Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why Are We Anxious? (Part 2/6)

Those internal events, sensations such as being crushed or suffocated are engraved onto that salamander brain. They may seem to the system as menacing as a virus or as that threatening snake; the only difference is that the snake is inside encasing deep terror. In fact, when those feelings are menacing, the system reacts just as if there were an attack by a virus. The immune system is compromised, basic repressive chemicals are diminished and we may well run a fever. When a patient of ours gets close to those feelings he can run a fever of several degrees even when he has done no exercise at all. Or even more strangely, body temperature can drop several degrees in minutes during a session. This is due to a dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system (more on this in a moment).
Anxiety is the avatar of feelings. What does it feel like? It feels horrible. It seems like it cannot be shut off. “Nothing I can do will stop it.” Why? Because it is so remote in origin, so seemingly inaccessible as to be considered a “given,” something that is inherent in us, something we can only hope to barricade ourselves against. It is just about always from gestational life or at birth. Before we can hope to eradicate it we need to be sure about what “it” is. Anxiety is not like a current fear; there is always the element of terror about it. There may be a current justifiable fear which some call anxiety; the impending death or severe illness of a relative, for example. There may be great fears for their safety and health. It can be a terrible threat but I prefer to reserve the term anxiety for something that resonates with very early trauma; it is easier to understand. And anxiety should automatically direct us to origins.
Anxiety starts its life as pure terror, a visceral reaction, which during womb-life is the highest level of brain function operating. It gets transformed later on to phobias or to free-floating fear. We are able to dampen it with a variety of defenses but it is never less forceful than originally. Let me state that again. Pure primal terror never changes; it is defended against, filtered and softened by higher brain processes but it never changes its internal effects. It is biologic. It is that reptile again doing its thing. And because its origin is so early and so remote and deep, and because the various psycho-therapies remain on the surface, we had to wait for medication that worked on those lower brain centers where the pain originates in order to calm ourselves. Doesn’t it make sense for a therapy to try to go deeper, as deep as where those medications work?
Early in gestation the fetal brainstem will respond to external noises, even the sound of the mother’s voice, with head turning, reflective body movements, and heart rate changes. If there is a serious accident to the mother while she is carrying, it will undoubtedly affect the brainstem/limbic systems of the fetus, and with possible effects on its heart function, as well. The baby may be born fragile and delicate, plagued by a constant underlying fear and quick to startle. It is an anxious baby. There may be colic involved which may signify the presence of anxiety which is expressed in the skin and biologic system; but it is telling us something crucial. Later on, there may be the adoption of booga booga ideas (it is what it sounds like) to contain the feeling that was barely contained by the skin earlier on after birth. It is erupting again.

What does a fetus do in the face of trauma? It reacts viscerally. If we’ve had this kind of trauma, we will have a predisposition to go on acting viscerally for the rest of our life. We then develop stomach problems, palpitations, colitis, ulcers, cramping, breathing problems, and do not know why. It is why we often don’t know the origin of a problem when a patient presents us with colitis, for example. If a problem is solely and seriously visceral, chances are its origins date back to birth, or before. Look to the brainstem, and we’ll find the source. It creates the need to keep busy and have plans. It is a constant state of agitation.

When there is an anxiety attack we can be sure that its origin is very early when the brainstem (and parts of the limbic system) was the most evolved nervous system available. Midline structures and organs is where we most often see ailments that have an early start in our lives. Digestive and breathing problems are therefore often of first-line origins. Clearly, bedwetting and later sexual compulsions are of first-line origin. Colitis, as well. So when we try to treat sex problems with a constrained focus on the sex organs we may be making a mistake; the focus is far too narrow. It is not the penis or vagina; it is the brain, the lower brain; the sex organs just follow orders. Anxiety is often projected onto or attached to something in the present to justify its existence, but that is often just a rationale.

The brainstem imprints the deepest levels of pain because it is developed during gestation and handles life-and-death matters before we see the light of day. Almost every trauma experienced during womb-life is a life-and-death matter. The brainstem doesn’t speak English or any other language. Imagine trying to communicate with it about its pain with words when there aren’t any. We develop problems such as high blood pressure or insomnia or ulcers. The brainstem is carrying an imprinted memory of a trauma and expresses itself through the avenues already selected previously in the viscera. There may be a vulnerability in the stomach so that the anxiety load is discharged there, and the appearance of constant cramps.

