This section contains some "random thoughts" from Dr. Arthur Janov on various subjects. Clicking on one of the following links will take you to a short essay or set of comments on the subject listed:
The Brains That Went Before Us
The physicist, David Bohm, noted that man is a microcosm of the universe;
therefore what man is, is a clue to the universe. That is exactly our point.
What man is, is what man was, and inside the human brain we can find remnants of the fish and reptilian brain. What this means is that what we are is built on the most successful adaptations of what we were. When our patients go back to the most primitive brains in their reliving we see those ancient brains at work. And, I might add, there are never any words in those relivings.
When we consider the nature of consciousness we must, I repeat, we must, take into consideration the brains that went before us, the brains that still reside within us. They help make up our consciousness. After all, the lower animals had to be very aware of where food and enemies were. They certainly had an awareness, and that kind or level of awareness still exists in us. Those "awarenessess" certainly make up modern consciousness. To think otherwise is to adopt an anti-evolutionary stance; to think that the late developing neo-cortex is the be-all and end-of human consciousness. If we want to understand the origins of the universe, both personal and phylogenetic (of mankind) it helps to delve deep into our internal past. Do animals feel? We descend down into the old limbic system, part of which we share with animals, and find that they do.
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Axons and Unbroken Reality
an excellent book by David Darling called "Equations of Eternity", there is a
discussion about how nerve cells and more specifically, axons, behave.
"Different groups of axons must be able to recognize different signposts, or
else most axons in the nervous system would grow in the same place. Evolution
has sited many different receptor molecules on the surface of nerve cells , each
of which will stick to only one specific molecule." (page 24. Hyperion Press,
1993). The result is that nerve cells have a guide that directs them toward
connection with other cells. All that is required for connection is that other
nerve cells have matching receptor molecules. The cells are able to ignore all
other non-matching nerve cells. Darling goes on to point out these cells go on
to establish a "skeletal nervous system upon which all subsequent fibers can
build." (same page) This is one way that each new level of consciousness
elaborates previous levels. Thus axons grow from the lower level brain tissue to
its proper target. Darling states that these cells "know" when they have arrived
at connection because the receptors on axons are found only on the correct
target nerve cell.
He goes on: "by unfolding stages, the brain organizes and interconnects itself. " (page 25) Even in the womb, he believes, the brain is preparing itself for when "it comes into daylight". I will quote further because what he states in a neuro-philosophic way dovetails precisely with our clinical observations: "Already, the individual has recapitulated, while in the womb, the physical evolution of all life on earth. Now it is racing through the stages by which life evolved mentally." (page 26- 27) The stages are "from mindlessness to shadowy awareness to consciousness of the world.....to consciousness of self." ( page 27) Each new level is an elaboration of the previous lower level until we arrive at full consciousness. Critical here is the concept of connection; the merging together of related neural networks. Without lower level connection to higher levels we are only considering the late developing cortical brain and not the brain as a whole. He points out that in our personal evolution the brain is racing through the stages of all of human history. In Primal Therapy we race through the stages in reverse. Only it is not a race; it is more like a crawl. No one can make a connection (insight) for us; it must come out of a feeling; and it must do so in slow orderly fashion. When the patient has the connection we know it is time. When the insight is forced by a therapist it usually is not the time--organically; it defies evolution-ideas after feelings, not before.
What Darling points out is that truth is an "unbroken reality." Neurosis manages to fragment that reality (disconnection). Feeling therapy reestablishes that total reality. There is a unity of nature that happens only with connection. Neuropsychologic laws do exist. It is up to us to find them.
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Disconnection and Dissociation: The Brain's Gating System at Work
An excerpt from a draft of Words Won't Do It, November 2003
People often refer to someone who is well-adjusted as being "grounded," or "centered," or they say that he or she has "got it together." Perhaps a more accurate description would be to say that such a person is "connected," because a fully connected brain is what someone really has when they've "got it together," which is absolutely necessary if one is to experience true conscious-awareness. Connection means there exists a completely operative flow from between lower levels of the brain on up to the top, and from the right prefrontal cortex to the left. Neurosis, on the other hand, is a state of disconnection; systems that should connect simply don't. Trauma disrupts connection much in the same way that static interferes with a clear telephone call: the more static there is, the harder it is to hear. With the brain, the greater the trauma, the greater the noise. The brain will cut off and put aside the pain of any trauma that is too great for it to bear, creating an imprint that gives rise to myriad physical and mental health problems. So once the brain has suffered trauma during the critical period of development, the more difficult — and painful — it will be for the individual to re-establish a connection; they will have to relive and re-feel that pain of the trauma in all of its original intensity. It is not possible to truly get well by way of some easy, feel good process, which is what the selling point behind is meditation, hypnosis, acupuncture, and all cognitive therapies. What they offer is a temporary palliative to the patient's suffering, and for a period of time, at least, the patient will feel better. But after decades of work in the field of clinical psychology, I can tell you that if the patient isn't suffering in therapy, there is no improvement. No pain, no gain.
To be dissociated from a strong feeling is what I call disconnection; literally, a severing of ties from lower level structures to the prefrontal cortex, and from the right hemisphere to the left. This disconnection results from gating, a system within the brain which prevents pain from getting through. We see this every day in Primal therapy because patients who come close to connection feel pain, a joining of low level imprints with conscious-awareness. When imprinted memory starts to lock-onto conscious-awareness there is suffering, the exact amount of suffering that occurred with the original experience-the same vital sign patterns, for example. The patient's response is exact; neither more nor less. When it is about almost dying at birth from lack of oxygen, the suffering is indescribable. We see immediately the role of gating and disconnection.
For patients, when they reach a state of almost-feeling, it hurts; actual feeling puts an end to hurt, even though the experience to be felt involves pain. Almost-feeling means that the suffering component is entering conscious-awareness but has not yet created the connection. So connected pain is no longer pain; it is feeling and it is need. Thus feeling pain makes it turn into its opposite. Not feeling it keeps it intact. As the feeling wends its way from the brainstem up through the right side of the brain to the orbital-frontal area it gathers force, resulting in a "break free" from left side control. Once that happens it then rushes toward its counterpart on the left for connection. As neurobiologist Dr. David Goodman puts it: "Primal Therapy pulls from its hands the reins of the pain from the past that steers us." There is a new unified command. There is no longer the hippocampal/amygdala cauldron roiling below the surface to make us miserable.
