Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rationalizing your Biology

I have said it many times; most of our lives is a rationale for our biology.  Years ago I thought that meant genetic tendencies.  Now I know better.  Most of our lives is a giant rationale for our epigenetics.  And that is set early on. Why not genetics?  Because early experience messes with the gene and alters its genetic destination.  And in my experience, which is now 60 years of therapy, it is epigenetics that really counts, building on the crucible of the genes.

The genes do respond but they are usurped by experience and their evolution is diverted.  It is the detour that remains and controls.  It looks like genetics and in some sense it is; on the other hand, it is not.  And what kills so many of us is EPIGENETICS.  You fate is sealed in the womb and at birth.  That seems exaggerated, hyperbole, but I think it is true, which is why we have to reorient everyone to much better gestation and birth practices.

For example, there is more and more evidence that some cancers and Alzheimers derive from womb-life and infancy.  And if those early experiences are so strong, they most certainly drive behavior; hence, neurosis.  So what are these experiences?  I have written long and hard about them, but let’s take one two.  Being stuck in the womb:  first, a  mother drinks and takes drugs and/or is excessively hyper.  The fetus cannot escape this. He is stuck, undefended and unable to run away and escape.  You may think this is rare but a speedy carrying mother is not rare. There are studies that show that speedy mom translates to speedy child.  Just as a depressed mom leads to a “downer” child.  These experiences eventually take precedence over pure genetics and  determine our lives.    Now, we compound this with a birth where the baby is drugged or blocked cannot get out and into life on this planet. He is stuck and blocked again: compounded.  So what does he do later on in stalled traffic or long lines for a theater.  He has to move, to steal a place or find a way around.  He is driven by experience, very early experience that is ineluctable.  And later, he gets married and his wife won’t do he wants immediately.  He goes into a rage.  He “cannot through” to her.  She is blocking his way.    You get it,  “epigenetics. “

These are not genetic tendencies but they do play on the genes already in place.

Another example:  A mother takes tranquilizers because her doctor says it cannot hurt her baby.  So he learns a depressive/suppressive lifestyle.  And when he tries to get born the mother is heavily anesthetized because she wants no pain at all.  But, alas, the baby is also anesthetized.  His being constantly drugged during gestation with the mother’s tranquilizers already sets up a biologic tendency.  Then he cannot help himself to get born because he is so drugged.  The whole biologic balance shifts so that he is moved to dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system.    He is a “drag” in every way.  He is not a self-starter because he could not be.  He gives up easily because he had to in order to save his life.  Too much exertion when there was so little available oxygen made things dangerous.  His blood circulation was compromised.  The blood vessels severely contracted to conserve oxygen and now we have the beginning of a life-long migraine.  Or high blood pressure, as everything had to be internalize and repressed.  And so he doesn’t like exercise, doesn’t like to go and do. Has little energy so that every little task is overwhelming.

Now this does like genetics but only if we discount experience.  And if you leave out epigenetics you have no other choice but to choose genetics.  Guess what happens in psychotherapy; yep, no focus on epigenetics because no awareness of the role of very early life experience.  So what happened when you were six? Is about as far as they go, and they leave out, what?  Epigenetics.


  1. Art!

    We do not need to wonder why all these monotonous jobs are popping up like mushrooms!

    Even a professional work becomes monotonous and worse it will be when he shut out others who question his professional order!

    We "would" rather stand at the monotonous chores than devote ourselves to creative businesses in which we have to expose ourselves. We Have the traumatic processem with us how we ever turn.


  2. Two thumbs up, Dr. Janov.

    May I add some information from my latest studies.
    You may remember me saying (about two years ago) we should not underestimate the role of oxytocin?
    What can a fetus do if a mother is totally stressed? Nothing - but it will suffer later because the development of oxytocin receptors is reduced.

    psychological dna methylation stress
    Dynamic changes in DNA methylation of stress-associated genes (OXTR, BDNF ) after acute psychosocial stress
    We investigated quantitative DNA methylation status before and after an acute psychosocial stressor in two stress-related genes: oxytocin receptor (OXTR) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF ).

    DNA methylation as a risk factor in the effects of early life stress.

    Oxytocin, stress and social behavior: neurogenetics of the human oxytocin system.

    Common oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphism and social support interact to reduce stress in humans. 

    1. Could you write more about this Sieglinde? Are you doing the research? Or is it just reading? Art

    2. Part II
      Allow me to play Konrad Lorenz for a moment to bring oxytocin, imprint and love in a context the way I see it.
      It was Konrad Lorenz who explained the effect of imprint in animals. Only later and very reluctantly the word imprint was used in human behavior which, in my opinion, is preconditioned by how much stress or love hormones we receive.

