting for a puppet of those who “have-more”: a view of the world (and themselves) that is neither conscious nor rational, but based largely on reflexive actions, unconscious feelings, and social conditioning - all of which can lower a person’s “emotional intelligence”.  Such ideologies, “like virtually all other belief systems, are adopted in part because they satisfy various psychological needs” (Jost, op. cit.)

This essay will consider three levels of unconscious influences on political ideology.

First are the automatic processes which we have inherited from our remote ancestors, such as the “flight, flight, or freeze” response to perceived threats, and the tendency to be biased towards those ideas that make us feel better.

Second, are the effects that parenting, socialization, and modeling have on our thoughts and actions, as well as our view of ourselves and the world – our ideology.  This conditioning may begin before birth, and have profound effects in later years.

A third critical driver of unconscious, irrational behaviour derives from the dynamics of the particular situation in which a person finds him or her self.  Social psychology has shown that situations and the actions of peers can shape both an individual’s beliefs and behaviours.


Any explanation of human activity – including political behaviour and beliefs – that neglects the unconscious processes that shape our worldviews, our ideologies, is incomplete.  Most of our thoughts and feelings are below the threshold of consciousness and, in the view of Cordelia Fine: “your unconscious is smarter than you, faster than you, and more powerful than you.  It may even control you” (Fine, 2006).

Understanding these mental and emotional phenomena must begin with the fact that the human mind is embodied and that our ideas and feelings do not float around somewhere in the “mind”; rather, they are mental and emotional reflections of physical states of the brain and body and our relationships with the outside world (Siegel, 2012).  The body is the basis of human subjectivity, while the mind, in turn, is an emergent quality – it developed from other abilities e.g. being aware of our environment, both external and internal.

A symphony provides a metaphor for the relationship between the body and the mind: while the music is created by people and their instruments, the music itself is something different, even though it is created by the physical actions of the musicians.  The music cannot exist without the orchestra, of which it is an epiphenomenon.
And like music, the mind itself is a continuing, ever-changing process and not a static, eternal “thing”.

Second, the mind must be seen in the light of our primate past and in the context of how evolution shaped both brain and behaviour.  Such traits as the “fight, flight, or freeze” response, the tendency to perceive patterns with only minimal information, and the urge to deny what one does not like, do not support rational decision-making.

For instance, a study last year found that,

People who believe they would be bothered by a range of hypothetical disgusting situations display an increased likelihood of displaying right-of-center rather than left-of-center political orientations” (Smith, et al. 2011)…
Mounting evidence points to the relevance of subconscious factors in broad social, decision-making situations and in specifically political decision-making situations. The established role of such factors opens the door for the possible involvement of biological variables, including hormone and neurotransmitter levels and neural traits and patterns.

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize (in economics!), points out, in his fascinating book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, that our unconscious mind is constantly making judgments and decisions of which we are mostly unaware.  “Our minds are susceptible to systematic error”, in large part due to, “our excessive confidence in what we believe we know and our apparent inability to acknowledge the full extent of our ignorance,” as well as because of the inherent uncertainty about the world (2011).

Nevertheless, both thoughts and feelings are needed to make rational choices.  Neuroscience has shown that clear thinking requires the careful engagement of one’s emotions, contrary to Descartes and much of the Western tradition.  UC Berkeley cognitive scientist George Lakoff (and Mark Johnson) have found that “everyday human reason does not fit this classical view of rationality at all.”  While rational thought is assumed to be dispassionate, Lakoff and Johnson show that, “Emotional engagement… is an absolutely necessary component of means-end rationality” (1999).

They also argue that the capitalist view defining rationality as the pursuit of self-interest “makes no sense” given the unconsciousness of most reasoning, the existence of conflicting goals, and inconsistent understanding of “self-interest.”   We are not “rational self-interest maximizers in the traditional [liberal] sense” (ibid).

The case for the economic “rational actor” whose decisions are not based on emotion (except, of course, by greed) is seriously deficient.  The capitalist homo economicus is a “fictitious individual” because “human judgment may take shortcuts that systematically depart from rationality” (Altmann 2002: emphasis added).  The new field of neuroeconomics is showing why so many “calculations of value” are not rational.  Our decisions are determined by an almost endless number of factors, such as risk aversion, fear, wishful thinking, endowment effects (from ownership), lack of information, pre-conceptions, biases, and cognitive dissonance.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Cost of Neurosis

Let me explain the cost of neurosis. A man in my neighborhood drinks a lot. Last week he rolled his car and he got hurt and he hurt the people he hit. All because he was constantly trying to kill his pain; a pain he never recognized. Then the circus begins. The adjuster comes out and spends hours figuring out the damage to both cars. He files a report that he then sends to the head office, which goes over it and relays it to the car repair shop and then gets in touch with the car rental company to get him a car while he waits.

