Thursday, November 25, 2010

More on Self Esteem

There is so much discussion of the notion of self-esteem that I think it warrants more discussion; we need to find out what it is, actually. So first of all, is there such a thing? No. Why not? Because it is not a feeling. It is an idea, one that friends or therapists can use to bolster it or diminish it. So what is it? It is a sense that I am accepted, loved, approved of, wanted, desired, and believed important.

Normal, loved individuals never think about it. They just have it and act accordingly. Those who need to think about don’t have it. And so when others tell you what you need to hear, you are important, valued and approved of, it temporarily lifts the esteem a bit. This is an artificial lift. It dampens the real feelings, feelings that were installed from womb-life onward.

So why do we feel we have low esteem, something that needs to be bolstered? When we are born we begin to follow orders. Parents tell us what to eat and when to eat. Where to sit (and not fidgit or move around). When to go out and when not to. We are not told, “What would you like for dinner?” What time do you want to eat?’ Ad infinitum. Bit by bit it sinks in; “I am not important and no one cares what I think or feel.” Especially at the dinner table where the “important” people talk and we listen; no one elicits our opinion about the color of the walls, the kind of chairs we sit on and when we are allowed to have guests in. This is how esteem is created, not necessarily by a parent saying you are important, but rather by being treated from infancy onward as someone who is important. Parents who value you are governed by their feelings; parents who do not value you also are governed by their feelings, which quickly become the soundtrack of your life.

This can all be compounded by parents who do tell you that you are stupid and incapable. Or they keep you from handling important tools. Or they don’t take the time to explain things. What does that do? It means that you are not important enough to be worth anyone’s time. An impatient parent who is tense and anxious makes you feel unimportant. You have to speak right away and wait for the answer, which may not come. You have the feeling that you cannot take up too much of their valuable time. It creates the subtext, “I am not important”.

Right after birth when the newborn is left alone and not hugged and cuddled right away, the groundwork for low self esteem is created. If thereafter you have to struggle to get them to pay attention, you are building feelings of inferiority. It is those wee events throughout our early lives that construct permanent feelings of being unimportant. If parents wait for you to hug them, instead of them rushing to embrace you, another neurotic block is there to reinforce your low esteem. It is not a thought-out process. When parents are aloof and heavily repressed as individuals, and cannot respond to the child with feelings, with alacrity and passion, there will be another compounded feeling in a child who now feels worthless and not worth anyone’s time or anyone’s love—worth less.

Alright, we now go to get our esteem lifted. Can we do that? No. Our therapist thinks we are wonderful and praises us; that will last for a short time but the real feeling rushes back in. And that feeling is the result of a myriad of events, all of which spell “I am not important. I am unloved.” Those feelings set in during the critical period which probably occurs before the age of six. Anything after that is symbolic fulfillment and won’t last. But we can become addicted and need praise more and more because it is symbolic fulfillment, long past its due date. When we are complimented (and someone who feels unimportant can be “bought” for a single compliment), it eases the pain momentarily. It operates like a tranquilizer; softens the blow. “You are such a good person. You are so important to me.” The reason the real feeling is never thought out is because it is a feeling that is the result of thousands of very early experiences. Those experiences coalesce around very few feelings, but those feelings drive so many symbolic act-outs.

The very fact that a child in crib can cry out for his mother for a very long time instills that sense of being unimportant. Remember, “esteem” is a word. You do not necessarily “feel” esteemed. You feel loved and that does it all. Once you feel loved you no longer search for that elusive “esteem.” Those who go on searching will never find it. It is too late. And it is not one thing you are looking for—esteem. You are really looking for someone to help instill a feeling inside you that he cannot do; someone who can undo what happened to you. No therapist can lift your esteem level; only you can do it by feeling those key experiences where little by little you came to feel unloved and unworthy of it. Until then you need praise and more praise cause the real feeling is seeping through.

