Monday, August 1, 2016

On the Difference Between Abreaction and Feeling (Part 3/15)

Taking the Wrong Track into Abreaction

 To understand more about how abreaction works, let’s see what happens when a session goes off track.

 As we now know, there is a critical window during a session when the patient brings in a certain feeling, say, helplessness. If the therapist does not act to help the person delve into the feeling it very well may be too late, later on in the session. When the therapist does not strike at the critical moment, the specific feeling/frequency the patient came in with is now gone. What the patient will be left with is abreaction, the discharge of a secondary feeling, not the key one she brought in. That means no resolution and integration of feeling because the feeling has not been felt. When we measure vital functions after the session, the signs move in sporadic fashion. They do not move in coordinated ways but as though each function moves at a different pace. They seem to have lost their cohesion, which tells us that no primal has occurred.

 What I think may happen, and this is only hypothesis, is that when the feeling and its frequency are left unaddressed the patient slips into a secondary feeling with a different brain pattern and frequency. Even though she may look like she connected and resolved the feeling there is a good chance that it is abreaction. It is simply the discharge of the energy of the feeling without connection.

 Let me make this clear because so many so-called primal therapists make this fundamental error. There is a time in the session when that feeling is very near conscious-awareness. Without professional help the feeling slides away and the patient, now floundering, manages to get into a different feeling, one that may belong to the therapist’s agenda, not the patient’s. That is because the therapist did not pick up on the entering feeling and then projects his own needs and feelings onto the patient. The patient then goes where the therapist decides, which has nothing to do with attacking the basic need and resolving it. Too often, the patient goes where the therapist tacitly is interested. The patient senses that and becomes a “good girl.’ The unconscious of the therapist implicitly directs the patient.

 The pain of lack of fulfillment is always an adjunct to a specific need. To address the wrong need is to forego proper connection and resolution; it is feeling the wrong pain at the wrong time. A depressed patient comes in feeling hopeless and helpless. The therapist may perceive latent anger and urges the patient to hit the wall. The release does offer some relief and they both may think there was resolution. But it was only temporary. The real feeling will return again and again only to be waylaid. Or the therapist may say, “Tell your mother!” But it may have nothing to do with mother, at least not the patient’s. What is coming up is the pain of the doctor; he needs to scream at his mother. Indeed, the patient’s core feeling may date back to a time before words. So expressing the feeling verbally is a false route. It is tricky business. A sound knowledge of the evolution of consciousness will help here.

 Doctors are used to being active during therapy sessions so it is difficult for them to see how little there is to do. I speak on average about 50 words a session. My patient feels and then the insights follow. I do not need the majesty of bestowing insights on patients. It is wonderful that they make their own discoveries. And what discoveries they are, up-surging feelings accompanied with their notes from the underground. Telling the doctor what the feelings mean. On the other hand, therapists have a lot to do when we sense abreaction entering in. At that point, the therapist must be vigilant and hyperactive to keep the patient on track. He must make sure not to reinforce the tributary feeling while steering the patient back to the main feeling. And how, you ask, does the therapist know the difference? By instinct and experience. The therapist has to sense that his patient has taken a detour and he has to know what the real feeling is. That skill you can only acquire by primal intuition. There is no law.


  1. Why the three levels are so important! The third level... I am already dead... without the physical proximity to it... that level is less painful to go through for what there is to come... a process to get used to the pain ... accustom the body to integrate the pain.

    I was in a pain of death when I was little and it shines through in every sentence I can tell you about myself. Life was not complicated... it became in its simplicity of my need... it became and so I seek the meaning of it in all I do. Now I know what I and my mom an dad never will get to experience together and it hurts like death. I would not say it will get worse... but I believe I will feel a lot more about my life on the next level!


  2. Art... my dearest friend!

    What you writing is not just what a therapist has to learn... to know about... we also!

    So the critical window is when feelings has to be captured as they are visible who otherwise glides away as the window will be shut for the activity the brain has around abreaction... beyond our awareness when it happen.
    So primal therapy is constantly working to permanently open the critical window which can not happen until our boddy become accustomed to live with it.
    So you can say... the critical window is open when it lets light in as constantly need to be there for us to se... be the self we are and where.


  3. Art: In the IPA (International Primal Association) week I attended in San Fran 20 years ago, people were so "wowed out" about primal therapy because they all thought that was what they were doing and that it was working. No one questionned any of the keynote speakers and there was a pluralist mentality, ie no therapist was "wrong", it was just a matter of what works for you. I thought the whole thing was a crack of shit: "therapists" being incredibly interactive, directive, interventionist....and I couldn´t help wondering where the scientific authority for any of this came from? Some quoted you, yet what they practiced was nothing like you describe. Others, when it suited them, criticised you. Others said Grof knew better than anyone. And so on. The only PT (apart from you and yours)I´ve ever felt to be anything like competent & trustworthy was Paul Vereshack, and the techniques and theory he used were very similar to your own, though he told me (and I believe him) he had never read your work. What made me suspicious about him was that he talked a lot about "soft primal" which is when the patient is on the brink of a primal and then the therapist redirects it into a lesser, less intense, experience. Mmm...sounds like abreaction to me, though PV describes this "option" as much safer for those who want to be able to process their pain more gradually and not get overwhelmed, though it takes longer. I´ve never read of this anywhere else and certainly not in your own work, but the primal world is full of gullible, read hope-needy people who will believe anything.


