Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics

Oh dear, that used to be such a dirty word.  The idea of it was roundly rejected for a hundred years, and then, lo and behold it is now pure science. What happened? For one thing, the scientific method, slow as it is.  For another, consciousness has developed, stripping us of old canards.

Anent this point, made in several journals and written about in New Scientist (7 Dec. 2013) (See, there is mounting evidence that parental effects dip down into the newborn impregnating her with parental history. So when we ask, “Why is she that way?” We have a better idea.  She is that way due to genetics and above all, what life experience has done to those genes.   For example, “Why does she eat so much?”  We know that it is not current culture that is the sole cause; it could also be because the mother was indulgent and ate compulsively.  It turns out that babies learn some food preferences while living in the womb.  And some of it is pretty well set before the age of two.   While in the womb the baby is learning about his world and what to expect from it; hence lots of food is to be expected from a mother who indulges.

There is evidence now that diet can alter gene expression.  If you love sweets and cannot resist, it could be due to womb-life.   In other words, the mother’s compulsion becomes your destiny.  This can explain a good percentage of obesity in children.  Bad eating habits begin in the womb as do so many other compulsions.  More evidence is piling up to show how this early start can predict the early onset of disease and a shortened lifespan.  (See the work of Keith Godfrey, Univ. Of Southampton (See And also New Scientist, 7 December, 2013).   The fetus is not only aware of certain tastes and smells in the mother while she is carrying, but those memories can last a lifetime, and can affect so much of our interests later on.  Mothers ingesting carrot juice during pregnancy had children who preferred it.

It is not just diet, that is the obvious one, but think about fear; it can be passed down, as well.   So are we born fearful? Could be.  We can be jumpy, nervous and erratic, all due to epigenetics.  Mice who associated a certain smell with an electric jolt became fearful in the presence of that smell.  It seems so early as to be genetic, but it is more likely to be epigenetic, the condition of the mother (and father) while carrying.  This should teach us something about memory; for memories while being carried can last decades and drive and/or channel behavior.  We do not simply “grow out of it.”

In fact, premature babies who were hugged and caressed a lot went home earlier than those babies not touched as much. Those early kisses count a lot and help shape personality, a loving and warm person versus a stand-offish one.  A nervous mother leaves a predisposition to fear in the offspring, just as a depressed mother leaves a base of depression in her baby.   Whether it becomes overt depends on later events and traumas.   I personally believe that lots of love and healthy living in the very young child can abate these deleterious effects.   This is especially true for those babies who were taken from institutions.  They are greatly in need of love and reassurance early on.   If they don’t get it, it can be somewhat irreversible; that is, there may be a point where love can no longer make a great difference. The damage is done and it is pretty well fixed.  This is the research we will embark on in the near future.  Is there a point in time when love cannot reverse previous damage?   When is that point?

The evidence is becoming clear, ever since I posited early life trauma, even in the womb, almost fifty years ago.  At that time, I had to be convinced of it through the experience of my patients. It became irrefutable.   But I understood how hard it was to convince others of its importance, especially those in psychology and psychiatry.

I know that I had a tendency to be fearful since gestation and birth so that a harsh tone from my father just withered me and forced me to obey without question.   I became obedient to demands, gave in so that the anger will stop.  I had a “couche” of terror below due to a psychotic mother. It was all compounded into an unaggressive child.  Add that to almost never having any needs filled and you get the picture of a child who knows nothing of his needs or his feelings, just drifting along in life, complaisant and undemanding.  That is no way to be, believe me.


  1. Hi Art

    Very thought provoking.

    So much of your writing discusses act outs by people trying to fulfil an unmet need from early in life. There is so much advice out there from some baby experts that a baby has to learn routine. In other words from the outset children have to fit with the unloved adult rather than the loved adult fitting in with the all needs baby. As Lennon said in Working Class Hero "As soon as you're born they make you feel small, By giving you no time instead of it all".

    There is cliche of the pregnant woman eating strange combinations of food as her body drives her to eat what the developing child needs. If a Mother is out of touch with her feelings, perhaps she does not readily understand her bodies signals so eats the wrong foods. Perhaps in childhood the adult sometimes eats a food that the Body knows to be very important for correct development and so while out of touch with the body and feelings, a broken search commences. I have always loved eating fish and sea food and I have wondered whether that is trying to build a better Brain unconsciously.

    Babies need a great deal of fat in their diet as the Brain which is a complex lump of specialised fat, grows. There is good fat and bad fat. Junk food is fatty but not the same as oily fish etc. If a foetus and baby is starved of the right foods then the Brain may not grow correctly and so the adult may spend many hours eating fatty foods in a vain attempt to build a loved Brain. After all in so many cultures food is often used a metaphor for love. Look at the Jewish Culture where that is rife. My own cold Mother uses food as a metaphor for love. She thinks giving food is love but also beat the shit out of me and my sister. She is not a touchy person but shows affection through a good meal. A few years ago she said "I have no-one to cook for now" so saying that she no longer loved my father and her children did not love her as she had hoped. Very sad. In my teens when I was rebelling she used to forget to serve me food when guests were with us so I had to say "What about me Mum?". She was expressing her lack of love for me because by rebelling I was threatening her power and her view that she was loving and because by not "being good" i.e. who she wanted me to be (the compliant child) she felt unloved.