Conversely, a single criticism can devastate someone who feels unimportant. Why? Because it triggers off the real pain; “I am unworthy and (you) they just proved it. If there is one thing that most of us cannot tolerate it is criticism, even slight criticism. We spend our lives staving them off so we won’t have to face and feel those feelings. And those who feel bad about themselves do whatever they can to avoid criticism. When it does occur the person can manage to immediately rationalize her behavior or displace it onto someone else. “I would have done better if you had not done………” It can never be their fault because behind that accusation is a mountain of pain.


  1. I have often thought this and felt it to be true. When I look at the words I see a generalisation that I can use (or anybody else ) to label some-one else who I feel superior to. . . until one day some-one else labels me with the same words, looking down their nose at me and then I'm the one feeling inferior.

    The Jungians seem to be showing a way to take some pride in the inner life.
    Alice Miller said Jung invented the Architypes as a defence against the terrible abuse he suffered at the hands of his own father- hence becoming a master of human symbolism. . .

    Is there any value in the "descent to the swamplands"? Do I feel less worthless for having tried to make an inner journey?

    One obstacle for me personally is in always finding yet another father figure to follow in the footsteps of. . . So far Dr Janov you have trumped the others because of your honesty about yourself and because you rely on science and not symbolism to guide us all.

    All my adult life I have struggled with the perception of others that I am too intellectual. . . It is true! That is a defence on the surface but something deeper drives me to understand science, processes, procedures and patterns. I had a very good science education but never applied it to anything. . . We Brits dismissed our vocational training program a long time ago. So now I know how to apply trigonometry to carpentry and house building I have at least connected something up there and that makes me feel better about myself. On it's own it's a trifle but with other small efforts to connect up disparate and dismembered aspects of me, I can at least survive the other knocks in life and steer a course toward reality.

    Science therefore, has become my latest religion and evolution my Deity.


  2. Agreed Art. Self esteem, anger management, all addictions, compulsions et al, are not resolvable without dealing with their cause. "Dealing with" constitutes only IMO by re-living the feeling that caused it. There IS no other way. Sadly, other than self-primaling, there are not enough therapist or buddies to help, but for the lucky few.

    I have and will continue to propose a 'way forward' by dismantling all those institutions that exacerbate the neurotic status quo. For me, those are:- culture, education, entertainment, science including medical science, economics, and politics. and thence a promotion to alter our child rearing practice. In order to do that will require a general understanding of Primal theory.

    I made my bid with a book, but that was a total flop. Maybe some genius will come up with a way, or, who knows: maybe the collapse of the global economic system will inspire a "new awakening"...... I dream on.

  3. Dr. Janov,
    I appreciate this discussion about self-esteem.

    The word self-esteem is synthetic and has only one substance - to control.
    Since we cannot give self-esteem to another person, the true function of this fabricated word can only be a tool to manipulate.

    We don’t need such description/label, because a psychological healthy human being will go about their life, by their own pace, according to their priorities.

    I have no self-esteem is self-labeling.
    Being perceived as a person with no self-esteem is an outside, unwanted intervention to push people to do things they, in reality are not self-motivated for.
    If a person is outside the rhythm of life (extreme self neglect/denial), we should ask why this person is not motivated, not self sustaining and see if there is an underlining psychological reason. In most cases, there is a depression or worse.

    Why don’t we use the word “self-aware” instead of self-esteem.
    We can only help people to become them selves.

  4. Self Esteem

    My series of articles in “The history of my epilepsy. An Epileptic Journey. ( is a confirmation of your Reflection about the idea of Self Esteem. There is no such feeling.
    Already during my birth process (which later turned into epileptic seizures) I got the message that it was more important to follow the bible and bolster my mothers idea/belief than giving me a normal loving and caring birth. It was a tragedy coming as close to killing me as possible.
    On top of that my parents later were incapable of showing that I was loved and accepted. During a lifetime, I have struggled to create “self esteem”, and I used many of the tools in the worlds neurotic toolbox to create this time limited idea created by gurus, employers, wives, or whoever I could influence by honest needy efforts. I also used not so honest tricky behaviors to be praised, by those who easily could be bought for a compliment.
    It was an ongoing perpetual mobile. Interestingly enough my epilepsy was almost non existing during my periods of high “esteem”. The fits appeared when my “self-esteem-idea” diminished and my doubts about myself appeared and made my idea of being wanted, approved and loved to vanish. The fits appeared and changed my whole chemistry and my vital signs and in order not to suffer for too long I rapidly worked out a radical change plan. To find a new job, or a new wife, or a new country and/or a new language. I became good at the idea of self esteem.

