Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"On Why They Kill Themselves at the End" and "On Murder Again" Republished

I wrote the first article  a year ago and the second one ten months ago.  art

On Why They Kill Themselves at the End

Almost every week now, there is a story of a mass killer that fires on many people, kills a few, then turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.  Why do they do that? Why not just kill?  Because then, the neurologic sequence would not be run off.  Let me explain:

I use the sequence of my patients in their reliving as an example.  First they feel amorphous pain and suffering,  then they attach a scene to it such as “they don’t love  me. “  “You bastards, why don’t you  love me (fury) ?!”  Then the patient begs, “Please love me.” And finally, “It is all hopeless.”  If we think of the gunman who seems to follow the same sequence.  Often the wife has left and taken the kids who give him love.  He is furious and wants to kill (in Primal) but actually does kill in real life.  Then there is the ultimate hopelessness and giving up (in therapy the truth is finally felt and sets the patient free) but in life the gunman stops at hopelessness and kills himself.  He has gotten rid of his anger but there is nothing left,  nowhere to go with his feelings and no resolution.  Life has lost its meaning.

  Patients feel that way along the route to full  feeling  but they do not stop there, and if they do leave  therapy too soon they will be stuck with those feelings forever.  What gives the kick to those feelings is  very early trauma that digs up rage plus a lifetime of  no love  from the parents and then finally, the loss of love in the present.  The stalker cannot stand the feeling and checks up all of  the  time on his wife.  The killer is  more emerged in the feeling  and kills.  Both  cannot  stand the loss of  love; the difference is, I assume, that the pre-birth and birth traumas add a layer of extreme feelings to the mix, which cracks the defense system and places the person  out of control.  And  it is those early traumas that compromise the  part of the cortex that controls feelings and create the out-of-control sequence.  This  happens very early on when the  cortical cells are just being evolved and proliferating.

  This analogy isn’t theoretical; I have seen this run off in patients, and the more unloved and deprived they were earlier on, the more violent the tendencies.  Happily in therapy it all remains internal and benign.  Outside  of therapy  it is a catastrophe.

On Murder Again

I am going to explain what happens when someone “snaps” and kills. Specifically, regarding Scott Dekraai who killed eight people recently in Seal Beach California. He says now, some three weeks later, that “I know what I did.” So how is that possible to know what you are doing and still do it? The catch is he didnt’ know what he was doing when he did it, only later.

Is that possible to know one minute and not know the other minute? Absolutely.

Let’s talk about the crackup. But before I do that let me offer a little reminder; There are three levels of brain function. The top level is the thinking, comprehending one; externally oriented. Lower down is the feeling brain that adds emotion to the mix, and still deeper there is the instinctive reptile brain that processes the same instincts as the reptile. It adds urgency and power to emotions and to beliefs. All three have separate functions and yet are interrelated. And they communicated with each other by chemical means and also by electrical frequencies. And when something happens in the present it resonates with similar feelings from the past and they join forces. When defenses are weak, something in the present can trigger off allied sensations and feelings and then we get a powerhouse response. All three levels are involved in a conjoined reaction. Normally, there is a good defense apparatus so that the resonance does not reach too far deep down, thus limited the force of the reaction.

Here is how resonance works in the domain of anger. Something in the present makes me very angry; my wife is divorcing me and trying to keep the kids. My money is running out and she still wants more. She refuses to see or talk to me. She turns the family against me. I have been let go at my job due to injuries and I have no prospects for a new job. All looks bleak and I have no alternative. All these are assaults on my defenses. And they weaken so much that it all crumbles and there is no barrier holding back deeper pain. The problem is on the feeling level there are powerful emotions, but as it resonates still deeper anger turns to rage and fury. Human emotion because murderous feelings as the deepest animal level has access to the higher level. That is, in my lingo, the third line gives way to the first line reptilian brain where killer feelings reside. And for that moment the third line inhibitory brain is ousted by the first line instinctive brain and there is murder. The deepest brain level becomes the highest one temporarily. There is nothing left of the top level of the brain whose main function it is to inhibit. But that can only last minutes. Once the rage is expressed the pain level diminishes and some of the third line thinking, reflective brain returns to function. And Scott can now say, “I know what I did.” And he knows now but at the moment of crisis he did not know what he was doing; his rage machine took over and he became the reptile spewing out fury indiscriminately. After all, it is the top level that discriminates. It was usurped for that moment, the critical moment when he murdered eight people.

