Saturday, December 21, 2013

More on Leaky Gates

Remember how I have been writing about leaky gates and what it does to us. Well, it looks as though the gates really are leaky, so writes Scientific American. They say that there are leaky receptors in the limbic system that play a role in pathology. Chronic stress damages neurons in parts of the limbic system (hippocampus) that interferes with cognitive function. (Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2012).

When there is trauma it affects the ryanodine receptors and affects calcium balance. There is extracellular calcium which can damage neural cells. I imagine that key cells that control pain are also affected. In experiments with mice they found that stress resulted in cells becoming defective and “leaky,” their term. They conclude that chronic stress induces leakiness in hippocampal cells, resulting in impaired mental function. They liken this is post- traumatic-stress-disorder. Perhaps the same pathways are impaired.

 All this simply means that constant adversity gnaws away at key neural cells, which renders them defective; they cannot do their job. That job includes repression. When the body asks a certain system to function despite constant impact of neglect, abuse, indifference and lack of love, sooner or later it can no longer do what it is supposed to do—shut down pain. It is overwhelmed trying to carry out its job and then it falters; pain rushes through the barriers or gates and we begin to suffer. We don’t as yet feel; that comes when we experience the suffering for what it is and where it comes from; its site of origin. Feeling is making it concrete and connected; that is what transforms suffering into its opposite and finally relieves us. That is the secret of our therapy; and it is not so secret. Suffering is amorphous, shapeless, smell-less; it is as pervasive as the feelings underlying it. Once it is connected we know what to do about it; no different from a thorn in the foot. Once we pinpoint causes it leads inevitably to proper treatment. If we never know it is a thorn we are helpless and go on hurting; that thorn is an imprint, an old feeling stuck in place; we are unable to escape and change. It changes us and will go on doing so until we acknowledge it fully.

So leaky gates are helpful in one sense; they foretell of pain on the rise, bursting through the leaky barriers, showing us what we need to do. It is truly a “thorn in our side.” It is also our chance to get well; to take that rising anguish and turn it into what it is, a feeling, a history, something that constantly drives us. We help patients take their body off the accelerator; that seems like a simple metaphor but you would be surprised at how many patients feel that they are speeding along, driven, and do not know how to take their foot off the accelerator. We know how and it is not so difficult; figure out what has caused the drive or speed. It could be never being touched, or an anxious pregnant mother, or a severe unloving father. We don’ t find out; we find a way to help the patient go back in history and she will discover it all. And she finally will be free; no more constant drive, no more incessant compulsions; no more obsessive ideas and compulsive sex: liberation at last.


  1. Art!

    You know about those who have their defense as professionalism against experiencing the child in them... they do not have the ability to feel... admit suffering as cause to their professionalism... they must recognize too much against their cause... it's for them like looking for a needle in a haystack!

    Death we already live is a companionship in the sense of professionalism... anxiety and depression without being divulged!

    In other words... we live in sentences about death... in symptoms by professionalism and all what anxiety and depression can accomplish as protection! A dead long time ago... now driving us in labyrinths of faith and mathematical solutions explanatory life ... a cognitive accumulation which at any time can explode!

    Who are willing to accept suffering as cause of pain when there are those who promise without... a sad storry without its conten?

    We consider ourselves not "blind"... we do not feel the child in us... we are thinking of it! We do not see children... we look at them!

    We need both science and a damn good ability to convince... love is an alien "theme"... a theme for much later interest!


  2. This so resonates with me. I suppose I had obsessive ideas and compulsions and felt very driven for many years. I had to work and work to feel safe. I think it is often experiences in the present which touch very early pain and terror. I suspect that the most effecting present day experiences are in some way related to the early trauma. I started to get really obsessive and compulsive once I had left the protective atmosphere of college and went into the world of work where I found it difficult to interact in a competative atmospshere. Within 4 years I was curled up in the Doctors surgery and had a minor breakdown I suspect. It was just before then I fell in love with my wife. All those powerful positive feelings of passion and love also dragged many other deeper and darker feelings and experiences from the depths of my subconcious. I often felt torn apart.

    I don't think my Brain works as well as it did. It feels sluggish and lumpen sometimes. There is'nt that fast quick thinking althletic brain I had before. I do hope to get it back. I do sometimes.