Later in life when the lower level imprint tries to inform the frontal cortex about its near-death experience the blood pressure goes up as does the heart rate; it is a warning about stored terror. The brainstem is screaming at the neo-cortex, the thinking mind: “Listen to me! I need to tell you about something, you’ve got to hear this. I’ve got a connection to make. Let me through.” It is screaming by way of high levels of bio-chemicals, such as noradrenaline, glutamate, and cortisol, the language of its biology. And the cortex is talking back with increased output of serotonin, saying in effect, “Sorry, you’ve got information I don’t want to know about. Try later!” “Yes but if you don’t let me out, my blood pressure is going to rise dramatically.” Sorry. I have to protect my “mind.” “After all, I don’t want to go crazy.”

A memory imprinted in the brainstem may have serious consequences for many survival functions. Thus, a chronically rapid heart rate and high blood pressure can presage cardiac problems decades after the imprint settles in. Through a feeling session it can be traced back to womb-life. Why the chronic rapid heart beat? It is part of the imprint. It is a reaction to the engraved memory; it is held in place so long as the origin is not addressed or relived. The danger is therefore omnipresent. That’s all it means, at the end of the day: danger. Do we really want to eliminate our warning signs?

When a patient relives early terror, then ceases to compulsively check the locks on his doors twenty times a day, he has solved an important mystery. This, without any prolonged discussion of the obsession. He felt unsafe, profoundly unsafe early on; the obsessions controlled the terror that he didn’t even know he had. The left frontal cortex was saying, “I’d better check the locks. It makes me feel more comfortable.” Since the terror is there, he never can feel safe for long; the obsessions continue. The feeling of being unsafe was seeping up in small increments from the right brain. It was immediately staved off by the obsession on the left. “I’ll be safe if the house is locked” is the unconscious formula. “I’ll be safe if no one can penetrate me.” If we were to prevent the obsession, we would see panic and helplessness again, which is what happens in our therapy. But it must be done in a safe, controlled atmosphere. To feel deeply unsafe one has to feel totally safe in the present. That safety, dialectically, turns into its opposite.


  1. "To feel deeply unsafe one has to feel totaly safe in the present" Hy Dr. Janov, being a current patient of yours I could not agree more with that statement. The (my) problem has always been setting up/finding such a place/enviroment to trust myself into deep feeelings.
    I guest it has much to do with love, and another person who can "sit" there for you.
    Great source of of help is this blog, I can recognize myself with all the ailments of a human being in your writing, not so often recognized elsewhere.
    Thank You. Gianni

  2. Gianni: you are most welcome. art janov

  3. I often ask myself ,after reading about these early childhood traumas that are apparently so devastating, why our organisms don't naturally heal themselves of these neuroses later on in adult life when our bodies can handle the stress? Why do we stay neurotic unless we can go through a special procedure like Primal therapy? And , even then, since it does not seem to be easy getting people back into their traumas, with heavy defenses and resistance and all. Considering how neurotic most people are, and in some cases maniacally and murderously neurotic on a vast collectice scale(Nazis, fascists, collective genocical outbursts, murderers,patriarchical authoritarian cultures etc..), prospects don't look too good for the human race. Marco

  4. Art,

    Taking a stab at answering Marco’s question – which I’ve asked myself often enough – I’d say it’s because the original hurt caused an overload and shutdown of the immature brain around that particular memory and its associated feelings. The memory is now sealed off, and unless the gating involved in that fails, through one thing or another (drugs, therapy, exhaustion?) will remain unconnected to the higher, potentially integrative intellectual brain systems. The thinking brain senses a threat, but doesn’t know whether the threat is potentially catastrophic, so it doesn’t play ball with the lower brain in relaxing the gates (though I have no idea what is involved in that particular process).

    So, we’re left with therapy, drugs, exhaustion, or maybe sleep-induced nightmare:

    “The childhood-nightmare sort of dream that’s just about to pounce with killing claws when you burst into wakefulness, sweaty, pumping, every filamental nerve a firehose whipping round its snake of water.”



