Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oxytocin (Part 2/5)

Oxytocin is found only in mammals. When it is high, one experiences a sense of relaxation, rest, and growth, repair and healing, loving behavior and emotional-attachment. Love and nurturing early in our lives are necessary for optimum health, and healthy brain development cannot take place without it. It isn’t just that low oxytocin levels are an indicator of early neglect and lack of touching, it also indicates a dysfunction of the entire system, and serves as a prognosticator of our later mental and physical health. Its presence says, "I was loved and could develop normally,” its lack says, “I was unloved and my system is skewed.” That is what I mean by “marker.”

In the same way that we may increase sexual drive in males with testosterone injections, it may well be that we can "inject love" into people, or at least inject a hormone that encourages it – give people a shot of love, so to speak. This shot may help us attach to others and bond with partners, allows us to feel close to someone else, to feel and empathize with their feelings and pain. Bonding is a strong emotional attachment that helps us want to be with one another, to help and protect one another, and to touch and become sexual with one another. High levels of oxytocin encourage and strengthen bonding. Because early trauma and lack of love affect the output of this hormone, the ability to relate and have good sex later is determined even before birth and just after.

Someone can swear she is full of love, only to find herself very low in the essential hormone of love – oxytocin. It is actually good news that "less love" has a physical base, for there may be something we can do chemically to alter that state, and there is certainly something we can do psychologically to change it, as well. At sometime in the future we may be able to determine what proper love from a parent to a child is through the measurements of various hormones.

It has been proven that early parental love is a permanent painkiller. Rats who were able to self-administer painkillers by pressing a lever did not do so when given oxytocin. Oxytocin (OT) inhibits the development of a tolerance to drugs such as morphine, and also decreases the painful withdrawal symptoms that occur when one is taken off these drugs. The degree of addiction can be measured by the severity of one’s withdrawal, yet oxytocin reduces the severity of these symptoms. Love will do the same thing, but early love calibrates the system for life. A current shot of love, such as someone hugging and kissing us, may well change the levels temporarily. If we rub the belly of an animal the oxytocin levels will rise immediately, but once the initial critical period of the system’s development has passed, every change we can effect will be transient. Once we arrive at adulthood, oxytocin levels are fairly set. One can be given a shot of it, but it will not have a permanent effect, for once low levels of oxytocin or high levels of stress hormones are registered early in life, it is difficult to re-establish normal set points. After the critical period to receive love is over, the only way to normalize the system is to neuro-chemically relive the early events that dislocated the set points. We must feel again "unloved" in all its agony if we are to ever have any chance at normalization; and that agony has numerous biochemical components, which are measurable. Remember again, the effect of resonance. Feeling pain in the present can trigger off related pain going all the way back to the womb. That early pain can join the current feeling and become absorbed into the system, eventually leading to connection and resolution. What that does is lift the repressive gates and allow feeling to flow throughout the system.

Another key neuro-hormone, dopamine, helps maintain an optimum level of brain stimulation. Like oxytocin, very early experience can alter this hormone’s set-points. For example, a pregnant woman who takes tranquilizers can block dopamine output in her fetus. Later in life, the need for a stimulant such as cocaine occurs when dopamine levels are chronically exhausted; cocaine artificially increases dopamine in the synapses between brain nerve cells. One may get hooked on cocaine in order to feel more aggressive and outgoing, to experience more pleasure and fun in life; it can transiently produce greater self-confidence and an ability to confront others.

Dopamine also kills pain, in the sense that it is a feel-good hormone. This is all what would have happened if one had a healthy gestation and a warm loving early childhood – then it would be unthinkable for anyone to get hooked on cocaine. Cocaine can temporarily make up for the lack of love, but it cannot last. Cocaine has an effect only when early love is missing; it takes some of the fear out of the system and produces a "can do" attitude. Ah, but that’s exactly what mother’s love would have done! Why does one develop an addiction, then? Because one has to go back to the drug again and again in order to produce the good feeling. We are addicted to need, and then addicted to drugs that fill that need even symbolically. We have transformed the originally unfulfilled need into the “need for.” And when we seek fulfillment in the symbolic need (sex or drugs or gambling) guess what happens—dopamine increases.

There are many kinds of hormones that play into love and sex; I am extracting these for discussion and to show how early experience affects adult behavior. Many years ago we studied testosterone in our male patients. We also classified those who were low on testosterone as parasympaths – those dominated by the passive, reflective, healing nervous system. Those, who were high in testosterone, tended to be sympaths, meaning they were more aggressive, goal seeking, optimistic and ambitious (looking ahead, an analogue of the birth process). After one year of Primal Therapy, those who were low on testosterone tended to rise, while those who were very high tended to come down a bit; in brief, their systems would normalize.

When it comes to love, however, oxytocin is by far the most important hormone. The question we now face is what came first: lowered oxytocin and then the inability to love and to bond, or the lack of early love, which lowered the set points of oxytocin? I would choose the latter. Because hormones are so sensitive to early trauma, we must take care not to blame high or low levels to genetic factors. We must never forget the critical nine months of life in the womb.


  1. Thank you for continuing this topic. I find as I do my own emotional work that this premise is very true. After the critical period for early nurture and development if needs are not meet the only way to heal and stabilize the system is to reconnect to the original pain and experience it to completion.

