Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why Are We Anxious? (Part 6/6)

Unfortunately, a good deal of intrauterine trauma is registered in the right brain. It then becomes a vain task to use the later developing left frontal brain to gain access to it. They are two universes apart, and, as I explained earlier, they speak two different languages.

At the start of therapy the patient rarely retrieves memories of high life-and-death valence. The laws of evolution often will not permit it; that is, repression does the job for which it was intended. It allows only manageable fear at first. We have found a way to access the depths of the unconscious in an orderly, methodical fashion so that the patient is not overwhelmed by pain. Man is a microcosm of the universe; therefore what man is, is a clue to the universe. And we certainly learn about the evolution of the brain by observing patients in our therapy.

A study of 3-day-old baby rabbits, deprived of oxygen, found radically lower precursors (building blocks) to serotonin (5-HT). And they did not recover from this deficit. If we found these rabbits later on and offered them Prozac (serotonin enhancer) I am sure they would literally jump at the chance (pun intended). There are many animal studies that show how oxygen deprivation at birth lowers the set-points of serotonin. The research is now endless, almost always with the same conclusions: early trauma, including pre-birth trauma, alters serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

When a fetus develops normally the inhibitory/serotonin cells also develop in orderly fashion. But trauma to the carrying mother (a husband leaves the home) interferes with that process. Later on when the baby, now adult, suffers panic and anxiety attacks that appear out of the blue we can perhaps understand the origins. We see it in newborns whose bodies express it in restlessness. They are often non-cuddly babies.

One reason for the evolution of the left frontal cortex was to produce a brain system that could distance itself from the other areas of the nervous system where painful feelings lie—a way of not being overwhelmed by what lay below so that we can get on with life and deal with daily problems. It is a brain system that can uncouple itself from massive, damaging input. It is the human part of us that can do it; it can disengage from that lizard in our head with our brain above water, no longer communicating together. Another important reason for the evolution of the left hemisphere is that the left frontal cortex evolved with the use of tools. It is the left frontal area that is involved in precise tool use, as for example, hammering a nail. Precision has become the domain of the left frontal area. If we are looking for a good surgeon we should find one that is left-brain dominant. We can be assured that she will be precise. If we want a therapist who can feel and sense things we may want a right-brain dominant individual; but of course, someone with a balanced brain is always the ne plus ultra.

Are we actually born with not enough serotonin in our systems? Yes, but it is not genetic; we are born with it but not born with it. Think of it this way: We take drugs that boost serotonin (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.), levels to help repress anxiety and pain. Does that mean that anxiety is due to low levels of serotonin? Isn’t that like asking if headaches occur due to low levels of aspirin? Not really. Because serotonin is a natural product, something we produce internally; and it can be low. We are indeed born with low serotonin levels due to epigenetics where a mother’s anxiety and low serotonin levels herself cannot help the fetus out with donating any supplies. So the fetus is in pain. Because basic need was not fulfilled, for example, the need for safety, e.g., to feel safe and untroubled. A child who lives with a rageful parent never feels that kind of safety and can never really relax. The world becomes a dangerous place for him, and when the pain is compounded by a stark, sterile, unloving home there could be the development of delusions, “They are after me and want to hurt me.” This all comes from a feeling that there is no safety anywhere, no one to turn to for help and soothing. Danger lurks, not just from the outside but also from the inside; it is a danger that is hard to escape.

We professionals are never going to convince this person that there is no danger. There is, but the doctor cannot see it; only the patient can feel it and know what it is. What is troubling is that the person is convinced that the danger is outside.

I explained in other works how one of my patients during gestation was involved in an auto accident during her eighth month. Her mother was pinned against the steering wheel and had the fright of her life as the car turned over twice. A chronically anxious mother can produce the same effect. The child seemed anxious, nervous and distracted and remained so throughout her life. She suffered a continuous low level of anxiety throughout her life making her unable to deal with the simplest task. She could not handle any additional pressure. One obvious reason was that the mother remained anxious all through her pregnancy, downloading it into the baby. The baby then had a substrate of anxiety herself. When father was menacing with a strong, loud voice she tended to overreact and be especially fearful (hence, obedient). Overreacting means reacting to different epochs of early life, to different kinds of trauma and lack of love, or to layers of the same feeling compounded over time.

