Sunday, March 31, 2013

On Killing Pain

Am I missing something?  Here is today’s headline in the L.A. Times (March 30-13):

  They are discussing prescription painkillers.  Drug fatalities are on the rise, seriously.  These are deaths from overdose.   So how do the authorities want to handle it?  Limit the strength of the dosage and the quantity of drugs each day.  The USDA (Drug Administration) is proposing a bill to do just that.  They agree that there is great pain from cancer but they do not recognize much else.

  You know how I write about the scientific notion of antecedent-consequent relations?  That means that for every result there must some kind of cause.  It is the cause that is left out of the equation by the FDA.    They focus on the end result.  So here is what they say: “The data supporting long-term use of opiates for pain, other than cancer is scant to non-existent.”  I am not sure where they reside but it does not appear to be on this planet.

   There seems to be no recognition of emotional pain.  Since they cannot see and observe it, it must not exist.  I am especially angry at this attitude because when I had back surgery years ago, the hospital, St Vincents, had no serious painkillers on board.  Why?   The state medical board was afraid they might addict their patients.  So we suffered terribly.  This is because they had no idea what addiction was or its provenance.

  So what does the medical establishment suggest? Better computer control, tracking doctors who prescribe.  They have found widespread abuse by a handful of corrupt doctors.  And yes, they must be found and punished. But that doesn’t answer the question, why so much pain?  Maybe it is pain on the rise, not just painkillers.  Maybe drug use rises as pain does?   And just maybe there is a reason beyond cancer (as they assume) for pain.

 Clearly they have no notion of imprinted memory nor the kinds of great pain occasioned while we are in the womb and at birth.  Indeed they do not recognize emotional pain at all. So if you hurt because your father was  a drunk and raped you, it is not counted.  Yet the pain I see every day makes a broken leg seem like a simple inconvenience.   The screams I hear, the emotional torture, is never acknowledged in a culture where deep emotion is suspect.  It is the General George Patton syndrome, get on with it, buck up and move on.   I cannot believe this attitude in this day and age.

These officials are well defended and cannot empathize with those who are not.  Those in power have to defend well to climb the corporate ladder.  As I  say, those who drink alcohol pass laws prohibiting the use of drugs for others.  They would never consider alcohol a drug like Vicodin so they can vote to outlaw it.  But if we voted “no alcohol” we would hear them scream.

   So someone goes for back surgery and the hospital does offer painkillers, why does he get addicted? Because there is still more pain inside: emotional pain. That has to be quieted too.   So he finally gets something to ease suffering he was never aware of before, pain from childhood.   And for the first time, since emotional pain is not recognized, he gets something that makes him feel much better.  Why shouldn’t he take that drug?  I know, because the powers that be do not acknowledge emotions.

     If we could once understand that early pain persists, is powerful and drives us, then we could comprehend what addiction is.   It is the antecedent piece that is missing.  But once we do understand then we can do something about it, something effective and long lasting; we could remove the pain from the system at last.

    We cannot treat something we don’t recognize so we repress it.  It will eventually kill the person prematurely. Those in power steal our lives; and they have no right to.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Difference between Reform and Revolution

The difference between Primal and the other psychotherapies is that the others are reformists and we are revolutionists.  So what does that mean?  In reform, the power structure, the current professional zeitgeist is left intact and one works within it.  No basic change.  In a revolutionary approach the current professional zeitgeist is overthrown and we do not work with that structure.  So one is able to make moderate change without changing anything; and the other is changing everything.  What does that mean?

Leaving the theory aside for a moment,
It means no more 50 minute hour where the doctor looks at his watch instead of at her patient to see if she is crying or hurting.
It means a quiet, soundproof setting and sessions which are open ended where the patient stays as long as he needs.
It means a place where the patient is heard and not lectured to.
It means a setting where her feelings count the most.
It means a place where the doctor does not offer insight into the patient’s deep unconscious and where the patient already “knows” what is wrong once we unleash the unconscious.
It means the patient is the final arbiter.

   The above means a revolutionary structure where the whole setting is conducive to feeling, not to endless discussion, a bavardage (endless esoteric discussion)  between patient and doctor that goes nowhere.   The point being that we cannot conduct a revolutionary therapy in a conventional setting.  Way back when, I tried that, with expensive Spanish furniture, which was soon was full of holes.

