Saturday, October 10, 2009

On Evolution and Revolution (Part 3/3)

A patient who never wants to discuss her life but sinks immediately into her past will abreact and not get well. And when we observe a person’s history we are also witnessing ancient history at the same time. A patient who cries like a newborn can never duplicate that sound after a primal. One way we know this is in observing a patient make motions during reliving birth, and cannot duplicate that movement later on, no matter how hard she tries. Too often we see abreaction in patients who start in the present, begin a feeling and then immediately skip steps and goes to some kind of birth trauma. That kind of reliving becomes a defense. It interrupts and does not enhance connection.

In dialectical fashion we descend to deep unconscious levels and immediately become conscious on that level. The unconscious is transformed into consciousness. This means that we will no longer be driven by those specific unconscious forces. We have access to our inner states. We thereafter will not suffer from such things as a bleeding ulcer or colitis without being aware of it. Chances are, however, that we won’t suffer from such afflictions.

Each lower level of brain function is designed to keep us alive. We can use lower levels to modify higher ones but it does not work in reverse. Imagine if that were possible; the higher level neocortex could permanently modify brainstem functions?
But we survive because it cannot. Thus feelings can certainly sway ideas but ideas can only suppress feelings, not eradicate them. We see in our therapy how physiology and limbic feelings directly affect ideas and beliefs. A very rapid heart rate can push someone to go and do, yet no matter how hard we try we often cannot alter the heart rate, especially the rate that is accompanied by anxiety. That is why we cannot “will” a slower heart rate over time or consciously drive away anxiety. Ideas are hundreds of millions years away from physiological and emotional functions.

I remember seeing a patient who had just started therapy who told me that since he forgave his parents he feels much better; proof that ideas can trump feeling. Yet when he was measured his stress hormone levels (cortisol) never changed. Thus the neo-cortex can trump what we think are feelings without ever touching feelings, per se. The neo-cortex is most adept at deceiving itself. It can produce the thought of being well without really being well. Ideas here function as anesthetics. In therapy we certainly don’t want to being anesthetized in order to get well.

The brain is a complex proposition and to stay on any one level in therapy to the exclusion of the others means that any progress made in therapy is partial. To do reprogramming of the brain to achieve so-called “normal brainwaves” (biofeedback) is deficient and cannot lead to cure.

When we wonder if we should call a therapy scientific we have only to ask, “does it elucidate and clarify the properties of nature?” We do not ask if it works because that is subjective and not always accurate. It is the difference between asking a scientific question and one that requires a moral perspective alone. Do we know more about humanity in this therapy or are we only after some sort of pragmatic, mechanical solution? Are we doing deep breathing or matching brainwaves to some ideal? Here the focus is on the technique, not the patient nor evolution; a major difference. When we focus on how the patient evolves we learn; when we decide on how we treat her beforehand we don’t. In short, can we learn from this therapy how to treat other human beings in psychotherapy? It is not a matter of defying evolution, but of harnessing it for the good of mankind. That is Darwin’s legacy.


  1. Dear Artur Janov,

    I'm sorry to ask an "out of topic" question but have you ever seen in some of your patients that deprivation of sleep (when people work in a nightshift for instance)induces a serotonine depletion? and (maybe) therefore some first line intrusions? I'm just asking because I had a strange experience a few weeks ago after working four nights and sleeping 5 hours in the morning including a strong "suicide" impulse: my window was open and i felt a strong feeling/urge of "getting out" and the open window was litteraly "attracting me". Luckyly it only lasted for a few seconds...I had the feeling that i was about to go cazy and even the daylight color was different (just like before an eclipse of the sun). It was a bit scary to say the truth...
    It might not be the right place to ask so I won't mind if you don't answer.


