Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Critical, Critical Period

  I have written many times about critical period; the time when key needs must be met, and at no other time. In other words you cannot make up for that loss no matter how much you may want to. This was brought home to me in a study about food deprivation, (March 12, J. of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. J. Galler and P. Costa) (see  What they found was that malnutrition in the first year of life, even when followed by an adequate diet, predisposes those to troubled personality even at the age of forty. Compared with those who had a normal diet they showed chronic stress, mistrust, anger and depression. Notice, the food deprivation was not limited later on to food problems; it created a complete problem in personality development. In short, key deprivation of need even during our life in the womb, has global consequences. So if you ask someone why are they so nervous?, they will unlikely answer, “because of my food deprivation at six months of womb-life.” This all occurred long before the person had a comprehending neo-cortex and its effect may last for a lifetime.

  This early food deprivation also resulted in lack of curiosity and risk taking, as well as diminished emotional warmth. All that because the baby could not eat properly?

  Let’s transfer this now to lack of love and touch right after birth. It has to be then and at no time later on. The critical period is measured in brief spurts, not long continuous time periods.  When the baby comes onto earth all alone, in a strange environment and is left alone even for several minutes there can be deprivation. And it will last.

 The point about the research on food is that it underlines the critical period. One has to ask why a very good eating regime soon after does not change things? It is because fulfillment has a timeframe, usually a short one. So when daddy leaves home for a few months to go on tour and comes home and loves and hugs his child, it is helpful but not reversing of the damage already done.  That is why when a mother’s love is missing early on, if she is seriously ill, for example, there is a need gap. And what does this do? It can remain hidden for years and suddenly in adolescence there are homosexual tendencies. No knows where it came from. But there was deprivation very early in life that could not have been seen. This is a form of act out; we always try to fulfill those deprivations, even years later, depending on the circumstances. If food in the home was prized perhaps eating will take the form of an obsession.  But the need for love is still waiting its turn. All of us who were deprived seek out one kind of fulfillment or another. Fulfillment is primordial and not to be denied no matter what the criticism or exhortations by others. It is so subtle because the parent can be a good person seriously concerned about the welfare the child but never touched her.  That need will force fulfillment elsewhere. It will force the act-out. And it will be called “neurotic” because it is symbolic of what was missing. Getting approval from someone can never fulfill the person as the mother’s kindness and approval would have done. It is symbolic, never really fulfilling and becomes obsessional just because it is symbolic and only skin deep.

  And diabolically, if we bring back the mother and ask her to be kind and approving to the young lady now adult, it would change nothing. It is still symbolic because the critical period is over. The pain can be softened through current love but the gap remains. We cannot be fully fulfilled now no matter how hard we try and no matter how others may want to make up for a bad childhood. That is the sad truth.

 The article goes on to say that early bad nutrition leads to delinquency and suspiciousness in the child. How could that be? It means very early deprivation as overall systemic effects, not confined to food. To be loved we need fulfillment of all of our needs not just a few of them; to be hugged and touched, to be listened to and approved, to be adored and praised, etc. Our needs are biologic and are human, if we want to be complete human beings.  Take the overeater; he is eating for now and then. Eating for then is symbolic and therefore never-ending. It becomes the stuff of obsessions and compulsions. He is wary because literally, he never knows where his next meal is coming from.

 Above all, those who were deprived were most often in the anxious category.  Lack of fulfillment stamped in fear and insecurity, feelings that endure for a lifetime.


  1. Another one of my metaphors:

    Neurosis is like a hot electric element that is always turned on. You can throw water on it to keep the temperature down, but you have to do it forever if you don't get to the off switch. PT is getting to the off-switch.

    Quote: "This early food deprivation also resulted in lack of curiosity and risk taking, as well as diminished emotional warmth. All that because the baby could not eat properly?"

    Much of the 3rd world?

