Sunday, December 30, 2012

What About Drugs to Help Us Feel

It used to be LSD that was thought to help us feel, but then we discovered that it flooded the cortex and took away any chance of connection.  Now there is a new one, Oxytocin, which seems to help us share and trust others.  I call it “instant love” because it causes to act for the moment as though we are and were loved.  And friends have wondered if it doesn’t help us open up and feel more?  Indeed it might but like all temporary panaceas its effects are not lasting and it avoids a key point:  what happens to the imprint?  The imprint of unloved which is infused into our entire system?  No drug will take that away and it should not.   Nothing can take away the engraved memory because it is now part of our neurophysiology.  And my point is that we cannot truly feel loved so long as the imprint remains.

    So yes, there are temporary expedients but they remain that.  There is no magic and no real way to deceive our physiology.   If we spent a lifetime with a harridan of a mother and an alcoholic father, that left us totally neglected and unloved, there is no drug that will take that away.   That is like taking away part of our physiology which reflects that lifetime.    If we were abused so that there were changes in our oxytocin, which does happen, as well as permanent changes in our cortisol levels and various hormones, it cannot be undone by a magic infusion of some chemical help, as much as we may find it wonderful.

  You know,  many addicts have found the magic pill; it is called heroin.  Here is how it happens:  some child is in constant pain and because it is an every day of constant neglect and indifference he is not aware of it.  But someone turns him onto heroin and he suddenly feels normal.  He is relaxed and can work and concentrate.  What happened?  He found something that did indeed normalize him. Am I kidding?  I don’t think so since with constant early pain there are basic changes in stress hormone levels and most of all in serotonin, which helps us repress and keep pain down. But with chronic pain the serotonin levels are reduced and we are in a constant malaise, a discomfort, and we have no idea of its origins.  We don’t even know it is called pain.  But then we take a drug, a painkiller that helps us repress and we feel “normal”.   And for that moment we are “normal”.  Just like with oxytocin; we do feel loved and love for the moment. But it quickly passes, and we must not imagine that any drug will take away our history and renew us forever.  That’s called magical thinking, and we have enough of that extent, as it is.  There are those who got into ecstasy which also produced that wonderful feeling of access to feelings and those who took it swear it helped so much, but trust me, it didn’t.  It couldn’t, because until something wipes away our history there is no profound change.  Should I repeat?  Until something eliminates our history, no drug can make a profound change, no matter what you think.  Oh yes, there are changes in thinking and attitudes but no neurophysiologic change.

  But there is a way to feel that we can love again, and that way is the dialectic: to feel totally unloved again; because it is that feeling that constantly drives us and makes us act the way we do.   We are unendingly sweet in order to get some kind of love. But once we feel what happened to us and our feelings we are ready to get on with life and love again.   So what is addiction all about? Trying to achieve the feeling we would have had if we had been loved at the start.  We take drugs every today that enhances that feeling and allows to relax for the moment.  It is not a bad thing; it is necessary.   It is our past that pains us and also liberates us; our history that is freeing because it first has to be acknowledged and felt.  Once done we are finally free.


  1. Therein is the question Art ... how can we feel being so unloved to the extent that we can then love and be loved in the present.

    My question is: can we feel that on our own? If so how might we go about that? If not then other than a Primal therapist might we get to feelings at all, specially the feeling of NOT being loved?

    I feel, (I might well be deluded) that there is a chance ... albeit, difficult (in view of a lifetime of being in denial of most feelings). If not then what chance is there for the human race?

    I hope I don't come across as impertinent.


    1. Jack: Hundreds of very unloved patients have done it, my wife and I included. So it can be done. Generally you need help. I can't save the human race but we can save you. love art

    2. Hello Jack,

      You my know all this!

      Why it is possible to feel the need of love with no experience of satisfaction as a child!
      When we by symptom of pain begin search for its roots for what then was... when we begin to experience... feel where... when and how we suffered for lovelessness... for the need of love.
      The need was then and is now what we're searching for... searching here and now (if we want to be healthy)... but first we must... through dialect "recognize" suffering... suffering in all its meaning of symptoms. Slowly but surely be connected for what it is and then was.
      When we are there in our brains reels... will the need of love... perhaps for the first time become an experience in neo cortex... an experience from the limbic system… leaking through of life and death for the need of love. But also for the first time feel the air flow through our lungs... an amazing experience. It does not hurt to be the pain… it is to resist that hurts. There is very much that shall "fall into place" why an extremely caution must be added.


    3. Hi Frank

      Perhaps most people experience empathy and or love as a child at least in some small way but often not from the right people ie Parents. This may be from a teacher, relation, or Parent. Perhaps the child received intermitant expressions of love from a Mother and or Father and then periods of disdain, indifference, violence etc (seems like the basis for Manic depression as this mirrors the period of mania and depression). If a child receives no love and only negative experiences it may compound early womb trauma and create a physcopath who is incapable of reaching his or her feelings and is as Art says beyond help very often.

