Friday, October 29, 2010

Prototypes and Sex: The Hijack

I have written about the prototype before. It is that traumatic event that impacts the fetal system and changes its evolutionary trajectory. It helps set up who we become later on and warps our personality. It also directs how we react to the trauma at birth, (if there was one).A carrying mother smoking a half-pack a day, and then suffering from lack of oxygen at birth. A lack of oxygen would compound the prenatal asphyxiation and warp the development of personality. The memory is then stamped-in so that it governs all future behavior in the event of stress.

It is the limbic system, most particularly the hippocampus, with a bit of help from the amygdala and striatum, which scans history and automatically finds the prototype, the imprint that originally fixed the survival mode for the organism. This survival reaction becomes fixed and directs us for a lifetime. Of course it can be compounded by later events in childhood.

Let us keep in mind the prototype when trying to understand sex. To reiterate: high excitation in sex can be taken as a danger by the system because the original high level of excitation was a danger. The system cannot distinguish between the two since they have an equal force or valence. In this way sexual stimulation can trigger off the original trauma and our reaction to it. The brainwave patterns of past and present become indistinguishable so that sex and trauma fuse and run off identically together. It is the hijack. They are old friends. Sex climbs aboard the trauma vehicle and goes along for the ride; but it goes where the trauma takes it and no place else. It leads the way because it involves survival. That is what is reawakened during sexual activation. That is why we can examine sex life and look back to the kind of birth and pre-birth that the person underwent. In this way when there is an excess of stimulation there is an immediate shutdown or shut-off; the very same reaction as originally. Sex stops abruptly when a certain level of excitation is achieved.

We can look at birth and predict the kinds of sex problems there may be in the future. This is in general terms; there are many other factors that play into this equation but in an overall sense it holds true. I am focusing for now on what has been left out of the equation. Conversely, we can look at sexual behavior and post-dict (look back) on the kind of prenatal and birth-life one has undergone.

Because pain insinuates itself into sexual behavior with the identical imprinted force, it seems clear that once pain is felt for what it is there will be radical changes in sexual conduct. Sex will no longer be a conduit for something else but will be what it is. Pain will no longer be rerouted into sexual rituals by the limbic system because pain will no longer be a factor.

During the reliving, the whole physiologic system joins in the fray. It must be; otherwise it is not a valid, complete memory, and not curative. The same blood pressure, heart rate and vascular processes are there. We can measure the trauma and its force in this way. We can estimate the effects certain events have on sex, as well as other behaviors. Ordinarily, the voyage to our depths is not a difficult trip when we consider that current feelings are an elaboration of early sensations.

If we take care to allow the brain to follow its own evolution and do not talk too much or exert too much control in therapy the therapy is usually successful. If we abstain from intellectual control and third line discussion we will find the patient going back in time in ordered fashion. This will happen if we have no preconceived ideas or anti-evolutionary theories about what the patient has to do. We need to trust the process and above all, trust feelings. These feelings lie in a different universe of discourse from conventional therapy. Follow the brain. Follow evolution because evolution follows us. That is the key to successful therapy of sex problems.

One final word: Yes, it does help to deal directly with sex problems just as one would give shots or pills to the migraine sufferer. Palliatives are sometimes very necessary. No one should suffer until final cure is achieved.


  1. Dear Art ,I can underscore the notion that "sex can trigger off the past trauma " -only some days the mere t h o u g h t of sex aggravated my anxiety and depression.
    Whether it is the result of an imprint in the womb ..or the remembrance of the terror feelings
    resulting in my excessive masturbations after feelings of humiliation tenssion etc . I am not
    sure of , but it`s very irritating to say the least...! Sincerely Yours emanuel

  2. Art, I am really looking forward to my adventure in LA, but if you guys encourage patients to enter their sexual feelings, then I will request some studio editing of the video footage, and I would rather not have a gay therapist. (lesbian is ok)

  3. Art,

    I "know" you are damn right in everything you write about… but if it does not help us ... we poor wretches who has no opportunity to be able to get through hell by our selves... what do you want us to do? We are following you with light and candle and become more and more "aware" of what we need to do ... when even cognitive activities leads forward in a sense by your writing? Our heads spin ... the calm you see is only deceiving appearances. Art ... I know that it is very important to you to keep your work safe… everything you have done is very well worth it ... but for us… please come with something concrete things we can do for our selves... a chance you my must take.


