Friday, March 31, 2017

On Evolution and Revolution

When scientists were polled recently about the greatest discovery in science, the majority chose Darwin’s Evolution. It explained so much in so many fields of scientific endeavor. That includes psychotherapy. In my opinion evolution is essential in the treatment of emotional problems. To put it differently, no one can make significant progress in psychotherapy when evolution is not central to its process. The brain developed in three major cycles, first described by Paul MacLean. I describe them as instinct/energy, feeling and then thinking. Each evolved and has many connections to higher levels. If we do a therapy with only the last evolved; that is, cognitive/insight therapy, we have neglected a great deal of our evolution. It is tantamount to neglecting most of our ancient history and, of course, most of our early personal history. When we ignore two thirds of our brain how can we possibly get well? I think that the thinkers (the cognitive/insight therapists) “cure” their patients so that they think they are better. This leaves out physiology and feeling. 
Therefore, we need to systematically measure physiologic changes in our psychotherapy. Otherwise, we can have great new attitudes but our bodies may be degenerating. 

I have often called my therapy, “evolution in reverse.” It includes evolution as its kernel. And it is that sense of evolution that makes it revolutionary. Because it overturns most current thinking about the value of thinking, particularly in terms of measuring progress in psychotherapy. What we feel is what we feel no matter what exhortations take place. And those often buried feelings determine our actions. Feelings can be deviated but there is always a home for them in the brain. They cannot be changed; though we can change our thinking about them, denying or projecting them.

Thoughts, bereft of feelings are, in essence, homeless; they have no roots. So any proper psychotherapy must adhere to the laws of biology and evolution; we need to find our roots, the basis of some many of our thoughts and beliefs. The history of mankind is found in us today, and the history of man/us is found in us, as well. When we follow our history in reverse it again must adhere to the natural order of things. In therapy if we do rebirthing it defies evolutionary principles by attacking the most remote and early imprints first. We must start in the present, give ourselves a good foundation in regard to our current lives and associated feelings and then finally arrive at the reptilian/instinctive brain a long time later. These are biologic laws that cannot be disregarded. Thus it is clear that rebirthing cannot ever work; indeed it most likely creates damage; and I have seen and treated the damage it does.

Any ploy or mechanism by a therapist that defies evolution will end in failure because evolution is merciless and unrelenting; it is how we survived. It will not allow us to cheat on its principles. If evolution is neglected it will perforce end in abreaction; the release of feeling without connection and resolution. Bioenergetics, focusing the body and muscles violates that law. Focusing on bodily release (the Gestalt Therapy, “act like an ape!” is inadequate). LSD and hallucinogens completely disregard the neurologic order of the nervous system, and spray feelings everywhere with no possible connection. A Primal will teach us evolution because it will follow the neuraxis precisely and tell us where and how evolution took place.

The Brain's Evolution and Therapy

Do you ever wonder why it is that we fall asleep in reverse order of evolution? And why we come out of it in correct order. In means, first of all, that we are prisoners of the brain’s evolution; and when we start to become consciously/aware we move to the highest level of the brain. We come out of antiquity into modern life as though we have gone through the centuries or the millennia in proper order each day in order to achieve consciousness. We do the same thing in Primal Therapy; and in doing so we must strictly obey evolutionary edicts. We can no more change that order than do so in our sleep. And when we trump that order in sleep, psychosis lurks. If we do not have enough dream (second-line limbic consciousness) sleep we suffer. And we develop physical and mental symptoms. Now what is crucial here is if we trump that order in Primal Therapy we suffer from those very same symptoms. That is why re-birthing is so dangerous; it trumps evolution. That is why cognitive therapy cannot work; it trumps the feeling areas of the brain and ignores evolution. 

As with dream sleep, Primal Therapy enters the deep unconscious, slowly in ordered progression. Down on that deep level lies so many of our remote and life-and-death pains. It shows itself in our nightmares which are associated with terrible terror/anxiety states, and it is demonstrated in deep Primals where heavy pains reside. Until we have access to those imprints we can never know about life-endangering memories, nor include them in a therapeutic process. What this tells us is that we are evolutionary beings who biologically must adhere to the history of mankind; there is an order to the universe of which we are part. I cannot stress this enough. We do not take patients into birth traumas in the first weeks of therapy anymore than in dream sleep we go directly into deep sleep. Evolution is an ordered affair. We must not superimpose our ideas, our theory or our techniques on patients. The rule is that it is not up to us to decide for the patient, as for example, that she needs dream analysis, or neuro-feedback or rebirthing. It is always the patient and her readiness that dictates our approach. 

Each new brain level in evolution helps out with survival, otherwise it would not be there. The brainstem and early limbic system have everything to do with survival—breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. Evolution continues with its survival strategies finishing up with the neocortex. What this structure can do is detect enemies not only without but within—our feelings. And when it does it helps us survive by disconnecting us from the source of the pain; a self we will never meet again until we have access to deep brain structures. That may be never; and that may kill us prematurely. 
As we travel through evolutionary time to the neocortex each adds its physiologic contribution. The reason that ideas cannot trump feelings is that feelings are integral to survival. They are a survival system. The neo-cortex is also very important to survival but in a different way. When we are in a coma without any neo-cortex really working our survival functions (heart rate, blood pressure, etc), are still operational. Animals survive very well without a complex neo-cortex. They won’t survive if the brainstem is damaged. We have to breathe no matter what.

Each lower level of brain function is designed to keep us alive. We can use lower levels to modify higher ones but it does not work in reverse. Imagine if the higher level neocortex could permanently modify brainstem functions? We survive because it cannot. Thus feelings can certainly sway ideas but ideas can only suppress feelings, not eradicate them. We see in our therapy how physiology and limbic feelings directly affect ideas and beliefs. A very rapid heart rate can push someone to go and do, yet no matter how hard we try we often cannot permanently alter the heart rate, especially the rate that is accompanied by anxiety. That is why we cannot “will” a slower heart rate over time. Ideas are hundreds of millions years away from physiological and emotional functions.

We know that the amygdala is pretty well mature at the time of birth so that we can code and register inchoate feelings. But the hippocampus is not yet fully developed for several years so that precision regarding the time and place and scene or origin is beyond its capacity. So we can dredge up feeling on the experiential level but not on the verbal one. So for those who claim to practice rebirthing we have to ask if there are any words to go along with the event. If there are, it is not a true event. We cannot overlook brain evolution in our therapy and perform what amounts to magic.

A patient who never wants to discuss her life but sinks immediately into her past will abreact and not get well. And when we observe a person’s history, we are also witnessing ancient history at the same time. A patient who cries like a newborn can never duplicate that sound after a Primal. One way we know this is in observing a patient make motions during reliving birth, and cannot duplicate that movement later on, no matter how hard she tries. Too often we see abreaction in patients who start in the present, begin a feeling and then immediately skip steps and goes to some kind of birth trauma. That kind of reliving becomes a defense. It interrupts and does not enhance connection. 

In dialectical fashion we descend to deep unconscious levels and immediately become conscious on that level. The unconscious is transformed into consciousness. This means that we will no longer be driven by those specific unconscious forces. We have access to our inner states. We thereafter will not suffer from such things as a bleeding ulcer or colitis without being aware of it. Chances are, however, that we won’t suffer from such afflictions.

Each lower level of brain function is designed to keep us alive. We can use lower levels to modify higher ones but it does not work in reverse. Imagine if that were possible; the higher level neocortex could permanently modify brainstem functions? 
But we survive because it cannot. Thus feelings can certainly sway ideas but ideas can only suppress feelings, not eradicate them. We see in our therapy how physiology and limbic feelings directly affect ideas and beliefs. A very rapid heart rate can push someone to go and do, yet no matter how hard we try we often cannot alter the heart rate, especially the rate that is accompanied by anxiety. That is why we cannot “will” a slower heart rate over time or consciously drive away anxiety. Ideas are hundreds of millions years away from physiological and emotional functions.