So she is not just reacting to the current situation but she is reacting also to the past trauma, as well. It is how parents take our “no” away. We dare not disobey because we are so fearful from the start. So a healthy baby would shake her head and say to her parents “I don’t want to eat this,” whereas the child who spent his life in an anxiety-filled womb wouldn’t dare say “no;” the dreaded consequences, triggering off the birth and gestational traumas would be overwhelming. Without a theory that takes into account gestational life we will be at a loss to help patients. The kind of person I am describing is someone who cannot refuse an invitation or who cannot discipline a child. She cannot say “no,” in the same way that the parent could not, as a child, say no to her father.

If we have normal levels of serotonin we could repress on our own and there would be no anxiety or panic attacks. Low serotonin means inadequate repression. Thus, those riddled with impulses, homicidal and suicidal, are typically low in this neuro-chemical. It means loss of control. Anxiety starts its life as pure terror barely held back by the gating system. 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 but it never changes its internal effects. It is biologic. It is kept in place for reasons of survival. But it uses up supplies of inhibitory neurotransmitters. And the suffering may be exacerbated.

The problem seems to be that from just after conception to adulthood some of us utilize more serotonin than we manufacture. Animals, who were shocked while rendered helpless had far lower serotonin levels. What is diabolic is that traumas during womb-life not only cause us to use huge supplies of serotonin but they can compromise the inhibitory/repressive system so that we cannot make enough. The set-point is then very low. Don’t forget that it takes almost half of our womb-life before we can make our own serotonin.

Consciousness is the end of anxiety. Consciousness means connection to what is driving us. Disconnected feelings are what drive us constantly to keep busy. Their energy is found in the form of ulcers or irritable bowel, in phobias and the inability to focus and concentrate. They are the ubiquitous danger, shaping a parallel self—a personality of defenses and the avoidance of pain; a self stuck in history forever. In effect, there is a parallel self, the unreal front; and the real self, the one that feels and hurts. Thus, there are parallel universes that make up the human condition; one that feels and suffers, the other that puts on a good front. The latter, the front, is what most psychotherapy deals with: the psychology of appearances versus essences; the psychology of phenotypes instead of genotypes. It is navigating in the wrong universe. I propose that we navigate in the right epoch with the right tools and the right brain?

I have come to believe that a general theory, made of many hypotheses is essential for guiding patients to their pain. It should contain some philosophy, some neurology, some psychology, and, above all, a strong sense of humanity. Suppose we were like the very early explorers (and current professionals) who did not know there was a down under? Their explorations were random, without maps, a hit-or-miss proposition. We need to know that there is a proper destination, and we need to know how to get there; to be cartographers of all the elements of mind, not just the thinking mind. If physicians and therapists don’t know about “down under,” they will not solve panic and anxiety attacks, depression, suicidal tendencies, high blood pressure, sex problems, nightmares, and hormone deficiencies, to say nothing of heart attacks and other catastrophic diseases. To continue the metaphor, when we stay in the verbal neighborhood, we are never going to learn a foreign language--the language of sensations and feelings—the language of no words. Even though these lower levels talk to us continuously, we have never learned to talk to them. We haven’t learned their language because their language is ancient, developing long before the newer verbal language we have today. We are trying to get one level of the brain to do the work of another level, and it simply cannot. We use words to control anxiety when it has nothing to do with words. With each unblocking of feeling in our therapy there is an incremental increase in consciousness, and one is less driven by unknown, unconscious forces. Our goal is to widen and expand consciousness and narrow the gap.

Each month of our personal fetal evolution and our infancy (ontogeny) seems to represent millions of years of human development (phylogeny). In this sense, in our therapeutic sessions, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. What we can do now is go back to our beginnings, and through reliving we can find what happened during our birth. Further, we can discover how that event affected our lives. We can get to the beginning of our survival strategies, and each step means getting back more of ourselves. Think of it: we can discover how and when our neurosis began, if indeed, there was a significant trauma early on. (Remember the auto accident by the carrying mother?) Otherwise, there is the slow accretion of pain week after week, year after year, until one day we wake up and discover that we are miserable. We fight assiduously against the liberation of the unconscious when that alone spells emotional freedom. We need to get “emotional.”

