Posted: 28 Dec 2010 02:20 AM PST
Isaac Newton, one of the most celebrated scientists of all time, once remarked that he could see far because he was, “standing on the shoulders of giants.” In the same way, Arthur Janov’s ground-breaking approach to psychotherapy, Primal Therapy, combines some of the most important elements of his predecessors while providing a deeper and more complete theory of the healing process.
This became clear to me as I was reading the second edition of Louis Cozolino’s invaluable book, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy.
For instance, Cozolino writes that Freud’s psychoanalysis and the psychodynamic forms of therapy that grew out of it, share theoretical assumptions such as the existence of the unconscious, the power of early childhood experiences, and the existence of defenses that distort reality in order to reduce anxiety and enhance coping.
Janov, who originally trained with Freudians, practiced conventional psychotherapy until his work led him to discover what he termed “Primal Pain”. In general, this refers to traumas experienced by babies and children which are so painful that the hurt must be dissociated from consciousness. In the more than three decades that followed, he has refined Primal Therapy as a way to allow patients to connect with these feelings in order for healing to occur.
However, in contrast to Freud’s psychoanalysis and some modern psychodynamic methods, Primal Therapists do not interpret or explain to a patient what they think he or she is “really” feeling.
They don’t offer “insights” or speculate about the source of the trauma, nor would they ask a client to do something artificial, such as exaggerated breathing or play-acting.
Instead of such arbitrary practices, Janov maintains that patients must discover their own unique truths for themselves, with the therapist acting as a skilled and empathetic “witness”. This “client-centered therapy” was pioneered by Carl Rogers in the 1960s. As Cozolino explains: “Rogers emphasized creating a relationship that maximized the individual’s opportunity for self-discovery.”
In the same vein, a Primal Therapist does not end a session after 50 minutes or some other artificial time limit. The patient has as much time as needed, and a session often lasts two hours or more.
A session usually begins by encouraging the patient to get in touch with whatever they are feeling at the moment. That is the real “royal road to the unconscious”. It may be an emotion, a memory, a dream, a song in one’s head, or perhaps a physical sensation. This bodily focus was first used by Wilhelm Reich, who had studied with Freud and who, as Cozolino notes, understood “that memory is stored not just in the brain but throughout the entire body.”
In short, trusting the client to find their own way (with appropriate suggestions from the therapist) is not only the most reliable approach to access deep feelings, but, not surprisingly, is vital to build trust between the client and therapist – an element that is essential for a healing relationship to develop. While Janov does not agree with the belief that, “the curative element is the therapeutic relationship itself”, he stresses that the patient must feel that they are in a safe, supportive, and understanding relationship.
This empathetic situation is the opposite of that which existed when the damage was done, and it allows the client to safely re-live the trauma - this time in small doses to avoid re-traumatization.
When all of these elements are in place, the patient has the maximum opportunity to make the healing connection between the conscious self and the repressed pain. When the old pain is felt, there may be crying, fist-pounding, trembling – even curling up in a fetal position when re-living a traumatic birth. (After observing Janov’s tape of a patient experiencing a birth Primal, affective neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp observed that such behavior “could not be faked.”)
Janov’s position is that - most of the time - a therapist must allow the patient to go as deeply as he or she needs to in order to make a full connection (and he believes that too many therapies do not let a patient fully descend into their pain). After a deep connection, patients will have insights into why they felt a certain way or acted out neurotically. It takes many sessions before enough of the pain is released so that one is no longer driven by the old feeling.
Like Cozolino, Janov holds that the, “primary focus of psychotherapy appears to be the integration of affect, in all its forms, with conscious awareness and cognition.” (Not surprisingly, Janov contends that cognitive behavior therapy only addresses symptoms – ideas – while ignoring the cause - buried emotions. Ideas are one of the most common defenses against feeling one’s pain).
Over time, this “integration of affect” leads to increased neural integration and information flow, as Daniel Siegel notes. The healing is not merely psychological - neuroplasticity means that there will be physical changes to the architecture of the brain itself.
Jan Johnsson’s Comments to "Elements of Primal Theory"
I like the image you borrow from Isaac Newton, when he said that the reason he could see far was because he “was standing on the shoulder of giants”. That is the same metaphor, I feel adequate when I am thinking of what Dr Janov has meant to me. This I don’t say just to support his Primal Principle about how pain can be relived and dissolved in the reverse evolution order. I have over 40 years on my own body, in my psyche and behavior experienced this revolution. I now feel that I can see much further than before.
Last night I brought home “The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy” by Cozolino from Kindle, and read it in order to see if I finally could find someone giving credit to Art and his invention. Of course I found nothing. However, you had in an elegant way bridged over this fact by referring to Carl Rogers and Wilhelm Reich, which both are quoted in Cozolino. (“Rogers emphasized the individual’s opportunity for self-discovery”).
(Regarding Reich, I cannot stop myself from quoting Ida Rolf when she in her book “Rolfing and Physical Reality” is saying: “Reich began to put a material body onto Freud’s theories, this kind of thinking and working that we are doing is forming the bridge between psychology and physiology. We too are standning at that point, that very vital point. We need to collect our clinical information together so that we can bring the psychologists down from the clouds and put their feet on the ground.” Said in the 70-ties...)
A couple of days ago NYT had a brilliant analyzes of the Deepwater Horizon’s final Hours in the Gulf of Mexico. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/us/26spill.html
This is the story about what seemed to be an inevitable casualty of the blowout of the Macondo well. It was not. A top paid, handpicked crew of well educated, well trained and experienced, tough, strong and well coordinated people were frozen by the sheer complexity of the Horizon’s defenses and by the policies that explained when they were to be deployed. The chief counsel for the presidential commission that is looking into the Horizon disaster, said Tansocean’s handbook was “a safety expert's dream” and yet after reading it cover to cover, he struggled to answer a basic question: “How do you know it is bad enough to act fast?”