    So what do I do now when I know that there exist no self esteem and having felt much of the pain from a horror filled birth and the sadness of not having been loved and approved. First of all, I feel much better, but still I carry reminiscences of my neurotic scares and can tell my daughter stupidities.
    This afternoon, in a drastic attempt to push her studies in spanish, I asked her if she had no Spanish pride (=self esteem) to draw upon, which she could not understand.
    When we came home, Arts Reflection about Self Esteem had arrived. I read it, gave a copy to Isabel and undid my previous statement about Spanish pride. After a while, Isabel came in after having read the article and said that Arts comments really had hit the nail and that a few of her friends were living under exact these unloving conditions Art is mentioning. “And do you know something?”, she said; “I really like that every time you have said something you regret you come back and tell me and explain why you did it”.
    Such a moment is worth my whole Epileptic Journey!!!!
    Jan Johnsson

  5. Art

    I've said it many times but not enough ... it will only happen when the primal therapy has been accepted ... introduced and become worldwide accepted. It is a wonderful job you have done ... "the most important work in any field man ever has done”. I could feel jealous that just you made it but I am quite pleased that exist in the wings of it. What and where would I else be?

    I am looking forvard to the "conference between France and I and my staff to kick around primal helpful hints"

    Yours Frank

  6. PG: you know that science is not a bad religion. art janov

  7. I am not sure I agree with Art about no such thing as self-esteem. Of course this may just be a question of semantics. Maybe when we say self-esteem we are talking about confidence or efficacy. But from an evolutionary point of view I think we can try and be more precise. Darwin located 3 key areas in which humans excel above all other species:

    He (man) manifestly owes his immense superiority to his intellectual faculties, his social habits which lead him to defend his fellows and his corporeal structure.

    To put it more simply how a person self-evaluates in the domains of social skills, intellectual ability and physical attractiveness seems to relate to something fundamental in our ancestrally derived mindset - our capacity to find resources, find mates and seek protection by membership of a group. So, if in any one of these 3 areas one feels dissatisfied this may well affect what psychologists call self-esteem - or what I would call our confidence in our selves as organisms that can survive in our environment.

  8. I know some anecdote about Salvadore Dali:
    one his friend from school said that Dali hit a wall with head, and there was all over the under blood. Than, his friend asked him why did he did it, and Dali said: 'no one pay attention on me!'


    Have you ever think about to write a guide for parents, how to raise their children? From conception, even earlier, and later on?
    How to prevent illness? How to prevent neurotics, not only how to treat them(us):)
    That do not neccessery mean teen ages, but til critical period.
    In some way, when I read your books, you already did it, but in fragments. Maybe it is good for whole!


  9. I wonder how all this discussion of sef-esteem relates to these spasms of self-hatred that I sometimes have.The energy of that self-hatred is the same type of energy that I sometimes direct at others and that I feel is justified (or am I perhaps just rationalising?)Is this inner and outward hatred part of a same destructive tendency within me and thus neurotic? If so,what causes it?

    Karen Horney, in her book "Neurosis and Human Growth" ,has a whole chapter devoted to self-hatred and how it can be cured (as part of a whole neurotic complex).So this is a phenomenon that cropped often in her practice. Like any neurotic tendency she writes that it is not easy to change, and that self-hatred is always lurking in the unconscious ready to erupt under certain conditions in neurotics. I wonder how Primal would view self-hatred? (And by this I clearly mean REALLY beating oneself up, not a momentary self-reprimand)

  10. This was a super article. I have often thought about things like this. One poster got me thinking about how manipulation takes place. Religion uses it, politics uses it, academia and science use it. They scold you, down you, tell you that you have no idea what you are talking about or whatever to shatter confidence and make you cower before them. Schools exist to condition us to obey and not think.