Feelings are meant to follow evolution, moving toward prefrontal cortical connection and integration. Feelings seem to always try to escape the trap of unconsciousness, as though the system recognizes that unconsciousness is ultimately a danger, and not a natural state. Every system strives to be conscious because consciousness means survival. There are two dynamics at work. One is a tendency toward consciousness, and the second is a tendency toward disconnection/unconsciousness when consciousness of pain threatens to become overwhelming. We need to be conscious but not so conscious that the system, particularly the thinking system, is in danger. We have to be aware of danger that is external as well as internal.
As an example, our patient, Edith, could no longer leave her house because of her internal fears. If she left for very long she became anxious and had to return. She needed to return to the safe cocoon. She was symbolically controlling her feelings, which were unconscious and stemmed from her mother's auto accident during her 8th month of pregnancy. Such is how the gating system within the brain expresses itself, and demonstrates how an individual may unconsciously control his or her own pain.
Evolution Of Feelings
The limbic system is fairly well developed by the age of three years when the orbitofrontal cortex comes on line to represent feelings on a higher level. It is the time when we begin to use language to describe our feelings. We have a whole lifetime of emotional experiences sealed into our systems by this age. Here we begin to set the stage for living in our head instead of our feelings; we lose touch with our instincts and our bodies, are not well coordinated and become awkward. It is an inchoate beginning of the flight from our internal world toward the external one. And as I quote elsewhere from the study by the London Institute of Psychiatry, the basic traits we develop at age three follow us throughout life.
The traumatized brain has different cognitive capacities. It is not so much that one trauma compromises the brain; rather, it is an accumulated lack of love that does it. When we consider that the right emotional/limbic brain is in a growth spurt in the first years when touch and love are absolutely crucial, it is clear that a lack of it will have lifelong consequences on our emotions. This is particularly true as the right brain relates to, and informs, the left intellectual side. Toward the end of the second year of life there is a leap in growth on the left side of the frontal area of the brain.
When low-level imprints cannot send information to higher levels, communication is poor, and connection becomes difficult. So in a rather figurative and often literal way, the neurons that should be reaching out and up for contact do not do so. There is less synaptic connectivity, fewer dendrites, resulting in a retraction or shrinkage of neurons due to trauma. The brain, "knowing" that connection is overwhelming, seems to retrench, pulling back its nerve fibers from locking-in. The distance between experience and its awareness becomes more distant, and we have a wider "Janovian Gap." Lack of connection and/or integration ultimately means a disintegration of mental and physical systems. If the energy of early trauma is powerful enough, its spread is broad, and the symptoms more serious. When the pain is very early and catastrophic, chances are it will lead to symptoms that are equally catastrophic. The reason is, the level of repression is commensurate with the level of the trauma, and keeps the system under high-level pressure at all times. Thus, if the trauma was life-threatening, it may lead to afflictions that will be life-threatening. Clearly, to put an end to this we need connection.
We understand that any inordinate input hurts, whether of cold, wind, or heat. When a feeling is felt, it is shorn of its agony, and it becomes simply a memory. That is because what was lived for the first time in therapy was the agony portion of the feeling. It is now integrated into the system. We understand that when we do not experience the hurt in full flower we must adapt compensating measures (known as act-outs) to hold it back, perhaps with medication. It is the price we pay for not feeling. In some cases, we paradoxically use medication as a means to get to the pain, not to avoid it — to reduce the power of the suffering component into small, bite-sized bits of feeling. That is why there can be no hurry in our therapy; the system will only allow so much integration at a time. Medication is used to permit access, not to prevent it.
Nothing in the human system is capricious; pruning exists because it has a biologic function. When there is early trauma there is also a pruning of the neurons in the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex so that the connections between them are less robust; which again is part of the defense system. What pruning really means in our schema is that pain from lack of love and/or trauma causes the brain to amass its forces where needed, and prune where it is less needed. The brain structure changes! As a result, we have a brain that is out of balance, with less cortical control over impulses and less information being delivered from down low to the top. Trauma also tends to thin out the right-left circuits in the corpus callosum so that connection is literally much more difficult. It is very much like reducing a four lane highway to a single lane — a diminished flow of information traffic getting through.
Connection normalizes every aspect of our being. The system is in harmony. In cognitive therapy there may be a great disharmony between what we feel and what we think. The attempt too often is to rearrange one's thoughts about feelings resulting in a lack of harmony, especially when no one knows what those feelings are. Connection means there is a flow between feelings that originate in the lower brain, and the higher-level frontal cortex, where thoughts occur; more specifically from the right frontal area to the left. I have not seen the notion of connection discussed in the cognitive or insight therapies; yet it is the sine qua non of cure. As our patients begin to approach deep feelings in session the heart rate mounts to dangerously high levels. Those levels drop precipitously after connection. The question that any psychotherapy must answer is, "Why does this happen?" This points again to the fact that imprinted feelings can be dangerous and will mobilize the brain system to meet the threat, just as if it were a virus.
The right OBFC: Keeper of connection to our history
So where's the bull's eye, the target that lower level centers of the brain need to reach in order for real connection to occur? It's the right orbitofrontal cortex (OBFC), a key structure that enables a person to experience conscious-awareness — that is, to have conscious-awareness of feelings of pain that have been of too great force to feel. The OBFC, which is the part of the neo-cortex that sits just behind the eye sockets, reaches maturity between eighteen to twenty-four months of age. The right OBFC receives feeling information on the right side of the brain, and helps code it; it also helps control feelings and, above all, is involved in retrieving feeling information and integrating it with the left OBFC. This is a big job. Thanks to the right OBFC, we can know what we feel, and feel what we know — if only it will inform the left prefrontal cortex about what it knows and feels. And there's the rub.
The OBFC provides a map of our internal-historic life, and registers information from below, from preverbal memories, and then provides a high level coding system that labels the feeling. It is like a GPS, a global positioning system that constantly informs us of who we are, where we are, and where we're going. That map will be in a neuro-biochemical language. Its frequency signature will also be noted. It seems one key way we store information is by certain frequencies which then resonate with higher centers to help produce the connection. It may well be the imprinted feelings know they have friends in higher circles and need to make their acquaintance.
