Thursday, October 30, 2014

Compulsion: Another Brilliant Piece from the N.Y. Times

There is a piece in the NY Times of Oct 14, 2014 (see
about the devilish OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) where people are so driven that they cannot stop washing their hands or stepping over cracks.  It gets much worse than that.  Not touching any object if anyone else has touched it.    Not turning doorknobs or any handles once they have been touched.  And the sufferer cannot stop and never knows what to do about it.  Nor does the therapist who goes on year after year treating the symptoms and never asking herself if there are causes?  It is like treat cancer year after year and never seeking out causes. 

Come to think about it, it is pretty close to any compulsion, smoking, drinking, painkillers, etc.  They are compelled to do it and can’t stop.  An excessive fear of germs, is another example. So let me see: if you have to smoke you are not obsessive, but if you have to step over cracks, you are.  What if they are the same?  What if they are both ways of dealing with pain and fear?  Would the treatment differ?  Not according to the NY Times……proper medication seems to be the answer and then a bit of Behavioral Therapy.  The article states that people do know they are obsessive but cannot stop themselves.  What does that mean?  I know.  They ask, “Do you have thoughts that make you anxious?” 
They claim that painkillers and tranquilizers work but most sufferers do not receive evidence- based medication.  And then they need Behavioral Therapy.  They claim that their psychotherapy can work even when done over the telephone. 

And “The techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy has proved most effective”.  The patient, they claim cannot change his behavior based on new information.  Isn’t that the problem with nearly every neurosis?  Sex addicts cannot change, nor can gamblers, nor can angry, violent people.  Do they need to learn new behaviors?  Yes, but only if we neglect causes; only if we mess around the edges and try to change the result of an imprint.    What imprint?  Why the one that is discussed in most scientific inquiries today.  The one indicating that there are enduring imprints that dog us for a  lifetime and change our symptoms and our behaviors, to say nothing of our personalities.  

This newspaper article only deals with management of symptoms, and does not attack causes; so of course the therapy is necessarily limited.  And can someone tell me what “evidenced-based therapy” is?  The method is usually based on exposure therapy.  Where you expose someone to a germ, putting a finger along a dirty wood plank,  and help her not feel so anxious.  “You see, there is nothing to be afraid of.”  Oh, yes, I see, and yes there is---an experience when I born that was horrendous.  It was imprinted.  How about not stepping on cracks: does Behavioral therapy help?  Well I don’t step on cracks anymore but I smoke more cigarettes per day. 

    It is not thoughts that create anxiety;  it is the contrary, anxiety provokes thoughts.  

So if they have it backwards can it work?  
Can exposing someone to anxiety situations help them lose their fixation?  Or if I talk to you and help you identify “unhealthy” thoughts can you get over them?  Are the causes thoughts?  Or are they way, way back in time to where anxiety is the primordial response to life endangering events?  And that anxiety is not and never was an aberration but, rather, a normal response to danger.  The person responded to this threat with deep brain processes.  Namely terror, now called anxiety.  It is called anxiety because the connection between the early event and its effects have disappeared.  So we cannot see what causes primordial terror; therefore we name it anxiety.  We name it for its concomitants; its basic reactions, shakiness, bubbling in the stomach, not its causes. 

We are treating the wrong thing with the wrong brain, and we expect help?  Yes we get help with the reactions where we either change them or detour them or deny them through  “healthy” thoughts.  
So the cure for them is to change how you see things.  And basically, don’t look.

I have to repeat. There is a world of science out there that therapists ignore; and who suffers?  Patients. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Deprived Children, Adult Believers

To be fully loved during childhood gives a person enduring peace. I mean this literally since very early love brings our internal supplies of the gating neurotransmitters up to normal.  A loved child will have no need to believe in ideologies full of hope and magic.  Someone at peace with herself has no reason to go to faith healers or to be "born again"; she does not need to retreat with a group of people to an ashram or a cabin in the woods to meditate, chant, deep breathe in order to find peace.