    What is a kiss other than perhaps an evolved sign of offering chewed up solid food to an infant in other words I will support you. Many sea birds clatter beaks together during pair bonding and mating which suggests the feeding of the young i.e. I will love you, I will support you. I will be a good parent to our young.

    So back to the young unloved Mother who eats junk food. Her baby learns as you say, about the foods ingested in the womb like carrot juice. Perhaps the experience of food is the only experience of love so an adult indulges in a binge of the desperate search for touch, kindness and all the other components of a loving upbringing perhaps experienced via other relationships but consciously ignored to avoid the pain of lack of love in the family. Perhaps a few generations before there was love and that still lingers. Perhaps the vague genetic memory of healthy food lingers causing a search for those chemicals that build a loved Brain?

  2. A leap from fearful suffering to feeling love.

    A few times, you have timidly, let your fear filled childhood, drifting along with unfulfilled needs, shine through as an example of parental behavior that was inappropriate and destructive. All the way through your childhood and adolescence you met a harsh and insensitive attitude from your parents. Although, my story was somewhat different, the result was the same; a fear filled childhood with unfulfilled needs. So I certainly believe you when you are saying “that is no way to be”.

    Then, ironically, it was the U.S. Navy that discovered your talent and gave you the opportunity for a personal development, which in combination with other circumstances, eventually, would lead to the discovery of the Primal Principles / Evolution in Reverse. So thanks to the U.S. Armed Forces, I have, during 40 years been able to enjoy your invention. You have during half a century, successively, in an undeniable manner shown what trauma before, during och immediately after birth result in. They may result in later irreversible damages, when love no longer can make a big difference.

    However, in spite of the fact that you so compelling convince me / us “That is no way to be, believe me”, your aggregated life’s work and experience have helped thousands of us, understand what happened to us, yes, even to be able to feel sane and loved.

    Through your discovery, you have had an increasingly reliable instrument tirelessly to work with while research, in various fields of neuroscience, toil to catch up. Here, The Primal Principle / Evolution in Reverse has served as an applied interdisciplinary focus. Probably, the Primal Principle is far more appreciated even within psychology and psychiatry, than they dare to admit by neurotic, prestige, economic and power-related reasons. More and more doubt and reject the short-term cognitive treatment paradigm.

    Hopefully your fearful suffering has been a necessary, pain propelled, detour that leads to that love can make a great difference to most future generations.

    Jan Johnsson

  3. Interesting that the article stated that not all descendants had the same startle response to the cherry blossom smell. I wonder why?

  4. thank's for your information and i like this very nice post

  5. Hi, part 1:

    this may seem off topic but it isn't. I got into researching several 'popular' psychotherapy personalities who have influenced the UK psychotherapy network.

    Franz Rupert and Roberto Assagioli of 'Constellations' and 'Psychosynthesis' respectively. There are a few other names associated too but the actual personalities are irrelevant. What is significant is the way they present their 'knowledge' in a remarkably similar way to Arts & planespotters discussion above but with one subtle (or not so subtle) difference.

    Their discussion is all it is. DISCUSSION. After discovering Primal and my own repressed feelings I now find this kind of DISCUSSION obnoxious because it REDUCES the actual traumas people experience to bites of information supporting a theory which only makes sense on a cognitive level (discussion with some feelings thrown in). OK, it's good to be able to discuss (with a small d) family 'constellations' and to cognitively realise what has happened to you in your family and even to acknowledge the way certain traumas get passed down the family chain and pecking order & so on but what is actually the cure ? Sorry, I mean what is actually the cause. . . and then the cure. . . And why is this all discussed as insight theory before the client / patient has had time to realise it all for themselves ?

    The cure is some kind of 'trusting group therapy' in which the safe environment allows the person to, to. . . to, to, to . . . . . to what ? (Form a new club of co-believers)?

    If in these "Family Constellation Workshops" people are really breaking down and Primalling do you think we would have heard about it ?

    Well yes I think we would have heard about it by now. But you can put a kind of 'patent' on discussion and ideas can't you? So, I think the entire UK Counseling and Psychotherapy network is still completely entrenched in Cognitive Insight. But it gets worse.

    part 2 follows. . .

