Monday, February 29, 2016
(After a long pause, I will be publishing the remaining articles about Epigenetics and Primal Therapy over the next few days.)
How Early Is Too Early?
In the scientific community, the question has always been, “How early is too early?” And this is where epigenetics is relevant to our discussion. A group at Washington State University led by Matthew Amway found that gestational experience in animals that sways the genetic unfolding can show effects for three generations. They found that exposing pregnant adult rats with defective sperm could engender many diseases, including cancer, in adult animals. Females avoided mating with other rats that were also exposed during gestation. And this went on, not only for the life of the adult, but for the life of their offspring, as well. It seems that the system knows how to behave given certain biologic deficiencies, and it does so according to what is best for heredity, what gives us the best shot of succeeding in life. So when we cannot explain some trait in adults by heredity we may have to reach back several generations to find the answer we’re looking for. This gives us a new perspective on so-called psychological problems in adults. When we do an intake interview of prospective patients, it has to be thorough enough to include the prenatal life of the patient, as well as their parents and sometimes the grandparents, as well.
Without clinical evaluation we can only guess as to what traumas may have occurred in the life of a pregnant mother, and what adaptations continue to show their effects in her children and grandchildren. Of course, it isn’t just that a mother underwent trauma, but that the trauma has altered her basic physiology and produced lifelong changes in her and her offspring. Did the pregnancy occur in wartime? Were the parents fighting all the time? Was the child’s grandmother depressed? Was she a heavy smoker or drinker during her pregnancy? These are all questions we should be asking.
And in truth the distinction between heredity and epigenetic “heredity” must be made, if we are ever to reverse disease. When a mark is made on certain anxiety-regulating cells, for instance, we may be stressed until that mark is revisited and relived. As I have noted, the process of methylation also can be chemically reversed by demethylation agents, for example. That leads us to believe that certain regions of the brain altered by drugs are the same areas that may be affected by reliving gestational events.
What is most important is that stress in the mother compromises the repressive system in the fetus, so that later it will be difficult to mitigate surging feelings. Low-level imprints from womb-life burst through the repressive barrier, overloading the system, and — in the absence of a cohesive cortex — result in difficulty focusing and concentrating, and problems learning. The prefrontal cortex becomes overwhelmed as it is pressed into service to counteract and hold down painful feelings.
Why are those early imprints so critical? Because almost every key adverse event in the womb can be life-endangering: low oxygen, inadequate nutrition, too much agitation, flooding by drugs or alcohol, etc. they all affect vital organs and change the system of the baby accordingly. I will never omit smoking, which is deadly to the maturation of the baby. Imagine being in the womb while a mother ingests all kinds of toxins hour after hour, every day of the year. Who can survive that?
There is a beginning to personality development and we must not immediately ascribe it to genetics. Epigenetics is possibly more important. Life circumstances wrap themselves around the gene, and alter who we are and what we become. It is those days in the womb that form the crucible for personality type; they all accommodate life circumstance. They pivot around the imprint; and when we take patients down deep we find the little nugget, the key imprints that forced all that accommodation. And when those early imprints are relived and all the vital signs move as an ensemble down lower, we know we have struck gold. We have found Nirvana, the core of the pain. Remember, there is no suffering in the pure state of Nirvana.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
There have been a number of people who have committed suicide who seemed at the pinnacle of success. So what is going on? 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 missing touch early in our lives we cannot feel like a success.
Usually because success and fame are ephemeral notions not part of our systems. Success is not a feeling, loved is. Fame is other people’s idea of success; it is in a way their feeling……admiration, humbling, important, etc. And why does the person, even most accomplished, 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, sits on top of the real need 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. 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. It seems that life is empty. There is no point; suicidal thoughts thrust their way in. The pain that drove it all is still alive and gnawing inside. It says, sotto voice, you are not loved and that is all that matters. You have failed at what matters most; to be adored, admired, encouraged, held and caressed. That is the malaise that speaks of something missing. “All your drive was to try to feel loved, and you are, but not by the people who really matter.” To be loved early on, is what sets the stage for your life; it makes you feel confident but not driven. It offers daring and enthusiasm and a joie de vivre. It allows you to try but never in desperation.
