Saturday, March 27, 2010

On Emotional Resonance

In my forthcoming book, Life Before Birth, I write about resonance; that is, how current events and feelings resonate with earlier imprinted memories to merge and consolidate, giving the memory an inordinate force. This drives behavior, often out of our control, and produces symptoms that seem intransigent. I have surmised that the connection of present and past is arranged through similar or same frequencies or oscillations. It is that which bundles feelings into a single category.

Now there is more evidence for resonance. (“How Brain Gives Special Resonance to Emotional Memories.” Florin Dolcos, Kevin LaBar, Roberto Cabeza. Neuron. June 10, 2004) “The study provides clear evidence from humans that the brain's emotional center, called the amygdala, interacts with memory-related brain regions during the formation of emotional memories, perhaps to give such memories their indelible emotional resonance.”

In their experiments the researchers were seeking evidence for the "modulation hypothesis," which holds that the brain's emotional and memory centers interact during the formation of emotional memories.” (Also see Science Daily, April, 2009)

"The basic idea was simple: to find evidence supporting the notion that the brain's emotional region modulates activity in the memory regions to form an emotional memory,"

My point is: an event is registered at the highest level of brain function possible. So at four months of gestation, trauma will be registered at the brainstem level. There will be a neural highway of this event with various detours sending this information upward and forward informing higher levels about what is happening lower down; each level making a contribution in its own idiosyncratic language to the entire feeling. So here we have resonance; information traveling upward and forward, and later information traveling downward to resonate with the original event.

A short technical note: According to a study by C.L. Lowery, et al., sensory fibers proliferate at 20 weeks of gestation. Thalamo-cortical projections mature at about 29 weeks, although the thalamus seems to be operational at around 20 weeks. The thalamus is the switchboard that relays information to the inchoate neocortex which is just getting organized and also delivers information down to the feeling centers such as the amygdala. Lowery and his team point out that “Evidence for the subconscious incorporation of pain into neurological development and plasticity is incontrovertible.” [1] That important statement supports a position I have held for many decades; the unconscious is not a dark, evil place but rather, something that is inhabited by imprinted events very early in our lives that endure. We never really knew how early.

I am positing the assumption that low level imprints have a distinct signature in terms of frequency. It may be that each level recognizes a relationship with one another in terms of a similar frequency. So that something we endured doing womb-life, a mother heavily depressed and perhaps taking antidepressants, sends up through her nerve tracks nonverbal memories which then merge into what we undergo currently. That combined force then makes any reaction inappropriate. The problem thus far is that we have neglected deep brain imprints, focusing on knowable events and believing that the current situation is the one to concentrate on, when in reality it is but a fraction of the problem. I emphasize that my assumption is not fact. However, Mirecea Steriade has been researching this point for years. I would like to quote Steriade extensively but the work and explanation are so complicated that it would be meaningless to the lay reader, and often to me, as a matter of fact. He was from Bucharest and died in 2006. But he wrote about reciprocal connections between separate brain sites that seem to oscillate in terms of the same rhythms. Specifically, he traced the thalamus and the neocortex, and found “excitability changes consisting of depolarizing responses and decreased inhibitory responses.”[2] One can read many of his articles on oscillations. The point is that many brain structures are linked by reciprocal connections. And it may be that frequency oscillations is one aspect. What I believe may happen is that through this there is a consolidation of the various brain sites. And in terms of resonance it would be mean that later feelings are automatically joined with earlier but similar feelings. They are, in short, “consolidated.”

[1] “Neuro-developmental Changes of Fetal Pain.” Semin. Perinatol. Oct. 31, 2007, Pgs. 275-82.

[2] “Coherent oscillations and short-term plasticity in corticothalamic networks.” Research News. Vol. 22 No, 8. 1999 page 337.


  1. Hi Art, I remember early PT sometimes used Stroboscopes to induce primals; is this related to the frequency connection in this discussion?


  2. You can forget something important when you are distracted by an urgent matter. You have forgotten to collect your child from the park because your dog has just vomited on the carpet. As you are scrubbing the carpet you hear the voice of your neighbour's child in the distance. The sound triggers your memory. "Oh my gosh!!" You jump into your car. But you don't start the engine because you have just remembered that your friend had offered to drive your kid home, and now you can see them coming down the road. False alarm.

