Monday, August 17, 2009

On Connection (Part 2/6)

With connection, feelings have found a home, and the system can rest. The person no longer has to engage in compulsive hand washing because she unconsciously feels “dirty.” Remember, that the higher pre-frontal regulatory systems have connections with the brainstem/limbic areas with information going in both directions. We can feel our feelings, and we can block those feelings when they are too hurtful. With a weaker pre-frontal cortex to handle input, we have amygdala-driven feelings that impact our higher centers directly, possibly driving us into unceasing mental activity. If there were ever a universal affliction, it is that unceasing activity. People cannot sit still and relax. Movement as an imprint may have meant life at birth, and it does so now as a memory.

Reconnecting the Brain

There is more and more evidence that brain tissue at the extreme anterior (front) part of the pre-frontal cortex is responsible for integration of emotional states. The recent work of a Yale team, Patricia Goldman-Rakic and Pasco Rakic, focused on the corpus callosum (the bridge between right and left brains) in which they developed a model of symmetry in the brain. What they state is that cells in the corpus callosum are marked so as to attach to mirror image cells on both sides of the brain. There may be either a certain resonating frequency that helps each side recognize each other or there may be a chemical affinity that allows cells on one side to join up—connect—with cells on the other side (or both). As I mentioned, (unproved) connected memory may exist when lower level imprints resonate with the same frequencies higher up in the brain. When the pre-fontal cortex and sub-cortex meet, there seems to be a pattern of recognition; it’s kind of like finding a soul mate. More possibly, the lower level imprints rise to seek out their other half higher in the nervous system. Once joined, they form an integrated, unified circuit.

It would seem that brain cells “know” when they have arrived at connection because the receptors on axons are found only on the correct target nerve cell. There is some evidence now that even in the womb, the brain is preparing itself for life in our world. So the fetus has recapitulated life in ancient history and is now preparing for life on the planet where each new level broadens our conscious/awareness. Each new level is an elaboration of the previous lower level until we arrive at full consciousness. Critical here is the concept of connection; the merging together of related neural networks. There is a unity of nature that happens only with connection. Neuro-psychologic laws do exist. It is up to us to find them.

Very early feelings exist in a sensory-only language have, in the past, been impossible to access and resolve. The lower levels “talk” to us all of the time in their own language (racing heart, highs blood pressure), but we never listen and have lost the ability to communicate with them. We don’t talk their language, and yet we must for survival. Otherwise, we fall sick early in life and our lifespan is much, much shorter. Because though the language is a one-way street we continue to drive on the wrong side of the nervous system (the left intellectual) and lose our orientation. We try to get to the right feeling side with the left, and we can’t get there from here.

We know that early events even before birth are imprinted throughout the system and largely onto the right brain. These events can occur before there is a functioning left pre-frontal cortex to make sense out of them. And by the time we do have that portion of the cerebral cortex the pain on the right, severe because it involves matters of life and death at birth and before, is repressed and results in a disconnection between the two sides and from lower to higher brain centers. Moreover, the connecting links are not as yet matured. This process is called repression or gating or, as it is often called in the scientific literature, dissociation. Remember, it is the very early prebirth traumas that find their way onto the right brain. The right brain, then, becomes the repository of the unconscious. Becoming conscious means reconnecting the pain to conscious-awareness. Connection means awareness even when the event has no words or scenes. We can be aware of a lack of oxygen during birth or of the agony of being twisted around due to breech presentation. That awareness is every bit as crucial as an awareness of events at the age of six even though there are no words to explain it. Sensing/experiencing the pain is awareness. It doesn’t need words.


  1. What you offer is fantastic.
    I know there are an infinite number of people who wish to participate in primal therapy... but how will they know if information is missing... the problem is availability and information announcing... impossible for only one to deal with... the economic picture also... there are many people who are not even going a step further when the economy are holding back… people who would give everything ... just got the slightest chance of understanding what primal therapy contains.
    What can we do?
    Frank Larsson

  2. Frank: I will discuss this with staff and answer you in 3 days. art janov it is a real question

  3. The main reason why primal therapy hasn't expanded is because there just aren't enough people who have the desire or skill to be a primal therapist.

    I understand that having good access to feelings is not enough. We need time to let our feelings guide us so we can begin to grow up emotionally. I never feel much when I am awake. I feel strong emotions in my sleep - but I am very immature when I am asleep! I don't expect to become an adult soon after I gain access to my feelings through primal therapy.

    Are there many primal therapist trainees who are currently too immature but show much promise for becoming an unsupervised primal therapist one day? Or do most of them give up.... or invent their own 'mock' therapies aided by a newfound childish confidence?

