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In this revolutionary work, famed psychotherapist Arthur Janov, author of The Primal Scream, presents the first unified theory of psychology and brain chemistry. Relying on years of experience with patients and a great deal of evidence from psychology and neurology, Janov explains how love significantly affects not only psychological well-being but physical health and personality traits as well. In fact, its long-lasting biological effects critically influence brain structure and brain chemistry in the developing fetus and the growing child.
Janov's central thesis is that prenatal experience and birth trauma are imprinted on our nervous systems, and if this crucial period of life is beset by trouble and stress, whether mental or physical, the deep-seated effects can result in psychological problems or psychosomatic diseases later in life. By the same token, lack of love after birth, when the infant needs the touch of loving caresses, can be as injurious to the healthy development of intelligence and personality as lack of food. Janov cites scientific evidence to demonstrate how the formation of our nervous system, especially the complex neural connections of the brain, can be influenced by the presence or absence of a loving, nurturing environment, both before and after birth.
But beyond analyzing mental and physical ailments, this book is also about cure. Through Janov's unique therapeutic techniques, he enables patients to relive those critical periods of love deprivation that are at the root of their problems.
This provocative, original work, synthesizing the latest neurological research and psychological theory with Dr. Janov's long experience of successfully treating patients, is understandable to the educated lay person and will be of great interest to professionals in medicine and psychology alike.
Remember, if you take the wrong train, every stop you make is wrong. That train gets its start very early in life, including gestational life. The train starts out in the dark and once the rails are set, we move on them inexorably to the end of our lives.
—Paraphrased from Saul Bellow
It is the task of History to establish the truth.
It is the appeal to history that establishes our inner truths.
The Structure of the Brain
The brain mirrors our evolutionary history. From the reptilian brain, which governs instinct, to the limbic system, which processes feelings, to the frontal cortex, which governs understanding and reasoning, the brain is a map to our own origins. This remarkable, self-constructed organ has been in development for hundreds of millions of years.
Ideas lie in the intellectual realm, feelings in the emotional realm. If a person says, "I feel inferior," she is speaking from two levels. The idea of inferiority is a top-level cortical brain event. The feeling of inferiority is a lower-level brain event. It is the limbic system that offers us the feeling of feeling. Herein lies the first major point: it is not enough to think about feelings. It is essential to feel them so as to gain the ability to feel. Feelings are our humanity.
If we are not loved and adored but rather treated with indifference and neglect in our childhood, we may well feel "not good enough ... not good enough to beloved." That becomes an imprint. It endures. If this kind of parental treatment goes on throughout childhood, then the imprint will be locked in. That means that all the encouragement in the world at age twenty will not erase that feeling. Encouragement—"You are wonderful, you know"—is an idea; ideas cannot change feelings. Only feelings can. This seemingly simple notion has profound implications. For if we are trying to regain our humanity, we need to regain our feelings; and we cannot do that through the mode of ideas alone.
To regain feeling one must fully experience all of the hurt blocking it, and bring the pain to conscious-awareness. Then an "idea" can make changes, when it flows out of feelings. Conscious-awareness strips the unconscious of its power to direct behavior. Ideas and feelings reside in different places in the brain. We must not try to make one level do the work of another level. We must not attempt to use ideas to replace feelings. The feeling of feeling involves specific structures in the brain such as the hippocampus and amygdala. Ideas about those feelings are processed in the top-level cortex, specifically the left hemisphere, forward part of the brain. If we use the frontal cortex alone to feel, we are in trouble. The most we can expect is a crying "about," an adult looking back at childhood, instead of a child actually feeling her hurts.
The forces driving our behavior are located largely in three different brain systems: (1) the cortex, which operates conscious-awareness; (2) the limbic system, which drives feeling; and (3) the brainstem, which processes instincts and survival functions. Imprints take place in different parts of the brain depending on their force and when they occurred. Very early developments, prebirth and birth, will impact the most competent nervous system at the time—the brainstem. Traumas in early childhood will affect the brainstem and limbic system. Later, as the neocortex develops, thinking processes will be involved. The brainstem is a three-inch-long stalk that joins the brain with the spinal column and is composed of three main parts: the medulla, pons, and midbrain. Among its other structures are the reticular activating system (groups of nerve cells that alert the higher levels of the brain to stimuli) and the locus ceruleus (a collection of neurons, or nerve cells, that activate the nervous system in response to pain and sometimes pleasure as well).