    1. Looks like this holds true for learning languages, too:

      "Infants and young children quickly learn a new language with a native accent, whereas following puberty the acquisition of a language usually requires more effort and a foreign accent is the norm. This appears to be explained by the fact that language acquired in the post-pubertal individual resides in a nearby but different location from that acquired earlier in life. The reason for this appears to be that the ‘window of opportunity’ to easily learn a language closes. This observation has significant implications for parents, educational leaders and policy makers."

    2. Trevor, I agree that there are many points of critical timing. Most people see mating as a mystery, but I suspect there is a critical time period. Given that we acquire the abilities to reproduce in early adolescence, I suspect this is a cue to begin such mating. But governments wold prefer to keep the young in their indoctrination centers, I mean, schools, so that they get fully programmed as "some" would prefer. therefore, mating is discouraged before indoctrination and brain washing, I mean, instruction, has been fully administered.

      then we could talk about the way communities should be structured to produce and reinforce good living values but that is another story. There is a time and place for everything under the sun, I have heard it said. Art, what do you say about mating timing and impulses? Do we ignore our impusles? Why are they even there at say 13 or 14? Did evolution screw up and our brilliant "scientists" get it right with delays adulthood and maturity in favor of prolonged avoidance of responsibility?

    3. Hi,

      Didn't Art find some research material into this that showed a tendency for traumatised individuals sometimes to 'mature' early, to mate and breed soon after becoming reproductive. . . .

      A desperate attempt at a brainstem level to pass on genes?

      Paul G.

    4. Paul: I don't think so but maybe. art

    5. Paul, I think I have seen research somewhere that suggest stress might bring early puberty. But even so, most puberty arrives far earlier than graduation does. Did our minds go haywire, or should be be mating at 14 or 15? You tell me. I already know the answer ;-)

  2. Art!

    It would be interesting to know what... how the circumstances would be if the mother after all science was a loving mother. That it during fetal life would be a serious complication of not having the necessary nutrition seem obvious but how would it "facilitate" if the above sentence would apply... the mother would be at her full sense of being mom?

    She could have any ailment so that nutrition does not reach her unborn child... a comment to eliminate "a healthy mother would always make sure to eat the right nutrition"


  3. I have always been drawn to PT, due to its recognition of the most important aspect of reproduction, getting it right the 1st time and the right time, the exact time. No Excuses! This was a great piece of research brought to our attention. Deprivation has so many negative effects, any sort of deprivation, whether a lack of a warm voice, tenderness, no food, no instruction, no shelter, poor economics, etc.

    Here would be my point. We all worry about a good paying job, a nice house, Status and other such crap. But really, the most important by far, with no rival, is bring a child into the world and seeing that the child is adequately cared for in all things, but especially in love, warmth, trust.

    Anyone can drop to their knees and get promoted and paid well. That’s nothing! No accomplishment can mean as much as preparing a child for life by giving him/her love in abundance. It makes them strong, powerful, resilient.

    Now I want to point out an seemingly odd rule in the Bible, of all things. The punishment for adultery? Death. Free, unrestricted, unbridled, careless, reckless sex? Death! What might be missed in this “puritanical” attitude is the understanding that pro-creation is to be taken seriously, very seriously, life and death seriously. Seriously ;-) If we do not get the child off on the right step, the right start, by seeing to all of its needs, then we doom the world to a future “hell.” Sex is not just an exciting high. It brings many consequences, or at least serious responsibilities with it, when pregnancy, which was pretty much given before the 1960s, happened.

    Augustus Caesar was an interesting case in point. He knew that good stable families we needed to raise good stable kids which would become, in theory, good stable citizens to pass the Empire and legacy onto. He tried to pass laws to reinforce family values and discourage reckless sexual behavior, but one and all were working against Augustus in Rome.

    You can tell people what is good for them, but they may not want to listen. Our libidos tend to motivate our thinking and choices, sadly. But suffice to say, we really need to change our views on sexual behavior, so as to either avoid reproduction (not likely do to impulsive behavior) or take that reproduction seriously and give it our all.

