Thursday, August 15, 2013

More on Suicide

I was discussing the difference between self destructive behavior and suicide with a colleague.  They are quite different, although you would think that suicide is destruction of the self, but it is not at all like that.  Let’s go back to the imprint as so many of my suicide attempts have done.   In most of these situations, there is an oxygen deficit, perhaps a heavy dose of anesthesia to the mother or being strangled on the cord. And after an agonizing attempt to get born, death approaches and there is a sense of impending relief.  That memory of possible relief is sealed in so that later in the face utter hopelessness, an impending divorce for instance,  death becomes the answer.  And attempt at suicide follows.  It is a memory of possible relief, stamped in, engraved that endures for a lifetime.   It is the end of the chain of pain, as it were, the logical denouement when current hopelessness can set off the primal, primordial hopelessness and death lurks.

You may wonder, how is it that hopelessness today sets off the same feeling during birth?  It is again the chain of pain, the links between levels of consciousness.  One way we see that link is through resonance; the current feeling sets off the same  deeper feelings until the whole system is engulfed in utter hopeless feelings; and worse, there is no scene attached to it as it is pure feeling, naked and unadorned, the exact same  feeling rising again to smother the person and make her suicidal. It is the most profound hopelessness. The current feeling, in short, has triggered off its progenitor with sensations of approaching death becoming paramount.

Let’s put it differently for clarity.  That early hopelessness is later expanded and ramified as the whole system and brain mature.  As each new brain system comes on line, it adds its emotional weight to the feeling.  But it is the same feeling with increased maturity and neuronal development.   It is that feeling that is the essence of depression; it  is the system’s effort to suppress the feeling that  produces depression.  So depression is not a feeling; it is what happens as that feeling is blocked from higher level  access. And when we unravel depression that is what we find: utter, unarticulated hopelessness. And  as it is felt and experienced with all of its pain, the depression begins to leave, at last. This is not done in a day because it is very deep, the end point of the birth agony, a cord around the neck, for example. This means that we must not trump evolution and feel it soon in therapy. We can only feel it as the body and brain allow, current hopeless feelings first, then the childhood compounding  and finally, the first line, brainstem component where the deepest  feelings always lies.  I use the word “compounding,” because these are not different feelings; they are the same feeling compounded.  The child just seems unhappy and sullen and no one knows  why. And certainly the child has no idea at all, nor do his teachers.  He is in the grasp of that early primordial, devastating feeling that no one can say or name.  It is literally “ineffable.”

What has this to do with self-destruction?  Let’s take literal destruction, cutting oneself.  This  is  a later ploy, making  hurt obvious.  It is a plea for help; “Please see my hurt. See that I hurt.” This in lieu of screaming out that hurt. And the cutter is not often aware of what she is doing or why.  It was never acknowledged by anyone because perhaps the parents had no idea of that hurt or even that such emotional hurt existed.  There are many aspects of this.   Her feeling was, “I’m trying to let the hurt escape,” even when she had no idea what is was.   She just knew  it was inside and it had to come out. She found out that it was exactly what we do; letting  it out in methodical  ways, so she no longer had to  cut herself.

Suicide, then, is a  deeper, earlier sensation/feeling with no behavioral possibilities.  And the hurt that some act out may have many different feelings involved.  They are, indeed, two different things.  Even though suicide attempts to destroy  the self it is not, oddly, self destructive like burning or cutting oneself.  And of course, it ramifies so that the destructive behavior takes on many forms.  Deliberate failure is one part.  Getting involved with crazy and violent people is another.  But it is not as direct as suicide.  Suicide means one final act.  It is not anything in the present that causes it; it is the result of a deep memory.    And yes,  if one could  then screaming it out could help temporarily; it would relieve the pressure.

There are some acts of suicide that are a cry for help; taking a certain amount of sleeping pills, for example.  And there are others that say, I really don’t want to live anymore; that is a jump off a bridge.  That is final, no call for help.  It all seems so helpless  and hopeless; they want to die for relief.  No more pain; that’s enough.

What we do is get patients, over time, down to those deep feelings that are so disturbing.  It takes time but when we get there it is pure relief, and it lasts.