    It is only natural that one feeling will trigger a similar and more important one. I don't think repressed memories are special just because they are stored unconsciously. Everyday we are taking things from the unconscious and bringing them forward into consciousness.

    What is more amazing to me, is how we manage to avoid remembering the most important events (traumatic scenes and events) and how we manage to keep ourselves from feeling ANYTHING fully. I suspect the brain is a huge symphony of resonating parts. Maybe it would be a good idea to study the places in the brain where there is LESS resonance. And what about those relaxing "fog horn" frequencies. Do they happen in places where they shouldn't?

  3. Art,

    As I read it, what the research is saying is that lower and higher brain centers are connected, and that the lower ones (in this case) have the ability to energize the higher ones in pulses which occur in a particular range of frequency. Further, that this "pulsing" facilitates the organization and capture of memory at the higher level, causing it to gel more quickly than otherwise. What this means is that when an experience has an emotional dimension, it has greater significance in our lives. But we knew that.

    What the research is NOT saying (so far as I have read) is that each nuance of feeling corresponds to a particular frequency signature such that when one part of the brain starts producing that signature, other parts that recognize it also start to fire. That would be analogous to acoustical resonance, the model you seem to be positing.

    I want to be clear on something here. It makes sense that certain nerve fibers may be "tuned" to a frequency range. For a neuron to "fire", an ion exchange has to ripple down the length of the cell, and then that exchange has to reverse and polarize again before the cell can fire again. Since this takes significant time, and since that time may vary due to anatomical factors, it makes sense that neuronal traces can fire more effectively when the frequency of activation works well with the intrinsic firing and recovery time. I don't question that general activation from one brain area to another is subject to this kind of resonance factor. What I doubt is the information encoding potential of this model.

    Subjectively, there is a huge range of "feeling" possible, when we consider all the nuances that we can discern in our emotional states. For example, there is not just one "sadness", it seems, but there are tones and shades that seem to adhere to specific memories and circumstances. From an encoding standpoint, the information space is quite large. Acoustical wave forms are rich enough in information content to encode that much variation in feelings, probably. So it's an interesting idea that this feeling "might look" like that Fourier analysis. But while it's possible, I think you have not yet cited any evidence that would suggest it. It also leaves me wondering why a network structure like our brain, which can represent a unique experience by choosing one out of a gazillion possible neuronal traces, would resort to something like acoustical signaling to get the job of experiential discrimination done.

    Finally, I wonder why it matters whether it's "resonance" or just plain "associativity" that makes one experience excite its historical analog. It's a phenomenon we all can observe in ourselves, and it happens whether or not trauma is involved. For example, a particular piece of music can transport me back to my back yard when I was 15 years old wearing my L.L. Bean moccasins kicking a soccer ball in the dew laden grass on a misty overcast Saturday. It is a neutral/happy memory. But the question: why does the particular mechanism matter?


  4. Erron: Yes we did it in the early 70's but dropped it as artificial. What we did was slow down the brain into the feeling zone but I found it too mechanical. How in hell do you remember that? That was Michael Holden's idea. AJ

  5. Richard. you are right it is a huge symphony of resonating parts. but to retrieve first line stuff which is very very deep you need some kind of explanation. I see it every day. I know the observation is right. All you bright people, and I mean that truly, help me explain. art janov

  6. Walden: The mechanism matters only to explain things. If you have a better idea I am all ears. I know the phenomenon is right whatever you want to call it. I forgot what is your training? art janov

  7. Art, I doubt any scientist is going to believe in your therapy, based on your scientific observation of resonance. Those resonating frequencies could be anything. Walden is absolutely right.
    I was trying to show how "resonance" is normal and obvious to everyone, even scientists, if you think of it in terms of basic memory retrieval, nor is it a big deal if you think of it as just a way for various brain parts to connect. The lower brain parts connect to the higher parts. So what? What does it mean? It could mean anything. Every time I feel the urge to urinate, there is a connection between my higher brain and my very very deep brain.
    The part that is not so obvious to scientists, is the gating; the separation of deep impulses from conscious awareness. If you want to use a resonance model to explain primal theory, you need to show the difference in resonance between a normal brain and a sick one. Then it would have some meaning. My previous comment was a suggestion for neurologists to find that difference.

    (People are telling me my photo is too pornographic...oh please...)

