Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How Do You Know What Is In Your Unconscious?

Let’s start with the easy stuff first:  nightmares.    They are defined as something panicky,  anxiety producing, terror, proximity to death, strangling, feeling crushed,  out of breath and cannot breathe. And that is just the beginning.  But where does it come from?  Why, your unconscious, of course. So why don’t we feel it all of the time?  Because at night in your sleep you live in the unconscious and your gating system kicks in to keep it hidden and suppressed.  But, and it is a major “but,” the gating system is weaker when we are unconscious, which, after is what sleep is. It is only when the charge value of the imprint is so great (heavy methylation) that it can burst through to higher levels and provoke conscious/awareness to make us  aware of the pain and terror.  Here we become aware and awake to stop the terror/pain.   Awareness becomes the final defense against up-surging feelings.   We are suddenly conscious and now aware of the unconscious; but we don’t say, Oh my, something is up from down bellow.  We say instead: I just had a terrible nightmare, and we do not question it any further.  We think it is the nightmare itself and not what provoked it; not what giant force lay below to heave it to the top.  That is how alienated it is from conscious/awareness the precise origins in our remote past.   When we walk around the world, aware and awake, we can keep busy and keep deep feelings hidden.

Now there are sleep clinics who treat it as a disease and do all kinds of ploys to deal with it.  Not once have I heard them discuss it as a memory imprint on lower brain levels.  Not once a mention of the unconscious.   But the nightmare says loudly what it is and what force it has; a force that can burst through various gating sites/levels  to bring us sharply into awareness.   So we need to be aware to stop that force in the unconscious: hyperaware to block the unconscious.   Enter the intellectuals.   They continue to provide awareness in lieu of consciousness.

If we look closely we see that all of the reactions/symptoms of the nightmares are exactly those of the traumas at birth and before.    No air, feeling crushed and squeezed, blocked, no exit, need space, need to move, etc.  Instead, what they need to do is to deal with act-out against the feeling.  Aah, another sign of the unconscious at work; forcing our act-outs, our continuous behavior which is repetitious and compulsive and also obsessive.   In one sense, psychotics or deeply disturbed individuals are running off their nightmares.  For obsessives we need to look deeper.  What is the function of the act-outs?  To bring closure to the early traumas.  To finish the sequence; and no act of will can stop it because it is most often a life-and-death matter.  An example:  we have patients that have to be constantly on the move.  They plan and make projects without cease, just so long as they travel and go and do.  That is trying to provide a proper ending to the “no exit.”  Of, “I can’t move and can’t get out.  If I stay still I will die.”   And many of these patients when deprived of constant movement do feel hopeless and helpless.  In therapy they finally can arrive at the memory.  Over many months, however.  Getting there too soon can be overwhelming and produce mental aberrations, as the top level becomes aware much too soon, as is the case in nightmares where there is the burst-through of terror that cannot be dealt with immediately.  That is why Primal Therapy is done in small steps, a bit at a time.

Let us not confuse a feeling with a reaction to it.  Because when we do that we start to treat the wrong thing—the reaction.   If is something makes me angry cause they scared me and made me afraid, we need to treat the anger and then the fear.  First the reaction  and then the feeling.  We must not stop at just the reaction because we miss the first, basic step. That is the stop that is resolving; the stop that contains the feeling that needs experiencing and resolution. Banging the pillow and screaming out will never get us anywhere; it does not involve the context of the feeling and the feeling itself.   You can cry and scream; and then you can really feel.  Feeling is the answer.

An allegory of this is the big planner who has scheme after scheme to make it big and get rich.   He never gets anywhere because he forgot about evolution and the need for a methodical pace.  The system knows this in preventing us from becoming conscious prematurely.  Except when one takes gate/crushing drugs that plunges us into the unconscious. And then you know what happens?   You become “one with the cosmos,” and other pseudo almost psychotic states.   Too much is being released forcing the top level neo-cortex to try to make sense of the input; to try to make it rational, providing rationales for what is happening.   And even over time the person is engaged in finding constant rationales through booga booga.  They call it mystical experiences and I call it pre-psychotic conduct.

