As time goes on and I learn more about the human condition, I have decided to share some of my thoughts on what we are all about. I will publish my reflections on this blog, hopefully to enlarge our understanding of what makes us human. Art Janov

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I Am Ninety Now...

I am ninety now so I have earned the right to reflect a bit. So here goes:

 What have I learned about life?  A lot and not much since it is what I have learned about people in my life that counts.  First of all, my great great staff, some of whom have been with me for fifty years, others thirty years.  It is a lifetime together that counts.  And yes, they and I have many flaws but we are all human for God’s sake and that is part of being human. They are not “my staff,” they are my friends, my good friends, all of whom I trust completely.  They care so much for their patients and for their lives. And my wife. We are together night and day for 41 years and it is not enough.  It is a double Pygmalion.  I changed her through the therapy and she changed me through her love. What more is there?

 If you did not suffer, chances are you would not be interested in Primal Therapy, nor my books nor me.  You can live a good life without me but a better life with me.  Why? Because I have found what feelings mean to all of us, and I have found what an open brain means.  Some of you already are there so congratulations.  Many of you, like me, are still learning about me about life and about what drives us.  You mean I am still learning.  Let me give you an example:  I used to work in a meat packing plant where they slaughtered pigs.  I stood next to the racks of pigs and heard them screaming, and thought nothing of it.  And I forgot it.  As my brain has opened up, I now hear those screams all of the time and I cannot shut it out.  It drives me crazy but they are part of me.  It is no different from now feeling the hurt and pain my parents inflicted on me, I now hear my silent screams.  I was never aware of it and never knew about it. After I felt my need over and over again I began to suffer from their behavior and just who they were.  I am ninety, remember, but my life at five years of age never left me.  I was driven incessantly by that hurt yet never knew about.  I could not sit still and never could even imagine that it was due to my womb-life.  I did not concoct a theory about it; I lived it.  l never knew I need to be held and touched until my body ached and screamed it out, time and again.  I did not even know it was about being held and touched until months and years after feeling raw emotional pain.  Then it got specific.  We do sometimes hold patients because it is a good tranquilizer and it brings pain levels down so that they can feel and tolerate it.  We give them a bit of what they need so they can feel more of what they need.  The totality is too much all at once.

 We have turned psychotherapy upside down.  I cannot imagine telling a patient who is crying deeply that her time is up.  It is inhuman. l We have no time limit on sessions.  When they are through feeling and only then do they leave.  They go on feeling, and finally they leave me as a patient and come back as friends.  Good, non-neurotic friends.  I will publish some of the letters I received on my birthday to show you what I mean.  Here is a letter that I received while writing this:

 Dear Art,

 What a privilege it has been to have know of you for so many years and also have met you in person.
 Your life’s work has given me and so many the opportunity to save themselves from themselves. To create a new life or just a life, a beginning of something great. It’s through Primal Therapy that I’ve been able to see myself, slowly become myself, evolve to who I was supposed to be, free of pain, free of painful acting out repression all day, every day.

 I cherish the freedom of my own will, free of being caught by a web of past pain that was ever present, yet invisible. Primal Therapy to me is about awakening from a dormant state of living, letting the original child, the original blueprint, so to speak, flourish and be allowed to just be as it was intended.

 thank you, Art!

 I learned about my terror of death.  Having approached death at birth, being heavily drugged and unable to get out,  I already knew what approaching death felt like; and as I began to feel those early feelings erupted too.  And I had terror attacks, never knowing what they were and where they came from.  It seemed like I was dying NOW,  Pure terror.  I don’t want to leave this earth but I have come to terms with it… still…I have no rationales for what comes later because it is nothing;  no special energy that exists that tells me that part of me is still alive.  Nothing remains of me except in the memory of others who loved me.  If you want to go on living you need to be loved, and you need to love, and realize that what endures is love and only that.  But look, to finally be liberated from pain and to live a free and feeling life is a lot; cherish it.  That is my goal, my job and my life’s work.  I cannot stand to see people suffer when they don’t have to.  I think now of Robin Williams.  Maybe we could have helped him. We have helped so many like him.  But if he knew about us then he would have at least had a shot at sanity and health.  That is why,  not I, but the therapy needs to be famous; to save lives.  Robin had a right to know about us.  He knew about famous rehab centers that did him no good.  I have fame by the loads, my friends and patients, my wife. That is plenty.  Applause is not a good substitute for physical love, kisses and hugs; aaaah  hugs and kisses.  What we all needed and need.  We don’t need a wise man to tell us about the good life; we need someone to help us lead it.  We don’t need someone else’s ideas; we just need our own.    We don’t need brilliant advice; the learning we get out of our own bodies when it feels, is a lot and enough.  What liberates us?  Feeling the pain that kept us imprisoned.  Those bars are stronger than steel.  We never see them or know they are there but they keep us locked in.  They make us behave in the same way over and over.  We act in self-destructive ways without knowing it.  And even if someone tells us we are doing that,  we nod and say, “I guess so.”  After doing 12 years of college and university all I got out of it was to know typing and spanish.  Most of the rest was useless.  Certainly, what we learn in psychology is really useless, coming from a bankrupt field that cannot ever acknowledge feeling.  There is the apotheosis of the intellect even when it is the opposite that counts.  Some of my patients had professors for parents but they could never touch and kiss their children so what good did their intellect serve when they were destroying their children?  And they never saw it.  They were blinded by their intellect and could not see around their blinders.  Feelings opens the pathways for sight and understanding; they opened mine and then I knew the mistakes I made with the children.  And then I could hear the pigs scream, and I will never eat bacon in my life.  What we need is a feeling society and it can start with parents and continue with teachers; but first we all need to know the importance of feelings. They are lifesaving.  Two twins born prematurely, were put into an incubator together.  They had their arms around each other, and did far better then those who lived in an incubator all alone.  We need each other; we need the hugs the caress and the kisses, as if life itself depended on it, and it does.