We have the power to make an atavistic leap into our past and unlock the unconscious. We can peer down into millions of years of evolution by traveling back in our personal development. We can see how when feelings are too strong, how ideas and beliefs jump into the fray. We can see the origin of anxiety in our system as we feel the primordial terror. Anxiety is not a normal feeling. There are those who claim it is necessary to drive us and get things done. That is true if we are neurotic. We are not normally born anxious.

What most of medicine and psychotherapy involves today is the treatment of fragments of a human being, pieces of an original memory that has lost its connection to the whole. So we have coughing spells, frequent colds, anxiety and phobias, seizures, migraines, all pieces of an original imprint. We then treat the varied offshoots from a central imprint rather than the imprint itself; treatment then becomes interminable. What we get is a fragment of progress—a change in aspects of an early experience. We treat the phobias, the high blood pressure and the palpitations, sometimes all with the same drug. Because it is all of a piece, aspects of the same early experience. We have several different doctors really treating the same problem. Inadvertently, we are treating the central experience even though we may not be aware of it. What we want to avoid is a false or deceptive sense of health in our patients. We will have that false sense when we do not have good access to our inner life and to our feelings.

Feeling isn’t just another psychological approach. It is a sine qua non for mental health.


  1. Art, The whole six parts makes total sense to me and I would have thought also to neurophysicist, psychological and medical people, but I fear it doesn't get through to those guys. I am wondering if you wrote the same thing in laymans language so that we lesser mortals might be able to grasp it. As I see it, there needs to be a conceptual grasp of what you are saying and implying. I have often wondered if youth (11 thru 20) might be more receptive, especially early youth, puberty, as I contend their rebeliliousness stems from not wanting to enter the feelingless neurotic world they see arround them. Just how to contact them has eluded me. You have any ideas?

  2. Jack: I have written at least 15 articles or letters to the editor to the NY and LA Times. Never have they printed anything or acknowledged my letters. art

  3. “Unfortunately, a good deal of intrauterine trauma is registered in the right brain. It then becomes a vain task to use the later developing left frontal brain to gain access to it. They are two universes apart, and, as I explained earlier, they speak two different languages.”

    Reading this I had a thought about the discussion that an earlier blog touched off, i.e. why we are not wired to re-feel and integrate the experiences later when mature enough to survive the onslaught.

    If we accept the theory of evolution (as I understand it) – random changes that give rise to a new organism – then there is no logical reason why our brains would necessarily mutate to a more adaptive state. It is just as likely the brain would adapt to its current traumas in a way that would be counter-productive later. To assume or wish that the brain would do otherwise is almost to demand some sort of intelligence driving evolution, which is tantamount to Divine Intervention. To draw the analogy further (perhaps by too long a straw), if we can’t accept that reality, it’s like over-reacting to present hardships when what we really feel is our parents should have made things easier for us. Some go on to believing in a Heavenly Father who will at least get around to making everything alright in the End…


  4. Dear Art Janov, yesterday I saw a healthy baby running through the aisles of a catholic church while the ceremonies were going on (which in my lifetime as a child or grown-up would I would n o t dared to do! Unfortunately her mother ended this demonstration of a child`s power by grasping her-showing signs of shame for this beautiful innocence! And as for the non answering of the newspapers I am sure You do not need solace but I sometimes get furious in thinking of "my" therapist whom I had to endure who did not have more to say You were a "guru" or another one mocking "they(the primal therapists kill by wrapping in a carpet-which in fact some I d i o t s here in Germany did..)I wonder if they thought they had done any good to me -I surmise Yes -in fact they had done more harm than before ! Yours emanuel

  5. Dr. Janov, the NY slimes/crimes is full of intellectuals. I read in one your comments that when you talk to children about primal therapy they get it instantly, not so for intellectuals who cogitate everything.

  6. Dr. Janov, i want to start with thanking you i find your work always interesting.

    I'm interested to know what you think about the actuality of the movement of humanity, especially here in west, Could the whole "catalogue of works" that we humans always want to expand and the "building of the self" that we want to improve as actual movements of the unreal self? if we speculate, is there a "reality for all", absolute and clear, or is the reality us inventing new levels in our culture? is the "spirit of culture" neurotic? is the society of the unblocked the actual "end of history", the end of achievement? Hoping you'd reflect on my wonderings !