First, the brain is divided horizontally into two hemispheres, each with its own specific functions. The right hemisphere, which is larger than the left, is the site of feelings and emotions and of holistic, global thinking. Thoughts, planning, and concepts are the domain of the left hemisphere. The right brain is largely mature at the second year of life; the left brain is only beginning its maturation at that time. Feelings pre-date thoughts. In terms of evolution we are feeling beings long before we are thinking ones. If we want to go back in time in our brains we must travel on the appropriate vehicle. Ideas are the wrong train. We must time travel with the brain that was involved with the imprint at the time, so that a birth trauma may be lodged far below ideas and even below feelings; engraved in the brainstem, which is the most primitive aspect of our nervous system. This imprint can only be "explained" in terms of salamander movements, writhing and turning without the use of limbs. This is the language of the brainstem. Later it will help to understand what we went through, but we cannot skip evolutionary steps and expect change. This is my second major point: we cannot defy evolution in the understanding and treatment of problems. The brain won't allow it.
The brainstem speaks the language of high blood pressure, palpitations, and angina; the silent killers expressed quietly. It contains the secrets of our birth and of our lives before birth in the womb. If we want to know what kind of birth we had it will tell us in its own way. It will be precise and unmistakable. Its wonderful quality is that it cannot and will not lie. If the memory included a heart rate of 180 beats per minute, then in the reliving there will be exactly 180 beats per minute. It is one way we verify memory.
The last structure to know anything about ourselves is the left frontal cortex. Events early in life can be processed by the right-feeling hemisphere without the left side being aware. It must guess about feelings and is often wrong. Hence, misperceptions and misinterpretations. The paradox is that the most evolved part of our brains often knows the least about the rest of ourself and of others. I will endeavor to show how using the frontal cortex alone cannot make profound changes in anyone; this means that insights into behavior and symptoms is a vain exercise. Understanding is sometimes helpful but is not the sine qua non of personal development. It is possible to "get well" on a cortical level and yet remain "sick" below it. This is why dream analysis, ideas about feelings, is unhelpful. The best kind of dream analysis is to feel the feeling inside the dream, and all of its symbolism will become apparent.
The brain consists of three distinctive areas. The lowest level is known as the brainstem, or reptilian brain. Above the brainstem is the feeling, or limbic, brain. The limbic system translates instincts into feelings and sends the combination to the frontal cortex, the area at the top front of the brain. The newest part of the brain is the neocortex (meaning "new cortex"), the covering of the brain.
The brainstem controls basic, automatic functions such as eye reflexes, heart rate, digestion, breathing, and vomiting. It harbors most of our instincts and survival mechanisms. It contains our hard-wired needs. The brainstem produces the drive that energizes feeling. It adds the "punch" to feelings. Unadulterated rage and fear can originate in the brainstem and can move to the limbic system for focus or to find outlets in artistic expression such as violent images or stories, for example.
The medulla contains groups of nerve cells involved in regulating heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing. The pons sits above the medulla and is connected by nerve fibers to the cerebellum, which is a separate organ attached to the back of the brainstem. Sensory information from the ears, face, and teeth is relayed by the pons. Above the pons is the midbrain, which is the smallest part of the brainstem and handles eye movements, pupil dilation, and the coordination of limb movements.
Ideally, the brainstem, limbic system, and neocortex bring our instincts, feelings, and thoughts together harmoniously. Much of the time, though, the three levels are kept apart, crushing our feelings in a blizzard of ideas, for example. We will see how early trauma produces a blockage from one level to another so as to keep other levels from being overwhelmed by input. Very often, the limbic system and brainstem produce their own inhibitory chemicals to keep the message of pain out of the hands of the frontal interpretive cortex. This allows the cortex to think, plan, and go on about its business without too much interference from below. Sometimes, however, the lower-level imprints are so powerful that they break through the protective barrier; it is then that we suffer anxiety, panic, phobias, and obsessions. It is then that we cannot sleep, as impulses rush forward provoking the frontal area to race ahead to keep the demons at bay. The diabolic aspect of this is that the very same traumas, even in the womb, that require high levels of inhibitory neurohormones are the ones that diminish those levels. That is, the traumas are of such a magnitude that they damage the repressive system for life.
