Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An Examination of Psychoanalysis (Part 1/13)

Because Freudian and Primal theories appear to have a number of formulations in common, many believe that Primal Therapy was developed directly out of Freudian theory. From a historical perspective, Primal theory is clearly the logical extension of Freud's position on many issues. However, Primal theory did not grow out of a theoretical scrutiny of Freudian literature, nor is Primal Therapy a psycho-emotive rendition of psychoanalysis. Primal Therapy grew out of a discovery which at first appeared to be one person's private experience, but which then turned out to be a primary (primal) experience potentially available to most people.
This is not to say that Freudian thought had no influence apperceptively. On the contrary, the development and scientific validation of Primal Therapy is in many ways a tribute to Freud's pioneering concepts on the biological basis of defense, repression, and neurosis. These concepts show that Freud was "on the trail" of a psychobiology of feeling more than eighty years ago -- a trail that was cut short by a lack of scientific proof ,the primitive state of neurology and neurochemistry, and professional pressure. In effect, Freud was ahead of the science of his time. It is not unreasonable to speculate that, had he had the science and technology available to him then that we have had in this era, he would have arrived at the key concept of Primal theory and therapy: the permanent, neurobiological imprinting of Pain and its release through feeling.

The Evolution of Freud’s Theory:
Attributing Neurosis to Non-Existent Causes

The Early Years

Freud's first inkling of the nature of mental processes came about as a result of his work with Viennese physician Joseph Breuer. By the time Freud joined Breuer in 1882, Breuer had already discovered that hysterical patients could recall experiences under hypnosis which they could not recall in the waking state. The famous case of Anna 0. fascinated Freud, and he discussed it "over and over again" with Breuer.
Anna had developed a disturbing array of hysterical symptoms after the death of her father. Her speech, sight, and limbs were all seriously affected. Under hypnosis, Anna recalled the traumatic scene with her father in which she had sat on his bedside as he lay dying. It turned out that there were unexpected correlations between the details of that scene and the exact location and nature of her hysterical symptoms. To Breuer's surprise, Anna's symptoms gradually diminished with the repetition of Anna's recollection of traumatic events while under hypnosis, which Anna herself nicknamed "the talking cure."
The theoretical outcome of this work with Anna 0. (and with other hysterical patients) was the formulation of a "traumatic theory of hysteria" which described the role of the unconscious in the formation of neurotic symptoms. Co-authored by Freud and Breuer, the publication of Studies in Hysteria in 1895 marked the historical beginning of psychoanalysis. In it, Freud and Breuer observed several important factors:
(1) an experience could be barred from conscious recall if it were sufficiently painful;
(2) it could then be recalled under hypnosis; and
(3) the hysterical symptom matched or mirrored some detail of the original traumatic experience.
They concluded that a traumatic experience could exert a lasting influence, producing symptoms years later, even though the memory of it remained completely unconscious. Finally, they stated that only when the memory was retrieved under hypnosis, and "was accompanied by an intense reproduction of the original emotion, often with a hallucinatory reproduction of the trauma...the symptom disappeared."[1][2] They termed this process emotional catharsis.”
Here we see the seeds of several important principles of mental and physical functioning -- some of which have endured the test of time and some of which lapsed, later to be rediscovered.

* Pain and trauma produce repression.
* Repression results in symptomatology.
* There is a meaningful correspondence between psychological events and physiological symptoms.
* Repressed material exerts a lasting influence until it is released through recall and emotional catharsis.

Indeed, Freud's early work with Breuer broke ground which we all stand upon today, for in addition to laying the groundwork for psychoanalysis as one particular "school" of psychology, he was also laying a groundwork for psychology as a field and a science with its own rigor.