Symbolic love has to be repeated over and over exactly because it cannot fulfill. Why not? Because it sits on the painful imprint of no love; that imprint has only one goal in life; to be relived exactly as it was laid down. It will NEVER leave until it is lived again, fully, in its original context. It cannot. Its goal is a constant warning of unfinished business. The pain from very early on has to be felt and dealt with in all its agony. Yes, there is agony from deep, deep pain that was transformed into an imprint that 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 shake off. 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, rationales, understanding but never deep feeling. They get a bit of relief which the patient settles for; but no cure. So what does the successful person feel? Very little: Down, unhappy and unfulfilled. He has to with no other choice because those feelings will not leave even for mercy’s sake. 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 deep feeling plus ultimate understanding of what it is. Enough rearranging of the chairs on the Titanic. We must replace things to be healthy’ 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. Leaving the imprint and you are leaving misery there.
So let’s go over this again. When there is a basic lack of fulfillment early life, gestation and birth and infancy, There is an imprint of lack of fulfillment. That stays and is embedded deep in the brain, almost in accessible. But the feeling is imperceptibly accessible: feeling unfulfilled. And we drag it and it drags us into into the race for fulfillment. It has be symbolic because once embedded and out of reach we will fill ourselves with substitutes; symbols. We cannot know the real lack and what it is. That is why the system insists on reliving later in life. It understands real integration and liberation. And it finally stops the terrible drive to feel like a success. That is different from being successful. That is the drive to do things right. A little more relaxing.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
If I told you that the way you breathe is an act-out, you might scoff, so let me explain. Act-outs mean that you are acting out unconsciously and symbolically a trauma from the past. Allow me to offer one example: shallow breathing. When there was not enough oxygen at birth, the mother being heavily drugged and/or anesthetized, the drug seeps into the baby to shut down her breathing, she learned to conserve oxygen to survive by shallow breathing, she becomes a shallow breather; those who do so, just think that’s the way it is for them, and not a sign of anything else.
The fact is that it is a sign of an event that endures and directs the system in so many ways. And this extends throughout the system; so when oxygen is depleted during birth the blood vessels constrict or shut down to save one’s life. The result can be chronic migraines where the blood constricts to save oxygen supplies. This happens when someone is upset over something, feels threatened or is anxious.
From then on, we hoard oxygen as a life-saving device. The whole system is in locked-down mode. And this modus operandi spreads throughout the system: the way one speaks, bespeaks of energy conservation; softly, quietly, of being constantly in a state of holding back, which sometimes translates into conserving money, emotions, breathing. expression, etc. In short, by not expending too much of anything. One can become a general hoarder; ”I cannot be without....otherwise, I will die” (Originally….without enough oxygen my life is in danger). Her life-time leitmotif is, “It is never enough..” and “I have to make sure I have enough”. The fear is I cannot run out (of oxygen, of what I need) or I will die. If I conserve, I will not be danger; I will have enough. If I have enough it means I am being taken care of and I won’t die. This seems like a stretch yet so many patients report on this theme constantly.
In another case a patient harkens back to originally saving just enough energy to handle minimal tasks. She avoids being overwhelmed (again, as originally). She only buys what is basic and necessary. She only travels lightly so as not to be overloaded. A too heavy suitcase is a cause of anxiety because she fears she may lack the energy to handle the load. Her whole life runs on the formula, “If I spend too much, I will die.” And this is symbolic acting out of her original trauma. Too much breathing can lead to death, so heavy exercise is avoided. She prefers a simple life style, with little material worries so she is not overwhelmed. The less she has, the less she has to take care of, the less energy she has to expend. This person wants others to take control so that she does not have to organize anything.
What we have here are different modes of behavior from roughly the same kind of imprint…. depleted oxygen during gestation and at birth. Life circumstance adds to choices but the overall behavior has a single motif.