I remember seeing a patient who had just started therapy who told me that since he forgave his parents he feels much better; proof that ideas can trump feeling. Yet when he was measured his stress hormone levels (cortisol) never changed. Thus the neo-cortex can trump what we think are feelings without ever touching feelings, per se. The neo-cortex is most adept at deceiving itself. It can produce the thought of being well without really being well. Ideas here function as anesthetics. In therapy we certainly don’t want to being anesthetized in order to get well.

The brain is a complex proposition and to stay on any one level in therapy to the exclusion of the others means that any progress made in therapy is partial. To do reprogramming of the brain to achieve so-called “normal brainwaves” (biofeedback) is deficient and cannot lead to cure. 

When we wonder if we should call a therapy scientific we have only to ask, “does it elucidate and clarify the properties of nature?” We do not ask if it works because that is subjective and not always accurate. It is the difference between asking a scientific question and one that requires a moral perspective alone. Do we know more about humanity in this therapy or are we only after some sort of pragmatic, mechanical solution? Are we doing deep breathing or matching brainwaves to some ideal? Here the focus is on the technique, not the patient nor evolution; a major difference. When we focus on how the patient evolves we learn; when we decide on how we treat her beforehand we don’t. In short, can we learn from this therapy how to treat other human beings in psychotherapy? It is not a matter of defying evolution, but of harnessing it for the good of mankind. That is Darwin’s legacy. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Why we Root for the Dodgers?

Why do we care so much when our team loses or wins? Why do we high-five each other when our man scores a touchdown? After all, it is he, not us. But wait. Not so. It is us too. There is something we have in the upper reaches of the brain called mirror neurons (in an area called pre-motor cortex). These are nerve cells in his brain that light up when the man scores a touchdown and also light up the same area in our brains when we watch it happening. We feel what he feels. If he wins, we win. It is neurological, which allows us to live through someone else, and also to empathize with others. It enables us to feel the same emotion when someone sings with feeling. It triggers all of the associated memories with that feeling, our loss, rejection, our finding warmth and/or losing it.

When we think about a song, we can have all of the related emotions all over again. It has been engraved in the brain and can be recalled at any time. The grand orchestrator seems to gather up all the disparate facets of memory, assembles them into a meaningful event and remembers it entirely. The memory is a network of brain circuits joining in an assembly of nerve cells to fill out previous experience. Thus any feeling in the present has the ability to trigger a whole host of memories and feelings that resonate with the present and glide along the same neuronal frequency. In this way a pain now, a rejection, can resonate with serious past rejection from our parents and thereby produce an anxiety attack. It gives weight to the present reaction, which may seem inordinate, but in reality is the bottom rung of a neuronal circuit.

It is in this way that we can summon up the memory of love, feel love and offer it to others. If we never had it, we cannot offer it to anyone, because the feeling is not there. Pain in the present, a humiliation, sets off an old memory; the gates rush in to block the resonating circuits to keep our reactions under control. The circuits involved are all part of the entire experience. We can block part of it from our past so we can function in the present.

My work involves getting below the gating, which keeps old memories at bay, to penetrate the antipodes of the unconscious and allow individuals to heal because they have felt all of the old pain that has gnawed away at them for decades. Suppose the circuits of the mirror neurons evolve early in our lives, even before birth, and are adversely affected by womb life. That may mean that the ability to empathize, to feel what others feel may be impaired. The person grows up without those abilities. The mother's body, which was the whole world to the fetus, has shaped a being with diminished capacity of mirror neurons - for now a supposition. Imagine that she was depressed and transmitted her pain through her hormones to the fetus who suffered. He could not feel what she felt because it was too painful. He withdraws. One way he may do that is through diminished mirror neurons. We will wait to see about this.

On the evolutionary scale, the feelings in music are much older than words, which came along millions of years later. It is why music can move us far more than words. It therefore has a greater impact; hence the singing commercials, which did not come into being until after World War II. 

The discovery of these neurons was made by an Italian team of scientists who used brain imaging techniques to find an entirely new class of neurons that become active when we are. Feeling what someone else is feeling is extraordinarily important for us to become humans who care for and about others. These nerve cells are found in the parietal lobe and allow us to imitate unconsciously the actions of our parent. So in some cases a male child will have an effeminate walk as his mirror neurons pick up clues from his mother. This is another way of saying that he identifies more with his mother than with his father. In essence, mirror neurons match actions and feelings of others with our own. It shows we are social animals, otherwise why these neurons? If we were social isolates we would not need mirror neurons.

So we can undergo what others undergo. We should high-five. We feel what they feel. It is a way we live through others; and it is a way we can block our own painful feelings through what others achieve in life. We therefore have a greater interest in baseball and football than what would be expected, because that is us out there.

Pregnant Mothers and Neurotic Children

More and more research is helping us understand who we are. Although the thrust of current psychologic thought maintains that genetics play a big part in our development, I claim that the state of mind of a carrying mother is very, very important.

If she is depressed or anxious the baby and the developing child will have high stress hormone/cortisol levels. Think of the implications. The mother’s emotional state may dictate how our lives unfold. (See Early Human Development. April 2008. 84(4) pages 249-256). This also helps explain why so many of our beginning patients have consistently high cortisol levels (secreted by the adrenal glands). In studies of anxious or depressed mothers (mood-based changes) compared to “normal” mothers the offspring had high stress hormone levels and more activity in the emotional right frontal brain. Anxious and depressed mothers are important predictors how we will do in school and later in life. Don’t forget the fetus has an environment; that environment is the mother and her status. That environment sculpts the fetal brain. The mother doesn’t have to say a word to her baby; her physiology does it for her. That sculpture plays heavily on our future behavior. It is a good predictor of the baby’s temperament. And of course, who we are later, as well. We must remember that the stress hormones of the mother can pass through the placenta into the fetus and affect all kinds of hormone balances. And this mixture becomes the crucible for later development and personality. It is here that we can start life already handicapped. And how we react to birth may be predetermined by womb-life.

We do know that womb-life maternal anxiety can affect the sex hormone level of the offspring. It all happens so early that when a homosexual says that it is genetic or a natural state he/she isn’t aware of the impact of the mother’s state on her fetus/baby’s development. It also explains why so many of us believe that who and what we are is normal. The deviation has begun so very early, before we had an operational thinking brain that the deviation seems normal; we have nothing else to compare it to. Moreover, when we look for causes of later Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s affliction we never would imagine that our life in the womb could be a major contributing factor. So we don’t look there, hence avoiding important information. We need to study brain dementia cases and check their womb-life, when possible. Several European countries already have that information. It dictates how we react later on. Do we have a predisposition to threat; that is, are we too ready for attack and therefore on a chronic high state of alert all of the time? All this based on an “attack” by mother’s high levels of stress hormones while she is carrying; that raised the cortisol level and made hyper-vigilance a steady state. And when we need constant tranquilizers as adults we cannot imagine that womb-life is the culprit. But if we see through research that stress hormones are chronically high in emotionally disturbed patients we see why they seek out pain-killing drugs.

Friday, March 24, 2017

What is Primal Therapy About?

I received this note from one of our therapist and wanted to share it with you all. This is a self-explanatory session, and it is what Primal Therapy is about.

We started the session by the patient saying that he felt like something was preventing him from applying the business ideas he had had recently. 