I have seen this rage over and over again when very disturbed patients begin to relive on the emotional, feeling level and suddenly are impacted by the lower levels. They begin to pound the mattress and the padded walls with an enormous fury that can go on for thirty minutes to one hour. In therapy they can direct the rage, connect with it and not be overwhelmed by it. Not so, on the street. I have filmed this rage, and those interested will see it when we release the film. The patient seems to be out of control because he is in the grip of powerful deep forces. But it is a controlled situation and is not acted out. It is becomes acted-out when the person has no idea that there are feelings deep in the unconscious, is helpless before them and has no idea about how to control them. His unconscious has taken over. And he kills.

And we can say of these people who are sometimes out of control that they may be pre-psychotic. All that really means is that their defenses against the deepest level of the brain are very weak due to the constant onslaught of pain early on in their life. And what do so-called anti-psychotic pills do? They dampen the lowest brain levels from responding. They help hold back the first line. They do this by souping up the top level so that it is more active and effective; and at the same time there are inhibitory medications in it that block the lower level pain; thus, we get a more active cortex and a less active brainstem and limbic/feeling brain. And in this medication there are chemicals that we should produce ourselves, such as serotonin. But we don’t because very early trauma has exhausted supplies, and we cannot make enough to blanket the pain. So when our inner pharmacy cannot do the job we need help from the external one. We can call it anti-psychotic medicine but all it is doing is making up for what we can no longer manufacture ourselves. Poor Scott had so many current assaults coupled with a lifetime of them that he could no longer inhibit nor defend. His defense system was not up to the job. Now when it is far too late he probably has a somewhat weak defense system that can inhibit. That won’t do his victims any good.

The lesson we can take from this is that when deprivation and severe trauma exists while we are being carried, the first-line defenses are already in a weakened state. As a kid he may have had uncontrolled temper tantrums which evolved into murder. Was he responsible? Yes and no. But we can go a long way to avoid murderous rage by making sure there is as little trauma as possible when we live in the womb. No drinking and drug-taking by the mother. No fights with her husband. No crazy diets while carrying. It is easy for me to say. I am only the messenger. It is up to all of you to listen to the message.


  1. They were both great posts the first time round too!

    This latest kid cracked and shot the woman who did not love him and maybe sadly killed all the kids she did "love" ie paid some attention to.

  2. Your post is good and valid. But I do not think it would explain the Colorado movie theater shootings. In fact, so many contradictions in the media and facts leave one to wonder on many accounts. Lets just say that appearances, like many things in the media, can be deceiving.

  3. So Christmas of light and joy are illusions that protects us from knowing what was really... against what we could not do... what we really would have done if the possibility should have been... for the protection of our own lives. What a tragedy

    What a memory with such incredible impact!

    There are no Christmas presents that protects us from suffering... but Christmas was a time when we as small had the illusion of light and joy... a time of illustrated memories that can help us back close to suffering... close to suffering for the benefit of a primal therapeutic process.

    What an incredible win it is for the market to celebrate Christmas... a "profit" that is nothing but a further loss for needy... loss for illusions about that life is amazing.

    This... something for us to remember and we will be here now... there we was then... to be able to let go of now for what it was then... an illusion that kept us alive.. an illusion of love for survival.


  4. Hi Art,I just return from a "christmas visit" to the mother of my friend ,who killed himself by entering a power plant (electric) some 12 years ago..
    A very!! painfull death by the way , as I was told by an expert...
    She expressed her 2gratitude" ( to whom evr..) that he did n o t kill
    his former pyschotherapist(sic!) who behaved like an a...hole!!

    So my naive question:why do "they " not all kill "only" themselves?
    And still more naive -a german soldier ordered the illegal bombing of
    an oil carrier by NATO jets and killed therby dozens of children !1
    And now this "hero" became a general ...
    Yours emanuel

    1. Emanuel: Though I know a lot, it is still a mystery. I can explain but not understand it. art

    2. Hi,

      Could it be that for some 'revenge is sweet'? I have tasted the sweetness of revenge, in the past I had a sweet tooth for it but now I am a bit diabetic and look for a peaceful life. . .