What is important about the OBFC is that it contains representations from the depths of the brain. In this way we are aware of our internal life. It often has nothing to do with words. Even though we are using the term awareness, we must know that there is a non-verbal awareness; a sense of things.
Because the right OBFC provides a map of our internal environment, most early abuse and lack of love can be found coded there. Since the right side develops before the left, many of our life-and-death experiences in the womb and at birth are registered there. It makes retrieval by a left hemisphere oriented therapy (cognitive) almost impossible. If we want to regain conscious-awareness — full consciousness — we need to use the OBFC map to scan the non-verbal brain, the right limbic area and brainstem to retrieve the most remote, ancient memories. By and large, "awareness," is left brain but that does not necessarily mean language. Conscious-awareness is right-left brain working in harmony.
Incidentally, there is a new study out by two psychologists at UCLA (N.I. Eisenberger and Matthew D. Liberman, "Hurt Feelings," Los Angeles Times Oct. 11, 2002, page A16), which found that people who experienced less discomfort had more prefrontal cortex activity. Again, higher centers are able to suppress and calm the lower ones. They also found both physical pain and emotional pain use the same pathways in the brain. In brief, pain is pain no matter what the source — emotional pain is physical. It is not just in our minds, it is not just psychological, and cannot be treated on the psychological level alone.
We know that when there is awareness without connection during a session, known as abreaction, the vital signs rise and fall in sporadic fashion, rarely below baseline. And often they do not move at all. It is why we measure vital signs before and after each session. We measured a new patient who had mock Primal Therapy. He went through early feelings that looked real. His vital signs never changed, indicating an energy release but no connection. So long as there is no connection nor a shift in brain processing from right to left, there will be no commensurate change in physiology.
The right limbic brain/brainstem is responsible for a great part of our arousal, while the left-brain is the calming agent. When there is hyper-arousal due to brainstem/ limbic unfulfilled needs and memories, the left OBFC can help dampen that arousal and produce a false sense of calm. This is one key element in cognitive therapy. Indeed, as I pointed out, one reason for the development of the left brain was to help in the repressive process; keeping enough pain at bay to allow us to function in every day life.
The OBFC can also inhibit or dampen the arousal that leads to hyper-secretion of stress hormones ordered by the hypothalamus. The OBFC, when properly developed and connected, can block impulses for aggression and control terror. It has been shown that murderers have less pre-frontal activation of the OBFC when presented with certain tasks, and therefore have less control. It is also true with those who suffer attention deficits (ADD). The ADD syndrome generally indicates left-right prefrontal impairment. All those buried feeling imprints are like the hordes trying to get over the moat (the corpus callosum) to reach home but overnight someone worked on the highway and narrowed the lanes considerably. There is now a jam-up, and it becomes difficult to pay attention to a homework assignment when all that "noise" is going on; all that early pain scrambling for attention. All the feelings are bunched up trying to get through. So long as there is no connection, there will always be this noise, because the noise is those feelings, disconnected.
I have likened the OBFC to a dredge, dipping down to bring up the detritus from below. What is brought up is often not pretty, a forgotten incest, for example, or the hopelessness of ever getting love from one's parents; an enormous trauma that we see every day in our patients. When we retrieve old memories beginning with the right OBFC, the whole right side trailing down to the amygdala/brainstem lights up and is activated). With connection, feelings have found a home and the system can rest. The person no longer has to engage in compulsive hand washing because she unconsciously feels "dirty." Remember, that the higher prefrontal regulatory systems have connections with the brainstem/limbic areas with information going in both directions. We can feel our feelings, and we can block those feelings when they are too hurtful. With a weaker prefrontal cortex to handle input, we have amygdala-driven feelings that impact our higher centers directly, possibly driving us into unceasing mental activity. If there were ever a universal affliction, it is that unceasing activity. People cannot sit still and relax. Movement as an imprint may have meant life at birth and it does so now as a memory.
One side-effect of this drive/agitation is the development of strange belief systems. It is my experience that the wider the gap between deep feeling and awareness the greater the unreality of the belief system; the more remote the feeling, the more far-out the belief system and the more tenacious its hold on us.
As I pointed out, the right OBFC contains a model of what happened to us early in life. If we did not have a very strong emotional relationship with our parents early in life, the right hemisphere imprints will become a template for adult life that may cause constant broken relationships. We are victims of that template and then wonder what's wrong with us when we cannot sustain an emotional rapport with someone. In that sense, it is more than a model; it is a fixed frame within which we operate. That frame is encased in biochemical chains, every bit as strong as links of steel. I have called this frame, the prototype (discussed elsewhere). The meaning is the same: lifelong patterns of behavior are organized very early in life, in pre-birth, birth and infancy experiences. The meaning is available to the right OBFC but not to the left. In a sense, the right side is the home of the unconscious. The patterns set up early in life become a guide for how we act in the future; for our adult compulsions and phobias as well as physical symptoms. That is why when we retrieve those early experiences with the right OBFC we can make immediate connections between our current symptom-migraine, high blood pressure-and those early imprints. With the reliving the symptoms disappear, and we understand why. We carry around "broken relationships" inside of us all of our lives. We live inside those feelings. We then develop a friendship with someone that soon breaks off, and it becomes a mystery to us as to why; in reality, it is the prototype. The prototype, as I have stated, involves all manner of biochemical processes. Thus, we may carry around very low oxytocin levels which help determine how warm and close we can be to others. The brain's neurochemistry, the levels of stress hormones and other activating chemicals, are all under right brain control. When these are altered they influence how we relate to others and to ourselves. In brief, we are rendered a different personality.
Reconnecting the Brain
There is more and more evidence that nervous tissue at the extreme anterior (front) part of the prefrontal cortex is responsible for integration of emotional states. The recent work of a Yale team, Patricia Goldman-Rakic and Pasco Rakic, focused on the corpus callosum in which they developed a model of symmetry in the brain. What they state is that cells in the corpus callosum are marked so as to attach to mirror image cells on both sides of the brain. There may be either a certain resonating frequency that helps each side recognize each other, or there may be a chemical affinity that allows cells on one side to join up-connect-with cells on the other side. As I mentioned, connected memory may exist when lower level imprints resonate with the same frequencies higher up in the brain. When the pre-frontal cortex and sub-cortex meet, there seems to be a pattern of recognition; it's kind of like finding a soul-mate. There may be some kind of chemical affinity (as yet unproven, but logical), and also, a frequency that resonates among various related neurons. The notion of frequency signaling is discussed in a unique way in a recent book by Lynne McTaggart. (The Field: The Quest For the Secret Force of The Universe, Harper Collins, N.Y. 2002). Amidst a long discussion on the communication among molecules, McTaggert states: "According to Benveniste"s theory, two molecules are then tuned into each other, even at long distance, and resonate to the same frequency." It seems that all molecules have their own specific frequency (page 67).
