Tuesday, April 28, 2015
One of the great mysteries escapes most of us: why is this child so anxious and out of control, so incapable of doing school work, and mostly hangs out with the wrong people? Gets in trouble all the time, several auto accidents, takes drugs and cannot be counted on. Recognize him? He is your neighbor, the guy down the street or the person who works next to you. He is unstable and cannot do anything , any project or task, for any length of time. He is anxious and skittish and very unreliable. He, and less often she, flits around and cannot be pinned down. Often leaves a trail of destruction everywhere he goes. He can be charming on the surface but when it gets deeper he is a mess. Cannot keep a relationship for any length of time. Never count on him; cause his word means nothing.
Yet he had stable loving parents who continue to blame themselves.
So what is wrong? He suffers from ineffable damage so early as to be unimaginable. It is ineffable and inexplicable for a reason: it is damage done before we were verbal, and before we had language. The mind of this person seems like a cesspool of inputs that drive him hither and yon. What inputs? The damage inflicted by an unsuspecting mother who drinks many cups of coffee a day, or is highly anxious, keeps on an unhealthy diet, drinks alcohol, etc. Each piece of damage is imprinted and sends its message through the system that there is impairment there. It keeps the mind busy dealing with all that information, which is ultimately distracting and plays into ADD, attention deficit disorder. It is like a phone operator sending the top level brain unending messages which overwhelm its possibilities for integration. It is, ultimately, the imprint. It is covered over, repressed, hidden, but its energy sprouts everywhere. And it is the energy component that cannot be stopped. We give tranquilizers to block its spread but that is only a temporary measure. Energy is now free-floating; traveling to the top level thinking area and also to deeper levels of the brain. It agitates and aggravates. It is the signal left behind that warns, "danger, ahead." And believe it or not, the closer we get to it, the more danger it signals; higher blood pressure, body temp and heart rate, all activated against the danger: of what? Terrible pain ahead, lying in wait; a danger so volatile and impacting that seems life-endangering, which it was and is. It is again, the memory, the imprint that frames the damage lying in wait to be fully felt. And why all those complications? Because liberation lies just on the other side; freedom to be out of pain and no longer driven incessantly.
He is often labeled a psychopath because on the way in the womb towards life on the planet, his limbic/feeling system has been damaged and he no long can feel for others nor empathize. The imprint impairs the limbic/feeling system from keeping feelings alive and expressive because it too is flooded with damage information. It keeps him from being stable and being able to maintain a long-term emotional relationship. The damaged limbic system won’t allow long-term emotional commitment. And the developing brain begins to lose its adaptability and plasticity in infancy so that the earlier damage cannot be changed. Any intervention to be effective at all must occur during the brain’s most dynamic growth, just after a trauma occurs. After that not much can change. The cure lies at the spot and time of the damage; and that is often during brainstem development and inchoate limbic evolution. That is why it is all a mystery; its origin is so remote as to be unbelievable. Yet there it lies with methylation traces signaling damage. And those memory imprints are traceable and knowable, not in the language of our culture but of the archaic language of our remote ancestors. We are going back to meet them millions of years ago, communicating in their language of grunts and physical signs. We don't have to travel back a million years because that time is imprinted in our nervous system. We go back there through a descent through ontology, the evolution of our species. And when we are down at the beginnings of brainstem evolution we arrive at a time when sharks ruled. And we must learn to recognize the shark influences and talk their language; and never approach too quickly and abruptly for fear of evoking great terror. That animal and his simple brain is easily disrupted and rendered dangerous. If we want psychosis to appear we do rebirthing and then see the flooding, and inundation of the neo-cortex at work, creating delusions to avoid the real pain. Then "he is one with the cosmos," and other fabrications as the cortex is devilishly busy concocting ideas to fend off the brainstem terror and pain. He has now risen above the pain and lives in a schizophrenic world where all is wonderful. It is easy to see that here psychosis is a good defense, and perhaps the last one on the road to serious psychosis.
