Tuesday, August 4, 2015

On the Difference Between Abreaction and Feeling (Part 4/9)

 The Dangers of Mock Therapy

        In our four decades of experience, we have seen many ways the therapy can go wrong. A skilled therapist can take an upcoming feeling and channel it where it must not go. In the case of deep depression, it is an early death fore-told. But an ill-prepared therapist may take a near-death metric – such as very high heart rate – and refocus it into some other feeling that is not related to the cause but is decided on by the doctor. Whether aware or not, he is meddling with biology. The result is counter-productive because the patient begins to form a groove so that each time a deep feeling comes up with all of its power, it is rechanneled into a byway of unrelated feeling. And that is also an aspect of abreaction: taking a beginning, inchoate feeling and turning it into something else. The doctor thinks he understands the process and takes control, instead of the feeling controlling the session. The patient’s feelings, far from ready, are taken up prematurely, and the patient deals with an offshoot instead of the next feeling available. Those feelings seem to be in a queue, each waiting its turn, and each bringing relief when its turn comes. Primal sessions normally start with agonies up top of the brain; unhappy events in the present that can trigger more painful early associated memories. “My wife just suffocates me,” eventually connects to the basic imprint: “I am suffocating.” This is not thought out; it happens automatically through resonance where one pain high up can set off deeper lying pain, in a chain of events when the patient is ready to feel it. It seems like each feeling is classified as to its content and nature into separate compartments; one kind of feeling here and another kind of feeling there. Resonance in brain function connects the evolutionary links to each other to encompass most of our lives. Our biology decides, not a doctor or therapist, which feeling is on the rise and can be experienced. But when the unconscious of the doctor intercedes into this still untrammeled, pristine sequence of feelings, the result is an emotional detour – abreaction.

 We do harm in therapy when we think we know where it all comes from, and we don’t. It is our guess against the reality inside the patient. So we have an internal battle: the patient’s system struggles to maintain his neurotic equilibrium, which is the body’s natural adaptation to early trauma and pain, while the misguided therapist struggles to change the neurotic’s life-saving ploy by tinkering with his thoughts and attitudes. The cognitive therapist, in particular, wants to change neurotic normal into abnormal by turning depression into a more positive, optimistic outlook. They don’t understand that depression is normal for the patient because his life experience drove him there and his biology is doing its best to maintain the equilibrium – the neurotic normal – established when trauma disrupted and rerouted his system’s natural state. The primal therapist also seeks to dismantle the neurotic normal but by resolving its origins, not by futilely trying to manipulate its present-day manifestations. Neurotic normal is what patients have to do to adapt to serious imprints, while abnormal is an attempt to enter into this equilibrium and alter its careful balance.

        This is a state where the vitals betray the patient. It literally can be a death foretold because constant abreaction weakens the system and can lead to premature death due to the load of unresolved feelings weighing in, stealthily adding pressure on the biologic system. We don’t see the pressure that repression is exerting constantly on the heart, liver, lungs and other organs.  We don’t see what chronically high heart rate does to the whole cardiovascular system.

  In short, what is killing us is exactly what we don’t see. And why don’t we see it? It is just too much to face and experience all at once, because it is life endangering in and of itself.
 We can watch the descent into lower depths of the brain as the patient sometimes will touch on the first line, brainstem part (the base and/or lower part of the limbic system) during a higher-level Primal.  At that point, he may show vital signs down into unimaginable depths – body temp at 96.0 and heart rate down into the fifties. We know what part of the brain is activated as the brain systems unveil and indicate unmistakably what level of the brain is at work; defending against what trauma and at what period of ontogeny. When there is suddenly a breakthrough – an abrupt trespass – we see intrusion at work; the ripping away momentarily of the defense system, giving way briefly to deeper feelings.

 This tells us that deep material is now just below the surface and may be ready to be addressed and relived, or Primalled. It is not guess work as the body signals its readiness. If we do not recognize intrusion we may wait too long to allow deep imprints to mount; the body is ready but the doctor is not. Again, the feeling may be changed into something else by the doctor because personal evolution of the patient, his ontogeny, has been ignored. The therapist has led the feeling elsewhere. A neophyte therapist, anxious to show his skill and dramatic effects, will force the patient far too deep too soon. As a result, the patient develops far-out ideation as the top-level brain is doing its best to handle the doctor-induced overload. It is the same effect we see with the ingestion of LSD.