I will make it short, but at some point between talking and crying he said “Around me there is plenty of what I want but I can’t get it.” Then he cried about how he was actually feeling OK inside as a child but his parents constantly diverted him from this feeling by repeatedly asking him to do things he didn’t want to do. After crying about this for a while this is what he said:

“But I am OK, I feel good, I feel sweet, soft, gentle inside. I am fine. I am OK the way I am. In adult words, it means I am rooted, I am stable. We are all looking for what we already have inside. Satisfied or dissatisfied doesn’t mean anything. I just feel OK. It is a normal feeling, not an ecstatic feeling, only an ordinary normal feeling and it’s enough. I don’t need understanding because I am understanding myself. I don’t need anything, I am OK. This is so incredible!”

There is more, and he spent most of the session exploring and feeling that deep yet normal feeling of simply being OK. 

Wow, it was incredible for me too!!!!

A Brilliant Idea

A hospital back East has just come up with an idea to save and change lives; an idea so simple it is brilliant. They have founded the Cuddlers Club where people volunteer to cuddle babies, kiss and caress them while the mother is gone. They are first trained on what and how to do it and then they are given a baby to hold and sing to. It aids general development, general health, and enhanced brain development. Newborns need all this immediately in life, not years later. Isn’t it ten times more valuable then letting babies rot alone in a hospital bed? Even at our age, wouldn’t we want comfort and company when we go to hospital?  Why not a baby who is first learning to react to others and to feel their love and comfort. Above all, he senses and feels he is not alone and abandoned. How else could he react?

I have seen so many patients who relive being very young and left along in a hospital and they are terrified, to say nothing of SUDDEN DEATH SYNDROME, where babies die from fright on being abandoned, left in the dark without human succor, feeling isolated with no help anywhere. Why can’t we understand their fright when they are just coming into a new world and have no idea what that world is about? They cannot ask for help but they can feel terribly frightened.  They have no words to express themselves; and since we live in a world of language, it is beyond our comprehension.     

There is a way to give them a primitive language which I shall discuss elsewhere but their needs are for closeness and physical reassurance. A smiling soft face and voice. They need love in the language they speak; holding, touch and kisses. They need protection and when they do not get it, we find the beginning of an imprint of never feeling safe. It is a basic low level terror that we do not see but the child cries all of the time, is chronically timid and skittish. His first reaction is to withdraw, not see out and approach. He is imprinted with passivity and lethargy. He cannot smile fully because it is layered over with terror. Remember, there is a critical period when imprints take hold because the need is at is asymptote. The need for caress above all. Caresses years later through compulsive sex won’t fill the bill. It is far too late but the need lingers on and dogs us all of our lives. Is he a sex addict? No.  He is a need addict where lack of fulfillment is a constant reminder of what is missing. I have seen patients who are compulsive sexers. One woman got high blood pressure when she could not have sex. Compulsive anything informs us of what has gone missing early on. Even the search of fame and adoration can begin very early on when the child was not cuddled and adored; at age thirty he needs it desperately. And he gets it symbolically from applause. But it is symbolic so never fulfilling and then he needs it more and more. Now add to this indifferent cold parents who never touched the child, never cherished him, and were never physically close to him. The need is compounded and becomes more importuning. He now brags and makes himself important because the parents never could. He is trailed by his exploits that he has invented where he is the best, most talented and adored; trapped by  figments of his imagination... They Love Me. 
All this the hospital knows to avoid. Bravo, bravo to them. They are setting the stage for normal healthy children.  Who could do better?  The babies get physical care but too often what is neglected is their emotional life. Some hospitals have figured it out and what is more they give a chance for women who have lost their baby to again love a child. Wonderful.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Can We Inherit Neurosis?

Yes. But let me explain.   

First neurosis results from the impact or introduction of adverse events very early in our lives. So a mother smoking and taking drugs, a birth with far too much anesthetic, an infancy of lack of touch and indifference, a mother who goes to work and therefore cannot nurse and cannot love the child, etc... The ramifications are endless. But the brain and body do not forget.  It produces methyl to mark the spot and informs us of the force of the pain.  But that is not the end of the story: methyl can be inherited, inherited methylation which mingles with methylation from trauma to disrupt normalcy.  That is, a neurotic parent can inculcate adverse chemicals to change the trajectory of the child. In that sense it is inherited; it joins with imprinted pain to add to the load that must be absorbed and integrated.

In other words, trauma alone may not be enough to produce a full- blown neurosis, but parental legacy might put us over the top into neurosis. Those parents, also loaded with pain, may spill some of the load onto the baby; this adumbrates to foreshadow a danger ahead. This inheritance research is the work of BioMedical Research by Rudolph Jaenisch of MIT and can be found here. I assume that this has an effect on the genes where inheritance seeps into the newborn. 

I believe that with a normal parental configuration and with a loving life, one can avoid a deleterious neurosis.  Not completely, but enough not to be mentally ill.   But failing healthy parents, one cannot.  Believe it or not, they call it parental imprinting.  And it is imprinted and becomes part of  us.   

Methylation affects and alters gene expression and eventually distorts us, our behavior, and our neurochemistry. This results from when the egg and sperm are fertilized and  then shipped to the offspring.  Inside that shipment is a whole history of the parents, and the history contains fragments of the pain from the grandparents, as well.  This all happens so early and with such an impact that serious disease might result, including cancer.   

We need much research in this area but inheritance counts, not in the booga-booga sense, but in science. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Little Primal Story

I want to tell you about how Primal need works.  

First, a story in today’s paper about a man who failed at sports but from the time his son was eight years old, he forced him into sports. And even when the child (and he was a child) was hurt, he demanded he get up and play on. He broke a tooth but the father never saw the little hurts because he only could see himself, and when his child was cheered on later in sports the father somehow felt they were also cheering for him. In short, he lived his life and his needs through his son. His needs came long before the ones of his son. He was effectively having an ineffable Primal where he relived the failures of his life and his need to be a winner, through his son. The son never had a chance. 
Another story of a patient, a lawyer, who was ignored and derided by his father as someone who could never do anything right. The father continued to criticize and demean him, so he himself could feel a little bit of success… At the expense of his son. The son was treated like “dirt,” he said. And so with his clients the son was supercilious, arrogant, totally sure of himself and could not allow himself to be questioned. He was the important person, and with his clients those old pains seeped through constantly. The feeling of being nothing forced him to act like he was something, someone important and valued. His manner of arrogant speech was the betrayal of his past hurt and denigration. He did not try to speak in a superior fashion; his old need/pain importuned it. His old feelings colored the tone of his speech and offered a protective cover against his feeling like a failure. His work could not be put in question. He ran from criticism and could be bought for just a few words of praise. His flight was constantly away from his pain. He avoided anyone who was critical, and socialized with those who praised him and reinforced his worth. That was as unending as his need/pain, which was locked into his brain. What he sought out was always symbolic, someone who thought he was important, those who genuflected before his superior intelligence. And, of course, he cultivated that intelligence so he could be idolized. But as his need was interminable, so was his act-out.   

I remember in my old days of Primal, I would take someone who was brash and aggressive and loud in his speech and demand he speaks only softly and timidly. He would soon cry; feeling unprotected, weak,  and alone.

In both cases, old feelings and needs superseded reality. Just like a woman I treated, who could only get involved with strong men because her father was so weak he could not protect her against a constantly angry, miserable mother, who blamed her daughter for all her failures and ailments. The mother was as unrelenting with her daughter as her internal misery. Of course the mother had no idea where her misery came from, so she focused on a vulnerable and defenseless target… Her daughter.  That daughter paid a lifelong price for her mother’s pain. When the husband left home, the mother blamed the daughter, “If you weren’t born, he would had stayed with me.” The daughter had implacable guilt and began to feel like the failure her mother instilled in her. Later on, she got married and became the guilt-laden miserable being she was made into. Do not ever think that a bit of counseling would help her overcome her character flaws. Behavior therapists confine themselves to the present because it is so easy to travel in those confines, which limits their scope and therefore their field of required knowledge. They see only obvious behavior, while a long childhood history lies unexamined. If this were applied to geography, the world would indeed be flat. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What Is a Feeling?