Even with his parents, who soon learn that they have little influence on him or his emotions . We may blame his parents as they may blame themselves but the damage is done before he was born, and they could even touch him. He is behaving as though his parents made him suffer constantly, which they did, only inadvertently. They certainly did not mean to but their own pain made them act in deleterious ways toward the baby; taking drugs, or drinking or smoking. And it happened during the critical period with the wide open critical window; which according to very recent research, demonstrates that the fetus is more open to pain and feels it just as strongly, if not more-so, than us. When the damage from an anxious mother, or one who smokes and drinks or fights with her spouse, is deeply embedded, inaccessible and practically irreversible, it is always the imprint. Therein lies the mystery; an arcane memory lying in the antipodes of the mind out of reach and out of touch. Who could possibly imagine that a 20 year old college kid cannot concentrate because of damage to his archaic shark brain? Or that thirty year old man is hooked on heroin because of damage that occurred when he was just beginning life? It seems beyond comprehension; and yet there is where real cure lies, and often only then and there. How we do know? Our patients go back there and relive the damage and solve so much of it, including heavy drug addiction. They never do it in a day or weekend; rather it is accomplished over many months. For that we need patience and a bit of science and a lot of evolution.
So we therapists have been taught to reassure our patient that it is not her fault. Relieving her of any blame but maybe it is; maybe it is fault by default; not in her control, at least not in her awareness. It happened when the baby could not scream, or complain, just silent suffering which shows up in force later on when he can behave. And he does. Do not try to control him because he is not in control, or rather, he is controlled by powerful forces sending out messages of constant pain. It continues to drive him in every direction possible. He cannot pay attention. What do we do? We drug him, not for what we think is wrong but to cool the imprint which has gone awry. What is controlling him is far more powerful than any control by teachers or parents, who complain that he is out of control. We drug his neuro-biologic reactions to calm him down. Sometimes it works for a short time, but not for long.
My God! What is the solution? To attack the origins of it all; I know of nothing else to do but to relive the trauma fully, as painful as it might be. To relive in small feel-able bits over many months. That, for me, is what we must do. Otherwise, we have to keep pushing it back, an endless affair. And we cannot just approach the imprint quickly; we have to feel many other feel-able memories first, and over months before we can approach the deep imprint. There is where the deep pain lies, we have measured it in many ways, much higher blood pressure and heart rate and changes in brain frequency and amplitude. That level of pain won’t let us attack it directly; we need to approach it with great caution. If we don’t we will get the effects of rebirthing: greater damage and more irreversible pain. This happens because we dredge up great pain which arises out of sequence and is overwhelming and can never be properly integrated. The unconscious is no place for charlatans who decide they know what to do and they don’t. Let us never lose sight of our shark brain. It is ready to pounce at the slightest intrusion. Let us approach with caution.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Now with the new work on epigenetics we have to ask the question which has the most impact on influence on us, genes or epigenes (what happens to the genes when they meet experience?). So maybe it is not either-or but both at once. That is how does the gene affect experience, epigenetics? It is obvious that genes affect the brain; affect our thinking, reasoning and understanding. But the genes and how they behave are dependent on experience. The genes interact and affect each other, as well. And they mix with epigenes to merge and drive symptoms and behavior.
The new article on this is reporting a survey of Swedish students, over 1300, of them, re: family history, sexual abuse, delinquency, quality of rapport with parents and many other factors. (see http://www.newsweek.com/new-study-identifies-genes-interact-environment-increase-antisocial-behaviour-291937)
One thing they found, is what we find; those females who had an abusive childhood have a high activity variant of the MAOA gene. That translated into enhanced ant-social behavior. The MAOA gene is a brain enzyme that breaks down certain elements (serotonin) and releases energy. Those who carry low serotonin variant and who had bad childhoods were likely to be more aggressive. This is the result of the admixture of genetics and epigenetics.
What the genes do is not cause certain behaviors but form a crucible for living experience to play on them in order to induce behavior. If there were a loving environment then those genes will not supply the susceptibility to delinquency. So we begin to see how experience interacts with genetics to produce who we are and what symptoms we will suffer. It is not that we didn’t already know about this, but we now begin to have research evidence to confirm it.
