Monday, July 21, 2014
On Primal Memory
I think that Primal memory is of a different order of being from just plain cerebral memory. When I go back to my childhood and earlier, I am always amazed at the clarity and purity of my memory. Even with ninety years of experience it is if nothing ever happened to change or moderate that memory. I wrote recently about the lady who cared for a young lion and then put him in a shelter. She came back five years later and when the lion saw her he draped his arms over her and kissed and hugged her. And I had a Primal. It was the love I never had. The Primal began with no one was ever happy to see me (the lion seemed to be in ecstasy), then moved on to a scene where I was home and my parents never looked at me or talked to me and suddenly I felt the need……hold me, cherish me, tell me you love me…….and on and on……….the pain of no love which I was never able to articulate because I never knew about love. Until you get a smidgen of it, you cannot imagine what love is about. When I was a bit more open to my feelings and saw a film, Brief Encounter, I began to see about love, and I began to realize what I missed. Just to be hugged was such a revelation when I first saw it. But the point is that I was transported back to that lonely experience where every drape, chair and pillow was so, so clear. Every facial expression of my parents was so ,evident…. No life there. No emotion, no sign of caring.
I felt like I landed on a foreign land but actually it was just a hidden one. Hidden because the memory was too painful to be faced abruptly. But once I got there, it all seemed so familiar. I saw it with new eyes, new awareness and a new perspective. I saw it. And oh my, it hurt. That hurt kept me from seeing it. I mean how can you be acutely aware that the rest of your life at home will be loveless? How can a young kid accept that?
And when I make a pit-stop at my childhood, feelings take me down to the gestational period and I relive a birth trauma where I cannot open my mouth no matter how much I want to in order to get some air.
That experience with no words is also pure and untrammeled by later experience; it is like nothing else ever happened. And because it is so early it is imprinted for a lifetime. It makes us act it out. Never comfortable with a low roof over my head, never have any blanket over my head, panic when someone pretends to choke me, and I had to get out every morning for coffee in order to come back and feel relaxed. I “got out” at last. Getting out in the morning was my act-out. There are many, many others who have to get out and go, traveling all the time, making dates, having projects never relaxing. All the same act out. And if you tell those people who cannot stop traveling what they are doing they would be insulted and think you are nuts. That is because the feeling is bound inside the act-out and drives it. It is hidden through the act-out; i.e., getting out. It is the logic of the imprint and forces us to behave in certain ways. I had to go to a café each morning for years, never knowing why.
Worse, never knowing I was being driven by a memory 80-90 years old. Imagine! Yet when we open up the system the driving, imprinted memory just sits there waiting its turn to see the light. It doesn’t just sit there; it gnaws away at the system for years and years. When the cover is taken off, when we literally open the gates it can breathe life again and react as it should have years before. So when I say, I feel liberated, it is exactly the case. That memory has never ever changed. There is a purity about it that is unequaled. And when I come out of it, there is a great wonder about life and the brain. A wonder how Primal memory never leaves us ……….until we experience it. Then we have a normal memory shorn of its powerful impact of pain. With a Primal reliving, the lower memory then climbs the ladder of the brain to a cortical area where the memory is kept. It is not longer hidden and out of reach.
Why hasn’t it changed? Because it is life saving; the act out is a constant reminder of what we must do to live normally. We must never take it away from the patient until she is ready because it is crucial to our survival. The act out, which we do time and time again is talking to us, but sadly we cannot hear it. Every day, in every way, it explains what we are doing and what is behind it but we turn a deaf ear. So we go on interrupting cause we cannot wait…… back then…………now transposed to the present. If we can learn about our act-out we will discover intellectually, what the early imprint is about. It is right there all of the time whispering ever so softly as if it does not want to be heard before we are ready for it. It says to us, “you interrupt because you could not get out of the womb easily; so to wait means death is lurking. And it has such an urgency that we interrupt. We have to get those words out. When we reliving getting out, it all becomes clear as lower level memories join with their cortical counterpart to make sense of it all. I use this example because impulsive patients almost always have this experience; not my interpretation of it, but because I observe.
When we do experience it, even pre-verbally, afterwards, it wends its way upward to offer us insights of what it was and how it drove us. The higher level cortex now explains it all for us and helps make sense of its power.
This process should never defy evolution and occur with intellect first with its cerebral insights, and then feeling. It must always be in the order of the development of the brain—feelings first followed by insights. Those intellectual insights can never be curative without feelings preceding them. Careful, obey the laws of evolution because they are rather strict laws.
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.