When I read Cozolino’s invaluable book “The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy”, I struggle to find an answer to my problems. How to approach the pain behind my epilepsy and my feelings of not being counted, loved and behind my hurting nose and fingers, etc.. Why doesn’t Cozolino include Janov and the Primal Therapy? Is he so burdened by all the theoretical aristrocrazy in his reference lists that he against better knowledge chooses to exclude him? I like when he’s quoting Albert Einstein: “I never came to any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”
1977 I had a different epileptic seizure. I didn’t cramp but climbed a high oak tree subconsciously driven by a memory how a boy (in a novel by Danish Nobel Prize winner Pontoppidan) had done the same after his father had assaulted him, very similar to what my father did to me when I was 9. The boy fell down and was killed. I was helped down by neighbors and paramedics and brought to a hospital where neurologists and psychologists gave me a treatment like that Jack Nicolson was given in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
1984 I came to Bergen, Norway, after 750 miles / 15 hours drive from the south of Sweden to visit a Primal retreat held by Dr Janov. I went to the meeting and felt tense and scared. Inside the door in the group room I met Art and he only needed to see me, and he said: “It is a feeling” and I laid down and felt safe to follow my feeling into a deep birth primal, in stead of having an epileptic seizure. Art followed his intuition. He was not bogged down by no handbooks!
Thank you for your positive comments to Dr Janov and The Primal Therapy.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Posted by Jan Åke Johnsson at 6:12 AM
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Self-knowledge or self-deception?
I became interested in Primal Therapy when it I still was young and inexperienced. This meant that I for many years have exposed myself to experiments that have not followed a straight line, and I have made sudden jumps in evolution. These steps have been followed by long periods of inactivity when I for a time left active therapy and could enjoy my discoveries, that far, in my professional career. It has been like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle from Waddington, sometimes it has been difficult to find a specific piece and then suddenly, after relaxing a little, large chunks falling into place.
During therapy, I have not always followed the evolution and been able, backwards, to peel off layer after layer of feelings finally to get down to the very early imprint during birth. The way I have happened to approach my neuroses has been rooted in my confusion during my birth, that I was drugged by antiepileptic medicine and because of the ignorance that prevailed for many years in the Primal Therapy’s own ranks.
My treatment, which mostly has been done at home by myself, has been like a tango, two steps forward and one back, which pattern was repeated until I slowly understood and felt the connection between my isolation, my numbness, my inability to bond and how my birth experiences have developed into epileptic reactions with all its subtle effects and variations. Now that I can see the relationship, everything seems so clear, but it has taken more than 40 years since 1978 to reach where I am today. I will try to provide some limited examples, of how I've come to where I am and how this has affected my life.
When I mention 1978 as the start of my experiments, it is because that's when I officially started Primal Therapy. In retrospect, dynamic changes happened even before I knew what it was all about. During 1963 and 1965 I had a work situation, when I for a few years was working as a correspondent in a company doing direct sales to the consumers, which meant that I in my own, well isolated and secluded place dictated and wrote letters to company representatives. It gave me the opportunity to occasionally, without the risk of being caught, go with a feeling. This meant to release a petit mall seizure / hallucination / flashback and get what I later understood were connections with pain which I had repressed. Liberating experiences that reminded of what the provocateur Ortiz would deal with at theaters in New York within a few years, which in turn led to the development of Dr. Janov’s Primal Therapy...
1963 I had taken anti-epileptic medication for a few years and had organized my life in relatively stable orbits for the first time and had no hyperactive neurotic behavior that pushed down my feelings, but they were quite the contrary given opportunities to come up. The sudden ascendance of feelings was about suppressed pain from a confrontation / trauma that I had had with, for example, my parents, siblings, girlfriends, friends and superiors. Suddenly, I could let the pain pop up, and I could feel and relive the memories that I had carried on, repressed, in my memory. These moments were followed by a great liberating relief.
It started as a petit mall, with a burning sensation over my eyes and in the midst of the cramp, I had a flashback to the painful moment that I had repressed. I do not remember exactly how many experiences of this kind that I had, but it could certainly have been somewhere between 20 and 30 in total during these two years, so it was a big purge as the bunker-like basement space for correspondents in Spirella so timely happened to be the scene for. The experiences were about how I had lied and deceived, hurt people verbally, shoplifted and as a young kid had killed a songbird with a sling shot. Most of it had occurred between 1950 and 1960 and was not of a particularly serious character with today's eyes, but for a 10-15 year old kid, they were dramatic events as they occurred.
My own therapy in the “Spirella box” ended in 1965 when Geigy introduced Carbamazepein / Tegretol as an anti-epileptic drug in Europe, and since I had a well-informed doctor as Dr David Ingvar, I got my Phenotyein exchanged. I do not remember why, but I'm rather sure it had to do with my repeated hallucinations / flashbacks (primal feelings) that I mentioned to Dr. Ingvar. He had also promised my then fiancee, on her direct telephone inquiry, that I might well get married and have children even though I was uncertain. Tegretol killed my petit mall and all my time could be devoted to inciting sale of corsets through correspondence, studying at night and starting to build a family.
1978 and 1979 I spent in the USA and then largely in Los Angeles. My intention was primarily to spend those two years with Primal Therapy and to improve my English. I was well prepared and had read the Primal Scream a few times and was convinced that the therapy would wipe out my epilepsy. During these two years, however, nothing of importance happened on the surface. I got only an intellectual understanding of what the future of Primal Therapy could mean.
During my three weeks with Patty, who was my therapist, nothing happened. I tried to see and feel how the lack of contact with my parents had influenced me, but it led nowhere. The only incident worth mentioning occurred when Patty tried to get me to react emotionally, and I suddenly became like mad and threw a shoe at her with full force. We were both equally surprised at my reaction. She was obviously angry and told me to never do it again. The feeling of uncontrollable anger that Patty provoked, I have experienced later, and it has proven to be identical to that feeling which developed when I was stuck in the birth process which was a dreadful experience between life and death.