The lower imprints are constantly trying to inform conscious-awareness of things it doesn't want to know about. It wants to tell the cortex that it feels unloved and hurts, but the cortex is too busy trying to get love to listen to the message. It doesn't even know it feels unloved, yet acts it out every day. The cerebral switchboard redirects the message of "unlove" elsewhere; to the heart for palpitations, to the head for migraine, to the blood vessels for hypertension. They accept the message and translate it into their own language. If we learn the code of the brain we can retranslate the symptom back to the real information, thus extirpating the pain from its lodgings on lower brain levels. It means "breaking the code." That means acknowledging the imprint, the coded memory that may date back to birth. That is why the concept of the imprint is so crucial. Without it, we are adrift, unable to understand the origins of things or even that there are origins lying in the antipodes of the brain. We are then forced to place everything in current context. Yet we are historical beings, and the truth of ourselves lies in the history; and that history lies in the brain. It is knowable.
The Frontal Cortex and Feelings
The front part of the cortex sits at the level of the orbs of the eyes and is the top layer of the brain. Called the orbitofrontal cortex (OBFC), it processes outside information with memory and personal history to produce awareness, not to be confused with consciousness. Consciousness is defined as all three levels of brain activity functioning in harmony. When there is proper access between the frontal cortex and lower centers it is called "conscious-awareness." The prefrontal cortex, located behind the forehead, and the OBFC first play an active role at about age two, handling comprehension and reflection. Because few of us will be performing brain surgery in the near future, I am going to take literary license and refer to the OBFC and prefrontal cortex as simply the frontal area, or frontal cortex. The OBFC is largely the "stop" mechanism to inhibit impulses. When there is severe damage to this area we find restlessness, lack of inhibition, hyperactivity, and distractibility. This can happen without a blow on the head but with developmental impairment due to a lack of love very early in life. The cortex changes dramatically when there is early deprivation. In its place is a different kind of brain that has fewer cells to do its work.
The Limbic System
The limbic system, made up of several structures, is largely developed by the age of twenty months. The hippocampus of this system is fairly mature at age two, but new evidence indicates that with intellectual stimulation new hippocampal cells can be created in late adulthood. The brain can grow new cells, possibly for the rest of our lives.
The amygdalae are a pair of almond-shaped structures on the inner surface of the temporal lobes, adjacent to the hippocampus. They act as a kind of crossroads in the brain. Writes researcher Joseph LeDoux: "The amygdala has direct and extensive connections with all the sensory systems of the cortex ... also communicates with the thalamus.... The same part of the amygdala on which sensory inputs converge sends fibers deeper into the brain to the hypothalamus, which is thought to be the ultimate source of emotional responses." The amygdala seems to be the focal point of feeling, sending and receiving messages to organ systems via the hypothalamus. It also transmits emotional information, suffering, to the thalamus which then translates it for the frontal cortex, making us aware of what we are feeling.
Recent evidence shows that the amygdalae develop long before the neocortex does, both in personal development (ontogenetic) and in our long history from animals to human beings (phylogenetic). It is one of the most ancient structures of the brain, a site close to the hippocampus, also ancient but not as old as the amygdala. The amygdala is dominant in processing emotional information up to the middle of the first year of life. To learn what the unconscious holds we need to access this structure. It can be done.