  7. Profound and very important series of articles on anxiety. I have only experienced that depth of anxiety once in my life, and that was enough. You see I have a very rare and debilatating ear disorder called hyperacusis, which is a hyper-sensitivity to sounds, the complete opposite of deafness (see When I came down with this 14 years ago, I naturally experienced great distress, which culminated with this very deep anxiety attack which drove me to the local psychiatric unit. It is not clear to me whether this great reaction was a natural reaction to my losing the normal use of one my senses, or whether it was an excessive neurotic reaction. But it was terrible. Thankfully I came down from this Hell the next day, after taking 2mg of Klonopin, a tranquiliser, which incredibly, if I remember correctly, made the difference.

    There are too many aspects to these fine articles for me to respond to here, but the aspect which struck me the most was Dr Janov's explanation as to why some people are chronically anxious, which I am not. My ex-girlfriend was like that and she was also epileptic. "..the anxious patient has chronically leaky gates... writes Dr Janov. Ah finally! Now I understand what was happenning , and is still happening to her. For years I had wondering why she was like that. Unfortunately just understanding why won't make her better of course, but it still helps a bit.

    Marco (a non-anxious but typically angry emotional Italian; see also the TV series "The Sopranos": those people are me but without the criminality)

  8. Filip: I would happily reflect on your comments but that takes a book not a few paragraphs. I tell you what. I did a Ken Rose radio show yesterday where we went into all that. It will soon be posted on our internet website. If not, I will then answer you questions; a tall order. art janov

  9. Dr. Janov,
    The NYT lives from reporting the now.
    Very few newspaper editors are able to see the effect of trauma. If they did, they might have to acknowledge their own. Denial triumphs worldwide.
    I find the Huffington Post more receptive for indebt knowledge. It stands for true journalism and shies not away from critical issues. Arianna Huffington her self is open minded and interested in human related research.
    Also AP (Associated Press) and DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH/German Press Agency) are agencies one can expect good, informative and well-founded journalism. “Saloon” could be another choice.
    I just believe, your writing should reach a wider audience.

  10. Sieglinde: I know. Everyone says it should be better known but how? We did a radio show yesterday (The Ken Rose show also on internet) and Ken said the same thing. We are not good at promotion, so if you all have ideas let me know. thanks art janov

  11. Regarding the question of how to get the word out about Primal Therapy, I would say that ,on the one hand, you would think that with all the preoccupation in our societies with health and well-being, with Oprah and DrPhil, etc.., that Dr Janov could get a respectful hearing here and there once in a while in more parts of the electronic and written media dealing with those subjects. But it does not happen for some reason. Certainly in those parts of the media that are more cultural and political, you find mostly superficial cynics who can't get beyond the cliché in popular culture about "primal screams"...and oh yeah, one of John Lennon`s 60s trips (yawn), all now relegated to the wastebasket of past trends, like the Maharishi and Wilhelm Reich (sex, and the orgone, haha) (OK, the Maharishi deserves to be forgotten but not Reich and Janov). The Herd is now onto something else in celebrity culture...If these cultural czars are not yawning and ignoring anything in the past, they may attack for some reason, as they did here in Montreal where Dr Janov was interviewed on TV about 20 years ago (?). I remember the questions from the journalists were pointed and disrespectful, which outraged me. But that's the media for you!


  12. If you can't scale it, then there's no point in promoting it. So work on scaling it.

    First, there are networks of fairly competent primal practitioners. Join them. Use the internet to get the dialog out into the public view. The internet is a great place for information revolutions. Lately, we've seen commercial software giants fall to the open source movement. Favor internet publishing models where Ph.D's don't control all the content (ahem).

    Also, for the good of a suffering humanity, please aim a tad lower than you have been. Just help make the average Joe's therapy session a little more emotional and a little more real than it is today. Find the community of status quo therapists who know they're missing the mark but don't quite know how or why. Give them a helping hand. Their patients will thank you. Target: third line and no more. (Hard for you.)

    Other ideas as they become available...


  13. I've been talking about Janov's Reflections on the Human Condition in ICQ chat rooms in my spare time. Some people look at this website while I am chatting to them. Let's not underestimate the internet. This website hasn't had enough exposure yet, but when it gets big enough, it could have an accelerated growth effect.
    Art, if you talk more about parenting and children, you might start to get more exposure. That's always a popular and heated topic. Doesn't have to be like the Jerry Springer show.