  2. When is the [part about] revolution coming?

  3. I forgave my parents years ago, not to heal, but as a barometer if I was healing. My mother was a beast and it took me years to “forgive” her. I go to the Heimler Method of therapy. A survivor of the holocaust developed it. It’s an extinct therapy today—I’m afraid. My therapist will be retiring soon and I am considering going to the Primal Institute, as I am not well yet. I started in really bad shape: nervous breakdowns, suicide attempts, hospitalization, and hallucinations. Now, I am able to be self-employed, and I feel really good for about a week after a good session. From what I have read about PT, I only have 3 problems with it: 1. The use of anti-depressants to “get through” until the next session. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I did that when I was going through my nervous-breakdown periods.
    2.Expressing insights after a reliving. In the Heimler Method, after I relive an incident, I have a dialogue with the abuser and say to them what I would have wanted to say to them at the time. This is quite empowering and has a way of paving the way in the future if some other bozo tries to hurt me. If the person who hurt me did not hurt me over and over again I can make what I call “positive corrective.” This is something I invented. After reliving an incident, I imagine the incident again, but I imagine something loving and wonderful. This only works if the person who abused you, in my case, my sister did not do it day in and day out; otherwise it’s really phony, but eventually, I will be able to do this even with those types of abusers. When I am able to do this with my mother, I’ll know I’m healed. After making a corrective experience the Heimler Method directs the patient to “title” the chapter of your life. In this way that incident, which now has a different ending can be easily accessed in the future, if the need arises. It also serves as a synopsis for how to treat myself as opposed to how I was treated.
    3.Lastly, the chronological way pain is approached. In the Heimler Method you feel what is up that day. If I am having difficulty with a co-worker and it brings up pain about my sister, I would feel something that happened when I was eleven. I would not try to feel something from when I was 15 because that’s what year I’m working on. Doesn’t this seem forced? I’m already done feeling birth primals; I finished those years ago. I know, Arthur, you’ve written that this is really damaging, but I’m making progress all the time in my therapy. I’m doing pretty well.
    I really enjoy this blog and I have gotten so much from your books, Arthur. I incorporated, in the Heimler Method, asking my mother to “love me” as part of my sessions. Your books have helped me through the years immeasurably. I remember reading about your thoughts on the mentally ill and feeling better about myself.

    I have been the “last patient” at my clinic for quite some time, since people get pissed off at my therapist when they eventually can’t hack it anymore. I recently read the book Sybil and got some support from that. I really don’t understand how she made it. Her therapist was making things up as she went along. But that Sybil—she most definitely made it!

    Have a good one, and I hope I make it before I have to go someplace else. I’ve been at this for a good long time and I’m set in my ways.

  4. As ever a fascinating blog post Dr. Janov. Recently I have been going more 'into' myself and you are right to stress that it is the lower levels of the mind, that we defend so well against to maintain the illusion of order and ideational control, that produce real physiological and deep psychological change. Your therapy's emphasis on evolution is very important too because real change must produce considerable alteration of human habit, attitude which may be summed up as connectedness with one's life. Evolution can only occur once we interact and respond to life. It is this connection that we are most afraid of of course as being connected to the world produces the fears that our neurotic defences were built to 'guard' us against. Harnessing evolution then is what its about but it is no easy thing to harness forces within us until we have resolved whatever fear issues haunt us. For this reason, more than ever, I am seriously considering taking primal therapy.

  5. Most forms of therapy do not ’harness evolution’ because the therapist’s role is help the client adjust or fit in better with social environment he is part of. In other words, the therapist is on the side of society (the social and political) order rather than the patient’s. This helps explain why primal therapy does not get much coverage in academic circles because it is seen as somewhat subversive perhaps. Primal therapy is about changing a person’s life to make them healthier which means more connected to themselves and in turn the world. It is about becoming a more socially responsive person but not necessarily more socially adapted. e.g. not specifically more passive or less angry or more punctual etc. To undertake primal therapy you have to take yourself out of the situation in which you live, stop drugs, alcohol etc. This is to remove all toxic influences that might
    counteract your ability to connect. But most therapies would never do this. Attachment therapy might try to change individuals within their situation to make a family more functional and this kind of therapy I would argue is appropriate in that situation. But primal therapy seems to be to be focused purely on the health of the individual and not trying to make him a better behaved automaton within a given social situation. As one can perhaps see, I have been reading some stuff on RD Laing recently who believed that psychiatry can create mental illness by upholding a distinction between the patient (abnormal) and the psychiatrist (normal). This polar opposition was rejected by Laing who believed therapy should be between two humans meeting as themselves in order to understand the other. Laing’s view on the social intelligibility of mental problems is something that I do not think primal therapy would be in opposition to.