    This information is so important for people to get and begin applying in their lives because it really does make a difference.

    Thank you for your work Dr. Janov.

  2. Dr. Janov,

    It's interesting that you speak of "injecting love" into people by injecting oxytocin. That, in effect, is exactly what should be happening to the fetus slightly before and during the birth process (Tyzio, et al), provided the maternal oxytocin source is adequate. As a result, the fetus should be naturally sedated during the stressful period of birth, and through this sedation also protected somewhat from the effects of low oxygen. I thought this study would be particularly interesting to you because of the link between oxytocin and anoxia at birth. I've summarized it below.

    In adults, the neurotransmitter GABA is inhibitory, but in fetuses it has an excitatory function that is key to the growth and development of the fetal brain. In the fetal brain, GABA signalling is opposite to that in the adult brain because of the presence of extra chloride ions in the space between neurons. Slightly before and during birth, a large amount of oxytocin ("love") enters the fetal system and inverts the direction of GABA signalling through its influence on intracellular chloride. Thus, GABA produced in response to birth stress instead of exciting the fetal brain, sedates it, reducing metabolic demand and conserving oxygen. There may be another protective mechanism involved as well because they observed that under artificial anoxic aglycemic conditions, the presence of oxytocin (and the reduction in chloride) significantly delays anoxic depolarization, a marker of cell death.

    It seems that when things go right, we should be transiently very passive during our birth, not fighting to get out.


    Tyzio, R., Cossart, R., Khalilov, I., Minlebaev, M., Hubner, C., Represa, A., Ben-Ari, Y., Khazipov, R. (2006). Maternal oxytocin triggers a transient tnhibitory switch in GABA signaling in the fetal brain during delivery. Science (Vol. 314. no. 5806, pp.1788-1792).


  3. The argument against love…

    David Haig’s research on the 'tug of love' between mother and child during gestation teaches that the relationship of unconditional love between mother and child is a Victorian myth – that love is not automatically given to a child but often emerges in time. Many women do not always feel love for their offspring initially. Instead, it grows through interaction with the infant. Responsive mothering is about reacting to the child’s needs and, through their satisfaction, the encouragement of positive feelings that are in turn reciprocated. Now if a mother does not do this then the child’s oxycotin level can provide a measure, as Dr Janov says, of how much he is (un)loved. But it is also, of course, an indicator of a child’s expectations of love from future relationships.

    Thinking back to Harlow’s classic experiments with wire and cloth monkeys - those most unable to love and be loved were those who experienced no warmth, rocking or milk from their surrogate metal-framed mothers. Such monkeys were unable to make attachments or breed when re-introduced to the social group. In this case would a shot of oxycotin have helped them? Possibly for a short time before pain and anxiety reasserted themselves. But it is unlikely that it would have been a feasible practice for them to be put on regular drug treatment. Also, there is the issue of whether the anxious monkeys would have known how to behave or integrate anyway – even with better (drug-induced) social inclinations. They would have found themselves part of a competitive social system that would have presented yet more adjustment challenges and pain.

    Alternatively, if the problem of being unloving is posited with the mother there may be, as Haig suggests, social and economic reasons for her to not attach with her offspring, genetic reasons (it may be genetically sub-par) or non-genetic reason (the child is not strong due to certain internal pre-natal conditions). Therefore, non-attachment (putting up for adoption, abortion) or lack of love could be seen to serve a function in itself. Maybe lack of love is not always wrong?

    Finally there are psychological implications and dangers of introducing change to a person’s love economy via drugs or therapy which can clearly have very radical implications. This is the main reason (unless I have it wrong) why Dr Janov insists (in the New Primal Scream) primal therapy is only practised by therapists he licences/ trains. A sudden love ‘injection’ would only serve to expose previous lovelessness, cause exacerbated pain if the person remains within unloving family relationships and even lead to addictions.

    If love is a product of attachment to a primary caretake (empathy and understanding being its key components) then love is the channel through which we learn to be human. If the critical windows for some of this learning do not occur within a loving context it may be possible that they won't - with our without chemical assistance.

  4. I agree that we need to be careful about artificially supplying chemicals to the system after the horses have fled. The same with Prozac, offering more serotonin to make up for what is reduced just before and at birth. It can never be as good as if we have adquate supplies originally. dr. janov. Boy is this smart. Who are you and what do you do?