 I remember during the LSD craze of the sixties when some doctors experimented with hallucinogens for patients. Many went into transient psychosis as out-of-sequence pains were thrown up and could not be integrated. The result: overload of the neo-cortex and delusions. In our early research, we saw the residue of all this: aside from universal sleep problems, the neo-cortex was in a constant flooded state and the brainwave amplitude came way down, which meant to us, after many of the same readings among other LSD patients, that the repressive defenses were faltering and crashing. When patients are pushed too fast in therapy we often get the same kind of profile.

 One clear example of dangerous feeling therapy is rebirthing – driving patients way too deep way too soon. Reliving birth in the first weeks of therapy is defying evolution and leads to disaster. It is arriving at deep levels of consciousness prematurely, skipping evolutionary steps and going through the motions of feelings without feeling. It overwhelms the integrating capacity of the brain and there is flooding with far-out ideas and bizarre notions. We have seen pre-psychotics who come to us and slide immediately down to some kind of birth trauma, way off a proper evolutionary voyage. They are often deeply disturbed and start therapy with a severely damaged gating system. They usually need help in gating so we may recommend medication for a time to control the upsurge of brainstem imprints. The medication temporarily enhances gating so that a proper descent is now possible. Without that there is no integration and therefore no getting well. Even worse, when the doctor buys into the ideas and beliefs the patient is in danger. Suddenly, he “merged with the Almighty.” And in booga-booga land, the doctor may nod agreement. It is now a folie a deux. If the therapist is mystical he may not find all this so strange, because those into mysticism never think that their beliefs are odd.

  The problem with rebirthing is that it defies the fundamental evolutionary law. Never challenge evolution; respect and follow it. It will unerringly take you where you need to go, and only when you need to go. I have seen the psychosis that this mistake engenders; and we see the inherent danger in rebirthing because feelings are directed by someone else, the therapist, on his timetable and they are reached prematurely violating history’s careful steps. Don’t fool with history. No one is smarter than that and no one has any idea what lies in the unconscious; only the patient knows. And it takes time for him to know. His body knows but he needs a higher brain to inform him. His body is screaming the message through its asthma and migraine and high blood pressure but it is a silent scream that only his system can feel. It says, “I hurt” and he says “I hurt” but he does not know from what. The decorticate message has gotten through but it lacks key information that cannot be imparted when we are too young and fragile to understand and accept it.

 When the whole brain is forced into a state for which it is not ready, it galvanizes itself and moves up the evolutionary scale abruptly searching for a handle, some way to deal with the pressure. When the ineffable feeling reaches the top-level neocortex, it concocts ideas and beliefs that are basically psychotic –  “at one with the cosmos.”  And this is the precise mechanism in a true psychosis (rather than induced) where the gating system has been trashed by the continuous onslaught of compounded pain over the years until it collapses. Notice that the pressure of the feeling moves up the evolutionary scale searching for some way to turn off the pain. It is a biologic rule for all therapists to understand. Crazy ideas are not single entities; they are the result of a long evolutionary voyage that ultimately results in a belief. When a therapist meddles with an idea, she is interfering with this evolutionary process. And I include behavior in all this and the anti-evolutionary behavior therapy. How simplistic to strip behavior of its roots and then to keep on manipulating the effluvia.

        This is exactly what happens with mock primal therapy. The correct roots have been evaded while driving the patient into false byways. The result? Abreaction. A false root can mean leading the patient into first line, brainstem level where highly charged imprints await. So what does the doctor see as the first line intrudes? Gagging, shortness of breath, squirming, coughing. And what does he do? He encourages the patient to go into it when he is not nearly ready for such a deep experience. What does he get? Abreaction – temporary release plus a residue of feelings that could not be experienced, which push against defenses to make the patient feel bad. More often such great reactions produce fear in the therapist and he avoids dealing with it at all. It is left hanging and unresolved.