  5. macor22:

    I have often thought about the same question. We can only ponder on this:

    Maybe our sadistic zeal is ultimately part of natures way of destroying damaged specimens, so as to let better specimens take their place? Have you noticed how thugs tend to look for trouble and get it? I notice that severely neurotic people tend to 'collectively' tear themselves to pieces, given the opportunity.

    (In evolutionary terms it really doesn't matter if you cull 90% of the human race, it'll bounce back quickly enough. That sound pretty ruthless but nature is a single-minded brute when it suits her. For example, there's a shark out there that eats its siblings if it's superior to the others. Nature doesn't care. Survival and advancement of the species is Everything. That's the blunt and absolutist law of evolution, and that's why we can think in these terms.)

    Maybe it's ultimately more efficient if we don't heal, but instead hurry up and drop dead if we have been severely damaged in childhood? Again, evolution has a ruthlessly one-track mind. And maybe, in adaptive/reproductive terms (not personal subjective well-being) it's better to stay neurotic in a neurotic society? You might have more kids if you do that (albeit for neurotic reasons)?

    Imagine if you were living in New Zealand about 150 years ago in a Maori tribe...fancy watching all your relatives eating their foes after a "heroic battle"? That sort of thing was commonplace in our ancient history. Is it really best to be feeling in a world like that? Is it best to be feeling in many parts of our world today? Maybe the best reason to get PT is that you can now get away from the less appealing corners your society? I don't know if that possibility was realistic in our tribal history, in which we have evolved from.

    I think that the most natural and common course of de-repression is inter-generational: the more the survival pressure comes off, the more 'humanised' the society can (and will) become - inter-generationally, over time.

    My best guess is that the primal process is natural, but more something to spontaneously happen with people who do not already have massive pain and are not living in a massively repressed society. I think you need a PT centre when you have our [modern] level of neurosis, and our current level of neurotic society. PT is clearly a serious business, but maybe only because we are all serious cases? That's my best bet of it.

  6. To all of you
    When we see what the physiological trauma has done to the adults... then what is it a child carry around… around adults who do not understand the child's situation... who may alone bear vital... life and death events... without anyone seeing and doing anything... treating children as inferior... oh... oh... oh... so much that could be done only we could move on ... WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? To all of you… who suspect... understand what this is about ... you cannot do enough to have people to come to mind... to understand… we live the hell on earth... Strong words? No... not even hell can be compared to what we carry on in time and room.
    Frank Larsson.

  7. Marco,

    The simple answer is that nature does attempt to heal us--all the time, AND ... for a life-time. It's the 'neurotic us' that does it's best to stop that healing process from happening, COS deep down we've DECIDED we don't want to feel those horrid feelings, which, if we were able to go through them in 'one fell swoop,' would not be as horrid as they seemed before we go through them. Nature (to coin a seemingly contradictory phrase) naturally wants, and keeps trying (unto our dying day) to bring them up, and neurosis (defensiveness) does it's best to keep them locked up down there, in the 'cellars' of our brains. The other factor that comes into play is that because of the years of compounding the defenses, to go through this stuff in one fell swoop, becomes a bit of a trial to the attic of the brain.

  8. Marco,

    I think your question is a great one. And it's like asking "Is the post-Primal state the one nature intended for us?". I think the answer to that is 'no', because nature does not intend things. We're neurotic because it allowed our ancestors to reach fertility age. We're intelligent because it allowed our ancestors to compete in unusual ways. Our neurotic symptoms are a side effect of not just the pain but also the driving need to know, and then to be safe for a while. Those symptoms become the lead-ins to our access to feeling, but that does not imply that nature meant it to be that way. When you say "our prospects don't look good..." you mean what, that we are not heading toward everlasting world peace and serenity? It was cold today where I live. The wind was whipping up swirls of snow that were dancing in the sunlight outside the window where I work. There is beauty; there is hope. Our species doesn't exist as something with prospects; it's just a concept we use to package the chaos around us, and put our attention somewhere else, like our ancestors once did...


