Sunday, January 20, 2013
What Does the Unconscious Make Us Do?
I often note that we are driven by our unconscious; so what does that mean? What drives us and how? Memories; not often verbal but memories, nevertheless. Let’s recap a bit. We have traumas very early in life that become imprinted and remain locked-into the system. Imprints usually mean that key needs were not met; as for example, in the womb, a lack of proper nutrients or a mother who smokes and drinks. Oh by the way, there is a “scientific” report this week that states that it is OK for the carrying mother to have one drink. NOT SO, EVER. It affects the fetus developing brain and we can only imagine what alcohol does, but whatever it is, it is not good and should never be allowed, even by the sages among us. And when one drink leads to another with one puff leading to another we have the makings of later serious mental illness.
So key needs are left unfulfilled and the system remembers it for a lifetime, and it drives us for a lifetime. And the act-out is direct reflection of the early imprinted memory. The imprint means pain, a pain of such magnitude that it must be repressed. And act out is in some way a means of obtaining fulfillment. Maybe later it can mean overeating to make up for starvation in the womb. Or it can be a sexual act out as the person needs touch and caress which went missing just after birth. The earlier the imprint the more powerful it is and the stronger the force attached to it. That translates into obsessive compulsive behavior as the drive is so strong as to be unrelenting. And so when someone finds religion as an act out, it is often because she needs someone to care and protect her. Someone to watch over her and be there the minute she needs him . So long as there are unconscious imprints, there will be act-outs. Smoking is a great act-out; the minute there is pain, often not aware, she reaches for a smoke. It is always there and ready to ease the pain. It is the nature of the pain that it is repressed so that we are seldom aware of it or our act-outs. But breathing deep and feeling the warmth from the cigarette go deep inside is relaxing and addictive. And so what do the Behaviorists do? They try to stop the act-out, stopping the only possible release there is and the only possible means of seeking out fulfillment. I have seen too many actors and directors who get depressed when they are not working. They need that outlet all of the time. When it is not there they slip into depression. Why? Their act-out is removed for a time and they are left with their pain and unmet need. They are literally bereft. They are getting close to, “Love me momma, hold me, be with me!” They smoke and drink more and do what they can to keep pain sequestered; again, a pain never or rarely acknowledged. I was once consultant on a film where the director, so insecure, kept sending the star notes of how much he admired and loved her. It eased her and him.
When we examine the nature of the act-out we can often pinpoint when the imprint was set down and how. One patient could not stand enclosed restaurants. She needed a constant supply of air. She became claustrophobic, and it got worse and worse. Until she felt it; and, as we suspected, her mother’s cord was wrapped around her neck and she could not breathe. Another patient had to keep moving, could not sit still, was ADD, and needed to travel all of the time. She was blocked in the canal and had a terrible time getting out. Her anxiety was having to sit still; and when she was blocked in a line she became anxiety ridden, the very same anxiety she had originally that had no name. Now it does, but that name does nothing toward a cure. It is what that name signifies that matters. Here it means being blocked when its result meant life and death. It is the meaning that matters and not the resulting act-out alone.
We see the importance of the act-out, because removing it opens us up to pain. So someone deprived of enough food in the womb is forced to overeat, that is, eating for now and then. The act-out seems neurotic only because it is behavior out of context. The minute we put it into context, it becomes real and adaptive. To relive being born and not immediately being held and caressed makes it clear to the patient what his act-out of having to be connected at all times means. He was detached from his mother with nothing to hang onto. His mother was quite sick and had to be isolated from several weeks. He had to feel this over and over again as it was set down, not as an adult crying about it. The pain of it went on for weeks and had to be relived methodically and slowly over time. It could not be rushed. But the more consciously aware it became the less force there was left and therefore the less he was being driven to act out. He did not have to get on the phone whenever he was alone in order to feel connected. He experienced the ultimate primal disconnection.
What is in the unconscious? A lot of pain and a lot of memories……..engraved. These are not just verbal memories; they are systemic, infused into every cell in our bodies. If we want to get rid of frigidity and other sexual problems, we need to experience a therapy that is global and physiologic; not simply intellectual. We need to free the body of its pain. The whole body must be involved again in the memory; otherwise it is a mental event. Too much of today’s therapies deal with act-outs because it is only a matter of behavior to change. We are not just changing minds; we are changing all of us because that is where the pain is.
Arthur Janov Suggests that Stress During Pregnancy Leaves a Distinct Cellular Imprint that Predicts Mental Illness and Serious Disease
In his new book, 'Life Before Birth' (NTI Upstream, Nov. 2011), Arthur Janov makes the case that events during pregnancy and the first years of life leave a distinct cellular imprint that predicts mental illness and serious disease.
Read the full story:
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.
Our therapy is constantly evolving. If a therapist has not had additional training in the past 3-5 years she is not up to date. The basic principles are the same but the actual therapy has taken a radical turn. It is much more precise, predictable and mathematical in practice. We have tried to tighten up what we do in keeping with current neurology and physiology. It is a constant learning experience. It is finally for the well-being of the patient who now has a much better chance of doing well. Yes, it was good before, but there is less time wasted now because the techniques are honed and the theory takes on more and more precision. We see patients from some thirty countries in the world, each with different cultures. It is up to us to continue the refining process so that the patient has the best chance of improving.
The clear understanding and application of the theoretical and clinical aspects of Primal Therapy are essential in order to provide effective therapy. Citing the most current findings from the field of neurology, trainees will learn the role that the physiology of the brain plays in the shaping of mental illness. The training will thoroughly examine the scientific basis for Primal Therapy and discuss the unique clinical approaches employed in the treatment of various emotional and personality disorders.
For our first year students, the training will entail extensive work in the understanding of the basis for Primal Therapy. On the theoretical level, there will be an examination of issues that range from the nature of the unconscious to the nature of traumatic imprints and their lifelong effects on physical and mental health. On the clinical level, trainees will have the opportunity to learn proper diagnostic and therapeutic procedures as they relate to Primal Therapy.
Furthermore, first year students will be mentored by our third year students in order to ensure that the key concepts in Primal Therapy are clearly understood. There will be an extensive library of training notes and taped lectures from the past two years available as well.
For our second year students, the training will provide a unique and varied opportunity to gain more clinical experience. Through closely supervised clinical sessions, trainees will gain a deeper understanding of the various applied therapeutic methods and hone their skills as future therapists. In addition, second year trainees will have the opportunity to work with first year students thru discussion groups, tape reviews, and clinical sessions.
Our third year students will continue to hone their clinical skills through a rigorous series of didactic clinical sessions. These sessions will be video taped and will be reviewed by Dr. France Janov and our senior therapists.
Dr. Janov’s books have been translated in some 26 languages, have been bestsellers in many countries, and his theory is taught at many universities. He has combined decades of clinical practice with the latest in research. It is the therapy of the future.
To apply, please visit our website at http://www.primaltherapy.com/primal-center-application.php and select the ‘trainee’ option when filling out the questionnaire. For further information, please feel free to call us us at (310) 392-2003 or email us at
We look forward to another exiting year of training. We hope you will join us.
Dr. Arthur Janov
Founder & Director