      In September last year I purchased two sheep and two dogs (Great Pyrenees / Australian shepherd mix.) I selected the dogs a few hours after birth on purpose. The male (his name is Maxl), was very calm and content and loved to be touched. The female I named Liesl. Her gums and tongue were still slightly blue from anoxia. She was nervous, screaming and restless when touched. This precondition displays many behavior problems today. While Maxl grows confident with all natural instincts fully developed, Liesl remains somewhat skittish. She cannot be confined to a small area. Her breathing becomes rapid then she forces herself out of any enclosure. She also displays fear when slightly corrected. Right after a simple “no” she needs lots of reassurance. When she hears loud noises thunder etc. she shakes with fear and seeks rescue with me. Of course I’m here to caress her so she can calm down. Anyway, I think the point for imprint I make here is clear, “anoxia at birth” leaves a life and death imprint.
      Great Pyrenees have the longest doggie-childhood (two years), but if raised with kindness they become very loving moms. Liesl is today a 92 pound very kind and gentle Pyr. Love (oxytocin) is the wonder hormone, while too much adrenaline causes aggression and violence in humans.
      A totally different story unfolded in over a year with the sheep.
      Nilli, the 3 month old white Rambouillet, was rejected by her mother, hand fed and raised by humans. Her human contact (imprint) was the reason she selected me by running toward me as I entered the stable where she was with other baby sheep at her age.
      Cocco, a brown Babydoll Southdown Sheep, was nursed and cared for by her mother. Cocco was very confident, hard to catch because she shied away from humans. It took weeks until she came to me and I could touch her for the first time, while Nilliy followed me every step, seeking touch, love and reassurance.
      What I see today is very significant and can be compared with human behavior.
      The result of being reared and nursed by their mother, or not, became evident 2 months ago when I received a third baby Fin-Sheep named Chéri. Little Chéri, also rejected by her mother (mother had triplets), was looking for a mother replacement in Nilli and Cocco. The previous owner, a biologist, wisely left me a wether (castrated ram) for 3 weeks, which was the one year older brother to Chéri, for her comfort and to help her acclimate easier.
      Being the new kid on the property Cocco approached her first with caution, while Nillle could not find any “motherly instincts” to adopt the crying little one. Two weeks later Cooco showed all natural instincts toward the wether and displayed a willingness to mate with him, while Nilli rejected violently any sexual approach.
      Today, 2 months later, Cocco is the loving surrogate mother to little Chéri, but Nillie still doesn’t know how to love this now five month old baby.
      I raise the question: is lack of sexual interest (in animals and humans) related to lack of oxytocin?
      I would like proof of this theory; however I don’t have the financial means to DNA test Nilli to find out if she has reduced oxytocin receptors. I will see in spring how she reacts when she becomes a mother herself.
      Being not loved, cared for by a mother or even rejected by her has life-long consequences and not only in sheep-in all mammals.
      We will create future gene damaged generations if we don’t understand how methylated genes alter the biological make up. De-methylation should be priority.

    3. Dr. Janov,
      I do not have academic/scientific credentials, though I read all available DNA, bio chemistry papers and the latest neurological findings as they become available. However, I study bio chemistry online hoping that primal therapy will loosen the blockage (fear and lack of concentration in public due to PTSD) and I will be able to enter a classroom to finish with a degree.

      Since the scientific world does not have all the answers yet, and must in some cases speculate, I allow myself to do the same here.
      I do theorize that all mammals are neurologically affected by adrenalin and oxytocin.
      Much is written about the stress symptoms caused by adrenalin and only in the last years has oxytocin been acknowledged as a vital hormone that may counterbalance overproduction of adrenaline which would, in my opinion, hinder some gene methylation.
      We need to include here as an important point that not all methylation is produced by hormones, some genes are affected by bacteria and/or viruses, such as IL (Interleukin) that lead to immunodeficiency. The question remains as to why bacteria can methylate genes, debilitate the DNA on or off switch and leave markers? – is it a lack of defense caused by lack of oxytocin which is (maybe) the foundation for serotonin?

