Thursday, July 12, 2012

On Leading a Richer Life

I had an interesting day yesterday. It may seem banal but it wasn’t to me, and I thought it enriched my life. So let me explain.

I was going by my hangout restaurant and the waiter was going home. We stopped to talk. And I asked him about his life; did he want to stay a waiter or not? I never said a word to him before except “can you bring some water, please.” It turns out he was a helicopter pilot who couldn’t find work that paid as much as waiting on tables. And we got to talking about how hard it is in life, how one’’s dreams seem to go by the board; he has children to support, and how they need to save for the kid’s university, etc. I found out about his wife and how she is taking it all, and the possible strife in a marriage that lack of money produces. We only talked for half an hour but I learned so much about him, about life, about the economy and what it does to people. Quite simply I learned.

I went home to mee the man who was fix my dishwasher. I watched him work so I could learn a bit and then because he had an accent I asked him where he was from and why he came to American. He was Russian, from the same town as my parents. He was a saxophone player who could not get work in Russia due to the heavy anti‐ semitism; the same as drove my parents out of Russia early in the last century. I learned about prejudice and why it happened to Russia, and I learned that he had to come to a country where he barely knew the language and where he had to leave music to learn how to repair machines. We talked a bit about the history of his country and why so much hate existed still. But in his account of his life I learned more about my history than my parents ever revealed.

It seems made up but that night my wife had a stereo expert come over. We began to talk about how he got into it and his life. He told me with tears how his previous wife hung herself and why. What her family life was like and what her suicide did to him. He said “I never talk about this but, you asked.” I did and what I found is that nearly everyone needs to talk about themselves. But that day was very interesting and seemed to enrich my life. I learned really about the human condition. I discussed all this with my wife at dinner and it led to a deep discussion of depression and suicide and what causes it. And it lasted an hour with her. My life was so much more interesting, all because I inquired. And it brought me closer to complete strangers who finally could talk about feelings. Hardly anyone in their lives, certainly, not their parents ever inquired about their feelings, and how they got along with other kids, and what they meant to him. What they wanted out of life; it is such a simple but profound question, what do you want out of life? That makes people feel important. Instead of, do you need this wrench? I have rarely met anyone who does not want to talk about her life. It is also a way to deepen friendship, instead of staying on the surface; where we then find things so boring.I get answers because I am interested. Many are not; they are waiting to be asked so that can find a warm head and heart to lean on. Most of those who are neurotics are too full of basic unfulfilled needs to be able to focus on someone else. They first need to have someone interested in them. After they have told about themselves, then they can be interested in others.This is what happens in so many families where parents need interest before they can be interested. And yet those who are interested in life are interesting to others. Above all, we like those who are interested in us. Many parents are content to give orders and not inquire deeply into their child. These parents lead the unexamined life; they treat kids pretty much like they were treated with no intervening reflection on what they are doing. They walk around in their past and never realize it. They are living their history over and over.
You would think after seeing this time and again that there is no free will; we seem to be robots going through life dazed and unconscious. There is no richer life for them.


  1. Beautiful...
    You sound so much like me Art!
    This is why I've also been interested in journalism

  2. I don't understand why so many people hate Jew's. Can someone fill me in? What is it with the Jew's?

    1. Andrew: You need to read some books on jewish history. They were always outsiders. art

    2. Andrew,

      What is floating around in us as common man's perception of Jews is probably of greater importance than we think... I mean we acquire own opinions and our feelings of hatred rule the roost. We need the file out.


  3. How we are being enriched by the banality of the basic in life.

    The read of your Reflections about how you enrich your life in a “banal” way brought up memories and feelings from all over my life. I love those rare moments when the greatest benefactor of my life is showing signs of being an ordinary man of flesh and blood and not just an antiseptic emotion theorist. Of course, you represent with what you stand for and with your mild, humble manners a feeling person, however, place on a pedestal.