  6. Hi, part 2 :

    Now in particular this Mr Franz Rupert has theorised that you can get into a relationship with another traumatised person and get traumatised yourself from the experience. Interestingly though, in all his literature I have researched so far, there has been utterly no mention of early infancy , birth or gestational trauma. Thus the idea that you can become traumatised merely by association (presumably as an adult or child over the age of three) assumes we are trauma free until we meet another traumatised person. . . He does intimate that you can become symbiotically fused with your mother and thus get caught in a 'push pull' trap but this is yet again all interesting discussion. DISCUSSION. The worse bit is in the implication of 'Original Sin'.

    Mixed into this DISCUSSION which is also heavily biased with words referring to traumatised individuals are also words like 'soul' and splitting of the soul and so on. Repression is the scientific word they are intimating but they don't actually use it.

    Spirit is another word used and probably with the use of the word meditation you have a system of discussion which in no way challenges peoples fundamental beliefs and certainly not their religious beliefs. Thus the market for 'therapy' is extended to those who have religious beliefs. Why shouldn't it ? I mean people NEED to believe and it's not fair to destroy their BELIEF SYSTEMS or prejudice against them by excluding them from therapy is it?

    There is a way to use words to distance yourself from the reality of others but at the same time also catch their attention and I would say that the Zen Koan is the epitome of this. Thus you find that many UK Psychotherapists are indeed Zen Meditation Practitioners and leaders in local Buddhist Centers.

    But what I most despise is the way all religions and philosophies entertain (more or less overtly) the idea of "Original Sin". So, we are all victims of our KARMA aren't we. And goodness me we wouldn't want to get infected by other people's Karma now would we. . . ?

    Trauma and KARMA have become thoroughly fused in UK Psychotherapy. Of course the UK psychotherapist must therefore have worked through hir KARMA and be absolutely impartial about the way s/he discusses any one elses family constellations (particularly those karmic individuals who are traumatised). After attending a few workshops you too can become absolutely impartial about any one elses KARMA and free yourself of the karmic bond of traumatised individuals. You may even give up your current career and become a child protection social worker enlightening those poor victims of other peoples karma.

    And I kid you not that the new science of epigenetics is being swallowed up by these 'types' to prove how trauma gets passed down the generations. KARMICALLY.

    Paul G.

  7. Hi Paul

    Fascinating piece. It's amazing how the Baby Boomers have simply hijacked religious principles of "Original Sin" for themselves. A bit like early Christians Hijacking the Winter Soltsice and calling it Christmas. I read a great peace the other day about how the Catholic Confessional was the most wonderful means of controlling the population because the priests knew everyone's dirty little secrets. Not unlike the trawling of e-mails these days. Add to that all religious sacrements being in Latin and those same poor serfs were under the cosh. It's all dysfunctional power. So many therapists are in it for their own unmet needs and just like dysfunctional Parents who take power over their kids as a way of empowering themselves the therapists have a ready supply of meek hurt people ready to worship at the feet of Cognative therapy. It's even refered to as controlling thoughts ie Mind Control ie ignore your own feelings and do what we want. It's just another type of religion, because religion is control of the masses by the few.

    1. Hi planespotter,

      It is almost un-believable that we fall for it isn't it ?

      Really it's the 'unconscious' hijacking of people's pain. It also looks like a conspiracy, IE: it looks (from the neo-cortical perspective which is only capable of various forms of reductionism) like some people are deliberately exploiting other peoples pain (I suppose a few are, but how 'conscious' are they?) But in this respect I think we have a very good example of the difference between AWARENESS (which certainly can be exploitative) and consciousness. Sorry, that sounds semantic doesn't it ? But my point is a bit like Christ's on the cross when he (allegedly ) said :
      "forgive them for they know not what they do". . . In no way am I promoting forgiveness, my point (and possibly Christs) is that awareness and consciousness are several worlds apart. Perhaps he should have said: -"they feel not what they do"-.

      Unfortunately most people like to be controlled by those who offer PANACEA. One of the most effective panaceas is the idea that pain is entirely external and caused by other (GODLESS) people ("IT" is all out there). Thus your perfect scapegoat is the one who says: "But wait a minute, our pain comes from inside; we must all look within and go back to that pain".

      So most respond with "F**K OFF, you must be joking". . .

      This leaves the gates wide open for opportunists to develop their own version of Primal and attract the desperate.

      Paul G.

    2. Hi,

      you can check out 'constellations' on wikepedia.

      basically in group the patient uses other group members to stand in for family members past and present. . . Apparently this causes the stand ins to 'feel' what is the problem etc etc.

      Apparently all due to the 'morphic field'. . . I think that if each person involved has not touched their own traumas then what you get is a mush up of feelings which at best only help the patient realise cognitively what their family dynamic is.

      That can be helpful to know. . . It is relief for me for example to know something about my grandfathers assumptions due to listening and gleaning family history.

      Thus 'relief' is generated out of a sense of 'knowing'. . . -"Oh, at last I know"-

      But that is not the same as travelling back into your history and reliving the painful traumas is it ?

      Paul G.

    3. Paul: This is pure Gestalt Therapy having been going on for 50 years. art


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.