Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It's Never Enough

What is wrong with wanting more?  Nothing if you really want more of what you need, and not what you want.  What’s the difference, you say?  A whole lot.   Need, very early need, turns into want when it is not fulfilled.  I want more money, sex, security, cake, beer, and on and on.  What  I mean to say is that avariciousness in any form that is out of control is driven by a deeper need.  You cannot want 8 beers a day unless there are deep pains that transmute need into want.  At his point,  need is too painful to feel directly so the brain transforms it into something attainable.  Ah, there’s the problem; old needs are usually biologic and cannot be fulfilled at age six.

We cannot go to school while nursing.   So it has to become a want, and that want not only has to reflect what was missing early on but also what life presents to us.  We later on can go buy a bottle of whiskey without ever knowing that anything is missing. The gating system and repression has seen to that.   And parents who don’t mind if their child gets used to a bit of booze; a practice in France where the child is “immunized” against later abuse, and made tipsy so she can “hold” her whiskey.

But why the obsessiveness of the want?   It is not that; it is the excessiveness of the basic need which is being fulfilled symbolically.   That is why it needs fulfillment day after day; it can never be enough if we are fulfilling something we don’t know about that is not a basic need.   The need for love and approval can become exactly that later on stage without ever knowing that something is amiss.  “They love me. They just love me,“ is the message some actors take away, but they need to be loved over and over again.    Or the need to be liked, having never been looked at or liked when young, makes the young child desperate to please, to help and to be of service, all for a drib of being liked and approved.   And it goes on as long as the need does, which is usually a  lifetime; or until the basic need is experienced  so that it is no longer  fulfilled symbolically.  The need becomes what it is; it has to be felt or it will dog us but that is a small price to pay for not having to act it out all day and all year.

So how does this work? In simple terms there are gates in the brain that also respond to methylation, which helps open the repressive gates or closes them down.   If the pain is terrible the methylation process steps in and shuts off key switches so we do not feel that deprived need any more.  Yet,  we still feel deprived, which drives us, but we do not know by what, because it is just too much to bear.  So the specific need carries on; a better way to put it is “soldiers” on.   It carries on the burden.  In ancient history, as the brain evolved and with it the possibility to feel pain, there was also evolving switches in the brain to attenuate suffering so we could go on and get things done.  That means survive.  I have to wonder, “why else the development of a repressive gating system assisted by methylation.   How is it that the brain can “borrow” methyl and use it to help our switching processes?  The brain has to find a way not to be overwhelmed so it can function properly.  If we think  that every person at a bus stop is an enemy to hurt us, we lose focus and lose our ability to combat real enemies.  If the switches malfunction we can literally go off the rails and lose our way.   We close when we should open, and vice versa.  And different biochemicals aid in differentiating when to open or close.

In neurosis everything must become a symbol of your pain.  “Can I help you miss?”   “Why do I look helpless enough to need help?”  Or an actress I know just after finishing a great play was having dinner with me.  A young boy usher approached her and said, "You were wonderful tonight miss…"  And she answered, “Wasn’t I ever good before?”  Everyone in her orbit had to praise her.  Still never enough.

Those who get hooked on money need more and more if they are trying to feel safe, safe from an early poor and dangerous milieu.  Once the chronic fear sets in, it is no longer possible to feel safe.  This is really true when our parents make us feel unsafe and even earlier when the carrying mother is anxious, takes drugs and makes the fetus feel unsafe.  Mind you, no fetus feels unsafe as a cognitive thought out affair. The pure feeling, encapsulated remains to dog us and forces us to try to feel safe later on. We don’t reach out. We don’t take chances. We don’t try new things.  Why?  If feels unsafe.   We cling to her year after year so she can make us feel safe; which never happens.  Primal forces always take precedence and supersede any current effort.

A mother starving in the womb where the baby is malnourished can produce a child who needs to eat more and more.  Give her a small nibble and she starts again to want, not need.  Need is history; want is present.  We dredge up need from the past, place it in the present and it transforms into want.  “I WANT OUT!”  is usually true at birth but not now, yet a person has to get out all of the time to put her Primal need to rest.  She now wants to get out; to see this statue or this concert or go shopping at this store.  The target does not matter.  It is what makes us aim at it.  Worse, we never know what we are acting out.  Since we do not know the cause we make up relevant act-outs and give it a rationale:  “I just love to travel.”

Here the wants that emanate from needs have lost their roots.
Attention ladies and gentlemen we have lost our connection; we hope the power can turned back on soon.  We will when we use resonance to find those roots again and experience them.  Don’t forget that the cognitive brain has to travel back in time millions of years to reach the archaic brain who holds all the secrets of our early history. And then he needs to do a dredging operation to bring it back to the surface for experiencing.  Happily.  He has to do none of that.   The system will do it for him; use the right orbito-frontal cortex to go down and take a look and then report back.  “You know what I just saw?  Sharks and alligators and strange creatures I never knew existed, but they seem to have a similar brainstem to ours.”

One thing I must add is that earlier and deeper the imprint the more obsessive and compulsive the act-out.   Never more obvious than obsessive sex.  The early drive is so relentless and compulsive that it drives the person constantly.  He  and she are  victims of  impulses because on that early remote level the reactions always expressed as pre-verbal impulses.  They are therefore the most difficult to treat because they involve life-saving mechanisms.     Remember the film ”She’s gotta have it".