      Perhaps a child who has experienced some kind of empathy has enough reserve energy to be able (with the support of a therapist) to access the times when he or she did not experience love. After all so many people have this desperate urge for love (Boy am I feeling this at the moment) that they try and repeat the small experiences again and again whether in affairs or serial sexual relationships. I have experienced this myself. I got love and affection from my Grandfather and Grandmother as well as my Aunt as well as intermitant love from my Parents though this was so mixed up with conditions that it was not love really. I am therefore always looking out for a more loving woman but how can any woman provide that nurturing Brain refining love that an unconditionally loving Mother can? It's like Tantalus reaching for the grapes which are always out of reach. I have occassionally felt a flood of love for my wife which enveloped my heart and soul and I so want that more permenantly. As you say we need to experience the pain of not being loved. I feel that I am starting on that journey now. Feeling very sad and fluctuating between depression and sadness with the latter perhaps taking up more of my time than the former which is a positive step I would say.

      A while ago I walked into a sandwich shop and a woman standing behind the counter was quite flirty and had good eye contact. She left it in no uncertain terms that she liked me. I had to go and sit down. I felt my whole body overwhelmed by a rush of something. I was breathing very deeply and for the rest of the day I felt like I could take on the world. Perhaps a flood of dopamine to bring it down to it's chemical basis. It was like a drug so it seems pretty reasonable to understand how so many other drugs act as poor substitutes and one can understand how someone can become a sex addict.

    4. Planespotter: Astute observation. I hope you all are learning more about yourselves. It seems so. art

    5. Thanks Art. The learning and understanding is good if bloody painful.! :-)

    6. Also it's quite weird how everything is there to see if only we could allow ourselves to see. Kings New Clothes I suppose. Drugs keep us blind emotionally and visually. They help us live an unreal life. The pain and the suffering are all around us and yet how many people see what is directly in front of their nose?

      I know of a woman whose Son is a Heroin addict. Of course my deluded Mother slags him off and says what a wimp he is. He regularly steals from his Mother to fund his habit. He is seen as the villain and the Mother is seen as beyond reproach. She has no idea why he is like he is. Alice Miller described how she thought that any Mother who actually realised how much damage she had done to her children may well die of shock. I can imagine this. Such Parents have to lie to themselves for this reason alone. When a Mother becomes pregnant she crosses the Rubicon for good or ill. The drugs the Son takes are actually drugs for everyone involved. That is why so many so called insane people cannot be allowed to recover. Their recovery would cause too much distress to the other members of the family. Someone who does try and recover is cast out for the same reason. These insane people are the dysfunctional release valve on the pressure cooker of Society.

  2. Dr. Janov,
    If I'm right; we need to integrate the life-threatening feelings from the lower limbic system/brain stem – only then are we are free from the imprint – only then are we able to feel and give true love. Drugs can open the gating system and keep it open without integrating the feeling.
    “Primal Healing” is good reading on the subject – smile, smile.

  3. Off topic:

    My great uncle (recently deceased, at 86) came off his pushbike as a boy. He hit his head and ended up in a coma for a long time. When he finally "came back" properly, he had missed out on a critical phase of his development.

    He spoke very well and clearly (actually much better than most adults I know) and had no difficulty taking care of himself domestically, but he could not hold down a job and would freak-out over any change in his daily pattern. He was generally competent but "simple".

    So his ability to adapt to new and unexpected things was heavily hampered (and more to my later point, he never claimed this ability in later life). Although in terms of physical health he made a full recovery, and in many ways seemed completely normal, he never recovered from that critical phase of development that he missed out on.

    As I see it, this is what neurosis is (in part) - an emotional coma. Our emotional development gets locked away (put asleep) to a given degree, because the emotional parts of our brain get "shocked" off-line via trauma. If this is right then maybe we will all always be like my great uncle - never to grow up, emotionally, like my uncle could never grow up intellectually after missing out on a critical developmental phase. So, as I presume, the emotional maturity we might achieve post-primal will always be fundamentally limited, from even when we 'wake up' after integration.

    How do you feel about this perspective, Art? Do you think it's an accurate outlook/presumption? I know I have commented before that, of course, we can't totally replace a childhood that never was, but I'm curious if you think the fundamental quality of post-primal emotional development can never occur like it could during the critical periods of our childhood. Again, just like with my great uncle's intellectual development.

    1. I read somewhere about a little Boy who had a lazy Eye. The Doctors put a patch over his Eye as is often done and for six months he lived with this patch. When they took it off he was blind in that Eye. They had placed the patch on his Eye during a particular developmental phase of his Brain and the Brain simply switched off the nerve. That period is now avoided during treatment of lazy eye. Our mind and Body does not waste resources on unnecessary things. Why use emotional intelligence if we don't need it. All I would say is that I have always had a certain emotional intelligence though often it was in the background. Something I often was'nt fully concious of. After my biggest traumatic incident in 2005 when earlier trauma was woken up so to speak I went though a period of confusion and sleeplessness until I discovered Alice Miller's and Art's writings and a decent UK therapist 3 years ago. I then began a slow reawakening. I probably won't ever be as normal as I could have been but better than I was. To recognise that I had PTSD (I hate these shrink biased boxes) with all the anger, repression, nightmares etc (and not GAD) allowed me to recognise that I was traumatised and had been very hurt as a child and begin my journey. A year ago my Brain felt foggy and lumpen. Now it feels less so though I often feel sadder and feel pain. I rather hope that this is like running through a stitch and the other side is more pleasant and real. I think we can make something of a recovery and that the Brain can still change even slightly and for the good.


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.