The amygdalae seem to "grow" their own opium. They secrete opiates, which suppress pain and keep painful information out of conscious-awareness. I find it astounding that this piece of jellylike material we call a brain can tell itself to release a poppy derivative to take away the perception of pain. Moreover, it tells itself exactly how much to release and when, and also when to stop. Actually, it is not all that surprising when we consider that many plants that need sun to produce energy for their growth (oxygen-giving photosynthesis) tend to shut down when there is too much exposure to sunlight. The concept of overload and shutdown, in short, is something we can trace to plant life. For some plants, persistent and unrelenting sunlight becomes dangerous because it causes decreases in the rate of photosynthesis. Here is what two plant researchers say: "If the protective processes are overwhelmed, photoinhibition [my emphasis] will decrease the efficiency and capacity of photosynthesis." The leaf damage is tantamount to a sunburn. Perhaps to labor the point: they found that extremely intense sunlight activates a signaling system that "warns" regions of the plant not yet exposed to the light of impending danger. It closes down and literally "won't let the light in," something that we might extrapolate to human beings. The key principle here is overload and shutdown.
Overload and Shutdown: How We Repress
Our brains can reach back in evolution to plant life to construct protective devices. In the plant paradigm there may be clues to how our brains work. There are a number of studies on nerve cells showing that when there is a barrage of input the cells become "silent"; they fail to respond further. This is another way of demonstrating how overload produces shutdown. If it happens in a nuclear plant bells and alarms go off. If it happens to the human system nothing happens. At least nothing overt. Below decks there is a constant flurry of activity as hormones spill into the system: body heat goes up, white cells scurry to and fro, and brain cells are recruiting supporting cells in the service of repression. Alas, the alarm is silent and no one is there to hear it. The alarm chimes and screams yet we are deaf. The guts are screaming while we go around with a beatific smile as if all were right with the world, or we are so busy with business deals that we ignore a disaster in the making. That disaster can spell the end of our lives.
Behind the amygdalae, the hippocampus forms the tip of the ram's horn; the word means "sea horse," which this structure resembles. An ancient structure of the brain, the hippocampus is apparently responsible for "declarative memory," the context and circumstances of an event as opposed to its emotional content, which is the province of the amygdalae.
Located at the junction of the ram's-horn shape of the limbic system, the hypothalamus is about the size of a cherry. It is situated behind the eyes and beneath the thalamus and is connected to other regions of the nervous system. The hypothalamus regulates hormone production and stimulates the immune system via the pituitary gland, which lies just beneath it. It also helps regulate vital functions, including blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. The hypothalamus governs both the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system, which make up the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls internal organ function. We shall see how important this system is.
We have taken a cursory look at some key brain structures involved in feeling. In the next chapter we will examine how those structures interact and send messages to each other, and how information is encouraged or blocked in neural highways known as "pathways." We will see how the unconscious becomes the "unconscious." We will discover what happens to our feelings when we can't access our higher centers where awareness lies. In chapter 7 I will introduce two new notions: the imprint, and critical periods. We will find out how events outside of us—a look, a scowl, or a harsh word—become imprinted inside our brains for a lifetime. And we will discover how there are crucial times when outside impact has the greatest influence on us, altering the development of the brain.
There are periods before birth and soon after when the brain is developing at an incredibly rapid clip. These periods are when nerve cells of the brain—neurons—are developing their connections to other neurons to form nerve circuits. Serious trauma during these periods—a mother anxious or depressed, or a mother who drinks or smokes heavily—can deviate the brain permanently.
Messengers of the Brain
Altogether, the nervous system consists of billions of neurons that interconnect. These nerve cells receive signals, or information, from the body's sense organs and transmit them to the central nervous system. Each neuron consists of a cell body and branches called dendrites. Signals travel between neurons via conducting fibers called axons, which branch at the end to form axon terminals. The gap between an axon terminal and the receiving nerve cell is called a synapse. Signals traverse this gap with the help of chemicals called neurotransmitters. The number of synapses changes with early trauma and thereby produces a different kind of brain. When we are not loved early on (and it is always very early in life that I am discussing, prebirth and the first eighteen months after birth) in a sense, we do not have "all of our marbles" to enter life's fray. Those marbles, inter alia, are the synaptic junctions. It is where the chemical messengers are dumped that either hold back information or improve its capacity to communicate, particularly to higher levels that could make sense out of it all. Tranquilizers most often work in these gaps to impede the message, a very old one ... "no one cares about me." The brain, limbic system, and brainstem are loaded with messages such as this.