    And if parents are not loving and reinforcing, the kid is super vulnerable to all that abuse waiting out there to devour them. what a serious responsibility to be a parent!

    Art, you mention science is not a bad religion. Respectfully, I find science can often be quite the religion, but I do not mean that in a good way. There is public science and then there is all that hidden classified stuff. which one are we talking about?

    but if you notice something out of place in science, Like PT theory, you can get shot down. It would almost be as if you had insulted the Pontiff of Science or something.

    there are many different religions and not all of them deal with morals or ethics, kindness or decency. Science can be a religion, either good or bad. Sports can be a religion. Many things can. but I like my religion open and free to think and feel as I need to. repression always is distasteful.

    We have all been bullied and put down enough for several lifetimes. I just think that science ought to be more carefully pondered since more than one science is to be found, if we are truly looking. Your work and mission would benefit is more people realized there was such a thing as junk science. just as there are loads of religious phonies who do more harm than good.

  11. Will: You don't walk around with "confidence in yourself." You just are. And if you were loved you have it. AJ

  12. Nenad: Have you read my book, The Feeling Child. ?? I think that is what your are looking for. AJ

  13. Macor 22: We hate ourselves as much as we were hated by our parents. The negative thoughts in our heads are our parent's (or so called caregivers) words from our childhood... "You'll never be good at anything," becomes, "I'll never be good at anything." How we feel about ourselves is how our parents felt about us.

  14. I see what you are saying Art. Our environment is part of what we are too. If we were once loved then we can carry this consciousness with us into situations when love is not present and can survive them. But if were were never loved we may carry a sense of failure, a sense of being unworthy of love or unable to attain another's love. But I don't believe that there is such a thing as 'self-esteem' either. We simply need to put ourselves into loving situations or environments in which we can feel human and whole.

  15. Continued comments on Self Esteem...

    Interesting to read the different explanations of Self Esteem. I never really reflected about it until now, so I went to and found that many great brains and some feeling human beings have thought extensively about it. It is fascinating to read the extensive interpretations that exist and, which needs we have for it. You can see, for example, the American need for Self Esteem and authoritarian leadership after the September 11th-attacks. Eric Fromm (Escape from Freedom), the TMT theory, Abraham Maslow (in his hierarchy of needs) are examples of valuable thoughts around different Self Esteem definitions.

    Albert Ellis, the American psychologist, has written a book “The Myth of Self-esteem” in which he in his first sentence asks: “Is self-esteem a sickness?” His answer: “I’d say that it is probably the greatest emotional disturbance known to man and woman: Even greater than hating other people, which seems somewhat worse, but is perhaps a little better.”

    When I wrote my spontaneous, intuitive comments regarding Self Esteem, I saw the expression as a label of the kind of “well being” I was looking for in my constant struggle to overcome my feelings of being unloved, not wanted, restless and needy. My struggles to create Self Esteem and well being were successful!!! But only for a time equivalent of how long time my energy to produce painkilling fuel for my hardworking brain lasted. To create new motivation to be able to overproduce and to keep up the idea of self esteem I had to make radical changes of my life every 2nd and 3rd year. It became a life pattern of “Self Esteem maintenance”.

    The Self Esteem created by my escape from my pain (both the one caused by a religious belief by my mother (to give birth with pain) and the pain of not being loved and important) was successful in many superficial perspectives only not from my inner real needs. My “Epileptic Journey” has been fascinating but painful and humiliating at the same time. However, finally I have found out that if I’m loved, I don’t need Self Esteem. I am loved. I am! No more no less.

    Jan Johnsson

  16. " I am not important and no one cares about what I think or feel" (excerpt from the blog article above).I often feel like that. I don`t know how much of those feelings are due to my upbringing, and how much to present circumstances. As for me, I am always interested in how others feel, if they would only open up. But they don`t open up usually, so what can I do? I mean what`s nicer than communing with another person, especially if that other person is a woman with nice hips! No wonder I`ve had my nose stuck in some book, or watched so many movies, all my life. At least there was some communion between me and the authors, and film-makers, and musicians, and actors.