  8. Your obsession (sorry Art, but that's how it comes across to me) with neurophysiological and scientific explanations seems pointless, in promoting a 'feeling' therapy; least-ways to this layman.

    That I finally have access to feelings, even before birth is all I need to be aware of and the rest is merely my willingness to feel them when they arise. I know from within my very being, that feeling them is my relief from them dominating my life.

    If this is a blog for professional neurophysicist then I am totally out of place, but that is not what I thought it was.

  9. Richard: you need to stop thinking intellectually on this because when you see intrusion in the middle of a session and you have no idea what is happening, you will need to call on the theory to understand it. The way it is all laid down is precise, and the levels are precise. It is when something is thrown up out of sequence that we see emotional illness at work. Of course it is all connected but in sessions you see how that happens. When a patient suddenly starts coughing or loses her breath, you need to know what to do immediately. It is this lack of knowledge that makes Primal Therapy dangerous in untrained hands because of forcing levels, or allowing deep pain up prematurely or interceding when you shouldn't or giving insights when the patient is on a deep nonverbal level. Yes, it all seems simple until you try doing it. I have found an inverse relationship between academically training therapists and not academic. The intellectuals rarely learn the therapy cause they cannot make that simple trip from the left to right brain. We spend weeks and months teaching about abreaction, teaching how to stop the release of one level pain onto another level. And we spend months and months teaching intellectuals to stop trying to be smart in therapy; not to have any idea what the patient is doing ahead of time. art janov

  10. Richard: We do. Resonance is the same process in a normal brain and a neurotic one. It all depends on gating. Strong gating more slow and difficult the resonance. This is one of many ways we measure the defense system. art

    1. have neurologists found evidence of gating? i wonder if gating is a crude mechanism; an anesthetizing chemical or something simple like that.

    2. Richard: Gating is simply those chemicals that enter the synapse and block the message of pain from moving upward and forward. art

  11. Jack: It's not, but we need to understand where it all comes from. And because of new neurology it has helped change our therapy enormously. Sorry it is my interest in order to perfect what we do. art janov

  12. Jack,

    Science is terribly important to provide and advance understranding. Not only does understanding help develop (externally) recognisable legitimacy for the primal approach, it also provides an conceptual base to facilitate the development of new and effective ideas. And can I say that the liberation of feeling does not demote the importance of the intellect. Clearly feelings guide the intellect; they do not, in themselves, replace it.

    I know you think that science is a neurotic pursuit, as you have said before. Personally I think that the neurosis has more to do with the *psychological relationship* with what we engage in. I doubt any profession is inherently "neurotic" in itself.

    Art: This journey for explanations is naturally going to be tough and long because it's moving into [currently] hypothetical zones i.e. trying to see into the thus far invisible. People should understand not to take what you say on this level as gospel - obviously it can't be. It's a "frontier of ideas" - ideas that can hopefully be tested over time.

    ...and yes, I understand your need for them for ther sake of developing s theoretical base to better explain your therapy and its process. Happy to read the interesting posts!

  13. Hi Jack, where did you do therapy, did you do it with Art?

    Hi Richard, where did you do therapy, did you do it with Art?

    - my apologies, but I keep coming back to this. I did therpay with 2 lots of pretenders to the Primal Crown, both of whom professed personal aquaintance with Art, both of whom were full of shit. I have my problems with Art's delivery at times, but I just lack the confidence to question his THEORY & THERAPY until I have experienced it PERSONALLY.

    What about you, have you done so, are you going to? Because until we do our opinions are surely based on our perception of what it would be like
    to drive that dream car we can't afford. Crap analogy, maybe, but best I can do at the moment.

    I will be in LA experiencing it some time mid this year, death notwithstanding (and if Art doesn't get too pissed with my 'attitude'). What about you? Are you able/willing to proffer a before and after opinion? Sure would be great to meet you both; oh boy the discussions we could have...



  14. It is of course possible that a neuron won't relay an on it impinging and to excitatory transmitters translated action potential unless it arrives at a frequency that is neither too low nor too high (the very core of what is or should be meant by the "primal zone"). However _IF_ the goal is to explain and understand what is going on within our ASSS (or brain) in respect of how CURSES insidiously influence or to a significant extent motivate what we do (not excluding what we think and feel) _THEN_ any appropriate (and accEPTable %}) depiction must involve neurons that _trigger_ each other via the generation, transmission, and reception of electrochemical and molecular signals.