  4. Well, sex is a huge trigger for me. When a girl is feeling horny and wants to have sex with me, if I like her, I immediately feel very cold and start shaking so much that I can't hold a drink without spilling it (I'm serious). The time when I felt, for six hours, like I was going to die or go crazy...I had smoked some weed, but that hellish reaction happened the moment I opened a porno mag. And more recently I had a sexual dream and it led to some kind of first line reaction...sleep psychosis or whatever you want to call it.
    When I see a girl who is sexually aroused for real, it turns me on. Mirror neurons? I'm sure primal therapists have mirror neurons too. I don't want a gay male therapist who gets turned on while I am in a sexual feeling. Yuck.
    If a female therapist is turned on by my sexual feelings, that's not so yuck.
    If I am with a heterosexual male therapist who has a clinical attitude towards my sexual feelings, that's yucky too because really I would rather not have someone watching me....but hey, this is primal therapy, right?
    If I am not allowed to choose my therapist, then I will accept who I am given. I'm sure they are all good.

  5. Richard: Sexual feelings are just another set of feelings. I am certain that no Primal therapist would push you, or even wish to push you, into any particular feeling: THAT IS YOUR CHOICE. A feeling-full therapist will primarily listen to you--it is in YOUR talking that your subconscious feelings 'peep out' . It is at that point that the therapist will assess just how much to encourage you in that vain. The therapist are trained intensively for this very purpose. The therapists sexual feelings towards a patient is an absolute NO-NO in psychotherapy and to do so would lead to revoking that therapist license to practice.

    Not wanting a particular therapist should be a matter of compatibility after meeting.
    Chances of you knowing your therapists proclivities of any kind would be something you might only discover after many sessions and even then not necessarily. If you are scarred of gay males, but fascinated by gay females, that would be something to talk about in your sessions, if, and when you (the patient) is ready to talk about it.

    In Primal therapy, the patient is king.

  6. Richard: right. they are all good and you don't have to worry about sexual feelings. A

  7. Frank: Frank you mean it is not enough to spend 40 years developing a theory and therapy to help people and then set up a clinic to treat people? I can do no more. I need all your help to develop ideas, pressure and then a program to do something about it. I tried to give away my therapy to several governments all of whom turned it down. art janov

  8. Hi. Off topic:

    Dr Janov, will your book-in-preparation "Beyond Belief" be published in the near future? If not, would someone like me be able to get a copy of the manuscript? If so, at what cost? As I have mentionned elsewhere,this aspect of your work, belief systems -as-defense, really fascinates me the most, and I would like to read as much as I can of what you wrote on the subject. Thank you.


  9. Art,

    Yes you've done enough… more than in off… what I am saying is that we also are individuals who are in a need… need as parallelizes us from what we would and could do if we new …need we do not know the consequences of. We are in silence screaming out the pain… need that could go very wrong and are doing so without the help of primal therapy. This is why I beg you to give us all of your knowledge for as les as possible should go wrong… if not on your blog my by internet in a form of round table talk… done as safe as possible? Life passes too fast and without a sincere chance to live.


  10. You know Frank it is not a bad idea to do a round table with us and staff. I will discuss it in a week or so with the staff. Thanks for the suggestion. AJ

  11. Marco: I have to think about it cause I have an agent who sells my books so I cannot just decide to put it on the internet. art janov

  12. Hi Dr Janov: I am not asking you to put your Beyond belief book on the Internet,that would not make sense commercially. I am just asking if I, personally, could buy a copy of the manuscript.If not, no problem, of course.