    As far as parents and their kids, well, is it so difficult to treat kids with respect? They look to me to be so approachable and lovable, who would want to hurt them? (OK, I`ve never had my own kids, so I don`t know what it`s like in contemporary society with kids day-to-day). My own upbringing went from bourgeois superficiality during childhood, to savage authoritarian hatred towards me ,beginning in my adolescence, from my fascist Italian mother (with my father detached ,not defending me). That provoked a justified savage anarchistic rebellious reaction from me, and to this day, the vibe I give off is: DO NOT F**K WITH ME AND GIVE ME ORDERS! My mother`s favorite obsessive put-down was: you are LAZY, LAZY,LAZY,LAZY, LAZY...even though I was a top student. But she did not care about my marks; that I would not want to cut the damm useless suburban lawn is what counted, and that drove her into paroxisms of fury and insults, which would make me furious in turn.

    So there you are: another life messed up by fascism. "The angry man is the unloved man.." Arthur Janov,excerpt from "The Primal Scream".


  17. Will: "He (man) manifestly owes his immense superiority to his intellectual faculties, his social habits." This statement, Will, is a manifest example of neurotic man's ego (self delusion). His greatest 'intellectual' achievement is the creation of the nuclear bomb ... duh!!!!

    Nenad: "Have you ever think about to write a guide for parents, how to raise their children? From conception, even earlier, and later on?" I agree with Art, Nenad; try reading "The Feeling Child". One problem: when neurotics read how to prevent neurosis in their young, they tend to do it neurotically; seeing it as instruction, rather than intuition and feeling (ones real nature).

    Marco; "I wonder how Primal would view self-hatred?" Again, as Art says; "confidence in oneself" is not a positive 'thing' lurking in the brain, but rather the lack of something (real love) in the brain--caused by trauma.


  18. I thought this was another excellent post. So true how parents treat their children as utter "non-adults" - trivialising them and ignoring them is virtually the norm. And so much of this is truth is hidden by bullshit stereotypical parental role-play.

    As you say: "And those who feel bad about themselves do whatever they can to avoid criticism."

    I agree, and low self-esteem can turn people into excellent workers - they heavily pressure themselves to never make mistakes. Except they can 'externalise' onto others who do...So the result, from my experience, is that you can fear criticism if only because it can come with such an unwarranted degrading flavour.

  19. Continued comments on Self Esteem

    It took me almost a lifetime to experience the falsifications of the well being which was created by being raised in and having lived in an environment of conditional demands. I felt worthy only when I matched the false conditions that had been laid down for me, during birth and when I didn’t receive the love I needed. My struggle on all levels to produce painkillers via the master gland felt at times heavenly, and I could have written a book about how to overcome feelings of inferiority.
    However, time after time I ran out of gas and the conditioned cosmetica of well being vanished, and I had to start all over again, time and time again, etc. Until I decide to go into my epilepsy when I was worn down in my eternal struggle to produce well-being. And then I discovered with the help of the primal principlel and Arts unconditional support that I had been living on a lie so big that is has taken me all the incredible strength, which is innate in our human system to survive. Luckily enough I am a Swede with a backup of all the social security, which has been necessary. Having revealed and felt my humiliating life lies during feelings as close as I could come to horror and death, I could slowly start to feel the spark of really unconditional life.
    Even if we are very similar human beings with the same evolutionary CNS, each one of us has our unique experiences of pain, abuse, humiliations and pre birth history. With different cultural, historical and religious backgrounds in unlimited mixtures, I find it logical that the interpretation of well being, self esteem (be it implicit or explicit self esteem), self-worth, self-respect, etc. will reach a number of nuances defined with literary brilliance hard to disprove. However, when it comes to feeling the wordless pain from a terrible birthing we need no verbal sophistry because there were none in the brain. And later there were no limits on our intellectual and neurotic struggle to cover up for the unfelt pain. The sparks of our limitless ideas are working but only for as long as we and our systems can stand the overproduction to achieve the painkilling effects. They take their toll.
    Jan Johnsson

  20. Hi Jack W!

    I appreciate you comment about an atomic bomb being man's greatest achievement. I discerned the sarcasm. But I am not so sure I would credit the intellect entirely with that. Often, we use our intellect because our instincts want something and hijack the intellect to, say, produce a bomb instead of caring or being more constructive with their use of the intellect. I find the intellect was helpful in discerning the validity of PT.

