Monday, December 29, 2008

The Dialectics of Hopelessness

I have come to believe that apart from fear and anger the primary key enduring feelings are hopelessness and helplessness. These are two ineffable feelings that are installed long before we have words for them. Yet they drive much of our adult lives; and more, they turn into their opposite, hope and help, and that then drives us. The process by which this happens is neuro-biologic. In the womb there are no behavioral options when the mother is drinking three cups of coffee or four cokes a day; nor when she is hyperexcitable. Her excited state transfers to the baby. The input to the fetus is too much. It is truly hopelessness and he is helpless. All his system can do is deal with the input. Serotonin is summoned but it is often insufficient. The fetus suffers. Then a birth with massive anesthetic that doesn’t allow the fetus to participate in his own exit leaves him with that same feeling. And then to compound it all there are parents who allow the child no freedom and no behavioral options except to obey. Of the epileptics I have seen this has all too often been the case.

So what happens to these feelings? There is a surge of serotonin/endorphins and other neuro-inhibitors that quell the pain. The feelings are dampened but as the child develops some of the energy manages to slip through. So part of the hopeless/helpless feeling traverses vertically to the prefrontal cortex, and also across the corpus callosum to the left frontal area where these painful feelings should be but are too much to acknowledge; so what happens? Hope. And where does that go? Into ideas and, above all, behavior. The hope is embedded into behavior. And it is but a thin sliver that manages to insert itself wherever the possibility of fulfillment exist. If one parent is a bit more human than the other, the hope will go to that parent. If there is no love at all, or if parents inculcate religion into the child, then the hope will go to God who will fulfill all the needs symbolically. There is still the feelings of hopelessness because the fulfillment, so-called, is symbolic.

But it is also more subtle than that. Right now we are treating an obsessive cleaner. She spends hours a day cleaning her house and it never feels right, never feels complete. She only got “love” for helping mother keep a clean house. That is where hopelessness drove the hope. It wasn’t really love, though. Her real needs were not being met—hence the hopelessness. She acted symbolically to get what looked like love. It is biologic; hopelessness drives hope in whatever avenue it takes. When basic needs are not met, it is obligatory and biologic that hopelessness sets in. It does not have to be articulated. Why does hopelessness turn into its opposite? Because hope means survival and hopelessness can be the end of life. Total utter hopelessness as a newborn or infant can mean death. Institutional children do die or else suffer from learning disorders, emotional problems, physical afflictions and do not grow physically to their normal height. Hope points the way to fulfillment of need which spells survival. It guides behavior like an unconscious radar. We are fixated on a warm teacher because there is hope of love. Or later, we are inexorably attached to a partner because of the hope. When someone dashes that hope, watch out! Hope can mean survival so when that is withdrawn the person is in great danger; of the original feeling and its meaning—hopelessness. So, many of us are in a mad dash away from that feeling. Hope is the carrot that leads to “love” and salvation.

There is always the obvious hope such as belief in a deity who will love, protect and watch over us. But most of us hope is more devious. It lies in our very structure. We are alienated and reserved because hope means not causing any trouble nor risking any disapproval. So our hope lies not so much in getting love but in avoiding criticism or disapproval. Or there are those who continually in hope by being kind, generous, meek, undemanding and accommodating. Their personality structure is wound around personality and says with every breath, “love me.” Literally, we are the embodiment of hope. One thing we must do in therapy is help the patient feel what exists in every fiber of her being; get her to first feel the hopelessness by going to the original basic need and hope. Remember, it is lack of fulfillment of need that spells hopelessness. An aside: I believe that it is deep repression of that hopelessness, established very early, that is behind so many serious diseases later on. It is not that hopelessness leads to depression and cancer, as some of the literature has it; it is that repression of it can be fatal.