          Children need to be touched, caressed and soothed.  They need to be heard, protected and made to feel safe.  They need parents who will allow them to express their feelings and who will help them with those feelings.  When these needs go unmet, the foundation of a personality that will grasp at belief later in life is being built. One key biochemical reason is that love enhances the secretion of oxytocin and serotonin. Both are the juices that suppress pain and keep us comfortable.  Lack of love means a lack of those precious biochemicals; hence lack of defense against pain.  Beliefs follow.

          The needy person may well become devoted to a deity who promises to understand everything, to nurture, to protect, and to supply all the unfulfilled needs of a lifetime.  This was the lure of EST some years ago (discussed earlier; a template for all later weekend emotional workshops). The leaders, who with the charismatic Werner Erhard, said they cared, while at the same time castigating and swearing at the members massed in a weekend retreat in some hotel room. They were called losers and useless, but if they tried hard they wouldn’t have to be, and the leader and his adepts would see to it that they got over those feelings that they actually instilled.  Of course, they instilled ideas that matched how the people really felt; and the believers desperately wanted to feel differently. They gave Erhard a fortune, to not end hunger in the world, but to end the idea of hunger in the world. Meanwhile the money went to some Caribbean island in a secret bank account.  And still they believed.

        One of our patients, formerly into belief systems, said that he used to fly into a rage when his wife didn't understand him.  He felt like it was life and death that she understands him.  He had an urgent need — for a mother, a wife, a god who would fully understand, hold and soothe him. He relived the trauma — a deep-seated need to have his needs understood, beginning at birth, a wrenching abandonment when he was too young to comprehend what was happening.  He could feel it, despite no understanding on a cortical level.  A need to be understood back then really was a matter of life and death.  His professional field was communication.

        One way that defensive belief systems come into being, even fairly early in a child's life, is when that child is taught not to express feelings, not to speak thoughts that are unacceptable, not to express resentment, jealousy, or other negative thoughts, not to speak badly of others, and never to say what is in her heart.  Once installed, the censoring process continues automatically.  The child comes later on to substitute ideas for what he or she really feels.  Having unreal ideas as an adult is just a logical extension of what happened in early childhood.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Alzeiheimer of the Heart

You know when in our young life terrible things happen, the pain is repressed and stored in the body.  Eventually, the body gives way and shows its damage; either in heart disease or (inter alia) Alzheimer's disease.  It is logical that the pain and its results end up somewhere.  And when it ends up in Alzheimer's it's not a surprise.  And what is that disease?  It is something the victim carries around and is unaware of.  He is as unconscious of his disease as he is of his pain.  And there must a connection between the unconsciousness that binds the two kinds of lack of awareness together.  Repression is the glue that makes the two adhere to each other. Of course you slip into unconsciousness because you are already unconscious.  The brain now just helps out a bit. It accommodates the whole process.

So what is it? Alzheimer's of the heart; a disease of the soul, which is already in place since childhood.  The person becomes ill without understanding that he is ill, and never can or will comprehend his dilemma.  Isn’t that true of all neuroses?  It is sometimes just happenstance that it becomes a mental disease and not that of the heart.  Those whose repression was mainly of feelings, who replaced those feelings with thoughts and ideas have the result of sweeping it all into the neocortex where Alzheimer's resides; using too much brain power in repression.  So thoughts and concepts take the place of feelings, but the force of those feelings is still there to drive ideas.  And that force eventuates in disease.  What is terribly tragic in all this is the unconscious factor; to drop into a disease without knowing it and losing all contact with humanity; first, your own, and then, with others.  Alzheimer's is a simple continuum of losing awareness, losing contact and eventually losing your life.  You die without once knowing what is happening to you; that is just terrible.