  9. Thank You Macor for adressing this fault or our supposedly self healing organism. We can be stuck with devastating problems engraved in our bodies and know about it, but not be able to do a thing about it. I believe this is one reason Primal therapy is not accepted by the mainstream. It almost seems that neurosis and catastrophic health problems as accompaniment are considered the norm, and Primal Therapy is going against nature.
    One needs expert therapists, sound proof rooms, and many, many years to shed oneself of neurosis. It is very problematic and unfortunate for people looking to change and I believe it is the reason society says: Look you are as you are and you cannot change much, so make the best of your situation. In other words "Tough Shit".

  10. I think the point Marco is making, is why is it so irreversible? If we are designed to activate our defenses when traumatised, why are we not 'designed' to de-activate them when we are strong enough and our environment allows for it.
    Well, my guess is, we were never really designed to live much longer than 30 or 40 years. That's the age when our natural chemical defenses started to deplete, our body became worn out, especially after fighting mammoths and sabertooths etc, and with all the drama of an action movie, perhaps there were very few times when a neurotic cave man was able to put his life on hold for long enough to feel deeply. Neurotics probably died at about the same age as the 'perfect' humans did, when the compounding effects of violent injuries was the prominent cause of eventual death. I suspect that ever since we began to walk upright, the majority of humans have been neurotic ....some more than others.
    Now that we are living in utopia, we have the luxury (time) to find ways to cheat nature. If neurosis is nature's way of getting us through 30 or 40 traumatic years, we have certainly exceeded that.

  11. Is it actually possible to go crazy if I self primal? It certainly feels possible. Might I get into a feeling of terror from which I cannot escape?

  12. Well said, Andrew. I had a therapist many years ago who thought that suicide was natural to destroyed human beings. That they recognized their damage and decided to do away with themselves. art janov

  13. About Walden's comment: What do you all think? art janov

  14. Dakota: Why go crazy? Usually the defense system kicks in and saves you. I have never heard of anyone going crazy that easily, but there is a risk and I am against it. art janov

  15. I agree with Walden's pragmatic view of the meaning of life. Nature doesn't seem to be interested in the meaning of life. But we do have the capacity to FEEL meaningful feelings.

    Walden, you said "Those symptoms become the lead-ins to our access to feeling".
    I think this is where you continue to stumble. I'm not sure if you are trying to justify all the years that have gone by in your life....but I think you need to really try to open your mind with this concept.
    HOW do those symptoms become the lead-ins? Cognitive therapy may temporarily weaken the defenses to some extent....but that will not cause you to LEAD IN. The defenses always bounce back one way or another, and when they do, you are back where you started.
    I'm sorry if this is a hard pill for you to swallow. You are extremely intelligent, but you haven't yet understood the difference between the way Primal Therapy may START at the 3rd line, while Cognitive ENDS at the 3rd line. You cannot go to the Primal Center and say "I've had Cognitive, so I have a head start".

    I hope you don't get pissed off with me. I respect you. I guess you are one of the few people who have properly studied Cognitive without falling for it hook line and sinker.

  16. Andrew,

    I like your "inter-generational" point and also how you position a Primal centre in that big picture. I think it's true that a Primal centre can only appear when the surrounding environment is right, as it is today (just barely). I also think that for a Primal centre to be most effective in a catalytic sense, it needs to be aware that the "inter-generational" movement will dominate the pace of change, until something occurs to shift the dynamic into a different tempo. That shift is not within our reach, while a rational catalysis (10%, eh?) is. I'm a pragmatist. I think we should do things that matter, not things that make us look right in retrospect, assuming our fossils will even be found.

    The "inter-generational" thing is an evolution, and it possesses the stability of evolutionary change. Being intelligent, we are in a unique position to interact with our own evolution with intention. Janov points out that we must not deny the evolution of the past. I will point out that with equal importance, we must not deny our future evolution or try to make it something else. We will change bit by bit, and all along the way we will endure states -- social and psychological -- which are far less than the ideals we imagine. Does anyone believe it could possibly be otherwise?

    What is the true role of a Primal centre, then?