    Acoustics as a metaphor won't do!

    On the other hand, IF the aim with using the word "resonance" is to raise and make some people hold on to a personal 'primal therapy encouraging/promoting/targeted' hope, rather than facilitate a firming and widening of our overall cognitive grip on "truth" [i.e. whatever aspects Reality - including neurotic and psychotic "unreality" - that can be rationally analyzed or explained] THEN (I concede) that the notion that "neurons may vibrate together through having been naturally as if 'tuned' to the same frequency" - or "resonance" - is okay to use (as a way to keep up the inflow of patients and trainees to the Primal Institute).

    [CURSES is a by me contrived approximate acronymic alternative to "primal pain" (or Pain - as Art Janov put it, for a while, many years ago). It is apt (and EPT %}) to hold that CURSES stands for "Conditioned-in Unconsciously Replaying Stressors (specifically 'SHI type' such) Effecting Symptoms"; This statement is one of the very shortest from which one can derive the most compact possible acronym that has the same (or sufficiently similar) meaning and that also invites the very same nicely allusive pronunciation as "curses". That is, there exist longer and more meaty (thoroughly explanatory) statements that results in longer and more scary looking spellings that would still necessitate the same nicely allusive pronunciation. %}]

  15. Hi Art,
    I was writing on this blog about a year ago, we discuss left and right brain funtion and left oriented scientists that they cannot »feel ». Great discuss, i must say i read The Primal Scream ( 1970) and Biology of love ( 2000).
    I got some interesting question:
    Neuroscientists found that in some cases of mental illnes – the feeling brain structures special amygdala was smaller than in normal brains. Smaller » neural hardware » can be a product a brain trauma before birth, bitrh trauma and traumatic first 3 -4 year of life ( lack od touch etc..) maybe some genetic errors.
    How can we replace this neural connections – can therapy help develop a new ( emocional <!) brain structures ( growth a new neurons in amygdala ) and activate thiis new hardware ( amygdala, limbic system ) ?
    Thanks, Dean

  16. Andrew, science is NOT terribly important IMO. Quite the reverse as I state in my book. It is premised on the word "WHY' and 'why' never gets answered but merely precipitates a whole set of other 'WHY's ad infinitum with the 'pretense' that we are making some progress towards a more fulfilled life. Understanding is the booby prize. As for the intellect, as Art has stated, the intellect is the greatest inhibitor of feelings. The point of Primal Therapy is to regain the "real-self" The real-self is the feeling-self, but that requires experiencing feeling-fullness. All the intellectualizing is just our running amok in our brains.

    Suggesting that; "personally you 'think'" is, IMO, an admission to not feeling. A full-feeling experince explains (makes sense of) itself.

    Erron, I did the therapy at the Institute starting in 1981 when Art was there. If and when you are in LA I would be quite willing to meet you. As for my 'ideas', 'opinions', or feelings: these are all in my book. Email me and I'll send you an e-copy of it

  17. Hi raindog and Art. You are both missing my point. I wish I could explain myself better but I don't think I can.
    Art, when you write an article like the one above, I assume you are trying to supply evidence for the intellectuals. I am trying to show you how the article doesn't do that. Not even close. Was it your intention to do that? If not, then what are you doing? Just providing food for thought for students?
    My example of the parent reacting to a child's voice was my attempt to show you the lack of separation between your 'evidence' and everyday events. Walden's and my response was to be expected from anyone who can use their brain - not just anti-primal intellectuals.
    When did I ever suggest that I knew anything about your techniques or the complexity of your therapy? Or the complexity of the human brain? I know nothing about that. I'm just trying to make a valid point. I won't try to help you while I am getting therapy. I will do whatever you think is best.
    Raindog I desperately want to get therapy at Art's primal center because every day my heart pounds and it's killing me. Just because I can use my left brain to some extent, it doesn't mean I have no feeling at all. On the few occasions when I get drunk, I feel the meaning of my wasted life (obviously I don't feel the full meaning at a primal level) and I feel a need to be loved and I see the fucked up nature of everyone around me. I know what I have to do. I would love to meet you at the primal center.
    Art, in the future I might be able to help you with some of the problems in your explanations. I can see the way in which many neurotics will interpret your stuff. Obviously I need to get better at explaining myself. I won't show you how to write. I will write my own stuff.