    During decades, I had two people I always trusted fully when I talked/wrote about my feelings and life situation. It was my mother, and it was/is you. My mother laid aside her religious face-mask and I took off my CEO-mask, and we exchanged loads of oxytocin. One exampel of our topics of conversation was, for exampel, when my mother surprised us by both crying and telling me about her stupid act of giving birth with pain, which led to my developing epilepsy. Other examples were my divorces, my therapy, the latest family gossips we had heard, and I could also tell the last dirty jokes that I had heard, etc.. Often when we finished our conversations, she stepped into her religious role again and told me that she was praying for me... We talked like that until I was almost 60, and she died at a high age.

    You have made me understand the Primal Theory, given me a lot of knowledge and created a reliable trust and have been my guide into a new life. The interesting thing, though, is that this has happened over four decades when we have hardly talked to each other 10 hours all together! I have almost accepted the fact, mediated by yourself, that you don’t waist Dr. Janov’s time by talking about “banal” things.

    Even if understanding your limited rescources (which often is a matter of organisation) it still makes me angry and sorry at the same time. I knew lots of people who carried stories from their complex and tragic lives, which were loaded with dramas and unbearable pain of a magnitude at least of the level you are mentioning. Some of them even went to Primal Therapy where they were strictly told not to talk, but to feel. Nobody representing the Primal Therapy asked questions of non-therapeutic character or listened to them. A couple of them are working as cognitive therapists but most are dead for many years while working their asses off without ever being able to realize their real potential. One of them even worked her mind off in the Primal office in Paris.

    Bruce Wilson mentioned once that you said that it is not the job of Primal Therapy to tell a person how to live her/his life, even if people need counceling during their therapy to make positive changes. My intention, as you well know, writing about this is because Primal Therapy might be so much more, by looking in other directions and adding the best of what is available in order to improve and create a more viable therapy. You have written “that changes are up to you, I am only the communicator”. However, with your exceptional charisma, you control all developments regarding the Primal Therapy. This is what Einstein might have meant by talking about the limitations of the genius. In the meantime, the stupidity in so many families is continuing without limits...

    Jan Johnsson

  4. Hi,
    I vividly remember when as a young student at art college feeling strongly that I would not repeat the mistakes of my parents.

    Instead (20yrs later) I made a load of my own mistakes with them, some strangely similar. How the screw turns, how the screw turns. It's not so easy changing the way life uncannily repeats itself.
    Our children are so sensitive to what we are concealing as parents before we know it they have grown up and are behaving just like we used to (when we didn't realise what we were concealing). . .

    At least I have been able to support and befriend my own children through hard times.

    Not like my f*****g useless parents.

    Paul G.

  5. that was an illuminating piece. It seems so obvious that when one is interested one also is rewarded too by the experience. being interested requires focus, engagement and concentration on someone else outside of ones self. when one is not present in these capacities they ultimately lose too. how much richer the world would be if people put down their x-boxes, unplugged their ear-pieces and tuned into the human being sitting next to them!

  6. Art!

    It is almost fascinating how everyday life turns out to mean so much ... just by meeting someone and have a dialogue may be satisfactory. What we do besides chasing targets without seeing the importance of the simplicity of a single call can have... not to mention the incredible content of your conversation.

    It's incredibly painful to feel timid and inadequate in sentences as life passes.


  7. Sorry, Art, me again! I wanted to add to my comment about what you said going through life without ruffling below the surface. I am surprised that parents do this because children's natural honesty can delve straight into their supressed emotions, their OWN fear, lack of love, etc and this must be why so many parents get so angry with a child. You know, if a child cries, the father makes a horrible threat: Shut up or I'll give you something to cry about!'(Followed often by a slap and another if the crying continues) So when the child cries the father, who is inhibited about crying possibly, becomes enraged. So this is not precisely living on the surface. I know it is easy to 'skim' through the motions of life. I do it and find myself thinking: 'Surely, there MUST be more to life than this?' It is I think a part of getting older for I NEVER had this feeling when I was young. I was too busy having fun with all of my friends. We are all isolated from each other due to repression and the moral climate of the societies we inhabit. All the rules and rigid regulations which control us. I sometimes think that feelings are not allowed (at least here in the U.K.!) It certainly is not acceptable to show anger in public, for example. It is only a sign of the modern times and living in the harrowing 21st century with ever increasing powerlessness over our lives, public and private to some degree.

