Friday, January 13, 2012

On Scary Movies

There is a story today about the film Mission Impossible……with Tom Cruz which has been shoved aside in sales by the new film, the horror film THE DEVIL INSIDE. So why is that? Wait a minute. The film is about exorcism; and that is about getting rid of your inner demons through shake, rock and roll and a little screaming. In my patois it is called abreaction. So what does the film do? It installs terror in you and then tells you how to get rid of it: exorcism. This is no different from what is happening world-wide to those who try to follow my therapy through getting patients to smack the wall, scream and get angry. All that is missing from their therapy and the film is context, the origin of the terror.

In the film they give you a context, a symbolic one that stands for the deep terror inside so many of us. It riles up the fear and then shows the ways to release it. And that is one major reason it is so popular. You can be terrorized safely in a warm environment and live through someone else’s catharsis. What a great formula. You can walk out of the theater relieved and calmer and the price was very paltry.

The difference in Primal Therapy is context, connecting with the generating source, the imprinted memory of that terror; therein lies true liberation. So the film goes through the motions of getting rid of the pain without really doing it; and that is what so many clinics do in the name of Primal. You don’t even have to hurt, and that is so attractive but such a chimera.

Why context? Because the origin of the terror, the imprinted memory, lies there and only there. Any other attempt to shake off the terror will fail.


  1. Dear Dr Janov, I'm myself a french emotionnal intelligence coach, therapist and also a christian exorcist. That's not the first time I see your point of view on this subject
    I can attest that during an exorcism which in fact is quite far from what you see in scary movies, something really happened for people. Something that the exorcist doesnt create for them. You don't ask people to shout and to cry, Something happened and people can connect themselves with deep feelings. My point of view is that when an emotionnal trauma happened NEVROSE began and at this moment negative entity can also came with the person. I watched a video from a french TV programm where you were inteviewev in 1982. The sequences of primal therapy really looks a like an exorcism.
    So I mean maybe it would be interesting to see that some separate point of view could be reunified : a therapy could be reinforced by an exorcisme and the contrary is also right. Scott PECK, the famous american pyschiatrist and psychotherapist praticed himself some EXORCISM (he writed about the subuject in his book PEOPLE OF THE LIE). So I know what you call abreaction and I don't think real exorcism praticed by a person who could open his mind over than his own religious believes is the thing you wrote about. Thanks again for the quality of your work.

    1. Yes it does look like primal but it is a million miles away. What you do is abreaction, the release of energy of an imprint without the direct connection that makes it have sense and changes the brain and physiology. You get temporary relief but that is never curative. Why not do it right. Read life before birth to understand more of the neurophysiology of all this. J'espère que tu restes pas dans le noir; il y a tellement de gens qui insistent que la relâche d’un sentiment c'est la même chose que vraiment le sentir. Art

    2. Stephen/Stephane from ParisJanuary 16, 2012 at 2:45 AM

      I will read our last book. Merci de ta réponse . You know things can happen at different level. Once again if you don't stay at the psychological or physiological level to go to the energetic/spiritual level (nothing to do with religious believes) exorcisms don't cure NEVROSES its cures from negative entity which are frequently linked to NEVROSES. I would like sharing with you that you can be connected with God/The Energy/ The Source without being related to organized cult or religions and be afraid of the final punishment !!!

  2. Dr. Janov,
    “In the film they give you a context, a symbolic one that stands for the deep terror inside so many of us. It riles up the fear and then shows the ways to release it. And that is one major reason it is so popular. You can be terrorized safely in a warm environment and live through someone else’s catharsis.”
    Just yesterday I wrote about the worthlessness of CT, and how “friends” are used (what are friends for) to talk about your feelings (acting up and out). I do believe talking about our feelings (3.line) we go in circles and must repeat, over and over again. CT contributes to this condition and stays in business depending on it. In addition you are labeled (compulsive, aggressive etc.) that does nothing other than provoke more pain.
    People think going to a “therapist”, I’m in a protected (warm) environment … they know what they are doing… they are professionals … I have to obey.
    I was so close to feeling and releasing the pain and the therapist put the lid back on the rising deep terror. Then he told me, go to a movie, go shopping. Go out and do something good for yourself (catharsis). My question was, will it erase my pain? No he said, but it will help you function better in society. I thought, that is the road to nowhere, I’m going in circles.
    Why do we seek symbolism? Is it a temporary escape from the buried pain - yes?
    Movies, therapists, religion, gurus, high fashion, everybody delivering a high price catharsis because they know the vulnerable will fall for it. They make money and one continues carrying the pain.
    What would happen if we (temporarily) stay completely isolated from the outside world, from all symbolism, enlightenment and catharsis? Wouldn’t we have to jump the threshold and ultimately face our deep inside terror and feel our pain?