I hope I am not drowning the fish; I want to explore the nature of feeling so we can judge whether we are feeling individuals or not. What does it matter? Having access to feeling means access to a good part of yourself and that access means health; it means less repression and less unconscious forces nudging at you from inside.

Let us go back to some basic points: When the very first traumas occur in the womb (if they do), they are set down in many ways and in many brain structures. They also seem to be set in a certain wave length or frequency, (This is my hypothesis, not proven science. The science is not against it; it is just not “for” it). The traumas I discuss are nearly always deprivation of need. And those needs appear according to a genetic plan. They do not change; they do transform. Those needs are first biologic, next emotional and finally intellectual. They correspond in my scheme to the evolution of the brain from primitive brainstem to limbic to prefrontal cortex. The heaviest pain is the instinctual/biologic, those very early needs that mean life and death. Proper nutrition for the carrying mother, no smoking, no drinking or drugs and no anxiety (that is often hard to avoid), and subtly, really wanting the baby. As the brain grows new traumas build and evolve (elaborated) out of the first memory of pain (or noxious stimuli, if you wish). They enlarge the frequency base. The original imprint is compounded.

Deprivation of emotional need, to be held, caressed, looked at, talked to, won’t necessarily be a life and death matter but emotional deprivation can rob us of our humanity. Then we add more and more similar kinds of pain, say, constant parental rejection or indifference and we get a deeper pain, that I believe joins the frequency parade and intensifies it. That is, the new pains are compounding the original pains laid down near the start of life in the womb. These similar pains join together add to the imprinted frequency set down at the start of life. I believe that is one way they can recognize each other; old friends who band together. It seems that pain is pain, and the system doesn’t much distinguish among them; it spurs itself into action to hold it down, to repress. Just as the brain doesn’t seem to care what we believe so long as we have beliefs to suppress feeling. As deprivation of need continues and compounds it reaches more and more areas of the brain, including the cognitive, understanding the pain. More of the brain is committed to repression. The brain becomes a pain-dealing engine (see Morpugo and Spinelli’s work).

What happens then? The feeling centers may send up all types of pain to the thalamus, the switchboard of the brain, for forwarding to the frontal brain to helps us understand our feelings, but if there is too much pain it is rerouted into the lower brain centers, the unconscious, if you will, where it creates havoc and physiologic symptoms. But the pain is always knocking at the door of the frontal cortex, trying to connect and resolve because that is the only thing that can let us relax—connection. But the gates against pain won’t let it happen. Unless the gates weaken (constant deprivation and neglect) and then a flood enters and overwhelms the thinking cortex, scattering cohesion and interrupting concentration, producing strange ideas and uncalled for suspicions. What makes the gates weaken? Too much additional load of pain. Don’t forget, the gates are always trying to keep pain away from conscious-awareness. That is what they do. We can talk about synapses and transmitters, but those are the details for what is an overarching reality; we block pain so as to function. And when we cannot, we stop functioning.

We may spend a lifetime trying to fulfill needs; to be touched, sexual act-outs is one example. Or we may overeat based on starvation of proper nutrients while in the womb. Or drinking to kill the pain. Those basic drives to overeat, drink and drug often mean an attempt to quell first-line physiologic trauma, deprivation of life-sustaining input by first-line means. The most basic of all drives. First-line trauma (in the womb and at birth and just after), provokes first-line symptoms, and first-line attempts to repress---that is, feeding the body any sort of pain-killer. How many alcoholics have told me that drinking relaxes them and gives them that feeling of warmth they never had? No one takes drugs continually who is not in pain. Why would they? Drink and drugs would not “stick” because they are serving no great biologic purpose. We need to understand that in neurosis (heavy load of pain)they do serve a purpose and that is obvious; to help them get through life, even to function. Normals do not function well on drugs but neurotics (where pain dislocates the biologic system) can. They are attempting to fulfill a need, so basic that it makes any therapy or treatment feeble in response. Of course, for some it is considered a disease. It is so refractory, so difficult to treat, so early to start that if we are not armed with a theory of womb-life and infancy-life we can never understand it.

So attempts at fulfillment are what I call symbolic. We are trying to fulfill a need so early that later attempts only pale. But of course, the person goes on trying to fulfill need, as he must. He never gives up, and if he does his body will give out from the effort to hold it all down. So the goodhearted in 12-step programs deprive him even more; deprive him of an attempt at fulfillment, even symbolic but at least it is an attempt. He is doing it because he is not feeling, not feeling the need and the pain that comes from deprivation. I know we have stop him drinking but how about feeling!? 

That is where we come in. We help him do that. As he becomes feeling he has less need for symbolic fulfillment. Doesn’t that make sense? Pain = pain-killing efforts. No pain, no pain-killing efforts. It isn’t done in a day but our direction is always right. Feeling means no more blockage from parts of ourselves. It means access in all directions including the deep physiological. I have seen patients who have had no interest in eating, nothing gives them pleasure. When they recapture feelings they recapture taste and joy.

The unconscious is constantly moving upward and forward at an attempt at connection and integration. It is trying to be whole. The deeper the pain and the earlier it occurred the stronger the force of the memory and the more it battles against the defense system; and the more it provokes the thinking brain into action. Sometimes the person needs more thinking brain to help out, hence cognitive/insight therapy. The joint thought combination of therapist and patient helps push down feelings. But it is a lifelong affair.

We have seen and measured patients whose brainwaves are extremely fast. For them to even get close to feeling they have to be able to slow down to get down into the feeling/primal zone. They do that either by feeling some of the compounded aspects of feelings and/or taking painkillers and tranquilizers to push back the force of the feeling. It seems like for these individuals the brain is racing away from feeling as fast as it can. Her thoughts are going and going and she cannot seem to stop them.

In each part of a traumatic memory lies a group of busy neurons working to join up with other likely neurons to coalesce into a feeling that is liberating. We smell mothers perfume, see the earrings she was wearing, the look on father’s face, the cloudy day, etc. I treated one young man who remembers that kind of scene; he could smell her perfume and saw her earrings so clearly. When he told his mother about this memory she was surprised at the accuracy of his memory as she lost the earrings when my patient was four years old. The more elements of the memory the deeper, more profound the feeling. “I remember when I was crying in my crib and daddy came in and had angry eyes and shouted at me to shut up. “ That whole memory came back to my patient only after he had felt many later less painful memories. It was a start of a lifelong fear of his father, and then of authoritarian men, in general. He was afraid to contradict his boss at work, a fear the worked against him, as he became anxious in his presence, and never knew why. So as all these pieces of a memory come together in a feeling, say, of hopeless and helplessness. The person is getting more and more of herself back, the self that was barricaded behind the repressive gates. What I have noticed is that those two feelings are behind so much early misery in my patients. We can theorize about what our basic feelings are but I have seen this over and over. Hopelessness/ helplessness is often the feeling when death or harm is in the offing and there is nothing the person can do about it. When we are strangling on the cord during birth, for example, or when mother smokes while carrying. They are the lifelong consequences of very early trauma. So when we say that depression over time can lead to cancer, we mean that the very repressed feelings involved in depression are also involved with the development of cancer. These are not two distinct maladies, in the primal sense, but different manifestations of the same cause. We can find this medicine for this disease, treating or finding many other avenues to treat a person, say for high blood pressure. but if we do not recognize the key fact of pain and repression we have a lifelong, unending task before us.