  17. Richard: What a wonderful way of saying it. PT starts at the third line; cognitive therapy ends there. art

  18. Walden: My such big words. art janov

  19. Andrew, I felt your respons was somewhat convoluted in view of the assumption that human-kind has always been neurotic and that neurotic behavior is our 'nature'. I cannot accept either notion. I contend that in our 100,000 years (or thereabouts) of existence as an upright creature we have only been neurotic for about, say, the last 10,000 - 20,000. We know little or nothing beyond 5,000 years ago. To talk of mankind and his eveolution and ignore that we very well might have become neurotic only in the last 10,000 - 20,000 years, is to assume something we know nothing about, and hence confuse and convolute our thinking to THINK so. It is my contention that thinking is a neurotic act-out (am I stiring some cognative 'pot' here?) for a creature that at some recent point in its evolution needed to 'think' when most of it's feelings were relegated to the subconscious (unconscius to the Freudian purists). The necessity to think was to make sense to the conscious mind that there was this other 'THING'(in the back of our mind) we were only subliminally aware of, but strove to explain. Hence, our accumalation of myths, beleifs and religeons to, sort of, explain (make sense of) them.

  20. Jack. They are now deciphering the ancient man, not australopithicus but the other, and we will see how we stack up with them. art janov

  21. What I meant was that they are doing the genome of neanderthal man, and then we will see next years what we humans have in common with him. It should tell us a lot. art janov

  22. Jack,

    Your points are fair enough, and I was presenting a best guess - not a hard belief.

    However, in looking at "natural" African societies (and other) which have not been exposed to the technology /science /infrastructure /culture /mass-society revolutions of the past 200 years and more, I would bet that we, as a species, have been very neurotic for probably an extremely long time; primarily I think because we have the *ability* to go highly neurotic yet still survive in spite of ourselves.

    Other seriously deprived animals tend to self-terminate quickly because they just leave their young for dead from maternal disinterest. Instead us humans support out kids anyway (because we *know* better), reproduce, and go on killing-sprees when we need bit more land and resources to accomodate our growing tibes, which in turn creates the shock-treatment to further spread neurosis. Very unfortunately inhumanity can be a great survival mechanism. (I've actually spoken about this in much earlier posts on this forum)...

    Us humans go "hard" and change radically through serious deprivation and necessarily ruthless competition for resources, whereas other animals will just fall over from damage probably much more quickly, in turn making them less durably neurotic than us. I think us humans are victims, in a sense, of our own extraordinary adaptive capacity.

    And to say: I believe that what may prove to be Man's greatest investion/s in contraception. We can artificially induce a permanent "golden age" by permanently balancing resources to population so we never again have to be forced into desperation from too many people and not enough food - which is [and when you think about it must be] the historic norm. This should likewise empower us to permanently come away from neurosis, over time. (Though we might have to humble ourselves to some negative eugenics if we can agree that some degree of natural selection is required to remove 'genetic errors'...considering that we would be (and probably are today even) undermining that process with active population control). Sorry to rant.

    -Oh, and I don't think that thinking and feeling are seperate by default. Feelings drive and seamlessly and interactively flow with our thoughts. "Robot thinking" is more neurotic thinking I believe, and I think it can lead to potentially dangerous "institutional stupidity"... if that makes sense?

  23. Not quite sure Art what is meant by: " ....... seeing how we stack up with them". I doubt that through genes or DNA we'll be able to figure out if our ancestors were neurotic and/or thinking creatures. I am suggesting that neurosis occured in recent evoutionary times and because of the 'split' (conscious/subconscious), necessitated a thinking process to compensate for a sublinimal awareness of that "something in the back of our minds'. A non-neurotic creature would not need this facility. I would be inerested in your take of this concept.

    To the best of my knowledge only Bernard Campbell proffered an anthropological reason for becoming neurotic.

  24. Millions of years ago, in a warm wet jungle, a small furry primate was endowed with an incredible brain. It was a brain that was designed to become larger and more intelligent, if only the skull would allow for it. It was the first brain to be built using an expandable system. Every time one of these primates was born with a larger skull, the brain seized it's chance to become larger and more intelligent, without the need for random trial and error. It was planned evolution, allowing for rapid and successful change.

    While the brain became more intelligent, nothing revolutionary happened to it's pain filtering system. Humans are lucky to be intelligent, but unlucky to have a primitive pain management system. We can't rely on an automatic ability to heal. We must change our environment and use clever science so we can do what nature couldn't.

