Thursday, December 3, 2015

Epigenetics and Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis (Part 14/20)

Another Look at Reliving

We need to make sure that reliving is important in the therapy for all kinds of neuroses. Neurosis means that there is an early traumatic input that alters function and behavior; not one or the other but both. That is, there is pain and denial of need that overwhelms normal functioning and causes a diversion. We are no longer normal; things go wrong neurologically, biochemically and behaviorally. To cure we need to normalize the whole system, not just behavior or biochemistry. Otherwise we are condemned to treating behavior and physiology as two distinct problems when they are inextricably related.

That in a tiny nutshell is the story of neurosis. We are no longer ourselves; we are re-routed in function. To get back to ourselves we have to re-establish function in every aspect. Not just behavior. And when we are diverted and rerouted, there are marks that leave their traces; epigenetic marks. Being loved minimizes the marks on the genes. Being unloved increases them. For example, if we are loved and hugged and touched a lot there are changes in the brain where methylation patterns are changed so that we respond normally to stress. When there is trauma, the part of the brain that controls the stress response is tagged by methyl groups and produces alterations in how genes are expressed or repressed; shut down or opened up. And this changes us in profound ways. Our personality becomes different; we can be more open or closed off; more depressed or anxious depending on what genes do what.

So now we have those marks, methylation, which foretells of a life to come and how it will be lived. How do we change all that? We need to revisit those early experiences, those without words, go back and redo them. Change history and its chemical traces. We need to undo the damage and that means slowly demethylizing, in my model. One experience at a time; or one experience over many times. We need to find how the system was detoured and put it back on track, literally. This happened because pain installed itself and forced change. And this can be measured; the amount of methylation can be observed and changed. That is meaningful progress. It informs us about altering neuroses. In a way, the levels of methylation can be a marker for having been loved early on, or not having been loved. We could tell more than the statements by the person who claims he was loved in his childhood if he were indeed not loved. How much denial is there? We see how “under-funded” the notion of cognitive therapy is when it deals mostly with words and ideas; something that did not exist during the times of key imprints.

Neurochemistry may be a more reliable indicator because it has no reason to lie, or rather, no way to lie. It can be a marker for post-traumatic stress or how much repression exists in ADD, or how much pain/repression there is in Alzheimer’s disease. We already have some information in this regard because autopsies on depressive/suicides found them to have been heavily methylated in the hippocampal (feeling=memory) area. The more abuse as a child in these cases the more methylation is produced. When we add this to our future research on telomeres and cortisol we will begin to have precise measures of the pain in us. And we will know when a drug is too dangerous for us, particularly the drugs like marijuana that tend to open us to ourselves, to our feelings and pain. Finally we will have a marker for the efficacy of certain psychotherapies. Does the therapy undo the past? Does it help relieve repression and therefore depression? Is there great first line pain in anxiety states? I already can answer that in the affirmative, having treated person after person with anxiety.

The best way to reverse the imprint is through the slow, methodical process of therapy where the least pains can be integrated first, finally descending to the great early traumas and then measuring the results. In other words, we need to trust nature and all its processes; chemical reversal alone, without regard to total neuro-biologic state is far too general and non-specific to each trauma. It is a shotgun when we need a scoped rifle. It seems to me the natural way provides far less possibility for collateral damage to the system. We need nature as a reference. It is when we leave nature behind that we need the reference of statistics; never as good as nature itself.


  1. I am wondering who is this guys pushing dislike button? Behaviorists?
    Art is it possible to relive trauma by mylesf? Alone? Or there need to be someone to listen?

    1. Piotr: I always say, it is never good to do it alone. Art

    2. -and I know why,

      -unmet need, trauma and imprints are already 'all alone' and separated off. . . That IS the problem. to 're view' and to 're live' these without support, witnessing and some 'empathic feedback' is merely to unwrap and rewrap an old memory endlessly for the lack of some quality control and support. It's a two man job. . . Like lifting a heavy beam; a stick has two ends. . .

      Paul G.

    3. Hi Paul. I agree, no one is strong enough to take the first plunge into total hopelessness without knowing there is somewhere there to protect you. And equally important: most of our defenses work because we are unaware of them - unaware of their falseness - that is how they exist in spite of reality. We need an empathetic outsider to detect those defenses and prevent them from leading us back to the start.

    4. i am not sure why...

      Primal therapist is a link. Between present outside need and whatever the past inside need is surging. Patient come for help and ends in feeling the real need.

      For a start, every therapist or guru is a good temporary representative of need. An anchor in the present. “I need your therapy, I need therapist”. Primal therapist then knows how to help patient stay on the right track and keep the right pace. Towards the real need. Primal therapist accepts the role of guru or a saint or … but she is not obsessed with it. Good therapist doesn’t want or need to be a guru. It is just a possible temporary role that serves the transition from outside to inside. To a certain degree she must accept the game of neocortex. The game of system that is slowly recalibrating for new environment. rearranging for a descent.

      Not every day is a day for connection. But I guess the patient can sense when it is time to go ask for help...

  2. Art, I hope Donald Trump and Muslims are brave enough to read this stuff. You said the Russian terrorists must have been psychotic to aim their hatred and guns at innocent children. I hope you are right. Nearly one quarter of the human population believe in the Quran; a book that advocates the killing of non-Muslims. Do you think it is reasonable to assume that the vast majority of Muslims are not psychotic and therefore are incapable of killing innocent non-Muslims?

    1. Andrew's Muslim roundup:

      If they are filled with hate and rage, due to highly neurotic, abusive and neglectful parents, and are made largely stupid and emotionally numb from child abuse, then they will relate to their religion in whatever way fits their emotional pathology.

      Indeed, it should be no surprise that extremists target prison inmates for recruitment. They know their (sick) market.

      Now when you're dealing with people like this, you can't expect to have a major impact with reason. If reason alone could cure these people of their mad religious convictions it would have done so already, a thousand years ago.

      You are dealing with dangerous people. So, the question is:

      How many of these Muslim people are a serious threat? How many are tragically emotionally damaged and have found a psychological home in fantasies of "jihad"?...

      If the risk is great enough, then a carpet ban on immigrating Muslims can be rationally justified. Until, like Trump says, we have first clarified the threat.

      For me personally, there are two key factors that I am concerned with:

      1. Do Muslims have an effective policy of non-assimilation with their host country?

      2. How do they treat their children?

      When people keep their distance, and hold you as an outsider, they put themselves in a position where they can believe you have horns growing out of your head. It's a worry.

      Add to this emotional damage (making them stupid, hateful and violent) and they might be quite happy to go out killing the "bad guys" ie. us.

      So my soundbite on the issue is this: "If they can't welcome us - we shouldn't be welcoming them".

      Btw, the refusal to assimilate is the hallmark of a cult, in my view.

    2. Hi Andrew,

      who are these 'they'? I have begun making myself a little unpopular by not entering into debates with assumed 'group think' ideals or idealists; they always reduce life to a lesser 'theory'. To get love you must believe in them or else; you must 'join' in with the group think. It's all conditional love. I try only to deal with individuals and their own individual beliefs nowadays. I have found this to be very effective in maintaining my boundaries. At times this has intensified my loneliness (and surely that is why we find group think so attractive; it saves us from our inner loneliness, our imprints). Beliefs mobilise us to caprice because we are compelled to maneuver to the tune of a 'script'. These ideals are not our friends but they are our 'allies'. Unfortunately we can only rely on allies for a while, true friends don't need beliefs to act with loyalty or endurance. . . Thus I have become a 'non assimilated' cult of one; but at least I am not expecting any one to believe in 'IT' (or me)!

      Take care Andrew,

      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.