So is criminal behavior genetic? Yes, in part, and no, in another part. If we leave out experience then we only have half the story. And if we confine our research to one part we will go off-track. When we hear that something is genetic we need to hear the whole story. In our therapy we get the whole story because we see the whole person reacting. And when we extract a load of pain from him or her, we see what is left. It gives us a better view of what is genetic and non-genetic.
Is homosexuality genetic? We have successfully treated it, which makes the assumption that it is a disease. Let me clarify: in every neurosis there is a detour or a dysfunction of certain biologic and neurologic elements. Sometimes it feminizes the man. I have cited many animal studies to support this view, and the fact that with no special intent we have altered this tendency in only some patients. As the sexual apparatus begins to mature, there can be experience that changes the sexual orientation. Yes, but my patients say, but I have felt this way all of my life. And I say, I agree but the dysfunction may largely predate memory and verbal explanation. In other words the changes can begin in the womb and accumulate during the birth process and for a few years afterwards. I have no stake in whether it is genetic or not, but experience dictates to me the experiential factors that may play a role, and only in some cases. After all, we do not treat every homosexual patient for his or her sexual orientation; most do not want to change sexual orientation at all, but simply want to get rid of their depression, anxiety or anger. We do not dictate what aspect is to be treated. The patient dictates and we follow. In the cases of change we never started out to change any orientation; it came as a surprise. When this happened I asked a female patient what will you do now with your lover? She said we won’t be lovers but we will be close friends, just as we always have. I should add that without descending down deep in the brain where the imprinted culprit lives, it is most often impossible to change anyone in any profound way.
All this is a way of saying "chacun sa vie", everyone his own life and chooses how she or he wants to live it. I have no grand scheme for anyone, and no special style of life for anyone. If they want to start college, that is fine. If they don’t, that is also fine. It is their life and not mine to direct it. I never tell them they should get married or divorced. When they get themselves back they will decide, usually wisely. What a relief for me and my therapists, and what a relief for patient who does not need to follow anyone’s dictates. Not to have to live up to anyone else’s values or desires. Everyone relax!
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
I have been looking over some animal research on evolution. There are literally thousands of studies but two stood out for me. The first, done in the early twentieth century, and the second very recently.
In Russia, mid 20th century they took a group of wolves who generally remain wolves throughout their lives and do not change easily into pussy cats, and selected out those who were most gentle when approached. They were raised with care and gentleness as you would a dog. Guess what happened in one lifetime? They became dogs. They had a different coat, many different colors and shades, their hormones and bone structure was different, their behavior tame and playful, and above all, they looked like dogs with the same hair and faces. They had changed biologically in every way.
Second research: they took a group of fish and lowered the water level for them until they needed to walk rather than swim. They became almost bipeds. Their feet and bone structure changed and little by little they could live on land. They already had some capacity for breathing, however. But in both cases we can see evolution at work, and at work rapidly.
Now let us look at us. Early life in the womb begins to inform us about the world we live in, and more importantly, the world we can expect to live in. And what do we do? We begin to adapt; we change in every way. If the mother is highly anxious and fearful, the boy can expect fear in his life and adapt to block too much input. He could be hyper to deal with that fear and danger and be wary and cautious at all times. Other factors during that time will shape who he is. If the mother who is carrying is highly depressed, the child may expect a sullen world, absent of joy and enthusiasm, who needs much stimulation to get going and seems motivation-less. His physiology is low and slow, low body temp, blood pressure and heart rate. He has been transformed into a biologic parasympath. (The parasympathetic nervous system will change its function and come to dominate). He will not be a self-starter; not because of heredity but because of what very early experience has done to change him. It is the same principle with the fish and the wolves. Early experience does change us in many ways. We become different.