  1. Dear Dr. Janov,
    Your comments, insights and accumulated wisdom ring true with me. You raise many important issues. I agree that hope replaces hopelessness. But I think feelings go deeper than hoplessness. Deeper than that are fear and loneliness, both of which spark hopelessness. I also believe that childhood helplessness (which we feel when we are neither loved nor able to defend ourselves) is one of the most threatening feelings. Helplessness is where, I believe, the fear comes from. Humans have a strong drive toward independence and a very strong natural desire for freedom that when impeded, is devastating to a sense of control and empowerment. This can lead to terror for a child because he feels his very survival is threatened. Children also feel disconnected from unloving parents. This is another source of terror because they learn, by the inappropriate responses of their parents, that they cannot depend on their parents. They know they can't take care of themselves. This disconnect from the parents also causes an unbearable loneliness, which also threatens the child's survival. I believe it is this terror and loneliness that we "are in a mad dash away from." It is this desperate avoidance of the deep loneliness(and associated sadness) and the terror, of not being able to survive or stay safe, that drives our symbolic hopes. These symbols of hope, shaped by our experiences, are so varied and seemingly disconnected from the original fear and sadness, that we become confused. This is where I think your blog about "The Dialectics of Hopelessness," and "Original conflict: The Biologic Motor That Drives Us" are linked. The powerful avoidance of the deeper painful feelings creates symbolically driven behaviors that become addictions. The very hope that these symbolic thoughts and behaviors generate are down right habit-forming and we don't want to give them up! We get a rush from the hope! These fixes are intoxicating because the hope supplants our misery. Acting out on this level, which most everyone does (therapists included), requires one to distance themselves from their conscious mind else it receives messages from the deeper reality we are avoiding. This detachment from reality and disengagement of consciousness makes it so difficult for us to understand what is really going on with us or that there is anything deeper happening. I think this is why everyone, including professionals in the field of therapy, have such a difficult time accepting that these deeply repressed feelings even exist. It is only through the process of engaging the conscious mind and uncovering what is within us that we discover something is there. We don't even know we're were being controlled by fear and loneliness. We couldn't see or feel these feelings because we were running from them. We blind ourselves to the connection between these repressed feelings and their influence on our thoughts and behavior. But when we make a conscious effort to trace our thoughts and behavior to the feeling(s) driving them, we discover a painful reality we didn't even know existed. By exposing these symbolic hopes for what they are, we admit to ourselves that we are sad or lonely or scared and we reclaim a little of ourselves. Bit-by-bit, each time we open up to ourselves, more of the mysterious puzzle that is us is revealed to us. The only way there will be any consensus in the field of psychotherapy is if each therapist personally experiences the process of uncovering these painful feelings deep within themselves. They can only learn, through the experience of this process of discovering their real selves, that their feelings are masked by their own hopes and act-outs. That they are running from themselves. This is not likely to happen as it is a time consuming process involving many stages. It requires honesty, courage, persistence and trust in the process(long before you reap the benefits.) You have to commit to a process of systematically and tirelessly stopping yourself from the momentary fix and facing that you feel unloved/unloveable, lonely, sad, or scared. You will keep returning to symbolic addictive behaviors, disengage from your conscious mind but you will have to work vigilantly to stop lying to yourself, face what you're running from and feel it. You may cry over and over again, as you let go of the hope and mourn the loss of love and protection. This can go on for years. Who wants to feel bad all the time? In this quick fix world, who wants to put in the work now, for long term benefits? It could be years before you reap any real benefits. It may take many years to achieve a clear and simple understanding of ourselves, peace of mind, independence and freedom which are the rewards for our hard work. It may take years for us to grasp the reality that we are no longer truly helpless children in danger of dying of loneliness and neglect. In the meantime, the feelings can be intense, and frightening. You may feel much less in control and much more vulnerable than you are in reality. I have not met many people who are willing to make that commitment. Additionally, rampant consumerism and materialism undermine everything needed to move forward in our understanding in the field of psychology and mental health-it weakens human values, commitment to hard work and discipline etc. It sparks peoples greed,fear and insecurity, sense of entitlement, impatience and impulses to indulge themselves. I think we have a long way to go before there is any widely accepted understanding of the confusing, yet simple machinations of neurosis.