Much more didn’t happen, which affected my epilepsy. I remember from the group sessions, which I visited from time to time, that I had a feeling which oscillated between panic and numbness as I stood up in front of the other patients and the therapist group led by Art. When I had gathered courage and told the group about my lack of contact with my father, I cannot exactly recall the situation, DR Janov asked me to go and beat the sandbag and tell my father what I needed. When I made it, I thought myself that I had passed the exam, and then I called it a day and did not experience more during my stay at The Primal Institute, and I owned several unused and paid for group tickets when I went back to Sweden.
How could it be possible to let two years that were intended to be devoted to deep dynamic therapy just slip by without being worried that so few feelings were connected? Tegretol, stenosis, two years with fantastic weather, gorgeous beaches, a beautiful spouse uninterested in therapy, stimulating experiences, relaxed acquaintances were the heavy reasons. Since I did not have to worry about my income which I was assured by my former employer, with the dollar at its all time low level during these two years and with moonlighting for my employer in the future in an exciting environment in Colorado, my spouse and I had the two best years of our lives. Furthermore, the seductive situation fit into my self-deception. I had many subtle tools that held down my pain. “Colorín, colorado y el cuento se ha acabado”. (Which is a Spanish proverb to end stories with; “and here stopped the story and all lived happily until the end of time...”).
Fate, however, had new surprises in store. My moonlighting, for a Swedish company, in Colorado and to be more specific in Boulder, where much of the experimental hippy movement had moved from California, gave me the opportunity to many different contacts. Among other things, I stayed with a talented Jew, David Lesermann, during the days I did a job in Boulder. The contact with David I had received from the Primal Institute. Through David, I established relationship with The Rolfing Institute in Boulder. It was founded by Swedish descendant Dr. Ida Rolf, who did deep-tissue massage to release the body's original natural movement pattern. Ida Rolf had found out that the body is often locked by muscles which, controlled by neuroses, erroneously take root incorrectly in the skeleton so that the body is inhibited and give expressions of the repressed needs.
It was five approximately 60-90 minutes long and painful, bordering on violent, massage sessions. Normally, you did the entire series of massage treatments over 10 weeks and let it run 1-2 weeks between each session, but I had come up with the idea a little more than a month before I should move back to Sweden, so I compressed the treatments which I managed in 5 weeks instead of 10-15 weeks. After each treatment, I experienced a euphoric, almost intoxicating feeling, which soon was followed by a depression during a couple of days. I did my last Rolfing session just before I late in December 1979 flew back to Sweden. My adventure began almost immediately I got home, when my seizures turned into birth primals. With hindsight I might have started with Rolfing in the spring of 1978, but if I look in the same records then probably neither Dr. Janov nor Primal Therapy had been prepared to handle the situation... For me the effects of the Rolfing massage treatment meant, seen from a positive but hazardous viewpoint, that I could overrule the law of evolution and skip several protection filters of neuroses and go directly to the root of my epilepsy, to the primal birth feelings, creating fascinating experiences and insights which I managed with the help of luck and Tegretol.
To experience birth primal which had begun as epileptic seizures meant a different life and a new world opened up. My approach to therapy changed, and I began slowly to gain insights into how my life had been affected. The birth experience that stands out most of the many, I have experienced, is the one I experienced in January 1982 during a retreat in Frutigen, Switzerland. I came late to our ski resort where we would live during the week, and I was tired after a long and difficult drive up through the mountains and went to bed in the room we were assigned, and I crawled into my sleeping bag.
After a few hours sleep, I woke up in a birth primal during which I moved around the room inside the sleeping bag, and I relived how I as a fetus was a turned around and pulled backwards while I nearly got strangled, and it ended with the most liberating literal sound of a baby scream I have felt and heard. The feelings afterwards of being full and completely normal were fantastic. All the following week was great and rewarding, including the painful experience of the “Killing Softly” which I will talk about in another chapter. In addition, I had the first and only time in my life three glorious days of skiing in the Alps. My balance became better in more than one respect.
It was surprising and interesting that my birth primal took place although I went on strong medication. From this point on, I started to feel and understand how my life had been conditioned by my need for love (especially from my father), of need for physical contact, of fear for seizures and of not belonging to somewhere and of not being good enough. The pain not to feel loved and to not be given time by my father made me for decades an easy victim for those who had something to offer as a surrogate. My father showed almost no emotion for me, rarely talked with me (when he did it, he corrected constantly or criticized me ironically), controlled me and did things behind my back (he had at various times had both my cat Sniff and my dog Bella shot without first talking to me). It created a sense of epileptic numbness in my head when I saw him. I began to avoid him and when the school gave me information about the various incidents and grants for which they demanded a parent's signature, I didn’t give it to him but signed with his name and handwriting and collected grants that I would not let him get.
When I was a little boy of eight years I was once very well treated by another boy who I went to school with, a boy whom I barely knew. I drove several miles with my bike in the darkness without light to pretend that I was his little brother, so he could get us both into the movie on one ticket. I still remember the pleasant feeling when the boy took my hand, and I can feel the sense of loss that my father never did it. The movie, I have no memory of. In 1974 I was contacted by a headhunter regarding a job, I should not have bothered. However, I accepted the offer unable to resist the fine feeling, that the headhunter and the prestigious job created, which was a temporary pain relief from feeling worthless and unloved, and I could not say no. The impact was dramatic, both for me and my family then, as I will mention in another chapter.
The physiological consequences of my difficult birth have often caused complications, and here the therapy may have had its most revolutionary effects. My fingers, my feet, and my nose they have all during most of my life been very vulnerable and their involvement in and connection to the pain which was imprinted during my birth is remarkable. As an extra painkiller I, August 23 1963, added physical education. Not to build muscles, it would not have seemed sufficiently sophisticated, but more to build stamina, strength through endurance. In this way, I always felt in control and kept my head clear enough that it would work.