  5. I think that the 1960's taught us a lot about how drugs, that are useful in some respects, can be devastating in others. Dr Janov, you have written about the dangers of LSD in as far as liberating too much primal energy with the result that the brain's gating mechanism cannot cope with the flood. As a result, perceptions and reactions become more disorganized than they were than when a neurotic defence system was in place. Neurosis can have positive advantages - for example - keeping us physically safe from harm (in as far as we have survived physically, at least up until the point of seeking drug assistance) - even if not socially satisfied, happy or fulfilled emotionally. The supplying of chemicals after the 'horses have fled' is an important issue because the human organism can be prone to lurch blindly from one desperate state to another in seeking need fulfillment. Nature has no restraint mechanism in certain key areas - a runaway tendency that can lead to meaningless competition for its own sake (decoupled from its purpose to promote the well-being of offspring), excess consumption of sugars and fats etc (the brain still thinks it lives in an age of permanent shortage) . Drugs may therefore place the subject in danger by exposing him to seek fulfillment in the wrong contexts or through inappropriate behaviours that compromise survival.
    As a student of evolutionary psychology at Helsinki University your ideas Dr Janov ideas are very important to me. Having read a good number of your books I am trying to integrate your thoughts (especially on autonomic processes) within the widening field of Evol.psychology which has the potential (if data can be found to support the many theories this relatively new discipline is spawning) to become a discipline that will lead to more inter/multi-disciplinary co-operation - something sadly lacking in my view.
    Returning to the 1960's I think a lot of the value of your work comes from the fact you came through at a revolutionary time in human social history which opened the door to enquiry on all levels. The fact you have challenged basic assumptions about what it means to be a sentient human being, tried to move away from Freudianism and an unknowable unconcious (psychological semantics) and have placed the individual at the heart of his own recovery (individual's personal or local history becomes more important than the analyst's imposed categories) are hugely beneficial leaps in this student's view.

  6. Hi Dr.Janov ,in searching for a lab to measure my oxytocin level I met an ad which promises to raise one`s oxytocin level by a nasal (sic1 Dr.Fliess is greeting...) spray .Is t h i s the answer to my prayers or my questions resp. ?!! In Germany we have a proverb "It is too nice to be true".. Yours emanuel

  7. Will,

    Quote: "A sudden love ‘injection’ would only serve to expose previous lovelessness"

    That was my thought too. Obviously we don't feel oxytocin itself, but the neurological processes that oxytocin facilitates. The natural removal of oxytocin in response to lovelessness could be part of the defense system? Maybe it helps us to keep away from our pain, and likewise maybe the artificial addition of it can help people get closer to the 'primal zone' in therapy. If so, then you would obviously need to be careful with it.

    To say, I agree that lovelessness and its effects must have a far-reaching survival/evolutionary purpose - all our systems work as they do for a reason. Other mammals just leave their offspring for dead if they don't attach to them, and likewise stop the otherwise inter-generational spread of neurosis in its tracks. As we know, nature is not afraid to be brutal to be effective.

  8. We do need to bond if we are to be complete human beings. It is not an option; it is a necessity for evolution. Dr. Janov

  9. Will: Yes yes. Doing anything artificial is just an attempt to make up for the early lack of love. Love is the best painkiller in existence, BUT love during the wide open sensory window. Afterward the window closes we are just playing catch-up. Dr. Janov I feel in Awe of those who are so smart and write such brilliant articles. Maybe I am not alone, after all.

  10. Arthur: That's how i felt when i discovered your books. They say the great books/ideas are the ones we need. Your work is right up there with the best of them.

  11. In general, I'm suspicious of artificial systems like "injecting love". But we should be open to interventions like this in support of two goals. First, the otherwise plastic human nervous system caught in an unwholesome pattern can sometimes respond to a "kick start". There are studies on the use of oxytocin in treating autism, for example. Repetitive behavior declines; social awareness increases. Moreover, the effects outlast the life of the chemical in the body. I think we should not be too afraid of administering oxytocin, not the way we should be afraid of LSD. Massage can increase oxytocin -- but only in people able to receive massage. Someone closed off to social contact and warmth, someone who would react to the prospect of a massage with revuslion (I know someone like that) might agree to a little nasal oxytocin spray. This could start a cascade of responses that helps get the person positively "attached". Without that, no go. We use all sorts of artificial aids like that. Splints and crutches for a broken limb, for example. We are uniquely endowed with the ability to "know about health". We will inevitably use what we know.

    The other case would be maintenance. I'm a mild depressive who in my early twenties discovered the normalizing effects of caffein. I was surprised the first time I felt the effects of caffein. I had had no idea that a degree of optimism like that was possible. I have used caffein regularly through my life, sometimes too much. But again, it has enabled me to develop better, more functional habits of living, habits that are there for me even in the absence of a daily shot of caffein. I daresay I could forgo it entirely at this point (but I don't).

    And, I suppose, there is a third case which is a correllary to the first -- intervention in the specific context of Primal therapy as Andy mentioned above. Getting to the "primal zone" when other tactics don't work or just take too long. Again, ingenuity is part of our genetic destination.

    Will, I think the “argument against love” is flawed, Haig notwithstanding. According to my wife, who is a mother of three, feelings of love for the baby started when she was "bumped out", that is, when the physical presence of the baby inside her became tangible. If you read what I summarized above about maternal oxytocin at birth, you will see that at a biological level, the mother is "loving" the baby through the challenging moments of birth. The fact that this biology is often impaired in civilized human mothers is not an argument against love; it's just an argument for the existence of a skewed biology, something Dr. Janov has written lots about already. The fact that later attachment can still occur even if oxytocin was inadequate at birth is testimony to our plasticity, and a reminder of the way experience re-represents through the added complexity of the higher and later brain parts. We get multiple chances to grow in to functional adults.