    The dilemma is, how do we take broken people who did not get their needs met, and make they adequate parents for the next generation. I see no easy answers in that one. The equation looks dim. We are in a mess we can not get out of. Science can not overcome our inadequacy to bring about good child raising. Do the math and you may not like the results, either. We know the problem but with no solution in sight.

  4. Hi Art and Co,
    It has been playing on my mind and feelings for sometime as to the immensity an individual is facing in order to heal their inner emotional turmoil. It is not only our inner injuries that we consciously remember but also that we need to uncover the damage that is out of our immediate consciousness.
    With regards to childhood nutrition we are obviously at the mercy of our caretakers and possibly how our parents/grandparents were fed throughout their lives. My parents grew up in England and their teenage years were during World War II. My mother was always a sickly child and also with this her father dying when she was four years old. My father grew up in poverty along with 9 other siblings. My mother started me drinking tea with milk and a couple of teaspoons of sugar when I was six months old. I was addicted to sweets (candy) all through my childhood and always tempted with a lolly shop opposite our family home.
    I often wonder if my one lifetime I will see myself in a happier state. I feel I have all but made a miniscule inroads towards my own healing journey even in having some knowledge/experience with a lot of therapeutic healing modalities including, of course, Primal Therapy. Not once in my visits to psychologists etc have any of them looked at my current diet, nutrition and general physical lifestyle. I believe this should be an integral part of helping a person get back on a road to assist their inner healings. I believe one needs to have a reasonably physically healthy springboard in order to assist one's emotional healing journey. I believe it also goes the other way in that as we remove the damaging emotional “weights” from ourselves then that also helps to heal the body as well. Anyway said my bit for now. Cheers Theresa

    1. Theresa: I feel for your condition and you need to do it right. Where did you do Primal? art

    2. Hi Theresa, I too had a craving for sweets all my childhood. I was born with coffee nerves, as my mother would drink pots of coffee. I always had a weak immune system. Something my siblings avoided enduring a more healthful pregnancy. I've spent 1000's on vitamins and tried numerous nutritional programs. I was a colicky baby and would scream when my toddler brothers ran thru the house(so they say) I would easily get the flu. Alas, all these years later, with the stress of caring for my Alzheimer's mother for 7years I developed Crohn's disease triggered by a bout of food poisoning. Not until she was gone did I realize how defensive I felt daily--like she wanted to attack me for just existing. I didn't know my defensiveness was so corrosive to my body or that I deserved better... by the way even though I knew she always wanted a girl I asked her if she really wanted a 5th child, and she said: "no, I hated that thing inside of me." And she could really hate. So. I'm left with intestinal problems that is helped by a tailored diet called gap or specific carbo. Also by cutting out grains my thinking became clearer and I was able to feel easier. It's the same diet autistic kids follow. I've had to feel on my own or with the help of relatives thru the years. And I agree it is easier to feel if you feel well. good luck Theresa, and stay well. Sheri

    3. Hi Art ... not sure if I've mentioned it before but a few times I went to the Jamillon Centre in Melbourne, Australia. The centre was established in 1984 by the late Dr John Spensley. Here is their website link if you wish to check it out ... I found travelling interstate for a couple of days somewhat unsettling and overwhelming and felt this alone worked against my primal therapy sessions.
      Thanks for your comment Sheri. I have also spent heaps of money on vitamins and various other concoctions. The pharmaceutical businesses are having a 'hay day' in reaping money out of all this stuff that we pop into our mouths. Many of these tablets/potions have annoying side effects for me. eg tryptophan, samE. Not what I need in my current menoupausal/anxiety/depressive state! Theresa

    4. Theresa: I don't have to look them up; we have seen their ex patients. It has been a disaster. Some of them have been destroyed beyond belief. They are why I warn patients against mock primal therapists. art

  5. This is an article from the BBC News here in the UK. Apparently cutting the umbilical cord too soon after birth, which is normal practice here, can lead to iron deficiency!!!