  6. Will: Hi I knew ronnie laing and hung out with him in London. He went to a bookstore, read my book and then came home and decided he would go me one better and had patients relive their implantation pain or whatever. Ronnie was fun but not serious. Too many drugs. He wanted patients to go into their psychoses. Some did and went into fetal positions but I am not sure they ever got well. art janov

  7. Melissa: I hope you know that I am associated with the Primal Center in Santa Monica, Calif., not the Primal Institute. art janov

  8. Just reflecting on the evolutionary perspective:

    I think it's important to point out that our whole development is 'evolutionary' from the beginnings. I think we expand out from the lower levels, as a direct outgrowth, like an oak tree expands out from an acorn [so what the oak tree becomes, in substance, is overwhemlingly dictated by what already lies within the acorn]. This means, I'm sure, that whatever happens to us in the earliest periods becomes the foundation that all later development expands from. So the earlier the damage, the more pervasive and far-reaching its impact should be. If we are the adult that grows directly from the architecture within the infant, then how could that not be so?

    I get the impression that most people don't have this view - they seem to have the casual view that it doesn't really matter too much what happens in our infancy, you can still bring up a "great" kid with all the "right" later-day parental interventions. The 'evolutionary' model would contradict that assumption: it would suggest that later-day interventions can only be relatively cosmetic because we are, first and foremost, the direct outgrowth of the infant that we were.

    Yet so many parents are obsessed with issues like what school their kid should one day go to, and virtually fall asleap when you sugggest to them that they might want to try and avoid those drugs (and other) when giving birth to their child etc. (Jesus!)

  9. Hi Melissa. Sounds like you are working hard. Me too, in my own way. It takes a huge amount of effort sometimes just to stop myself from feeling an irrational sense of hopelessness. This neurotic work adds to my REAL workload. Even brushing my teeth can be a burden.
    It is so obvious to me that your current therapist has been giving you some encouragement to keep working. As far as I can see, Janov's therapy is not about hard work. It's about letting go of all that work, but in a safe way. I was initially not impressed by the idea of taking any kind of drug to help me during therapy, but when I look at my current heart rate, I can see a serious need for compromise. A tranquilliser or anti-depressant is just a temporary safety net until you don't need them any more. I don't think these are the type of drugs that can change who you are.

  10. So you don't believe feeling incidents in a chronological order (reverse) is crucial? I remember once reading that you looked at pain as those plates in the salad bars that pop up one at a time. That's exactly how I look at pain, but it "pops up" according to what triggers me and/or what I'm ready to feel at that time.

  11. To all of you
    How do we know ... when it's what we do to not feel? How should something be scientific understood… when we are looking at the wrong side on the brain… and don’t know what the other side tells?
    When a child loses something on the floor and we condemn it for its inability ... how do the consequences shows? Science of the hidden consequences for the child in its failure… to stand up to its own statement... an impossible act when thoughts and feelings are far from being linked to social awareness…. a proof of “science's” inability.
    “Science” misleading results in cognitive solutions… forgetting the pain and passes energy to a drifting inferno. What is wrong in the evidence on signal substances and hormones undoubted function? One issue to pass?
    Frank Larsson

  12. Hello, there have been many suicides where YOU worked. What this YOU do wrong? PS The truth will set YOU free, take responsibilty, choose honesty.

  13. Hello Andrew,

    Any thoughts on how to evolve the current state of the practice of psychotherapy toward something more in keeping with our evolved systems, or is revolution the only way to change psychotherapy?

    I regret that my wife didn't have some drugs earlier in her labor with our first son. You see, we were trying to be those parents who are awake when you talk about natural processes and avoiding drugs. But we ran into trouble on that side also. While you are praying to Jesus for the enlightenment of others, don't allow yourself to stay too naive for too long.

    Best wishes,
    Walden Mathews

  14. A lot of people believe that if you can't remember it, you must have gotten over it. Doesn't matter what happens when you're a baby cos you won't remember it. That's dumb thinking even if you know nothing about repression.

  15. Response to Andrew: Early years are important and windows of opportunity exist so that once missed future growth is impaired. e.g. exposure to language has a timetable. But equally there is a danger of assuming that human development cannot occur at later points in our life. Clearly a certain amount of plasticicity is also key to our evolution as variation of environment requires us to be labile to some extent. Bowlby suggests that our lives are like subway or metro trains pursuing different trajectories but given the right conditions we are able to return to the mainline.