So when a patient is fully plugged in she has a complete feeling; when it starts in the present goes back to childhood, then to birth or before, there is full access. She will then generally come back through the same route; back to childhood and into the present. I call this the three two, one, event, and a trip back to a two and three, This is what I mean by access. Often patients are blocked on the route backwards, as they should be. Defenses were setup at the time to keep the memories from completely disrupting consciousness. They come up again to hold back deeper aspects of the feeling. That is when we know the patient has had enough. Often, if the therapist has a stake at producing deep feelings in the patient so he can look good, the patient will be pushed beyond her ability and suffer. You know, a primal is a very dramatic event. And to be able to produce that in a patient seems to make the therapist seem omniscient and omnipotent. Someone who has himself doesn’t need that. It is like making the baby talk before he is ready so that the parent will look good; having such a smart baby.

Incidentally, I have discussed the biologic critical window, the time when needs must be fulfilled. A small aside: when the child is allowed to go on fulfilling a need that has ended its timetable we may find a neurotic result; that is, the child goes on nursing for too long due to the mother’s need, and becomes imprinted with it. Becomes fixated on breasts and sucking. But this is just a slight interruption in what I want to say. A feeling means an experience, and that means all aspects from psychological to the physiological to the neuronal; they all join in to make it a feeling. And to cure someone of pain and repression we again need an experience, not just a mental exercise bereft of those emotions that are stored in the brain. Some of us have almost full access to feeling; those who were fully loved with few great traumas in early life. They never come to us.

The switchboard of the brain seems to be the thalamus, strategically positioned to inform the prefrontal area of what we are feeling. But imagine if you will that the operator is constantly plugging in aspects of the memory, the context of our feeling lonely and all alone. The brain is the operator doing what it can. It is unplugging emotional aspects of the memory because of their valance, and storing them for the future. It is plugging in certain aspects of the feeling while unplugging the emotional component. We need to plug emotions/feelings back in. Once we lock into a frequency where all three levels of brain function are joined, then a whole feeling means experiencing the pain on all three levels, the instinctual/physiologic, the emotional/feeling and the intellectual/comprehension; the feeling with its bodily dimensions meets feelings and and intellectual overview— putting it all together.

Some of us can remember the details of our early lives but they are not plugged into the emotions. Others are permanently plugged into emotions with little cerebral counterpart. They are awash in pain that remains unconnected. Normally, the overall feeling gathers up all the disparate aspects and binds them into a whole, into what I call a feeling. If there are still aspects of the memory that are not reachable, such as the first-line, brainstem base of it all, then there is more to feel. To get well we need to stay on that frequency/memory until all parts are experienced and integrated. In psychoanalysis someone can remember every little detail of her early life but be bereft of its emotional component. Once there is access to the feeling it will largely take care of itself. That is, no special techniques by the therapist are necessary. But if we try to force a feeling or decide we know where the patient needs to go, then failure looms. I teach my therapist never, never to claim to know what a patient means when she says, I feel lonely. I feel afraid, etc. Because there are specific feelings underlying the sentences and only the patient and her feelings knows. That sentence may be linked into right after birth when she was not touched or held. Or at age one my mother died. Or at age four I was sent to preschool, etc. If we think we know what the patient is feeling then it means we know all the details of her life and what exactly was meant by the phrase, “I feel lonely”. If we think we know exactly where the patient has to go in a session and try to lead her there, there will be no cure. We can make notes in our head but we need to follow the patient, not lead her.

So to help someone to feel we of course need the entrance to the feeling centers, the amygdala, hippocampus and finally the prefrontal cortex to bind all separate elements into an emotional whole. It is not enough to watch the patient cry and cry and think we have done some good; that crying must be in context and needs connection. All aspects must be linked together; linked by neuronal rhythms in the brain. Otherwise it is abreactive discharge which just releases the energy of feeling without its essence; the person is running off the energy portion of the feeling without knowing what it really is. Still, for the moment there is some relief so the patient thinks she is getting somewhere. She is going nowhere, literally. And we have measured the vital signs in feeling and in abreaction. In feeling the vitals move up and down in coordinated fashion, ending up near or below beginning baseline. In abreaction it is all sporadic, vitals moving in jigsaw fashion up and down but not going to baseline or below. When all elements are joined by specific oscillations of neurons we are on our way to health. The problem is that when the patient is repressed and suffers from this affliction or that, we go about treating the elements of the feeling, the manifestations, the grinding stomach or shortness of breath; we ignore the whole organizing principle which is feeling. We omit the repressed feelings that give rise to the symptoms. We omit the humanity of the person.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Suicide is Painless: Repression, Despair and the Relief of Reliving Near-Death Feelings

 A recent federal government study shows that suicide in the United States has become epidemic, hitting an alarming 30-year high. More and more people, both men and women in almost every age group, are killing themselves, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics. And experts are struggling to adequately explain the troubling trend.

“The question of what has driven the increases is unresolved, leaving experts to muse on the reasons,” states the New York Times in an article about the suicide data.(1)

 And so they speculate. Maybe it’s the rising divorce rate, or the lower rates of marriage. Maybe it’s the worsening economy or the new limits on social mobility. Or maybe it’s the country’s weak suicide prevention network.

They can’t find the answers, I believe, because external factors are not the cause; they are just the trigger. After all, many people get divorced and lose their jobs and their homes, or worse, but don’t decide to end their lives. The explanation is elusive because the causes are hidden. They lie deep inside the desperate individuals who see no way out but death, and who may not even know what is driving their desire to take their own lives.

The best way to illuminate the problem is to look at it from the other side. Set aside for a moment those poor souls who are suffering obvious misfortunes. Consider instead those apparently lucky people who have it all, but still choose to end it all. Why do so many celebrities commit suicide?

Suicide and Success 

Celebrity suicides always strike us as a mystery. These are successful, wealthy people we admire and emulate. We even try to be like them. So when the rich and famous find their lives too much to bear – as did L’Wren Scott, the high-end fashion designer and girlfriend of Mick Jagger – we inevitably wonder why. Scott hanged herself in the multi-million apartment she had shared with Jagger in New York. She didn’t leave a note. Her friends, who described her as kind and considerate, were shocked. Jagger, who was on tour with the Rolling Stones in Australia, issued a statement claiming he was "still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way."
 Everyone was asking the same question.