    The fact that mother's body and fetus compete for limited nutrients cannot be an argument against love. Looking more closely, it is an argument for love. What enables a pregnant woman's body to tolerate what is essentially a parasite growing inside her? What mediates the balance in the distribution of nutrients among this living entity that is not yet two identities? Why do the instructions for using the oxygen masks say to put yours on before attaching your child's? It's because there is a balance point for nurture that best suits the goal of survival. They need us; therefore we must care for ourselves as well as them. Intellectually, this is a difficult balance to define. Biologically, love does the trick.

    I suppose it's true that there's really no such thing as “unconditional love”, since the dynamics of mutual cooperation are conditioned upon participation on both sides. In other words, “unconditional love” in the extreme (a strictly left-brain interpretation) would mean that mothers continue to care for dead offspring. “Unconditional” is an absolute term; what's needed is a relative term to describe the difference between a mother who shares and loves because the baby “is”, versus a mother who withholds those things because giving them triggers pain whose origins are outside this particular mother-baby relationship.

    Dr. Janov, I think you are not alone, in the sense that many understand and appreciate what you have been doing since “Primal Scream”. On the other hand, you have taken a “vertical” approach to the dissemination of Primal wisdom, in that you are intolerant of partial attempts to uptake what you have offered. In your place, I would do the same, because I just can't stand to see something beautiful ruined by stupidity and greed and short-sightedness. And yes, the dangers and the responsibility they demand. However....maybe there is another way...

    Yours truly,
    Walden (

  12. one fairly quick point about needing to bond in order to be a complete human being: in Primal therapy bonding with the therapist is not encouraged, so I have read. The patient is directed towards his pain which he encounters, feels - responding to any memories triggered in the process. This reconnection with the body or nervous system is an affirmation of the patient's physicality - the reclaiming of the flesh which his social/family history has dispossessed him of(being left for dead sort of). But what happens next? If the patient is not encouraged to experience any transference towards the therapist then is he expected to simply walk out into the world and engage or bond? I suppose i'm asking Dr Janov, is what support is given to ensure the transition from non-feeling/disattachment to feeling/pro-attachment is offered within the therapy. Clearly there would be dangers for the patient if post-therapy support was not sufficient.

  13. I really enjoyed this blog quite alot. I think you that makes some very important points. I've often wondered why some drug users seem to easily give up their drugs while others get strung out for a life time. I think it my be possible to measure oxytocin levels as a way to predict the addiction potential of individuals. There are many, many significant treatment and scientific implications here.

  14. Walden, if you have another way please tell me. I have tried more than you can imagine. Written to at least 50 scientists, almost all without even a reply. Your letter is brilliant as usual. I wonder why I am doing it alone when all this intelligence is out there. dr. janov

  15. Walden,

    You say: "They need us; therefore we must care for ourselves as well as them."

    I know it's a bit off topic to say so, but that point is so true and I feel it's too often overlooked in today's society. A mother needs to be able to enjoy her baby, and if she doesn't take care of herself and her own life, and/or exposes herself to too much commitment and stress, then her ability to do give of herself to her child must be compromised. She might 'technically' cope in that she gets all the chores done and makes an independant living and leaves time for so-called 'quality time', but if she's too wound-up or unhappy then her children are going to suffer for it, regardless of what she wishes.

    Our society makes too much of a religion out of independance. We forget that we are a tribal animal and that, in my opinion at least, it is a nonsense for a mother to do it all on her own.

  16. Dr Janov. I know your therapy is bound to be fundamentally vaild. I have had a spontaneous primal myself years ago and before I was even specifically interested in psychology, and so had my mother as it happened. I wonder how often these spotaneous events happen, and how often the psychological establishment functionally pretends that they don't!

    I intend on validating the primal process conclusively when I hopefully get my own therapy soon-ish. If so, I for one intend on doing my best to effectively introduce it to others, especially the professional psychology world.

    Howeverm as it seems to me the psychology world doesn't seem to "want to know" when it comes to primal therapy - that is, they seem more interested in looking for possible reasons to invalidate it, rather than seeing what is or could be valid about it; and that rejection-by-default position looks like a lack of curiousity and/or professional fear to me. Who knows.

  17. Dr. Janov,

    In reply to your statement "if you have another way...".

    Now we're going down a dangerous path, because I love to give advice for others to follow. I won't do that here. What I will say is that years ago I studied "consulting skills" as part of a (temporary) career in changing software development organizations to adopt "healthier" individual and organizational practices. The software domain is not important; what's important is the dynamics of personal change and resistance, which you know very well as a long time practitioner of Primal therapy. I failed my mission because I could not let go of certain ideals. However, I did gain some intellectual knowledge of how it all works.

    When you put a cucumber into a barrel of brine, what happens? The cucumber gets "pickled". But that's not all. The brine also gets "cucumbered".

    As it stands, I am currently facing certain family problems involving a psychological disorder. I won't go into details in this post. I have seen firsthand the emptiness of what the current mainstream clinical psychology has to offer. I've seen it through individual counseling, IOP treatment, brief hospitalizations, family therapy, marriage counseling, psychiatric medications, neuropsychological testing...what have I left out? These "therapists" don't really even know how to listen.