    Evolution is very much about timing i think. You have to be in the right place at the right time in order to maximise the opportunity for fulfilling biological objectives. How well this occurs determines how well you live. If we are neurotic and unresponsive to life then we can hardly stay 'in time' with our needs, wishes and desires. Unfortunately, people get fixed into rigid behavioural patterns too early and therefore their ability to evolve or to adjust to life as it unfolds (the time/space continuum reveals itself) and therefore life is impaired.

    I think primal therapy is about making people more responsive to the world by encouraging them to connect with those aspects of themselves which have not been integrated into consciousness. This lack of integration clearly shows that previous experience was too painful and caused them to split or withdraw from being connected. In turn certain key behaviours or behavioural systems have not become full activated. As a result their evolution or capacity for genotype expression in phenotype manifestation has been restricted. But ultimately Primal therapy seems to offer the hope that it is never too late to develop more as human being. Maybe Dr. Janov can shed light on cases where it is too late e.g. extreme psychosis. But I would imagine these cases are fairly rare.

  16. When you are talking about "the revolution coming soon" I guess that it's the kind of revolution Thomas S. Kuhn was writing about in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Do you really think that soon there will be a paradigm switch in the field of psychology? Or is it something else?

  17. Yann: I have often likened the nightmare to a psychotic episode. The only difference is one is during sleep and the other is not. The origins are often the same; deep life-endangering feelings that originate deep in the brain. And yes it can also be due to a lessening of serotonin supplies; pain depletes the proper levels, as does deep sleep to make sure we remain there. It wasn't the outside that was drawing you in. It was the inside feelings that were pushing you. art janov

  18. Yann: I am hoping for a change in paradigm but alas I think it is not to be for a very long time as science is dominated by the left brainers, and in order to get an advanced degree you need to leave the right brain behind. art janov

  19. Hi Dr Janov,

    Quote: "...and in order to get an advanced degree you need to leave the right brain behind"

    I coudn't agree more. And unless you get-off on internalising dry facts/systems for their own sake, the boredom from the concentrated "meaningless" memorisation is overwhelming.

    Too much of modern education asks humans to operate like robots. And too often the wrong people are put off for the wrong reasons.

  20. Dr Janov: How interesting that you hung out with Laing. I have most of his books, but all the existential influences in his books(Sartre, Heidegger etc...) turn me off. I mean, is it really that complicated? All that stuff impresses a certain type of intellectual, but I ain't one of them. I find your books more terre-a-terre, down to earth, and more convincing, straighter to the heart.(Right now I am heavily into "Prisoners of Pain").

    Lastly, one question: you write that "in order to get an advanced degree you need to leave the right -brain behind". That seems to be true. Do I take it then that you do not require degrees for your Primal Therapy trainees? I ask not because I am thinking of applying (I never would be able to, even if I fulfilled any criteria you required), but just out of curiosity. Marco

  21. Dr. Janov,

    Please stop blaming the left brainers, if there even is such a group. The world is the way it is because it got that way through evolution. Imagine a new gene mutation that refused to play with the other genes because they were "left something". That brings the whole game to a stand-still. Evolution doesn't work like that, and you should know that. In order for Primal Therapy to join in the symphony of adaptation, it has to find its own level of acceptance. That means contribute what you can when you can how you can, and ask for help if you can (and if you care). In other words: Mix, dammit.

    Walden, in anger. Sorry.

    PS - did you get the piece I sent you on micro DNA and cancer and early developmental configurations?

  22. Marco. We train and do not discriminate against those with no degree. However, in California, when you want to practice under my license you need to be in a masters program. art janov

  23. Walden: never got it. If you want mix" I suggest you convince the left brain to move over to the right. art janov

  24. Walden,
    You've got it! I like your way of thinking.
    One must always remember the great forces at interaction in the world. Crying out one's anger at something can be relieving, but it doesn't change the world. One must be cunning and clever in order to create a mental map representing the outside world's status, and then manipulate it in a way that can create change. Arthur Janov, you've contributed the basis for that change, but others have to pick up where you stopped and continue in a new direction, otherwise it will remain in the status of religious dogma. It's not enough to say the world is dominated by "left brainers". One must ask why that is, why have we evolved this way, and what can we do to change it, if at all possible. There's a field in psychology called evolutionary psych. which asks those type of questions.
    If you can't beat them, join them in their game and be good enough to win.