While hypnosis continued to play a central role in Breuer's work, Freud abandoned using it by the time Studies in Hysteria was actually published. He was dissatisfied with hypnosis for several reasons. One was that he found not all patients could be hypnotized . ; another that the hypnotic "cure" of symptoms was usually only temporary; and still another was that it could not influence many types of unconscious contents. Only those which were "seeking expression," Freud found, could be brought forth under hypnosis.
During his work with Breuer, Freud discovered that, if the physician listened sympathetically, patients could recall long-buried memories and motives without the aid of hypnosis. He then developed an approach that is as obvious to us today as it was thoroughly novel in Freud's time: he made the patient the focus of study by asking questions, listening, and then seeking to organize and interpret what was revealed. This new approach became known as the "free association" technique, and Freud was convinced that it accomplished what hypnosis could not: it tapped into unconscious contents, eliciting the "deeper, more primitive and imaginative components of the mind" while the patient was in the waking state. Freud became convinced that the same (or better) information could be retrieved without all the folderol of hypnotic procedures.

[1] Ives Hendrick, Facts and Theories of Psychoanalysis (New York): Knopf), 1967 p. 12.


  1. Art,
    If Freud ever could have... had the slightest idea what Primal Therapy was about ... then he would also taken a lot of steps to implement it?

    Art... I think... what you did ... at that moment with your patient... when you perceived his reaktion ... when you discovered Primal Therapy... is and would have been an issue about attentiveness and nothing else… and Freud didn’t have that.

    From a reaction of an patient… grasp what ... of what you witnessed ... one must have something more than just an perception of an analysis ... analysis is a complete thought engineered process and it would be and is not enough to discover the primal therapy process. It would in that part of analysis just be scary... if not... Freud would have done what you did.

    Analysis has never been something where they totally trust the patient's own process and it is critical. Anyone who witnesses something that you did ... must have something much more than just the thinking process as "tools".

    You did something... something much more beyond what anyone in the psychological field has ever done.

    Aida sends her gratitude for what Primal Therapy has meant to her.


  2. Frank: I think the primal process has probably been discovered many times before, and many times before Art. Art is just the first person to follow through with the discovery.

    I believe I discovered the Primal myself when I was 17 years old. I actually tried to forget about it at the time because the event scared me because I did not understand it.

  3. Ah, psychoanalysis! Nothing more uncomfortable-making, of being kept off balance, and so just plain horrible for the one in the chair, or so was my experience. I fell upon Part 1. I enjoyed Hypnosis and this too is going be fascinating! I could not have wished for a topic I am more interested in right now. I feel as though at last I will leave that blasted chair and instead start understanding. Victoria

  4. Hey Victoria. that's what I'm here for. art

  5. Andrew brings up an interesting point; i once went to a Pentecostal church meeting, and it reminded me of a primal group; people rolling around on the floor, screaming, writhing; in religious agony and/or ecstasy; i didn't join in, but i was impressed.

  6. Grumpy: Go see Rachel Rachel with the wife of Paul Newman. It is about the Holy Rollers and it is pure abreaction and does help them......scream and yell and roil around.But no connection. art

  7. Dr. Janov,

    Frank wrote:

    “Anyone who witnesses something that you did ... must have something much more than just the thinking process as "tools"”.

    He is right. Would you tell us Dr. Janov how was it possible that you were able to see (feel) so deeply, how you understood the connection and the process, and how we can heal from wounds hidden so deep.
    I’m puzzled by this question, since I read Primal Scream. It cannot be explained only by intelligence.

    Freud detoured and progressed to a point. What would you say held him back from going further? – finding the primal code.

    Is it the same reason why so many psychiatrists progress and practice only what they have learned?


    thanks. I share your view.


  8. Sieglinde: It was never just intelligence. It was primal pain. AJ

  9. Dr. Janov,

    "It was never just intelligence. It was primal pain."
    This is the answer to why Universities can never teach PT and Therapists will not come to the primal Center to study.
    It's the pain they would have to feel first.

    Thank you for your integrity,

  10. Art: thanks for the movie recommendation; btw, i read Michael Holden veered off into that (speaking in tongues, etc) after he left the primal fold, but i don't know if he stayed with it for the rest of his life.

  11. Grumpy: He stayed super religious for the rest of his life, and gave most of his money to televangelists. All because he primalled alone and got to terrible feelings that overwhelmed him. I tried my best but he wouldn't allow me to help. I loved him. 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.
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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.
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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.