    At this moment, I need to nurture someone who needs more than conventional treatment. I have a specific mission: to find out if Primal is what I believe in my heart it is. This is not a simple undertaking, because I had Primal at the Institute East back in the eighties, with only mediocre results. In other words, I have doubts about my own instinct that emotional fluency is really curative. Doubts. Fears. You understand.

    I am recently a B.S. Psychology major, Dr. Janov, because I need to "inject" myself into this realm, as I should have more than thirty years ago when I first felt the tug. The current psychology curriculum is disheartening. We encounter things in textbooks like "many researchers today think that repression occurs rarely, if at all." I can see exactly what you mean when you say the field of clinical psychology is in chaos. God!

    But that reaction is not part of a rational approach to social change. With all that's misguided in the current mainstream psychology, I also see many tangential connections to the emotional dimension. To me that represents brine that can be cucumbered...I'm going to pinch off here, but would like to continue the conversation. There are many different angles, and I would like nothing more than an opportunity to explore some of them with you and yours. I am tentatively scheduled to be at your clinic in late April to re-start my therapy. Perhaps we'll talk then, if it's not undermining.

    “Keep up the communication.”

    Much love,
    Walden (

  18. Hi Walden,
    There are lots of examples of mothers leaving their offspring to die if it doesn't 'make the grade' of first inspection e.g. Eipo women of Papua New Guinea do this(viability testing is the official name for it).
    Even the practise of baptism echoes a time when kids were dipped in freezing cold water to discover if they were hardy enough to survive the ordeal - and then and only then were they kept. (I can recommend a very good book - Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy - if anyone is interested.)
    I have no doubt your wife loved her children from the off. In modern western society a mother is expected to react this way and there is no reason why she shouldn't of course if she clearly wants the child and is able and willing to look after it . But in some cultures women (even in recent past western culture) have exercised the right to apply discretion to whether they bond or not. This may not necessarily mean they are biologically askew - after all they are capable of bonding with the 'right' baby. But ecological pressures may play their part in this decision process for instance. Bottom line is survival, which as you point out, is required from the parent first and foremost or the child will die anyway.
    I am just a relative beginner at all this - currently taking evolutionary psychology/Family research courses at Helsinki university (i'm from the UK but living in Finland) so it is a dream come true to be able to discuss these things with someone like Dr Janov and the other authors of the excellent articles on this site.
    Will (

  19. Dr. Janov, when I tried to explain Primal Therapy/Theory to my shrink, he told me that most of his peers would laugh if he told them what I had said. When I asked him why, he didn't answer, but instead moved on to another topic.

    Many times he told me he didn't mind discussing primal therapy with me, but he didn't want to get into prolonged arguments. He said it was important to get on with the therapy that I had asked for. That was a fair call because I did ask him for a few 'tricks' to help me manage a recurring feeling that was starting to really mess with me.

    He actually studied your Primal Therapy (not someone else's version...I made sure of that).
    After researching it to some extent over two weeks, he told me that your therapy and his therapy actually 'crossed over' at points. He said he didn't think there was a big difference between Cognitive/Behavioural therapy and Primal Therapy.

    When I tried to explain to him the difference between abreaction, the transfer of one defense to another, and actually feeling the REAL feeling - he kept twisting my words to fit into his current understanding. He was turning Primal Therapy into Behavioural Therapy.

    I discussed Primal Therapy with him every second week for about 6 months. He never saw how my argument was conflicting with his. He thought the differences were not actually important.

    He always insisted that my bad feeling was set off by an automatic thought. When I explained to him that sometimes it is simply a physical movement that sets off the bad feeling, he never believed me. He always insisted that I need to try harder to recognise the automatic thought. He said that the thought always comes first.

    I am neurotic, but I am very introspective. When I told him I knew certain things about myself, I expected him to accept that I might be correct. I was never correct as far as he was concerned. This was a problem.

    I learned something very important after seeing my shrink for over a year. It is possible for a fully qualified, intelligent professional to be stuck inside a system. I didn't care if he disagreed with me. My biggest concern was that he was unable to listen properly.

    Art, maybe you need to catch people before they start learning ANYTHING about psychology. Get them to see your point of view before they become stubborn. Then let them go away and learn the mainstream stuff so that they are able to see the difference.

    Is there some way to lure people into studying Primal Therapy first?

  20. Good morning,

    I’m not a scientist but I think that neurosis is widespread among mammals (domestic or wild). If it’s a survival mechanism that shouldn’t be surprising. Sorry I have no statistical evidence about that. We are not the only species to have social rules. A female of any kind of mammals can left her offspring for dead for any reasons and sometimes they will be taken care of by another one. If there is something traumatic in the fact of being left alone (which of course is if the mother has been killed and won’t be back) each babies will have to shut down or repress something (hunger, need for warmth and so on). We share all that kind of needs with mammals (just look at your cat or dog).
    As Will wrote “more inter/multi-disciplinary co-operation” is badly needed because usually a scientist learns “more and more about less and less”.
    Dr Janov you have changed the life of thousands of people around the world and I am just one of them (I’m not a former patient).