The physical exercises aborted the feeling of overpressure in my head. For over 20 years, I made e.g. 125 push-ups x 2 standing at my fingertips with my feet on a table or a bench. I did them every day without exception 6 o’clock a.m.. Although I impressed strong friends I did not make the push up to impress, but primarily to eliminate my unbearable tensions. In the 1980s, after the start of my birth primal my fingers grew more than 10 mm and I got rid of the tendency that they became numb and bloodless when the weather was cool. The growth of my fingers meant e.g. that I had to go up from size S to M in gloves. My feet have been through a similar process and have received their fair share of treatments.
My nose has endured a lot and has been a very vulnerable part of my painful and complex physical suffering. As a kid, I had frequent sinus infections, and it was always considered due to a cold. After receiving strong anti-epileptic medication my nose was regarded as allergic. I went during the 70's through two painful operations, one to drill wider holes into the sinuses and to remove and reduce my mucous membranes of the nose. In addition, I have endured de-sensitivity treatments to counteract my reactions to house dust without results ... Sense of smell, I have only had short periods.
From the second stage of my epilepsy and therapeutic experiments in the mid 90's the constipation of my nose and the numb feeling in the area around the eyes and nose have disappeared. After a birth primal when I have been through the feeling of pressure, squeezing, slime formation and strangulation and experienced the sequence when the baby cry ascends my numbness is gone and all channels are open, and I've regained my sense of smell, which has been repressed by the pain and constipation in my head during a large part of my life.
So I can now feel and understand the connection between my birth process, its anesthesia, strangulation, confusion and my clogged nose. When the anesthetic is gone so blood and other body fluids can circulate, and my nose is clean and sensitive to scents, which in turn affects my taste. The same connections, I can better feel my fingers and toes. They have all been involved in the game which pain imprinted during the birth trauma indirectly produced. I have visited specialists in various departments, in many hospitals because of my sufferings, and I have left with treatments and answers I never thought were correct and I have met doctors whom I could feel had no idea about the reasons of my afflictions, which obviously didn’t reduce my own confusion. This confusion was compounded by the feeling I had that they thought I was a hypochondriac or imagined ill....
Doubts are more cruel tan the worst of truths.
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Molière
Posted by Jan Åke Johnsson at 4:19 AM
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The Road to Primal Therapy and into my epilepsy has on some decisive occasions passed through Denmark. Denmark became in a way early my mental Free State. The reason for this lies in the fact that I as a child between 1943 and 1945, during World War II, had the opportunity to know a Danish family, including two sons, Leif and Hans, who were 1 respectively three years older than me and with whom I played daily. The family background was Jewish and the father was the owner of a big farm where my father worked as head of its dairy herd. With its Jewish background, the Henckel family avoided the nazi possessed Denmark.
During 2 years’ I had thus an opportunity for an early indoctrination in the Danish language, which about 15 years later would prove useful and practical when I after receiving epilepsy and quit my previous job in Malmö moved to Copenhagen for a couple of years to work with Stetson. In a few months, I then learned to speak Danish without any significant accent, which was rather unusual. It was my very early everyday Danish language exercises in a higher degree than my language talent which meant something in this surprising transformation.
During my 10 years in the corset industry (which, moreover, ceased to exist in the early 1970s due to new technology / a paradigm shift made tights possible) in Spirella on Davidshalls Street in Malmö as a correspondent, finance and sales manager I held for several years a special eye on the Danish subsidiary. The reason for that I had been given this responsibility was based largely on my emotional weakness for what was Danish.
During my adult life, I have as well read books in Danish as in Swedish, I have many Danish favorite writers of whom I have already mentioned Henrik von Pontoppidan. The Primal Scream, I read the first time in the Danish version and the background to this is worth a separate section which I will return to in another context.
During the years 1972-1977, I lived again in Denmark and this time I worked for the Swedish toy manufacturer Brio as responsible for its Danish subsidiary. Our specialty and main products (at least seen from a Swedish perspective) were wooden toys for preschool children, which were produced in an almost artisanal way. In the Danish operation, we had factories for the manufacturing of paperboard games, wooden games, and we invested heavily in making life difficult for the Bonnier-owned Alga in the Nordic region. Our local Danish ace up the sleeve was the Matador Game which was a pirated copy of Monopoly which Alga licensed for the Swedish market by Parker Brothers in USA. We had, in addition to our wooden and board games, agencies for many of the great international toy brands as The Barbie Doll, Tonka, Fischer Price, Scrabble, etc.
The Parent Company of the Brio Group had its base in Osby, Sweden and was chaired by a member of the second generation of the family which was the main owner and the company had for some years been recruiting fresh blood to its management team and several of its new Swedish members came from American consumer giants. According to what was in the vogue Brio was organized in business divisions, each with its strategy to become a market-leader, a fact which would eventually fill the factories in the woodlands around Osby in southern Sweden with orders of new dimensions. This happened before Asia had woken up. The future looked bright in spite of the oil crisis in 1974, which really only had caused a transient shock which just led to higher prices for plastic toys.
This happened, as I mentioned earlier, in the beginning / middle of the 1970s. To analyze business ideas, to reorganize, establish recruitment criteria and to make tests of key staff were innovations as part of a new wave. Personal effectiveness, time management and therapies were other tools in the development of a future, dynamic market economy. We had survived the 1968 student revolts and the first major oil crisis in the early 1970s with anxiety and fear and was later surprised to find that life went on with some dimensions inoculated. We were many who were prepared to follow the acquisition’s gurus, the new diversification era gold diggers.
Said and done. We would investigate and take stock of our human resources to identify our potential leadership talents. Without remembering exactly how it happened a rumor spread that all in managerial positions were to be tested. It would not be any test but the Company had chosen Axiology. This test was licensed and was managed by Evert Schildt. He was originally medics and had practiced gynecology. Ironic, discriminatory and sexist jokes based on Everts professional background probably helped someone's concern for the upcoming test, but not mine.