  2. I am curious Stephanie. Are you a shrink? Anyway, another absolutely brilliant letter. I think my role is agent provocateur, simply stimulating all the smart people to engage. I really don't think you can get to deep feelings on your own. I have been doing it for forty years and people get stuck and need professional (primal) help. Defenses don't usually allow deep penetration. I think professionals who spent years in school drumming out of their feelings can no longer traverse the feeling bridge and make feeling sense of their ideas. It is a big task. I need your help to figure out how to do it. dr. janov

  3. Well, thank you Dr. Janov...but no, I'm not a therapist. Just a reformed
    neurotic. I started Primal therapy in 1987, 21 years ago, at the Institute. I have not been in therapy for several years, but at some point therapy just became the process of growing up with the complication of removing blocks that had been placed in my normal developmental path. So, since leaving therapy, I have continued working on growing up and taking responsibility for myself. I absolutely agree-getting to repressed feelings cannot be done alone. First of all, it's too tempting to avoid the feelings when we're alone. Also, who wants to feel hurt all alone? We have to believe, at least, that someone cares that we were hurt. Plus, we need direction. I was fortunate to have the help of a couple of mature, wise and trustworthy people. In order to make myself worthy of their help I worked very hard on myself to change so their efforts were not wasted, which was also a way of making sure that I continued to get the help that I needed, and to make sure that I was respectful, grateful for the help I was getting, and that I could be trusted. I really wanted to get well. I really wanted to grow up. I had a vision of the kind of person I wanted to be. My heroes were brave people with grace and dignity like Ghandhi, Martin Luther King; in movies I looked up to characters like Spartacus, Cool Hand Luke, Mark Thackeray (in "To Sir With Love"), Atticus Finch in "To Kill A Mockingbird." People, real or fictional, whose values, courage and self respect I admired. I would try to model myself after them. I wanted dignity, self respect, courage and freedom for myself. These things have to be earned. It's still along road if I am ever to achieve the dignity and grace I seek, but it's a goal I will never stop working toward. But I couldn't imagine living any other way- I had suffered so many indignities during my youth. I would rather have died than continue to live that way but instead, I decided to fight for a different life. How do you do it? First, you have to want it. You have to want it so badly that you feel passionate about it. Otherwise, you won't persist, especially early in therapy, when progress seems non existent. And there's so much to learn. A neurotic has to overcome the fear of change in order to embrace learning and succeed at therapy. Learning and growing require change and flexibility. Neither come naturally to neurotics. Neither is easy to achieve after a life of instability. As neurotics we are inflexible - we cling to what's familiar and we resist change because we have had little, if any, real security and safety. Change scares us. With persistence a person can learn to trust change. When we witness ourselves over and over managing to adapt to, and survive letting go of an idea, letting in new ideas, releasing fantasies, material comforts, obsessions or whatever we cling to to help ourselves feel as though we have some control over our lives and that we are safe, learning, changing and growing can start to be trusted. Ultimately too, we must face and accept that nobody owes us anything, that we are not entitled to anything and that we are responsible for ourselves; we are ultimately alone. But that we can get help and that we can survive being alone too. We don't need someone to take care of us. We can learn how to take care of ourselves with the help of others. We can learn to trust ourselves. To do this, we have to be able to depend on ourselves. We can't keep letting ourselves down. We have to prove to ourselves that we are worth fighting for by taking action - we may have to do things that we find hard to do like stand up for ourselves, or tell the truth, or admit to mistakes - in this way we learn that we are worth it. We have to make a commitment to ourselves to treat ourselves with respect. We have to change the way we treat others too. Over and over we have to stop ourselves when we feel bitter and angry at those around us, as though it is their job to make us happy. We have to remind ourselves repeatedly that it is our job now to find a way to make ourselves happy. Eventually, we stop feeling angry and bitter. We learn to relax, enjoy life and experience some gratitude.