    As long as the number of primal therapists is increasing - no matter how gradually - they will multiply exponentially like bacteria....I think a good goal would be for every therapist to 'create' two new therapists in a lifetime.

    For now we must not allow Janov's therapy to be polluted and lost forever. The few existing primal therapists must understand their responsibility to keep the science going in the right direction.


  4. Richard: You are so right. We have been training for the last 3 years almost on a full-time basis. We hope to have some therapists as a result. But many in foreign countries have to return because of visa problems so we do have a problem. It is astounding to me how few are willing to put in the time to learn this therapy. Would any doctor set up surgery in his garage? What is happening now is tantamount to that. art janov

  5. Dear Dr. Janov, please be aware that statements like these: *Clearly not everyone gets well, but a sufficient number do that makes me think our therapy is the first real science of psychotherapy.*August 9, 2009 and *I will write in the future about who does not make it and why* August 10, 2009, may seriously discourage those who just start to see and feel the terrible truth about their childhood and who are shocked by it. At the beginning it was very difficult and very hurtful for me to read for instance "biology of love" and some of your articles, because it confronted me abruptly with the unalterable and unbearable truth that my mother hated me already in her womb, never ever loved me, but abandoned and tried to destroy me. Now your book confronted me with the horrible consequences, the damage of my brain and psyche as well. Feeling and knowing this now 52 years later, is like hell. So please know that your sometimes "brutal" – clear! honest! true! - way of telling the truth may increase the desperate fear of being too brain-damaged to get well again. I was in deep depression, PTSD, and sometimes thinking about suicide to end the pain. Reading Janov for me sometimes felt like: it's too late, the damage is too severe.
    On the other hand, you are absolutely right and I am glad that I have found your books. It has saved and changed my life. And I've never had any doubt about what you are writing, not at least because I'm doing PT now (in Germany) and after half a year I'm already feeling the change, the healing effect of PT. I also know (by reading Janov!) that it is not YOU who is hurting, it is the TRUTH itself. But when you are slamming down the truth could you please be more gentle? There are those who are just beginning to see, to feel, to read Janov, who are desperately trying to survive and still wonder whether they will ever get a chance to heal or not. There is a chance for everyone, I think. Sincerely, Sabine

  6. Thank You Sabine. I appreciate your sentiments however, I do not know anyone in Germany who practices primal therapy. I don't know any way to ease on the truth because it is what it is. I cannot change it but if I soften it it may no longer be the truth. art janov

  7. Sabine,
    When I met my new girlfriend and she started reading the primal scream, her first comment was "I'm not crazy it is just my feelings I do not understand" a great relief for her... so the view is not uniquely frightening... even then my reaction at the 70's was like yours... how much of the information Janov should release of their own activities about primal therapy should be left for him to decide... that he defend his knowledge is absolutely nothing I would question… given what he knows can happen due to failures... of course it is to wish that there were methods… by perhaps… internet or another way for a’ chance by the primal Institute… to go through primal therapy… we can ask him if there would be possible… If his thoughts ever wondered about such a solution? One thing is sure… I like be as safe as possible to connect something I have given my life to avoid.

    Frank Larsson

  8. Frank. We are already doing a lot of followup therapy through skype, the internet etc. I want the therapy to be available but each must start with individual therapy for a time to make sure that no abreactive pattern sets in. you know what Henry Miller said decades ago? If you had the best idea in the world, you can be sure someone would immediately come along to put it down and destroy it. alas, humanity. art janov

  9. Sabine, I would hate to be in deep depression for a long time. I understand your need to take action and do what appears to be Janov's primal therapy in Germany. When you are hurting you are desperate for help. I don't want to be brutal with you - but I must say that I think you are taking too much risk with mock PT. Those people can't possibly have the expertise of the people at the Primal Center in LA. It would be a tragedy for someone who can be so honest with herself and so vulnerable to get hurt even more.

    I know a guy who had a terrible experience in therapy (not PT). He is psychotic...he believes the therapy made him psychotic. During one of his psychotic episodes his therapist started crying and left the room and left him to deal with it all by himself.
    Now he is on a lot of medication. I can't be sure the therapy made him psychotic, but I'm sure it didn't help. He is a very likable guy and he didn't deserve to go through that.

    There is LOTS of bad therapy everywhere because lots of well-intentioned therapists are NEUROTIC. Like Frank says, best to be as safe as possible when you start feeling the big stuff.

    If visa becomes a major problem for me, I will find a way around it. This is way too important.


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.