The spiderlike branches leading from a nerve cell to other neurons are called dendrites; they provide information to other nerve cells. When love is missing, the dendrites suffer. There is less branching, and the result is a different—and permanently different—brain. The stress hormone receptors (corticosteroids) are also reduced, so there are likely to be more free-floating stress hormones in the brain. What is left is a toxic brain environment with fewer synapses, particularly in the limbic-feeling centers, to carry information from one region to another. This may explain why a person is not sympathetic to others and is not sensitive to their pain, being insensitive to himself. His feeling centers are impaired.
Many different chemicals serve as these messengers. They help pass lower-level information to higher areas. Serotonin, for example, aids in the inhibition of pain and also deals with satiety, thus having a positive side to it. However, I shall concentrate on its repressive components since it is basically an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
Acetylcholine passes information between the brain and spinal cord. Norepinephrine controls heart rate and stress response. It is associated with reward. Dopamine helps coordinate body movements and helps stimulate us and our cortex to make us vigilant and is associated with goal seeking. Too much dopamine, though, can overstimulate the cortex and literally "drive us crazy." The endorphins play a major role in controlling sensitivity to pain. These neurotransmitters are further discussed in later chapters but for now we need to be aware, as most of us are already, that the brain produces its own painkillers. At times I will focus on certain transmitters as they relate to emotional upset, keeping in mind that there is a broad range of functions of these chemicals.
We must remember that behind all the "feeling" states discussed in the psychiatric literature lies a brain, one from which anxiety and depression seep out. We want to find out where this phenomenon takes place and why. What makes that happen? Should we automatically push back painful information on its way to conscious-awareness? If the person feels better with tranquilizers can we consider it a cure? Is it good enough? Or, is there a price to pay for repression?
|Part I.||The Structure of the Brain||21|
|1.||The Structure of the Brain||23|
|The Frontal Cortex and Feelings||28|
|The Limbic System||28|
|Overload and Shutdown: How We Repress||30|
|Messengers of the Brain||31|
|2.||The Frontal Cortex: The Thinking Man's Brain||34|
|How an Angry Look Becomes a Chemical in Our Brain||38|
|Transcript of a Session||42|
|At the Crossroads: The Limbic System: The Thalamus, Amygdala, and Hippocampus||51|
|The Thalamus: Switchboard and Relay Station of the Brain||52|
|Organizing Memory: The Amygdala||56|
|The Dopamine Connection||57|
|The Amygdalae: Mother Nature at Work||59|
|Are We Conscious First and Then Unconscious?||62|
|The Repository of Truth||66|
|The Hippocampus: Accessing Childhood Memories||67|
|The Pain of Anorexia||72|
|The Brainstem: Instinct and Survival||74|
|The Work of the Frontal Cortex: On Developing Strange Ideas||76|
|Feeling Our Humanity||78|
|3.||Sounding the Alarm: The Reticular Activating System||81|
|The Locus Ceruleus: At Terror's Center||83|
|4.||The Hypothalamus: Carrying the Message of Feeling||87|
|The Cingulate Cortex||91|
|5.||The Sympath and Parasympath: Shaping Personality in the Womb||93|
|A Therapy of Emotional Emergency||100|
|6.||The Three Levels of Consciousness||106|
|First-Line Instinctual Consciousness||106|
|The Second-Line: Emotional Consciousness||111|
|The Third-Line: Intellectual Consciousness||114|
|The Hemispheres of Love: The Left and Right Hemispheres||118|
|The Left Analytic Brain||122|
|The Battle in the Brain Between Ideas and Feelings||123|
|The Chain of Pain||132|
|The Translation of Feelings into Symptoms||136|
|7.||The Notion of Critical Periods||144|
|The Focal Point of the Critical Period: The Dopamine Connection||148|
|The Loss of the Ability to Adapt||150|
|Part II||Womblife, Memory, and the Imprint||153|
|The Long Story of Memory||157|
|9.||Breaking the Code of Memory||165|
|Readjusting the Biological Setpoints||171|
|Damienne: Fill Me Up||173|
|10.||The Trigger Effect||183|
|Just Get Over It!||185|
|Anoxia: An Imprint for Life||189|
|Oxygen Deficit and Stress for Life||192|
|11.||Womblife: Prelude to Real Life||198|
|To Be Touched Is to Be Love||201|
|Mental Illness in the Womb||202|
|Suicide and Birth||206|
|Womblife and Later Illness||209|
|Pushing the Envelope||211|
|On Being Overwhelmed in the Womb||212|
|Chronic Fatigue in the Womb||214|
|12.||The Birth Trauma: How It Directs Our Lives||219|
|Is the Unconscious Dangerous?||220|
|13.||The Stress Factor: Building a Different Brain||228|