There have been a number of people who have committed suicide who seemed at the pinnacle of success. And most of us thought that once we choose a profession and follow it and succeed at it, becoming an expert and well known, that would be fulfilling. We would feel like a success. Wrong. When we have deep-rooted lack of love, rejection, indifference and lack of touch early in our lives we cannot feel like a success. We can only feel what was left embedded in us as an imprint: the feeling of being unloved, empty, isolated, unwanted. That is always primary. All else and all later feelings lie on top of the imprint. We need to keep in mind that the imprint is embedded very early in life when the struggle has a life-or-death quality. It takes precedence over any later adversity. The memory is of a life-endangering event. It is not an imaginary time; survival is at stake (lack of oxygen at birth). And later, even the slightest threat takes on the original force of the reaction. Through resonance (the linkage between high nerve pathways and lower ones) terror is again elicited. What is set off? The feeling tone, for feelings are primary very early in life, long before we develop an overall sense of the total context. But the feeling tone will be an augury of a trauma gone by, and also a pathway to the past where the tone originated, engendered by perhaps an overdose of anesthetic to the mother for her pain but is far, far too much for a six-pound baby. That tone (hopelessness) may well underlie later depression, which seems such a mystery. But we are immersed in a sense of “what’s the use?” There is no reason to try or to go on; we are trapped in that imprinted memory where it was hopeless. This imprint may well be the template for building even stronger hopelessness when other needs are not fulfilled such as being held and soothed.  And what do we do when we are bereft of that knowledge of the lingering tone?  A tone due to its immense impact remains unconscious, repressed by the forces that are elicited to keep us from feeling devastating agony.   We seek to submerge it further with drugs. We do the opposite of what is required, which is to release that memory from its neurobiologic cage. But when we observe it with all its power it seems overwhelming. This is why we are working with some medications to ameliorate the impact of that pain so it does not have to be experienced with all its fury.
There is only one way to stop the suffering, and that is to revisit the imprint and relive the pain. Until then, we cannot know the real lack and what it is. That is why the system insists on reliving later in life. Our own system is pushing for real integration and liberation, because it seeks to become whole again. That imprint has only one goal in life; to be relived exactly as it was laid down. To finish the unfinished job of integrating what was repressed and put aide at its origin.  Its message is a constant warning of unfinished business. The pain from very early on has to be felt and dealt with in all its agony and terror. The imprint knows no mercy. It wants conscious awareness somewhere inside even while the top cortical level does what it can to imprison it. Conscious awareness means delving into deep feeling plus ultimate awareness of what it is. The imprint will never leave until it is lived again, fully, in its original context. Enough rearranging of the chairs on the Titanic. We must join feelings with their thoughts and make ourselves whole. Fame won’t do that; I have treated enough stars to know that, and my patients also know it. There is no substitute for extirpating the imprint. None. Avoiding the imprint and we are leaving misery in place. Reliving it finally stops the terrible drive to feel like a success; to run from the feeling. That is different from being authentically successful, which is the drive to do things right. A little more relaxing.

To be loved early on, that is what sets the stage for your life. It means fulfilling basic needs as they evolve; it makes us feel confident and productive, but not driven. It offers daring and enthusiasm and a joie de vivre. It allows us to try but never in desperation. Symbolic love – the kind we get from fame and celebrity – has to be repeated over and over exactly because it cannot fulfill. Why not? Precisely because it is symbolic, a substitute for the true love we never got from our parents. When there is a basic lack of fulfillment early in life, especially during gestation, birth and infancy, an imprint is created that stamps in that deprivation, through the partially open sensory window. That imprint is embedded deep in the brain and stays there, almost inaccessible. We are aware only of a gnawing emptiness, feeling unfulfilled. Empty like a shell, as one patient put it. And that need, now un-anchored from its source, drags us into the race for symbolic fulfillment. But it’s a race that never ends because it does nothing to alter the motor that’s driving it, which is the painful, buried imprint of getting no love when it really mattered.  No hugs, no attention, no sympathy, no understanding, nada. No love. And that compounds and builds into a massive forceful load of unconsciousness.  For most us, given a bit of hope for love we are galvanized. But those with deep implacable hopelessness it seems to be a signal to give up; the original reaction that was life saving. Again, the basic survival imprint.   Once the pain is embedded and out of reach, we will seek out substitutes, so as to stop feeling empty and unloved. The agony from that deep, deep pain becomes a primordial part of us. It now confuses us, distracts us, and above all, stops our concentration. Oh yes; it depresses us because we live with an enemy in the house that we cannot escape. It lives with us and in us; it claws for its liberation; it wants freedom to live the pain, believe it or not. Yet we do what we can to stop it. No wonder most psychotherapy is aimed at repression and rationales, and understanding but never deep feeling. Patients get a bit of relief, which the he settles for; but no cure. So what does the successful person feel? Very little: Down, unhappy and unfulfilled. He has no other choice because those feelings will not leave even for mercy’s sake.  Mercy has no part in the lexicon of the unconscious; it follows the road to what seemed to work originally.   Freud called it The Repetition Compulsion.   Let us never forget the enormous pull of that embedded hopelessness low in the nervous system.  It drags us down toward the non-integrated feeling that might have occurred when the  newborn was heavily dosed with anesthetics; or earlier there might a smoking mother or one who drank all of the time.  Or worse, a carrying mother who took constant painkillers, which diminished oxygen supplies. This, inter alia, also, drugged the baby and affected his breathing and energy levels.  The drugs infused into the baby again drains him of effort and will power.  He may be born passive, inactive and unresponsive. His whole being has given up against insuperable odds.  And that erupts the minute he must make any strenuous effort.  All this keeps him from feeling like a success; “I can do and succeed”.

Success is not a real feeling; being loved is. Fame is other people’s idea of our achievements; it is in a way their feeling… Admiration, humble, important, etc. And why does even the most accomplished person never feel satisfied nor fulfilled? Because all of his fulfillment and all of his admiration is symbolic; it is not the love he needed early on. It covers it over the lack of love, sits on top of the real need. The feeling window is now closed, and leaves an emotional vacuum in its place. It is the imprinted pain that cannot be erased no matter what kind of success is there. And it drives him for more and more – more money, more applause, more awards.

Finally at the top of his fame he feels still unfulfilled and a failure; there is nothing more to gain, nothing more to try for. He looks at all his billboards and feels empty. What does it mean? “I don’t know what else to do to feel good, to feel successful.” It seems that life is empty. There is no point; suicidal thoughts thrust their way in, as he feels the real deep feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that he has been escaping from in his work. The pain that drove it all is still alive and gnawing inside. It says, sotto voce, you are not loved and that is all that matters. Something is missing and you have no idea what that is. You have failed at what matters most; to be adored, admired, encouraged, held and caressed. That is the constant malaise that speaks of something missing. “All your drive was to try to escape the imprinted feeling and feel loved, and you believe you are, but not by the people who really matter, and not at the time when love was a life-or-death affair. There is a critical window for love to happen and a special time when the system is at its asymptote of need.   When the critical time has passed repression takes over; it is too late now for fulfillment so there is no choice; symbolic fulfillment takes place; the ever-present audience who adores. 

I treated one film director who became seriously depressed when he was no longer on stage. He felt useless, unneeded and unwanted; he started to feel his old feelings once again, only before therapy he drugged his hopelessness and now in therapy he is feeling it for what is really is. He began to feel the childhood part of the pain with parents who did not want him around; he was convinced there was something seriously wrong with him. This lay on top of the earlier pains of a sense of dying, of suffocating and losing consciousness. But not being needed on set began the whole process all over again. The first part was the feeling of “I will die if I am not loved,” and then much later, “I am dying and there is nothing I can do to escape.” This was the ultimate helplessness and hopelessness, the key elements of depression. Resonance always involves the chain of pain; the neuronal linkage from one set of neural processes to another. It is why something innocuous can set off catastrophic feelings.

As I have written à maintes reprises, many times over, we respond primarily and firstly to apparent problems in the present, and later to inner links that are awakened by those current problems, such as job losses or divorce. Those repressed traumas are ready to fire and when those links fire together they become wired together, solidified. That is the process I call resonance. The body and brain are busy reacting to what happened decades earlier during womb-life and birth. Those are the events we continually react to because of their remoteness, something that occurred when we were vulnerable and easily and heavily impacted. This is not only my hypothesis. Within the past 20 years, there have been literally hundreds of studies verifying the importance of early imprints, how they last a lifetime and alter our systems. Imprints lay down engraved memories that show themselves when we are alone, in a weakened state or otherwise too open to events.