Already some years earlier I had witnessed the start of a new era of staff testing in Spirella. This was a traditional test of a psychologist in connection with a reorganization and a radical change in my career (in the corsetry industry which from both product and customer point of view had the future behind itself) so I should have been well prepared for the test and changes which took place in Brio. My slightly bantering and sweeping description of the realities was a reality many organizations went through in the 1970s - and '80s and the fact I in no way was adversely affected by the tests and the changes I went through would have meant that I was in an ideal situation. So I was in terms of both career and economic conditions. However, there was a constant underlying threat and a deep fear and pain in my future scenarios. I was carrying a hidden fault.
The Axiology test, modified by Evert Schildt, had been developed before the war by Robert Hartman, a German, who fled to the USA during the Nazi era. The test consisted of 90 questions on values in different situations. Responses were sorted into six dimensions, three from an external perspective and another three from a personal perspective. When Evert presented my test results for me I remember that I felt depressed. Although he pointed out my exceptional ability to judge situations and get a grasp of my surroundings, and he mentioned that I was potentially highly gifted, I was very disappointed when he mentioned my uncertainty to judge and look at myself as a person. This contrast between my high capacity to judge the world and my inner existential uncertainty created an unpleasant sensation, which would last for decades.
My internal restriction seemed directly related to the word “potential” in Everts expression potentially gifted. I felt inhibited and unable to get out of my disability. There was a link between potential, never realized talent and my limited ability to trust myself at certain times and from particular perspectives. I knew all too well the cause even though I tried to do everything possible to suppress it. My epilepsy!
For a long time, I tried to rationalize away Everts assessment as inaccurate and unrealistic. Deep in my heart, in an intuitive, repressed level, I knew that was not the case. His statement was on point! My epilepsy (and all that it represented) was a ticking bomb, the uncertainty which acted as a brake in my mind. By developing, often with skill, my ability to evaluate, judge and manage the world around me, I kept my anxiety caused by my epilepsy and birth at bay.
After the Axiology test, I was further reinforced in my conviction that there was only one way for the future, and it went through LA and The Primal Institute. The next 2-3 years I was obsessed with the idea to create the conditions to get there. My split feelings about Everts test had its roots in the fact that it was the first time anyone had successfully proven that my epilepsy and repressed pain was linked to my existential anxiety, and limited my opportunities to develop my ability. After two years, 1978 and 1979, in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, I moved back to Brokamåla, Blekinge, Sweden. After a few years, I met Evert Schildt again, now in the Perstorp Group, and underwent a new axiology test. Almost the same results as last time, but with an improved ability to judge myself. This time I knew that outcome of the test was correct because I was now much more aware of my epilepsy and its causes, although I was still far from a cure and solution.
Although I later worked with a person who did research work around the Axiology in his doctoral work, I was not really interested in becoming involved in this test instrument. The analytical potential could not meet my real need to be healed from epilepsy. However, its detection ability has been a constantly irritating while stimulating information about the relationship between my anxiety, my existential insecurity and my neurotically driven ability to judge and manage the world around me. My post-humus thanks go to DR Evert Schildt. As a gynecologist, my mother would have needed his help, the 7 October 1940, so I had not had to wait another 2 days...
The truth is always revolutionary. Poul Henningsen
Posted by Jan Åke Johnsson at 12:00 AM
Friday, December 24, 2010
TIME OF WAITING.
The Cathedral School, Lund, Sweden. 1955.
Lyrics, poems and even psalm verses have in my life played an important role and provided me with various forms of satisfaction and benefits. E.g., my ability quickly to learn hymn verses by heart made such an impression on my female school teacher, Karin Nilsson, that she recommended me to the Cathedral School (Katte) of Lund. In Katte, when I was in the third grade, after two school years with an older bully, who mourned the outcome of the second world war, I got a new Swedish teacher, Karin Borgstrom. Her view of me changed radically when I used the opportunity to read out from memory all the verses of "Frithiof playing chess" from Frithiof's Saga.
After that I could not get rejected in Swedish. She had succumbed to my weakness for poetry. It has since followed me through life and when Tegretol or Primal Therapy didn’t succeed, then the “poetic therapists” Esaias Tegner, Gustaf Fröding, Erik Axel Karlfeldt, Karin Boye, Nils Ferlin and Evert Taube, etc. have helped out. Several of them suffered from severe neuroses, but their ability to sublimate and channel their passion into beautiful poems gave me both comfort and memory training.
The Karlfeldt poem "Time of waiting" from which the title is taken has come to the surface multiple times during the months of April and May throughout more than 50 years. It has made me feel and experience spring in many places in several countries. In 2009 when my experiments with medication and feelings in a therapy over long distance with Art Janov in LA were at a peak frequency, the Karlfeldt poem gave an important aid to get through an emotional roller-coaster journey to relive old pain.
A number of letters to DR Janov in April and May may illustrate my experiences. The Janov responses to my letters were often very brief, but in that they came ‘by return mail’ they gave me an important confirmation and adequate support to create strength to continue.
April 9, 2009
"I must tell you about an amazing experience that I had half an hour ago. I was lying on my back with a feeling of being paralyzed and dazed. My fingers just like my feet were in a cramp, a feeling that only turned worse, and they were twisted with an overpowering force. This went on for a long while, but then I suddenly began to tremble and shake, and while this was going on the stunning and the cramps began slowly to ease and something I never experienced before occurred: During what I assume were a few minutes I grew from a small baby in a dazed state to my full size, yes, it felt like even more. A wonderful feeling. Perhaps the best feeling that I experienced during a primal. It felt like I finally filled out my own body! I have during a few weeks cut my Lamictal from 250 mg to 100 mg and I plan to go 250-0 mg in 10 weeks. It was probably my big mistake in the 90's when I abruptly cut off all medication. Given enough lead time I have learned... "
April 14, 2009
"A few days ago I wrote about a marvelous sense of how my body underwent a change, and grew into full-size after a feeling of cramp, stun and confusion. It was such a complete and true feeling that I could not stop myself from jumping out of bed and rush to the desk to send you an email to share my joy. Yes, I can! I could feel OK and it felt OK to share the joy with you, who know the long wait it has been.
