Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ken Rose on "Life Before Birth". Part 4/6

KR: Yeah… Would you talk a little bit about anxiety?

JL: Yes, Dr. Janov has really fascinating things to say about anxiety. To begin with that anxiety is not a normal feeling. He talks about how we would see signs of anxiety in somebody who maybe stays on the phone for a really long time, and talks and talks but doesn’t listen, you try to talk back to them and they’re not hearing you. Or you make a grocery list and give it to somebody who has extreme anxiety and they’ll go to the grocery store and sort of forget everything that was on the list. Basically the way he explains this is through an idea called “gating.” What he’s saying is that in the brain, if it develops in the way it should and things are healthy, there’s sort of like a hierarchy and there is the cortical areas, the sort of upper level brain is able to repress certain things or certain lower level pains from constantly shooting up, but for somebody with high anxiety the barriers between different brain levels are too defused, so that pain is constantly shooting up, and it’s causing us nightmares and it’s creating difficulty sleeping and it’s creating this need to constantly release this sort of hyper energy, through talking, through constant movement. Dr. Janov refers to this as “leaky gates,” in other words you don’t have any control for this anxiety that keeps bubbling up, and that becomes very difficult.

KR: It should be said that anxiety is naked terror, and it has everything to do with the threat of death for the fetus. The felt threat of death.

JL: Right, and again, when he talks about anxiety and when he talks about depression too, all of this goes back to things that are happening in the womb. If I could just for a second read a little bit from the anxiety chapter because I think it’s helpful to what we’re talking about. “As I’ve discussed, the deepest level of brain function, rooted in the brainstem, is what I call the “first-line.” The inability to concentrate comes from massive pain input surging upwards from this region. When input is not properly gated, it disrupts the normal functioning of the neocortex. Poor gating, as I’ve said, can derive from any number of emotional and physiologic disruptions that occur during pregnancy: a carrying mother who is terribly anxious; a mother who takes drugs; a mother who does not eat enough or properly; a mother who is miserable due to the strain and hardship of a difficult life.
All of these gestational effects then emerge later on, this sort of terror that’s imprinted in the fetal system emerges later in life, and what happens is, it could be something that’s somewhat innocuous; like having to wait a long time in a restaurant for a table, but somebody who is prone to anxiety will react inordinately to something like that because these early primal imprints are surging upwards, so it’s in a way accessing the lower level pain and causing exaggerated reactions to things that are maybe stressful but shouldn’t be caused for extreme panic.

KR: Right, and these pains are always surging toward consciousness, to be consciously connected and felt, and have the energy sequence of the trauma run off. Which is why crying or deep crying is so healing. It’s the last stage of a fully conscious connection to something that was not fully conscious, and the pain is felt and expressed and finished.

JL: Exactly. Even further confirmation for some of the views of Janov, that maybe weren’t widely accepted for a time, it’s new research now being done into memory and what a lot of scientist are seeing, a lot of different studies is that memory reactivates the same neuroimpulses that were initially firing off when the event happened. So a traumatic event when you remember it, the act of remembering it is actually creating a neuromirrior of what went on initially. In a lot of ways that is what Primal Therapy is attempting to do; is to go back to that place and reconnect, or as it’s sometimes refer to, reconsolidate the brain state so that real haling can take place.

KR: Right. To bring the pain through the repression.

JL: Exactly, and that repressive lid, which he talks about a number of times is really what’s blocking a lot of people from access and Dr. Janov would talk about lifting the repressive lid, to allow those feelings to be remembered organically. And he makes an important point, when he’s talking about memory he’s not talking about recall, he’s not talking about as you would remember say; a famous poem that you would recite for class. He’s talking about very organic memory that is felt biologically. So in Primal Therapy when a patient would enter the primal zone there will be changes to their vital signs, there will be very observable changes in biologic functioning.

KR: He means literally reliving the trauma at the point that we split away from it, at the point where there was too much pain to feel at the time. So we split away from the pain. (Laughs) It’s so brilliant.

JL: Yes, because it’s essentially a matter of survival. This goes back again to the evolutionary foundation of a lot of his ideas, isn’t that we’re reacting, or that patients who are showing some of these symptoms are reacting against nature. It’s that they’re actually acting in the interest of survival at the time; they weren’t getting enough oxygen to the brain for example. A great example he talks about a well birth weight baby and how the size of their head compared to the body is disproportionate. Or the brain needs oxygen to function properly, so in the interest of survival the body will actually slow its growth, so that more of the nutrients and oxygen flow can reach the brain. Of course, that shows up as distinct physiologic changes and then by the same token if a feeling becomes too painful to bare it’ll sort of shut down and it will never get integrated and that’s what has to be corrected to make things right.