  18. Art,

    I don't have any knowledge about the mechanics of how experience (old and new) links up in our brains. It's fascinating, and I wish I had time to study it, but at the moment income-producing is my main priority, having been out of work half of last year.

    I have some training in computing and information systems, and I work in that field. Is there a reason for your curiosity?

    I was just Googling "cognitive science". I suspect the best answer to how this "resonance" phenomenon works is out there. Not to be confused with cognitive therapy, of course. Good heavens.


    PS - I'm taking up a collection to buy Richard a shirt. Who's in?

  19. Art I am not arguing about your theory. I am making a suggestion for neurological research. If Harvard students enjoy burning holes in the brain, perhaps they would also enjoy studying the difference in resonance between a normal and neurotic brain. They are not interested in your theory. They will oversimplify it in the way I described in my first comment. Going "deeper" means nothing to them. I'm not the one you need to convince. I know what you mean. I've been close many times.
    I suspect the brain is a huge symphony of resonating parts. Maybe it would be a good idea to study the places in the brain where there is LESS resonance. And what about those relaxing "fog horn" frequencies. Do they happen in places where they shouldn't?
    Can Harvard students study gating in far more detail than you can? Your MRI studies have helped you with your crucial theory, but your studies do not provide the kind of evidence neurologists are interested in.

  20. Dean here again this is where research can come in handy. I am one guy with no funds to do any of this yet there is so much to do. art

  21. Jack: After the end of 1979 I was never again at the Institute but they pretended I was and never informed anyone. Starting 1980 I opened the French Institute in Paris. art janov

  22. Richard, did you recommend a book? I cannot find your letter with it. art We do want to help you. Believe me.

  23. Art I drew a sharp intake of breath when I read what you said above about the Institute pretending you were there and not informing anyone. How did they manage to convince Jack and the others that you were still around?? To think I had an interview in 1979 and might have gone there at that time. Fortunately I went many years later, briefly to the Primal Center (and still meaning to go back there). Oddly re-assuring, however, to think that craziness goes on everywhere, not just in my life but even in the Primal world.

    Jack I feel you have missed the point about the intellect. Many people seem to think that we study science (or indeed, other subjects such as history, philosophy or literature), because we are trying through these pursuits to find some kind of ultimate meaning to life, which will make us, as you say, feel fulfilled. I don't think so. I think there is nothing wrong with having a sense of wonder at the world around us, which leads us to want to understand more about it Surely it enriches life, just as, say, art, music or drama do, even if it doesn't give us "ultimate fulfilment" (if such a thing exists). And I would have thought feelings and intellect could work together in harmony, not one to the exclusion of the other.

    Anyway I love reading this blog and I just thought I would offer my "spur of the moment" reactions to what I have just read, hoping others might find some sense in them and perhaps be prompted into thought (if that's not a dirty word!)

  24. Not to make an issue of it Art, but Vivian introduced you to me during my interview for starting, in May 1981 and you were doing Thursday afternoon post group throughout 81 and part of 82 before going off to Paris. John and Ula Harrison were on your team and I knew both when I was living in Ibiza throughout the 70's. I also attended a talent night where David Lasoff facilitated it, also 82. I also understood that after you closed the Paris institute/center you did ask to return to the Institute, but then that was only hearsay.

  25. Art I can not understand how people so near to you can be so wrong about the therapy. I´m talking about THE institute, if i´m no wrong your ex wife work there, and in the book the feeling child she seems to accept all your theory.Any way what i mean is that all this controversial don´t do any good to the image of PT.In the other way i must to reconize that lately i do´t care to much about the succes of PT, for me what count is tha i´m going better. I´m saying this for the readers of this blog, i mean don,t worry to much about theory and start the therapy because is what really matters.

  26. Jack: I cannot imagine how I did that as I was absolutely working night and day in Paris. art

  27. Graham; I fully understand you saying I "have missed the point about the intellect". However, to use Primal jargon; that's your feeling, not mine. I have spend the last 20 years pondering the relationship/difference between thinking and feeling and culminated my point in my book. Your statement "because we are trying through these pursuits to find some kind of ultimate meaning to life," but for all those pursuits, we are no nearer to finding "the ultimate meaning to life".

    Unfortunately, to quote my reasoning here on this blog would be too long, but I do have a process whereby I demonstrate my reasoning by extrapolating backwards in time how we humans developed language and hence, according to Benjamin Lee Whorf, we think in language. If Whorf is correct, and I find it hard to find an example whereby we think outside the use of language, the implications are enormous.