    Here are some things I've learned that I would advise anyone to do:

    1. Most past pain can be accessed from present day events. Put less emphasis on the family you grew up in. It's more productive to talk about present day situations and relationships. Be honest about your reactions to people and events in the present (not necessarily to the person, at least not before you've checked your motives.) The "old" feelings will come up because they are always projected on those in the present- partners, bosses, strangers etc.
    2. If you're sad, you don't always have to figure out why. It's equally productive to just feel sad. Any necessary shifts in perspective or insights will come later. Figuring it out can be a way of stopping ourselves from feeling.
    3. It's up to you to be honest. Work on getting to know yourself so you can detect if you're being dishonest with yourself. Listen to the way you think - try not to run away from your thoughts or feelings by distracting yourself. If someone detects you're being dishonest or avoiding something, and points it out, have the courage to admit it. It will help you. It's like taking bitter medicine - it tastes bad but ultimately, it will help you get better. Honesty takes such vigilance. I've experienced areas that for years I was dishonest with myself about and didn't know it. Sometimes, it's very convenient to lie to ourselves. You have to keep at it. If your goal is to get better, hiding from the truth hurts you, or at the very least, delays the inevitable.
    4. The best method of making an honest connection with yourself is to be truly vulnerable, ie., emotionally open and honest. For example, if you're in a session and you're recalling that your parents beat you, instead of talking about the beating and about how angry you are, talk about what you wanted from them - kindness, maybe. How do you picture that kindness? Maybe you see someone holding you. It doesn't have to be them. It doesn't have to be a person. It can just be the idea of being held. You'll probably feel sad. Just relax and accept it. I discovered at some point that it was more productive to soften and ask myself, what do/did I want from this person, or what did I hope to get from this situation?
    5. Anger and fear are too often defenses. If you're not feeling sad (openly and genuinely - not to evoke pity or sympathy in your listener), you're probably defending. If you're new to therapy, you will need time to get to know your therapist before you can open up. It's hard to open up to someone you either don't know, or haven't learned to trust. This is important for a new patient to understand because it's not likely that a new patient has healthy boundaries, and therefore may feel under constant pressure to perform and reveal things about themselves, whether or not they feel comfortable. A new patient may not feel they have the right to take time to develop trust.
    6. I believe the core feeling for every painful childhood experience is sadness. Even fear results from a failure of a parent to protect, which hurts because the parents didn't care enough to protect us. I think dwelling on anger or fear helps us defend. Everything that happened, hurt us emotionally, even if the pain inflicted was physical. Even sexual and severe physical abuse hurts terribly emotionally in a way that makes one deeply sad - it's just that this degree of uncaring is so harmful to a person's trust, that it's very difficult to believe anyone would even care about how much it hurt to be treated that way.
    7. If what I say is true, then trust of the therapist is essential to the success of therapy, however the patient must also be sure to work on their own ability to handle the pain. If they underestimate their ability to tolerate/handle pain, then, nobody will seem trustworthy enough to open up to. If the patient indulges in a feeling of self pity, then they are not taking their share of the responsibility (or doing their share of the work) for getting well, and therefore they cannot be trusted. Again - it takes honesty to discern when you're slacking off or truly are doing your best but just can't open up.
    8. Find the kernel of truth in everything. Just because something someone says is hard to hear or it hurts, doesn't mean they can't be trusted. Often, those who are honest with us are the most worthy of our trust because it takes courage to be honest when you're giving someone bad news. You should be suspicious of a friend or mentor who offers no constructive criticism. On the other hand, the critical person could be someone who cannot be trusted enough to let into your life, but even a person whose motives are not pure, can be utilized, if what they say is the truth. You don't have to be their friend, but you can use what they say to better yourself. In the movie, "To Sir With Love," one teacher asks another teacher (who doesn't believe he can learn from his students): "Does it matter who we learn from. So long as we learn?" You'll just have to trust yourself to decide whether you're hearing the truth and whether you can use it to help yourself-but be honest. If you can't decide, ask someone you trust what they think.
    9. Be resourceful. There's a lot to learn and a lot of work to be done. Use every opportunity to learn something about yourself that may put you a little further ahead. Almost every situation is an opportunity to discover something we are hiding from ourselves. Rather than act-out, try to understand what is driving the act-out and resolve the feeling. For example, if you're pissed off because a salesclerk seems to be ignoring you, maybe the truth is you're feeling lonely and you want to be noticed. So, before you lambaste the clerk, admit that you feel lonely. This realization may help you get in touch with some sadness. It may take years to accept what you're feeling without self reproach. Other ways to be resourceful are to read, watch movies or expose yourself to new ideas and perspectives.
    10. Here's a tough one: due to our neurotic upbringings, we have become jerks. We can be selfish, self centered, greedy, jealous, needy, self pitying, disloyal, demanding, controlling, cowardly, irrational, and disrespectful to name just a few character flaws. We don't know how to be social. We step over other people's boundaries; we allow others to step over our boundaries because we are so needy. It's not enough to just go through therapy. To get well (and to respect yourself) it's important to learn how to be social. We don't need to blame ourselves for these short comings, but we must take responsibility for them. I think it's important to recognize that it's not possible to be neurotic and be a social person; that it's inevitable that we will have the kinds of defects of character that deprivation and abuse cause. We can learn to become better people through honest self evaluation and by observing people whose behavior we admire. We can read relevant books or watch inspiring movies or whatever, but we have to work on becoming better and more social people. It takes lots of practice and 1000's of insights, errors and corrections to learn how to be social. In the meantime you will be working out the feelings that undermine our humane selves. There will be many embarrassing and awkward moments to endure on the road to improving the way we behave.