  14. These look like possible platforms for spreading Primal therapy /theory.

    Maybe the primal center and your weekly essays could have a presence
    on Twitter? I like the networking aspect and the retweet option to
    spread ideas.

  15. I remember cause I speak French but not canadian french. I hardly understood a word. AJ

  16. Walden: I know. Everyone says it should be better known but how? We did a radio show yesterday (The Ken Rose show also on internet) and Ken said the same thing. We are not good at promotion, so if you all have ideas let me know. thanks art janov

  17. Art, allocate a certain amount of Primal Foundation funds to advertising on Google. Make an advertisement which appears at the top of the Google search results page whenever a person types 'anxiety' into the Google search engine.
    The advertisement doesn't have to be one that sells Primal Therapy in the same way that one would sell burgers and fries. It could just be a message that provides alternative information to all the other information. Currently when a person does a search using the keyword 'anxiety', all search results point to drugs and Cognitive Therapy.

    Do you really want that kind of exposure? If not, then pay Google to link your advertisement to the search keywords that best fit your objective.

  18. Dr. Janov,
    may I suggest finding an agent with international publishing connections.

    The first step is to find a specialized agent would be the Writer’s Market.

    I no longer subscribe or use the Writer’s Market and can’t give you the latest listing. However, this avenue could be the first step in the right direction for your work, since many agents, for all writing categories, are listed there.

    It requires a little work to understand the do’s and don’ts when seeking publications through an agent. However, you will be rewarded with the knowledge not to waste time and material sending your work to the wrong sources, or signing the wrong publication contract. Example: why never sign for article publication an “all rights” contract, etc, or, which sentence to change to make the article more reader-friendly, to reach a greater or selected audience. A good agent will provide you with all details.

  19. Richard: Thanks so much. I will discuss it with the staff right away. art janov

  20. Sielinge: Hey thanks. I have an agent and literary lawyer. thanks anyway. art janov

  21. emma : I will look into it. thanks so much art janov

  22. Richard: I will discuss it with staff. I not a great couselor on parenting and kids. art janov

  23. “If you can't scale it, then there's no point in promoting it. So work on scaling it.”

    - I agree that’s the problem. If the therapy is done right it’s time-consuming and can only ever reach a small population of patients. If it’s scaled up and ‘democratised’ it tends to go haywire. Witness Center for Feeling Therapy etc. I did therapy with Graham Farrant here in Melbourne many years ago. He’d tried to scale up in his small clinic. I rate the results near disastrous. Most therapists were badly trained and went their own way, creating more problems than they solved, in my opinion. I got a lot from my time there (not enough) but also saw a lot of damage done. Art is trying to make the therapy as accessible as safely possible, from what I can see.

    Perhaps one day some enlightened and courageous political figure will cause sufficient money to be spent on PT to give it critical mass, but I’m not holding my breath. (Which, come to think of it, probably says a lot about my own birth, and resultant pessimism).

    PT won’t ever save the world. In fact, I remember you saying such years ago, Art. If I recall correctly, you went on to say the theory itself just might save mankind, if ever applied to birth practices, child-rearing etc. I think that is so right.

    As to promotion, there are many ways to optimise through search-engines etc. Some firms specialise in it. There is one I have thought of using for a while but can’t remember the name; will check tonight. They supply a variety of website templates which you basically plug content into, and show you how to optimise for search engine hits and so on (without paying for it, usually). They seem ethical and professional. If it’s feasible, I’d be happy to set one up and just point everything to your site, if you okay that? I’ll look into it anyway…

    Great series, by the way, many thanks. I have read it through and now will cut and paste into one document to go through again. I think I tend to skip bits that are too close to the bone the first time through, so repeated readings are in order.


  24. I wish you would pay a little attention to what I said about scaling it, because this promotion thing is just a short term fix. I don't think promotion is the real problem. The real problem is in the process downstream. To be blunt, no matter how you promote, the rest of the world is not going to meet you solely on your terms, as you continue to demand.


