Saturday, May 23, 2009

On Becoming Homosexual. Is it Becoming?

There are those who think I have taken an anti homosexual stance. So let me clarify. I have no “stance” about homosexuality. I only try to follow the science and not shy away from facts that are politically incorrect. That helps no one, especially those who want to change.

Can we cure it? Wait! Is it an illness, a deviation that needs curing? If you ask anyone whose defenses work and have always worked they would say, “Why would I need curing? And since I am not in the priesthood (most of all being Jewish) I don’t have any desire to cure anyone of anything if they don’t want and need it. But I do want to help those who suffer. Some suffer from being gay and others are very comfortable with it. Why would I or anyone want to treat them? I have no mission and never have had a mission to save the world. I have found a way, to me the scientific way, to help those who hurt, who are anxious and depressed, who can’t function and who are miserable. We don’t advertise and make outrageous claims about homosexuality or anything else. We have “cured” some homosexuality. We didn’t start out to cure anything but two or three of them came to me after some time in therapy and said, “My orientation has changed.” I said fine. If it makes them happy so much the better.

What causes it? That is a sticky wicket. I have the feeling that with all the new research there is a hormonal base to some of it since traumas in the womb can and do change the later sex hormone levels. That is not all. There has to be a familial configuration that deprives the child of fulfillment of need, somehow, somewhere. I do think heterosexuality is normal, given the need for survival of the species, to say nothing of how the parts fit together to make babies. I really don’t care if homosexuals think they are normal. That is their choice. I do not agree or disagree. I try to follow my experience for over fifty years of therapy and of all the new research, including brain changes in homosexuals.

There seems to be general agreement in late research that traumas while in the womb can predispose to homosexuality. This is certainly true in animals where females show mounting behavior. Yes, there are many animals who show homosexuality. I am sure and do not dispute that. But I am an expert in humans, not homosexuality. I don’t know who is. I have no spin whatsoever about this anymore than I know that gestation and birth trauma lead to migraines later on. If a migraine lobby tells me I am dead wrong, I can only indicate my experience over many decades with it. And since we have cured many migrainers I will stick to my story. Incidentally, my new book (manuscript) cites many of the studies I mentioned above. Let’s get off the posturing. If I can help those with epilepsy, migraine and high blood pressure there must be something to the theory. I do not know of any other psychotherapy that helps epilepsy nor deep depression. That is because they cannot go deep enough to make profound changes. What this means is that the causes and origins of many afflictions lie very deep in the brain. Therefore all therapies that use words to help people are talking to the wrong brain.

About being prejudiced. Members of my staff have been gay. I engage those who are competent, period. When I am in doubt about something I check with my homosexual friends. When I want to know more about high blood pressure I check with my patients. I do not have to be the repository of all wisdom.


  1. I think a lot of heterosexual people misinterpret the message that gays often display. Gays often say "accept us" but some heterosexuals interpret that message as "become one of us".
    When people watch porn, they like to imagine being a part of what they are watching. During gay parades, many straight people feel like they are being invited to be a part of it. Indeed, they are being a part of it just by watching.
    Finally, two gay people start kissing in a night club, and end up getting verbal abuse - or worse. Is it any surprise they (and gay-friendly people) are so sensitive to anything that seems anti-gay?

    Also, sexuality is a very personal thing. Anything that triggers a deep physical feeling is automatically 'personal'. If a stranger was to reach out and touch your genitals, you are likely to think that he/she is being far too personal. Similarly, any criticism on your sexuality can be percieved as a personal violation, because the criticism is targeted at your private and deeply physical self.

    I think there are many heterosexual people who have a perverted sexuality (I am one of them) and I think that gayness is also a perversion. I don't think a perversion is necessarily ugly or disgusting or sinful. It is just a symbolic way to get closer to feeling our real needs.

  2. My matter-of-fact view:

    I think what a lot of people don't like is the promotion of homosexuality as being a human normality as though it is as norml to be either gay or straight as it is to be born with either black or blond hair. That is a nonsense. Homosexuality is obviously an aberration - if it happens it's because nature or nurture isn't perfect, not because it is "meant to be". Homosexuality can hardly be considered an evolutionary adaptive mechanism (and no, we are not chimpanzees).

    However, of course, no one chooses to be gay. We do not choose our genes nor our enirvornment of which we have developed in. And there is no moral foundation nor meaning for forcing a gay person to act as though they are heterosexual.

