Tuesday, September 13, 2016
We Are Specialists of Joy, Not Pain
Primal Therapy is no quick fix. We are attempting to redo someone’s entire life. It will be done in a slow methodical manner so as to never overwhelm the patient and make him suffer all over again, as happens with abreaction. If he can experience just enough to have a full experience that is enough for a session. We do not want him to suffer any more than necessary. He will suffer when the pain comes up arbitrarily, prematurely so that he cannot integrate it; the pain hangs there in an ego-dystonic fashion (Freud again), meaning alien and apart with pure pain that cannot be made ego-syntonic or integrated.
So why do we have to trace back our evolution again? One reason is that we never sever anything permanently in our evolution; we suppress the old and add on the new. Sometimes the primal pain vestige is so powerful that it exerts a constant force that disrupts our functioning. In my patois, the first line erupts and surges higher. Then it has to be dealt with and relived. I call it “intrusion,” an imprint so strong that it interferes with our personal evolution and our current functioning. We see it in physical symptoms and deformation of organs and growth; we see it in diseases such as hypertension, cancer and heart failure that are actually offshoots of the central damaging memory, locked in as an imprint, out of reach and out of touch. This is also the case with Attention Deficit Disorder where forceful imprints constantly surge toward the top level to disrupt concentration and attention processes. Remember, earlier, I explained that evolution always moves the imprint higher so that first- line damage may be expressed on the upper levels of brain function, where attention and concentration are mustered. Training a person how to concentrate is not the answer; feeling the force that scatters thoughts is the answer.
Once we lift the repressive lid (done in orderly fashion) there is no longer unconscious forces driving behavior and symptoms. And as repression lifts, the patient’s truth becomes self-revealing. Bit by bit his unconscious tells him what he needs to know, but not too much, just enough to integrate the pain and its information. His orderly descent into feelings eventually informs him of what it all means. Everything he needs to learn is already lying inside of him, waiting for discovery. It must come from inside, never outside, just as the feelings were laid down by the system and not by executive order.
The aim is not insights; it is change in all aspects of the person: his behavior, biochemistry, neurology and feelings. We are after total change because there was total change at the time of the imprints. We want normalization of the whole person. We are not there to give love; we are there, paradoxically, to help patients feel unloved so that they recapture the ability to feel and then can feel love when it is there.
If a therapist needs to be loved he will act out on the patient and give him what he, the therapist, never got. He has become a “pal” not his doctor. The patient feels loved, it feels good...and he loses! Or there are great discussions about music and art and politics, and the patient becomes an intellectual pal, and again he loses. He has been transformed from a patient who needs treatment into a good friend. Nice idea but very wrong. We are not there to give love; we offer kindness and caring but also science. We don’t replace science with pseudo caring. We adhere to key principles. The patient begins to suffer; we do not rush in to stop it and make him feel better. We don’t do him any favors suffocating the pain with “love.” His feelings are about real suffering. It must not be tampered with. That is the part he has kept hidden for years; it must come out and be experienced. Then we will be free; free of that pain which has made him depressed or anxious for so long. The patient is himself at last.
It is dialectic; he has to feel unloved so as to unlock the feeling gates. He will never do that with therapeutic approval and warmth and understanding. He will get that after the feeling, not before. When he has made a breakthrough, we rejoice with him. It is not just about pain; it is about contentment, ease and relaxation. It is about joy. It is what we want too for them; why else do the therapy? I received over fifty letters on my birthday thanking me and my staff for saving their lives or improving them greatly. That is the reward and the meaning of our lives. We are not pain specialists; we are joy specialists who need pain to help joy along.
There is a reason the patient has to feel unloved. He needs to go back to the open sensory window when “unloved” dominated. That is the essence of our therapy; travelling back in time and undoing the original damage. We cannot do any better than that.
Friday, September 9, 2016
Primal Therapy is not magic. All we do is restore a natural function, one that has been deformed and deregulated so that natural human responses are no longer possible. Take tears, for example. The average child who grows up untouched and ignored has no idea he is suffering. Nor any idea he needs to cry. Why? It is just the way life is. There is no love in the house; no one hugs, kisses or even laughs. Life becomes a grim affair. That was my life and that of many of my patients: the Silent Scream. Allergies aplenty, obesity out of control, withering migraines that are a chronic mystery, nightmares as one more unfathomable event. No cries, just pain. Cries are beaten out of children because crying reminds the parents that they may be doing something wrong. It must be hidden, out of sight and out of mind.