Two days later I had an equally incredible but more absurd feeling of a different uncomfortable and insane nature. It scared me at all levels and during the feeling I felt that I was crazy, mentally ill, had a sensation of dying, disappearing and being humiliated. Right now when I am writing about it so it strikes me, and I do not know why, maybe I am afraid to exaggerate, that it perhaps could have been worse to be burned alive.
The torture went on for a couple of hours, and I had a deep sense of that I cannot take this, and I won’t make it. The feelings of mental and physical ill-treatment had the same rhythm and repetition as my birth primal, which are built up with pain, pressure and anesthesia, but this time instead of hyperventilation, production of mucus, strangulation and being pulled out, followed by the baby cries, I had feelings of being mentally tortured. All feelings became distorted and twisted and turned against me in the most humiliating way that I felt to the marrow the significance of being mentally ill. E.g., I had several religious thoughts about how I felt compelled in a subtle way to accept what I did not believe.
It is difficult to judge how long the feelings lasted (I estimate two hours), but it resembled a grand mall seizure or a birth primal of the similar length. Although I did not have the same drive as the other day to go and write to you about this horrendous experience (I'm still struck by it) it is probably just as important when it comes to describing the composition and effects of my epilepsy and birth pain. It was an unpleasant experience, but I'm glad I managed to go through it.
It's amazing the mental support I had from Dostoevsky Prince Myshkin, and how he describes the moments before his fits, how ‘this seconds of boundless joy perhaps is worth all my life, despite the lethargy. Mental darkness and mental illness stood in front of me as a clear consequence of these sublime moments’.
Yesterday night I lived through the same process of absurd emotions, hallucinations and birth primal. This time I had Hungarian Gipsy music in the background and the rhythm of my birth experience and the length of the music pieces was woven together and the crescendo of every episode ended in an explosion of sound hallucinatory experiences, which previously had been equal to an attack. I agree with Prince Myshkin, for these moments one might be willing to sacrifice once’s life. I felt no darkness of the soul afterwards. Mental health stood in front of me."
April 20, 2009
"I am stuck in a feeling of general anesthesia and a feeling that my brain is a fragile bulb which might break if I move my head the slightest. My mind starts spinning and I fantasize that the bulb is being crushed, and I can feel and get insights on a variety of strange situations in my life. Much of the world I've built up around me has been as fragile bulbs or “brainchilds” which could have been easily crushed, but they did not mostly because I was skillful in maintaining and protecting them in a smart and carefully thought out manner.
Such a ‘light bulb’ I had built around the Danish design and to always have the right furniture, lamps, etc. of the best and most famous Danish designers. To improve this image, what could look better than knowing a few of them, yes, being part of their inner circle? Grethe Kemp was the stepdaughter to PH (Poul Henningsen) who is one of the symbols that is the incarnation of Danish design. His lamp PH 25 designed in 1925 is one of the star products of Danish design. When Grethe died in 1982 her mother, Inger Henningsen, gave me the original artistic collage from 1925 of this lamp. What more could I need to prove that my insights in Danish design were of the highest magnitude. It strengthened my fragile "brainchild", but my true feelings continued to be fragile, and therefore, it became an important part of the subtle game to "play down" the impact of the fact that I had proof of my contacts with Danish design. Inside the “bulb”, I knew all too well that I was cheating myself, but I was good at making it difficult to reveal my tricks.
Grethe Kemp (in Louis Armstrong’s hat)
The fact that Grethe probably was already moribund when I met her and separated my second wife, stayed with Grethe until her death, became friends with her old mother, and in these circles was considered as a selfless hero built further on my false image and made it even more difficult to crush the brain child. I am proud of what I did for Grethe but it was not only for love and selflessness. It was a painful trip of my ongoing effort to build up my ego to be someone.
My relationship with Grethe is an evidence of how subtle my image building could be. Passively, I used the image of Grethe (who was a jazz singer and author of children’s literature) who had been married to Ben Webster (the famous jazz saxophonist) and other friends in her artistic surroundings. The fact that both Grethe and Ben Webster lived very unhappy lives and killed themselves with alcohol, that I kept quiet about. I can now at last feel and understand that my defenses and my epileptic medicine must have been awful powerful to get me through this type of neurotic dramas. People around me were impressed by how strong I seemed to be. If they only had known.
Now I need to unscrew these "bulbs" and get out of these straitjackets. I thought I needed them to keep myself together and to compensate for lack of love, life and closeness that I missed, and above all to satisfy neurotic behaviors and to prevent epileptic seizures. The Danish case is one of a number of "bulbs". My life has been full of false emotions and behaviors. The situations in which they were held were real enough, which I myself didn’t dare to be. The conditions were not based on a genuine need. Many of them I achieved for my mother, who early taught me to look for the right kids and participate in the side of life who looked right. I did seldom agree with her, and objected to her views, but on the inside, I could not resist, and I was mentally raped and did as she said. I embellished my image, which certainly looked good at times, but it did not match how I felt. However, being full of energy, I tried repeatedly to find another train stop. Each time it was the wrong station, which I can understand now that I know that I stepped on the wrong train from the beginning."
April 23, 2009
"Yesterday, I believe I paid a visit to Hell. I have been through painful grand mall seizures with their overwhelming impression, but despite their unpleasant, difficult to describe, physical sensations and mental tsunamis, they are simple to operate in comparison with this new experience even though it does not leave a heavy tongue bite or piss in the bed. I went through 24 hours of torture when all emotions I have experienced passed revue. I lived through painful feelings when my "lightbulb / brainchild” was crushed, my mental health was painfully dissolved, and I went into a delirium. I got several kinds of hallucinations in which every aspect of what is real and normal distorted to terror and mental illness. My dog reacted to my madness and shook his head and wept, which further reinforced my feelings of insanity.
I had terrifying hallucinations when my mind repeatedly was twisted, which was followed by a violent pain, which not only meant that I would be revealed to the outside world but, what was worse, that I would have to accept the insanity myself. I experienced how I inside my head screamed: “There you have the result of the Janov therapy, you should never have lifted the lid but stayed with your strong medicine.” Behind this scenery of horror, was however a sense that there is no alternative to going through this terror. I would prefer to be killed and in my feelings, I went through a surreal experience to have a knife stuck into my body. That eerie feeling was a fine experience compared to the horror.