    When I came to therapy, I believed there was only one reality. A kind of universal reality that everyone shared. Looking back, I realize that I was very scared and lonely - that idea helped me feel that I was in control that I wasn't alone. It helped me feel safer. What I have learned is that there are as many realities, or perspectives as there are people. But there are facts and we have to learn to respect facts if we are to become mentally healthy. We can't pretend that something is what it's not if we are to be mentally sound. Facts are challenging for neurotics. It's fantasies that got us this far. Fantasies give us hope. We create an imaginary world in our heads. The world as we want it to be - not as it is. This deludes us into thinking we are going to get what we want and that we are safe because we have contol. We head home from work, for example, and without even knowing it we are creating a fantasy about receiving a warm reception from our husband because that's what we want. When we find him in a bad mood, we are disappointed. We may even start an argument. But what right have we to expect our husband to give us what we want, or to expect the world to conform to our wishes? Fantasies wreak havoc in our lives. In this example, we are not allowing our husband to be who he is, which is an unloving thing to do. The illusion that we can have what we want is perpetrated by fantasies. When the fantasy doesn't work out it scares us because we have no real control - then we lash-out at the world or at others. It's important to practice becoming aware of our fantasies, letting go of them gradually and trusting that we can deal with life's facts. Accepting facts gives us real stability.

  4. Stephanie. A lot of what you say is right on; the rest I think is booga booga. But that is quibling with someone who is very bright and has a lot of excellent ideas. Check my book "Biology of Love" to see where I might disagree. First you need to be angry, then you feel what you need. Do not bypass evolution and imprinted reality; that does not help. Most pain cannot be accessed. You need help. Our therapy has changed radically in the last 5 years. We are light years ahead of where we used to be. It now takes at least six years for out therapists to master the techniques and theory. A lot of what you say is exhortation and moralism, not my cup of tea. What you say too often is, "get over it" and think good thoughts. That is bullshit cognitive therapy, the scourge of modern day therapy. Anyway, what do you do? You are so bright. You need just a scintilla of tweaking and you are there. I know that sounds arrogant but I have doing this for 57 years. I figured out a few things, and new neurology helps a lot. good luck dr. janov