    I really do hope that book gets published eventually.Based on what I know of what you have written on the topic elsewhere,that book would probably really help a lot of concerned people understand why belief systems are usually so rigid and impermeable to argument, amongst other things.


  13. Marco: I agree. The problem is that the publishers have a confidentially clause that prevents us from putting out the mscpt. I am considering it, however. AJ

  14. Dr. Janov,

    the latest research results should not get unnoticed:

    Sexually Abused Children at Risk for Adult Psychosis
    By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
    Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on November 4, 2010
    A new report suggests children who are sexually abused may be at higher risk for developing schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.
    The Austrian study found that a history of sexual abuse with penetration especially increased the risk.
    Previous studies have established that abused children are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal behavior, according to background information in the article.
    More at:

  15. Could I ask one thing before your next book is published? This would be for people who are not right-brain dominant to proofread and edit it.

    I did a sixth reading of Primal Healing slowly and methodically last month while waiting for my next Skype session. I couldn't help but notice again that there are 70-80 grammatical, spelling, and other errors in it that a left-brain dominant editor would have corrected.

    Its my bias to think that these errors will hamper acceptance of your work.

  16. Art,

    May I ask about what proportion of your patients have been seriously sexually abused?

  17. Rarely among males. About one out of four females. AJ

  18. Price: I am surprised as we went over the mscpt many times and corrected it all. Quote me a couple of the errors. thanks AJ

  19. Price: There's seems something compulsive about reading Arts work looking for errors, or being irritated by them. Many have critiqued me for my typos, spellings, syntax errors and punctuations (even on this blog). I admit to being very backwards on all these points (thank Godot for instant spell checks), but my critics (mostly very adept at the written word) haven't written a book. Is it really that important to be so, so precise with the written word. Is it not more important that the message is put forward? Eg. "know what I mean", "get my drift"

    Interestingly I received an email about a study that if most words just put in the right first and last letter, even though the rest are randomly jumbled that the text is readable and understandable. With the advent of text-ing and emails it seems a new written English (and perhaps spoken) is being developed, that for us brought up in the old tradition, will not be adept at. Great! what is so sacrosanct about language anyway? It's supposedly meant to convey meaning, but often fails as is evidenced in the last mid-term election here in the US. IMO is all about feelings and their expression in the end.

  20. Jack: I didn't re-read Primal Healing to find errors. I re-read it because I needed a Skype session, and it was going to be almost a month before I could get scheduled.

    AJ: This weekend I'll put together a sample from Chapter 3 and post it here.

  21. AJ: As a sample, here are items I find in Chapter 3 of Primal Healing that a left-brain oriented editor would probably have changed. It is an important chapter, and I always tell the people whom I give the book to read Chapter 3 if nothing else.

    p.59 graphic: 'gaging' should be 'gagging'
    p. 60 para. 2 sentence 1: 'bottom, rear' should be 'bottom rear'
    p. 60 para. 3 sentence 6: 'experience is not stored as ideas' should be 'experiences are not stored as ideas'
    p. 65 para. 2 sentence 3: 'fear and' should be 'fear, and'
    p. 72 para. 3 sentence 2: 'anesthetia' should be 'anesthesia'
    p. 72 para. 3 sentence 8: 'patients is' should be 'patient is'
    p. 73 para. 3 sentence 10: 'fabriacted' should be 'fabricated'
    p. 76 para. 4 sentence 7: 'something in lower levels of the brain are' should be 'something in lower levels of the brain is'
    p. 79 para. 1 sentence 3: 'information from both inside and out are' should be 'information from both inside and out is'
    p. 79 para. 2 sentence 7: 'it is all of a piece' should be something like 'it is all a piece of..'

  22. PRice:

    I think rules can sometimes be broken because, sometimes, it actually reads better. But well done on your eye for these things!

    On my own blog I still find old errors (of the type I'm not happy with) because it can be so hard to see your own mistakes, as your brain "reads" what it knows should be there rather than what is actually there.

    Personally though, I doubt that those errors you found will have an impact on Janov's 'authoritative' image.


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.