  21. Yann: Well I am delighted that I have changed your life. That is why I do what I do. I should thank you not you me. dr. janov

  22. Richard: You are right. I have had my best success talking to 14 year olds. Once locked in the left brain it is almost impossible to get out of it. So I understand. dr. janov

  23. Will (about needing to bond): I will leave it to the readers, some of whom had therapy to answer this. dr. janov

  24. Yeah Richard. I have noticed in the past from reading what critism I could find on PT that often the professional critisising it had, as it appeared, only read the back cover of Janov's "The Primal Scream" if even that.

    It doesn't matter how "qualified" you are, you still have to understand (even remotely!) what you're critising to provide a qualified comment.

  25. Richard: I think the biggest problem people have
    when hearing about Primal Therapy is accepting
    the concept and the force of the imprint. I 
    talked about Primal Theory to an acquaintance a
    while back, and he said: "Do you realize how
    depressing that sounds?"

    Will: You really know a lot of stuff. It's also
    interesting that you are studying in Finland.
    I'm Finnish myself, from Helsinki originally,
    but I'm living in Kouvola at the moment. 

    How long are you staying in Finland?

  26. Richard,

    Thanks for sharing your story about how you and your therapist talked about Primal Theory. His reactions are what I would expect. I take it as a positive sign that he saw "cross over" points between CBT and Primal. I think the hope of getting Primal more widely available lies in the development of those "cross over" points, but most likely not through intellectual discussion so much as through practice.

    I've had the chance to talk to a number of therapists and other mental health professionals about access to feelings in therapy. You get a range of responses, but many are not opposed to the idea. They just don't think it helps much. I think many would learn given the chance.

    You know, everybody talks CBT these days, but in their hearts they know it doesn't work. The insurance industry reads, presumably, but is not intelligent enough to figure this out. I chuckled as I read a study a few weeks ago. It was on using cell phones in CBT. That's probably funny in itself, but the chuckling was about the obscure disclaimers the "researchers" had put in the opening paragraphs to justify studying cell phones as an adjunct to therapy. What they said, paraphrasing, was that "although the therapy is quite successful, there are significant issues with generalization and recurrence of symptoms". In other words, the patient seems fine in the office, having conquered the fear on paper, but still can't deal with the outside. And then just one small additional problem that all the symptoms come right back when treatment ends. But other than that, pretty darned good therapy! Roit.

    I believe that patients can be educated to ask for better (any patients listening?). And that among practitioners, there will be a percentage who can follow their patients, just as Dr. Janov did at the beginning of his journey.

    Then on the other end, Dr. Janov, maybe you need to introduce Primal Lite to the world. Something that does not make the patient swallow the idea of becoming a salamander in order to get well (even though you and I and the salamanders know it's the only way). I'm serious.

    Oh, the other thing is this: psychologists as a group are hopeless. It's the neurologists who can help, and for that to happen, the neurobiology of the curative process needs to be isolated. What's interesting is that the pharmacological approaches may converge upon Primal when it is discovered that, like with organic gardening, the problem is too complex to solve with a "linear pill" mentality, and that the Primal experience gets the exact right anatomy and chemistry already.

    It's late and I'm babbling. I'm sorry.


  27. Walden. Good luck Hope to see you. dr janov

  28. Richard: Ah shrinks. Stuck in that left brain, hopelessly mired in intellectual nonsense, staying with what they know. No change, no curiosity, no willingness to try something new to explore. Ah to be so self-satisfied! dr. janov

  29. Will (about transference towards the therapist):
    Thank you for your question. In Primal Therapy, we don’t so much discourage transference as we treat it as a feeling that has its roots in a need that went unmet in the patient’s life. When transference occurs in Primal Therapy, as it often does, the therapist encourages the patient to acknowledge it and it is often instrumental in taking the patient to the feeling behind the current attachment to the therapist. Because the valence of emotions is high when it comes to attachments, Primal Therapy recognizes the curative effects of a properly handled transference. When the therapy is done right, the patient is himself able to feel and then understand the meaning behind his/her attachment to the therapist.
    This insight does not come as a result of an explanation from the therapist. It is a fully integrated feeling that envelopes the sensations, feelings, and thoughts that are associated with the initial feelings towards the therapist but resonates back to the time of the original need. In essence, the transference is used as a way into the repressed psyche where the real need is.
    Once the patient has reconnected with the real need, there is the recognition in him/her that the therapist is not the true cause for his/her condition. As a result, the patient is then able to make decisions in his/her life that is informed by how he/she truly feels. There is no longer the separation between how the patient feels, thinks, and behaves. The split has been bridged.
    So look. What the patient is doing is transfering feelings from the parent to the doctor. Why not attack the feelings he has for the parent and avoid the transference, altogether.
    Dr. Janov

  30. Walden:
    Not intolerant but half-ass attempts means that people suffer. No one should tolerate that. We are quite open to all new information. Look at the website and blog but we cannot tolerate nonsense. And why should we? dr. Janov