  25. Art
    I'm back at my assertion that lobbying would be worth a try... to have influence in political decisions... how resources should be used for mental health... it is done by political decisions... at least here in Sweden... how the money will be used.
    A credible argument in lobbying to non-established in the psychological field... in political circles... would be an opportunity out of the ordinary... it has failed to influence established with a completely different view so why not turn to established politicians to determine how resources are used in the psychological treatment... I think that lobbying would be the ultimate when talented often receive sympathy for their cause.
    Frank Larsson

  26. Frank I went to Sweden, presented my theory and said I would give the therapy to sweden but what I needed first was a pilot study which they turned down. art janov

  27. Walden: I don't understand your letter. Be careful of arrogance. AJ

  28. Erron: thanks for the help. I will follow up on every idea. Dr. Farrant never had a day's training although he claimed to. He never was a patient or ever trained. Be careful, it is your life you are tampering with. art janov

  29. Art
    Pleas can you send date and to whom you gave your offer here in Sweden?
    Frank Larsson

  30. Frank: Sorry it was thirty years ago, and I am sure that the elder politician in the Health service is dead by now. art janov

  31. Clearly primal therapy can't be scaled up to save the world, but the impact of primal theory ultimately could. The latter is the heart of what should be marketed I think.

    I think you've got the right ides with the documentary Dr Janov. Maybe some speeches (to be presented online) too...not just lectures? I get the feeling that France Janov could be good at producing that. And, of course, the internet is only going to be ever more dominant as a marketing medium. Some people think that it will take over nearly all existing media; I'm one of them.

    Walden: We can't expect Dr Janov to pretend that he believes that other approaches can help people integrate their pain, for the sake of getting more acceptance and recognition from the 'establishment', if he does not believe this.

  32. Walden, That sounds to me like "politics as usual". Let me see if I can put this in perspective:- Galileo in promoting his theory/ notion should have not expected the world to meet him on his terms (which they didn't).

    The world had to meet him on HIS terms; as they eventually did. Art Janov is in exactly the same predicament. Washington and American democracy is doing what you suggest, which is why It will crash. Compromise never solved anything.

  33. Art, according to Dr Farrant he was in fact a patient for a short time, then went to Denver where he 'trained'.



  34. Hello again,

    Erron, thanks for picking up on the "scaling" thing. I think it's really important to realize that aggressively promoting something that cannot be generally available can do more harm than good in the long run.

    I hear you that there are pitfalls with scaling Primal Therapy in particular. However, I'm not convinced that the failures to date are indicative of what's possible. One problem is the need to distinguish real therapy from mock therapy. On the one hand, that IS necessary. On the other hand, it plays into a queer dynamic in which the "woo woo" bizarre aspects of the therapy get much too much attention. The whole proposition becomes amped up. It's life and death; it's squirming like a salamander; it's having a lizard brain. Most people seeking therapy (present company excluded!) are not looking for anything like that. So these have become the distinguishing factors, but they are also ultimately the hooks that an uneducated and/or cynical public use to butcher and/or dismiss Primal. It reminds me of one of Dr. Janov's sayings, that the closer you get, the farther you have to run away. It's kind of like that (I don't know how, just feels that way).

    Although Janov's discovery apparently started with a "bang", it seems that the therapy has evolved over the years into something much more gradual and more respectful of where each individual begins. If we can learn that about individual humans, then we should be able to learn it about humanity also, and I believe that is the key to scalabilty in this case.

    I don't want to start arguing the point too strongly (which I have a tendency to do) or come off as arrogant, so I'll stop here. This is a topic of great importance to me personally. Any and all comments welcome.

    Good night,

  35. Walden, I don't think aggressive promotion will do more harm than good if the promotion includes a strong emphasis on the dangers of bad therapy. I'm not sure that primal theory should be promoted at all. I think the "woo woo" bizarre aspects should be promoted heavily so that the concepts become less alien and more accepted as worthy of discussion.

  36. Walden: The only people who are going to interpret the things you spoke of as "woo woo" (whatever the hell 'woo woo' specifically means) are the people who don't know their heads from their bottoms with respect to primal therapy/theory. The same people who think it's primal scream therapy.

    I say screw them. They're a waste of time in any circumstance, in that they will almost certainly have nothing to do with PT on any level because they will never study it. Janov should just keep explaining it the way it is, for people who are first prepared to try and understand it.