 But beware: there is also danger when the therapist is too passive. Those who do not recognize first line on the rise will keep the feeling down and only let it come up for experience when it is far too late. It is too late due to the lack of experience of the therapist who has no idea how to handle pretty strenuous feelings on the rise. So what happens? Abreaction again: feeling different memories from the ones at hand. Again a groove is formed and instead of deep resolving feelings, there are little by-ways that are not resolving. For this timid and reluctant therapist, Freud’s dictum about the unconscious still holds true: don’t go too deep. Freud decided almost one hundred years ago that digging deep into the unconscious was dangerous for the patient and would disturb his equilibrium irrevocably. We have seen the unconscious at work and it is simply not true.

 We therapists need to abjure being omniscient. We don’t know enough, and I cannot even guess how it happened that we became experts in the human condition. Whenever a therapist tells the patient what to feel we know he is already on the wrong path. We must sense feelings and follow the patient, not lead him. We take him by the hand and follow where he leads, not vice versa. We doctors must avoid the temptation to act smart. We spent years in college learning to be smart, and now we must elude it. How ironic!  Yet the history of psychotherapy was intellectual and provided a therapy of the intellect, exactly what we don’t need. We don’t let the patient act “smart;” we allow her to act intelligent, to recognize her feelings and how they drive her and cause her to act out. When she tries to act smart we help her get to the feeling; of how to please momma or father. Finally it is a great relief just to be yourself and not have to act this way or that to get love.

 It seems banal and harmless that a therapist supplies insights for the patient, but it is far from that because the patient is given a guess about his feeling from the professional which may be accurate but most often is not because it does not emanate from the patient’s feelings, but from someone else’s. It is a subtle way of channeling the patient into a groove because the therapist is insecure and wants to make sure that the patient is really feeling. And a facile groove is what most people suffer from in abreaction; they find a release to direct their feeling and it becomes comfortable to stay in it. It becomes embedded until they cannot get out of it and they don’t even know they are in it. The force of the feeling, the actual content, finds its groove, and it takes months of proper therapy to help patients out of it. Abreaction has compounded the neurosis rather than eliminating it. Worse, the person is convinced he is better, and he is not. Much worse, the doctor is convinced that all is right, yet nothing is right. The whole process has become a charade; a delusion of wellness. It feels good for the patient because he can release the pressure of the upcoming feeling and that feels like progress: ergo he is getting better.

 When we try to insert ourselves into the feeling process we get a reflection of ourselves, not the patient. And that reflection relies on a host of theories concocted by doctors to explain that which needs no explanation. The mistakes in theory are as myriad as the unconscious of the doctor. He may see a need for power or of meaning or of sex and on and on. He often sees what is not there and refuses to see what is right there. His vision is limited by his openness. And that depends on how much he has felt and experienced of his own pain. You cannot be more open than your repression. That blocks so much: vision, insight, empathy compassion and understanding. If you live in your head you will never consider plunging to the depths of feeling; it is then all about explaining feelings, discussing them or writing about them. There is a form of therapy today where patients believe they can get well by keeping a journal about their feelings. Again, it is too obvious for comment but it is the top level that is embraced when we need to push far below it. The same is true for mindfulness therapy, which enhances attention and asks the patient to concentrate on details such as rate of breathing. This keeps that top level super-attentive when it should lie quietly. In these therapeutic schemes, there is no way to go deeper when every move that is made in therapy militates against feeling. They cannot go deeper because they are locked into kind of abreaction themselves. There is no larger, encompassing frame of reference that can guide them. They are as diverted from feelings as the patient who abreacts.

 These cognitive theories are based on a basic distrust of feelings in favor of intellect; the opposite of one needs to produce a feeling cure. When a doctor defines his therapy as cognitive, he has already lost. It means he will deal with half the brain to the neglect of the other parts; above all the feeling parts; those parts that are healing.
 Feeling is healing. No feeling, no healing.


  1. Hi,

    I sense abreaction is a lot more common that we might care to admit. It's so easy to play with these words but where is the boundary between 'abreaction' and 'act out' ? ? ?

    Then, what is motivating people to become patients and get the right therapy? I have a hunch that the longer Primal advertises it's services the more neurotic and abreactive are the patients who apply. That's a hunch but I'll explain, using myself as an example:

    I used to lie awake in bed in the dormitory at boarding school most nights fearing the beatings I would get from the sadistic headmaster the next morning. What I didn't know at that time is that this fear of violence was combining with earlier traumatic imprints from when I was younger. Abandonment, loss of my Mum and the terror of a constricted and then drugged (unconscious birth). I already had 'act outs' and was beaten for them too. Can you imagine how confusing this all was for a 9 year old? This went on every nearly night when at the school for four years.