  5. Dr. Janov, I don't think we're are saying different things with regard to anger/need. Yes, anger would be the first feeling but an experienced patient can identify the anger quickly and cut to the chase. Very little anger, in my opinion, is transformative. I disagree with your perception of some of what Im saying. I am not saying that people should "get over it." Nor am I saying "think good thoughts." I'm just saying there's another side to life - reality - the life where we work, have families, friends etc. I have observed many patients in primal therapy become so immersed in the past that, like anything else, the past becomes a refuge. With that, they neglect other important aspects of their lives, like learning the necessary skills to become social beings and function in society. Just because primal therapy is a "feeling" therapy and the brain develops from the lower/inner layers outward, with feelings residing on the lower levels, doesn't mean that that part of the brain is all that matters. Shouldn't the goal be to improve the channels of communication between the limbic system and the frontal cortex for a healthier more balanced and integrated brain? Wouldn't a more holistic approach be healthier for a human being? I don't think that approaching things only from the deep feeling brain creates healthy balance. Sometimes you have to work from the conscious, rational brain. Don't we need to exercise our conscious minds? After all, they've had little exercise after years of being put to sleep in service of the unconscious. Maybe you believe that feeling resolves all aspects of neurosis - I do not. I think using the rational brain wisely is critical to improving behavior. And yes, I think many patients in primal therapy, are antisocial and immature. I believe that the are responsible for their behavior and they owe this to themselves. These are my opinions, based on my own experiences and my observations of others. I posted them for anyone who may benefit. Nobody is obligated to read my comments, to listen to or act on what I say. People are free to do as they please. I don't think I am moralizing. I'm just talking about being social and responsible. I'm talking about life beyond the walls of Primal clinics, between sessions, and life beyond Primal Therapy. Life isn't just about feeling. There are practical issues to consider too that are equally important to our well being and which are sorely neglected in Primal Therapy. For you, Primal Therapy and Primal Theory has a different meaning than for your patients. You're conducting a systematic investigation of a not-so-well accepted or understood psychological theory. Patient's aren't lab rats whose brains should be excavated to their core. A patient's goal is to feel better and get along in the world. What's the point of Primal Therapy if, after siphoning-off enough shitty feeling from the past, you don't join the human race and make way for contentment?

  6. Stephanie. As usual a brilliant discourse. Of course I disagree for two reasons. 1. Neurology dictates that the so-called conscious mind is largely useless to dissuade neurosis. 2. Our experience is that so many people cannot use that mind because pain is constantly intruding. you can but most cannot. Un peu de misericorde, s'il te plait. You cannot improve communication between lower and higher brain structures when repression prevents it. I hate to talk rank but I have seen this now several thousand times and I have seen nothing to change my mind; believe me I have no stake in all this. I change according to new information. I don't know where you got our therapy or where you saw it but it does not resemble anything we do. We are very different from the therapy even five years ago. I too rechigne when people make therapy their raison d'etre, and we always try to stop it. I will answer more on this in the future. You are very smart. I love your writing. By the way, are you a professional writer? dr. janov

  7. This is all a bit long-winded for me. I'm getting confused by the definition of conscious mind and rational mind bla bla bla.

    The way I see it is like this...during a primal the unconscious mind becomes conscious, right?? All parts of the brain start talking to each other right? So we don't need to be all hung up about the difference between conscious, unconscious, rational, irrational, sociable, unsociable behaviour, life after therapy etc.....

    I prefer to keep it simple. My reptile brain, emotional brain, and rational brain all need to stop hiding from each other. When that happens, I'll be able to feel what I need and do what I want, without confusion and feeling mixed up and anxious (currently I do).

    S. Dobbs, I like your writing too, but do you think it would help to take a step back and take a 'dumber' view like mine, and then plunge in to the details again from a new perspective?

  8. Stephanie. where are you. You really should come and talk to my staff and give them your perspective. dr. janov What do you do for a living? It has got to be professional.

  9. Dear Dr. Janov,
    thank you for this generous offer. I have enjoyed expressing some of my ideas and I appreciate your feedback, but coming to the Primal Center wouldn't be the right thing for me.
    Before I sign-off I want to clarify some of my earlier comments. When I speak of the conscious mind (the part or the mind we can control) and what it can do with regard to revealing underlying pain, I guess what I'm talking about is training it to recognize that, or when pain is intruding. The vigilance I speak of, is working to prevent it from dozing-off, which it readily does with years of experience at subduing pain. I have had luck with becoming familiar with when pain is intruding, what kind of ideation I produce to smother pain, how those thoughts make me feel, and how I tend to act-out when I am trying to escape pain. I don't think there's any mystery to this - it's just a lot of work to balance everyday responsibilities with this kind of internal work, which is like a second job. I think the process of pursuing pain can be facilitated with the conscious mind, but you have to be able to outwit the duplicitous alliance between the unconscious and the conscious to defend against, and conceal the pain. This ability is not something a therapist can teach or even inspire in a patient. This is what I mean about honesty and commitment - I think that's what it takes (being honest with yourself and being very committed to therapy.)

