Friday, December 23, 2016
Treating Depression with LSD: Cure or Hallucination (2/2)
In our research we had much more evidence of how the liberated pain militated towards the last cerebral defense; the neocortex to concoct all sorts of nonsense to explain the inexplicable…..deep imprinted pain that is preverbal and therefore has no name. There exists no words in that repertoire to explain what is happening. A true mystery which Is now whispered in beneficent tones as the ethereal mystical experience, acclaimed as an exalted experience. It seems ethereal because it borders on the religious, unknown, unexplained, out of reach of ordinary intellect. It sounds so sweet….. mystical.
Of the 20 subjects we studied, all took at least ten LSD trips and almost every one had trouble sleeping for months and months. Even tranquilizers could not lower the activation levels to allow a calm system. Is that helpful for depression? Yes of course, if we open up the gating system and release the heavy mound of suppression weighing down the system. Yes, it is a momentary release, but what happens afterward? Is it biologic? As deep depressive patients travel down into the nervous system there is an accompanying lowering of blood pressure. The whole system is approaching fail. Their feelings of impending death is not mysterious; it is truly a state of impending death and the body accommodates. And of course as blood pressure dips into deep lower levels, to accompany a system drenched by hallucinogens, there are feelings of approaching death and thoughts of suicide.
The massive upheaval of pain from the lower depths floods the neo-cortex, infiltrating it with such input that concentration is impossible. It happens to our patients without drugs when they have undergone an infancy, and earlier, of constant and chronic neglect and abuse. The mounting layers of pain soon become laminated agony that no longer can be integrated.
As patients relive these pains in methodical order they begin to eliminate their anxiety and ADD. The thinking inventing neocortex is the last developed part of the brain and called into service when all else has failed. In our therapy patients soon learn what it is and what needs to be done; not to call on Allah or mysterious forces but on their history. To follow messages from the underground that point to stored pain.
Why do I think these power drugs are dangerous? Because it has a lasting effect and upsets the equilibrium of the brain which is now structured to include what the brain already underwent in its ontogeny. Traumatizing that precious brain can never be considered therapeutic. Except by those ethereal souls who tend to believe in the booga booga. I know, I worked with them, including associates of Tim Leary, the guru of drugs. Too often their research falls on prepared minds who can accept the mystical and received wisdom with alacrity. The wife of the director of research took me for a walk while high on LSD. We started to cross the street when I panicked. I looked down at the curb which seemed to me to be a mile down and a dangerous fall. I backed up. I had no aftereffects from it but knew to use caution. For those who are fragile it can cripple the neocortex by opening the lower level gating system and allowing the in-rush of immense, unintegrated, very early pain, which can lead to serious mental problems.
The job of the drug is to open the gates. But out comes voodoo land; latent imprints from the deep interior that scramble any coherence and replace perception with all kinds of irrationality. Irrational thinking is an attempt to maintain sanity, to make life experience make sense even in a twisted way. We not only see crazy; we think crazy. We think in the same way that some think when life has piled on trauma after trauma from very early on. Scrambling is a defense operation that prevents us from facing reality; the early reality of beatings and neglect, of no love, of being sent away alone at an early age….in brief, my life.
Here is an example from a patient describing the result of a psilocybin trip before entering therapy: “On the trip sitting in a car looking out the window at the sidewalk which became a bubbling liquid mass. It looked like bubbling cement. Later on when I judged it safe to exit the car in a residential neighborhood, I saw an alligator in the middle of the street; these were hallucinations that contained the feelings of my youth: fear and terror. Here was a safe place so the unsafe place was bubbling inside of me. The alligator nipping at my heels was only the fear and terror coming at me in symbolic form.”
In my case, further use of hallucinogens would have caused serious damage. If I had continued taking drugs, I believe the symbolism would have overwhelmed me because the gating system would not have been able to recover enough to withstand more pressure. When preverbal (first line) imprints of pain are thrown up indiscriminately they first attack the highest levels of consciousness. But because the nonverbal content cannot be assimilated and integrated on that level there is an overload of unconnected Primal information. If pains come up in a cohesive manner one would then be in the midst of Primal feelings. The problem is that with the drug it rises in undelineated form, vague, putting pressure on the gating system. It is coming up out of sequence and cannot be anchored in reality. Therefore, it takes on a mystical air. The hallucinogen does not allow an ordered sequence to develop. It prevents a slow unfolding of Primal Pain to achieve proper connection and instead it opens gates widely allowing pains from several levels at the same time that have no chance of integration. Those preverbal pains thrown up by the drug, thrust pre-birth traumas into the fray long before the person has relived much less forceful hurts and has prepared the way to live deeper pains. That is why it takes month to prepare the piste toward the inner depths.
This is the origin of abreaction, which I have written about extensively. Those patients who come in and begin to undergo birth Primals are often pre psychotic and need tranquilizers, never hallucinogens. The level of pain must be heavily controlled lest the patient slips into a beginning mental affliction. It is very difficult from that break in defenses to find normalcy again. This is also true of those chronic users of marijuana. The defense system is called in to help out but it loses its impact after a while and there can then be a break in defenses with strange ideation and hallucinations. Defenses are weakened so much that often there is no recovery or only partial recovery. If they go on with seemingly benign drugs such as hash they may lose their sanity and fall into periodic delusions and paranoia. I am against legalizing these seemingly innocuous drugs because they can cause psychosis in fragile souls. And they do not liberate anyone or anything.
In some literature these drugs are classified as hallucinogens. A person first taking cannabis may laugh or cry more easily and seems more relaxed and less depressed. But over time he will pay a heavier price as mental symptoms appear, not always obvious to him. These are also openers of the gates of repression, but more slowly done over great amounts of time. Their memory system will slowly suffer as will their cognitive abilities. We want a free lunch but it is wrapped in a nightmare. Unwrap the fragile covering and we get open mental illness.
One serious trauma can produce it at once. Incest by a parent can produce it as the person who is supposed to protect you becomes the danger. I have treated several of these cases; the earlier it occurs the more likely the psychosis. In Europe I once treated the daughters of a Nazi officer. They both kind of made it until the older daughter found out he was also sleeping with her sister. She fell into psychosis. It happened more than we imagine among the Nazis. The trauma was “I am no longer loved.”
There may be many roads to Nirvana, but all are posted with same sign: Danger Ahead. You will lose your mind if you stay on this road. Only feeling is healing.
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.