    Inbetween, at home on 'holidays' I would lie awake counting the days before I was sent back to the 'concentration camp' for more torture. Telling myself and my parents lies about what I really wanted.

    As the 9 year old I remember some mornings waking up (ha ha ha ) feeling the anxiety and weird halucinations (enhanced colours & sounds - often associated with fight & flight) that only in the bad acid trips I had 10 years later revealed their full intensity. But my point is that in the dormitory, sleepless at boarding school my psyche was being moulded into abreaction due to the unholy alliance being formed in me between the expected violence of the time and the imprinted trauma from long before.

    On top of that (or should I say underneath) there were two threads, distinctly independent but insidiously intertwined; that is Loss , grief & abandonment going back to being taken away from my Mum, first at birth, then as a toddler and now at boarding school COMBINED with 'crushing' violence: Basically I was crushed and strangled at birth, then I was seriously assaulted by a strange carer as a toddler (when 'away' from my Mum) and now finally I'm waiting to be FORMERLY assaulted at boarding school ALL night, sleepless, anxiously till the morning. . .

    If this isn't a recepe for abreaction / act outs what is?

    My point is not to moan about how f****d I am / was / could get worse (!) Nor to brag about how cognitively clever I am about my history but to show that most patients are probably already stuck in some kind of abreaction OR so 'convoluted' in their psyche that nothing less than a living Saint would be able to unravel their "Gordian Knots" without the use of a sword.

    I am basically saying that most Primal Patients are very likely well confused before they even start and that is what motivates them to get help. I suspect most patients are stuck in abreaction to start. . . It's likely some of them gave themselves permission to get more deeply into that because of BOOKS they read. . . (dunno where they got them from).

    I also reckon that because of the stringent demands on the Primal Center by the US authorities to use existing professionals with medical / psychiatric / qualifications; and or to train people who are also attracted to the mainstream training that they need to actually be legally allowed to practice, it follows that many "new" therapists probably aren't very good at it. . . Sadly, it is my experience that the capacity for mainstream training in psychotherapy, psychiatry & psychology is nothing remotely similar to the capacity for empathy, intuition, feeling, sensing and ultimately CARE. . .

    And so, it is my hunch that these blog posts of Arts are aimed primarily at his own therapists.

    I hope they read them and digest their content. I'm not even a patient yet and I devour every letter, every syllable, every word, every sentence. . .

    Paul G.

    1. Paul, for me it is so interesting what you say about abreaction outside the session. i just haven't thought about it. It is like pounding the bag with the stick in a session that can be just like an exercise in the park, or therapist can provoke repression … so many similarities inside and outside a session... good therapist is like the parent (with few more tricks) that should not make mistakes that parent did. parent who is there where real parents weren't so that patient can become a child again. real parents' child.
      it could be that the patient who abreacted a lot as a child, will more likely abreact as a patient. i think i am more a repression type with danger of strong leakage. more parasympath type?
      Is masturbation and sex often a form of sexual abreaction? Is there a difference in vital signs before and after?

      this all series of july articles reminded me on how primal theory and therapy are different compared to shallow, guessing, dangerous, unresolutive approaches. I don’t understand it fully yet and never was but I was starting to forget even that little. certainly forgetting how I read it as a a teenager... for years I am/was somewhere up in the branches hunted by my first line probably. I even wanted to make a longer pause from reading the blog but is like trying to fall asleep while the mind is racing ))

      while i was checking for spelling errors i saw this>

      is violence often a form of abreaction? misplaced anger?

    2. Paul: What you describe sounds horrendous; layer pon layer of major trauma. You must surely be pretty overloaded and may I ask you how you´ve defended against your feelings fo most of our life? I know you recently tried Prozac, but I wonder how youé managed to keep the anxiety (and whatever else) which must have plagued you all the time at bay?
      I don´t think you understand what abreaction is. It is a very specific and dramatic psychophysiological experience which is only COSMETICALLY (or should that be "cosmically"?) similar to a primal, and nothing except that can be described as abreaction. You seem to be using "abreaction" as some sort of "catch-all" term. Gary

    3. Hi vuko,

      -"is violence often a form of abreaction? misplaced anger"-?