    They haven't really got a clue the lasting damage it can really do.



    1. Steve: You all need to write letters to give them a clue. After all, you have the clue so why not share it. art

    2. I think Art has mentioned before that the umbilical cord should not be cut until it stops pulsating. It provides oxygen.

  6. An email comment: " My wife is now working as a community liaison at a an elementary school on the coast. She has to write the incident reports regarding abuse and child behavior that is out of line.
    You would not believe the stories she comes home with on a daily basis. Or maybe you would.
    The issues are epidemic and there is so little, no, there is no understanding of the origins or consequences of the behavior. And thus there is very little relief.
    I wonder, in the future, with your knowledge and practice as standards, at what age can there be intervention.

    The "problem" children are sent to her when the teachers cannot handle them.
    She has a savant. Six years old and can solve complex algebra problems. And has an amazing artistic ability. But the dark side is an animalistic rage when he is upset.
    She has a druggie child who goes catatonic with too much stress. He curls up in a ball on the floor for an hour or two at a time before he returns to the present..
    She has an extremely bright black child (five years old) who responds to criticism with "fuck you bitch. Nobody gives a shit about me. So screw you." But he has an adults awareness of his plight. He asks her at times why people do not care about him. Very lucid.

    It is heart breaking.

    My wife has followed me over the years relative to your theory and process. So, she is able to see the roots of the trauma and behavior. We talk about it. Ironically she is able to bond with these children. But she cannot cure them.

  7. is pregnancy nausea one of causes of malnutrition of the fetus?
    because it can last for months..!
    but they say it is normal.
    how that can be normal? when a pregnant mother
    can't drink or eat or smell or is nervous and depressed...
    maybe it is all caused by the imprint.

  8. The ultimate goal through the struggle against quackery!

    So... science has finally receiving its breakthrough... breakthrough for what primal therapy has long argued… the revolutionary process to a generating therapeutic activity in the name of science!

    I think the scientific process of how thought and feeling are linked will be a major breakthrough for primal therapy... to get the revolutionary breakthrough we are looking for... whether we like it or not. It is and will be of the science nobody will be able to argue against.

    What has until now been a major problem is that deliranter got space by ignorance of the scientific incentives primal therapy had since long ago... and the threat it became've against the establishment in psychiatry psychology and subtle content started to blossom as an omen in try to silence what really was of a revolutionary process.

    I hope this will be the end of a sad event.


  9. I think people should just stop having babies. There is a huge increase in the birth rate among young women in the U.K. who possibly get pregnant as a status thing but the sad fact is the planet is overwhelmed by people and it would be a good thing if we lessened the human footprint (suggested by |David Attenborough). Human Beings have often vert little concern for other species, are destroying absoilutely everything in Nature. Now in England the govt has approved going ahead with deep sea drilling, which will have a disastrous and destructive impact on whales and other sea animals.I truly believe that after all the mindless suffering and damage caused by humans alone the beautiful but ravaged planet Earth would be happier (if it has feelings!) with less people and less buildings, etc., on its surface.

  10. why wouldn't starvation in the womb manifest itself in refusing to eat.
    those illustrations with girls seeing themselves distorted in the mirror
    is so reductionistic and missleading. i think all she wants is to feel safe and she finds a way. in a relationship with ... food she can control the terror of some kind?? of early deprivation of something. and it can happen to men but it happens to girls more often only because their slim appearance in our "culture" can resonate with fulfillment of the need-attention. there is more pressure on them. and the cure is to convince her that she is beautifull and attractive, lovable. but anxiety stays just around the corner. waiting...
    her fear is good for the disconnected economy. just pick: junk food, gadgets, fashion, pharmaceutical, military, travel, alchohol, entertainment,drugs.... the whole system is sucking life out of her. trying to change herself.
    and trying... and keep trying. to feel ok one day, next second.


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.