  25. About Neanderthal DNA : several studies have been done in Europe (about nine in 2006): the results are (from what I understood) that the Neanderthals are human but different from Homo sapiens their DNA seems to have grown less and less different from one individual to another which confirms the idea that they were extincting slowly when Homo sapiens came in Europe. They were burying their deads, painting their bodies and spreading flowers on them. Scientists have found that they could speak and probably sing (they used computers to recreate their larynx). Some people even recorded a CD with songs in the frequencies they could sing in (I've listen to it and it's amazing, strange and sad).So they are close to us but not our direct ancestors. It's interesting because it chose that it has existed several "ways" of "being human" in the past.
    JH Rosny ainé wrote in 1909 a novel which title is "La guerre du feu" where he described those times in a rather intuitive way.

  26. I see I am going to have to publish Beyond Belief. You mean there was no capacity for the split in Neanderthal? art

  27. Did the Neanderthal's really leave? I would bet my left arm that we bred with them and mixed. Sex-charged young men can be pretty shameless...can they not? And woman only pretend to be a little "better".

  28. Andrew: What do you mean "we". We were not even around for a very long time yet. AJ

  29. Dr Janov: "We" = modern homo sapiens. I think our ancestors probably bred with Neanderthal man, and maybe we all have some Neanderthal genes in us. So maybe they didn't die out as such, but morphed.

  30. Here' a little contribution to this interesting debate started by my first post. This contribution is from the concluding chapter of a book called "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness" by Erich Fromm. The book deals with the important question: how can we explain man's lust for cruelty, and indirectly, how can we explain widespread neurosis in the historical record? In that concluding chapter, entitled " On the ambiguity of hope" (an interesting essay in its own right), Fromm, after looking at evidence from psychology,anthropology, neurophysiology, animal behavior, etc, writes: " In this study I have tried to demonstrate that prehistoric man, living in bands as hunters and food gatherers, was characterised by a minimum of destructiveness and an optimum of cooperation and sharing, and that only with an increasing productivity and division of labor, and formation of a large surplus, and the building of states with hierarchies and elites, large scale destructiveness and cruelty came into existence and grew as civilisation and the role of power grew..
    Has this study also contributed valid arguments in favor of the thesis that aggression and destructiveness can ONCE AGAIN (my emphasis) assume a minimal role in the fabric of human motivations? I beleive it has, and I hope that my readers do to."

    Of course one must read the book to check his evidence for these conclusions. The central dilemma , as always, is this : "Is Man basically "evil" (at least partially) as Christians and Freud beleived, using different words (original sin, neurosis) ? Is (s)he basically neurotic or not? If not, what can we do to reverse the present widespread neurosis? Wilhelm Reich for one, I know, thought that man was basically good, after all his deep investigations into the human character. This goodness being unfortunately buried most of the time under a ton of defenses of the most varied kinds (see the introduction to his book "The Mass Psychology of Fascism"). Marco

  31. Marco: I have written on this previously. art janov

  32. Hello folks: This has been a most interesting thread dealing with important questions.

    My present comment is one referring to Jack Waddington's contention that widespread neurosis only appeared a few thousand years ago.This is what Fromm seems to be saying (above) and this is what Reich had to say: " It is not a question of the Versaille Treaty, th oil wells of Baku ,or 200-300 years of capitalism, but a question of 4-6000 thousand years of authoritarian mechanical civilisation which has RUINED man's functioning " (My emphasis in bold letters) .

    And this is what Dr Janov had to say on the question: " All the observations, theory and research cited herein lead us to one central conclusion: there is a new quality of consciousness available to Man, a consciousness not possible to attain heretofore in the thousands of years of man's recorded history.It is not that man has not been previously capable of this consciousness. Rather, the Pains of his everyday life have sealed his normal consciousness and left him with a false consciousness. I beleive this new Primal consciousness is the only hope if mankind is to survive, for it is out of neurotic consciousness that social institutions are erected- and it is those institutions which suppress feeling, keep man neurotic and cause his societies to self-destruct." (first paragraph of the concluding chapter of "Primal Man, The New Consciousness" by Arthur Janov)

    Well Fromm, Reich, and Janov seem pretty well to be saying the same things as to when widespread neurosis began: a few thousand years ago as "civilisation" began. OK, it was not the Golden Age before, but our "primitive" ancestors seemed to be a little happier than we all are now. Marco

  33. So Richard,

    I think if you have a hard time understanding something I say (because it may not fit with the exact model of Primal that you have embraced), you could get more mileage out of taking your own advice about keeping an open mind, as opposed to projecting your discomfort onto me in the form of "stumbling". Know what I mean?