It also depends on many factors but it is often the place of vulnerability of organs and organ systems;  kidneys, liver, stomach, etc.  Repression means holding down pain, a counter pressure against the rising force of feeling.  Of course the body suffers.  Repression is not a benign force. It uses key chemicals in its service such as oxytocin and serotonin.  To say nothing of adrenaline and cortisol.  All those chemical changes wreak havoc with the physical system.  We already have evidence of this is a beginning study of Alzheimer's and very early pain. It is a study we shall begin anew soon.  But, in general,  those who lose touch with their feelings can treat others in horrendous ways because they cannot feel the effects of what they are doing.  So a well-known Republican can leave his wife who just came down with cancer, without a scintilla of remorse or regret.  His wants and needs take precedence over all else.  What matters is what he wants and only that.  Or a husband leaves his wife and refuses to pay alimony.  She has three kids, no skills, no money and is totally lost.  He has no remorse that he leaves his children to starve;  Why?  Repressed and alienated from feelings.  He is basically a robot, like an Alzheimer's patient.  There is no more top level connection to feelings that makes him aware of the effects of what he is doing.  Worse, he can never hold or touch his children because he cannot feel for or with them.  The beginning of many of the ills of society.  And why has conventional psychotherapy not changed in one hundred years, except cosmetically?  Yep.  No touch with their feelings, themselves and in their therapy.  They do not see the effects or results of their therapy because these results are couched in terms of ideas, healthy notions which they think signals change.  It doesn’t.

Friday, October 10, 2014

More on the Levels of Consciousness

 Years ago, when observing Primals, I noticed that there was, first of all, a resonance where one level triggered off similar feelings on lower levels.  This was not random; it was as if the system were reaching back in its memory bank to find help and/or a more efficient defense to combat current trauma. It was reaching into its memory to find the best solution. To combat and adapt.  It reaches to see what we did before when the going got tough.

 So first, it drops to childhood to find answers and ultimately it reaches down to the brainstem to see how we handled danger and threat,  originally.  Back years I noted that a woman whose car ran off the road,  totally froze and could not take the wheel to save her life.  It was the parasympathetic nervous system that dominated.    The other example I used was the man whose business was failing and decided to use up all his money pursuing a useless lawsuit; he was constantly aggressive and fighting all the time.  He was driven by his brainstem survival mode of struggle.  He could not stop because “stop” meant death.  There are variations to all of this, but the point is that we revert to lower brain levels in the face of danger.

 Why is this so important?  New research that tells us that, (“Cancer evolved to protect us.”  Scientific American, Oct. 2, 2014. Z. Meraldi, see  What?  We get cancer as a means of protection and adaptation for survival?  It could be.

 They want to go back to evolution to explain the appearance of cancer.  And guess what?  They recommend treatment with oxygen, inter alia.  They never said or knew that perhaps oxygen deprivation during gestation could be one cause of afflictions.  They simply tried to rethink cancer from the “bottom up.”  (Paul Davies, Arizona State, C. Lineweaver, National University of Canberra and Mark Vincent, London Health Sciences).

 And we think first, from the bottom up and then the top down.  For example, we take a certain belief and trace it down through the patient’s feelings. We know how the feeling builds into belief systems later on and how to treat it, if it indeed needs treating.  Resonance works in both directions at all times.  Without this concept I don’t know how anyone could treat a patient.

 Let’s get back to cancer; even though I think the concept applies to many catastrophic diseases, meaning that they have their origin when threats were life-endangering and catastrophic.  And catastrophic input usually means catastrophic output, or symptoms.  That is why Alzheimers Disease has, in my opinion,  such early beginnings.  And why the worst diseases are so opaque; they have very, very early origins.  And we cannot imagine that womb-life predominates.  Experience before we have words to explain to doctors seems so distant and non-verifiable.

 Oops, I said I was getting back to cancer, so I’d better.  Here is what the article says: “The effects of oxygen levels on cancer have been independently investigated for many years and appear to support Davies’  ideas.”  They noted that slightly elevate oxygen levels can begin to induce leukemia cell death without harming normal cells.  When they supplied a little extra oxygen it helped in cancer therapy with human patients.