|14.||The Gate-Control Theory||231|
|The Fear of Death||235|
|The Role of Serotonin in Gating Feelings||238|
|Organizing the Neural Troops||241|
|Alpha Sprouting: Building a Different Brain||241|
|Penetrating the Gates of Repression||247|
|The Administration of Drugs to the Mother and Damage to the Baby||253|
|Part III||The Power of Love||261|
|15.||Love By Any Other Name||263|
|How to Love a Fetus||264|
|The Child Is Father to the Man||267|
|How Do You Love a Brain?||267|
|The Chemicals of Repression||270|
|The Power of Love||271|
|The Trauma of Being Unwanted||276|
|On the Nature of Feeling||280|
|Feelings Are Us||283|
|16.||Lack of Oxygen Is the Lack of Love||287|
|17.||Oxytocin and Vasopressin: The Hormones of Love||291|
|Love and Survival||298|
|Love and Nursing: The Transmission of Love through the Breast||299|
|The Lack of Touch Equals the Lack of Love||303|
|Love and Addiction: Addicted to Love||305|
|How Addiction Gets Its Start||306|
|18.||On Sexuality and Homosexuality||313|
|Little Boy Lost||315|
|Rage and the Impulse-Ridden||317|
|19.||What's Love Got to Do with It?||322|
|20.||Psychotherapy and the Brain: Getting the Brain Well||330|
Posted May 31, 2008
With all the criticism Janov stirs both for and against him you would be missing out on a lot of mental stimulation if you didn't read this book, it is quite a read from the evidence of all these reviews. This is a fairly new book! At the very least Janov is a pioneer in the field of uniting the field of psychology with provable foundations in the field of neurology and brain chemistry. Arthur Janov keeps proving his points and his critics keep sliding back giving him reluctant praise when the weight of evidence becomes too over whelming for them. The eloquence of a theory is not found in complexity but in a provable simplicity. It is good to note that excellent theories have basic tenets. The incredible understanding of the universe given to us by Einstein was summed up for the most part in one simple equation: E=MC2. Janov doesn't give painful trauma as the solution to painful trauma, he tells us that feeling is the solution. Feeling is not painful, it is the reverse. Feeling cuts fear and fear is key to suffering becoming over whelming. He does not say that pain cures pain, he says that feeling cures pain. When a little girl skins her knee she may forget all about it until she sees her mother, at which time she cries while telling her mother about it, this lowers her fear associated with the injury and this is very similar to what takes place in primal therapy. This is too common an event to discount as something not essential to healing. Often after crying and sharing with her mother the little girl or boy will come out of their mini primal and SMILE. Janov is trying to achieve such smiles, and he is being successful. Reading Janov's critics is a great way to find further proof for the validity of his theory and work. They will claim to have fully understood and read Janov's work and then say things that show they haven't even the most basic understanding of his work. For instance, the notion that people are 'holding their breath' in birth primals. Further study brought on by this critism reveals that in Primal Therapy people don't 'hold their breath' out of an act of will, it happens because in the reliving of the experience they go through the physiological realities of a time where in THERE HAD BEEN NO BREATHING. The fact that people can use degrees to give credence to what they say while avoiding true objectivity shows that the intellectual capacity to learn can be affected by biases. Biases expressed by the critics of Janov are not wholly explained by the need for people to see current main stream psychology as helpful, nor upon the lack of a clear grasp of the theory of Janov. So, we must look deeper. Janov's theory breaks down the defenses against painful doubts about the psychological profession. The profession offers many approaches that have associated studies done by professionals in the field showing that these approaches don't work. There exists a self comforting tendency to worship earlier founders of the field of psychology using statements that have no objective value. Consider the statement by one critic that Janov was not as credible as Freud because Freud had a degree in medicine in his time and had the support of others with similar degrees. First of all, let us point out that even witch doctors in primitive tribes have had forms of education that lasted for, in some cases, up to seven years. Then lets consider that one of Freud's fellow degreed practitioners of medicine felt that there was a disease known as 'hysteria' that afflicted only women and that this could be treated by an operation on their NOSE. Saying that Janov should be counted as less believable and trustable than Freud leaves you scratching your head in amazement. Also one critic said that Janov's theory was a derivative of Freud's model. That is ridiculous. It reminds me of the acclaim some gave to an earlier researcher who believed thatWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2006