    We can use the intellect to ponder the feelings inside us or we can turn the intellect over to the monstrous side of us.

    Of more interest to me is how science so readily gives itself in behalf of monstrous pursuits while avoiding real scientific progress is say, PT. As I see it, the intellect is not why they pursue what they do. It is still that hidden 1st/2nd line stuff that is aiming the intellect in the wrong way.

    intellect is neither good or bad. It can be either one. But to ponder our own "madness" takes courage or at least curiosity about what is really going on inside us. Many people who like conventional psych, want to be lied to. They want to have their ears tickled. Would you not agree?

    Primal patients are often so tired of the pain and suffering that they just want relief, even if it means having to face down the monsters inside. They want the truth, and not placation.

    There is pseudo intellect and there is real intellect. most confuse pseudo with real. Pseudo does make real good military hardware. But real seeks internal understanding and compassion and looks for pursuits that are meaningful, constructive, healing, problem solving and not problem creating like wars and cruelty are. Blind greed is also the autopilot ruling like a tyrant.

    Your own search and activities, in my estimation, show a certain amount of intellect at work. that is why you are here and not off developing weapons, me thinks.

  21. Apollo: Your very first paragraph says it all; to me. I call it intellectual 'mumbo jumbo' that in essence conveys NOTHING other than your feeling; a determination to DEFEND intellectualism--at all costs.

    Before coming to do therapy here in the US I was living in Europe and went to see Wendy Campbell in Cambridge where she and her husband were contemplating opening a European Institute. Towards the end of the interview she said " Jack, you have a very intelligent understanding of Primal Therapy; albeit that your intellect is perhaps your greatest defense--I instantly knew she'd hit upon one of my defenses that I had not thought about before.

    My intellect (and I am conceited enough to know I still have a good one) gets in my way to this very day. But I know better (through feeling) than to try to prove it does anything, other than keep me away from rising pain--from time to time. QED Jack

  22. If we grow up with parents who don't treat us as the must-have accessories of their (socially-suggested) abstract ideal of a "complete life", then we are left with a base feeling of inherent worth (for being a living human being) that should require no psychological maintenance as such.

    In turn we can be free to be confident in relation to something or not confident in relation to something, from a simply *rational* position.

    So we just become realistic and rational because we don't have to "baby sit" our hurt feelings. (Good for both our development and the survival of our species).

  23. I erased this comment by mistake. My apology:

    Hello. I am ali. I live in IRAN. I am 27 years old.
    I am doing this therapy since 3 month before. Here life is so harder in general way. I tried cansaulting for 4 years. It did not work and got me worth.
    Intresting point is I understood "my therapist is not normal". Here the sience of psychology is not developed and updated like the other sceinses here. My situation is so hard. So you know why?
    Because here the religion is govern and it is so powerfull. Since my childhood I used to pray and cry to GOD and asking for forgivness everytime that I felt bad and sadness. Becausae I have been grew up by the religios treatment and my parenrs are so prejudes.They were tellnig me: "If you feel sad and sarrow, It means GOD is mad of you and you are guilty and you should pray and ....I just can cry when I remembered these memoreis even now............
    Doc.Yanov thanks for your book. I would like to have your attention.
    Ali. from IRAN "

  24. Ali: You have my attention How did you get the name Dean? AJ

  25. An email comment:
    "This one's not too bad.....Self Esteem is incorrectly deliniated...Let's leave what "Self" is alone for now. Esteem is simply a combination of confidence and competence...competence meaning one knows they can do...or in fact can do..a task etc well. Confidence is knowing and feeling one can do an IMPORTANT task etc well. Self is of course an over arching concept of all the traits of the individual. Basically, regarding a psychological neurotic focus this blog is accurate...with reservations not worth my time to address. BJF "


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.