Saturday, January 17, 2009

On Resonance and Pain

There is an experiment where a subject in pain was given suggestions that he was no longer in pain, and he wasn't. But when given naloxone, which chemically undoes repression, the pain returned. There is no mind over matter. It is more likely matter over mind. It all makes sense since there is the factor of resonance I have been discussing in all my work. That thoughts resonate down to lower physiologic levels and set off commensurate biologic processes that quell the pain that the person is suffering from. To think otherwise is to imagine that thoughts exist in space with no physiologic counterparts, not the facts. Isn't it incredible that we have pain and pain sets up the very thoughts that then trigger off pain killers in our brain? Then we can think different thoughts: oh boy! This therapy works. Don’t forget, resonance is a two way street; if only the cognitive/insight therapists understood that and stopped treating thoughts as viable, discrete independent entities that can be changed willy-nilly.

Thoughts and beliefs are the final station of a process that can begin deep in the brain, very remote in history (personal and ancient), wending its way upward and forward until feelings meet with their counterpart. In a way, then, we do every day what we do in sleep: we revisit our ancient phylogenetic past and also our ontogenetic past and then move forward in time to the present. We are clearly evolutionary creatures; creatures of needs, especially those that were not fulfilled. In our therapy when we have a very disturbed patient we may use tranquilizers for a time to block the deepest aspect of an imprint, thereby allowing the person to focus on the present and perhaps childhood. The medicine is not in lieu of therapy; it is to treat memory, a memory that cannot remain in its proper setting in storage.

When a person’s defenses are weak due to compounded lack of love throughout childhood, the past inserts itself prematurely into the present; there we find serious mental illness. That past can warp how we think and perceive, not because we have adopted “unwholesome ideas,” but because those thoughts are the result of a lifetime of experience. So it isn’t that two people just politely disagree; it is that two people see the world in very different terms. And they are very different individuals.

So how do we block the pain? In many ways; we block the thoughts about it, we block the feelings and also the force of it. We drug different aspects of brain function. When I took an MRI I taught the technician to bang on my feet at irregular intervals so that I could not organize a coherent thought about my fear/anxiety. It worked. I was so focused on anticipating the bang that I could not concentrate on fear. The fear was still there; only it never became a coherent force.

Let me put this together again: There is a resonance factor where all aspects of a memory are involved. I assume that it may be due to the same frequency oscillations, and perhaps not. Aside from that assumption the resonance is absolute; having seen it several thousand times in many hundreds of patient over many decades. We see it in veteran patients who have deep access; when a patient comes in complaining that he is not getting anywhere in therapy and she wants to quit. We only discuss this cursorily, helping her into feelings where she feels so stuck in her early home life, and then perhaps months later, she begins a birth sequence where we can see that she is indeed stuck and not getting anywhere. We see her writhing and squirming and grunting (never expressing verbally) that she cannot make it out into life. It has a powerful valence. As we dip into her history the tail of the feeling grapples with an earlier counterpart to the feeling. And then she relives being stuck, over and over again. It was a life-and-death feeling that she gets born and breathes. It is again life-and-death when she has a problem in her life because the force of that memory rises radically to disturb her functioning. Something in the present resonates with her history, and then she becomes a prisoner of that history; a prisoner of pain.


  1. You say that neurosis makes people see the world in different ways. I think that's a very powerful thing for people to come to realise in general - especially social workers. It explains so much about why people so often seem so irrationally self-distructive. People really do see different worlds through the prism of their idiosyncratic neurosis, and you can't expect people to change their behaviour out of context to the world that they cannot help but see. I know that only primal therapy can possibly change us on that level.

  2. "That thoughts resonate down to lower physiologic levels and set off commensurate biologic processes that quell the pain that the person is suffering from. "

    So, then there must be thoughts that resonate in such a way, that touch a person deeply inside, allowing them an honest expression of what they are feeling...?