    I have to tell you that in the few times you've thrown me a bone in this forum, you've done it in a way that assumes way too much and also dismisses way too much. For example, I never wrote anything about beginnings and endings of cognitive and primal therapy. I never wrote anything about tingling sensations prior to crying. Those are your interpretations you've imposed on my words. I can't say I appreciate it either of these, as they are definitely away from my intended message.

    You asked (maybe rhetorically) "HOW do those symptoms become lead-ins?" I should refer that question to Dr. Janov, and I will. But I'd also like to take a stab myself. In my therapy (and in sessions I've been able to read) current symptoms are the indicators of what pain you are ready to feel. Some of those symptoms may even be part of the feeling itself. Art, can you help here?

    I like your originality, Richard, and I hope you will continue to push on with courage.

    Best wishes,


    PS - please feel free to email me if there is an off topic conversation to finish elsewhere. I tried to contact you before via the web link you indicated, but no luck. Meanwhile, simple things just work. Here is my email again:

    PPS - oh, one other thing. I've never studied cognitive therapy even a little. I'm almost 100% Janov educated when it comes to psychology. See what I mean about assummptions? I also learned most of my big words from Janov. Words like "plethora". The guy has had an amazing influence on me!

  34. Marco: I am pretty sure that I used to write better than now. It is suble, this age thing, but ineluctable. AJ

  35. Dr Janov (with reference to your Dec 30th post) : You still write great! I mean , how many people are still cranking out books and blogs at your age, and still writing very lucidly about subtle matters of the utmost importance. Personally, I see no difference in terms of quality between your present contributions and those of 30-40 years ago. I mean this sincerily. Keep on writing , and many of us will keep on reading with great interest. Marco

  36. Dr. Janov,

    Previously you had complimented me on my use of large words. Now I'd like to return the favor. "Ineluctable" weighs in at 11 letters and a whopping five syllables. Nice. And as a bonus, the Latin root 'luctari' means struggle, which is an important verb in primal theory. So you are literally saying you cannot struggle out of something. Kind of birthy, right?

    I'm with Marco, though. I find your writing brilliant (even now), and sometimes on the verge of spellbinding, and always fresh.

    Best wishes for the new year,


  37. Walden: I promise I will always print compliments. AJ

  38. Hi Dr Janov,

    I was just reflecting on my last entry where I suggested that the primal process may be more natural for people who are not already in a lot of pain. I think you may have already validated that idea in your books? I remember you saying that once a person gets to a certain point in therapy they have no choice but to get well...suggesting, if I got it right, that the primal process no longer needs to be 'provoked' because the individual's first reaction is not to just to defend, but to feel - so it becomes a truly natural process where the therapist no longer needs to "crack a nut" but only support the patient through their pain (at the most)?

    What do you think of this Dr Janov? To me it would be a complete (thus far best, and I believe most comnprehensive) explanation as to why us neurotics don't primal without special help first.

    -Oh, and you'll probably have to print this because I'm about to give you a compliment:

    I think you will one day be rightfully recognised as, maybe, history's most important psychologist ever. Probably not in your lifetime, and maybe not until we have some kind of "primal revolution", but the truth is what it is and is has to prevail in the end.

  39. Andrew:
    You have it kind of right but don't want to duplicate what is in my books. What not read them? AJ

  40. Yeah alright Dr Janov; most of what I have read of you is your earlier stuff.

    Which of your books do you think would be the best for me to buy today?

  41. Andrew: I consider my Primal Healing and Biology of Love crucial in understanding the theory and the therapy. The upcoming Life Before Birth is of the essence. 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.