An extreme form of this is free diving; the idea is to go as deep in the ocean while holding one's breath, until one becomes a champion breath holder. And believe it or not, there are medals for this. Except it is dangerous and someone just drowned last week trying it. It is done without any oxygen at all, and experts can go minutes without breathing. The unconscious idea again is to re-enact the early trauma, coming close to death and trying to survive. It seems that the closer one comes to the limit and near death, the more one is applauded. It is the early trauma turned upside down. I wonder who instigated this madness? But one is attracted to it because it is a chance at reliving symbolically. Coming close to death and living. That is the paradigm, the leitmotif called "sport". So here we have different modes from roughly the same imprint. One embraces it and the other flees from; not even getting into an elevator for fear of reawakening the original imprint. It includes many factors; one is to dash ahead crashing into their imprint and conquering it, the other is avoiding it at all cost. In any case, it pervades every aspect of one's being. The counter-phobes find it and chase it, while the phobics look elsewhere. So free divers are counter-phobic? I would bet on it, but then again I don't bet.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Philip Seymour Hoffman died on February 2, 2014. He died from an overdose of painkillers; e.g. heroin. He had been in plenty of rehab yet it didn’t seem to solve his problem. It wasn’t the drugs that did him in; it was the pain. He was simply the carrier. Since he was the carrier, killing the pain meant ultimately killing himself.
And what was he carrying? Here lies the rub. Because he was carrying around a load of pain from his earliest months; something invisible, not obvious and very well hidden inside. Yet this is the epoch to be treated as well as later pains, and it is precisely the epoch avoided in all rehabs and therapies. Why? Because it is not obvious and cannot be easily ferreted out. These pains from birth and gestation lay down a basic strata of pain upon which it becomes compounded throughout our lives, a due lack of love and harm continues. We can see the lack of love, the neglect and avoidance, which can be treated; but the greatest force of the pain is neglected. It is here during the beginnings of our neuronal development and adversity that our nervous system becomes rerouted and deep agony is embedded. It changes the whole system and installs serious pain, which can last a lifetime. So when he reverses and goes back to drugs it cannot be a surprise. The pain remains and is engraved. He carries it around all of the time, whether he is aware of it or not. And it drives him to seek relief no matter his efforts at rehab.
It is not he who has failed therapy. It is the therapy and rehab that has failed him, all the while going through the motions of getting well, yet never touching the basic cause of his pain. I am writing about first-line, brainstem imprints, which we have seen and studied for over forty years. When we see patients reliving lack of oxygen, the inability to exit the womb and dozens of our pains we know what is being laid down. These are far too powerful to be left in the hands of do-gooders with the best of intentions. It is science that we need; including the recent work of Moshe Szyf who notes that these early pains leave a trace, a marker that carries them forth inside of us. And what we hope to do through reliving is attack the trace at the source, relive the pain of it and reverse the imprint through demethylation. Take away the trace with its load of agony and its memory. In short, remove key aspects of the trace that spell constant, ineluctable hurt. Take the pain away, not the pain of later life, which needs to be dealt with, but the lower strata that produces the exacerbation of the agony.
What does it mean that he did rehab? I have visited rehab centers where they really care about the addict, provide the best food possible, swimming pools, a whole new environment. And it lasts as long as the stay. Yes, it can last longer as the exhortation and new ideology implanted can carry him along for a time. But the demon imprint never, never leaves. It is not more concerted effort he needs; it is science.
I have treated actors and I have found that the greater they are the more pain they carry. They can be anything to feel loved. “I will be anything or anyone you want so long as you love me, “ said one actress in therapy. And why are they so great? The emotions are breaking through at all times as they suffer damaged defenses. They cannot control their pain/emotions, which makes them great and in pain, a pain close to the top at all times. If they get away from it, they are lesser actors, an unavoidable law. So whether it is Brando or Hoffman, it is the same dynamic; I will be someone else so effectively that I will be praised for the performance. And why are the defenses so weak? Because they were damaged so early in life as to be defective for a lifetime. The defense system can only hold on for so long and then the biochemicals of repression such as serotonin give way. And what do we prescribe for those in pain? Serotonin, exactly what was depleted in the fight against monstrous early imprints. It is the weakening that makes defenses ineffective. And when there is later compounded pain on higher brain levels, the defenses suffer again. And the result? Addiction. The constant battle to put down the pain from early on, and the added neglect, lack of touch and love in childhood. You may get “love” from an audience but it is not the same as being hugged and loved very early on. But actors are willing to settle.
So let us remember; when we kill pain we are literally killing ourselves.
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.