    It is my contention that no-where have we humans ever considered 'the nature of thinking'. We've presumed it to be a de facto characteristic of humanness. I contest that. Most that argue with me on this point attempt to use examples of the current use of 'thinking' to demonstrate their point, but to me that's perfect example of a "self fulfilling prophecy" or nothing more than "wishful thinking"

    Thinking; something I am relatively adept at; I now see is our 'behavior' and not our 'nature'. Intrinsically we are a feeling creature (as are all other creatures) and our preoccupation with our behavior and not understanding our true 'nature' means we "miss the point" of our recent evolution in thinking. We think in order to reason thinking/intellect. "A self fulfilling prophecy" or "circular thinking".

  28. Jack, my school teacher insisted that if we didn't have words, we humans would not be able to think at all. Well, did you notice all the small problems you solved today without using words? No? That's because you solved those problems automatically. It is part of your nature whether you like it or not.
    The "circular thinking" you talk about is the result of an intellect which is disconnected from feelings. It is in our nature to think circularly when we lose our feelings.
    By the way, my cat seems to solve basic problems which require a little more than associative memory.

  29. Jack,
    One can argue that thinking developed out of specific evolutionary processes because it served our survival, but what I find to be more interesting, is that another survival mechanism - emotional crying, which evolved through evolution, is being brutally oppressed.
    Nature gave us this tool, and we're fucking it up. Have you any idea when and why that started to happen in human history? when and why did crying become the great enemy within? we came a long way from believing the "voices in our head" are deities, to believing we are "rational" creatures...I wonder what's next...

  30. Art
    What is it that makes previous primal patients so quiet? If we look at the revolutionary impact it would have if all they did have a voice… it would undoubtedly have an effect far outside their own environment.

    If I were you Art... I would take the opportunity to give them the mandate ... in person to make themselves heard ... with all respects Art … just to persuade others ... people who don’t know... should understand that there are more than cognitive methods… they need to know that primal therapy exist.

    Primal therapy can cure and that is completely impossible with cognitive methods… do we know that?

    We need all the opportunities available... as you put it Art. 'How do we get someone to understand… when what we understand help us to not feel the pain". To overcome this means that the doors must be open or at least ajar to have a chance to see what's in the room. People don’t know about primal therapy… yet to day… after so many years.
    There are many who would respond to primal therapy if they just heard that it existed.

    Art you can make chore… what you say about primal therapy… should start at the Primal Center to make it safe and secure.
    I do not understand what others problem is… about learning Primal Therapy as safe as possible at the center?

  31. Dr. Janov: I have another question for you. Do you think stress can be strong enough to block a person's brain from being able to process spoken words? Once during an argument with my mother, I had a period of being able to hear what she said but not being able to understand it. She may as well have been speaking in a foreign language because it was like I was unable to process the words in my mind. I heard them but didn't understand them. It was very strange. Do you think stress did that?

  32. Delphi,
    I've always wondered this too: When did we shut down our feelings and become neurotic? I've been reading Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane and it is clear we have lost so much of what is valuable over history: real meaning, spirituality & purpose. Ancient religions, rituals and myths gave deep meaning to human existence, even incorporating nature; something that has been completely lost in modern religions. Just recently, I have been practicing having faith. I need this since I have a tendency to get side-tracked in my therapy and go for the quick fix. I have to have faith and work an honest program and see it thru. I am realizing that when I try to get it from the outside, I hurt myself, but it's very hard. We are lucky to know about this type of therapy (I go to the Heimler Method) and have the opportunity to become real. For me the hardest thing is to do what that U2 song talks about: All that you can't leave behind. To leave everything behind and to value what needs to be valued: the real self, to be true to that self, This is a sacred purpose! Soren Kierkegaard said it best, "Purity of heart is to will one thing."

  33. Art, this is in response to to your comments to Jack, including "After the end of 1979 I was never again at the Institute but they pretended I was and never informed anyone".