  10. Stephanie. If you are near Santa Monica, Calif. you may wan to discuss your ideas on a training/student night. dr. janov

  11. Stephanie (I hope you are still there...don't 'sign off' just yet).

    You place a lot of emphasis on the conscious, controllable mind, and how we should use it to access the unconscious mind.

    Let me tell you about an experience I had (I love talking about myself in this blog....I know I am acting out...but whatever):

    I was lying outside in the grass in an open area. Lying on my back is often a bad trigger for me (I get night terrors if I fall asleep on my back). I was looking up at the sky - another makes me feel like I have nothing to hang on to.
    As I was doing this I knew I was being dangerous to myself. I felt the anxiety rising. For a tiny moment I wanted to imagine what it would be like to be sucked up into the sky, feet-first, with nothing to hold onto.
    That whole idea is a spine-chiller for me.

    I didn't mean to imagine it for more than a quick moment...but BAM!!! The feeling accelerated inside me and I instantly tried to stop it by distacting myself with something...another thought....look at something else...whatever. As I tried I realised that I COULDN'T stop the feeling. I had let the feeling grow too much and now the feeling was the boss and it exploded like a freight train bigger and bigger and I was powerless to stop it.
    Then the feeling stopped THANKFULLY. It stopped with a big jerking sensation in my stomach. But I didn't stop the feeling consciously. It's like my stomach had a mind of it's own, and it saved me. I never would have thought to clench my stomach muscles.
    The rushing feeling of terror was gone, but my heart started pounding hard and slow, and then faster. Each heart beat felt unhealthy....beating way too hard. I went for a walk and everything returned to normal.

    So I thought I would just add this story to show you how your argument for being vigilant with the conscious mind doesn't really apply in this case.

    My conscious mind became USELESS.

    I don't know what tricks Arthur Janov has to stop the knee-jerk reaction in my stomach, but whatever I need to do to get past that defence, I doubt it will be done through conscious or intellectual vigilance.

    by the way, I wasn't high or drunk or anything like that. I have very rarely been high or drunk in my lifetime. I talked about a time when I was high in a different post.

    These posts are making me look like a nutter! lol. I am actually very sane.

  12. Hey did you finish the breech birth event, or did you stop in the middle so that the panic will come back again. aha! you need to go all the way, for that you need a professional.

  13. Hi Dr. Janov,
    The terror didn't last more than a few seconds. Just the tip of the iceberg. Just a taste of things to come. I have no intention of experimenting again without proper therapy, and I don't play games like that anymore.

    Wasn't a breech birth. However, my mother told me I was a very fast delivery. From the first contractions to the time I popped out, it was all less than an hour. I came out with a huge woosh, my mum says, and it hurt her a lot (I was big and slightly overdue).
    As soon as I came out, she says the doctors whisked me away and kept me isolated from her "as much as possible" for the first three days because she had an infection. I never got placed on her chest and they didn't even let her have a look at me. I was given to her for feeding at some stages during the first few days, but she couldn't produce much milk.

    So I guess any number of things could have traumatised me, and I won't know for sure until I'm dealing with it at YOUR Primal Center. You don't need to keep reminding me about mock therapy. I have read books that are full of clever answers that have been manufactured to fit the puzzle. Those answers have loose ends hanging from them and never truely make sense, and I can't relate to them from my own experiences.
    I can relate to your therapy, so I'll be there when I have saved enough money.

    Thanks for listening.

    Gotta spend more time working now, and less time on this blog!

    - Richard

  14. Dr Janov- I am not sure you realize that, but the commenter called Stephanie went to the "Primal Institute" starting in 1987. I started there in 1989 - and, as I discovered when I came to your center in 2003 - what they do at the "Primal Institute" has very little to do with Primal therapy. Your stating that Primal therapy has changed radically in the last 5 years applies in double here - as you go deeper and deeper, the "Primal Institute" has reverted to talk therapy, CBT and the 50-minute hour. However I really admire your sensible way of offering her to come around and meet.

    Yves Parent - San Francisco CA

  15. Yves: Because of neurology and general science, mostly quoted in my next book, we have made great strides in this therapy. It behooves anyone claiming to practice Primal Therapy to be aware of all this. art janov

  16. How can I get in touch with Stephanie? I have a question for her.


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.