    During a session with my therapist the other day I had a Primal I think. Or got close to it. I started off curled up and very panicked and upset. I then found myself on my back and pushing my legs up in the air and my arms too almost into a V shape. I did this a number of times interspersed with long periods of very deep cyclic breathing. When I had finished I realised this was my birth. I had spoken to my Mother for the first time in 5 years and she told me that the Doctors had induced me by breaking her waters because I was a breech. but I had refused to budge for 3 or 4 day so they pulled me out with forceps as a breach, so bottom first.Thus my attempts as a 53 year old to try and push myself into the same shape though with not half as much flexibility. Thus I had spent 3 days in her womb squashed against the walls unable to move. Is it any wonder I have been incredibly claustrophobic in my life. I must have been terrifed for those 3 days and then rather than being able to exit in my own time I was ripped into the world. I often feel very angry when I am asked to do something to other peoples deadlines. Is it any wonder. Thus the world of work proved so stressful for me because it hit unaknowledged experiences and trauma. Just realised that while typing this. Add to the birth that I suspect the cord got wrapped round my neck which is why I have thought about hanging myself when very low. Such early stress and trauma. I have never found it easy to work to other peoples deadlines because the most important event in my life ie my birth was dictated to me by others and in the process of huge metal calipers grabbing my hips I was also almost strangled to death. Is it any wonder I have often felt like curling up in a ball under great stress. My breakdown I mentioned also occurred just after I was made redundent and lost my flat. I suddenly lost a huge amount of my security in my life. Not unlike suddenly losing the support and reletive safety of the womb and being yanked into a world of brutal and abusive parents. I have never felt safe in the world. I was hit by Laing's double bind. I had lost security but to gain security I had to have a job which was also threatening and stressful.

    Art, you mention about how such stress effects calcium balance. I have an Aunt who is an incredibly nervous person and has bad ostioporosis. I gather that stress can make the blood acidic so calcium is released from the bones to neutralise this. I have broken numerous bones over my life and suspect this plays a part. Stress and trauma upsets the whole organism. I also gather that Calcium tablets can reduce anxiety.

    My gates were leaky for years and years and frankly on occassion falling off their hinges too. :-) I no longer feel very driven but would like a bit more oomph!

    Thanks for this post Art. Best Christmas present I have had in ages. It's helped with a load of insights. Right now my whole body feels like it is rejigging somehow.

    Happy Holidays.

    1. Planespotter: That word, deadline, is so apt. It really was a dead line. If you get stopped you die; hence the anxiety Listen, if that is my gift to all of you I am delighted. I have no reason otherwise to write. art

    2. Hi Art

      I have been thinking (and feeling) about this for a few days. I wonder what would have happened if the Doctors had left me to sort myself out. Why was I breech? If I was left to pop out into the world when I chose, perhaps I would have positioned myself properly and then wriggled my way out (perhaps those dolphin like moves some of your patients make). So often in life children have to fit into the adult world of deadlines and schedules rather than adults fit with children. I am sure the world would be a happier place if they did. The Doctors stuck to the exact 9 month rule with me. I had to be out when they said. No leaving me for a few days to see what happened. Dictatorship.

      Interestingly yesterday I was sitting on my sofa and writing something and had had a number of really bad nights sleep. During that previous night I had not slept and kept stretching a huge amount. 20 or 30 times. Relieving tension in my body. Every time I did, my body sort of let go and huge weight and tension lifted. While doing my writing I decided to lie on the floor with my body doing a few of the V shaped positions and then lay back and breathed. Not a long time but enough. I realised that this stretching was to do with those days trapped after the waters were broken. I could not move at all. I could not relax (ie sleep) and must have been terrified and tense at the time. A few years ago I went through a period of sitting bolt upright in bed and sometimes screaming in terror and feeling incredibly claustrophobic. I had to scramble to switch on the bedside light to break the oppressive blackness. I have always had to sleep with some spec of light somewhere. The darkness of the constricting womb was horrific. The not knowing (though knowing is such an adult word). All that was this period of three days or so trapped in my Mothers womb.

      I think in my case I was stopped from going to "my full term" by the Doctors deadlines and in the process faced the terror of dying trapped in the womb and then by strangulation.