  31. On my course at Helsinki Uni the response to mentioning Primal theory has elicited negativity from one of my tutors. The feedback was that Dr Janov's work is scientifically 'suspect'. (The tutor found ONE review online that asserts this as if proof of something - the fact that it might be a bad reviewer didn't seem to cross her mind.) This puzzles me as when i have read anything by Arthur he has always provided references for everything he says. I think the point is that Arthur is a radical thinker (which in my view is what you have to be) and sometimes has to speculate (as every leading scientist has ever done) because his theory connects with cutting edge issues e.g. genetic imprinting. This doesn't sit well with the mainstream academics who need first and foremost to obtain security for themselves by being 'an expert'. Primal theory challenges the hierarchical assumption that therapist knows best and removes a lot of the obscurism that psychologists are in love with. If they disagreed with Primal theory haven taken the ideas on board that would be one thing. But to be dismissive without actually knowing anything about the topic is stupid. But i stopped believing in academia a long time ago - you use it or it uses you in my view. (sorry if i'm posting too many messages but this has been a fruitful topic)

  32. i don't know how much data there is on Oxycotin but my friend Pete asked some interesting questions about this hormone.
    1. Do excess levels of oxytocin produce excessively aggressive sexual behaviour,and if Oxycotin were given in excess would it make people emotionally apathetic so that they might not seek love in a more healthy manner?

    2. Is it official that more oxytocin is produced by the female of the species - which make sense taking into consideration the maternal role? (Oxycotin levels can be raised in male and female rodents by repeatedly placing them in situations requiring empathy for young - WS)

    3. Any studies of oxytocin levels in the female partner within a male homosexual relationship?
    (my last post for this blog page honest!)

  33. Dr. Janov,

    By your own description, the earliest versions of Primal therapy would be "half-ass attempts". Now is that a fair characterization?

    People are already suffering, by the billions. It is not your mission to end that in one fell swoop. It's not possible; you can't do it. You should be intolerant of some of the blatant ripoffs out there, because they have nothing to do with increasing the patient's access to feelings. On the other hand, you should be more tolerant of efforts that are in line with that goal but are lacking in the depth of experience that your clinic has accumulated. Issue your disclaimers, but find a way to support that movement. You do need to tolerate imperfection, and that may sometimes look like "nonsense".

    "And why should we?"

    Okay, fair question. Here's another fair question. Why should you write fourteen books on a subject that no one but about five individuals in Venice Beach have the credentials to practice, disseminating the hope of relief from repression to the world but offering them no next step they can follow. Why should you do that? How do you assess the tradeoff of accepting a little "nonsense" in order to be accepted and perhaps welcomed in a broader circle? You should because it is the only way.

    As for tolerating nonsense, pardon my bluntness, but you should remove the video of the disordered discussion of "fear" from your website. It basically telegraphs the message that your people haven't got a handle on it yet. There's another video with a free association session that characterizes Primal as everything including the kitchen sink. Lose it. Then there is the Primal Institute and the Primal Center -- sharing a history, and yet unaware of each others' activities? That, in my view, is the ultimate nonsense.

    If the modern version of Primal therapy is safe and patients have the ability to opt out when they feel they've gone far enough (as you say), then there should be the possibility of offering a stratified group of services under the umbrella of Primal. Many people with only mild suffering or dysfunction can be helped by therapy that can get them going in the third line. This is only "nonsense" if you think it is. It could be quite helpful to some, and also paves the way for a market in second line access and so on. Fortunately for you, you're ahead of that curve. Unfortunately for you, you're also too far ahead of that curve to be able to steer the car on the road it's on. It goes with being brilliant. Strength overdone becomes weakness, and all that...

    The world came to drink at your birdfeeder once. One-trial learning says that's where you will feed them again. Reality says otherwise.

    Sorry 'bout the sermon,


  34. Art
    It’s so beautiful your work… but to feel this I must know the most painful thing about my life… my tears in relation to my pain makes it the most beautiful thing because I begin to feel what love should have been and now what it’s.
    You know… how difficult it’s to admit something that disturbs us to get to a point which we don’t know anything about… I mean… how shell I know that I am not guilty when that is something I am to avoid knowledge about that my dad will hit me because I wanted I ride for about 50 meters in “our” car… he was so angry at me… he run after me and I was so scared… I was screaming “I am sorry dad… I am so sorry”… just to avoid the knowledge that he was crazy… today I know that… I was not wrong I just wanted his love… but I had to be wrong to be able to stand his madness… I have been living with this… and that have also made me crazy… I could not understand my gilt… the only thing I could do was to avoid it… that means I could not understand what you are talking about… this is the problem to inform others about your work… we can’t understand something that we do to not understand.
    Excuse my English I hope that you understand.
    My best to you

  35. Response to Will:

    Yes, Janov's work is treated with suspicion almost everywhere. I mentioned him to my son's psychologist last weekend, in an attempt to broach the subject of working at a feeling level. Here are the responses I got:

    1. Nobody really does that anymore
    2. Venice, CA? Do you know what kind of place that is?
    3. Letting someone get angry is what causes them to harm themselves or others

    I told him I'd been in Primal Therapy in the 1980's. He had no curiosity about my experience. He was running late. There was perhaps another patient waiting for him. He said we'd schedule time to talk about it...someday.

    Ok, that fellow is not going to be receptive to any radical ideas in the near future. He's not even going to be receptive to the not-so-radical idea that crying can help. I won't seek additional time to talk with him about it.