Famed neuroscientist Karl Pribram, found that when we first notice something, certain frequencies resonate among neurons in the brain even below our conscious-awareness. These neurons send information about these frequencies to other neurons. That information is then sent to a third set of neurons, which constructs a memory pattern. What is important in this rather esoteric discussion is that the brain processes information "in the shorthand of wave-frequency patterns and scatter these throughout the brain in a distributed network." (op cit. page 85). It is in this manner that memory is stored and recuperated. Essentially, the brain is a frequency analyzer. But when the resonating information spells intolerable pain, contact is severed/disconnected. The left brain says, " I don't want to have anything to do with someone who hurts me." The right is pleading, "Hey mister left, I've got a hell of a load here; I'm just asking if you can help out a little." But no, inhibitory neurotransmitters are called into action to prevent direct communication from the right. This all takes place on the sub-cortical, rather than cortical-cognitive level. Even when we have words, there are still those underlying biochemical processes and those all-important frequencies.
Various key neurons may have a chemical attraction to their counterparts and lock-in when they meet. This for now is supposition, but the fact is that once there is a locked-in feeling or need the system immediately shifts to the compensating nervous system to achieve balance. That is the test of connection; an equilibrium of the nervous system with vital signs falling below baseline. Connection means the liberation of the right feeling prefrontal cortex from control by left. The left can now perform its important function of integration instead of suppression. And of course, the relaxation of the patient and her sense of ease is another key piece of evidence. Most important, once there is a lock-in of feelings, the insights become a geyser.
I have cited elsewhere the work of Martin Teicher (see also the pioneering split brain work by Michael Gazzaniga and Joseph Bogen, independently), indicating that early trauma weakens the right-left communication channel-the corpus callosum, which is another piece of evidence of the neurological basis for the disconnection/split and its effects. So the left side states, "I am relaxed and calm," while the right side is abuzz with pain.
All of the new information indicates that there can be no lasting cure without connection; to put it differently, we cannot be healthy and mentally strong so long as there is disconnection; so long as there is a war going on between the two halves of the brain, mental health is not possible.
Neurosis means there is a disconnection. It is not possible to get well through more of it, which is what happens in hypnosis, acupuncture and all cognitive therapies, where the left is driven further from its right counterpart. This is why if there is to be any gain achieved, there must be pain. Connection in neurosis necessarily means pain.
Connection has neurologic roots. The Swedish neuroscientist, David Ingvar, using a CAT scan of the brain found that a perception of pain involved both sides of the prefrontal area working in tandem. When emotional pain is repressed, I would assume the right side is more involved; the right amygdala picks up volume. As I pointed out earlier, the right amygdala tends to swell when there is feeling. Thus, disconnected pain is more active on the right side than the left. After a year of our therapy, however, the power is more equally spread between hemispheres (see the Hoffman study in Appendix).
It is as though there is a secret underground in the brain where messages are passed back and forth, but on the side which should be aware there is no recognition of them. So the right side "tells" the left side, sotto voce, "Look, I can't take any more criticism. It means I am not loved." And the left side says, "OK. I'll defend you against having to feel so bad. Just don't tell me too much. Anyway, I'll twist the criticism by the other person, and make them wrong." And the left side jumps in immediately and automatically as soon as there is a hint of criticism. "Don't worry, my right-wing friend; I'll keep those feelings of feeling unloved and criticized under control even though you haven't told me what they are." So the left side acts-out the feeling; the act-out is unconscious because the right side feeling is not connected. The left is not yet consciously-aware. We see this clearly in split-brain surgery, (the surgical split of the left and right brains) where the surgeon will feed input into the right brain, but because of the lack of inter-hemispheric connection, the left is forced to rationalize a feeling it doesn't even recognize. The doctor will feed something funny to the right side while the left laughs and concocts a strange explanation for his laughter: ("That white coat you are wearing is very funny"). The fact that the left frontal area doesn't recognize the feeling doesn't stop it from manufacturing all sorts of rationales. In brief, the right side input is forcing it to create rationales, as it does in both meditation and neurosis where the disconnection is enhanced.
When someone says, "You are wrong about this," or, "You made a mistake there," the left brain quickly says, "Yes, but the reason I did that was...." The feeling is, "If I'm wrong I won't be loved by my parents. I must defend." It is defending against the feelings on the right. "If I'm wrong I will feel useless, like a nothing, not deserving of anything. Not worth being loved." That feeling of being unloved, I must underline, is already there! The trigger in the present lights it up and swirls the feelings again. One rationalizes because one cannot stand one more bit of criticism and the terrible feeling that it sets off. The left accommodates and does the defending without even knowing why.
Neurosis, in many respects, is a split-brain state. The essence of neurosis seems to be to concoct rationales for one's behavior, which is driven by unrecognized forces. That is why one cannot penetrate elaborate rationales and explanations for other's behavior. "Why should I give up drink when it always makes me feel warm and cozy?" said an acquaintance. He had no recognition of the constant tension he suffered. So long as feelings are hidden and repressed, the defenses must remain intact. When the insight/cognitive therapist attacks this defense, trying to dissuade the person from her ideas, it is a vain cause; he has neglected the split-brain effect, which tends to be literal.
Rush Limbaugh, the radio commentator, admits to taking strong pain killers over many years. His ideational brain and philosophies are anchored to feelings he's not aware of. There's no more use in talking him out of those feelings that it would be to try and change his whole history. It isn't just that he has "unreal ideas," it's that his disconnected system forces him to both quell his pain on the physical level with drugs and to dampen his pain with a philosophy that may be at odds with his feelings.