That is what I believe may have happened to L’Wren Scott in those moments alone before she took her life. She must have had an inkling, a deep down unease and hopeless feeling that would have warned her. It was all hidden inside her, pushing through her weakened defense layers and making her feel so hopeless and “down,” despite her current surroundings. Being alone for a short time can set off being left and abandoned as a child; this is only surmise for now since I have not idea about this but I have seen in my patients. It can first set off, “I am all alone and no one to hold and comfort me.” Just a few hours alone with no one nearby can do it. Remember, small things can set off huge feelings. If she were left alone and neglected by her parents very early on, the connection to despair of the past it becomes clear.She probably had no idea about imprints or deep-lying trauma/memory. That is the reason our theory is so important, so that people who are suffering can be aware of what is going on inside and understand where their despair and suicidal thoughts come from. This may avoid needless deaths. How tragic and unnecessary all this. And now you understand our mission: not money nor fame, but the lives of us humans. We all have a basic right to a full-length life.

The Way In Is The Way Out

You may wonder why a privileged and wealthy celebrity can’t find distractions for her despair. Why doesn’t she run away or go to parties and “take her mind off of it?” She cannot; the imprint constrains her. She lives within that primordial memory and cannot imagine or think about other solutions. There were no alternatives originally, thus there are none now while awash in the imprint. And the imprint forces her to remain on the same route all over again. Her hopelessness (depression) is all-consuming. She cannot stray outside its bounds. The stabs of depression she suffers are reminders of the mounting memory that periodically surges upwardly toward awareness.
There is no way to know now exactly why she killed herself. But a clue to her motive can be found post-mortem, in the manner in which she chose to kill herself. Scott had just about everything in life; although she was in debt, she lived well and lived high with Jagger. Yet she took the trouble to go through the machinations of hanging. Why not take the simpler “way out,” with pills? Though some will find this hard to believe, the answer goes back to the very beginning of life: the way in is often the way out. The same imprint that produced deep hopelessness at birth – the root of depression – is also what likely led to her to choose hanging. I am not familiar with the circumstances of Scott’s death, but I am not limiting my discussion only to her. This applies to all of us.
The fact of the deep imprint also can lead to hanging for if she were strangling on the cord she is most likely to repeat the act. It was the closest she came to death and the trauma and its consequences remain. Fifty years ago, I wrote about methods of suicide and I noted that they followed the deep imprint. Being strangled on the cord would lead to hanging. Being suffocated in the womb might lead to gassing oneself. Being mangled at birth might end in jumping off a building or in front of a train. A mother drugging herself might be duplicated in suicide by an overdose of pain-killers in the offspring. Thus, the imprint, now embedded, searches out its duplicate, like most act-outs. And act-outs follow the imprint closely because there is a sense of approaching death early on, and it follows by approaching death now, where death is the final relief from this catastrophic imprint. That is also an imprinted memory – final relief. It is the final denouement of the imprint. 

Recent research has confirmed the link between the nature of trauma at birth and the manner of suicide chosen in adulthood. In a study published in the journal Biology of the Neonate, K. J. S. Anand and associates state that in a number of suicides by violent means “the significant risk factors were those perinatal events that were likely to cause pain in the newborn.” (Anand & Scalzo, 2000). (2) In other words, suicides will often choose a method that reflects the prototype of their birth experiences. Why? Because each prototype requires its own conclusion. For a neonate strangling on the cord, further strangling would have ended the agony. Those drowning in amniotic fluid at birth may opt for death by drowning. Those who received a massive dose of anesthetic at birth may take an overdose of barbiturates, or they might gas themselves in their garage. And so on. Not every rule can be followed slavishly, as it is here. People do commit suicide also depending on current circumstances; being on a tall building, for example.  I offer this heuristically only as a frame of reference toward clarity. 
 I remember one patient who saved up dynamite; having experienced anoxia at birth, he was going to put a stick to his head and blow his head off so that he wouldn't have one second of pain and hopelessness. He laughs at that now, but at the time it spoke volumes of his desperation. Another patient was obsessed with jumping off a building. During her birth by Cesarean, this person had felt wrenched into space with nothing to hang onto. Another patient, battered and squeezed at birth, obsessed about jumping off a bridge, head first.
 I found this was almost a universal law: we attempt to die in the way our birth was threatened. Those memories, that of trauma during gestation, last a lifetime and lead to same attempt years later to die in the way it might have happened at the beginning. In other words, as the memory of the early trauma rises, the memory of the early result mounts as well. Thus early strangulation may lead to the same course of action with the final denouement; death. The logic of the system. It is confirmation of the imprint and its lifelong effect on the system. It drives behavior ineluctably. So the imprint includes the probable outcome – death. We need to consider suicide as another form of act-out. It channels behavior despite exhortation and encouragement; the sense of approaching death. What is often articulated for those who have no idea about the imprint is, “I don’t want to live anymore.” And even that is not fully articulated; it is usually a vague thought or sense. It is often not, “I am in so much pain I don’t want to go on.” It is just a vague sense of hopelessness and helplessness that leads to an attempt. It all remains vague and aleatory, a constant rumination inside of a black cloud descending.
It is difficult, perhaps, to believe that birth problems can give rise to suicidal tendencies years later. This is because we are not used to thinking about physiologic memory. Nor are we used to thinking that the most powerful memories we have are those without words, memories of events which predated our ability to understand what was happening to us. It's not always the case that the suicide method mimics the birth trauma, of course, but it is often what we discover in talking to and observing our patients. If we want to get an idea about our birth, look at our imagined choice of suicide. Conversely, if we want to know the origins of depression, we might examine the birth epoch. Eventually, we may discover the secrets of our beginnings in life.

Suicidal or Self-Destructive
There are some acts of suicide that are a cry for help, taking a certain amount of sleeping pills, for example. And there are others that say, I really don’t want to live anymore; that is a jump off a bridge. That is final, no call for help. It all seems so helpless and hopeless; they want to die for relief. No more pain; that’s enough. Their pain is importuning and relentless. Because so is the imprint. No immediate escape, as there might not have been during the original trauma. The pain is so devastating and militating to higher levels that the person cannot contemplate other options. Those feelings are terrible, and they say to us, “Life is terrible.” No it’s not, a therapist may say in an attempt to steer the patient’s mind away from desperate thoughts. But if we try to argue the person out of those thoughts we are using the wrong brain. Our words can never reach the wordless pain they are in. Yet counseling can be a help, although not a cure. It offers help against feeling helpless and hope against hopelessness. It means someone cares and wants you to live. Crucial.
There are some cases where it was impossible to try; further trying might have been life-endangering. Here lies the “loser.” Everything is too much and he gives up automatically. The whole parasympathetic nervous system dominates and directs, and leads him to a passive lifestyle. Why doesn’t get up and get going? He cannot. He is blocked by a memory of action is dangerous. This is not a fantasy; it is real history he is fighting and he lost originally and he will lose again. His depression deepens as he seems stuck in life and can find no way out. He needs to be led, encouraged; to have life breathed into him.
In many suicide cases, it turns out victims had suffered some sort of oxygen deficit early on, caused perhaps by a heavy dose of anesthesia to the mother or by being strangled on the cord at birth. And after an agonizing attempt to get born, death approaches and there is a sense of impending doom and then relief. That memory of possible relief is sealed in so that later in the face of utter hopelessness – triggered by an impending divorce, for instance – death becomes the answer. So an attempt at suicide follows. It is a memory of possible relief, stamped in, engraved that endures for a lifetime. It is the end of the chain of pain, as it were, the logical denouement when current hopelessness can set off the primordial hopelessness where death lurks.

How is it that hopelessness today sets off the same feeling during birth? It is again the chain of pain, the links between levels of consciousness. One way we see that link is through resonance; the current feeling sets off the same deeper feelings until the whole system is engulfed in utter hopeless feelings. And worse, there is no scene attached to it as it is pure feeling, naked and unadorned, the exact same feeling rising again to smother the person and make her suicidal. It is the most profound hopelessness. The current feeling, in short, has triggered off its progenitor with sensations of approaching death becoming paramount.