      Also it really gives an insight into the formless blackness of nightmares from that period. A baby in the womb knows no sunlight, grass, sky or trees. It knows no parent or sister or brother. It only knows the pulsing of it Mothers heart, the rushing sound of blood and the warm comfort of the dark watery womb. Is it any wonder that someone can invent crazy ideas to mask the terror and pain. As the child grows he or she experiences much from the child's point of view and these can erupt as symbols in dreams that seem strange to an adult who can't remember what it was like to be a wordless 18 month old child tottering through the grass seeing the world through 18 month old eyes with an 18 month old Brain (OK 27 months in fact) and experiencing 18 month old feelings. Forget ones childhood (which is unique) and it's experiences (which are unique) and feelings (which are unique) and one loses sight of who one was. Go back into one's childhood and explore the TV programs, friends, books, toys etc (and related feelings) and one can see where many symbols can come from, twisted and distorted by the traumas experienced in and around those childish things. None of those things are in the womb. Is it any wonder that a recovered adult has real life dreams with little if any symbolism having met with the child he or she was.

      Deadlines are deadly sometimes. Fascinating stuff.

  3. Happy Holidays to everyone who reads this blog and to Art for providing it

  4. The accelerator metaphor is apt. Conversely after receiving therapy for sometime I became aware of a behavior that I no longer do. As what felt like amounts of pain that I couldn't keep adequately under enough repression as I progressed through therapy, I would find myself while in the driver's seat of my car (another apt description of how this therapy works that you ultimately are your own therapist and patient after enough years of training and working through pain) while parked pushing down onto the brake pedal with great pressure and holding it there unconsciously. I was literally willing myself to hold down my pain enough so that I could wait until I could "feel" it. I held that fucking brake down for a number of years. I now find myself aware that I no longer do that which is cause for believing I no longer have neither a need for speed or slamming on the brakes of life. It's quite nice to coast.

  5. Thanks for this, Art, especially the tip about the ryanodine receptors. I looked that up in Wikipedia and found that the calcium channels in the skeletal muscles, the heart and neurons can be affected. It suggests to me that since the vitamin D supplement I mentioned in your last post has reduced my muscular cramps to virtually nil it might well improve my heart regulation and neuronal functioning eventually too, lowering my blood pressure and improving my concentration.

    As for how it ties in with your theories about primal pain I don't doubt any of it. It has occurred to me that we become vitamin D deficient because 1st line pains are getting increasingly triggered. As you probably know we can not make our own vitamin D from the sun until about 6 months of age. We can get a nice tan but still depend on mother's milk for the vitamin D. In line with your statement made often in your books and here on this blog, that the early pains can evoke the entire psychophysiologic state of the organism at the time of the imprint, it should not be surprising if a primal patient were to suddenly become vitamin D deficient/dependent even at the age of say 40, if mostly what was left to resolve was 1st line.

  6. An email comment: (Part 1)
    "A Life-long Strangelhold.

    During the last 40 years (calculated from the reading of The Primal Scream), I have learned to understand the principles and the process to re-live my birth-trauma. That way, I have been able to understand my weakness in emotional contacts, in my relationships and in my childhood, and how my neurotic life pattern was developed. This, eventually, led to a demystification of my epilepsy. In summary, my epilepsy can be described as a compressed short circuit / reaction to my organism’s 48 hour traumatic struggle for survival after the amniotic fluid was gone, to come out of the womb. The horrific struggle had many, for a fetus unbearable, complex events such as squeezing, choking, anesthetics in different forms, turning the fetus and strangling by the umbilical cord when being pulled out. Just recently it’s been 34 years from my first experience of how a normally short, however, shattering grand mal seizure developed / turned into a 1-2 hour long, integrating birth primal.

    Having, during three intensive periods (10-15 years apart), re-lived most of the encapsulated pain from my birth trauma, my life has become pretty “normal”. My life pattern, although influenced by my history, has been liberated from the filter of neurotic actions that were previously necessary to reduce the leaking pain I, for most of my life, have been distorted by. A unique, but not totally illogical effect of my liberation from inhibitions and repressed pain, has been my initiative to connect with my teenage love Eva. Our contact ended when I, at age 19, developed epilepsy and was chemically lobotomized.