In any effective therapy it is the connection between the deep right limbic to orbito-frontal areas that will resolve so many of our problems, from anxiety, which is pain leaking through a faulty gating system, to depression, which is pain butting up against rigid, unyielding gates. Why? Because many of our later problems derive from experiences in the lower right areas that never make it to higher level connections. Rather, they continually do their damage on lower levels; chronic high blood pressure is one of many examples.
Preverbal pains are sequestered like an unwanted guest that we keep in the garage, where we store undesirable items we'd rather not look at. What does get through is a vague sense of discomfort and malaise-the suffering part. The undesirable is knocking at the gates (almost literally) saying, "Can't I come in from the cold and join you?" The system, however, keeps the gates high, implying, "Sorry, but I can't tolerate all you've got to say. Let's wait for a better day."
That better day is when we are older, when the critical period is long gone, and we are able to accept the previously unacceptable. Meanwhile, the brain has done its best to block the feeling, providing detours from the right-limbic information highway heading upwards and leftwards. The blockage is not complete, however, because the feeling drives act outs. "No one wants me," becomes trying to get everyone to want her-being helpful, kind, unobtrusive, etc. The feeling becomes transmuted into physical behavior. The energy, which needs connection, has gone to our stomach and created colitis; to our cardiac and vascular system with palpitations or migraines, and to our muscles, making us tense. It may make us act meek and diffident as if no one wants us around. It causes an inability for males to become erect. What we try to do in our therapy is allow feelings to go straight up the feeling highway to the right OBFC and then to make a left turn to reach its destination.
Connection is always the brain's prime destination. If we only turn left and never go right we will never get there from here. I believe the system is always trying for connection but it gets blocked by gating. Because of the constant push to connect, feelings tend to intrude and disrupt our thinking-hence, the inability to concentrate or focus.
Once connected those diversions will no longer be necessary to drain the energy. The energy always spreads to the weakest link. "Weakest" means a vulnerable area or organ either due to heredity or to damage done earlier in life; a blow to the head in infancy may end up as epilepsy. A history of allergies in the family may result in asthma later on.
The Limbic System and its Connections
It is the right amygdala that forms a sensory gateway from feelings and sensations in the lower realm of the brain all the way up to the OBFC. The amygdala also provides emotional information to the OBFC, which takes over some of the memory and codes it. When the amount of information is overwhelming, the message does not travel all the way to the OBFC for connection. It can be blocked at the level of the thalamus and sent back down, retaining the disconnection. We then have a headless monster rummaging around the lower depths of the nervous system without guidance.
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On Alice Miller and Self-Primalling; Why Self-Primalling is Dangerous
This is a quote from Alice Miller's website (http://www.alice-miller.com/sujet/art8.htm):
Today, I share the opinion of Arthur Janov who always affirmed, that primal therapy without the assistance of a well informed and compassionate therapist can be very dangerous. (cf. his homepage). In addition, I think that it contains (1) a contradiction in itself by reactivating a situation of which one want to get rid of and (2) a perpetuation of the violence directed toward oneself.
You cannot on your own get to feelings that are defended automatically.
We are glad to see that Alice Miller came around to recommending against self-primalling.
Besides the fact that it is important to have somebody compassionate to get to feeling, the clinical reason why self-primalling is dangerous is that it means trying to descend to feelings that are below the level of repression. They are in place for a very good reason and should not be tampered with without professional help. The result is almost inevitably abreaction. The defense system in all its brilliance deceives the self-primaller into believing he/she is having a Primal by giving it the allure of a feeling, when it is pure abreaction — the discharge of energy of the feeling without connection.
We have a lot of experience at the Primal Center with self-primallers or mock-therapy patients. The same pattern of abreaction is often obvious, as mock therapists who don't know how to help patients to feelings very often use methods similar to those of a self-primaller, with the same results. We have to "regroove" their deviations into proper connections.
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Oxygen Loss at Birth
More and more research is confirming what I have been writing for decades. Two new studies on the neuroinhibitor serotonin were done on animals. One by Delia Vazques (Int. J. of Develop Neuroscience. 1994 Aug; 12 (5) 499-505). And another study by Kim, C. S., et al., of the University of North Carolina. They found that oxygen deprivation in newborn rabbits led to depletion of serotonin levels. This same deprivation in older animals did not have the same effect. In short, the birth trauma has serious consequences on our long-term ability to repress. It accounts for hyperactive, distractible children who cannot keep their impulses under control, who cannot concentrate and focus because their gating/repressive system is faulty. Most of the research indicates that the effects of hypoxia (oxygen loss) are long lasting. The researchers state that they expect the same effects in human subjects.
Another study by McNamara, M.C. et al. (Brain Research. 1986 Mar:390(2): 253-8) found that again in very young animals that oxygen loss resulted in lowered serotonin. They say, "This change may reflect altered serotonin metabolism and suggests a possible mechanism by which hypoxia disrupts physiologic homeostatis in newborns." What this means and what we have observed is that birth trauma upsets the chemical balance of the human system making it vulnerable to all kinds of diseases later on from high blood pressure to possibly Alzheimer's. It means that a good deal of later behavior problems can stem from this early trauma, as well as learning difficulties. The child is anxious because the terror is imprinted and set in motion by the trauma and then due to a depleted serotonin system, does not have the wherewithal to repress the pain. This is to say nothing of other studies which found loss or damage to neurons due to this trauma including deficient hippocampus of the limbic system. They say: "This would be compatible with findings of emotional/behavioral deficits observed in a parallel study of in our model of perinatal anoxia". (oxygen depletion at and around birth) "Our observations point to and may help to explain behavioral and emotional deficits in Man with a history of perinatal asphyxia."
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The Unchanging Imprint
The importance of the critical period and the imprint is its unchanging quality. Once something is set down during the critical period it is there forever, in the sense that we cannot make up for what happened to us during it; except, there may be a way to undo its charge and some of its effects. The critical period and the imprint is truly the leitmotif [of this book.]. It means that what happens to us during later life is less important in terms of personality development than what happened during the early critical period when the brain was forming. We neglect it at our peril; for without an understanding of critical periods and imprints we may never fully understand the onset of heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimers disease and other serious afflictions. These are the hidden generating sources of so many later difficulties. Early traumas twist and turn our biology so that it is permanently deviated, too much stress hormone, not enough thyroid, too little serotonin, etc.
