Saturday, June 13, 2009

On Being Smart Versus Being Intellectual

I have to read in my field every day for hours just to keep up. I read a book this morning about false memory syndrome. Basically it analyzes the brain structures, specifically the hippocampus, which may be damaged causing false memory (I simplify). These are Harvard trained scientists. I am suggesting that unless one feels, that is, first feel one’s needs and pain from their lack of fulfillment, it is difficult to know profoundly what the truth is. And when one relates how “scientific” this proposition is, it can be unassailable. In short, intellectuals must rely on abstractions, statistics and not a “wild” proposition that comes from observation.

I believe that intellectuals, and I include some of the great minds of the century that I have treated, generally live “in their heads”, cut off from feelings yet driven by them. Their sex life is a shambles because they are often sexless and fuckless. They cannot use their head to help become sexual, nor to do their bidding. In fact, they use their heads to flee from feeling. If they did not they would be wallowing in pain all of the time. So they are left-brain dominated and cannot see the nuance or subtleties in social intercourse. And they cannot see obvious emotional realities. Trust a man or woman who can make love. We see how a president is more dangerous, the less he fucks.

In psychology it means turning to the intellect for answers to great emotional problems. In short, being stuck in the left brain means to depend solely on that brain’s indices, relying on what numbers tell them because they cannot trust their emotions. So the intelligent person sees reality far better than the intellectual. Being intellectual is, by and large, a defense, no matter how smart the person is. He knows facts and figures but knows very little about the human condition. He often cannot make the leap into imagination or possibilities. He is stuck “listening” to the orphaned voice of intellect. Because he is constantly channeled into the thinking brain, he cannot see beyond his needs and is a victim of philosophies, no matter how dressed up they are in complex notions. He will never adopt a feeling therapy when he has no idea what that is.


  1. Good morning Dr Janov,

    what a non academic post !
    I would like to add that nowadays a lot of people are trying to "manage" one's life, one's emotions as if our life was just business where we have to rationalize everything in order to be more efficient(whatever the harmful consequences for oneself or other).

    From one of your "test rat"...


  2. The intellect is very much a ship without a rudder when divorced from feelings. For example, it is impossible to relate to art and poetry on a personal level, i believe, from a purely intellectual standpoint cos no matter how intelligent you are you will be alienated, disconnected and detached. Beat writers like WS Burroughs upheld an anti-intellecutal position for this reason. They also championed random processes in art to try and circumvent controlling rational processes that got in the way of saying things anew and saying /expressing things that could not arise from an intellectual starting place. But i better stop here in case people think i am trying to sound too intellectual.

  3. Dr Janov`s comments about intellectuals in this short-but-sweet article hit home, especially since I read a similar passage in a book of his just a few days ago (that latter passage mentionned the fact that intellectuals usually have some difficulties with manual labor; how true). Well I certainly fit the profile of the intellectual...sort of. I am very much like Woody Allen, but an Italian version. But unlike most other intellectuals, Woody Allen is an artist; and , even though I do no artistic work, I love the arts. And I think that indicates a certain level of health.
    For me , though, achieving an enjoyable level of artistic sensitivity was a slow upward climb for a guy who was really in his head, through no fault of own.My first breakthroughs into my body came from within a cult, an offshoot of EST. In the main training , those people tried to blast my head away which almost lead to a psychotic reaction.Which really enrages me when I think of it..those arrogant incompetents! Many people in these movements just hated intellectuals, so I sufferred some abuse. But I did learn elementary here-and-now sharing of feelings in the cult and that was the start. Slowly ,I evolved into the other part of my brain with greater physical coordination, openings to the visual arts, greater discrimination in music, poetry etc...I dance better now at 54 than when I was 20. How all this happenned I do not know, since I have done little therapy, only Bioenergetic Exercises (Alexander Lowen) once in a while over the last 30 years.
    My life has always been generally difficult and lonely, despite regular good times and various relations with people. I had my first girlfriend when I was 42 years old. Imagine!I sympathise with all people who sufferred like I did, and still do.
    Let me say that I find it incredible that most psychologits, psychiatrists, social workers, priests etc.. do not find some value in Dr Janov's work. I mean, he explains his theories clearly, evidence abounds, what more do these people need? I suppose it's because it's a matter of feelings, and if you are blocked too much ,his words will not resonate. Still.. Well, if his books got through to me, there is hope yet that the average pychiatrist will get it some daya also.
    Finally, I would like to refer any interested party to Wilhelm Reich's comments on intellect as a defense. Please see his book "Character Analysis" (3rd edition), the section entitled "The Intellect as Defense Function" in the chapter called "Psychic Contact and Vegetative Current". Marco Ermacora Montreal, Quebec

  4. Hi Marco,
    A fascinating account of your experience. EST, though i know very little about it, was a form of self awareness training that aimed to make individuals believe in their own experience and to experience synchronicity with the world around them. Of course any such training will lead to casualties through the undermining of neurotic defences. From what i can tell it did not qualify as therapy. It was more about achieving enlightenment or consciounsess altering self-experience. In this sense it was akin to zen buddhism. Would be fascinated to know if you obtained many positive experiences from EST and whether it made you more receptive to Primal Therapy.
    I never went to any EST type training but in my early 20's I went through a process of consciousness alteration through the social group that I found myself part of that was very akin in its consequences that I imagine EST training might produce. (Of course, in the 60's college students taking LSD and 'switching on' is also comparable here.) All i can say is that acquiring enlightenment (whatever that means for you) always comes with a price('We take our own virginity' to borrow a line from a Paul Blackburn poem). I don't know what the 'price' of PT is but it seems to me that the role of therapy is to orientate you to the world and not attack your neurotic defences irresponsibly. My experiences were as damaging as they were beneficial. I was left to wonder whether was I was lucky or unlucky to have gone through the experiences i went through. Certainly, it changed who i was.

  5. Dear Dr.Janov ,some not too seriously meant remarks.. was Mr Clinton that good in government because of his Monica affair or despite his bad relationship to wife ..? And when we are at this level Old King Salomo did his some 1200 Beauties enabled him his proverbial slomonic judgements..? In earnest -all the "psychiatric cases " I met in my life werer in relationships.. Yours emanuel

  6. The thing with intellectualization, in my opinion, is that we have a natural tendency to at least try to ”think nice”, and I think that is what all cognitive therapies are trying to tap on to. What Primal Theory states is not “nice”. It would be nice if we could anesthetize a mother giving labor without it having possible life-long effects on the baby. It would be nice if the lack of oxygen during birth didn’t have such dramatic effects later in life. It would be nice if the nine months in the womb didn’t have such a profound effect, either. But Primal Theory deals with biological truths, and they are often not “nice”. That is why, I think, many people will go through all kinds of intellectual loops and exercises rather than face the fact that you cannot simply think yourself well. You can trick yourself into believing you are well, but your body may tell a different story.

    Any effective feeling therapy has to deal with pain, and most people will naturally try to flee away from pain. In my case these days, the fleeing is mostly done by alcohol and medicine, in the case of the "intellectual", it is mostly done by escaping to the world of ideas, the left frontal cortex.

  7. For consideration
    not every fuckless is sexless by choice. Not every sexless is incabalble of empathy or feeling. There are victims of severe childhood sexual abuse (male and female) who rather not being fucked by someone who just needs to unload and graves for an oxitocin fix. Some of them are inteligent and some choose to become intelectual for the same reason, but they are not without feelings.
    Sieglinde Alexander

  8. SWA: Hey can you expand on this? art janov


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.