 Here is what we don’t need:  we don’t need booga booga therapy, bereft of science, where everyone goes around hugging one another and spouting love phrases.  We need to know that pain is imprinted very early right after birth and stays for a lifetime and will not change with a few well meaning patients hugging each other.  It is good for a moment but cannot last or change anything. We don’t need smart therapists.  We need feeling ones.  Beware the ides of intellect.

 What it is that we all want? Love, of course, but when it is absent and we never knew it, we settle for substitutes…praise, approval, a pat on the head, an “A” from a teacher, a letter of commendation, a medal for work well done,  etc.  And we need those things as strong as we need love because that is what is behind our need for approval.  I know, I felt, “say I’m good” dozens of times in therapy.  That is what I needed, a wee drop of approval, a bit of praise from someone who counted in my life and at the time it was needed.  If I get it now it is nice indeed, but not life changing.  At age five after being called stupid time after time cause my father felt stupid and needed me to boost his faltering ego, that is when it would have done some good.  You cannot make up for what you missed, which is what nearly every therapy does today. Those therapists care about you, are concerned for your success and advise you.  Yet what we all missed is imprinted and fights back against all the help now.  It cannot get in.  We must must must go back and relive, undo the imprint and correct history.  We need to reverse the pain and be free.  How hard is that? Not as hard nor as painful as you might imagine.  You cannot address the present and change your past.  As obvious as that seems; you can only change the past by going back and reliving it, undo the chemicals such as methyl that engraved the memory into the system.  It is reversing the imprint that is the sine qua non.  That opens the gates to feeling and then we can breathe again; literally as some of my shallow breathers began to breathe far more deeply after therapy.  See. feelings opens up the lungs and the vascular pathways so we can breathe and have more latent oxygen in the systems.  It means averting seizures and clogging of vessels.  It means lowering blood pressure all by itself and of stopping lifelong migraines.  It means lowering the chemicals of stress and clearing the top level neo-cortex so we can think clearly again.  You mean feelings can do all of that?  Yes, but, but, Primal feelings, not the unleashing of a few tears and expecting miracles.  It means releasing pent up tears that have lain there silently for decades waiting their turn.  We have given them their turn.

 I have been in practice for over sixty years, since my days on the Staff of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, Psychiatric Dept. And what did I learn? not much.  I started practicing Primal almost fifty years ago, and what did I learn?  Everything.    Feelings taught me, and I became a patient of my clinic.  I sat in the waiting room and waited my turn like everyone else. And then I started to learn about myself and then about others.    New shrinks must have our therapy so that they can learn, so that they can suss out feelings in others and help them with those feelings.  If you want decent kids and a good marriage you need to feel.  I have seen what a primal child looks like and it is a joy.  His father is writing a book about him.  He just gets up in the morning and says, “wow, I feel so good today.”  So simple and so great.  He learns easily, has many friends and is most popular.