    I was at the Primal Institute from Nov. 1978 until late July, 1982. You did my video interview, I saw you at big group occasionally, and once at Thursday buddy group. You were there less and less as time went on, but I still saw you at the Institute once or twice each year. I definitely remember going to every single Seminar at the P.I. during that time, and you and Vivian chaired every announced seminar, at least two of them were "On Relationships". Thinking back, I know there is no way that could all have happened before the end of 1979. And I am friends with four people who started P.T. in Jan/Feb 1982, who remember seeing you once a week at the Institute, for just a few weeks, then at Talent Night, but not at all later on, except for the Retreat.

    Several of my friends were at the first Primal Retreat in Santa Barbara with you and Vivian -- I have seen the group photo. I remember reading the notice about that retreat, after I had left therapy, and considering whether I should go or not. And when the Paris Institute opened, I heard about it from the P.I., since both places were part of "The Primal Institute" (like the branches in NY, Maryland, & San Francisco had been, long before). I didn't have the impression they were "pretending" you were still at the P.I. in L.A. -- I remember asking, and hearing you were gone for 6 mos. -- everybody knew you were in France, running the Paris Institute, so why would you imagine they didn't tell people? It feels like you are distorting some history. I don't know why you would do that, and have to wonder -- it's surprising, and disturbing. Have you forgotten some of the fullness of your real connection to the Primal Institute? It may have been long ago, but I do remember. -- Vicki B.

  34. Frank. don't you think that writing all those books, writings that took me decades is a lot already? Primal people are not interested in the struggle. They have already done that been there. art janov

  35. anonymous4: You will read about that in my coming book. what happens is that the current emotional situation triggers off nonverbal, preverbal imprints and you can no longer communicate. art janov

  36. Vicky: I opened the Paris Institute, not related to Los Angeles in the beginnng 1980 and did not return to LA for years. I was there in 1979. art janov

  37. Richard you say: "It is in our 'nature' to think circularly" If, Richard, you were able to define human "nature" your statement might have some credibility. I contend, like so many of us neurotics, we glibly use 'human nature' when in-fact all we are talking about is our behavior. If you put rats in a box with pegs and holes and study them, you are merely studying those (poor) rats behavior in a box. To study their nature you'd need to observe them in their own habitat. We humans are in a box called neurosis and by definition are blinded to our 'real' nature IMO. This is a concept I thought about before I was aware of Primal Theory/Therapy, however, I still could not define our nature until I fully understood Primal Theory. This concept, I find, is hard for most to even consider.

    Delphi you say: "Have you any idea when and why that started to happen in human history?" I have an idea, but it is merely conjecture (as is most science). Throughout our known evolution (roughly 100,000 years) I contend we were not neurotic. I find it hard to consider that we are intrinsically neurotic. At some stage in our evolution (development) we became neurotic. (Anthropologist Bernard Campbell of Cambridge University proposed one scenario). In extrapolating backwards and taking the notion that we think in words (Benjamin Lee Whorf), it seems reasonable to me that the advent of language was somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago.

    My conjecture is that we needed words only at the point that we started to put overwhelming feelings in the subconscious (unconscious). This pain in the subconscious was not totally hidden from us, but all we had was a sort of subliminal feeling "in the back of our minds." In order to explain and communicate these 'in the back of our mind feelings' caused us to develop language IMO. Merely my conjecture. I would like others to come up with other ideas ... rather than a de facto acceptance that we were always a thinking creature. A crazy notion IMO.

  38. I started Primal Therapy in April 1982 ( a quite significant date in my life). Vivian did my initial interview - more Primal than Therapy, kind of scary. Art and Gretchen did my video interview a few days later with my starting group - somewhere theres a tape. Art was around for a few weeks and then left. I only saw you at the counter a few times but you always made me feel that I could trust you.

    If Primal therapy is real (which it is), it has a physical counterpart to the experiential. I dont see why people are so freaked out about discovering and explaing the physical process.

  39. Art
    What you have explained in all of your books are amazing... amazing in itself… but it also amazes me that so well explained reason of suffering can end up beyond comprehension.
    This is the reason why I will try to start a legal process. That is no struggle to me... it is more an obligation. As individuals I can see that they has suffering enough and also chooses another direction… but life goes on and we must do something in our life ... why not go for this great mission?

    Can someone in their ignorance justify an activity that causes human suffering ... paid to preserve unknowing in disease?

    To be held accountable for an activity that is conducted with unfounded allegations of scientific results... might be worth it ... struggle as require answers in legal forms. Every time I hear children cry of despair… I look and remember... struggle can be worth every try?