Then he is in the hospital to fix a broken arm and the others are in hospital for whiplash. Doctors and nurses and medicine after medicine. He can’t work so he needs a replacement at his job; a call for someone else. Then comes the lawsuit with experts for both sides, and finally the court date with doctors and lawyers testifying. The judge has to deliberate and file a conclusion, which is then sent to both parties. There is another bill for repair for the other car, which he refuses to pay; so another small claims court meeting to again assess the damage. More trips to court and more lawyers. And then months later the cars are repaired and he has gone back to drinking. Think of the personnel and time wasted in all that; all because he needed to kill his pain and got drunk. All the time devoted to this nonsense. And worse, there is often death involved as the drunk has so little control. He goes to court over and over and gets off, gets no treatment, and is ready for the next death. The jails are so full of others killing their pain; the majority in prison are in for drug offenses. How about we take out the pain and stop the drug abuse and the years in prisons for so many people; men and women who have to leave their families to be locked up. And for what? Still in pain and still in need of painkillers, alcohol, heroin, tranqs and all the rest.

Wouldn’t it be a great saver of life, limb, and money to get the kind of therapy that removes the pain from the system so that he does not have to take painkillers to make it through the day? It is a lot less hassle and a lot cheaper. Now multiply this by millions or thousands every day with the same complications. Society is wasting half its time dealing with the effects of killing pain. There has to be a better way. We have the answer; now the right people have to ask the right question.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Erasing Bad Memories; Is It Possible?

Well here we go again. I keep swearing I would concentrate only on the positive and what really helps people and yet I see new articles every day that really need a response. This one is touted as exciting; it has to do with erasing bad memories and allows people to get rid of bad memories and get on with their lives. Sounds good, yes? And it has the imprimatur of well known and respected scientists. So what’s wrong? Just about every conclusion they come to. (It is about The Forgetting Pill by Jonah Lehrer, Feb 2012, Wired Magazine).

It all starts in the experience of a firefighter, called Jeff Mitchell. He witnessed a terrible auto accident and couldn’t shake the memory. He discussed it with his brother. It worked. He felt better. Jeff began to research it and finally wrote a piece on it in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. He called it Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD). He thought he stumbled on an amazing new kind of therapy. Here is what he said: “People who survive a painful event should express their feelings soon after so that the memory isn’t ‘sealed over.” He means before the memory gets repressed; once that is done we are vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder. In other words, suppressing the memory allows it to remain in the brain and physical system for a long time, may be a lifetime.

The article continues: it isn’t the trauma; it is that the trauma cannot be forgotten. The memory does not seem to fade over time. This is a slight turn on the old EST notion that it isn’t what happens to you; it is how we react to it.  This is pure solipsism, reality is not what counts; it is all in your head. Too often this slides off into cognitive behavior therapy, where all we need to do is to change your ideas and beliefs. Think positive thoughts. So researchers decided that the therapist needs to ask penetrating questions. And, they go on, that the best way to ease traumatic memory is to express it…get the sufferer to talk about it in depth.

But, ayayay. They quickly add that they have done studies and found it makes people worse. Soon we arrive at the dilemma that statistics can point in several directions. But the net result was that debriefing did “not hasten recovery.” In brief, you can’t talk your way to health. So the scientists argued against using the method. They believe that the CISGers mistakenly think the way to get rid of trauma is to talk it out. But they emphasize that memory is not like an inert packet of data that is unchanging; that there is no indelible memory of our past. That the very act of remembering changes the memory; it is malleable, and therefore not reliable. Mitchell now claims that it does not help traumatic memories. So what’s wrong? Is it just a faulty idea that has no merit?  Do people really get worse in recounting old traumatic memories?

The scientists say that trying to remember changes the entire memory itself, making it “the biggest lie of all.” But do they understand, really, what’s wrong?  Is it going over the past? Does that in itself make us worse? Is “let sleeping dogs lie” the best remedy? And when anyone then quotes Dr. Elizabeth Loftus to bolster his case, it soon becomes a faux piste, a disaster, in my patois. For many years they have trotted her out to bolster the case against recovered memory, and she happily accommodates to their request. I have made many claims about all this but she clearly isn’t interested. She says that most if not all recovered memories are manufactured and not reliable. I have seen the opposite; reliving old traumatic memories are nearly always reliable and exact.  Patients who relive a specific trauma continue to show the same vital sign alterations each session; something that cannot be faked, nor can their brainwave patterns be faked. Patients who relive incest find that their hands assume the position during the session with wrists bound together, held in place by the criminal/father.