  25. Walden,

    the solution isn't in mixing left brainers with right brainers (people, ideas or point of view) but for "left brain dominant" people to have more access to their right emotional/feeling brain. For right brain dominant people the challenge is to become more "hard factual" (not sure about this word) and more formal. There are several reasons why someone is more left brain or right brain dominant (pain, emotional history, education)and usually it's not a choice. Evolution made us human therefore with two brains: one left and one right (you should read Antonio Damasio's work it's fascinating).


  26. Walden, mixing real primal therapy with some other therapy is like mixing a natural brain function with an unnatural brain function. It's not just Janov who can't tolerate the compromise - the patients can't tolerate it either.

    I sometimes experience night-terrors when I sleep on my back. Somehow my mind is not waking up properly and not falling asleep properly....something unnatural is going on. When I am in that state there is no way I could ever resolve a damn thing! Other therapies don't address this issue - and they must if they are to understand that psychotherapy must be safe.

  27. 'If you want mix" I suggest you convince the left brain to move over to the right.'

    No idea what that means, sorry. But what I means is, stop with the Not Invented Here thing and start to team up with the cognitivists. It's a big field. I'm sure you can find some good intersection.

    Some of your readers just want to hear you go on about how the world is wrong and there's nothing you can do about it. It think others are looking for a more practical and positive outcome. Count me among those.

    The piece I posted on micro DNA was posted right here. Have you considered opening up a discussion forum in some technology that works better than this, like Google Groups maybe?


  28. Hi Walden,

    If trauma-imprint theory is correct, as Janov essentially describes it, then really he should in fact be "arrogant". Because if trauma-imprint theory is correct then it should be recognised as foundational: modern psychotherapeutic-oriented psychology should revolve around it in the same that physics should (and does) revolve around Newton's laws of mechanics. Again if correct, then that is the status of Janov's findings, whether we like it or not!

    I do think that categorising people into 'left' and 'right' brain tendencies is probably a little simple in some ways. However, the tendency of certain kinds of intellectuals (possessing some possible distinct shortcomings) to migrate to academia and build it in their own image is very real I believe. This perspective isn't about blaming anyone as such, it's just an observation of a natural dynamic I think. And it can be a real problem in some ways too. (Not to discredit the good work that "left brainers" do, of course...Though to say, I think the very best academics tend show a much more 'grounded' kind of intelligence, as compared to your typical "robot head" type intellectual).

  29. Walden: It's like saying let's get the socialists together with the capitalists and see what happens. I am not into reform. This is a revolutionary form. I wrote a piece on this for the blog. It's on now.

  30. Richard et al,

    "Real" primal therapy -- what that comes right down to -- is a choice that a patient makes in a moment to allow vulnerability and expression. Where that goes, what it looks and sounds like, and what it feels like to the patient are all going to be idiosyncratic to that patient and that moment. My point is that "real" primal therapy includes rather superficial explorations of feeling as well as deeper experiences. Those are all "real" therapeutic experiences because they match the need and capability of the patients' systems at the time. There is no other "real" therapy.

    What patients can't (and shouldn't) tolerate is therapists who interfere with the patient's natural exploration of self and any opening up that wants to happen. Some therapists have to do this, and they should be avoided. Others are open to feeling experiences, even believe that they help their patients to feel, except that they are lacking guidance and experience in this, and so they often do the wrong thing (usually talking when they should just shut up). But the good news is, they want to do better, and can accept feedback and learn from experience. I'm not making this up. I had an experience with a counselor a year ago. He was generally mediocre as a therapist. In his office one day I cried for quite some time over recollections of my mother (this was in the context of some present marital conflict). This therapist was respectful and unobtrusive on this occasion, and it seemed that he thought that made for a good therapy session (as did I).