  1. Dear mr Janov,
    I thank you for your great blog. It's so true: the need is so difficult to shine the light on and the want is so totally taking the life. I want to be wanted...and that want has enormous power. And the strange thing is that i want to be wanted by persons who are not healthy for me. I know it's because my mother didn't want me (last year she died without wanted to see or speak me. My sister phoned me: mother died). I know it on a cognitive level..hopefully once in my life i know it totally..on a biological level..I have to feel the need totally.

    1. Dear Anon
      I feel for you. Sometimes things touch me and I´m not sure why. Are you asking for support? I guess that´s more than OK on this fórum. I have a feeling you´re a woman? Maybe what you say resonates because my own mother (both parents are still "alive" if you could call them that) - and father - rejected my older sister so acutely that she signed herself into a residential psychiatric institution age 16 for a year. my father relentlessly bullied her - even when she was 34 he said to her "You´re not too big for me to put you over my knee and give you a good hiding my girl" for nothing more than daring disagree with him over something. She is just as cerebrally as psychophysiologically damaged, yet devoured Arts early books with me over 20 years ago and understood the whole thing; just got it, like that. My mother, there´s a can of worms....always blamed my sister for having to marry my dad cos she got pregnant, and has always loathed her. Never come out with it explicitly, but we´ve worked it out. My sister lives alone and is too mentally & emotionally disabled to work, or have any meaningful life. At 55, she sees my parents on all the "dutiful" days; birthdays, mothers day, Xmas etc. the hypocrisy and irony is not lost on her. it´s all to make my parents feel OK about themselves and bolsters their denial over the damage they caused. They continue to verbally abuse her. If she reacts, she´s made to feel she´s committed the crime of the century; crucified by guilt. Me? I live abroad; i have an excuse for not seeing them, but keep the guilt at bay thru sending them "nice" emails. But I can´t bring myself to sign them "love". I feel nothing for them. Gary, Portugal

    2. Hi Gary, thank you for your reply. I was touched by Arthur's text "it's never enough", because it was about me, my life. And you write that maybe you resonate as well, because it's about your life as well. that is what makes the Arthur's blogs so impressive for me, for example the blog of 30 march "on drugs again": that you can become emotionally touched by something you see, hear or feel and then ....you suddenly can feel "it's about me".

  2. The feeling of need can be so difficult and so overwhelming. I used to eat bags of sweets every day when younger. However I found that as I read more and more of your books Art and started the therapy it was almost as though every time I thought I needed a beer or some chocolate I know this was an act out for something much much earlier. Combine that with having had a partial breakdown and it did not take long to suddenly feel as though I had been hit by a train. Every cell in my body seemed to hurt. Not a searing "ouch I've I'd cut my finger" pain but a dead aching deep seated pain overwhelmed me. Your books left me no-where to go but down into the pain which takes some commitment to feel and understand. I felt I had to stay with it for as long as I could. Knowing what it was tended to help a great deal.

    I don't seem to get it as much as I did which is wonderful. I've started swimming again and slowly getting fit and losing weight. When I used to swim I always found it slightly hard work. Now I feel so much more powerful in the water. Things are changing at a cellular level I feel. Doing the swim gets me in touch with other deep feelings and needs and it will be interesting to see what they are.

    The other day I was walking along with my wife the other day and said "You know the very base feeling and core of who I was used to be this deep shaking sense of anxiety and now it seems to be a deep sense of contentment". That was a powerful and significant moment. I am sure that something will still come up from the depths and throw me a bit but not as much as it once might have done.

    Needs and wants can drive us crazy.

    1. Planespotter: it sounds great. Keep it up and good luck art

  3. I do not want to have more than I need!

    To the more sophisticated scheme for "what you need and what you want to have"!

    A psychiatrist's request to have more patients to make more money! That at the appointed time of 45 min... helping the suffering get on his feet to work. That is for what is asked... for what politicians set the agenda... it for what listening psychiatrists silences those who suffering... it with medication... ECT and cognitive methods... it without even being able to grasp what it is they are doing... it to maintain their income (what a wanting to have)... it for what no one has the right to question for what is going on... which would otherwise be heard!

    Psychiatrists do not feel what is needed to put its assignment at stake... not even for what madness and requirements set the agenda... it for what they receive their income... a insanity for a mission without any "mercy" around people's suffering... it for what they want to have... not a glimpse of what need is all about!

    What science tells us about this... it requires much more than convincing words can do... it required science. It requires "more of what we need" so that we can stand up and say "enough is enough" without guilt of requiring more than we need!

    The law should be changed after what science tells us about. We can not let "what they want it to be" what they want the law to be.

    To perceive "what we want or what we need" of the content for what we must do... finds no limits for what others are capable to defend themself. We must try anyway... it for all we have to prove! If we look to our limited lives... so we need to hurry... given what our offspring would otherwise have to suffer!

    I know the difference between wanting to have and my need... to abandon my will "can" make me to feel my need if under proper conditions.

    Art...so I know what I have to do about my wanting to have but I also need the right conditions!


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.