  3. So you're right. The only problems is that gating keeps access to a minimum. We in Primal Therapy enlarge that access in a slow methodical way until real cerebral access is achieved. dr. janov

  4. Fear must be the only response that is possible in only the first mind of your text... what can we do Art?

  5. Frank your question is too cryptic to be answered. In brief, I don't understand what you mean. Is English your native language? dr. janov

  6. I've been in really bad feelings for a month or two - lots of triggers over
    the holidays and my birthday, and esp. when my former girlfriend told me last
    week that she was "serious" about someone else. I've been trying to process the
    feelings whenever possible. I've been going deeper than ever, and the Pain and
    loneliness has been unbearable.

    The main realization, and I believe the central Pain of my life, has been
    the fact that I was not loved from the day that I was born. (At least by my
    mother). That was manifested in a number of ways, most significantly
    in not being held when I was screaming for her. There was no bonding, no
    attachment, nothing - and that was utterly DEVASTATING.

    Only now am I consciously feeling how alone I've always been; I certainly
    was aware of the feeling, but I didn't realize just how overwhelming that Pain
    really is. Or how feeling that intense isolation is not normal. And how crazy
    it has made me.

    I also had the insight that, whenever that feeling of rejection and
    loneliness is triggered, or that I begin to feel overwhelmed, my automatic (and
    heretofore unconscious) response was a physical one - struggling - and I turned
    everything into a struggle to survive and to try to find somebody to love. The
    feeling was that, if I just struggle hard enough, the Pain will end. Of course,
    neurotic struggle is a never-ending schema.

    But when I finished this Primal, it was like night and day and now I am
    feeling so liberated and relaxed. And peaceful. Finally.

    At least for the moment, I do not feel like a "prisoner of pain."

    I cannot thank you enough, Art.

  7. How sad it is that we are so easily triggered to over-react or under-react to the immediate circumstances. Understanding now why people behave the way they do is very helpful. My workplace is a daily "soup" of inappropriate responses that result in disharmony. Compassion, and patience, are some of the great fruits of Primal Therapy, because it truly is "Forgive them, for they know not what they do".

  8. Greetings, Dr. Janov

    How rude it is that the world has this opportunity to communicate with you, yet so few people do.

    In a world that measures progress in terms of creature comforts and entertainment value, the man who offers to show us the way to receive our appreciation of the purpose of life is being ignored. It's ironic, but given the degree of the world's disease, it's sadly appropriate.

    Isaac Newton helped lay the foundation for our "better" way of life by giving us insight into the knowability of the physical things around us. He, and some others before him, started us down the road to greater control of our external environment.

    While life has clearly become more convenient, more comfortable and certainly more entertaining, are we happier than we were when that process started? All the evidence I see says NO.

    I have read most of your books, some more than once, and the most profound statement I have ever read, period, is "Feeling gives meaning to life". The internal environment of man is unexplored, while we send orbiters to Saturn. We spend billions on learning more about outer space, and have not yet been willling to consider that there is an inner space of which most people are completely unconscious.

    I guess the big question now is, how do we turn this ship around? How do we now turn attention to the things that matter?

  9. Steve, thanks for your kind letter. I write the books and then I leave it to others to spread the word. I just don't know how to do it. dr. janov

  10. It is matter over mind.

    Intuitively, all my life I protected my head more than any other part of my body. I couldn’t wear hats or decorative hair bands. I couldn’t run more than 50 meters with out collapsing breathless. I couldn’t look up without getting numb. I couldn’t bend over because I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t dance a forward right turn waltz.
    It’s all in your head, my abusive parents said, - and they was partially right. In their self-righteousness and ignorance they labeled me as stupid, untalented and lazy.
    Through violence, cultural, individual ignorance, children are forced to ignore their pain, being forced into over right painful, alerting sensation and being denied listening to what their body tells them.
    At age 46 I related this painful issue to my forceps birth.

    It is not known yet, if forceps used at birth, can cause damage to the Craniosynostosis that also causes a skull malformation.
    However, at age 60 a MRI revealed the truth, Chiari I malformation. Now all symptoms I lived with are explained, but the childhood verbal abuse and labeling has done damage an MRI cannot reveal.
    Sieglinde Alexander


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.