   Reform does not question the status quo but works within it.  But neurosis is obdurate and will hang on, dictating behavior and symptoms no matter how we try to change them.  And when we are reformists we are forced to be tinkerers. There is no choice.  The reason is that neurosis is systemic, taking in all of us, and it is everywhere.  When we try to change it we must take into account the entire system, not just something here and there that we try to control and change.  In reform we can only treat piecemeal because we are inside the defense system, working within the neurosis.  So, accordingly there must be an experiential therapy that encompasses all of us, something that begins with the brain and history as they affect how we act.  If we do not do that then the symptom or behavior will return over and over again as in drinking and smoking or taking drugs.  We can submit to a here-and-now therapy that begins with the symptom and not the person and can drive the symptom  away, usually underground, falsely believing we have made progress.  All this means that we ignore history and the imprint of the history in the brain and find this technique or another to combat the symptom or behavior.

   In reform , we push the symptom down either through that bavardage I mentioned, or through medication which is designed to push back feelings.  We need to reverse that approach and liberate, not suppress the person.  And what does liberation mean?  That unmet needs have finally been attended to.   It is filling unfulfilled needs that are crucial in a liberated society, which is also true in the personal realm, getting to need.  If there is no focus on need, there is perforce a reactionary therapy no matter what name we give it.  When we understand the brain more,  particularly the neo-cortical brain, we see that one of its  functions is to use language to suppress feelings.  And indeed, in history one reason we evolved from feelings to ideas, I believe, is to have a system where we can disengage from ourselves and split off from feelings that are very painful.  We can flee to our “head,”  leaving our body behind.

   Let’s take an example:  heavy drinking.    The person can go to center after center for rehabilitation.  No matter what the rehab does, it is never revolutionary; they are  busy getting results in a  hurry.  Their historical causes are rarely here and now, but sequestered through a long evolution of our lives.  We need to allow for “evolutionary” time getting down there.   Rehab is not designed to do that.  Getting down deep in the brain means getting to generating sources and that may well mean overthrowing the imprinted memory.  It means ultimately reversing the imprint so that we are no longer driven by it.  This means altering the brain circuitry.  Changing structure and function.   It means basic change in our biochemistry, as well.

Any therapy that is not experiential can succeed.  There are therapies that pretend to focus on the body, but that is to the exclusion of the brain.    And there are so-called feeling therapies, such as Gestalt, that still focus on the present, encouraging  screaming but it still remains in the present.   We must always keep revolution in mind in therapy because once we try to change a specific pattern of behavior, we are ignoring evolution.

    All this means overthrowing who we are; the face we present to the world.  When patients get to deep feelings their faces change. The look different, because they are different.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

On Need Need Need

I will tell you a personal story; you may have heard it before but I want to make a point.  When I was twelve I was with my pals down the street, just talking and joking.  All of a sudden their mother came into the kitchen leaned against the butcher block and began rapping and joking too.   I was so amazed that I ran home and at dinner I recounted this bewildering event; parents talking to their children.  I never knew parents were supposed to talk to children because mine did not.  Of course I was castigated for mentioning that I wanted a mother like that.  But I reflected on need; you never know that you need or what you need until you see it or experience it.

A young girl asks for something specific time after time only to be told by her parents that they cannot afford it. She gives up asking and buries her need.  Where does it go? It is a biologic need to want a nice dress to look pretty and be attractive to boys.   To feel desired and wanted and admired.  It all stays hidden and gnaws away at the physical system from inside.   Needs never disappear; they remain for the rest of our lives , as they should since they are biologic. Like hunger, when you starve while in the womb you may stay hungry and overeat forever.

A young boy is reared by parents later in life who really did not want him.  Wherever he went later on he felt out of place, unwanted and not worthy of being there.  He felt that way, not knowing that he should feel cherished and desired for just being alive.  And so he goes through life shy, timid, difficult and afraid of being with people.   He always feels uncomfortable.  He does not know that he was unloved; all he knows is how he feels now.  And he accepts it as that is the way life is.