The critical period is a two-way street. If a mother doesn't have a chance to be a "mother" during this time she will have difficulty being a mother later on. If a baby goat is separated from its mother before it can be licked and then later given back to her,the mother seems at a loss and has "no behavioral resources to anything for the newborn."
Michel Odent discusses other research to emphasize the point: If a lamb is separated from its mother at birth and the separation lasts for more than four hours, half of the mothers would not take care of their babies afterward. But (ital), if the separation took place after one day there was no such problem. The critical period, immediately after birth, had passed. When these mothers were given epidural anesthesia shots to aid in birth they did not take care of their babies afterwards. Mothers need their babies during the critical period, as well. If they can't love during the critical period they seem to lose some of their capacity to love later on. Mothers too, in short, can become imprinted with the ability to love or not. If they cannot be mothers when they should be, there is some biological mechanism that prevents them from being good mothers later on. There may be a lesson for humans here.
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The Brain and Criminal Behavior
A new study published in The Archives of General Psychiatry, Feb. 2000, examined 21 men with antisocial personality disorders and violent tendencies. The conclusion was that there was a "brain basis" to criminal behavior. They analyzed the brains of the subjects with magnetic resonance imaging, and found an eleven percent reduction in frontal lobe brain matter. It is one more bit of evidence of how possibly early trauma compromises the growth of frontal lobe cortex, making these individuals impulsive and unable to control their violence. And I would add, that those same early traumas that reduce frontal cortical tissue are the ones to produce violence later on. That is, early trauma, denial of need, lack of love, birth trauma and the like, are likely to produce violence. It is known, for example, that the prefrontal area of murderers show abnormal development.
A less severe case of this impeded frontal cortex development is found in those who are chronically irresponsible, untrustworthy, negligent and inappropriate socially. These are some of the elements found in those who had mild or moderate traumas inside the womb and after birth. We musn't be too quick to impute genetic tendencies to all of the above, since the evidence is growing that birth trauma and early lack of love impair frontal cortex growth. It becomes less efficient, cannot control impulses nor integrate feelings, nor can it see the consequences of one's acts and produce appropriate behavior. So there is a spectrum from mildly irresponsible and untrustworthy to completely undependable and psychopathic. If there were intrauterine trauma, a mother smoking and depressed, plus heavy anesthetics during the birth process, added to emotional neglect after birth and into childhood we have the makings of a psychopathic personality who cannot relate to others and who cannot empathize with them. This may not necessarily lead, to antisocial behavior; rather, it can be asocial: someone lacking any skills to get along with others in a sustained way. Someone who cares only about himself and cannot see the hurt he induces in others. He can't see it because his "understanding and comprehension" centers are impaired.
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Access is such an important idea because it is my assumption that when someone has facile access to deep-lying imprints he or she will live longer. When those imprints are knocking against repression's door and must be turned back, the conditions of serious illness are there. The pressure is then turned against the body. Autoimmune disease is one example of what I mean. In short, when the unconscious is close to conscious-awareness, longevity is increased. When they are widely divergent, the conditions of illness are there. Instead of harmony among levels of consciousness there is instead a sort of internecine war going on. All this is assuming that there is underlying imprinted pain. When the pain levels are very low there is automatic access and, by and large, good health.
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Hypertension and Hopelessness
Precisely how a feeling becomes hypertension is clarified in recent research published in the February 17, 2000, issue of Hypertension, by Susan A Everson. "New Study Shows Link Between Hopelessness and Hypertension.")
This was a study on Finnish men. Those who had the highest levels of hopelessness were three times more likely to develop hypertension.(a systolic reading of over 165mm. Diastolic of over 95mm)) And, as I shall point out later, the prototypic hopelessness is laid down very early in the development of the nervous system. It is laid down, not as a concept or idea, but as a physiological state. It foretells later of the tendency to give up when there is the slightest obstacle. It is the primitive nervous system that governs blood pressure and mediates hopelessness. It is this primtive, largely brainstem, system that is largely responsible for the setpoints for cardiovascular function. Setpoints define the biological parameters of healthy life. When these setpoints exceed normal boundaries health and life is in danger. The importance of all this is that the seeds for heart attacks and strokes can be laid down very early on. This research is critical in this respect.
Needless to say, hopelessness and despair is at the base of depression. And, we shall note later, that depression has its beginnings in the womb where deep hopelessness can be imprinted, first, as a physiologic state, and after as a feeling process. When we travel to the depths of the unconscious with our patients we inevitably land onto deep hopelessness, first as an amorphous sensation, later as an articulated feeling state.
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When we give drugs for any number of afflictions, from high blood pressure to diabetes, we are treating compensating mechanisms; mechanisms that should be in place to account for possible early pain. We are trying, therefore, to reroute the reroute, to normalize a system that can only be made normal artificially. Eventually, there will be a price to be paid for this.
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Birth Trauma and Psychosis
A new report about the relationship between prolonged labor and its complications to schizophrenia has been issued by Reuters Medical News and can be found on the internet. ("Obstetric Complications Correlate with Brain Differences in Schizophrenia." http//psychiatry.medscape.com) This is a report by Dr. T.F. McNeil of the Malmo University Hospital in Sweden. (American Journal of Psychiatry. 2000, 157:203-212.)
Using the magnetic resonance technique to study aspects of the limbic system (hippocampus) in 22 pairs of twins in which only one had diagnosed schizphrenia, they found that the mentally ill twin had smaller hippocampi. There was a significant correlation between labor complications and brain shrinking. Prolonged labor was one central culprit. The authors write, "Trauma at the time of labor and delivery and especially prolonged labor appear to be of importance for brain structure anomalies associated with schizophrenia." (Reuters. 2/22/2000)
What the authors contend, something I have described for decades, is that the birth trauma has something to do with later mental illness. Further, that the feeling system is grossly affected by this trauma. This means that birth trauma affects all manner of feeling states later on, whether of suicidal tendencies or criminal proclivities. So the central questions: "Why does one twin become mentally ill and not the other?", can be partially answered by reference to the birth trauma. Not only the birth trauma, but most importantly, what happened in the womb. We must consider the background, historical effects that made the neonate vulnerable to the birth trauma.