    The fact that many people cannot accept homosexuals is strange. I would guess the inability to accept them probably has more to do with themselves on some level than with the gay people.

    *None of what I have written is meant as a moralistic statement. It's just what I think.

  3. I think Sartre held (as in most things) that our sexuality is choice. Others thinkers like WS Burroughs said that it is not a choice but rootedly biological. Is sexuality biologically determined? Well one can argue that because human beings are not all heterosexual it means that there is no innate human nature to which we can point as proof of any single biological essence. But as Dr Janov points out, male and female biological difference implies that there is a primary sexual and biological function to be served.
    But we all now know too our genes are expressed in the environment we find ourselves - womb and family being the formational contexts of personality. And we also know that the most essential characteristic behind the survival of any organism is its plasticity. (And by survival I mean individual survival for no reproduction is possible if individual survival is not secured - it is only when the organism is approaching the end of its life cycle that its profile may alter in this respect.)
    Plasticity is a key concept I think and one that points to the fact that we are very malleable organisms and our genes can express themselves in very different ways depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in. This changeability is not of course an especially respected human quality ('2 faced', fair weather friend etc) and is seen as the expression of a lack of strength of character in maintaining our integrity in the face of social/environmental pressures. Is homosexuality one such pressure?
    If so then it points to the spectrum of behaviour which humans adopt to adapt in order to survive e.g. an overly authoritarian father and unloving mother. But even if this is true it is equally the case that there is nothing pre-determined about human behaviour - there are just too many variables involved.
    Certainly, from my own pov i find emotional attachment to men far easier to forge than to women - though ensuing from this I do not feel any sexual impulse towards people of my own gender (at least not that I am aware of).
    I think we have to accept that human behaviour is part of a very wide spectrum pointing to the fact there are many possibilities for the expression of genes (e.g. science fact: here are almost one hundred genes alone for creating potassium channels in neural membranes) which means the human organism has many ways (strategies and options) to organise its biological functions depending on the huge range of environments (wombs, families, ecologies) it may find itself in.
    Probably, more than any other organism, man's is the one whose genes can be expressed so dramatically across such a vast range of environments - ie there is no part of the world which we can't live in. (it is not a question of number of genes but the range of proteins they are capable of producing.) If there is a homosexual gene (and i don't know if they have found such a thing) then simply having it does not mean one becomes gay unless it is expressed ie. proteins are produced that lead to the the action potentials (or neuronal signals) that produce the hormonal changes that lead to gay behaviours.
    The question is can behaviours be altered by putting the human organism in an environment in which genetic expression can alter? It would seem, from all Dr Janov has written, that Primal Therapy can affect such a change. Some people argue everything is simply a matter of conditioning or sensitisation. I think Primal therapy would take the view that there is a state of removed repression in which the organism can right itself - a basic condition of health rather than humanity which can take so many forms. Unfortunately, most of us are not healthy.

  4. I have always thought that homosexuality serves an evolutionary purpose, of some sort, and suspect that it is associated with warfare. Societies in which there is endemic warfare usually have large, gay populations. This makes sense evolutionarily because it allows, hetrosexuals to be the primary care givers of children, and non child rearing members of society to be involved in fighting. Typically warrior societies, have men's fraternal organizations like men's houses, that may have the unintended consequence of concentrating male pheromes, it also may be true that the absence of male pherome exposure during gestation may effect the fetus later sexual orientation. Stephen Jay Gould pointed out in Ontogeny and Philogeny, that pherome exposure during periods of biological swarming, can delay mauturation, and cause juvenilles to develop profoundly different social interactions than typical adults. I don't think it's a coincidence that gay populations have increased in the US, as a result of our recent wars.

  5. I am a student who is studying psychology at the moment. I think that Dr Janov's form of therapy, based on his clinical observations is finally being caught up with by science.

    Essentially, the process of neurosis (though science talks about this in terms of habituation and sensitization) has been essentially unravelled in terms of pain withdrawl that points to brain plasticity - the re-routing of neural circuits to cope with/ adapt to environmental stimuli. (homosexuality might be one such aberrant form of bad wiring.)

    They have done much work on basic life forms (slugs in particular which have only a few thousand neurons and these can be observed easily) to observe how, after electrical shocks are administered, neural circuits literally change their wiring to allow for an instant withdrawl effect (instant engagement of motor systems) if touched again, even though the subsequent stimuli carries no electrical charge. (The same things is true for the placebo effect of course where belief is enough to also create new neural circuits.)