  8. Dr.Janov:
    Sometimes simplicity is a wonderful way to feel how deeply related humans are. This important instant, the interest or curiosity for the life of a "stranger" reveals details one did not expect, a warmth in communication and this essential feeling of sharing the same planet.
    And sometimes a simple question can change a whole biography. I met the most important person in my life at a train station. An elderly woman was staring at me, a seventeen year old rebellious young adult who was out on the streets and I asked her: "Do you want to take a photo of me?" She laughed and replied: "I have already drawn a picture of you about fifteen years ago." This was such a strange answer that we started talking for hours and she became my best friend, teacher and second mother.
    In times when the awareness of life seems to become too abstract this is the best key to re-open the other side. We are permanently surrounded by "strangers" who need to be asked about their lives and dreams. And these few minutes can be more important for both than a two-hour discussion about Histone Lysine Methyltransferases or the necessity of hedgefonds.
    Thank you for sharing this sense of occasion in your everyday! Emilia.

  9. An email comment: "Very moving, very important, very insightful. Motto: Never miss an opportunity for basic human contact. Thanks for sharing. "

  10. Another email comment:
    "Damaged faith is like a desert waiting and yearning for rain, it waits
    for that moment when another reaches out in spite of their own pain to
    say "I see you there, and I care."

    I applaud your kindnesses, and I applaud your steps outside mere mind
    and into the world of caring and trust building which alone can heal
    our world. I think that Jesus or whoever wrote words for him, which
    often mirrored other rabbis before him, came close to saying what you
    say about what it takes to change and heal the human heart. I don't
    think this is an accident coming out of no where, I think it naturally
    sprang from your parents and your heritage. I once imagined that
    mother as saying, "I am hurting so much, I don't see you well, but I
    want to love you, I try to love you as I can." Imagining this I could
    forgive myself for not loving as I should, I could embrace in tears a
    mother in my mind that was still beautiful underneath her pain. I
    often look at trees all bent and twisted reaching for the sun and
    bending away from the wind and I think, "This is all beautiful, this
    imperfect world full of struggle and hurt and longing. It could not
    be otherwise."

    Surely in the midst of all that which must surely be given the chance
    to exist, there is also a love that cannot help but win, a love that
    reaches out in spite of pain, the only meaning that ultimately makes
    sense, in the sigh of a baby in it's mother's arms, in the glow of a
    mother enchanted with her child, in the joy of a father teaching while
    at play, proud of every stumbling step of every child that lights up
    his eyes. Hurt isn't the story, it is the interesting cover of the
    book of love, the book that completes the story of the meaning of life

  11. Rickard entitled "Can love save our lives?" you ask "HOW TO FIND HAPPINESS.

    It is impossible to answer the question of how to find happiness when we seek happiness without understanding the root cause that we seek... the answer lies in the personal tragedy resolution.

    Suffering the loss of love “happiness”... will be asked to appear as human... human from a neurotic perspective since the pursuit of happiness is a symptom that the majority of people suffering from and "medical science" corrects themselves into the joint.

    The democratic procedure… “the majority is always right” make science fade... relegated to the happy hunting grounds with the "professionals" companions as the ram… a terrible tragedy for humanity.


  12. I think your experience was an example of how considering a variety of perspectives on life can enrich our experience. The power of art. Groups that set themselves apart from others are an important part of how human beings can have a multiplicity of perspectives upon itself perhaps. The truth is though that people intermarry and genetic exclusion is a bit of an illusion. It makes me laugh as does the idea that we can trace our genetic history through the father, the father's father, etc. We had 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16, great great great ones. Add in mother's baby, father's "maybe", and we see just how silly the whole idea is, not to mention that even if correct you become less and less related to any one individual the farther back in genetic history you go. Laughing at our illusions is another way to enrich our lives, don't you think?


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.