  3. 'the devil inside' may have outsold 'mission impossible' but it certainly hasn't outsold one of the world's largest cults: scientology, of which tom cruise is an avid member. while they are subjected to brainwashing (authoritative hypnosis) the victims aim to consciously re-experience painful or traumatic events in their past in order to free themselves of their limiting effects. basic ammeters are used to detect changes in a person's state of mind. the religion claims to be scientific, but provides no evidence of success other than subjectively written statements (this is true for all psychotherapies, except for real primal therapy which offers evidence of permanently normalised vital signs and hormones).
    scientology is a very clever cult in that it convinces it's members to disregard real science, in favour of a larger-than-life science; one that encompasses the entire universe and human immortality. it is more logically acceptable than the well-established religions, and more attractive than primal.
    if you find it hard to believe in exorcism, and you are not interested in a lone clinic in santa monica, you can always join tom cruise in his valiant attempt to rid the world of all psychiatric drugs and return each man, woman and child to a galactic sense of self.
    jesus janov, how do we help people to search in the right direction? i never knew how crazy this world really is until i started reading this website.

    1. Richard If you find the answer please let me know because it beats the s----out of me. art

    2. beats the hell out of me too, though i must admit i enjoy Cruise as an actor; also Chick Corea as a musician; speaking of movies, has one on PT ever been attempted?

    3. grumpy: We are working right now to finish a film of one and a half hours. Art.

  4. Hi,

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear! Mr. God strikes again.

    Since I got onto this blog 18 months ago my belief in Mr. God has rather waned and I have become suspicious of the ability of 'believers' to really empathise deeply enough. As long as their 'faith' for them remains such an idealization, all situations they put themselves into will colour that situation.

    Mr God is like Mr Dad isn't he? Everything is ok as long as you believe that Mr God (Mr. Dad)is looking after you.

    I still find comfort in prayer, occasionally, but that's really just the way my limbic system has been programmed with the Lords' Mantra. . . Y'know, when the shit's hitting the fan or the boat's sinking or the frightening Primal feelings overload; etc, etc.

    I don't deny it but I also don't trust "Wise Men of God". These types always rely on that unseen power to justify their position; 'on the phone to Mr. God. . .

    Anyway, people who say they're Christian, do they actually keep Christs' precepts? Or are they just 'would be Christians'?

    I know a fair few agnostics and atheists who are more adept at Christian values than those who insist on their belief in Mr. God.

    This thing about Scott Peck: I've read all his books and I have been involved in community building, it works, but you don't need Mr. God to do community building. Also "People of the Lie". . . Well, Art has talked about them quite a bit too. Once you get into Primal feelings and Primal Theory you can not carry on with what is essentially a cognitive approach to psychos or anyone else. The Judgements we like to make end when our true feelings surface. The logic of labelling and attempting to change behaviour ceases to have value after a re-living experience. It's a different paradigm altogether. It is not merely 'Non-Judgementalism'. It is a unique conscious acceptance of the truth about pain.

    Paul G.

  5. Yes, Primal Therapy is unfortunately a very generic term; I prefer Janovian PT, and refer to it as such when describing your therapy Art.

    What about hating horror films?! I don't like being scared. Jacquie

    1. Jacquie: OK from now on it will be Janov's Primal Therapy. thanks art

  6. From being "crazy"… crazy for everything and everyone… to feel so afraid that she pray for her life. Aida becomes part of her feeling she could not even imagine was associated with the little girl in her. Her mother committed suicide in a way of ritual by drinking a bottle of poison which she begged her son to pick up from the kitchen… which she then drank in front of all her children. What to say?

    Aida was placed in a convent and then adopted to Sweden. She has all her life expressed her hatred for whatever there was to hate... hate as a lid on for the horrible experience of being left by her mother in this horrible way. Fear Aida experienced was/is from the moment she saw her mother take her life... she has been paralyzed by her behavior as a defense against a terrible event... this horrible pain... pain of losing her mother and no one came to rescue... an event that is now likely to open up awareness of what else may be hidden.

    She was left alone for all what there was of pain and has so been ever since. Aida was left to a big hell. No one would come to her rescue… not until she got help through primal therapy… and then discover that the assistance of help only existed in the little child who had/has this horrible memory.

    She feels now “satisfied” about it ... satisfied for what there is left for her in life ... satisfied not to have to wear this hell ... satisfied to know what was happening and what impact it had/has on her life. In a slow pace… step by step… she gets to know of this hell ... hell which now gives her "something" to live for… live as she knows how this pain infected her life… pain for what pain was intended to do ... meant for at the moment... to relieve suffering from an even worse knowledge... knowledge of losing her mother. The symptoms of pain is not in par with what the pain contains of been lifesaving… pain for all what pain was intended to do ... protect from an knowledge that her mother killed herself in front of her.


  7. If we look at the idea and language development from a primal therapeutic perspective… the result is exactly what one would expect... a result not at all expected otherwise. That an Intellectual development would be natural when we in primal therapy experience its effect is excluded... excluded when the experience of feelings are so much more important for the purpose of survival… feelings repressed by the capacity ideas perform for survival. It is the unfortunate circumstance to prove... prove the reason of the “human success”... success as a consequence for missing feelings... success that proves madness for the technical development… a sophisticated technological development in order to wipe out all humanity.
    Is not this primal therapeutic “understanding” enough… there's not much future left for humanity.


  8. An email comment: "Yep!!!

    It's like psychological homeopathy (IMHO)...give the exact [mimicked] problem by means of another source to get rid of the original problem.

    Your newsletters are the ONLY ones I really infinitum. Do you know Ellie van Winkle? I just happened to discover her now (after her death unfortunately)."


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.