What all this leads to is the America of the 1940’s, where due to Psychoanalysis the patient can never be believed; it is all a fantasy in the doctor’s mind. And this compounds a terrible crime against the patient who has to bury the memory all the deeper, and suffer more. Worse, the father often threatens the daughter if she says anything, and the mother castigates: “if you didn’t dress so seductively it would never happen.” So the poor girl is not only not believed but made to feel that she is guilty one. Loftus is aiding and abetting a crime. When did patients lose the right to be believed? When did we take on the role of judge?

Of course, if you go the cognitive route then it may be faked, but if the patient is in deep feeling during the session it won’t be.  I have never seen it.

Sorry to get off the track. But of course, talking should not be the end goal; feelings should be. And that is why those doctors don’t believe in it. They are doing it wrong, and they have no guiding scientific frame of reference to help lead them to an understanding. Point by point research leads to facts and more facts; rarely to a broad understanding. That kind of broad understanding lies in the domain of the right brain, usually absent in all this kind of research. Point by point studies are often the province of the left brain.

About memory: down below the cognitive level it is exact, precise and never ever changes; what makes it change is the involvement of the neo-cortex whose job it is to warp memory, especially when the memory is very painful.  The cortex, in this sense, is an anesthetic. It bolsters gating as it was meant to do. There is a whale of a difference between cerebral recall and neurophysiologic memory. And of course those scientists are confined to recall not memory. But the problem is that they designate recall as memory.

Yes memories are built out of consolidating proteins; and if you block the production of certain proteins you can block memories. But why? If you cut out the nerve tracks leading in and out of the amygdala you can block traumatic and fearful memory.  But do we want to do that?  Why do we want to inject chemicals that block key proteins from consolidating into bad memories?  We already have a way to eliminate terrible debilitating memories; it is called Primal. But do we want to rearrange our history? To eliminate history? There are memories that need to be retained. The death of a sister should not be forgotten because it is painful; it should be cherished because it is both painful and endearing. I think it is a bad idea to start messing with the brain, its chemicals and nerve tracks, because there is nearly always a payback. We are interfering with a natural process. We need to mourn, and if we go to a therapist who is going to “cut out” our history, we had better be sure of what we are doing. Do I need to remind everyone about the prefrontal lobotomy so prevalent in the forties and fifties? They cut out a piece of the brain which relayed memories to the top cortical level; and they made vegetables of those patients. You see, eventually, we are going to find the brain structures that deal with fear, rage etc. But it is not the structures that are the problem; it is the person housing all those structures.

Here is what the famous brain research Joseph LeDoux has to say: “When therapy heals it is because of reducing the impact of negative memories. Therapy allows people to rewrite their own memories while in a safe space.” You see, it is a matter of rewriting memories. Sorry, doctor; it is the opposite. We don’t want to rewrite memory. We don’t want to change our history. We want to experience that memory fully and so get it out of the system so it cannot hurt us anymore. The memory is real and is to be believed; not in recall but in memory—the exact way it was set down in the brain. We remember with all of us, not just the top of the brain. Why do you suppose we have the ability to remember and to cry? Evolution provided our means for healing; it is already there and ready. Why do we think it can’t be trusted? Or it is unreliable? Here is what my scientific associate and science writer Bruce Wilson, has to say:  

“There is a very important reason why "expressing their feelings soon after so that the memory isn’t ‘sealed over’” doesn't work. It's the same mistake made by the old analysts and the new analysts. The feeling/memory never has a chance to fully unfold as it was laid down and get connected to the cortex.

Without the understanding of how feelings actually work, without knowing them from the inside, one is led into a desert of ideas about feeling, some of which are quite bizarre. This inevitably leads to talking about feelings, which is useless, or to abreaction, which is not only nontherapeutic, but dangerous. This is undoubtedly why most psychologists reject deep feeling approaches on the grounds that they are re-traumatizing. Dredging up feelings without a clear understanding of what’s going on is a recipe for disaster.

Elizabeth Loftus, Joseph Ledoux, the CISGers, and most so-called "experts” don't really know what memory and feelings are. They don't do it right because they've never been there in the middle of it—not in a full, connected way. They think they know but they don't and they're all the more dangerous for it. They're like grocers doing brain surgery as you once wrote. And amid this muddle of non-healing, the psychosurgeons enter with their molecular scalpels. What you don't understand, you ablate. And then later, you witness the iatrogenic effects.”
Yes we can take out certain brain structures or chemicals in rats but will they lead a good life afterward? We did give electroshock therapy to thousands of patients during those same years, and all we managed to do was to separate a person’s feelings from his consciousness; separate his memories from conscious/awareness. To make him emotionless and ahistoric. Is that what we want?

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.