  1. Art you have reminded me of when I was about 6 years old. I clearly remember being outdoors and deliberately putting a garden fork prong into my foot. I even remember that I was craving to seek my mother's attention so she would come outside and be with me. So I knew that if I injured myself this would be the one thing that would work with finally getting the attention I wanted from her. I was a lonely, shy child and my siblings were a lot older than me so I had nobody to play with. I wanted my mother to play with me. More recently I told my partner about my "fear" of leaving sharp knives within my view and I always felt the need to put them out of my sight. He thought this was to do with my self harm as a child. Since this realisation I haven't had this problem. I would be interested to know your own insights into this. I also have a tendencey to always have some kind of bodily pain, ache, soreness etc and am a hypochondriac to some extent. It's almost like I am punishing myself perhaps with holding guilt feelings. Thanks for any suggestions on this. Theresa in Australia.

  2. Art!

    What lies behind academics striving to life?

    What you say just means that we can shut up with what graduates need to hear! That because they are always triggered by one or the other reason as a defense against getting to know something that is related to their "desire" to die. That shows also their reaction when we try to convince them of primal therapy's effects against their own opinion. Actually... we are "again" trying to kill them when they were born or for later reason related to the desire of death!

    We try to take something away from them that sustains their cognitive sense as a defense against death when we tell them how wrong they are... but it is related to how many lives they sacrifice for their ignorance... which explains it's right!

    We are all intellectuals as a defense to a physiological life against feelings. Also like idiots... we are intellectuals!

    How do you tell something to someone when something is what they do to not understand!


  3. As someone who has had suicidal thoughts and a sense of hopelessness I can relate to this. My own suicidal thoughts revolved around either using a rope (breach birth with the cord wrapped round my neck I suspect) or a shot gun (sexual abuse) though I never get anywhere near that. I can imagine my sense of hopelessness arising out of never being able to get out as a baby.

    I have a friend who works for a local Authority in the south of England in children's services. One of the things they have to deal with is a number of children killing themselves every year. She told me that pretty well every one of the suicide notes they see says somewhere that the child just wants to be accepted for who they say they are rather than dealing with great pressure from Parents to be who they want them to be. I would have thought that perhaps suicide is also about one last final act of rebellion. Killing oneself could be an act of self determination. That death is a relief from the fight to be oneself which is perhaps a continuation of the fight for physical existence in the birth canal.

  4. An email comment: (Part 1)
    "Hi Art,

    I've just had a deep primal for the first time in a number of years.

    I've been suffering from very painful sciatica for the last two months and nothing will take the pain away.
    I read your article and thought Art is on the button as usual, it's a very good article and I can relate to those awful early feelings that are so overwhelming that death would be welcome. Those were the feelings that I experienced and that lead me into Primal Therapy.

    Anyway, after I finished your article I went out into the garden and chain sawed a couple of dead trees and then cleared them away. I came into the house and my sciatica was really sore, so I thought that a long hot bath might help ease it. I was lying in the hot water, relaxing, when I was surprised at my thoughts turning to your article and wondering if those overwhelming feelings I experienced as a young man, ever came near to pushing me to committing suicide? I remembered that I wanted to die at that time to get away from the pain but that I wanted Jesus to take me away in my sleep and hold me until the pain was gone, but I never would have attempted suicide. I did let my family know how much pain I was in but it just felt that it was hopeless - they couldn't do anything for me.


  5. Part 2:
    "The next thought that came into my mind was being with my female Primal therapist in LA when I was 26. I remembered sessions when I would not be able to think and I was just overwhelmed with unbearable pain in a mindless hell. My mind would fight to get control back and would tell me that I had to pull myself together or I would not be able to function, then nobody would like me, I wouldn't be able to get a job, and I would starve and die. I then thought how lucky I was not to have to experience that state any longer.

    Then I was wondering what my therapist would have done if I had asked her to hold me in order to take the terrible feeling away. I thought that she would have said no - taking the view that it was best not to take the feeling away. Then I was saying to her that her holding me couldn't take the feeling away, but it would let me know that someone cared about my pain in the present and root the feeling in the past, rather than me continually feeling that nobody cared, and that the hopelessness could never be taken away. I was begging her to hold me, make me feel safe, and to take the pain away.

    Then I was sobbing away in my bath (now aged 59). The pain pored out of me for several minutes until I was in that beautiful post Primal state. Then the insights followed.

    When my mother was alive my life was great, she kept those early birth feelings from overwhelming me. I felt cared for by her and she could sooth that pain away. But when she died when I was 16, after suffering a long slow death from cancer, I was overwhelmed with pain and shut down in order to survive. I focused on my studies for the next five years but my intellectual defences could no longer cope and I broke down just before I was due to sit my final professional exams. I was overwhelmed with hopelessness and none of my family or friends could take that pain away. I welcomed death as it was the only thing that could release me from that pain. My mother could take it away, but she was dead.