    My whole thesis here is that "non-primal" is not quite the desert that it is made out to be. There are folks out there with some ingenuity and some openness to the unconventional, and there are people who will weep if allowed to. Patients receiving dry cognitive therapy will sometimes vault into a feeling zone even in this setting (ask my why later). It is possible to get relief from crying in these situations, and the only barrier may be lack of experience on the part of the therapist, who is well intended and not really opposed to feelings as much as just in an awkward and unfamiliar place with them. So there is room for improvement and education, and this is where the Primal Revolution will begin, if at all.

    The reason I say "if at all" is because this evolution, just like a primal patient's personal evolution (reverse) into her history, goes at the pace of the experiencer, not at the pace of the teacher or in this case the Primal Center. It goes at that pace, or it doesn't go. Right now, it's not going.

  31. Dr. Janov,

    As far as I know, when socialism mixes with capitalism, capitalism results. But I don't like the analogy, honestly.

    You may just be up against your own vicious dialectic here, Art. Planning a revolution is probably the best way to make sure there is no revolution. Insisting on upheaval and violent overthrow just makes people leave the theater. You need them to stay for the show. But how?


  32. Andrew,

    Aside from helping him avoiding his pain, what good would "arrogance" do Dr. Janov or any of the rest of us? The problem with these arguments of correctness is that they don't convince the right people. I bought into the Primal thing at the age of nineteen before I'd finished the book. I don't need convincing. The people who do need convincing need it through a gentler introduction, one that meets them on their own turf, in their zone of comfort. There are receivers, but no signal. What's wrong?


  33. Walden: Don't mistake quantity for quality. We go at our own pace; slowly but surely. art janov

  34. About Walden's post to Richard et al: So what do you all think? art janov

  35. Walden: I stayed for the show. Nothing happened. art janov

  36. Hi Walden. When you feel a little sad, you are not resolving an unfulfilled need. Your sadness is just a tiny leak. Your sadness will be refuelled by the massive unresolved need behind it. You are only feeling the leak. You are not feeling the force behind it.
    I know this because if you did feel the full force, you would understand immediately why it is impossible to do Primal Lite.

  37. Dr. Janov, could you talk more about socialists and capitalists? I wonder about neurosis caused by people living in socialist big government places where someone else tells them what to do with force and coercion, vs. what happens when people are free to be themselves.

  38. Regarding Walden's post I am not sure that I fully understood it. One point he makes is that an unobstrusive therapist can be a good thing. It may or may not be, depends on the context. The point is that if one has the wrong framework to understand how to undo neurosis , one may still get the right answer occasionally by chance alone. I am sorry to be blunt but cognitive therapy seems like the same repackaging of redirecting beliefs and ideas. that's what repression does in the first place. Can it do some good, I am sure it has made some people feel better and cope better with their lives. Is it arrogant and self righteous to claim this is right and that is wrong. Science does it all the time. The criterion is that your theory must be falsifiable and must match experiment. if it does you're in, if it does not you're out. Many a beautiful theory has been slain by an ugly fact.
    The claim is not that only PT can help people in pain. Many approaches can do that. Just being a kind compassionate person can help people, it may be temporary, it may help someone get into less destructive behavior etc.. it can still be helpful. I don’t doubt this at all
    The claim is a different one. It is that as a comprehensive therapeutic framework to cure neurosis and resolve unmet needs, PT is the right one. Others are not on mark.
    Can Art mix with the Cognitive therapists , it’s up to him.. Would that do any good. Personally I doubt it. I think he has tried to mix with other therapies
    I see evolution in the same boat. The creationists would like a modified version that allows for intelligent design, they agree the earth is not 6000 years old but God guided evolution here and there somehow. etc. All that allowing this would do is produce a diminished theory with less predictive power, and internal inconsistencies. Not needed.
    Art once wrote. “The truth is highly intolerant of untruths.” Well said. I fully agree.

  39. kaz iqbal: I could try but it is not my area of expertise. art janov

  40. steven b: I have written at least 50 letters to scientists informing them of my work and proposing possible research. There was one half-assed reply. Scientists seem to be an incurious group who stay with the niche (creneau) they have created.