I had a feeling that a former spouse had once been a whore, and these feelings were followed by a new burst of mental insanity and guilt feelings that I was having insulting thoughts about her and her way to let out her uncontrolled anger. I went through those emotions several times, and afterwards I felt: “Although she would have been a whore it does not change my positive values of her.”
When I during this 24-hour period went up with my dog Puskas in the surrounding mountains I had feelings of being back in my childhood when I ran, jumped and sang in the countryside of the south of Sweden. During the continuation of the walk with Puskas my legs began to move on their own terms in the same manner that kicking takes place during my birth primal. This time it was, as if I could control the kicking leg movements, and it was a comfortable feeling because I could recognize them. Both the kicking movements and the crying sound that I relived during my hallucinations have diminished in volume and scope, and I feel for each time that they are disappearing.
What happened during the walk with Puskas was a pleasant break in 24 hours of terror. The 24 hours of terror and feelings represent in an emotional and understandable way my lengthy birth, which ended in an accumulated pain which later developed into seizures / epilepsy.
Yesterday, I told my daughter that I was exhausted in my head and totally done. That I think I never told anyone before. This morning I woke up and felt good and free from anesthesia and had no ‘light bulb’ to worry about. First, I had not planned to write about it, but I could not resist and the writing exercises as well as the emotional experience is pleasant. Still being mentally tired I have a good feeling of having less need to demonstrate that I am strong."
May 1, 2009
"Major changes have occurred during the last week. An overwhelming sense of numbness and anesthesia have blocked me. My thinking has become less vivid, and I have a small number of hallucinations with involuntary leg movements (automatism) that come from me kicking during birth. However, I have not responded with an obsessive attempt to suppress the pain. I feel worn out and defeated by my epilepsy, and meanwhile my epilepsy has become a considerably fewer frightening demonic monsters than I have imagined for decades. When all my acting-out, clever tricks and medications have been revealed and flushed, then I can experience what it actually means to feel pain without words. I've never really had a chance to feel but with medication and neurotic defenses as a filter I have been driven by fear and terror without knowing it.
I have often felt confused when you more than once over the years have asked me how my life in the womb has influenced my later life. I knew from the moment when the grand mall seizures were turned into birth primal that I was in the birth canal, but I was only able to feel / interpret the most dramatic section. However, having gone back and forth between my birth and subsequent feelings in a descending direction while having dropped Lamictal, the feeling of pain has become more real and less affected. Now after having understood and felt how all my life I have been protected by a thick layer of analgesic neurotic tricks, which gradually have been dissolved and after having dropped the medicine, I have no longer neither the energy nor the need to continue in this treadmill. I feel uneasy and secure at the same time. Concerned about the feelings that may come up (e.g., I have not been able to cry) and if the damages which the abnormal burden caused during birth will heal to 100%. Safe because I understand my life, and because I can satisfy my needs and live with my limitations.
My reactions due to two events yesterday surprised me. First, I had a limited petit mal when I spoke with a neighbor (fear of being refused help and not being understood linguistically because of a local dialect) and asked for help with my car. I let the attack go by without trying to split myself in two (one me that had the attack and another me who was thinking frantically how to cover up the attack by pretending that it was a nonsense unrelated to epilepsy...) and I didn’t worry at all. Usually I had afterwards spent a long time to repress the shame and the feeling of being worthless. I told this to my daughter and felt great relief when she gave me a confirming smile. The second situation occurred when I would drive to town to do some shopping. The battery was dead, since I forgot to turn off the radio. The car did not start, and no help was available at this point. The anger that arose in me and the way that I screamed out my anger and slammed the car door was out of all proportion. The anger I felt went straight down into the fetal life when I could not get out."
TIME OF WAITING (ERIK AXEL KARLFELDT)
Sweetest is the time of waiting,
Time of floods, of buds dilating.
May has naught so captivating
As a clearing April noon.
Let not miry paths befool you,
Then the dampened woods will cool you,
And you’ll hear the leaves’ low croon.
Not in summer joys I’d wallow,
Give me but the blades that follow
Melting snows in pine-dark hollow,
And the earliest thrush’s tune.
Best the lover’s time of waiting,
Of betrothal ere the mating.
Spring has naught so captivating
As a secret sweetheart fair.
Seldom with her, soon asunder,
He will dream the strange wild wonder.
Life so soon for him may bear.
Golden fruit, let others shake it,
Mine be not the hand to take it,
For my garden I’d forsake it
When the trees are budding there.
Posted by Jan Åke Johnsson at 12:21 AM
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Dostoevsky and others.
As I mentioned in the section "Avoiding epileptics" it is easy on the Internet to find and print out a list of 100 famous people who suffered from epilepsy. Socrates, Julius Caesar, Molière, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alfred Nobel, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and others. Most lived a long time ago, and we really know nothing of their epileptic suffering and for that reason, I was never really able to feel any comfort in knowing that the people who have been successful also suffered from epilepsy. However, there is a brilliant exception to the listed among epileptics, and it is Dostoevsky. In his literature, and especially in The Idiot, he describes epileptic seizures so that even an epileptic understands.