I am reminded of this by watching French television where they showed the life of director Jacques Demy.  He had a loving family who encouraged and praised and never put obstacles in his way.  And it hurts to watch, even now, because of what life could have been.  He wanted to be a film maker from early on and they bought him a camera, attended his beginning projections, praised and encouraged.  This is what so many of us missed and never knew what we missed or that we were even missing something.   We are just tense or anxious and it is a mystery.  Where does it come from? From hundreds of experiences of being denied, discouraged and not cherished.  Not one special thing to point at; just indifferent parents with no feelings, not understanding needs and what they are. And who never realize that a simple word or gesture early in a child’s life can change his direction and begin to give his life meaning.

Our cinema rarely shows this simple side of life, of a loving family.  Too often it is guns and shoot-em-ups; showing the tough guy who is all about denying his need and eschewing gentleness.   It seems like a loving family is uninteresting; yet it is the essential of what we all need and want.  And once we are in touch we need a loving family is of great interest.

So how do we find need in our therapy?  By having the patient talk about his life and directing him to scenes where there should have been fulfillment of need.  Encouraging begging for loving, for holding for listening, for patience.  Then the pain flows even while the anxious patient swears she grew up loved.  I have had atheists pray to God not because of belief but to beg someone for love since the parents often could not do it.   And the crying is the same even among the non-believers.  Need is need and never changes, and unfulfilled need always brings pain. We help with the context then the feeling is up to the patient.  Patients are never pushed into pain, ever.  We accompany them on this incredible trip.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Feeling Is the Connexion

I often state what connection is, and one of my staff offered a slight modification and I think he may be right.  I say that connection is the sine qua non of primal therapy. Without connection there is neither healing nor cure.  So, clearly it is crucial.   If there is no connection to solidify the feeling there is no progress.

So what is connection, after all?  It means that while the patient is feeling and reliving she is connecting to the pain/fear/terror. Bit by bit as she relives and feels she is making a connection to something buried away for perhaps years.  As we feel we connect but not a random scream or cry, feeling something context; where it all began.  That is eventually where patients need to go.   Crying and screaming is relieving but not healing.  It is just a release of the energy of feeling without meaning.  There is a great gap between reliving and relieving, and this is the mistake so-called mock therapists make all of the time.  Abreaction looks like feeling but it is not; and abreaction requires that the person perform the mock feeling over and over again—relieving not reliving.

It is the difference between history where the generating sources of pain lie, and the present; going through the motions of feeling without its depth and history.  Remember,  we are connecting deep down physiologically,  feeling the  part of our history that has been sequestered.  And feeling the physical aspects of the pain, as well.

The goal of our therapy is to retrieve memory, not only of the scene or the place but of the feelings belonging to them; that is what has been repressed and held in storage, the pain and terror. When patients experience those feelings they become integrated. They are aware of the feelings even though they may not know exactly when it happened originally. It is the feeling that counts. Actually, I mean “the sensation.” Sensations pre-date feelings by millions of years. Previously their valence caused them to be repressed (otherwise there is overload), and thereby made them an alien force, unable to integrate with the rest of our system. When they are fully felt they are now part of us. It is how the first line connects. We connect, in short, on the level of the trauma and in that context only. And as the reliving goes on, there is a continuous drop in vital signs, arriving below baseline.

         We cannot make progress on the third-line cognitive level alone. We can become aware of why we act the way we do but nothing changes biologically; thus getting well only in our head. Our biology has been left out of the therapeutic equation. It is like being aware of a virus, which usually does not kill it. So again, connection means liberation of feelings in context. That last caveat, in context, is important. There are those who scream and writhe and cry out of context, as in an exercise. They make no profound change, but when the patient slowly descends to deep levels over time and reacts to the stimuli and events on that level with the neurological capabilities of that era, there is progress.

         One way we control our hypotheses is to measure vital signs, which we do with every session. Feeling the terror physiologically can bring down the vital signs on its own. Over time there is also a significant drop in cortisol levels and enhanced natural killer cells. (see my book Primal Healing for discussion). The key metabolic changes also include a permanent one-degree lowering of body temperature; since body temperature is factor in our longevity and the work of our bodies it is an important index. It all means that we are getting to the pain and undoing repression.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Information Is Not Knowledge

One of my colleagues, a brilliant neuroscientist has a great deal of information about the brain but not knowledge of it; that is, no deep understanding of what it all means.  Schools make this mistake a lot;  confusing learning and thinking with information.    They fill us with loads of memory facts about wars and their dates but never any real knowledge.  Like the cause of war, how to avoid them, etc.   Now in neurology, yes, it helps to know about the brain but how does that knowledge help human beings?   That question is not often asked in brain research: how can this knowledge help us understand ourselves and how can we devise therapies that will advance the treatment of mental illness.