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Attention Deficit Disorder
There is a new book out by a specialist in ADD which claims that there are at least five different kinds of ADD, each diagnosis peculiar to certain kinds of individuals. I often wonder what do these specialists believe is actually in the brain. Are there five different disease forms of ADD? Perhaps some genetic and some not? Are there five different areas involved in different kinds of ADD? I don't think so. The brain is complicated but it is not mystical, holding five different aspects of the same disease in its reservoir. ADD is first and foremost a failure of repression. There are not many different kinds of repression. There is one mediated by various kinds of neuroinhibitors. It is pain that overwhelms frontal cortical function and fragments its abilities to contain impulses from below. Certainly, there are differences in personality so that some manifest ADD in one fashion while others manifest it in another. But it is still ADD at its base. And it all can be treated in the same way: diminish the power of deep-lying imprinted pain by reliving early traumas, allowing the frontal cortex to develop and control because it is no longer bombarded by lower level shattering input. It all depends on how severe the early trauma was that compromised the development of the frontal cortex, and how much cortical tissue was implicated. As I discussed elsewhere, very early severe trauma can leave a cortex so impaired that the person is awash in impulses which cannot be controlled so that he is violent and can kill. In any case, the deficit is not just "psychological." It is a deficiency in frontal tissue. When someone like this is described as not "having all his marbles," now we know what that means. It should read, "not having all his frontal marble."
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Now we understand why such support groups such as alcoholics anonymous work. They help raise the oxytocin levels and by so doing suppress the pain. Conversely, if there had been love very early on, the levels would be high and pain levels low.There would have been no need to drink. So the support groups are patching up the lack generated early in life by the absence of love.
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A Pregnant Mother's Drinking
It has been found that a single drinking binge on the part of a pregnant woman can permanently damage the brain of her offspring. (L.A. Times, Feb. 11, 2000. Alcohol Tied To Unborns' Brain Damage page A46) What they found is again how compromising the critical period is. From six months in the womb the risk is great because memory systems are being laid down as well as learning capabilities. What they found in rats, and extrapolated to humans, is that a single alcohol binge lasting four hours can alter the structure of the brain, killing a vast number of brain cells. It is equivalent, they say, to brain suicide. The author of the study from Washington University Medical School, (John Olney) points out that most anesthesia drugs in pediatric surgery can disrupt certain brain neurotransmitters which will increase the risk of infancy brain damage. The long-terms effects of this are again, an inability to have a good memory, and certain deficiencies in learning. It is one reason that heavy drugs during birth are dangerous for the newborn.
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Shocking the Brain: Electroshock Therapy
Last week a sixty-year-old woman came to us from a small town in England. She was severely depressed. What does depression feel like, Numb, Not getting anything out of life. Despair, She was depressed like that twenty years ago. She had no idea what brought it back.
As she started her three weeks of therapy we had the big Los Angeles earthquake (January 1994) and her bed and she shook uncontrollable. That event reawakened something that changed all the rules of the game. She stopped crying and reported the following relentless symptoms: a constant hissing sound in her ears, night and day; numbness in the face, a feeling of electricity all over her body (she shook and jerked all the time), a complete feeling of discomfort.
Her session changed complexion. She lost her motor control in her legs and in the session when she tried to stand up she started to collapse. There were no words to her agony, she felt disconnected and had no idea what was going on in her. She began flopping uncontrollably exactly like the triggering event of the earthquake. She was reliving electroshock therapy she had undergone twenty times some twenty years before.
When we pressed on her temples (where the original electrodes were placed) she arched back and flopped and jerked exactly as though she were again undergoing shock thereapy. She relived pieces of the experience each session for weeks, and had to do so before she could get to the feelings that had lay behind her depression; the very feelings that had led doctors to shock her in the first place. Sometimes when I put my fingers on her temples the right side of her face went numb, something that no doubt occurred originally. When a pencil was put in her mouth at the appropriate time she clamped down on it as hard as one could imagine, her face grimaced in agony, and she was back there in shock again reliving the time they put cotton or a rubber device in her mouth to keep her from biting her tongue or breaking her teeth during the experience.
So what's the first lesson about this?; a lesson very important since electroshock is making a comeback particularly with children, believe it or not---what goes in must come out. The electroshock is like any shock, a trauma, a trauma that must be relieved in its entirety. What does the shock do? It does what any shock does; raises the level of serotonin, the inhibitory brain chemical which enhances repression. It therefore does what any state of souped-up repression. It therefore does what any state of souped-up repression does; it renders the person ahistoric, bereft of emotional memory for days, weeks, and sometimes forever. Again we see that it is the overall charge value of an electrical impulse that produces an overload and shutdown.
Electroshock is a neutral electrical stimulus but it has the same effect as a ten year old seeing his mother killed in a car crash. They both add up to an overload, increased serotonin to meet the overwhelming input and finally, shutdown. The memory is blotted out and unconsciousness sets in. In electroshock it is global unconsciousness. In the accident it is the same; the situation is blotted out, and above all, the meaning of the situation is hidden away, I'll never have a mommy again in my life. There will be no one to protect and take care of me. What matters in both cases is the level of electrical charge of the stimulus. The content is simply the vehicle for the power of the incident. As we see in electroshock, there need be no content whatsoever.
After a time of reliving the shock we will be able to get to the traumas below. So long as that event is superimposed on childhood pain it will take precedence in the primal reliving sequence. It's charge value is such as to blot out almost anything else. Interestingly, as she relived more and more of the shock therapy she began covering her head and hearing the bombs over London during the blitz in World War II. After that, we expect her to begin to relive traumas even earlier, finally arriving down deep to the imprints that caused the depression that originally precipitated the necessity for ECT.
We systematically measure the vital functions, heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure, before and after each session. This woman came in with consistently high vital signs, body temp of over one hundred every day. They would drop only moderately, which is as it should be since the event could only be felt a small piece at a time; therefore, we would not expect major drops after any single session. We would expect major drops toward the end of the feeling, some weeks or months later when the full charge value of the twenty shocks had been experienced and integrated. Along with this moderate drop was the picture of a disconnected, fragmented human being. She had no idea what she was undergoing, had no idea why her body was shaking or why her face went numb, had no insights and seemed blank. In short, the whole shock experience was still on its way to consciousness, disrupting it, blotting out memory and preventing deep access; after all, that was the point of the shock, in the first place; to prevent deep internal access to one's pain. It would seem that her face went numb in the original experience because during the Primal when I tapped strongly on her right cheek she reported feeling only pressure but no pain.