      I researched and analyzed my DNA results (hundreds of markers) which also suggested that I have less empathy when under stress or in pain due to a reduced Hippocampus. Now, the unanswered question is what reduces the Hippocampus and/or when is the growth hindered?
      A reduced Hippocampus points also to a lack of memory/concentration.
      All I know for sure is I can only study in absolute silence. This loss of concentration began after I was raped at age 10. The question is, did my Hippocampus stop growing after this violent experience? Is a reduced Hippocampus a natal or prenatal development issue? Or is neglect/abuse the culprit or a genetic hereditary default?
      What was not known until a few years ago is that in the crucial gestation period, when the neocortex and hippocampus develop, neurons can be disabled and have later less oxytocin receptors. It is not 100% clear yet if this can be contributed to an adrenalin overload of (Stress in pregnancy), or if lack of oxytocin (rejection of the baby/fetus) leads to diminishing serotonin storage in the neurons.
      We may also include the corpus callosum (CC) in this picture. Although the function of this structure is still unknown we cannot deny that it has a function. I strongly believe that the hormonal output, adrenaline vs oxytocin, lays the precondition for the later psychopath. The size of corpus callosum, male vs female or even homosexuals, has led to many speculations. Article: (http://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2013/oct/06/male-brain-versus-female-brain) Science is still in the dark what creates a split in the CC and why many psychopaths reveal (adult post mortem) a separation. I have not found any paper on newborns examined post mortem regarding CC split or different sizes.

    4. Hello Sieglinde!

      It's fascinating what you write!

      We just have to ask the right questions of what science presents! The problem we have is to ask the right questions and understand the answers! It sounds too simple to be true but when we understand that our brain is in a different location than where the answers exist... then maybe we can change direction so science can show its contents.

      Your Frank.

    5. Hello Frank,
      You are right: “We just have to ask the right questions.” However it takes an experienced endocrinologist to interpret your symptoms and orders the right test. In my case, I presented my DNA results to the endocrinologist, specifically the marker: rs617219(C;C)
      He ordered a Catecholamines blood test. The blood test result confirmed the DNA results with a slightly high Norepinephrine 458 of. Reference range: 80 to 520 http://www.snpedia.com/index.php/Rs617219
      But what can we do if we don’t have the knowledge and consequently don’t know what to ask for. I lived with these symptoms for 50 years and no doctor cared enough to test my hormone level. In my opinion, Catecholamines blood test should be standard procedure before prescribing any medication.

  3. Hi,

    I wonder what epigentics teaches us about gender differences ?

    There is a documentary on BBC Iplayer: Horizon "Is you brain Male of Female". . .

    Some challenging and amusing stuff in there (along with the humdrum). In particular some experiments done with monkeys to see what toys they liked playing with. . .

    I won't tell you the results. . . that would be spoiling it !

    Paul G.

  4. a bit more research on the effect of modern psychotherapy on epigenetics...

    again, i leave it for a more capable brain than mine to examine it and have some use of it.

    Frank, when i wrote "see through" i meant in research, not in primal feeling. But i assume that feeling and connection is a research where subjective and objective meat. the more we know ourselves we know more about around us. right? in that regard i think a group of good primal therapists could be worth more then a multimillion research lab with hundreds of most educated staff inside it....

    who is more efficient? if you let me speculate: regular alternative therapy patient could be in advantage over the primal patient who doesn't feel regularly. even if s/he has less unresolved pain. but if s/he does feel regularly, results could be fantastic and with minimal risk for any disease.... on the long run, feeling zone could be the only safe zone and real advantage over any other approach . no matter how much pain there is.

    i think there will be more of those research... maybe mindfulness is next?

    1. I agree. A group of primal therapists could be worthy more than a million dollar research lab. art

    2. Hi vuko and Art,

      I also agree. The problem is that 'research' of this kind is only using the neocortex. At best it only runs parallel to the feelings we experience as a consequence of what the research is detailing at the molecular level.

      Nevertheless it is ESSENTIAL that some of us are conversant with the molecular level because we all need that verification. Science, good science like this confirms the truth and also gives Primal Therapists more specific knowledge that can help their attempts at facilitating patients gaining "access".

      I keep finding loads of stuff in newspapers particularly the Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph and the Observer which backs up the Primal view but the problem is do the writers and researchers have any inkling of the Primal implications. . .?

      That is a measure of the Janovian Gap. . . of the "disconnects" in ordinary repressive culture and social life. We have the responsibility of trying to bridge that gap.

      Paul G.

    3. Hi,
      part of the English disease is the unexamined assumption that committed membership must result in loss of individual freedom.

      There are many explanations for this but absolutely no reasons. A hazard of being an English speaking person is that you may have inadvertently become infected with this disease.

      It all comes down to trust. Who do we trust ?

      It is a 'wicked problem' isn't it? But what makes it unique amongst so many wicked problems is that it relies on 'mistrust' as a default mechanism. Thus actual 'progress' is dependent on coincidences rather than intentional events. Attempts.at "Relations" depend on "suspension of disbelief". . .

      Primal Theory offers a foundation that underpins all these theories which are born of unresolvable perceptions; all from the neo-cortex and all infinite in their un-resolvabilty..

      With Primal all wicked problems become tame. . . in theory. What Primal people need to do is find ways to express that theory. As Bill Howard points out: "Social influences".

      Paul G.


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.