Evolution should tell us that the same early experience that made wolves into dogs can make us into different kinds of human beings. It governs our future behavior, our ideas and our possible illnesses. Those rare humans reared in the jungle with no human contact do not learn to speak and react as we do. We are pliable early on, so when the mother is a certain way while carrying, the child changes to adapt to this key early environment. And that adaptation remains in force for life. We are learning how to get along, how to live with others, whether to be afraid or suspicious, whether to approach or retreat. We have learned what kind of world we can expect and be ready for it. Only that may not be the way the world really is; only a different version of it. And so one maladapts, living out his past world in the present; also called “neurosis”. He misinterprets because his view of the world is very skewed. And his physiology becomes neurotic too, to accommodate his early warped life. Allergies, high blood pressure, migraines are some of the results we see; and we change when we return to those early months. We don’t necessarily have an awareness of these depths but they are dredged up as we plunge deeply into the brain and its depths; a process known as resonance. Where each brain level is connected to a higher level, each level sharing information in its own "patois" to levels above. That is how feelings become transformed into ideas. Feelings await the development of the neo-cortex before provoking ideas, just as happened in ancient evolutionary times. Once ideas are in place that can be suffused and altered by feelings. We don’t speak English, we speak feelings that long ago predated English. We give those feelings a name.
My point in all this is that pain and healing are one. We cannot have healing without the pain laid down very early in the development of consciousness. Those who have never had that experience, which is most of us, will never know who lies deep inside. That means that those doing psychotherapy will never plumb the depths necessary for healing. If we want to be whole we must bring all levels of brain function, all levels of consciousness together. I am not sure that we can make dogs into wolves again, but happily, we can go back and be what we were meant to be if we visit ancient times and ancient levels of consciousness. Despite Mindfulness and other such nonsense, the neo-cortex alone can never get us there. It wasn’t designed to reach deep into our biology. Mental tricks are just that, tricks to fool our system. They do not endure and make no permanent changes. They are games perpetrated in lieu of proper scientific therapy. It is not the memory of pain I am discussing, but the experience of it. That experience is deep inside us. It will not come to us, except for the use of LSD; we need to meet it; to travel downward and feel what lies there waiting to get out and be liberated. And the minute we experience it we at the same time liberate it. What a relief!
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Who else? The deprived and needy self who is incessant in her grasping, social climbing and wants. “I tell myself I should stop eating so much, but I cannot seem to stop”. The needy self cannot listen because it is heeding the needs from below. It is all in the service of getting fulfilled symbolically. And the lying self does not really want to lie but she needs and has no other choice. Or someone I know cheated someone and said, “it is OK because I am straight with my God.” Or, "I don’t discriminate but the new law tells me that If I declare I follow God then I can discriminate". I assume that means, as it used to, “I don’t have to serve Blacks” for example. So under God anything goes. He dictates and I follow slavishly, and I am morally correct because I am not challenging God, I am his obedient servant.
But wait a minute, what about if I too follow God and he tells me to enter that store and be served? Now we have two Gods with contradictory messages. Who to obey? After all, no one person has a monopoly on religion. Suppose my God is Allah? Can I just obey him or is there only one God in the repertoire? Does that support the constitution on freedom of religion? No matter, he is my God and I listen to him no matter whom you listen to. Can two Gods have different ideas? Which one says that it is OK not to serve gays. What if the other God says it is OK?
Tricky territory with a very loose moral compass. And some use only the one that suits their needs. Why not get rid of the whole idea and serve all humans? Because the governor has the ear of those bigots who want to legitimize discrimination and make it all sound so religious and moral; how to turn immorality into morality with the government’s help. This is never to expand liberty but to deny it. "I won’t serve gays because God told me not to". Was it God who let you be immoral? "I’m not immoral cause I am obeying God". Isn’t that the same thing? God helps you discriminate, so it is not you, it is Him? "God is letting me exercise my free will to keep gays and Blacks out". Don’t forget that for many decades that is exactly what it meant: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” So the government is saying I will be complicit in your hate so long as you couch it in religio-moral terms. Then it is not longer you; it is just your beliefs. Oh no, that is not enough. If you hate you need a moral cover; so it has to be my religious beliefs. Since you can call anything your religious beliefs you are now free to do anything. Charming.
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.