 They also recommend immunotherapy to bolster the immune system to fight off newly developing cancer cells (research we did in England).  Theirs is what they call, the “atavistic model”.  When cancer starts to appear key cells revert to their primitive origins; and here is what is crucial:  when this happens, more recently evolved gene cells lose their function. Top levels, in short abdicated their function and ceded to primitive coping mechanisms.  That is my leitmotif, as well. Which is why the lady who went off the road froze and could no longer help to save her life.  Only in in my therapy we permit the regression and understand it as healthy, not an aberration.    And they are not driving a car while going back in time; and they really do go back until eventually they lose all capacity to articulate language.  We understand the bottom-to-top  top-to bottom relationships.  We need oxygen during the trauma and we add it now to treat it, even though the cause is unknown to so many.  It is called evolution.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rationalizing your Biology

I have said it many times; most of our lives is a rationale for our biology.  Years ago I thought that meant genetic tendencies.  Now I know better.  Most of our lives is a giant rationale for our epigenetics.  And that is set early on. Why not genetics?  Because early experience messes with the gene and alters its genetic destination.  And in my experience, which is now 60 years of therapy, it is epigenetics that really counts, building on the crucible of the genes.

The genes do respond but they are usurped by experience and their evolution is diverted.  It is the detour that remains and controls.  It looks like genetics and in some sense it is; on the other hand, it is not.  And what kills so many of us is EPIGENETICS.  You fate is sealed in the womb and at birth.  That seems exaggerated, hyperbole, but I think it is true, which is why we have to reorient everyone to much better gestation and birth practices.

For example, there is more and more evidence that some cancers and Alzheimers derive from womb-life and infancy.  And if those early experiences are so strong, they most certainly drive behavior; hence, neurosis.  So what are these experiences?  I have written long and hard about them, but let’s take one two.  Being stuck in the womb:  first, a  mother drinks and takes drugs and/or is excessively hyper.  The fetus cannot escape this. He is stuck, undefended and unable to run away and escape.  You may think this is rare but a speedy carrying mother is not rare. There are studies that show that speedy mom translates to speedy child.  Just as a depressed mom leads to a “downer” child.  These experiences eventually take precedence over pure genetics and  determine our lives.    Now, we compound this with a birth where the baby is drugged or blocked cannot get out and into life on this planet. He is stuck and blocked again: compounded.  So what does he do later on in stalled traffic or long lines for a theater.  He has to move, to steal a place or find a way around.  He is driven by experience, very early experience that is ineluctable.  And later, he gets married and his wife won’t do he wants immediately.  He goes into a rage.  He “cannot through” to her.  She is blocking his way.    You get it,  “epigenetics. “

These are not genetic tendencies but they do play on the genes already in place.

Another example:  A mother takes tranquilizers because her doctor says it cannot hurt her baby.  So he learns a depressive/suppressive lifestyle.  And when he tries to get born the mother is heavily anesthetized because she wants no pain at all.  But, alas, the baby is also anesthetized.  His being constantly drugged during gestation with the mother’s tranquilizers already sets up a biologic tendency.  Then he cannot help himself to get born because he is so drugged.  The whole biologic balance shifts so that he is moved to dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system.    He is a “drag” in every way.  He is not a self-starter because he could not be.  He gives up easily because he had to in order to save his life.  Too much exertion when there was so little available oxygen made things dangerous.  His blood circulation was compromised.  The blood vessels severely contracted to conserve oxygen and now we have the beginning of a life-long migraine.  Or high blood pressure, as everything had to be internalize and repressed.  And so he doesn’t like exercise, doesn’t like to go and do. Has little energy so that every little task is overwhelming.

Now this does like genetics but only if we discount experience.  And if you leave out epigenetics you have no other choice but to choose genetics.  Guess what happens in psychotherapy; yep, no focus on epigenetics because no awareness of the role of very early life experience.  So what happened when you were six? Is about as far as they go, and they leave out, what?  Epigenetics.

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.