      I have found myself continually 'baited' over long periods by certain types, including my older brother (unresolved sibling rivalry perhaps) and then, eventually this baiting starts to feel like bullying and finally I snap. First as a child, involuntarily and then later as an adult with a ne-cortex I can start plotting my revenge can't I? I don't necessarily 'need' to know about my motive, I just need to believe in the force of my feelings toward another person.

      In a war zone the 'others' are already targeted, so it's not difficult to act out revenge on a whim. Frankly speaking, in a country which encourages people to carry arms, loaded, then, well, it's a war zone waiting to happen isn't it?

      Paul G.

  5. to all,

    My question: why is the killer not just killing himself, why does he need to kill others, even children?

    My assumption in the latest Sandy Hook killing is in the killers history. He was a loner, (Asperger symptom), but a good student (left hemisphere), and his mother was a frequent guest in the bar. School friends ignored him, and he was taking SSRI’s (leaky gates).

    Was he a mercy-killer, believing that the little kids feel as lonely as he used to feel and for this reason they are better off dead?
    Or as the Huffington Post reports: “Nancy Lanza, the mother of the Sandy Hook shooter, was in the process of having her son committed to a psychiatric facility when he went on the mass shooting spree, a lifelong family acquaintance told Fox News. - Nancy Lanza reportedly volunteered with kindergartners at the school for several years. Flashman said that Adam "believed she cared more for the children than she did for him."

    Besides my observation, the Connecticut shooting is not entering my head. I instinctively reject this horrible reality – it hurt too much.

    1. Hi Sieglinde

      Mothers always know best don't they. Some Mothers don this tough hard shell to hide thier own insecurity and thus warm love becomes tough love which ain't love it's just tough. From inside the armour this woman just feels lost, alone and frightened but seen from outside some see her as a tough no nonsense Hockey Mom and this is seen as positive traight. A Mum "cares' for her son and is also blind to her own pain so whatever she does is right and society often backs her up because we all love, adore and worship our Mum's don't we because then we don't have to face the monster she was on occassion as a tiny child. How many people have the guts to confront a Mother and tell her she is wrong. Society is Mum's. Crack up and you can shoot the Monster with an assault rifle. Those same tough Mum's are often incredibly kind to other people's children and fuss over them and I can imagine the mind searing rage that the gun toting toddler feels as he sprays the poor little recipients of his own Mum's love screaming "that's my love" inside his head.

    2. Hi planespotter,
      Yes, moms can change when strangers are around. They turn 180 degrees and show a side you never see when you are with mom. That means they are aware (not continuous why) that they behave coldly toward their children.
      Yes, these moms are in pain themselves, but what of the child who needs love and can’t get it?

    3. Hi Sieglinde

      I am not sure these Mothers know they are being cold towards their own children as they are simply repeating their own early trauma. They see coldness, harshness, violence and abuse as normal. They show warmth to other children because they too received warmth from outside the family. I wonder whether so many extramarital affairs are due to this. Looking for those fleeting moments of kindness that their Brain sucked up like a dry sponge.

  6. he did know what he was doing while he did it, but he didn't know how the feeling related to the present; he wasn't aware that the feeling was from the past. his brain formed improper connections all the way from bottom to top. his understanding of the present became distorted so that he could neurotically explain the rage. a neurotic explanation allows for a neurotic solution. any type of believable solution will stave off feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. so he blamed everybody and killed them.

    regardless of whether you are murdering or primalling, the neocortex never goes offline. during a primal, some of it's functions go offline, but as a whole, the neocortex remains online so that it can receive signals coming from the deep while continuing to provide the awareness of how the feeling relates to the present. it is this awareness that allows the signals to form proper connections.

    1. Hi Richard

      I got a bit of the improper connections today. Worried a client would'nt pay me I ended up seeing total disaster in front of me. I got incredibly upset and then an e-mail came through which disproved my fear. I then find myself walking home with a developing migraine (they are'nt very bad compared to a few years ago) and great anger welled up. It's all so blooody confusing. However a year ago if that had happened I might have been a lot worse. I don't know what is right or wrong sometimes.

  7. "You are all so bright! art"

    A quick article on praising intelligence instead of effort:



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.