  My case in point is that there are psychiatrists out there who have an intimate knowledge of the brain but promote therapies that do not emanate from that knowledge; as though the knowledge is compartmentalized and does not inform understanding.  Like the intellectual information stands apart from treatment.  So it is like two worlds apart, the intellectual and the emotional where the right and left brains never get together.  It is the exact mirror of neurosis. The two are barely held together so that information from the left side never makes it over to the right. In other words the right side preferences for therapy can exist as if there were no left side knowledge.  Thus one of the most brilliant professionals can teach psychoanalysis that has not a shred of proof and has long been outdated because it is concocted separate from neurologic understanding.    Yet another professional offers booga booga mindfulness therapy without once explaining how this merges with or evolves out of neurologic science.  The reason?     It doesn’t.

   In the same way that psychologists can construct elaborate theories about a therapy contradicting a good deal of brain science.   As though our psychology does not come out of the brain.  Not identical but close brothers who need each other, the brain and its psychology.

  I have met some of these brain scientists and I marvel how they manage to elude everything they know about the brain to tout certain schools of therapy.  But I shouldn’t be surprised since the therapies they adhere to come out of the feeling side which is twisted and turned by neurosis.  No they are not misinformed; they are compartmentalized.   So we have a feeling side that drives them to unreality while their left side knows better.  But if I know I shouldn’t smoke and still do what does that mean?  That one side cannot communicate and control the other.

  These doctors are largely repressed and live in their heads; emotions take a back seat.  So these theoretical constructions derive out of a repressed brain or a neglected one.   Feelings being neglected lead to theories sans feelings and without sense.  And each time they spout non-verifiable ideas that contradict what they know. Just as I know I should not drink (I don’t) but still do because my needs take precedence.  And because the two brains have not properly met.  They meet in our primal world and once they do we could not think of concocting a theory that leaves out half the brain.  A theory not based on facts.    Each professional has an opinion that may not be informed by knowledge, but rather by their history and emotional life, or lack of it.  Don’t forget why so many of us went into the psych dodge in the first place; to stay in our heads.  Don’t let the brain get in the way; just build hypotheses out of one’s neurosis.  It is safe and keeps the person in his comfort zone.  No intellectual is going to posit a feeling therapy when they do not feel; even though they think they do.  Yes they “think” they do  but that is a long trip from the right brain where they would know for sure.

  So we have a dilemma;  psychologists who do not have enough knowledge of the brain to be guided or informed by it, while neurologists who are not acquainted with the right brain to be informed and guided by it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Imprint and the Development of the Self

 One of my patients had parents who tried to stop him from doing anything.  From the start they didn’t want to be bothered with him, and they told him to sit in his chair, not move and not talk.  This was on top of a birth that was blocked and resulted in great difficulty for him to get out.  These two traumatic experiences during the critical period of development combined to make him unstoppable once he got out of control.  He became furious if anyone put an obstacle in his way.  If he was put on hold on the phone, or if in an office he was told to wait while they went to look up his file, he became enraged.

 He did not know it, but he was reacting to events that had occurred long ago.  To be stopped originally meant death; if he could not get out at birth he would have died.  He had to force his way out, and when later faced with obstacles he became overly aggressive.  He was fighting during birth and later, parents who never let him have his way.  His only solution to problems was to charge ahead, never knowing when to back off.

 Another patient had very different key personality-shaping events during the critical period.  His mother was heavily anesthetized during childbirth.  The anesthetic entered his system, depriving him of oxygen.  In order to survive, he had to conserve energy and not use too much oxygen.  In other words, to save himself his system slowed down to a passive, waiting state, a physiology of defeat and despair, as there was nothing he could do about what was happening (the anesthesia). This was later compounded by his childhood treatment by his parents, who never let him express his feelings or object to anything.  There was no use in battling at birth, and later no use in struggling for anything with his parents, which would have only made them more dismissive and unresponsive.