I remember when DR Janov long ago asked me to describe an epileptic seizure, and I replied that I unfortunately did not have Dostoevsky's verbal brilliance and ability to verbalize and explain all the dimensions of my feelings and my pain during a seizure, but I asked him to read the section in The Idiot when Prince Myshkin meticulously describes a fit from the moments just before a seizure until is over:
“He fell to thinking, among other things, about his epileptic condition, that there was a stage in it just before the fit itself (if the fit occurred while he was awake), when suddenly, amidst the sadness, the darkness of soul, the pressure, his brain would momentarily catch fire, as I was, and all his life’s forces would be strained at once in an extraordinary impulse. The sense of life, of self awareness, increased nearly tenfold in these moments, which flashed by like lightning. His mind, his heart were lit up with an extraordinary light; all his agitations, all his doubts, all his worries were as if placated at once, resolved in a sort of sublime tranquility, filled with serene, harmonious joy, and hope, filled with reason and ultimate cause. But these moments, these glimpses were still only a presentiment of that ultimate second (never more than a second) from which the fit itself began. That second was, of course, unbearable. Reflecting on that moment afterwards, in a healthy state, he had often said to himself that all those flashes and glimpses of a higher self-sense and self-awareness, and therefore, of the "highest being" were nothing but an illness, a violation of the normal state, and if so, then this was not the highest being at all but, on the contrary, should be counted as the very lowest. And yet he finally arrived at an extremely paradoxical conclusion: "So what if it’s an illness?" he finally decided "Who cares that it is an abnormal strain, if the result itself, if the moment of the sensation, remembered and examined in a healthy state, turns out to be the highest degree of harmony, beauty, gives a hitherto unheard-of and unknown feeling of fullness, measure, reconciliation, and an ecstatic, prayerful merging with the highest synthesis of life?" These vague expressions seemed quite comprehensible to him, though still too weak. That it was indeed "beauty and prayer,’ that it was indeed ‘the highest synthesis of life," he could not doubt, nor could he admit of any doubts. Was he dreaming some sort of abnormal and nonexistent visions of that moment, as from hashish, opium, or wine, which humiliate the reason and distort the soul? He could reason about it sensibly once his morbid state was over. Those moments were precisely only an extraordinary intensification of self-awareness - if there was a need to express this condition in a single word - self-awareness and at the same time a self-sense immediate in the highest degree. If in that second, that is, in the very last conscious moment before the fit, he had happened to succeed in saying clearly and consciously to himself: "Yes, for this moment one could give once’s whole life!" - then surely this moment in itself was worth a whole life. However, he did not insist on the dialectical part of his reasoning: dullness, darkness of soul, idiocy stood before him as the clear consequence of these "highest moments." Naturally, he was not about to argue, in earnest. His reasoning, that is, his evaluation of this moment, undoubtedly contained an error, but all the same he was somewhat perplexed by the actuality of the sensation. What, in fact, was he to do with this actuality? Because it had happened, he had succeeded in saying to himself in that very second, that this second, in its boundless happiness, which he fully experienced, might perhaps be worth his whole life. "At that moment," as he had once said to Rogozhin in Moscow, when they got together there, ‘at that moment, I was somehow able to understand the extraordinary phrase that "time shall be no more". Probably, he added, smiling, "it’s the same second in which the jug of water overturned by the epileptic Muhammad did not have time to spill, while he had time during the same second to survey all the dwellings of Allah".”
It is interesting to read David Ingvar's biography of Dostoevsky in the book "Ten Brains" in which he emphasizes that there are few people with epilepsy symptoms that it has been written so much about. Already at the turn of the eighteenth to the nineteenth century leading Russian and foreign neurologists published essays on Dostoevsky's epilepsy, although neither brain imaging nor electrophysiological methods (EEC) were available. David Ingvar mentions that Freud (who dismissed the pathological Dostoyevsky) obviously believed that emotional factors in childhood, especially youthful erotic escapades and bad relationship with his father could have had an impact on the disease.
David Ingvar adds that although Dostoevsky's seizures are well described both by Dostoevsky himself, and by his wife Anna, we cannot with certainty state what form of epilepsy it was. However, the descriptions, like those in The Idiot, including joy of transcendental nature, point to an epilepsy of temporal lob character a now well defined type, which perhaps, according to some researchers, may be due to early brain damage in fetal life! The epileptic process begins in the temporal lobe (-lobes) where the control of emotions is located. Epileptic discharges here may trigger anxiety, for example, in some cases, hallucinations, memory impairment and then sometimes, but not always, a general attack with unconsciousness and convulsions.
2400 years ago the Greeks and Hippocrates believed that epilepsy was linked to religious experiences, and was known as ‘the sacred disease’ because the visions that people with epilepsy had were God sent. If Hippocrates had to live and read "The Idiot" by Dostoevsky (who certainly had read Hippocrates), especially the section where he describes his feelings during the seconds when he feels his aura, he probably would have nodded in recognition. Prince Myshkin comments to a friend; “it’s the same second in which the jug of water, overturned by the epileptic Muhammad, did not have time to spill, while he had time during the same second to survey all the dwellings of Allah.”
In ancient Rome, epilepsy was considered a disease of the assembly hall and had been sent as a punishment from the Gods. In most cultures throughout history, epileptics have been stigmatized, isolated and even put in mental hospitals and in prisons. As late as 40-50 years ago epileptics were placed together with mentally retarded patients in psychiatric hospitals, and we do not need to go to many decades back in time to find epileptics, criminals and persons with chronic syphilis in the same institutions in Sweden. So I’m not surprised to find out that this still happens in many countries around the world, for example, in Eastern Europe and Africa.
In the neurological context, it is referred rarely or never to the Bible. With posthumously religious support from my mother, I take the liberty, however, to refer to l:a Genesis 3:16. It says: " I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." My painful and abnormally slow birth which lasted over 48 hours was a product of my mother’s fidelity to the Bible. It is not just Hippocrates, who believe that epilepsy was a God sent disease.
In the world of epilepsy, so rich in syndrome, variations and types, I am one of many. Since, however, I received the information directly from my mother's mouth from where she got her ideas to give me a painful start, and since we were a fairly typical Christian / religious family it would not surprise me if I had and have many soul mates with the same sacred disease background around the world. Perhaps I should add that I can easily identify with many different variations of symptoms that are described in the voluminous technical neurological epilepsy bouquet. Much of the original underlying factor as pain and horror from an insane, sick birth process followed by life twisting neuroses I have by the help of a genius from Malibu, California, United States, been able to understand much more than I technically can take in.
The greatest happiness is to know why you are unhappy. Fyodor Dostoevsky
Posted by Jan Åke Johnsson at 3:18 AM