Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stress Is Not a Short Term Event

I think we are outfitted with inbuilt mechanisms to handle adverse events—stress.  But let’s be clear what stress is. It is not falling off your bicycle.  Or even breaking your leg.   Stress occurs when the event exceeds our coping mechanisms; when we no longer are able to integrate it and go on with life.  It usually happens in two ways; either the trauma happens so early and so life endangering, as very early traumas can be, overwhelming our defenses; or, it becomes a permanent event that wears down the various systems of the body over time.  It is usually the permanence of stress that is the culprit.

This has some scientific backing:  a new study in Germany (Dr. Georg Juckel) documented how long-lasting stress produced mental illness (see or The measured prolonged stress as it effects the immune system.  They concentrated on certain phagocytes (microglia). They help repair nerve cells; except, except, when they are overtaxed. Then they become  destructive.   That is when stress, having gone on too long, becomes its antagonist.  In other words, our initial repair mechanisms  turn into their opposite when stress goes on too long.  As we know, there is just so much we can take.  So those microglia cells now produce inflammation instead of reducing it.   Our good protective friend becomes our enemy. It says, “You asked too much of me and I can’t do it any more.”

When the triggering even goes on and on the destructive forces remain and do their damage.  They found that it wasn’t the trauma along that was the guilty party but how that trauma was embedded on deeper trauma:   those who were under trauma were many times more likely to develop mental illness later on if there was a history of severe infections during early gestation; especially true during the embryonic period.   We need to investigate the gestalt of entire panoply of illness; not just a single factor.  When trauma is compounded, the mother has a series of ailments or drinks alcohol or smokes from the start of pregnancy,  there can be serious effects later on, not the least of which are severe allergies.    I have reported on a patient with such heavy afflictions. She explained to me that her parents fought all the time during the pregnancy, finally ending in divorce in her seventh month.  My patient felt it all and seemed sure that all of the chronic battles affected her immune system.  She made constant runs to the emergency services in her community.

What is crucial here is that the embryonic state helps shape the newly developing immune system.  When there is severe influenza during this period the baby may well suffer later from all sorts of immune diseases, not the least of which may be the catastrophic diseases much later in life; and who could dream that those illnesses got their start during the embryonic period?    Above all, it is the chronicity of the trauma, the unrelenting terrible input, that does us in.   One sure thing, is the mother’s constant smoking; another is her chronic depression or anxiety.  They exist during the embryonic period and have very long-lasting effects.

I had chronic allergies as a kid, went to doctor after doctor to try to figure it all out.  But they were looking in the wrong place; they should have looked into my brain and the brain of my childhood.  There was the answer. And when I got out of the house all allergies stopped.  Today I have no allergies at all.    I do believe that allergy specialists need to reduce their immune studies and talk to their patients about their early life.  How was gestation?  And birth? Many drugs given?  I believe they will find many more answers there than in the allergy tests they study.

But isn’t all this self evident?  Pipe smokers who pass hot smoke over their lips and jaws often suffer cancer of those areas.  Remember Freud with his jaw cancer?  It is the constant friction, the assault and insult that does it all.   We are built to withstand just so much and then the body gives up.  It did what it could and it was not enough.


  1. I have never dared to challenge my needs for what love meant / means around my parents. To it... is the shock of punishment for my needs just too overwhelming ... alive today. I have been and are "committed" to not dare challenge my repressed feelings about needs! I choose what does not hurt as much... it with the consequences of my perverted tendencies decides what "love" may contain.
    My "knowledge" about this gives me the opportunities I need to start daring... daring to challenge the horror of what love around my needs contain.
    Being shy is just the beginning of hell pain brought with it ... pain where tears connects me to the events center... and I "flowing" into my memories of feelings for need where all suffering ceases.


  2. Hi Frank,
    -"I have never dared to challenge my needs for what love meant / means around my parents"-.

    Me neither. Until getting onto this blog. My religious belief system did not allow it. Strangely, my science education allowed me. . . but only when I discovered the process of repression and understood it (on this blog). For the 1st time. . . .

    Paul G.

  3. An another and maybe interconnected factor. Continued stress will no doubt influence your quality of sleep (nature wisdom: you can't afford to be too relaxed if danger lurks close by).
    According to Jeff Iliff (YouTube - Tedd Talks: "One more reason to get a good night's sleep") the brain goes trough a cleaning process during sleep (my guess is it happens during 1'st line sleep).
    The brain don't have space for a lymphatic system, like the rest of the body, to get rid of its waste products. Instead it uses a clever system of shrinking the brain cells during sleep, so the fluid carrying the waste can pass to the blood vessels (if I have understood it correctly). Without enough good sleep the wast products can over time build up in the brain and cause many serious problems.

    (Btw: Think that I should be the only one remembering it (joke) - OK, OK maybe a little delayed: Happy birthday Art ! )

    Flemming D.

    1. Flemming, Thanks for the birthday wish. A bit late but I accept! art

  4. Oh Boy do I relate to this. Stress causes mental illness. Do Bears crap in the woods?!

    Also the whole issue of allergies. I have never had any allergies luckily. However I did have a dreadful itching skin rash on my upper central back. It devloped when I started work and only went away when I went on holiday. I don't have it now. Why? Because I got in touch with what caused it. I was beaten with a big solid stick when I was about 3 so perhaps just on the edge of first line (probably second) and think that one of my vertebre was injured, muscles went into spasm and Scoliosis developed. The rash was my body telling me about a very stressful and even life threatening event early in my life which headed for the surface whenever I got stressed. Maybe to total fiction on my part and simply the deluded ramblings of a mad man or perhaps a terrifying story now seen and at least partially felt and understood. Why am I now sleeping so much better than I have done for years. I have had this feeling that at long last my Brain is starting to heal. Clarity is returning which is a joy, and I hope to God it continues.

  5. An email comment: I'd be willing to bet that criminal behavior can be traced back to such early damage as well. When we are damaged by constant stress it affects our ability to trust and love. Love is the seat of our virtues, trust is the way we make virtue our motivation. The more I feel the more I see the ways I didn't love, perhaps the greatest sense of loss there is.


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.