  41. Walden: What's wrong is that the line is busy. AJ

  42. Response to second to last post by Dr Janov: I find it incredible that more scientists have not responded to your work. I mean, what more can you put on paper to make your case, which seems to me to be scrupulously scientific, very insightful, clear and coherent? On the other hand, you who does seem to have this exceptional insight into people, have you not met such incurious scientists, straight psychologists and psychiatrists, etc.. in your practice and at congresses, and reconciled yourself somewhat to what seems to be their irrationnal resistance to your work? What is the emotional block in them that prevents them from at least checking out your work a bit? You got through to me and I am just an ordinary guy who has had some scientific training. But that has not prevented me from opening up to revolutionary holistic theories such as yours and Reich's.What is the difference between them and me?
    My only criticism of you, at this point, ( that may not have any foundation, since you have 40 years experience working at the deepest levels and I do not) is that reference in your latest article about "force and violence" being needed to overcome neurosis. In a post by me that you did not publish,I told you that I found that chilling, and that could put some interested parties off. Not to mention your exclusionary attitude perhaps (which is probably justified I think, but not towards Reich and Lowen).In any case, let me be clear that my criticisms are tiny besides the great respect I have for your work, which I study with great attention and fascination practically every day. I just wish I could do the therapy, but I never will be able to. Marco

  43. Steven and Richard,

    We're talking past each other just a little. I'd like to clarify. On the theoretical level, I don't think cognitive and primal therapies are compatible, and I would not see any point in folding the theories together into a compromise. With respect to theory, I'm pretty much in the Janov camp, except that I think some of the claims have been exaggerated.

    When I talk about compromise, what I'm talking about is providing a bridge or a pathway for people in the profession who witness breaks through to feeling fairly routinely in their patients but just don't know how to help when it happens. This can be improved. It doesn't need to be called primaly anything. Someone who gets a bunch of sessions in which their feelings can flow is going to change a little bit, and they may start to link up memories and feeling without expecting to. I don't think this is any different from what happens to a typical primal patient in the initial stages, and I know some of them take months before being able to shed a single tear. If you think Primal only means that you get plunged into sweet, liberating torment in the first hour, please read Janov's warnings about going too deep too fast.

    Think about how the therapy came about, in fits and starts. Imagine that the same thing could be happening in a thousand places at the same time maybe tomorrow. If this were happening, the Primal Center would be in hot demand for the depth of experience they could offer. Instead the Primal Center is virtually ignored and unknown.

    I know there are some of us out there who are addicted to discontinuity. We want revolution, and part of that is to be vindicated, to be proven right against the odds, and all that good stuff. I think a strong preference for revolution signifies strong feelings driving the show unseen. If you're a revolutionary, do you know what your pain is? Can you tolerate gradual change?

    Primal should get a lot more attention, but I think the reason it doesn't is because it's being packaged as "we're right and you're wrong; suck it up". It doesn't matter how right you are in scientific terms. There is also a science of communication, and it is not being used effectively to leverage the work of the Primal Center. That is my opinion, and I wish things were different.

    Best regards to you all,


  44. Hello Richard,

    In your brief message above, I'm afraid you've crossed the poison line of deciding what other people feel and need to feel. That's a non-starter, no matter what kind of therapy you think you're doing.

    But even if I take your point liberally to mean that there is depth to human experience, the answer is still the same. The path to depth is not found through denying, diminishing or changing the quality of the present experience. You can never get anywhere like that, except fucked up.

    Check these ideas against the Janovs if you like. Let me know if I'm wrong.


  45. Melissa: What pops up depends a lot on the nature of the defense system. In a perfect neurotic world they pop up in order. But alas, ...

  46. Answer to -?
    Considering a heavily depressed therapeutic population the suicide rate is very low, far lower than has been reported in the psychiatric literature. It may happen in Mock Primal Therapies of which I have no control. art janov

  47. Hi again Walden. I respect your point of view and can see it to some extent. You said to me "The path to depth is not found through denying, diminishing or changing the quality of the present experience." Well, let's start with Understanding the quality of the present experience. The Janovs claim to understand the difference between a feeling which allows for a small amount of temporary tension release....and a feeling which actually connects to and unlocks a feeling which has never been felt before, that is, a feeling which is so big it had to be repressed. You are missing the fundamentals of Primal. Primal means BIG. It will take you to the limit, at a pace that you can manage. If it is not big then you are not dealing with repression.
    I have NO REASON to believe the Janovs are wrong. Other therapists give me NO REASON. So what do I do? Do I muck around with little feelings or do I go to the Primal Center in LA to see if my big feelings can come out? I will do the latter. It's the only way to find out. I would love to meet you there!

