Thursday, August 11, 2016

On the Difference between Abreaction and Feeling (Part 6/15)

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.


  1. Art,

    I understand and appreciate that this and many other things regarding Primal Therapy and its do's and don't's have to be repeated again and again. One would think that after reading a few of your first books, things would be quite clear to most interested readers, as it is already in the '70s made obvious how Primal Therapy works.

    But no, people want quick fixes, shortcuts, get rid of Pain by getting around it, make money by putting up a sign "Primal Therapy available here", and so on.

    Then there's another aspect:
    NEW READERS! Just like in any kind of education, there are new students every year. For someone who has followed your teachings since the '70s, it has felt now and then as unnecessary repetition, but of course it is not!

    New generations must be given the opportunity to study, learn and understand what Primal Therapy is, and at the same time new findings must be made available to the public.

    It seems that twelve books, among other public appearances, over 50 years, one every four years, is a great, but most of all, necessary work you have done. I read today with the same interest as 40 years ago, and looking forward more. Thank you.


    1. Well Erik, Thanks again for your letter. And you are quite clear about all this. art

  2. If no emotional connections carefully are made to the cause about our anxiety or depression then we have nothing to lean on more than the anxiety itself is its reality. Then I am a victim of my emotional limitations and anxiety become my everyday!

    This I think is the major problem around emotions role.. it for the possibility of recovery. So... to get hold of the child's importance in us... in our everyday struggle against it... it is the most decisive factor for the opportunity to move forward in our therapy.

    We are a child in so many of our behaviors so it is not difficult in that sentence... but to admit it is. This is what we struggle with throughout our lives if we do not take note of what the primal therapy tells of.

    My point is that there are always risks that we get stuck in our anxiety for not listening to the child in us.



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.