Again, we are not going to expect a connected lucidity until a major portion of the electroshock therapy is relived. Then automatically, it will all fall into place and no one will have to offer her any understanding or insights. It is no different than a child reliving losing her mother early on. The catastrophic meaning of it will be lost until months into Primal Therapy when the whole event with its painful meaning will finally be fully experienced. The original event blasted third-line coherence just so the whole meaning would no longer be apparent. It fragmented through patterns, cut short attention span and ruined the ability to concentrate. The shock was doing what it was supposed to do; reducing the coherence of the third-line. If a shocking trauma did not do this and the person were to feel the shock in a focused way in its entirety the level or reactivity such as blood pressure and heart rate could be lethal. Thus, a fragmented response is necessary, and that has implications for things such as poor physical coordination. To be fragmented means not to have your body, not to be connected.
The original doctors, either through belief, lack of time or technique did not bother to talk to her about the possible causes of her depression. All they knew was that she was crying all of time. They did not seem to understand that childhood pain lay below the surface, and they did not make an effort, therefore, to penetrate deep down to see what was bothering her. When that happens there seems to be no alternative but to shock someone's brains. The problem is that afterward she carried around that shock inside her just as if she had the shock at ten of watching her mother die in an auto accident.
The need for shock often happens when ordinary pills aren't adequate. That is, when the underlying pain is so great that simple medication won't suppress it. Then the big guns of electroshock are called in to blast the pain and memory and history out of existence. In a society where results are paramount, shock offers a quick fix. One can see it, the patient attests to its benefits and everyone seems happy. Meanwhile, churning below the surface is that very shock, doing its damage by stealth. The aim in conventional therapy is to get people productive again; back to the factory, the office and the computer. Part of the person is back at work; she has the emotional her back at the shock room in the hospital. So she is now a productive member of society, a robot in the service of results; eviscerated, devitalized, desensitized, hollow and dehumanized at work churning out product while her real feelings grind away in the deep unconscious. She can work but she can't love.
The effects of electroshock therapy are monstrous and unnecessary. We must talk to the patient, allow her to feel. Be concerned and realize that there is a history in human beings that must be addressed.
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From New Scientist 23 Sept 2000 page 18, You Are What You Eat. by Claire Ainsworth: "A mother's diet in the first few days after conception could determine the health of her unborn child for life". An embryo sets its growth rate according to its environment. If a mother is malnourished the growth rate is slower as part of the adaptation for survival. This leads to low birthweight. Babies that are born small are subject to high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes in later life. This is the work of Tom Fleming of the Univ of Southhampton England. This is an extrapolation from rat research. Source: Development (vol 127, page 4195)
Excerpt from "New Scientist" 16 December 2000 by Meredith F. Small, professor of anthropology at Cornell University. Her book, Kids: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Raise Our Children, will be published in April 2001 by Doubleday.
Human young are dependant on their carers to help them navigate through their crucial early years. So to get the emotional and physical help they need, they must be highly sensitive to the behaviour of their carers-and that makes them particularly vulnerable to family strife. Several studies have shown that it is unpredictability that really stresses kids. British researchers found, for example, that the cortisol levels of some children are lower at school, where life is predictable and stable, and higher at home, where they believe anything can happen.
Normally, their reaction to stress helps kids cope by directing energy to parts of the body that need it most, but if stressful situations are not resolved, the damage can be far-reaching. Megan Gunnar, an expert on stress in children at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, points to a growing awareness that stress in childhood is a major mental and physical health risk.
"One reason to worry about stress in childhood is that this is the time when we learn how to manage stress-patterns that we will carry forward into our adult lives," says Gunnar. "And we don't take the hit on some of the health consequences until we are older. Increasingly, we are finding that many of those adult diseases that knock us down when we are 40 or 50- heart disease, high blood pressure and so on-are detectable in childhood, when the patterns are set."
Gunnar and others have shown that when very young children are abused, neglected or bond poorly with their carers, their cortisol levels are high even in mildly stressful situations such as play and they are unable to cope. And several recent studies of women who had been abused as children show that they are biologically vulnerable to depression and anxiety as adults because early experience permanently altered their hormonal responses, making them hypersensitive to stress.
Flinn has uncovered two abnormal patterns of cortisol production in children under continued stress from family trauma. Usually, kids have a constant low background level of cortisol, which peaks when they are under stress. But some highly stressed children have chronically high levels of cortisol. They are also shy and anxious. Another group of children has abnormally low basal cortisol levels interspersed with spikes of unnaturally high levels. They also show what Flinn calls blunted cortisol responses-their levels don't rise as they should during physical activity. Just as worrying, they are less sociable and more aggressive than kids with normal profiles.
Some of these kids have been stressed since they were conceived and they probably missed certain sensitive periods for obtaining normal cortisol profiles, though how exactly the response develops is still unknown. These children also have weakened immune responses, fall ill more frequently, are easily fatigued and don't sleep well. Looking at his record of children who are now adults, Flinn is finding that some of them seem to be permanently affected by stressful events that happened while they were in the womb, in infancy or during early childhood.
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In The Biology Of Love I pointed out how drugs given to the mother affect the fetus; a mother who takes speed may produce a child who will later take downers, while a mother who takes tranquillizers or downers may produce a child who will later need uppers. The whole point is that we always try to normalize our systems, and that normalization process can begin in the womb. Now we have information to again confirm what we have been writing for thirty years:
The more painkillers a woman gets during labor, the more likely her child is to abuse drugs later in life.
Karin Nyberg of the University of Gothenburg and her colleagues looked at medication given to the mothers of 69 adult drug abusers and 33 of their siblings who did not abuse drugs. They found that 23 percent of the drug abusers were exposed to multiple doses of opiates or barbiturates in the hours before birth, compared to only 3 percent of their siblings without problems (Epidemiology, vol 11, p715). If the mothers received three or more doses, their child was nearly five times as likely to abuse drugs.
[The researchers don't know exactly how a short exposure to drugs could produce such long-term effects, but some studies have shown that exposure to a drug in the womb can change an animal's reaction to it later on.] New Scientist: p27, 21 October, 2000
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