    I knew that the pain during my birth was overwhelming and that nothing could end it. I was lucky in that I did have a loving mother who didn't compound that feeling but whose care and love kept my birth trauma well at bay. Life was great until my mother could no longer care for me, the pain surfaced and nothing could take it away. Another awful thing is that these early feelings that began to overwhelm me lead me to shut down emotionally and to be unable to show my mother how much I loved her at a time when she needed love and support. I couldn't spend more than a minute at a time in her bedroom where she lay dying. I couldn't stand being with her. Not dealing with these early feelings turns us into people who behave in ways that are just not who we really are.

    So, Art, you have given me a remote Primal - is there any charge?"

  6. And my answer: WONDERFUL The charge you have already paid--feeling better and having insights. It is all I ask, ever. art

  7. Another email comment:
    "This is a short response to your comment on suicide, that:

    "...after an agonizing attempt to get born, death approaches and there is a
    sense of impending relief."

    A few years ago, when I was feeling overwhelmed by hopelessness and pain,
    and felt that I didn't want to live anymore (and it did feel like a relief),
    somethat happened for the first time: I felt a surge of energy and determination
    and even anger. The underlying feeling was: "NO, I DON'T want to die. Screw the
    pain, that's not really ME. That's how I was damaged and I'm NOT going to give
    into that shit AGAIN."

    That sequence happens a lot more frequently these days, and it feels like a
    breakthrough to my authentic, pre-pain (i.e. healthy) state which reflects the
    basic animal urge to survive - a state which can be overwhelmend by early pain.

    When those feelings of hopelessness get triggered now, they are a lot less
    overwhelming and I don't lose my connection to my real self, the one which
    really does want to live.

    In my case, the most common trigger for that pain is the feeling of being
    alone my whole life, and that it will never change. That truly would be unbearable."

    1. Real:
      properly connected to a memory of hopelessness

      improperly connected to a memory of hopelessness

      improperly connected to a memory of possible relief and hopelessness

      Suddenly relieved and optimistic:

      gone (no heaven)

      An improper connection can cause suffering. A disconnection cannot. An improper connection cannot deliver the explosive power that we see at the Primal Center but it can feel worse than a primal. A primal (proper connection) feels real. It feels better to be real.

  8. I don't want to get into a religious discussion, but I think some kinds of atheists have this suicidal leaning. They appeal to the idea of absolute death because it's the only kind of (ultimate) relief they can imagine.

    1. Hello Androw!

      Being an atheist is not a goal in itself!

      The search for relief of suffering... there is always a pain there that explains it. To assert himself to be an atheist in an attempt to show there is no god... it is something you do to show to others that it is possible to live without god... something that obviously will bring up emotions for believers due to that the belief in god is a consequence that emotion is coming up and need relief... which occurs cognitively by using believe in God.

      The search for relief from a loveless childhood finds no limits as long as we do not know why!


  9. Hi,

    your article seems to have come at a timely moment for me. Yesterday I tried to write about a suicidal chain of thoughts and feelings that almost overwhelmed me earlier this week but I needed time to integrate the feelings. They aren't integrated properly but I am wiser for what has happened, I woke early this morning after one of those horrendous "Hammer House of Horror" nightmares filled with , knives, criminals, blood, revenge and poetic justice". . . I don't get these often and I know It's all a symbolic manifestation of (still repressed and waiting to be felt) birth trauma and later abuse I am sure. Anyway, I read all these 7 comments above and realised a common theme about my own condition.

    I have been struggling with the history of my failed relationships and failed business venture in which other people feature significantly as 'protagonists'. . . . . They of course continue to stick to their version of the truth which is predominantly that "I Have a Problem with Blame" (and they are therefore "blameless").

    The long term emotional effect on me (not quite logical conclusion though) is suicide. I must die because that will relieve me of the burden of their irresponsibility and also relieve me of my suffering. I have made myself into a very effective scapegoat. Some theories say that the scapegoat chooses their own social alienation and self assassination. . . but actually I sense that is just another way of blaming the victim and justifying the tragic outcome. . .

    When the scapegoat can take no more and finally commits the ultimate act every one else can breath a sigh of relief and say she had it coming to her or "how selfish an act- he always had a problem with personal responsibility and now he has copped out again". . . You just can't win in the face of other peoples denial can you ?

    Clever cognitivists say "why use other peoples denial to justify your own", and so the wheel of deception turns another notch.