  37. Well said Andrew, I don't think you can have too much publicity. After reading just the first few sentences of a musty old copy of the Primal Scream, all the literature of psychotherapies I went thorough for years just lost all relevance in an instant. Looking back it would have saved me a lot of time if there was more publicity!

  38. ICQ gives the position of 'moderator' to chat room fanatics who spend hours in their favourite chat room every day for years, with an unblemished reputation. Moderators have the ability to kick people out. Your average chat user doesn't stand a chance of competing for the moderator position.
    I sat back and watched one moderator do nothing but issue warnings and kickings to people who were considered offensive. The moderator was drunk on power. It was the same one who kicked me out for talking about primal therapy. The room was brain-dead. Only the most tame conversations were accepted and consequently the room was full of dull boring people.

    Since my kicking I have found ways to appease one particular moderator. I'm an expert at appeasing. Did it for years with my father. Now I can talk about primal therapy so long as I disguise the offensive bits with a flavour that smells nice for the moderator. Obviously I am unable to explain it properly, but every now and then a middle-aged mother will take a look at this blog. For some reason it's the mothers who listen to me.

  39. Walden: I personally see no aspects of Primal Therapy that are "woo-woo". Dr Janov is scrupulously scientific in explaining his theories both in language for the public, and for the scientific community.What else can he do? He tells it as he sees it. It is then up to us to confirm or disconfirm his theories, if his theories sound convincing on paper. And if some things sound strange to others, that can't be helped.They do not sound strange to me on paper. Nothing should be watered down to cater to the public or the scientific community.And it all ultimately, of course, has to be verified in our own individual experiences.


  40. Andrew,

    The first time I heard of PT way back in 1973 I scoffed. Then I read the book. Don’t be so ready to pass people off as not worth the effort; that is precisely the attitude that reinforces the prejudice against PT and its proponents.


  41. The name "Primal Therapy" has been misused by many and people mix it up with ridiculous theories and/ or experiences. When I mentioned Primal Therapy to my girlfriend some years ago and how much I value its truth, she almost got tears in her eyes because she thought I had gone crazy. What she once had heard of Primal Theory was a woman who claimed she had been cured by it because she realized she was stuck as an egg in the ovary just after conception. I said that had nothing to do with Primal Therapy and give her a book by Arthur Janov. She read it and afterwards she said that it was really different, that this was very intelligent and sensible stuff.

    I've tried to promote and discuss the works of Janov through my website forum at, which has over a 1000 posts, most of them very insightful, some completely off but still there's nothing to be found in the mainstream media. Many years ago I called a TV show who was looking for participants to discuss racism and I explained that it's connected to someone's upbringing. They didn't want me on the show as soon as I mentioned childhood. If we live in an unfeeling society, then therapy is not going to change anything. How do you fight a war against people who disrespect life while you consider yourself to belong to a group who respect life?


  42. raindog: He was not a patient, and Denver was no recognized center for training. There are some 500 clinics in the world using my name. The result is we get a bad name because people think they really had proper primal therapy. art janov

  43. Art, why not lose the word 'Primal' and call it Janov Therapy? 'Janov' ranks high in the search engines and it keeps the theory/therapy connected with your books. Trademark the name and end all this tragic confusion. Insert a flyer in every book, stating the name change and make it very very clear that the therapy has not been re-invented.
    In future, do not use the word 'Primal'. Just use the word 'Feeling'.
    No doubt you have already thought about this.

  44. Dennis Rodie,

    Those nasty video's on your blog of the dogs getting kicked in the elevator reminds me of what I believe our society/s should consider: a system of reproduction licences. People who have been seriously damaged from their own childhood's should be discouraged from having kids. We should have to pass a basic test of fitness before we can reproduce.

    As for the dog kickers, you can bet your left arm that they could do the same to their children. I've often thought that you can get a window into how someone will treat their children by how they observably treat their pets - it's the same psychology, the same person.

  45. Marco,

    "Nothing should be watered down to cater to the public...".

    Not watered down, just properly sequenced. In fact, this is nothing different from the concept of visiting primal pains according to natural pace and in the correct reverse order. Of course you recognize what I'm talking about as being Primal Therapy itself.

    The marketing and presentation of Primal needs to be brought into line with the wisdom of its clinical application, garnered over all those years of experience.