      Probably. As I continue to digest Arts blogs and our contributions I ever increasingly realise how seriously limited words are to communicate and discuss and share these very intricate emotional / sensational realities for us.

      I think abreaction and act out and 'passions' (of which I believe there are distinctly 9) are a 'melange' which is common in most people (or really held down hard) until they bother to look within.

      Then, maybe, after serious attention (of the emotional therapeutic variety) a new understanding emerges, which is able to discuss the REAL differences. Thus this (true to feelings) form of self inquiry results in a separation out of the sensations from the feelings and of course from the 'thoughts'. Then, those thoughts would be true insights.

      As we discussed before, it may be possible to start the process alone and or with a good empathic counselor on the 3rd line but without proper Primal supervision the bodies natural inclination to go deeper (once started) will result in LOOPS. . . where else could feelings go without consistent and experienced supervision?

      Paul G.

    4. Hi Gary,

      -"may I ask you how you´ve defended against your feelings fo most of your life"-?

      Well Gary, Art once said that 'music' won't change the imprint but here's a rap my Stepson wrote, I have his original copy framed on my desk:

      -'I've got a ring and I'm gonna ask music to marry me, Because
      Over these hilly streets of B*****l it's done carried me,
      Whether it be inner city buskers on my MP3, it's the baseline hype beats and melodies, that makes my life so heavenly, and if I die tonight I'd want you to remember me, as a mediator of word and not the enemy, 'The Middle Man, a Diplomat, the same kid that write the rap 'bout this and that, the words I chat, don't mean 'Jack' without a surge of track. . .

      So, if I took you out and got down on one knee, and asked you Music "will you marry me"? And then spoke about the melodic journey of holy matrimony, living out our lives along side each other naturally, I guess what I'm trying to say is: "Thank you for the troubled times you've helped me over come, because I don't know what I would have done the day I heard about my Mum. . .

      The fact that I had music and the the Sun to help sooth her sons and make me numb, break me from a mentality driven by war and bombs, see I think me and you could break gravity, and create songs that could take us to a land that knows no wrongs, with promises of beautiful symphonies 10,000 strong. . .
      And it's to these lush green pastures that you can carry me, with a guarantee of a place that will keep my sanity, and these realistic visions spawn in my mind so happily, so I guess the only thing left to say is. . . . . . .

      Music, will you marry me?

      Taz, my stepson. . .

      Paul G.

    5. Hi Gary,

      I don't 'believe' I understand what's going on in me; for the lack of a Primal Therapist I can only guess at answers. . . I play with words here on this blog, NOT to make a 'game' or to spout rhetoric but to try to better understand my condition.

      I have already studied and done various intensive and challenging things (group work etc) which support and confirm the Primal View in a social context (it never ceases to amaze me how "complementary" Primal actually is. . . why people don't get it is as frustrating for me as it obviously has been for Art, France & no doubt many therapists/scientists in USA). I presume this is why some of what I write is relevant. . . But to answer your question I am particularly keen on making things and training others in making things. . . Music & carpentry. . .

      One observation I continually get from becoming expert in 'manufacturing' is the importance of the relationship we have with the environment through our hands and through the way we can have ACCESS to the means of production / survival. It's a fundamental aspect of 'empowerment'.

      Sadly, I find myself on an island of diminishing worth due to the way ROBOTS have taken over this 'relationship' that our 'handy-work' allows and marginalised the 'makers' almost to the point of extinction. Sadly again, it is my profound observation that unless you are one of the 'makers' you would not understand what I'm on about. . . If you grow your own food perhaps you do. . . . ? ? ? ? The loss of traditional skills mirrors the loss of bio diversity. . . This is a serious problem and the ROBOTS will not cure it.
      So, I can confirm that it is the serious and concerted effort to 'make stuff' (and train people along the way) that has kept me alive / relatively sane. . . I cry a lot too. . . If I don't allow that to happen well, I feel like I'll get a stroke or heart attack so, I just let it go. . . Abreaction / Primal or whatever. . . I'm still alive. . . I also have meditated quite a lot. . . I know this may not be the best way to deal with stress and may have compromised "Access" (what ever the f**k that means). . . but I think I could have done a lot worse without it. I still meditate occasionally. . . It helps me get through crushing episodes of tiredness at work, interestingly, like a short 'siesta'. . .