 In both cases, he was dominated by outside forces over which he had no control, and he had no choice but to give in and give up.  Passivity was the appropriate, and in fact life-saving, reaction.  And from then on, when faced with even minor obstacles, he would give up, as he did originally and later with his parents.  In effect, he would go into a “defeat” mode again and again, just as he had from the start; which was only later labeled depression.

 Both patients are victims of events, as many of us are.  Early experiences, during the critical first three years of life, largely give shape to our personality and our health.  The Catholic Church used to say, "Give me a child ‘til age six and he will be a Catholic forever."  It turns out that all they need is the first three years.  This is almost the end of the critical period when we become pretty much what we will be for the rest of our lives.  Here is where we become either optimistic or pessimistic, concentrated/dispersed, active/reflective, trying/giving up, reaching out/reaching in, overcoming obstacles/overwhelmed by obstacles, looking ahead/ looking back, goal oriented/floundering, aggressive/passive.  Because we are largely feeling beings during these critical years, without the + powers that come later, the core of the self is largely shaped through the warp and weft of pre-verbal and non-verbal processes.  Moreover, what diseases befall us also begin here.

 The concept of the imprint has been central to my work for several decades. When early trauma during the critical period of development is great, it becomes an imprint — a permanent state.  The suffering component – the part that cannot be integrated because it is too much to bear – is sheared off and stored.  This is the imprint, and it takes on a life of its own in our nervous systems.  It becomes an alien force, not truly a part of us, detached yet seeking ways of entry to conscious-awareness.  In depression, there is a state of chronic suffering because the person cannot translate vague, global suffering into its specific imprinted pain.  So it is that alien force that shapes our thoughts and behavior.  Some people literally perceive “alien forces” in the world; these are no more than their own terror, projected externally.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Primal Therapy and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

 This is from a former patient who saw combat duty in Vietnam.  He is discussing PTSD and how, as I have written, it is the background childhood that helps determine PTSD.  
He looked around at the wounded at his camp and shouted, "I can't help you," which is what he wanted to say to his sick mother.  It effected his whole life. It is a moving story but with Primal therapy's help he is now a recording artist.  As they say in France…."Chapeau!!"   art

"When I came for Primal therapy in 1980 I had a pretty full plate of Primal pain. My mother had been in and out of mental institutions since I was seven diagnosed with clinical depression.  She was  a highly intelligent and sensitive woman.  I always thought she wasn’t made for this world. I needed love desperately from a woman too damaged by life herself to fill my needs not to mention my siblings.
Yet she tried. I have a an old photo of her and I in front of some church in New Mexico standing  behind me with her arms over my shoulders, touching my chest with her hands when I was a child.
I was always trying to make it ok for her. If I could somehow help her then of course she would be able to be the mother I needed her to be. During the times she came home from the hospitals she would mostly stay in her bedroom with the door always shut. Then she’d be gone again for months at  a time.  Once I heard her yell my name from her bedroom and went into to see what it was.  She awoke and my hope that she needed me to help her disappeared when she told me she was having a bad dream. She was calling out in her sleep for her older brother who I was named after. He had died before I was born of Leukemia and from what I understood my mother adored him.
On a Sunday morning 2 years before she took her own life I had a premonition that something was wrong. I was twelve years old and this odd feeling was based on nothing but my own inner voice.  My father was not home and my grandmother was visiting. I went to my mother’s room and when I asked her if she was ok she didn’t respond but somehow I knew she wasn’t sleeping. She was unconscious from an overdose of barbituates. I tried to shake her awake and yelled for my grandmother.

 I remember my grandmother lifting her arm and just letting it drop which has always seemed strange to me. It was a cold unfeeling act. My grandmother resented my father marrying such a weak woman I learned when I was older. She despised weakness.
I walked out onto the open porch off her bedroom and stood there at the railing while my grandmother called an ambulance.  My mother survived because of me. I had saved her. It was a temporary measure that only delayed her death from suicide 2 years later. In my therapy I realized I was better off with her gone than alive. A harsh reality because I truly loved her. I believed my having saved her that one time set the stage in my becoming a medical caregiver when I joined the Navy at eighteen.
Navy training as a Hospital Corpsman was like academics had been throughout my life which was difficult. Focusing and concentrating had never been easy for me. What is now referred to as ADD.