  46. Richard: Not a bad idea at all. We will consider it. art janov

  47. Don't forget that there's a huge aversion against childhood abuse. Primal Therapy goes to the core of that, the very roots. You can't first talk about healing when people don't realize they are ill and destructive. Get on TV Arthur, The Oprah Winfrey Show, challenge her and Dr. Phil, have a serious debate about the roots of child abuse. I'm sure living and practising in Los Angeles, you have a few contacts in the TV industry. One of Oprah's best shows was with her friend Andrew Vachss who touched a few very important issues. Get a team who is good at presenting arguments and facts and make it happen.

    I agree with you that I haven't seen any other Primal therapist in the world who is respecting the truth of the unheard child. They all mix in their own insecurities and fears in something they call primal therapy.

    Andrew: If you want to discuss forced sterilization to fight child abuse, you're welcome to discuss it on my forum, but I strongly disagree with such system. All we need to do is to condemn child abuse, through law and through personal involvement, every time.

  48. Richard,

    It's already "Janov" therapy. I don't think personalizing it like that helps, unfortunately. It just increases the distance.

    Why not go all the way and call it cognitive-affective therapy? You know, "cognitive" does not imply left brain necessarily. If you look back at the history of the term (I think I remember researching this lightly at one point), it's is more generally about "knowing". Knowing with feeling. Sounds about right.



  49. Dennis: Getting on TV on important shows is most difficult. I wrote and several other people wrote to the Charlie Rose show to try to get me on. They never even answered our mail. The revolution will have to wait a while. art janov

  50. Dr. Janov, cocooned echo chambers like the NY Times and Charlie Rose lean heavily towards one side of the political spectrum that loves government and statism. Its not an accident that they are all avoiding it. Primal Therapy "is the ultimate freedom" as you said in the Primal Scream, anathema to those who resort to force and coercion for their schemes.

    "Individuals have erected an entity called the State which is very much like a neocortical extension. It takes an independent form detached from the interests of the individuals who comprise it, holding together society, its impulses and distortions, and ultimately predominating over the emotions and needs of the subjects. It discourages the expression of emotion as the neocortex tends to do, and erects a superstructure over it, a superstructure of symbols. (...) They want us to be anything but ourselves."

    -Prisoners of Pain, p. 240

  51. Dennis,

    Thanks for your reply. The problem with just 'condemning' serious child abuse is it doesn't seem to work; and you can't educate someone to not rape their child or put out ciggaretes on their skin etc., because the sort of people who do that already know it's bad but are too inside their own [obviously diabolical] pain to care enough to control themselves. In New Zealand there are children who come to government preschools who are so massively neglected that they have to be taught how to talk, even on a basic level. They grow up with parents who basically just grunt at them.

    Effective sterilisations are a tough call, for sure, but allowing children to be born to psychopaths (or near it) is much tougher still, and comes with vast far-reaching effects for society in general.

    In principle, I do not think that we have the basic right to state whether someone can or cannot have children, but we do have the right to say whether or not they can have children within our society - we *all* have to live, and deal with, with their offspring.

  52. Kaz: You know, I never read my books once they are done. But when you quote me I don't even remember writing that, which now convinces me that I wrote better decades ago. I like that quote and I doubt if I could duplicate it now. art janov

  53. Art, Prisoners of Pain is my favourite of all your books. The first paragraph of the introduction still just blows me away all these years after first reading it.


  54. I thought we were not allowed to discuss politics anymore. But if so, I am writing to take exception at Kaz-Izbal`s usual rant against the State.This is a right-wing fixation of his, an obsession, that goes against common sense. We need some type of State to stop and try criminals (thus some coercion), collect taxes, remove snow, etc...Sure there can be excesses and overweening power, and incursions of The State into areas where there should be no coercion (Ex: non-violent sex, however neurotic); and what Dr Janov has to stay in that quote from "Prisoners of Pain" seems true about some State functions. But common sense dictates some type of beneficial State, not States based on obsessive pro- or anti-State dogmas.And if you are going to use Janov to justify your right-wing views, let me clearly say that most of the political implications of Janov seem to me to be to the Left (like , for instance, Primal Man as a lover of nature; ther aren't many lovers of Nature on the Right)


  55. Richard: I will write about age. Maybe when I get a little older. 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.