  40. Jack,
    when you say "throughout our evolution we were not neurotic", what do you mean? where do you draw the line between repression and neurosis? i think repression always existed and still does in every organism as a result of trauma. we humans found a more sophisticated way of operating it => thoughts and ideas.
    i think evolutionary chronology went something like this:
    1- crying
    2- language as a survival advantage (conveying information)
    3- understanding what thoughts are on a philosophical level
    4- understanding how to use the crying mechanism (in progress)

  41. Dear Dr. Janov,
    Sorry, I'm off the subject with my question.

    You may have heard and seen the ongoing news about many priests sexually abusing children, mostly boys.
    What irritates me is that there are too many “opinions” out there, instead of knowledge.
    At the same time I ask, is there any knowledge of why priests tend toward this sexually perverted action?

    In the latest BBC News one former priest, as many others, believes that celibacy is the reason.
    This however does not explain why priests prefer to molest boys over girls. Is it possible that these priests reenact a childhood imprint, meaning they were sexually abused themselves?
    So far, there is not forthcoming among any of these priests, those admitting being sexually abused in childhood, which does not mean they were not.
    What is your take on the subject?

  42. Sieglinde: It is horrendous and in some respects the catholic church is running a criminal enterprise. The elders of the church should be held accountable in a court of law. I know the damage it does. It means lives that were ruined. AJ

  43. Delphi, Your model (conjecture) 1 thrugh 4 makes several, IMO, assumptions that, to me, are not progressively logical. I'll try and be brief. Neurosis is the pathology of feelings and when feelings are repressed, blocked, taken out of conscious memory, then we are neurotic, by definition. No other creature, left to it's own devices (as a creature) becomes neurotic, except mankind. I've conjectured that mankind is minimally 100,000 years old and that for the most part of that period mankind was not neurotic: was repressing his feelings. Something in the past caused this switch (I would welcome anyone else conjectures). I further conjecture (conjecturing is all any of us, scientists et al, can do) that language was a means for the now neurotic man to express these subliminal feelings. We developed thinking and language in tandem IMO (they go hand in hand) and thus the question I proposed was; what caused us to become neurotic in the first place and when, which we surely are.

    The problem for neurotic man is that he can almost never conceptualize beyond his 'think-ability' and his languages that rides on it. It is for that reason I see your argument caught in the trap of being inside the 'neurotic box.' Like with our concept prior to Copernicus, or thereabouts, we could not conceptualize NOT being the center of our universe on a flat earth.

    All my ideas are based on me conjecturing how it all fell into place and my book is where I go into it in the greatest detail. Lest you think conjecturing is not a valid methodology I suggest that all of science and many other subjects we study are ALL based on conjecture (sometimes called 'theory'). Your four steps, to me, did not follow any real progression. You might need to read my book to follow mine.

  44. Sieglinde, I guess the priests stay quiet because they only answer to God. God forgives, so that is the end of it, until next time. Religious people need to understand that forgiveness means acceptance. No one should accept child molestation or any other serious abuse.

  45. Alas, the only thing those religious convictions really prove is the individuals' ability to believe anything.
    Don't leave you kids with a sex-starved Priest!

  46. Hey did you see where Richard Dawkins (atheist) announced he was going to arrest the Pope when he visits Brittain later this year, “for crimes against humanity”, "over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church." In the Times online:

    I can't tell you how my heart cheered when I saw that, even though I acknowledge the basic symbolism of the statement: it will never actually happen, and the Masterstocracy will close ranks to protect the whole bunch of perverts masquerading as 'Holy Men'.


  47. Dr. Janov,
    You are right and the rest of the world knows it too.
    The book “Sons of Perdition” proves it.
    Unfortunately this book is not sold in New Mexico, the headquarters for priestly child molester, where “troubled priests” were sent by Vatican.
    As the “retreat” became overcrowded, they were released as “healed” and sent out into a new parish. Nothing stopped them, they continued creating more victims - and the law did nothing. An enormous amount of victims live here, damaged for life, too frightened to go public with their story and too poor to get therapy.

    Richard, you are also close to the point. Their god is money power and oppression. The catholic church inherited Al Capone’s estate in NM, as a deal for receiving a catholic funeral. This estate became the retreat for drunks and child molesting priests.

    The time is ripe – this era of human mutilation (physically and psychologically) must end and I will do my best to make that happen.


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.