 I enjoyed working as a Navy Corpsman which because of it’s reputation I could finally be proud of that achievement.  After 4 months at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego we were sent for another 2 months to train with the Marines at Camp Pendleton an hour north. It was a modified boot camp with Marines training us for combat duty in their Field Medical Sevice School.  Sidenote: The Marine Corps is a department of the Navy and the Navy supplies their medical care and needs.
After  working on the east coast at Bethesda Naval  Hospital where I was assigned to the emergency room,  I learned practical nursing skills. Along with the training of caring for the wounded  at Camp  Pendleton it was only a matter of time before I got orders for Vietnam. This was 1969 and all the corpsmen I knew at Bethesda seemed to  get  orders on a regular basis until it was my turn.
I arrived in Vietnam in March 1970. I was put in the Combined Action Platoons near Danang. It was somewhat different from regular infantry in that we provided security to the villages in our area of operation living out in the field 24/7. As a medic I held clinics with the villagers.

We also trained our Vietnamese counterparts who were like their National Guardsmen who lived in the area. We ran patrols, ambushes and  a few operations.  I can say I saw enough of the horrors of war that I came home broken with severe symptoms of classic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unfortunately,  it wasn’t being recognized  by the veteran’s hospital at that time up to the late 1970’s. I was turned away when I went in for help and told I was psycho-neurotic by the intake nurse.  I began having suicidal feelings that I was so immersed in that I planned my death a number of times.
My being a corpsman was all about helping others. I put my life at risk to help others but in war it’s so crazy and chaotic that the opportunity to actually save a person’s life was rare at least for me.  People were beyond help or dead by the time I got to them
I ran out one night at the call of  “corpsman up,” when we got hit by small arms fire from the Viet Cong at the edge of a village. An RPG or rocket propelled grenade  had blown up the corner of a Vietnamese home near where we were sleeping.  The person I pulled from the rubble by the wrists had no lower half of their body as I watched the light leave his eyes under the glare of the parachute flares.
I survived ten months of combat duty as our unit was being disbanded and I was transferred around to several platoons from Chu Lai up to Hoi Anh. I had experienced a breakdown while in my 10th month and went into the rear to seek medical care for the immersion foot and jungle rot sores I had on my lower back. I weighed 142 lbs at 6’3”. I was really leaving to save myself. I couldn’t function any longer and felt tremendous guilt at abandoning my platoon. I realized on some level that I was of no use to them any longer. I was sick in my soul being both mentally and physically exhausted.

Saving myself. I have understood through” feelings” in therapy that my act-out to help others is about giving the help that I needed.  I learned recently of something my father told a friend of mine when he asked him ( my father ) about helping people as a doctor. My father said he did it for himself. It made “him” feel  good. He got the adulation and prestige of being a doctor from his patients. For him it was all about himself which makes perfect sense to how I knew him.  I was quite different. I was as smart as he was but I was never given a chance to succeed in life. He hated me for being different in creative ways and I never gave up trying to be myself though it cost me dearly.
I wanted to be a doctor but it was as far away as a distant star for me in reality. I would have been quite different  from my father without all my pain. I found that I cared deeply about those who were under my care in the Navy particularly in Vietnam.
This brings me to a scene in group therapy that Dr. Janov was conducting. I had been  connecting to feelings about the traumas of  war. I’ve discussed it with him and  the fact that traumas laid down at the age of 19 in war are just another layer of Primal pain.  He asked me once if I believed there was combat neurosis. I wasn’t in touch with these traumas until I’d been active in therapy for a number of years.
I was relating a scene or scenes from Vietnam in group therapy and how hopeless I felt trying to save anybody when they were dying while in a firefight or on an operation. I was sobbing as this feeling  descended into how I’d spent my childhood trying to help my clinically depressed mother. This “feeling” culminated in a gut wrenching realization that all my efforts were hopeless both in Vietnam and with my mother. The feeling was:  “ I can’t save you Mother!” And I couldn’t save my pals.

I have continued for many years feeling about how broken I felt when I came home from Vietnam and needed my father’s help which never came.  Not even the V.A. system was available to veterans of that era unless they were psychotic and locked away on some ward. I found temporary help through a very kind, private psychiatrist who kept me going until I discovered Primal  therapy.  I made it out here from Chicago on my own private pilgrimage over thirty years ago and though not fully functioning am enjoying a quality of life that never would have been without it."

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.