  48. Marco:
    Hey I did answer you in one of my responses. aj.

  49. Richard,

    Perhaps we should exchange email addresses because it may not be possible to have this discussion here, and I have no current plans to be in LA.

    If I'm missing the fundamentals of Primal, then I guess that's my loss. However, I have experience in this therapy as a patient. I paid the money, so I'll rest on that laurel.

    My therapy, which occurred in New York City in the late 1970's and early 1980's, didn't go well. And do you know why? I'll tell you. It's because my expectations were so very much like yours are today.

    Listen pal: Your body doesn't know from the Janovs or their claims or understandings. You'll feel things a little bit before you feel them bigger, if ever. And again, if you dismiss what you think are piddling little feelings because you think they are not Primal enough, then you'll miss not only the gist of the therapy, but you'll miss your life as well.

    Put another way: Do not judge them.

    Good luck.

  50. Walden you are welcome to send your email address to mine. Your yahoo link doesn't work.
    Do you think your unsuccessful experience in New York was entirely your fault? I doubt it very much.

    The only reason I am not in LA now is because I am still saving money which will be in addition to any financial help available from the Primal Center. I am also paying for expensive laser-tattoo removal. I tattooed my eyebrows into a weird shape when I was young - my way of saying "look at me - I am not like all the other sheep". Yeah, it was a dumb thing to do. I want to look normal to increase my chance of finding under-the-table work in LA.

    Let me show you how much I know what to expect:
    For the last couple of months I have been gagging for air just prior to waking up. Last night I dreamed I was surfing the web, and I thought to myself "I will go to one of those websites where I am allowed to relax". At that point I began to relax and it felt perfectly natural to close my throat as part of that relaxation. As usual I began to suffocate (for real). Every time this happens I am totally aware that my throat muscles are closed (not choking) but I just can't open my throat no matter how hard I try. It usually lasts for about 15 to 30 seconds until I wake up gasping for air. The worst time lasted for ages and I woke up coughing on a large pool of mucus in the back of my mouth. Every time this happens I wake up in the same position - on my back, elbows out, hands by my ears. It may or may not be birth related. I'm keeping an open mind.

    Remember that dream I wrote about in this blog? You questioned me about it but my reply didn't get through. I suppose Art had a good reason for that. In the dream I felt incredibly vulnerable and parentless. I didn't mention how I began to lose control of my arms and legs and began to fall over at the point where the feeling was unbearable. I see a possible connection between birth feelings, and later childhood feelings of isolation from my unloving mother. In another dream I was sliding around on the floor like a snake while my mother refused to let me into her bed after allowing my brother to lie in bed with her. In that dream I couldn't move my arms and legs and I felt big sadness and kept crying "mummy" but there was no terror. Perhaps the snakey behaviour was symbolic enough to mask a 1st line feeling which was resonating with the 2nd line feeling. This may have given me the rare opportunity to feel some 2nd line without jumping into a night terror, or more typically I just wake up with a fright.

    So what do I expect from primal therapy. I expect help to get past my defenses so I can feel what I have already felt in short-lived doses. Huge feelings are not entirely foreign to me. I hope I will be able to resolve them and all the other feelings which I have never felt at all.

    Walden, I can relate to your description of crying in front of your therapist. The tingley rush, the aching stomach and then the tears. I don't think that is literally nothing. The feeling belongs to a meaningful truth. I cried in front of my cognitive therapist. I was in a unique environment where I was allowed to cry - safe from ridicule. It was a liberating feeling but it was nothing compared to my dreams. Do you spontaneously cry all the time now? You seem to think you have started some kind of emotional snowball which will eventually result in full feeling. No way! You are not de-repressing (I'm crossing the poison line as you put it - but just think about it anyway). If you cry more often then you are being triggered more often - perhaps even allowing yourself to be triggered. The primal center is doing something to make those triggers useful. They know how to unlock massive REPRESSED feelings. It's not a skill that can be taught to uninterested people.

    It took me a while to write this letter. Please read it carefully. Do not judge me!

    - Richard


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.