      I am, along with many thousands a "Boarding School Survivor". Unless you've been through this regime you simply could not understand how it has shaped the world we ALL live in. These institutions are crucibles of pain deliberately designed to straight jacket feelings into a certain 'mould' and 'spit out' a certain 'manufactured item'.

      These 'manufactured items' pretty much rule the world and define what we believe, how we live and who we live with. . . IF only it really was a conspiracy we could do something to "Counter" it. Sadly again I seem to have arrived at a similar destination in my thoughts as has Art and others. . . Positive change is going to have to come from the terrifying realisation of what we humans have done to ourselves (and what we continue to do to the unborn) whilst still in the womb and at birth. . . Everything else is palliative. . .
      This is the pithy, unpalatable truth we don't want to be reminded of too often for fear of drowning in a sea of despair. . . But it is the reason why we are on this blog.

      Where the f**k do we go from here?

      Paul G.

  2. A difficult task for the therapist to not misguide the patient by telling him what he's feeling and yet recognize and encourage 1st line feelings at the appropriate time. With an emphasis on pre-birth and birth pain as the sources of the imprint it's understandable that people would want to get to that quickly. For most of us it seems like that will be many years, if at all.Phil

  3. Art,
    I am currently reading "Life Before Birth" and enjoying it, as it is so well written and pulls together so much information. It seems to me that all of these blog postings taken together could eventually constitute another book. I want to say thanks for never giving up despite all the critics and people who just don't get it. I've always thought that the best decision I ever made was to do this therapy. It hasn't been an easy road but it has given me a tool to use throughout my life and the progress has been continual. Thanks so much for everything you have done and
    continue to do.

    1. Phil; It is a great trip, yes? I wish it on everyone. art

  4. An email comment:
    "Thanks Art for writing this....

    Although I learn a great deal about Primal Theory from what your write, and I think that its crucially important to get access from someone who knows what they are doing, I can't help but think that lots of people might be scared away from Primal Therapy by reading this. My own perception is that for me, anyway, the process is quite simple. No I don't think I am perfect and its tempting at times to turn things into Primal feelings so one doesn't have to deal with them in life. But for me, after a long time of feeling, its very straight forward.

    Maybe because even before Primal Therapy, I was feeling, and I can't help but feel that others have had this experience as well.

    I remember when my dog died, I was 17. Twenty two years before I started Primal Therapy. I was hurting about her death, for days. She was the only thing real I could ever touch. I remember going to my bedroom,burying my head in a pillow, and crying my guts out, while calling her name. In time my grief was gone. This was before I ever knew anything about feelings. My family, as crazy as they were, were OK, with this and no one said a word to me.

    Its so much harder, to hold things back, in life...So much harder... Insanity takes a lot of work...There are people who are feeling, maybe its not as systematic as in an organized treatment setting. But for them it does help to live.

  5. Art: You´ve confirmed what I´ve been thinking myself recently - that the effects of LSD are very similar to some of the effects of abreaction. It brings up very early pain out if sequence, which has to be converted into something painless and explicable, eg mysticism.
    The dangers of LSD can´t be overestimated but the extent of its use IS, because LSD users are likely to want to keep their habit a secret. I say this because local expat neighbours here in Portugal who started using acid recently have started avoiding me since I tried to warn them what they are dealing with and we need public info on how to identify symptoms in users and also on its effects.
    The major LSD user is a young English neighbour who I reckon has been droppoing acid more or less weekly for several months now. I´ve not seen him for a while so can´t comment on his condition. However, since he was separated from his mother for 12 hours immediately after birth, I know he has huge early pain and as Art says, LSD users usually have very early pain. He was heavily into mysticism before LSD; now he appears addicted/obsessed by it. This suggests to me that the acid is causing seepage of very early pain into his consciousness.
    I have tried to warn him, but the stronger the pain, the stronger the defence. You can tell someone who really MUST believe the sky is green that it is blue, but his defences will find every way to deny it. So what chance when you refer him to someone he´s never met who knows everything there is to know, ie Art Janov? That´s easy for them to dismiss compared to "the sky is really blue".
    What I´m saying is, it can be vey difficult to get people with strong addictions to listen to reason. They must defend against very early and/or powerful pain AT ALL COSTS, and it seems the 3rd line defences take over this function,even to the extent of being completely irrational.
    I must admit to a lack of sympathy for this individual, because he is so damned smug in his beliefs that he is experiencing something ("true reality") that we less gifted mortals cannot. I guess that´my problem too; my pain gets in the way of my compassion.
    Stanilsav Grof has been practising "Holotropic Breathwork" since the 1960s and is very highly thought of on the"primal" circuit. However, he used LSD as a "therapeutic tool" back then, and my sources say he worked for the CIA. I think he still practices. Gary