    You mention mainstream academics needing security. You are absolutely right. Security is a necessary but insufficient condition for allowing change. What this means is that for some number of academics or professionals who have been allowed to hold onto their security, a certain number of those will be able to entertain a new, possibly paradigm-changing idea. Others will not; we can now close them out of the picture and think of the ones who will to greater and lesser degrees. There may even be some selection bias causing the community of psychiatric/psychologic experts to be drawn more from the repressive side. Mathematically, that is a constant which makes our target a little smaller, but does not obliterate it. There is still a target. There is hope.

    Here is a puzzle. Perhaps the hardest task on the face of the planet is to be a Primal Therapist. You would be working with someone who is resistant by definition. You would, by using a well-honed empathy in combination with a model, decide exactly how much and what defense should be left intact so that the patient may *safely* consider one alternate route into feeling. If you are someone with that intuition and skill, then nobody knows better than you do how to approach an academic with an idea in a way that it can be heard. You are uniquely endowed as that messenger.

    What you don't do is blast them with accusations of how their tenets are completely wrong and harmful to anyone they come into contact with. You don't dismiss them as being "trapped in their left brain". You don't compare them to 14-year-olds. You recognize them as a person with his own particular set of pains, own particular set of capabilities and options at this point in time. You take an empirical approach with them. Instead of insisting they climb on your revolution, you see what dose they can digest, and you gently deliver that. This requires patience and time.

    At this point you may see what I'm getting at. Some famous person once said "it's turtles all the way down" (I have to look that up). What he meant was that there is conceptual uniformity within the system. This is the case with repressive versus open systems as well. It's feelings and defenses -- the old Janov "dialectic" -- "all the way down". It behooves the holders of the skills to employ them toward meaningful large scale social change. Something is wrong with this picture. Maybe you can help figure it out.

    I hope Dr. Janov will publish this comment. If he would comment on it, more the better.


  36. Hello Walden,

    I would like to comment on your last post.

    Very true, I agree, that if you want a "revolution" then it pays to avoid making unnecessary enemies. But also, you have to be very careful to not let people run away into b.s. interpretations of the principle/theory that you represent. Arthur Janov must hold true to what he knows. Like he just said, he can't tolerate nonsense. And yeah, nor should he!

    It is an art to be effective in challenging a status quo that doesn't want to change. I do it at times at work and it takes all my skill and effort to tell people what to do without "telling them what to do" (haha!). I'm sure Dr Janov is doing his best, along with others, and I'm sure things can ultimately be done better.

    Remember that if Dr Janov is fully tolerant of other aproaches, then really he is effectively contradicting his own theory. Dr Janov himself has said in an early book: "It is not me that's intolerant, but the Primal premise" [I think that's close enough Dr Janov?].

    In my opinion the best thing to do is to label other therapies "neurosis management" and give them credit for that insofar as that's reasonable, and then stress the qualitive significance of actually removing a neurosis. i.e. "Theirs has at least some value, but mine to the "real answer"."

    Best wishes,

  37. I find Walden's Comment about the protection offered to the fetus at birth very interesting and I'm very appreciative to have a new 'puzzle piece' to add to my research findings.

    By way of information, it might be of interest to know that Oxytocin levels are suppressed, sometimes severely, in many birth events due to pain medications & various interventions being used. This leads me to believe the fetus would no longer receive full protection (via sedation), likely significantly less protection, due to epidural administered pain medications, synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) to start/augment labor, or C-sections. Thus the baby goes into stress when this shouldn't be so based on what you shared about the GABA response.

    Such would have been far less of a problem before 1950's due to the limited use and availability of pain medications for labor. Medication assisted intervention now so prevalent, only about 7% of the babies born in the U.S. would be blessed with such a protection, possibly adding another 1% to account for un-medicated home births assuming the statistics are for hospital births only & assuming all home births were unmedicated.

    I in no way support nor disapprove of Dr. Janov's efforts as it is an incredibly complicated subject, I understand BOTH sides of the "debate" and still haven't fully resolved where I stand in it's regards. But, I have a theory that the consequence of the modern labor/birth experience results in somewhat of a diminished set point due to the intense stress/trauma at birth combined with the lacking flood of oxytocin that is meant to be released.

    Now consider a baby born in the 50's grows up with compromised oxytocin set point and gives birth with intervention in the 70's. Double whammy because she was deprived at birth, and now again at labor/delivery. Now the baby would not only have a compromised set point but the added complication of a mother with a doubly compromised set point. Each generation would be impaired to a greater degree bringing us to the present time.

    If you think of it as getting a smaller gas tank with your new car rather than the size it was designed to have, it's a little easier to imagine. You could only put so much gas into it which doesn't get you as far. You can take a gas can with you (natural & drug interventions) but it doesn't fix that your tank is too small, perhaps inconvenient, or maybe so limiting that you can't get anywhere you need to go even with a gas can (or several cans) to make it that far! You could always replace the gas tank with the proper size it was always meant to have, but it comes at a great expense of time, money, education & work.

    It's a wonder we are able to function as well as we are when you really start to understand and consider it all, and if my theory is true, that would likely only account for part (large or small)of oxytocin deficiency in a person. After all, not everyone gets a full tank at the gas station.

    Irregardless, I simply want to say Thank You because your input on the GABA response on the fetus during labor is incredibly valuable me and will prove to be helpful as I continue my research. = ) Thanks so much!


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.