    By maitaining the sequence of shock followed by non-electrical stimulation of the same area the slug displays what scientists call long-term plasticity. In other words it 'remembers' to withdraw every time it is touched by an electrode (regardless of whether it carries a charge or not) for several days. This is referred to as habituation.

    Dr Janov's genius is in creating a form of therapy that recognises pain withdrawl and the need to re-connect with that pain in order to produce re-wired or new neural circuits by which the re-sensitized patient is freed to make a new connection to his experience. In this way habituated (neurotic) behaviour is traced to its source - events in a patients history that have sensitized them away from healthy responses - with all the of the inhibition of genetic potential that goes with it and which has created life-long plasticity/ habituation.

    It is just a shame Dr Janov doesn't get as much credit from the scientific community that he deserves. (Hopefully, I have not simplified primal therapy too much though I know someone will tell me if i have.)

  6. Thanks Will. All the credit I need is from those who get help from my work. There is no point in waiting for intellectuals to appreciate a feeling therapy. My new book, Life Before Birth will clarify matters even more. art janov

  7. I am looking forward to the new book; when is it coming out in the US?

  8. Hi will,

    Just to add to your post: I think what psychologists describe as habituation, with respect to the context that you presented, is really just emotionally-rigid associative learning. I question if those defensive responses are formed out of 'habit'.

    The difference between habits and compulsions, by my outlook, is that compulsion is driven by something much more than just learned habit from repeated behaviour - it's driven by redirected/converted pain. And that's why supressing habits by force of will can't work if those habits are based on neurotic compulsion. The redirected pain signal will still be there. The compulsion will still vent itself some way or another.

    Our brain is made up of zillions of assocative links. With neurosis we can't link new and more sophisticated responses to old imprints because the repressed state of those imprints makes new adaptive responses -on the primary level- pretty much impossible. Repressed dynamics literally have a mind of their own. Of coure PT is ultimately about reversing that situation via de-repression.

  9. I hope that clarifying matters even more will do the trick, and that primal psychotherapy will become more available over a wider geographical area, with enough qualified practitioiners to meet demand. But I doubt that another book will have that effect, especially if it pushes the envelope even further toward early gestational experience, widening the gap even further between the latest science and what people can actually hear. I wish instead that the Primal Center would do more in the area of "baby steps". If a whole lot of people could feel okay about "crying about" the things in their life, and if they could find therapists who are able to listen to that (rare) without judging and interfering, then....then I don't know what, but that's what I wish for. A science that is truly, in a practical sense, for the people.


  10. I think that the problent too is homosexual being so soon created normaly in uterus, could be in some cases imposible to cure. Because in primal therapy you know what work a posteriory but don't know what dosn`t.In the other side I can say that in Spain if you say homosexuals are sick you will be accuse no only from gay loobyst but by all society of being a radical.Remmenber that in Europe the dictators like Franco, Hitler and Mussolini think that gay was sick. So is very sensitive matter that can destroy a reputation.

  11. "In other words it (the slug) 'remembers' to withdraw every time it is touched by an electrode (regardless of whether it carries a charge or not) for several days. This is referred to as habituation."

    sorry, i got this wrong. Habituation is when the slug ceases to withdraw from an electrode because it has become used to it or calloused. However, if it reacts to the electrode this is called sensitization. Of course, something becomes habituated when it ceases to feel and becomes split from the original feeling.

  12. Walden: hey I agree but it is my responsibility to push the science as far as I can because no one else is doing it. I have to leave it to others to write articles on the the therapy that has mass appeal. dr. janov

  13. Steven I just finished it so now the real work begins. My agent has to sell it and then it needs to go through the process of making it a book. Nothing is guaranteed. Life Before Birth has already been bought by the French. If you read French you can probably get it in a few months. art janov

  14. Andy wrote: "Homosexuality can hardly be considered an evolutionary adaptive mechanism (and no, we are not chimpanzees)."

    I happen to disagree. Here is a good article on natural selection and homosexuality:

    I will quote from the article:

    "It has also been suggested that homosexuality boosts individuals' reproductive success, albeit indirectly. For instance, same-sex partners might have a better chance of rising to the top of social hierarchies and getting access to the opposite sex. In some gull species, homosexual partnerships might be a response to a shortage of males - rather than have no offspring at all, some female pairs raise offspring together after mating with a male from a normal male-female pair.