    1. Gary: What does he practice? How to spy and kill? The problem is with these people is that they find one aspect of a great problem and try to solve the great problem with this tiny focus. Like breathing. I have many patients with breathing problems, but it is centrally originated. There is an overall cause so why mess around with the tiny mechanics? They miss the big picture because they have no idea there is one. art

    2. Hi Gary,

      The thing about LSD is that it totally shifts one's perspective to the ideal. . . Every one who I know who has taken it has fallen prey to the idealistic fantasy of future possibility. . . to an 'imagined ideal'. . . I have never seen any one 'perform' better on it. It doesn't enhance performance, contrary to the reports of users. In this respect it's a lot like alcohol. As time goes by the fantasy wanes and reality takes over. . .

      Those with stronger gates and/ or lesser pain develop futures beyond that fantasy. . . but there are those who continue to 'play out' that imagined ideal. . . It is a powerful short circuit.. . LSD is a cult all of it's own and the 'leader' is your own imagined ideal self. . . No consciousness is required. I would say that LSD IS the sign of the times. . . It has defined the gestalt of our 'post modernist' realm. . . Even right wing politicians and top psychotherapists admit to having taken (& prescribed the illusion). . .

      For as long as your gates hold up some kind of defense the LSD reality continues it's insidious hold on consciousness. . . But when your gates begin to fail. . . .

      Paul G.

  6. Art: I´m surprised you haven´t heard of Grof as his stuff has been on the Primal Psychotherapy Page for decades along with all the other, uhm.."primal" stuff. Holographic breathwork is very simple; it´s just deep breathing to access not just primal feelings but "past lives", "spiritual experiences" and so on. I´ve always thought it very similar to what you may have practised (and very quickly dropped) when you started out.
    "How to spy and kill"!? Not at all. The CIA has used many people for decades in the "mental health" profession to experiment on. In the case of LSD, Grofs ex-patients have reported being given some sort of drug and strange creatures entering in their therapy room and being abducted and, and, and....
    Art I have a very detailed article on all this with some details of Grof from his ex-patients, which I think you would find very interesting indeed. If you or anyone else wants to read it I´ll type it up and send it to them (bettybabes@live.com.pt).
    When I attended an IPA (International Primal Association) convention in San Francisco in 1997, there was - amongst all the other hogwash - a Holographic Breathwork workshop (which I refused to attend because I knew enough primal theory by then). True to the pluralist ethos of the IPA, almost everyone there was "open" to it (I got accused of having a "closed mind"). Gary

    1. Gary, Not only have I heard of him but I have written a lot about him. And I disapprove. art

  7. Art. Sorry, it sounded to me from your first email as if you hadn´t. So do you want the article? gary

  8. Paul: Your posts are just great you know, but I feel dead inside today and have done the last few days and I always just withdraw from human contact and do what I have to do till it blows over. I know that opening up to people just when i need them the most is to risk rejection, and right now
    I just can´t do that so as always I withdraw, just as I always had to crawl back into my shell as a child, and ever since then, because I was only ever acceptable to my parents when I was strong, capable, helpful, took care of them.
    So I´m going against the imprint this time. Your wonderfully insightful posts just made me feel like
    there´s no point in me responding because ALL I FEEL is numb right now and like I need someone to look after me, but I can never say it. I just withdraw so I ´m not bothering anyone, whilst everyone else is getting approval for being smart, insightful, entertaining, altruistic, because I just can´t cut it. I´m inadequate.
    of course this is off topic. I just want everyone to know I feel like shit today especially since one of my beloved dogs is ill with Leishmaniasis and it´s cutting me to pieces watching her suffer. Gary


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.