    The resumption of our contact, after 53 years, has been and is a unique restoration of the friendship between two soul mates. The Primal Principle / Evolution in Reverse is the catalyst of that success. We have been able to let 53 years pass in review as a script under constant development. An infinite number of undeveloped and / or hidden scenarios well up out of our, increasingly less constricted, minds. This happens in spite (or perhaps it is thanks to?) there being complications in both of us that require solutions and changes. Eva e.g. had a long, and for traditional values, very success-filled academic career as faculty manager and board member at a prestigious university. These successes were achieved at the price of an emotionally impoverished life. “Free painkillers” such as coffee, sugar, cigarettes and workaholism held an emotionally disturbed childhood, with a bipolar mother, at bay. The pain propelled neuroses overloaded her organs and represented the price for academic success. The symptoms for Eva’s success; hyperthyroidism, hypertension and diabetes culminated 6-7 years ago in a burnout and stroke without other visible symptoms than a corrupted working memory and depression."

  7. (Part 2):
    "Over two, years, I have guided Eva into new habits. Through diet, physical exercises and Rolfing, Eva has made great progress and has been able to eliminate significant portions of her medical treatment and regained a functioning working memory. Eva’s long-term memory and her intellectual and emotional abilities are set in relation to her deep repression, surprisingly intact from our youth. Eva has a deep-set, natural drive to free herself from her inhibitions, and she makes daily small steps forward in her fight to pull herself from these neuroses that have kept her away / filtered from her true feelings. Eva has embarked on a stimulating and exciting, but, long and difficult journey of no return.

    After an attempt by Eva, in writing, to describe a traumatic family situation that I received by email and read last night, I was hit by a strange empty feeling of hopelessness. Eva had “scientifically”, objectively, described the trauma over 2 A4 pages and only peripherally touched on the feelings that she had not wanted or been able to feel. I went to bed with Eva’s repressed, undescribed, emotions. At 3 o’clock in the morning, I woke up deep in the middle of a birth primal. At first I was painfully numb in my head, arms and legs, which meant feelings which I have experienced many times before. More unique feelings followed that I was dehydrated and chapped in the mouth, tongue and throat. After violent twitching of the legs and the body, I was ripped out backwards with the umbilical cord in a stranglehold around the neck. Indescribable gurgling sounds welled up from my chest, and I could keep myself conscious throughout the process.

    Out of the hopeless feeling when I went to bed, something extraordinarily positive had emerged, and I had been through another liberating, wordless re-experience of my birth trauma! “My Primal Journey will not end. There is no way, the way turns into reality while I travel. It is the journey that is the labour’s worth, not the goal of the path.”

    Jan Johnsson

    In motion

    The sated day is never first.
    The best day is a day of thirst.

    Yes, there is a goal and mening in our path -
    but it’s the way that is the labour’s worth.

    The best goal is a night-long rest,
    fire lit, and bread broken in haste.

    In places where one sleeps but once,
    sleep is secure, dreams full of songs.

    Strike camp, strike camp! The new day shows its light.
    Our great adventure has no end in sight.

    Karin Boye (1927)"

  8. HI Art,

    Several years ago, I read a research article which found that the "hippocampus" area of the brain is smaller in a large proportion of soldiers who are diagnosed with PTSD. That article would infer more that neural damage can be so substantial as to kill off some of the brain cells.

    This damage occurs in strong and highly trained adults. So imagine what that the neural damage means to the more vulnerable and immature child or infant.

    Your writing is always magnetic. From the first words, I can't stop reading-- even when I start reading late at night.

    Jim RM

    1. Jim: Keep on reading, it is why I write. Art

    2. Hi Jim

      Perhaps the soldiers who have PTSD already had a smaller hippocampus. My reading over the years suggests that those who develop full blown PTSD in later life due to Battle Fatique or sexual abuse etc have tended to be less resilient to stress, have a smaller hippocampus and often grew up in a dictatorial household where they had to follow very strict rules. Perhaps this is why the regimented life of the army beckoned to them and why so many find life in the civilian world far more difficult to cope with.

    3. planespotter,
      very interesting point.

      "Smaller hippocampal volumes did not change after effective psychotherapy, even while symptoms resolved".

      Art, doesn't this provoke idea for research program: a complete brain scans before and after one year of therapy.


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.