Yet, crying, in and of itself, is not the sole goal of Primal Therapy. The original damage, the deepest hurt that is so early and so horrific, is registered in an infantile brain that knows neither tears nor cries. Oh come on! What proof of that? We know that babies are not capable of producing tears until they are at least a few weeks old, sometimes a few months. That’s because the tear ducts of a newborn are not fully formed yet. So we don’t expect to see tears when a patient in Primal Therapy relives a trauma at that very early age, since the return to the past must correspond to the way we evolved. If the feeling is early first line, how could there be tears if no tears were possible at that stage of development?
In my patients who have descended down the neuronal chain and arrive at the lower brain and brainstem areas, there are no tears and no cries. The nervous system is not that mature as yet. There are grunts; if they use words we know it is “bidon,” which is French for phony. It is a false or faked effort to look like one is feeling but it is abreaction pure and sure. So what? So without feeling there is no healing. We cannot trick the system into a false piste (to borrow a skiing term for groomed path) that is only a byway on the road to feeling. These abreacting patients, coming to us from mock primal centers all over the world, do not get well; they do not normalize the biologic system because they are stuck in a false feeling groove. Hence, they do not restore natural functions because they we did not take a natural route to feeling. The system always knows what it needs if left to its own devices; when it is pushed this way or that it follows the dictates of someone else’s notions, which is often the misguided therapist.
The patient may have been pushed to scream and cry long before it is neurologically possible. So that tears are momentarily relieving but not curative. Abreaction means going through the motions bereft of feelings. Primals mean emotional actions derived from emotions. It means a context, not an action forced on the patient. Indeed, any suggestion by the doctor is apt to be wrong, on the face of it because it is emanating from the head of an alien source—the therapist. It has taken us fifty years to figure all of this out and it did not come easily or by whim or impulse. It seems so easy to do….if you do it wrong; and so very difficult to do it right. The therapist has to be feeling to sense when is the right time to help the patient down one path and not another. The patient will often choose the wrong one because it is less painful. Or for many other reasons. And he will choose this path over and over again until it becomes a neurotic abreactive groove which is chosen because it is a way out, not a way into the feeling. It has all the accouterments of a Primal without one key ingredient; feeling.
These Primals look like feelings but they do not smell like it. A good therapist can smell a Primal and more, can smell abreaction. The sound of it is hollow and unconvincing, like the sound of a political speech that looks sincere but takes those in who lack the emotional depth. Mistakes here can be lethal because at times there is aggravating depression, unresolved, because no one has seen, and thus corrected, the abreactive groove. This is often pushed by the patient who complains, “I am not getting anywhere.” It must be treated as part of a deep feeling, often pre-birth, where “getting somewhere” can mean life or death. Too often, the threatened therapist reassures the patient and himself, “you are doing fine; it just takes time.” He has mistaken the beginning of an old feeling for a current complaint. And worse, this confusion has settled into the patient who now believes that he will get somewhere. But where? He believes it is in therapy when it is millions of years earlier, in the need to get out; an urgent feeling that has to be faced for what it is. The doctor and patient have now missed what brain we are working with.
And here lies one key difference between Primal and other therapies: ours will lead to resolution, the others will lead to palliation. One is curative and the other is simple soothing. Why curative? Because we are restoring natural functions. And we have seen this in our research where we have elevated the natural killer cells that combat cancer significantly. If we cannot restore nature and natural reactions in our patients we cannot speak of cure. The immune system has to be able to carry on its natural functions. It too has to be normal and/or approaching normal function. We cannot take a single function and make it normal and then imagine that we have normalized the system. We must normalize the system as an integrated biologic event.
What if we do not know we should cry? As we discuss our past with a feeling therapist the body will do all the informing. Why? Because we can now react normally and that always means tears, not just analysis of why there are tears. “Why” is far too cerebral for the process of cure. It has to be out of experience; we are offering experience to those who have lacked it. That is already a lot.
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.