That early hopelessness is later expanded and ramified as the whole system and brain mature. As each new brain system comes on line, it adds its emotional weight to the feeling. But it is the same feeling with increased maturity and neuronal development. It is the system’s effort to suppress the feeling that produces depression. So depression is not a feeling; it is what happens as that feeling is blocked from higher level access. And when we unravel depression that is what we find: utter, unarticulated hopelessness. We get confirmation by drops in body temperature and blood pressure, a sign of giving up. That foretells a suicidal attempt. However, it can be felt and relived with all of its pain, which provides the ultimate relief as the depression begins to leave, at last. This is not done in a day because it is very deep, the end point of the birth agony, a cord around the neck, for example. This means that we must not trump evolution and feel it soon in therapy. And if we do not take care to go slowly we will touch the embed too early and abreaction results. Why? Because the patient is not ready for that much pain. We can only feel it as the body and brain allow, current hopeless feelings first, then the childhood compounding and finally, the first line, brainstem component where the deepest feelings always lie. I use the word “compounding,” because these are not different feelings; they are the same feelings laid down and layered at different stages of development, and connected through resonance. The child just seems unhappy and sullen and no one knows why. And certainly the child has no idea at all, nor do his teachers. He is in the grasp of that early devastating feeling that no one can say its name. It is literally “ineffable.” The feeling cannot respond to encouraging words because discouraging feelings take priority.
Suddenly, one day in therapy while the patient is feeling deeply about childhood events where he was blocked for whatever he wanted to do, he shifts into choking and suffocation; the precursor is on its way. It says, “I am strangling on the cord.” Only it does not say it for the moment. The patient is in the grips of first-line, brainstem imprints which only later can he give it a name and context. For the moment the patient only senses the physical sensations. As the body experience enters resonance again and moves higher in the nervous system, where words and thoughts become available, then he knows it is the cord that is stopping me from breathing. That cord has imprinted the trauma, and with the sensation of suffocation together with hopelessness and helplessness.
 How does he know? The inevitable concomitant of this is during the Primal he again sinks into deep hopelessness, and with it a lowering of core body temperature. It can go down several degrees, and, happily, after the feeling it can normalize and rise to higher levels again. But the body nearly always follows suit in these situations; not just the mind at work. And they never say, “I feel depressed.” It is evident in all of their demeanor. Even how they breathe; it gets more and more shallow as conservation of oxygen takes over during the session as the patients goes deeper, approaching the primal imprint. 

What has this to do with self-destruction, as some therapies describe the suicide attempt? I was discussing the difference between self-destructive behavior and suicide with a colleague. They are quite different, although you would think that suicide is destruction of the self, but it is not at all like that. Let’s take literal destruction, cutting oneself. This is a later ploy, making hurt obvious. It is a plea for help; “Please see my hurt. See that I hurt.” This in lieu of screaming out that hurt. And the cutter is not often aware of what she is doing or why. It was never acknowledged by anyone because perhaps the parents had no idea of that hurt or even that such emotional hurt existed. There are many aspects of this. Her feeling was, “I’m trying to let the hurt escape,” even when she had no idea what it was. She just knew it was inside and it had to come out.
Another woman, a self-cutter. told me that she cut because it took away some of the emotional hurt which was more painful. It had a beginning and an end. It was controllable whereas the emotional hurt just kept going on. She found out that it was exactly what we do; letting pain out: but in methodical ways so she no longer had to cut herself. The feeling has to be felt deeply to match the force of the pain involved. The patient is trying to let the pain out in the only way she can; make it visible and palpable. If you can at least see it there is something you can do about it. 
When there are later circumstances of neglect and lack of love, the deep imprints become compounded and cemented in. Those later traumas (lack of love) increase the repression and force unconscious acting out, such as cutting oneself, to try to get at the source, hopefully, yet unconsciously. But suicide is still a long way off. It is amazing how so often people cut themselves, unwittingly digging out the source of their suffering without even knowing what they are doing.
Suicide, then, is a deeper, earlier sensation/feeling with no behavioral possibilities. They are, indeed, two different things. Even though suicide attempts to destroy the self it is not, oddly, self-destructive. And of course, self-destructiveness it ramifies so that the destructive behavior takes on many forms, such as sabotaging one’s own success or always picking toxic partners. But it is not as direct as suicide. Suicide means one final act. It is not anything in the present that causes it; it is the result of a deep memory.
There are myriad examples of self-destructive behavior, but all the manifestations come from subdued feelings. There are people who set themselves up for certain failure, who always make sure things turn out bad, who drink themselves into oblivion or who repeatedly get involved with a low-lives they know are bad for them. Here the driving forces are nearly always deep-seeded pain. These are secondary effects of imprinted hurt. Driving with drunk drivers is a good example.

 Another is the case of a graduate student who could not get feedback from his professors for a paper he had turned in. After weeks of “trying to get through” he sent a most nasty letter to the instructor. For that, he was delayed in getting his degree. So he shot himself in the foot because he could never get through to his father and also because he literally couldn’t get through in being born. Being blocked from getting what he wanted and needed had set off a rage in him, and as we know rage is first line, brainstem originated. It is the seat of the most atavistic anger possible. He was helpless before this surge of fury. Resonance reached down and dredged it all up, surging upwards beyond control. He knew when he sent the letter it was wrong; this is what used to be called “emotional.” His emotions got the best of him. They weren’t irrational; they were real but buried deeply.


The Relief of Reliving
In Primal Therapy, we seek access to those deep recesses of the brain, where ultimate healing lies. First-line is always more powerful than later imprints; and they are the most healing, offering up many insights that previous behavior was based on. The insights that flow from first-line feelings are widely encompassing because they are the basis for so much later behavior. Reliving on the brainstem level means complete connection as the driving force of impulses are experienced at last. We connect, in short, on the level of the trauma and in that context only. Here we are dealing with the shark brain: no shouts, no wild movements; evolution has taken over. It means the patient has gone back in time and is living again what went on decades before. Then it was too overwhelming for a naïve and fragile infant brain to integrate. Now, perhaps, he is ready for it.
That is the true meaning of facing yourself and accepting yourself; not in the booga-booga, new-age sense but in the biologic evolutionary meaning of it, where the feeling is now integrated into the physical system. It becomes ego syntonic. That is the real meaning of becoming oneself. As the reliving goes on, the feeling is fully integrated and there is a continued drop in vital signs and body temperature lowers to real normal, rather than “average” normal. In this sense, “integration” is a new biologic state where the whole system can re-regulate itself. Normalization has set in and depression bids adieu. And no one has done anything outside the body. It all originated from inside. That is why I say that everything the patient has to learn is already inside, waiting. 
 In Primal Therapy, we get patients gradually down to those deep feelings that are so disturbing. And once those feelings are resolved and brought to consciousness, there are no more thoughts of suicide. Why? Because there are no more buried feelings driving the suicidal thoughts. It takes time, but when they get there, they discover real relief, the kind that lasts and lets them live.

I am not writing as the shoemaker who sees only shoes in the world but as a therapist who has seen patients relive birth hundreds of times and know what an impact it has.  Let us not shy away from a key reality of our lives and adopt a rebirthing therapy that is ineffective and sometimes quite dangerous. 

(2) Anand, K. J. S., & Scalzo F.M. (2000) Can adverse neonatal experiences alter brain development and subsequent behavior? Biology of The Neonate, 77(2), 69-82. Print.

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.