  4. Hello Art!

    Being cautious does not mean the same as to be careful where needed!

    Being cautious when we are anxious or depressed does not mean the same as to be wary for what science tells of caution. Caution then... seeks its ways for alleviating which is the primal therapy's dilemma. So the information that relieves thoughts at anxiety and depression must be a basic question. I know you are thinking of this... but a book about the nuances of feeling would facilitate. It needs to be in the way that corresponds to what anxiety and depression have as gateway.

    Getting sufferers to listen to primal therapy must be more clearly for what NOW in the process mean. I mean if they are caught off guard by thoughts for what anxiety and depression contains so it is not so easy to hear when all is about death to defend against... and with their life at stake they are moving away from all what pain talks about. This is the reason why patients and cognitive therapists more seeking relief then to heal.

    Your Frank

    1. Frank, I am not sure of your point. art

    2. Art... I dont know if this will do?

      We all have fragile "pages" what so ever... and they are what should be listened to and not understood why. Once we understand why we are lost for what why has his task... for the time being.

      To be careful in a cognitive state is not the same as being cautious in the name of science where emotions behind the symptoms will determine what prudence means!

      Caution under the influence of only cognitive conditions will always close the critical window... it to not be recognized of its reason to be critical... so it explains itself to fail.

      To always "strive" for the critical window must be everyone's goal in primal therapy!

      For the uninitiated... they need help. Help is there for all of us if we can find the "sence" we're looking for. When we done that... we will know our own gateway and also understand others. But the road there must be lined with sensitivity for what otherwise a slippery road becomes impossible for the trip.

      If there exists no critical window but is wide open... it must be closed again so it will be possible to get it ajar.

      Whatever love means it can be of great help even for those it hurts! But in the name of love... we also glide around on a road that never seems to end.

      Your Frank

    3. Frank,
      Am I correct in understanding that you are talking about two different states of mind?
      - One situation where you are fairly aware of what's going on around you, minute by minute, and reacting adequately to it. If you're hungry you eat, if you're tired you rest, feeling alone you call someone. You function adequately at home, socially, pay your bills, and generally get by. There's only one problem: you don't feel well, food has no taste, flowers have no color, life has no meaning - but you go on anyway, hoping or knowing that things can be changed. Then, something particular happens that really upsets you in someway, angry, sad, whatever. Then and there, it's time to lie down, look into yourself and allow yourself to sink into whatever is affecting you.
      - Another situation is when you are so immersed, inundated, and overwhelmed by Pain that everything is chaos, meaningless, nothing matters; all there is, is anxiety, horror, despair, confusion, and death. You can't handle the situation, just want everything to end; you don't want to exist.

      Frank, if this second situation is what you are referring to, no Primalling is possible. The state of horror and confusion has to be addressed first, a doctor needs to be consulted, it's not something one can fix alone.

      First line Pain in everyday life makes life hard, to say the least. I believe this is a common and widely overlooked problem. Primal Therapy is about removing small chips of Pain from a big chunk of
      Pain, not being crushed under it.

    4. Erik & Art!

      It seems as if the critical window is activated at different moods and thereby to different events or not at all!

      In everyday life it is visible when I least expect it... and I react to it for what I can catch up. I have learned something by paying attention to this phenomenon. The more I perceive it... the more familiar I get to it... and the more I can take care of it! It may start by being ashamed... hate... missing... or when I experience my self insulted. I know of letting go of my questions at this time... the time the critical window is most visible for experience... it is brittle experiences.

      In the evening... when I lie on my bed so I can experience how the room begins to remind of lonely moments in life. My room reminds me about the room there and then. I recognize my self through my history as I experiencing. This may occur even on days when I am alone and lean back.

      It can also open memories to the more traumatic experiences!

      When I was eleven years so I underwent an operation for appendicitis! This is something that repeat it self... an recurring panic which I do not know where it going. The panic I experience gets my heart rate up dramatically and I lose touch with what is happening. That is probably what it is all about a panic of death that I have to get used to!

      I had a gas mask placed over my mouth and nose on which they dripped ether... I should count 1.2.3. etc as long as I could... it for me not to be aware of what they did... and I "died" for a time? The first and last thing I feel of this is an incredible panic!

      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.