  1. Art: Only this morning a woman know suddenly and unexpectedly changed her opinions on a huge subject on which we´d previously been in almost complete agreement. I wasn´t expecting it and it triggered big physiological reactions such as sweaty palms, butterflies in my stomach and so on. It also triggered a panoply of mental defences.
    I decided not to struggle with her because I knew that my reactions were coming from elsewhere and were both dispropoprtionate and irrelevant to the actual situation. This was two hours ago and it is still deeply affecting me. Anxiety.
    In a book written 70 years ago an American woman wrote "the Portuguese are great talkers but poor listeners". This is very true and from what you say above i indicates a lot of anxiety, like everywhere else. and like everywhere else, the Portuguese spend hours on ther mobiles. I could tell them about what this will do to their health - as I used to - but I know I´d be wasting my time. As you say, Primal pain - or need - always takes precedence. It´s prevalence means that the vast majority of the countless human habits and practices that are clearly irrational, even insane, are unrecognised as such. This is because those who might otherwise see them for what they are - which includes defences against early terror, manifesting as anxiety - are also blinded by their own neuroses against their own early pain. The Portuguese call what we would recognise as primal caused anxiety "Nerviosa".

    In general only the most extreme forms are labelled "mad" or "crazy", but also as an insult by people who cannot argue their point. Hence I have been called "crazy" throughout my life bcause I am different to the norm. Some of this is undoubtedly neurotic, but much is due to deep reflection on how to live a happy life whilst also respecting other people and animals. For these reasons i eat only raw vegan, do very little shopping, never use a mobile, or DECT phone, or live near a transmitter mast, and live my life with complete respect and utmost sensitivity towards animals and children, Whilst cycling 500k every week salvaging stuff from skips tr recycle, donate or to feed my animals. So whilst my life harms vitually no living thing, and almost everyone harms living beings in some way, directly or indirectly, peoples primal pain makes them label me as "mad", or eccentric" or "uncompromisng". I could also say that this sort of defensiveness knee jerk reaction is "conditioning" but I think conditioning is largely a form of hypnosis which only people with primal pain are vulnerabe to. Education is hypnosis. So is advertising. And so on. in such cases, the critical faculty - intelligent, critical thought - is bypassed. If you know how, as educators and advertisers and governments everywhere do, the rest is easy. Gary

  2. Hi Gary,

    -"I think conditioning is largely a form of hypnosis which only people with primal pain are vulnerable to. Education is hypnosis. So is advertising. And so on. in such cases, the critical faculty - intelligent, critical thought - is bypassed"-.

    I agree; particularly the way fear is used. . . "Risk Aversion" is the outcome and people flock to their perceived sources of solace. . . Be it their job, mortgage, or whatever mainstream 'mainstay'. . . food, booze and drugs added to complete the 'menu' for those who don't have jobs, mortgages or caring families. It's still hard for me to see it as a conspiracy as some do. . . I hide away from most people now to the point of agoraphobia because I feel guilty for challenging what I now see as an 'ideology' based on the philosophy of scarcity. . . I personally don't want even a third of what others say they need and I feel guilty for not even being able to get it anyway. . . Madness to feel guilty for something you don't want because others do have it and you don't want to 'rock their boat'. . .

    Paul G.

  3. Paul: Right, right, right. Neurosis is at the root of it all, motivating both the manipulations of those in power and those over whom they have power. Along with inadequate/unnatural diet, mobiles/masts/Wifi, vaccinations and various other things, neurosis makes it very hard for people to think truly rationally and intelligently. I´m a lot better off than most because I know about these things, but still a long way short of psychobiological health due to my neurosis.

    To post primal patients I imagine - and to ever growing numbers of people in our age - this is becoming more and more clear. We see how shpeople are so easy to lead by the nose. Portuguese advertising is a good example as it is very crude. Nutritional supplements (every one is a major con) for example, are advertised by "beautiful" young female models showing plenty of cleavage and leg, with a centimetre of make up and a "smile" which would turn wine sour.Why? What has this to do with ground clam powder as a (completely false) cure for arthritis? It´s because advertising has used well proven mind control techniques for decades. Especially how to manipulate with hypnosis. Those people are not using bimbos to advertise shark cartilage because they are stupid. Cynical yes. Neurotic yes. But informed too. They use older men in medical garb with glasses and deep voices because they know this hooks directly into unconscious associations with authority figures. It convinces by hypnosis. The "attractive" bimbos are associated with pleasure. Irrational. A complete brain bypass. It´s sad but if you want to sell big time, the last thing you consider is appealing to people cerebral intelligence. Gary


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.