They come to believe in magic, in special people who have all of the answers, who will lead us and guide us toward Nirvana.  Or special nutrients or exercises provided by experts; never realizing that they have the answers inside of them; all they need to know is already there. They can get there and trust themselves if they know about  how reality awaits.   When you have lost touch with that self and therefore can no longer trust it you need to believe in something else, something “far out” of this world.  That is when the boundaries of your existence cannot surpass the outer layer of your skin.  You become all wound up with yourself, looking for answer after answer.  They take special oxygen pills never knowing where the lack of oxygen lies.  They do learn a lot about nutrition, which is important. But the world of feeling and the world of booga booga never seem to come together.  One can be real in one’s work and irrational outside of it.

So for those therapists who don’t believe in the unconscious, which is the case in the cognitive/Behaviorist world, ask them where nightmares come from and why?  They have an evolutionary function; to keep us alive by keeping us aware of danger. The problem is that now the danger is inside and we need to be aware of it to avoid menace.  But what if we are only aware of danger from outside? We will die much sooner from the danger inside which we have neglected.


  1. This is absolutely brilliant Dr. Janov...with the last sentence being the left hook. Oh my goodness...after one of those very nights, described above this info could not have arrived in my inbox at a better time. Thank you!!
    This wonderful piece of [yet again] such perfectly fitting and enlightening insights of yours, are like soothing baroque music to my ears. It gives my coping mechanism an uplifting oomph in this early hour of my day! Knowledge has such power...and to tap from yours all these years, has given me the courage and strength to conquer and letting go the hidden energetic pockets of adversity of 6 decades...one by one. And...there's always more it looks like. Big sigh. Wish I could speed up the process even more...but then...I most probably wouldn't be able to handle it. The body's intelligence is so unfathomable...knows exactly what to do when...and at which velocity. It does not know the concept of "quick-fix". The global establishment is "quick-fix"-minded...and of course...from there its immense state of [ill] health affairs. Had it but listening to you...the world today would have been a better place overall. Á la santé. Willien.

  2. Hi Art,

    A brilliant exposition on the FUNCTION of dreams. . . Thanks, it's so obvious once you've had a few feelings and studied Primal Theory.

    -"But what if we are only aware of danger from outside"-?

    It maybe a stretch but I put it to you that people who do not understand what you have described above are living in a waking dream and projecting their unexamined (unconscious) terror onto the outside world. That is surely what repression does. Just because they have strong gates it doesn't mean there is no affect. . . On the contrary, these types, like dodgy police and social workers who can only perceive the crimes in others and never in themselves. Their strong gates protect them but not others from their 'blind spots'.

    They are even drawn to these professions precisely because they offer a channel for their "unconscious" to sail down unrestricted by by the restraint of personal 'conscience'.

    I am not exempt, my rage at this indignation should really only come out in a therapy room but I'm not going to admit that anywhere else other than here on your blog. . .

    Paul G.

    1. I understand what you say Paul!

      Where do I find it almost invisible experience from when my mother always asked if I was hungry... it if I so came home in the middle of the night. BUT I never got a hug of need to life... a physical contact. I was like absent... like stunned from from my need of love for what the issue of food could be of a loving akt. I was totally without it... completely stunned from what it could mean.
      That mom was there for her concern that I was hungry... I could not feel it... I could not experience it... it were not of the value it should been as with her physical proximity... I had no access to it (I feel it now). It was like be stunned from the ability to feel pain from what was missing.

      Now that mom is dead so I have begun to experience my need... for what it would have constituted along with her physical proximity... mom did not want me to go around hungry... Why did not I get a hug instead?
      What a need to feel of my mother! Not until now it become visible... now as my mother is dead and she will NEVER again stand there and asked me "are you hungry Frank" . MAMMMMMAAAAAAA.

      Forgive my bad Engeska!


  3. Art,

    Thank you very much for this post!

    Your Frank.


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.