    Another possibility is that homosexuality evolves and persists because it benefits groups or relatives, rather than individuals. In bonobos, homosexual behaviour might have benefits at a group level by promoting social cohesion. One study in Samoa found gay men devote more time to their nieces and nephews, suggesting it might be an example of kin selection (promoting your own genes in the bodies of others)."

    And as far as chimpanzees go... well, we are genetically almost identical to them, are we not?

    Now, to the "moral" aspects of homosexuality. There really are none. It is not a "sin" (a word that does not belong to my vocabulary anyway). It hurts nobody - unless the person himself suffers from his homosexuality. Granted, some of that suffering may be caused by outside "heteronormative" pressure, but I do not believe that is behind all of the suffering.

    I think Richard hit the nail on the head with his first post. There are many ways in which heterosexuals can be "perverted" too. If you are comfortable with your "perversion" (whether you're a homo-, bi- or heterosexual), then fine. If you are not, you might want/need help.

    That's my two cents for now...

  15. Dr Janov,

    ce nouveau livre à paraître en français est une excellente nouvelle !
    I wanted to write that everything you wrote speak for itself : your integrity and sense of rightness is obvious. Primal Therapy deals with deep emotional pains and feelings so obviously it rises a lot of objections and fears.
    Your work needs honesty to be acknowledged (honesty with oneself and therefore with others).

  16. follow the "science".....well,it seems to me that requires examination from all points of view to be genuine.....if non gay males are making assumptions based on thier experience,to me thats not very scientific

  17. lononeo: I don't think it matters gay or not gay in evaluating things. What matters is science and the scientific method. art janov

  18. Hi AnttiJ,

    Yes, we are almost genetically identical to chimpanzees, and most furry animals in fact. But a 1.5% difference can still be MASSIVE when it comes to the structure of a species sexuality, and many other fundamental features of course. Chimpanzees still look and act very, very different to us with only that 1.5% difference. So we can't claim that chimpanzees are an example of what humans are "inherently" meant to be/do. And that goes for other like-animal observations as well I believe.

    Excuse me if I'm being a little crude, but if we had evolved as a homosexual species then the human anus would be as well equipped as the vagina to recieve penetration. It is not. It's much more delicate and therefore prone to damage, and there are also major infection risks associated with anal sex. Evolution seems to have decided that things aren't really supposed to go up there? But then, I suppose, female homosexual relationships are as physiologically sound as heterosexual relationships, I would guess. Maybe it's more "unnatural" for men to have homosexual relationships?

    You also noted that gay people spend more time with their nephews and nieces. I spend a lot of time with my nephew and nieces when I visit them. That's only because I'm not attending to my own kids, because I don't have any yet. Same story for gay people? I wouldn't be surprised.

  19. Why do males have nipples? Maybe it's because nature put a lot of effort into developing the genetic blueprint for female nipples, and saw some benefit (sensitivity??) to just leave the nipple blueprint in the male too - at no extra evolutionary cost.
    The blueprint is complete. Just tell a male to swallow a pill, and he will successfully grow full breasts with milk.
    We can look at the difference between man and monkey....but what about the difference between man and woman. Is there much difference? Does it take a huge shift in hormonal balance to feminize a man's sexuality and vice versa? Maybe not.
    We can observe female rats mounting male rats....but what about all the female rats that are just 'thinking about it'.

  20. Hi folks. This reluctantly will have to be brief because I am not sure this message will be posted and I don't want to write for nothing. I don't know if this Google account thing is working.

    Anyways...I'm new here and would first just like to express my greetings to you all( et bonjour aux francophones). And comment that whatever Dr Janov has written about homosexuality, indeed what he has written about anything, makes sense to me! More possibly later.. Marco...Montreal, Quebec

  21. Gerald: Well that's a stretch! Are there really more guys or just awareness? arthur Janov

  22. I'm 76, married for 20 years, bi-sexual for 14 years, gay for 18 years. Have just retrieved my copy of The Primal Scream and re-read chapters relevant to my experiencing a Primal Scream, when relating my childhood experiences to an older, father-figure lover - this during my bi-sexual period. There's no doubt in my mind that this had a liberating effect on my neuroses and has enabled me to lead a more comfortable and creative life. But it didn't change my sexual orientation(s).

  23. Dr Janov,can you tell me is homosexuality deviant or not?Is not normal or not?Thanks in advance.

  24. Listen. I write books so you all will understand. It is explained in my Life Before Birth most recent book. art


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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