    Only Primal offers a solution, both theoretical and practical and though I really had got to the stage where I was willing to die (thank goodness for strict gun law in UK) I was strangely cognizant of the process I was swamped by at the time; I recognised the relief of death and the burden of living and chose to live (and suffer nightmares, addiction and depression instead).
    Thanks for this article, it came at the right time for me.
    Planespotter -, yeah, guns, that's my fantasy too .

    Paul G.

    1. Paul: You are welcome. My piece on depression comes out in 2-3 weeks. art

    2. Hi Paul

      Have you read "The Body Never Lies" by Alice Miller? Much of it crosses over much of Art's writing. I learned and gained a great deal from it.

    3. Hi Paul

      I always find it strange that the word fantasy is used with regard to something like this. I would have thought obsession was more appropriate. I don't have that particular obsession any more because I have recognised that the abuse I indured was the one of the direct causes of that feeling of wanting to kill myself. I think so many things in our every day lives are little hints as to what happened to us earlier in our lives and it is incredible how much we can forget so we can in some way survive.

    4. Hi, yes,

      Obsession. Belief. Compulsion. Yes, it's the way the neo cortex at the front of our foreheads develops from the trauma behind it, in our limbic and before that, in our brainstem.

      This makes us the most adapted species, and we have been going on for millennia in this way. The evolutionary idea that our frontal lobes are an adaption for the sake of adaptability is very convincing (once, perhaps you have felt some real pain).

      Slightly changing the subject. Richard Dawkins has been in the news again, criticizing religion; consequently being criticized for prejudice. . . I have come to see that he may be sticking his neck out for the very best of reasons. He may be trying to protect science from the worst of all hijacks. Exposing the way certain people try to exploit science to prove their beliefs. These beliefs result in chaos , destruction and UN- humanitarian outcomes.
      People have become suspicious of a developed and detailed inquiry into the actual facts of our existence, just as the tyrants who have occasionally gained total control of national psyches have put people on their guard. It's a clear case of mistaken identity.

      Why do people suddenly become suspicious when confronted with real science and turn back to their unexamined symbols?

      Paul G.

  10. A loving mother and the sun the possibility for life!?

    It's not the sun that shines it is a physical mass fatal for us... if we were staying in the rays for a long time but also the possibility for life. That someone through words sat name on it... maybe was for scientific purposes but something that we ordinary neurotics cannot reconcile ourselves to.
    It has more become a symbol for what some god has given us than the opportunity it is... an illusion soothing "suffering"! We simply cannot let it be for what it is... it with cognitive activity as relief of suffering... relief of suffering for needs of love when the reality was / is just too overwhelming!

    We rather die of ignorance for the need of love than becoming aware of the suffering it causes because we do not know of primal therapy.
    We are really all scientists for what life contains!


  11. As one of those atheists I would say that you must have enough access to your feelings(first line in this case) to see death as the ultimate relief but if you don't have any second line feelings and no first line access you have no other option than to believe in after life for a substitute of what you didn't get on earth...
    Some people wrote about Paradise as a remote memory of a "good life before birth" we might miss once we are born (if birth is traumatic and make the baby wants to go back to where she/he came from).

  12. Arthur Janov knows what he is talking about; that's for sure. He "hit the nail right on the head" when he wrote "the child just seems unhappy and sullen and no one knows why." What goes on, this pain, other people don't understand. I don't want it; I don't want to feel this way, but it is "ineffable" as Dr. Janov states. At times, it is intense. Depression, for the person having gone through birth trauma, tries not to feel that way, but meeting with people and socializing, only makes the condition worse, and they may feel as though they become "weak". That there is, unfortunatly, a great amount of "interference" in their lives, because they can't and won't make the connections that the average "normal" person seeks out. Their depression, (for the person having gone through birth trauma) takes over greatly, to the point, where sometimes, they can't function the way they would like to (interference). I even asked myself, at one point in my life, "what is wrong with me?" Which was unusual for me, to recognize that. I don't want to make any real close connections anymore, and I knew I was depressed, but I had always been that way. Now the older I get, I understand. Even my family understands me better. I have told them what Dr. Janov says, and they no longer look at me like I am weak. I know that when I am really depressed, that the average person my age or older, definitely does not have the intense feelings I have. I have to "brush it off" and focus on my activities. I used to get upset because I was this way, but now I realize, I can't get out of it, unless I go to California and go through primal therapy. For some who have gone through the birth trauma, they are passive; not bothering anyone, and for me, I could never hurt anyone intentionally. When I was 5, sure I was agressive, but that was stopped immediately by my parents who, at that time, could care; they care now, but of course they are is hard for them, at times. I try to live as "normal" a life as possible. When the person having gone through birth trauma feels pressure, possibly great pressure, for them, that is when they want "release"; as Dr. Janov has pointed out, that is when the want to harm themselves, possibly through cutting. The suicide is so final. I appreciate the fact that he has made people aware, as to how a person will feel having gone through birth trauma; otherwise, I wouldn't remain as calm as I have so far in the past few years with these feelings somewhat becoming intensified at times, and don't "chalk up" these feelings as to just to the fact: "well, I am getting older; that could be it." At least I "don't "flip out" or "freak out" over them, like I could. Feelings of pressure, gets one thinking of cutting oneself at one point. Then beginning many times to really wonder why I just stopped "going out, socializing", and I didn't even go out that much to begin with. Now I have to tell myself, don't get "frustrated"...a little part of me knows "what's going on". I do know the older I become, many times, the feelings have become intensified...such as even my breathing on really warm days...and I am considered to be in good health. So that adds to the feelings. Just good to know what Dr. Janov has to say, because there were actual times when I would start to feel on the verge of "flipping out" ; nothing too serious. If I got some primal help, then, overall, I would know what went on and be much better. I am better to a certain extent, just knowing what a person will feel having gone through a birth trauma; that helps me. I do work on being better; always have. I don't sit around feeling sorry for myself. Thank you Dr. Janov.