I think Janov's book The Biology of Love is too full of unscientific jumps of logic. His assertion that it is only logical to pursue pain to reverse the effects of pain is simplistic. Even if it is true that in the forward direction, trauma causes psychological problems (true I think, and important), it does not neccessarily mean the reverse is obviously true - that to reexperience pain will lead to a joyful existence that resembles the joy of young children. In my experience, the results from primal therapy also shine doubt on Janov's assertions. It is a pity, because so much of the book is valuable and important, for example the emphasis of love, and the criticisms of robotically extinguishing behaviors with behaviorism (not all behaviorism is bad though) are all good. But Janov's theory is taken to the extremes in his books, and by his followers, spoiling the valid points that they make. For example, gentle births and avoiding birth traumas are noble and correct causes. However, claiming that ALL psychological problems may have birth trauma as the underlying cause is pushing it too far. Suggesting reliving birth over and over again will reverse the effects of birth is also getting wacky. Janov's works have a tendency to draw you in with true and emotional themes, but they take you too far into his single deterministic model, and get you beleiving in things that are not proven, and actually unlikely. His model of understanding fails in some circumstances (as do all the grand theories), and in some cases evidence exists that contradicts some of the theory (for example modern research on surgery suggested mammals do better WITH pain medication, in the Primal Scream Janov suggested avoiding pain meds wherever possible, something I thing he may now disagree with, but has made no formal retraction). I would recommend learning about all the models in psychology to put this work in context, and look at all the recent data in the field 1990 to 2006. Despite Janov's attack on Freud, Primal is a derivative of Freudian work, with some of the similar problems and benefits that come from that model. The worst thing you could do is wrap yourself in a primal blanket, and think psychology's rejection of this work is somehow repressed or a conspiracy. Mainstream psychology would correctly argue that the evidence is mostly case study from a specific skewed population of Janov followers, at a specific time in their optimism and therapy cycle. Similar miraculous reports are found in spiritual healing practices, again with believer's testimony being emphasised and published when it is positive. In addition, rememeber this work was written a long time ago, and the diatribe against other psychological treatments is out of date (and in part unfair even at the time). However some of the criticisms of other treatments were valid, and important. Use scientific and critical thinking to make your own decisions about this work. It's not all wrong, if you have your wits about you and you filter the information, it could help fill your life with love and improve the life of your children. Janov is right, love is the most important thing is raising children, and he does a good job of defining love between an parent and child. On the other hand, if you take all of it to heart, and to the extreme, and then go on to destroy all relations with your family, create false memories, and spend decades trying to cry, scream and holding your breath in birth primals, it might just spoil your life. It could go either way, so think independently for yourself. Consider too, I may be wrong, so look at all the data with a critical eye, and draw on all areas of psychological research for clues.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 5, 2002
Arthur Janov through treating patients in Primal Therapy has at the very least laid out a clear view of how to PREVENT misery in humans. This book is more than it seems at first, it implies so much. If you are new to primal theory, it will knock your socks off. If you are not, it will explain how much has been learnt in the last thirty years. And this new information, particularly the learning on abreaction (see the New Primal Scream also), is so essential to those people who read about Primal in the early days.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 1, 2000