 If you want friends you need to be  friend, not in the booga booga sense, but in sensing when a friend feels bad and you know how to empathize with her, feel with her and be a real friend.  Not in buying expensive gifts cause that has little meaning for a feeling person; yes it is nice but not if it has to fulfill the task of deprived early love.  Then the receiver needs more and more and it never is completely fulfilling.  When you are full of early love, gifts are terrific but they are not used to make up for what you did not get. Then it is never enough; never enough money, chocolate, boats and possessions, fame, clothes and so on.  Never enough because you are trying to fill a vast hole.  Life gets so simple when you feel that terrible burden you carry around all of the time. You need less because what you need you already have…love.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Merger of Nature and Nurture: How the Outside Becomes Inside

 Over the years the question is always raised,  is it nature or nurture? What causes so much behavior and so many symptoms: the genes or experience?  I vote for both, and if I had to give an edge it would be to experience. But I am getting ahead of myself.  Because what seems like genetics may now be experience, and vice versa.  That is due to the new field of epigenetics where experience modifies the genes, how they express themselves, if they are blocked and how they are modified and when.  We need to look at them as an organic unit, each influencing the other.   Perhaps for a lifetime.   Certainly there are pure genetics; color of hair and eyes, but when it comes to plasticity, malleability and flexibility of symptoms and behavior we need to consider both.

 Such a thing as heart attacks in our fifties.  If we don’t consider experience and only genetics we will never solve the puzzle; for it turns out that stress changes the lymphocytes, the white blood cells to increase, and when that happens the extra cells stick to artery walls slowing blood flow, forms clots and produces a block in blood vessels: and, voila; a heart attack.  The problem is that we tend to look at current or childhood stress when the real origin may be in our womb-life.  (see: “New Study May Explain Why Stress Can Cause Heart Attacks.”  Nolan Feeney, Health Research, June 22, 2014 (see for ex:  As I have noted, stress is life endangering when it is at its most potent and stressful.   We need to take off our blinders and look further into the past, where experience, deleterious experience, is not so obvious.   We cannot see the fetus suffering from a mother’s smoking but it is there.  Here is the first inkling of how the outside (stress) becomes inside (heart attack).  What happens with stress is that it de-normalizes the system; either too much or too little.  One lady I saw felt “toxic,”  no one knew what she meant but she decided to move to the desert to feel “non-toxic.”  Until she had the feeling;  her mother was a chain smoker and she was toxic to the daughter she was carrying.  She produced heavy toxicity in her; it became an imprint and remained in her system. Once relived, many times over, she was over it and finally knew why so felt toxic.

But there is much much more.

 I also want to introduce you to an important scientific paper by M. Meloni (The social brain meets the reactive genome; neuroscience, epigenetics and the new social biology   Hypothesis and Theory.  21, May, 2014 (see; the full text is available for free)).  He sums up so much of the new science of epigenetics,  malleable and less fixed than we might imagine.  And they are heavily influenced by genetic factors. And like us humans, genes need always to be considered in the context of their milieu.   It is the interaction of genes and environment that bring the phenotype into play……and too often we look at the phenotype (what we can see) and ignore origins as the cause of our problems with behavior and symptoms.  When someone grows up in an alcoholic, violent environment we understand the causes of his delinquency.  Why not growing up inside the womb of a heavy smoker?   Doesn’t that help us understand his later breathing problems?  Only if we know where to look.   And that environment is often womb-life.  The good part of this is that when we can tease out some environmental factors they can sometimes be reversed.   Not so with genes. Therapists need to pay attention to the latest research in birth practices and pediatric discoveries, that I often write about.  Just that simple fact, that we respond to our environment can lead us to discover proper origins.  I hasten to add:  we respond more forcefully as that environment becomes earlier.   And as we grow up and have children of our own, that environment can be passed down the hereditary chain.  In short, what happens to us in our lives can be visited upon our offspring.   Not always the bad stuff but also the good; mother rats who often licked their offspring had healthy offspring and so was the baby’s offspring, as well.   (This is Michael Meaney’s work, as well as Moshe Szyf’s).  What they noted is the Primal position, as well, that there are critical periods in life when the environment affects us the most.  And clearly that is in the first weeks of life; not life on the planet, but life inside the mother ship.  I am writing mostly about methylation and how the environment becomes embedded into the cells where nurture becomes nature.  I mean if our life experience affects our offspring it acts like genetics; yes?    I mean the outside has become the inside.

 In animal studies they find that methylation patterns during the critical period can be engraved in parts of the limbic/feeling centers; i.e., the hippocampus.  And those patterns become stable and enduring.  And that can mean being vulnerable to later disease. (They say, “modifications of methylation patterns (the imprint) are encoded and  form long-term outcomes”). Briefly, imprints can make you sick.   Abuse is what seems to change methylation patterns, and especially during the critical period.  What is important here is that heavy methylation in the feeling centers can ultimately lead to mental illness.  It becomes the crucial for bad mental reactions.  The imprint has altered the hippocampus in such a way to make one vulnerable to further trauma.  The imprint is a fixed an enduring form of cellular memory according to Meaney/Syzf/Meloni.