    1. Coastbeach7: You are welcome. Watch for my long piece on depression which i will publish in 2-3 weeks. art

    2. Good luck with your stem cell therapy, Art. Whenever you start to feel sleepy, don't let anyone keep you awake - you know sleep is important for cell growth.

    3. Richard: No stem cells. I had a great surgeon who literally saved my life. art

    4. Art,
      I'll be watching for it.

    5. coastbeach7:
      i believe that the "access" is more important then the "knowledge". it is very good to hear that you gained some constant access... and not get too overwhelmed by it. a true mastery.

    6. let's something good come out of this surgery, finaly!!

      take care of yourself... don't spend too much time in bed...
      but save energy for recovery! let be parasympath, right?

    7. Art, did you nearly die during the last surgery?

    8. Richard: No, but without he surgery idid not have long to live. Art

    9. Praying and hoping that your recovery, Art, is good and that you will be "as good as new". I know you are a strong man.
      I am looking forward to reading the article you are going to publish in 2 or 3 weeks about depression.

    10. Hi Art

      Good luck with your recovery.

  13. Art!

    “So depression is not a feeling; it is what happens as that feeling is blocked from higher level access”.

    To feel does not hurt... to hold against does... an achilles heel for academics in the field of psychology!

    “Depression occurs by the physiological reaction in the encounter between emotion and the cognitive activity of defense against life-threatening feelings”. So we owe a lot to the depression!? Being grateful to the depression may be a cognitive activity as help to feel the feeling behind it easier!?


  14. Vuko:
    Thank you. I do try to help myself, and have realized, for myself, just to know, have a little knowledge about birth trauma and primal therapy has helped me...I consider it a start. Because of Art's books and writings, I do consider myself a little bit better than I was. To me, life can be hard enough, and his writings help. I am looking forward to reading what Art has to say about depression in an article that will be coming out in the next 2 or 3 weeks. Who knows, maybe eventually I will be able to get primal therapy.

  15. An email comment:
    "Art thanks for writing this..

    Initially I didn't think too much about what you wrote. But then in a discussion with my girlfriend, over recent suicides I realized something had changed inside of me.

    She asked me if I had ever been suicidal, so I told her that I had.

    As a child I had lots or fantasies of hanging myself. They started when my parents took me to see the movie Lili. In this movie the actress Leslie Caron, contemplates suicide.

    Even though I was probably no more than 8 years old, when I saw Lili, I began to have thoughts of wanting to hang myself, when ever my life became too hopeless.

    After watching the movie, my hopelessness seemed to identify with a way out.

    Before Primal therapy, when ever I began to feel hopeless, I would think about hanging myself.

    After therapy, when ever I start to feel that hopelessness again I am able to feel and connect to those hopeless child hood feelings once more.

    Now even though I have hope, that move still gets too me, even after many, many years.. "

  16. As you have pointed out in a myriad of writings: The psychological community (and the world) simply cannot be told this. It is as if to say: You must intellectually accept (to whatever extent you actually did not receive any love) that you didn't get it--period. Impossible to ask and impossible to accept and they never will because it is ultimately courting death to go there. So the world will stay unconscious and such is the tragedy of humankind until we evolve to truly being a higher consciousness?


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.