I think so. First, because I could not put it down. Dr. Janov has written a sophisticated and scientific book about the human psyche, how the brain can change as the result of lack of love. Sophisticated and yet accessible to the lay person of which I am. I was fascinated to read the latest available research in neurology; and how we treat our children affects their brain and who they are forever. So much of it makes total sense. It is brilliant to be able to understand how it all works. Of course, a child treated with respect and love through gestation, birth and childhood. Dr. Janov says loving a child is making sure it doesn't suffer anoxia at birth (a common occurence in the way our children are born these days), making sure mothers treat themselves - their future baby - with respect, that they don't smoke, that they take care of themselves...while creating a new human being in this world. Dr. Janov's book is all about love and how to love our children. I read with amazement a professional review accusing THE BIOLOGY OF LOVE of laying guilt on poor mothers. What a pathetic way to read this book. But to deprive future children of the incredible data this book provides is doing great harm. Dr. Janov has put together in a powerful framework the first unifying theory that at last makes sense of the human sciences, neurology, biology and psychology. Isn't it crucial to know how to become a fully integrated human being that won't be plagued by psychosomatic illness, will have no need to drink and take drugs? And of course the right definition of love for a child is to give them what they need, physiologically, as well as psychologically so that they don't suffer traumas at all stages of their development. Dr. Janov is giving us the formidable tool to understand through research what we can do to make sure our children have all the chances for a life free of neurosis later on. Witness research like: 'A MOTHER'S LOOK AT A CHILD CAN REGULATE BLOOD FLOW TO HIS BRAIN (CORTEX) AND IMPACT THE DEVELOPMENT OF THAT BRAIN.' 'TOUCHING A CHILD ALLOWS FOR GREATER DENSITY OF SYNAPSES IN THE DEVELOPING BRAIN: THE MORE DENSE THE SYNAPSES THE MORE INFORMATION THE BRAIN CAN HANDLE.' 'EARLY TOUCH AND A MOTHER'S LOVE PRODUCE ENDOGENOUS PAIN KILLERS THAT STAY FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES AND HELP KEEP US COMFORTABLE AND FREE OF ANXIETY.' 'STRESS AND ABUSE ALTER THE STRUCTURE OF A CHILD'S BRAIN (IMPAIRS CELLS IN THE HIPPOCAMPUS WHICH REGISTERS EMOTIONAL FACTS).' 'A FETUS REGISTERS PAIN AND MAKES CRYING MOTIONS IN THE WOMB.' 'STRESS IN A CARRYING MOTHER CAN ALTER THE SEXUAL HORMONES OF THE OFFSPRING AND THEREBY ALTER LATER SEXUAL PROCLIVITIES.'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 9, 2000
THE BIOLOGY OF LOVE presents a unified theory of psychology and brain chemistry. It provides a great deal of evidence from psychology and neurlogy. Dr. Janov explains how love significantly affects not only psychological well-beng but physical health and personality traits as well. Its long-lasting biological effects critically influence the structure and chemistry of the brain in both the developing fetus and the growing child. This original and provocative work synthesizes the latest neurological research and psychological theory with Dr. Janov's long experience of successfully treating patients. It is very understandable and is written for the layperson who wishes to learn how feelings and emotions direct our lives. Dr. Janov takes facts culled from up-to-date research and places them into a frame of reference that cohesively brings together widely disparate results. Dr. Janov maintains that prenatal experience and birth trauma are imprinted on our nervous systems, and if this crucial period of life is beset by trouble and stress, whether mental or physical, the deep-seated effects can result in psychological problems or psychosomatic diseases later in life. By the same token, lack of love after birth, when the infant needs the touch of loving caresses, can be as injurious to the healthy development of intelligence and personality as lack of food. Dr. Janov cites scientific evidence to demonstrate how the formation of the nervous system, especially the complex neural connections of the brain and the hormones that enhance them, can be influenced by the presence or absence of a loving, nurturing environment, both before and after birth. However, beyond analyzing mental and physical ailments, THE BIOLOGY OF LOVE is also a book about cure. Through Dr. Janov's unique therapeutic techniques, he enables patients to relive those critical periods of love deprivation that are at the root of their problems. Using testimonials of patients who have experienced remarkable change, he shows how he helped them to 'reverse history' by releasing the underlying psychological tensions that had crippled their lives for decades. This book opens a new window into the mental mysteries of human beings and will help lay the foundations for a reassessment of how we treat mental illness.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.