The researches and I, both have come to the conclusion that the imprint can endure for a lifetime. Once fused it is most difficult to pry nature away from nurture. They, in effect, become one. And when the fetus or infant is stressed the expression of the genes change.  They can be up-regulated toward expression, or down-regulated toward repression. ( a lot depends on what chemicals are “borrowed” to embed the event/memory, the acetyl group or the methyl group).  What investigators are finding is no surprise at all.  That licked/loved infant animal babies are far better at handling later stress. And vice versa; when babies are not loved they have a harder time handling stress and adversity.  Do I mean that love is that important? Yes.  It is no wonder that the rate of lost productivity in jobs (30%) is due to some form of mental illness.  Very early stress leaves offspring less adventurous, much more cautious and wary.  And above all, they are more susceptible to drug addiction.  They are in imprinted pain.   When booga booga addiction centers miss out on all these early causes there is no way they can cure addiction.  As I have said numerous times, “You cannot love addiction or neurosis away.”   The point is that adverse early events leave a mark, a trace, an imprint that endures and affects behavior and symptoms.   It is then too late for love.   Yes it helps a bit but once brushing up against the imprint it is useless.  Because of the pain the gates won’t yield to feelings; they won’t let them through.

 We human beings are social and so are our brains.   They take in outside life and transform it into lots of internal stuff.  And then we look at the phenotype and say, aha, it is genetic; or worse, we say, “It is your job that is causing so much stress.”  It is rarely both; either we are born with it or we got it last week.  Like high blood pressure, for example.  It is Primal Pain that kills us prematurely, not so much diet.  Although I would not neglect diet, but normal people generally choose healthy diets, according to any number of studies.   If your system is balanced so will be your food choices, and choices in life, for example, like a proper partner.

 So who we are is not in the vapors.  It is in concrete experience; and that experience usually predates our life before birth (to name my most recent book). There is where we need to look and there we will find causes; we will find key memories that have driven us and caused so many symptoms that have been a mystery.   There we will find cure.

Yahoo News!

Arthur Janov Suggests that Stress During Pregnancy Leaves a Distinct Cellular Imprint that Predicts Mental Illness and Serious Disease

In his new book, 'Life Before Birth' (NTI Upstream, Nov. 2011), Arthur Janov makes the case that events during pregnancy and the first years of life leave a distinct cellular imprint that predicts mental illness and serious disease.

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.
About our Therapy

Our therapy is constantly evolving. If a therapist has not had additional training in the past 3-5 years she is not up to date. The basic principles are the same but the actual therapy has taken a radical turn. It is much more precise, predictable and mathematical in practice. We have tried to tighten up what we do in keeping with current neurology and physiology. It is a constant learning experience. It is finally for the well-being of the patient who now has a much better chance of doing well. Yes, it was good before, but there is less time wasted now because the techniques are honed and the theory takes on more and more precision. We see patients from some thirty countries in the world, each with different cultures. It is up to us to continue the refining process so that the patient has the best chance of improving.

Training in Primal Therapy

The clear understanding and application of the theoretical and clinical aspects of Primal Therapy are essential in order to provide effective therapy. Citing the most current findings from the field of neurology, trainees will learn the role that the physiology of the brain plays in the shaping of mental illness. The training will thoroughly examine the scientific basis for Primal Therapy and discuss the unique clinical approaches employed in the treatment of various emotional and personality disorders.
For our first year students, the training will entail extensive work in the understanding of the basis for Primal Therapy. On the theoretical level, there will be an examination of issues that range from the nature of the unconscious to the nature of traumatic imprints and their lifelong effects on physical and mental health. On the clinical level, trainees will have the opportunity to learn proper diagnostic and therapeutic procedures as they relate to Primal Therapy.
Furthermore, first year students will be mentored by our third year students in order to ensure that the key concepts in Primal Therapy are clearly understood. There will be an extensive library of training notes and taped lectures from the past two years available as well.
For our second year students, the training will provide a unique and varied opportunity to gain more clinical experience. Through closely supervised clinical sessions, trainees will gain a deeper understanding of the various applied therapeutic methods and hone their skills as future therapists. In addition, second year trainees will have the opportunity to work with first year students thru discussion groups, tape reviews, and clinical sessions.
Our third year students will continue to hone their clinical skills through a rigorous series of didactic clinical sessions. These sessions will be video taped and will be reviewed by Dr. France Janov and our senior therapists.
Dr. Janov’s books have been translated in some 26 languages, have been bestsellers in many countries, and his theory is taught at many universities. He has combined decades of clinical practice with the latest in research. It is the therapy of the future.

To apply, please visit our website at and select the ‘trainee’ option when filling out the questionnaire. For further information, please feel free to call us us at (310) 392-2003 or email us at

We look forward to another exiting year of training. We hope you will join us.

My best,

Dr. Arthur Janov
Founder & Director